Pray or be beheaded, residents warned
Dec. 6, 2006 09:48 AM
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an Islamic courts official said Wednesday, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.
Public places such as shops and tea houses in Bulo Burto, about 124 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, should be closed during prayer time and no one should be on the streets, said Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, the chairman of the town's Islamic court.
Those who do not follow this edict "will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law," Rage told The Associated Press by phone. "As Muslims, we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do."
He said that the courts are announcing the edict over loudspeakers in the town.
The decision is not binding on courts in other towns.
Somalia's Islamic courts have made varying interpretations of Quranic law, some applying a more strict and radical version of Islamic law than others.
As a result of such disparate variations, residents in the capital of Mogadishu complained, forcing the Council of Islamic Courts officials in October to set up an appeals court with better-educated judges.
The Council of Islamic Courts have swept through most of southern Somalia since taking over Mogadishu in June.
Their sometimes strict and often severe interpretation of Islam has raised the specter of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime, and contrasts with the moderate Islam that has dominated Somali culture for centuries.
Some of the courts have introduced public executions, floggings of convicts, bans on women swimming at Mogadishu's public beaches, and the sale and chewing of khat, a leafy stimulant consumed across the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Orthodox Priest Beheaded in Iraq
(October 13, 2006)--An Orthodox priest has been beheaded in Iraq.
Relatives of the priest, Father Amer Iskender, say his captors had demanded a church apology for recent papal comments about Islam.
They say that he was abducted Sunday by an unidentified group, which demanded a ransom.
The kidnappers also wanted the priest's church to condemn controversial recent remarks by Pope Benedict.
(Read the full story by clicking on the link above.)
The story was also reported by Aljazeera.net.
Fr. Iskender's family had agreed to pay a ransom for his release, but then contact with the kidnappers was lost, and he was beheaded. According to the reports, his parish church had already repudiated the comments of the Pope, even before Fr. Amer was kidnapped.
Isn't it ironic that the way some Muslims choose to protest a 600-year old claim against them proves the truth of the claim?
(Here's a link to the sermon preached today, which makes reference to this event: Protecting Veil of the Theotokos)
Monday, September 18, 2006
Isn't it ironic that the protests against the statement made recently by Pope Benedict XVI in the Moselm world are accompanied by violence? The Associated Press, in an article dated today from Cairo, Egypt, reports,
Al-Qaida in Iraq warned Pope Benedict XVI on Monday that its war against Christianity and the West will go on until Islam takes over the world, and Iran's supreme leader called for more protests over the pontiff's remarks on Islam.
Pope Benedict XVI made reference to an observation reportedly offered in (or around) the year 1391 by Manuel II Paleologos, Emperor of Byzantium, in a dispute with a Persian scholar:
Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.Now, Muslims around the world have taken exception to having had the leader of the Roman Catholic Church describe their religion in this way; and are protesting against his use of this observation, despite his later backing away from this, saying that the quotation was not his position, but rather an illustration of how Islam is perceived. The "spin control" efforts, among others, have led to a followup article in today's Jerusalem Post:
God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...
The pope's intent, amply expressed during his Bavarian journey, was to stress two points concerning the role of reason.
First, reason - in the form of Western civilization's heritage from the Enlightenment - not moderated by faith leads to a Godless and amoral society that frightens the believers of other religions (including Islam). This point, praised by those who believe in strengthening the role of religion in public life, has alarmed freethinkers and those who hold that only strict separation of religion and state can guarantee progress in democracy. Some observers have expressed concern over a prospective mingling of theology and politics.
Second, faith that is not moderated by reason leads to fundamentalist extremism. The medieval quote chosen by Benedict was meant to communicate this thought.
According to a report in Frontpage Magazine,
Besides numerous demonstrations accompanied by demands for an apology, an Italian nun has been shot dead in Somalia and three churches have been firebombed in the West Bank and Gaza.
Don't violent protests and death threats, in fact, show that the Emperor's observation, as cited by the Pope, are an aspect of the Islamic faith? That's the ironic part of all this.
Far more significant, however, is the use of the remarks by a group within al-Qaida to call for a jihad:
"We say to the servant of the cross (the Pope): wait for defeat ... We say to infidels and tyrants: wait for what will afflict you.
"We continue our jihad. We will not stop until the banner of unicity flies throughout the world," said the statement attributed to the Mujahideen consultative council.
"We will smash the cross ... (you will have no choice but) Islam or death," the statement added, citing a hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammed) promising Muslims they would "conquer Rome ... as they conquered Constantinople".
The question for the West is this: Do we understand the fervor that drives these types of threats? Do we understand the mentality that will not rest until the entire world has been brought into submission (or conversion) to the Islamic faith? The Orthodox countries of the world do know (and should remember) what is was like to be under the Islamic yoke. The rest of the West would be well served by learning from their experience...
Monday, September 11, 2006
The weekday morning routine in our house is usually the same. I am the first one up and out of the bedroom, with my "canine escort" moving to see what has changed since she last wandered the halls the night before. This morning, she stopped in the bedroom of our daughter in college, who had spent the weekend with us, going back to her dorm the day before. "She's not here, dog," I said (as if such an explanation could help). There was a pang for a moment as I missed her presence myself -- and that's when it hit me: Those who lost a member of their family in the attacks of the day five years ago, or in the aftermath of fire or of the collapse of the towers may still have empty rooms in their houses -- and they certainly have an empty place in their heart, a place once filled by someone they love, who will never again in this life, in this world, return to that room. How many times does it take before the family dog stops looking for them? My daughter is only a few hours away, and has been gone for less than a day, and I miss her. What is it like for those whose loved one will never be back this side of the grave? I cannot imagine.
Amid the many reports and remembrances on radio and television in the early morning here, two things were striking. The first came from the memorial service taking place outside the Pentagon. Those who have never been in that area probably don't know that the Pentagon sits quite near the flight path to National Airport, which, like the Pentagon, is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. As the television cameras showed Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in their seats, as a choir sang hymns, as chaplains prayed, and as the Secretary and Vice President spoke, you could not help but hear the aircraft flying overhead -- an eerie sound, given the tragic circumstances of that day five years ago. I find myself wondering what the experience must be like for those who were in the Pentagon that day, near the site of the crash and fire. I know for myself that, no matter where I was in the period after that day, whenever I saw a commercial airliner over a city center, part of me was waiting, wondering: Could it happen again? I can still see in my mind the video of the second plane striking the World Trade Center in New York City; and I was on the opposite side of the country, in San Francisco, on that day. Do the survivors in the Pentagon and in New York City flash back when they hear the sound of aircraft taking off, or landing?
The other striking moment was in a brief interview with an American convert to Islam, introduced on radio as a lifelong resident of Scottsdale, Arizona. This woman spoke of feeling threatened by the stares, and the actions, of others, since the planes crashed and the towers fell. She described an incident that took place as she was driving her car, an attempt by another driver to force her off the road. She wondered whether this country would ever return to the "melting pot" concept and accept that there are others who practice different religions, and leave them in peace; or whether the United States would continue its war against Islam.
Of course, in the United States, she has the liberty to speak in such a way, and the freedom to embrace the religion of her choice. I would have liked to ask her this question: Will the Islamic nations ever accept the “melting pot” concept and accept that there are others who practice different religions, and leave them in peace? Would Moslems accept a form of “dhimmitude” in western countries as the price for freedom? (Not that our pluralistic, and increasingly secular-pagan society would ever take such a step…)
I don’t trust my feelings. On one level, it feels as if I am being manipulated by the media. At a minimum, the images of disaster and death from five years, and the grieving today, are little more than the typical use of tragedy to sell papers (and air time) that is so characteristic of the media. That’s not new; and that’s not news. But I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more at work here; whether or not the government is using the remembrances of that day to stir us up anew to efforts in the “War on Terror” that is changing us as a society and as a people; and whether or not the media is complicit, knowingly or unknowingly, in this effort by the government. Yes, I know I’ve ranted here before on the parallels I see between the “War on Terror” and the state of perpetual warfare depicted in George Orwell’s novel, 1984; but the parallels are there – I can’t ignore them, nor be silent about them, nor be concerned about the direction we are taking, which, in many ways, leads us closer to that nightmare world… So in the end, I’m going to do my best to live this day as I would any other: To do my prayers; to keep the fast (in remembrance of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist – ironic, isn’t it, that this day falls on the day the world calls 9/11?); to fight against my passions; and to do the tasks, sacred and secular, that are among my responsibilities. I have already prayed for God’s mercy for those who have died, and those who mourn them; and for those who have died to defend this country. I hope you will join me in doing the same.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Are there any school children in the last several decades who have not learned this mnemonic to recall the names of the nine planets that orbit the Sun? (In order, mind you, from "nearest in" to "farthest out.") Well, bad news, campers. The International Astronomical Union voted yesterday to strip Pluto of its status as a planet, reducing the number of planets in the solar system to eight. Pluto, discovered in 1930, will be placed in a category that appears on its way to being called "dwarf planets." (I guess the conventions of politically correct speech haven't reached the IAU as yet... To make matters along this line even more interesting, the collection of astronomical bodies that are so classified once were called, "minor planets." I wonder why the IAU didn't feel it could stay with that terminology?)
As this site has among its goals the purpose to inform as well as to entertain, let me offer a new mnemonic for the schools of tomorrow:
"My Very Eccentric Mother Just Served Us... Nothing..."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Who knows if all this is true? It may very well be true -- but we have no way of actually knowing if it is, or not. Here is what we do know to be true: New constraints are placed upon air travelers as a result of the discovery of the plot. In the United States, you will no longer be allowed to take liquids or gels through security checkpoints, although such items can be included with your checked baggage. In the United Kingdom, the restrictions are even more severe: no carry-on baggage is being permitted. The "terror level" indicator has been raised; more security personnel will be deployed in airports; and many airports will also be employing random "stop and search" checkpoints for vehicles traveling to the airport. Not only will travelers be unable to bring liquids and gels with them through the initial security checkpoints; if you purchase a cup of coffee or a bottle of soda or water while on the concourse of the airport, you will not be allowed to bring it on board the aircraft.
Exceptions will be made, we are told, for baby formula and medications, if the medication is in a bottle labeled by the issuing pharmacy in the name of the person with a valid ticket. This raises two immediate questions. First, what is to prevent a would-be terrorist from using just such a bottle to bring on board components needed to fabricate an explosive? Second, haven't we already seen women among the "suicide bombers" in the Middle East? What is to prevent a baby's bottle from being used to bring on board a liquid explosive, or a precursor component?
How long will it be before such questions are being asked openly by the media and the "experts" they flock to for their interviews? What will be the result of asking these questions? An increased level of apprehension among the general public? (And yes, I am as guilty of doing so as any member of the "regular" media...)
Maybe that's the point? To increase our level of fear? Because it is through the reality of our fear of being victims of terrorism that we are willing to accept restrictions upon our activities, and on our behavior. We will surrender our freedoms, allow the restriction of our liberty, to be set free from our fear. To trade freedom for security, we will think, is an acceptable transaction.
I can't help but go back to Orwell's novel, 1984. O'Brien, the Party member overseeing Winston Smith's "re-education" as he is being tortured, tells Smith a secret: the Party pursues power, not for the good of the people it rules, but for the sake of power. No one," O'Brien says, ever seeks to obtain power only to surrender it. The revolution takes place in order to establish the dictatorship. Moreover, the state of constant warfare that exists in the world of 1984 impoverishes the people of the nation-states; and that is the purpose of the state of perpetual conflict -- for an impoverished population is much more easily controlled than is one that is enjoying prosperity. Yet how ironic that it is our own state of prosperity that is being threatened by the potential acts of terrorists; and that we are willing to give it up, if only in part, in order to hang on to the remainder.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Well, maybe "prophetic" isn't the word to use: perhaps perceptive might be better. There are no "telescreens" to monitor us in every room, and in every public place -- although there are many technological equivalents that can do the job as well, or better, than Orwell described. (For example, what might Orwell have done in his novel with the "eye in the sky" technology used for covert surveillance of crowds at major public events, such as a Super Bowl, or by some cities around the country; or the facial recognition software used in parallel with such covert systems?) There are no "thought police" -- at least, not on an official basis. (There is the "politically correct" element that attempts to redefine, and control, speech...) "Big Brother" -- the strong, silent, vigilant Leader -- is not watching us. For all his faults, President George W. Bush is not the Josef Stalin of his generation. (In fact, if President Bush were to be compared with a fictional political figure, Robert Heinlein's "Nehemiah Scudder" more nearly fits the bill than does Orwell's "Big Brother.")
Of course, on one level, 1984 described life in the Soviet Union under the dictatorship of Stalin. The attendance at indoctrination sessions, the rewriting of history, the atmosphere of fear and betrayal among the members of the "Party" in the novel all have deep connections to real events and experiences in that time and place. What prompts me to say now that it feels like 1984?
Oceania was at war with Eurasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.
My thoughts are probably triggered by the continuing "War on Terror"; and by the deepening conflict between the state of Israel and "Hizb' Allah" in Lebanon. I can't help but feel that we are not being told everything; we are only seeing and hearing those bits and pieces that are designed to engender in us an unquestioning support for our current foreign policy -- and for what feels very much like a preparation for an assault against Iran. Today, a report on the "FoxNews Channel" made reference to the "War on Terror" as "World War III"; and the comment that followed spoke about how such a war would essentially be without end.
Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.
Iran is undoubtedly guilty of providing the rockets being used by Hizb'Allah for their operations against Israel; and many other forms of support. An article at MSNBC.com (I've lost the link) mentioned that Hizb'Allah has received technical assistance from the North Koreans in the construction of their tunnel systems -- and, of course, the North Koreans are experts in tunneling. (How many people realize that the Korean War has never been formally ended; that we have what is, essentially, merely a 53-year old ceasefire?) We should not be blind to the connections; and I certainly understand the desire to "do" something.
What deeply concerns me is the way our society is changing to accommodate the demands of being in a perpetual state of warfare, as the "War on Terror" does not conform to what most of us imagine when it comes to trying to grasp the concept of war. For example, the news this morning showed Israeli tanks in Lebanon. According to the classic definition of war, the presence of a foreign military unit on the territory of another country without the express and uncoerced invitation of said country constitutes an invasion; and an invasion is an act of war. On the level of international law, the entry of Israeli tanks into Lebanon establishes a state of war between Israel and Lebanon, whether declared or undeclared. Yet Israel maintains it is not at war with Lebanon; it is, we are told (and it may very well be true) that Israel is acting in self-defense against Hizb'Allah -- in part, because Lebanon is unable to do so.
The transition from who we were, and how we viewed freedom and liberty, to what we must become in order to sustain the "War on Terror" is underway. When I recall that it was the state of permanent warfare that transformed the United States and Great Britain into becoming "Oceania" in 1984, I cannot help but wonder where we will arrive as the transition is completed...
Monday, August 07, 2006
According to a report by MSNBC.com, the "root cause" is the fact that Hezbollah is acting as a "state within a state" in the nation of Lebanon. However, this wasn't clear to me as I listened to the press conference -- I may have missed its initial reference. As such, I couldn't help but think that the real root cause is the desire on the part of many in the Islamic world for the destruction of the nation of Israel. On that level, there is no diplomatic solution to be obtained, until either the state of Israel ceases to exist (not a likely outcome), or the leaders of the Muslim nations accept the existence of Israel, and restrain their followers, and the groups they support, with both money and arms, who today lead the fight against Israel.
I am not a supporter of Israel, as are many among the American Protestant Evangelical spectrum. By the same token, I am not anti-Israeli. If I support any group in the Middle East, it is the embattled Arab Christian population, who are my brothers and sisters in the Orthodox faith; and who are suffering at the hands of both the Israelis and groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Unfortunately, they do not have a voice in the negotiations...
A note in passing: Not many people, I think, are aware that "Hezbollah" means, "the Party of God" (as in, "the Party of Allah"). Failure to understand the linkage between the political aims of Hezbollah on the one hand, and the religious underpinnings from which these political aims arise, dooms our efforts -- once again -- to almost certain failure.
And we -- the United States, that is -- never seem to learn...
Monday, April 10, 2006
The LARK PROGRAM
A Lady libertarian wrote a lot of letters to the White House
complaining about the treatment of a captive insurgent (terrorist)
being held in Guantanamo Bay. She received back the following reply:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20016
Dear Concerned Citizen,
Thank you for your recent letter roundly criticizing our treatment of the Taliban and Al Quaeda detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Our administration takes these matters seriously and your opinion was heard loud and clear here in Washington.
You'll be pleased to learn that, thanks to the concerns of citizens like yourself, we are creating a new division of the Terrorist Retraining Program, to be called the "Liberals Accept Responsibility for Killers" program, or LARK for short.
In accordance with the guidelines of this new program, we have decided to place one terrorist under your personal care. Your personal detainee has been selected and scheduled for transportation under heavily armed guard to your residence next Monday.
Ali Mohammed Ahmed bin Mahmud (you can just call him Ahmed) is to be cared for pursuant to the standards you personally demanded in your letter of complaint. It will likely be necessary for you to hire some assistant caretakers.
We will conduct weekly inspections to ensure that your standards of care for Ahmed are commensurate with those you so strongly recommended in your letter.
Although Ahmed is a sociopath and extremely violent, we hope that your sensitivity to what you described as his "attitudinal problem" will help him overcome these character flaws. Perhaps you are correct in describing these problems as mere cultural differences. We understand that you plan to offer counseling and home schooling.
Your adopted terrorist is extremely proficient in hand-to-hand combat and can extinguish human life with such simple items as a pencil or nail clippers. We advise that you do not ask him to demonstrate these skills at your next yoga group. He is also expert at making a wide variety of explosive devices from common household products, so you may wish to keep those items locked up, unless (in your opinion) this might offend him.
Ahmed will not wish to interact with you or your daughters (except sexually), since he views females as a subhuman form of property. This is a particularly sensitive subject for him and he has been known to show violent tendencies around women who fail to comply with the new dress code that he will recommend as more appropriate attire. I'm sure you will come to enjoy the anonymity offered by the burka --
over time. Just remember that it is all part of "respecting his culture and his religious beliefs" -- wasn't that how you put it?
Thanks again for your letter. We truly appreciate it when folks like you keep us informed of the proper way to do our job. You take good care of Ahmed - and remember..we'll be watching.
Cordially, your friend,
Friday, March 17, 2006
According to a report at MSNBC.com, an article from the March 20, 2006, edition of Newsweek magazine discusses the attempt to use the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas to extend the court's recognition of the right of consenting adults to engage in private activities without government interference from the setting aside of a Texas law prohibiting sodomy to the practice of polygamy. (Of course, once polygamy is permitted, it should follow that polyandry would likewise be allowed by law.) The argument is associated with a lawsuit filed in Utah by a couple (man and woman, also husband and wife) who were denied a marriage license when an additional wife was sought. The suit was denied by the federal court, but is now being reviewed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals -- where the Lawrence v. Texas decision is expected to be cited on behalf of the couple.
It's going to happen, folks. It may not be here; it may not be today, or tomorrow -- but it is going to happen. As our society increasingly cuts itself loose from the anchor of Christian morality and ethics, there is no reason why the state should not permit such "marriages," either on the part of same-sex unions, or those of the "poly" variety. We are moving toward an appreciation of marriage that approximates that of the (pagan) Roman Empire, where marriage served to clearly indicate lines of inheritance, and to otherwise maintain public decency and order. Even today, if you look closely at the marriage statutes on the books in most (if not all) states, the language almost suggests a sense of "corporate mergers" -- that is, entity A and entity B desire to merge their assets and liabilities and establish a joint entity C. State marriage laws examine the "merger" to make certain that both entities have an actual legal existence, and are not precluded from entering into such a merger. As well, the state laws also address the possibility that the merger is not permanent, and so sets forth the way in which the assets and liabilities of the joint entity are to be distributed in the event the merger is dissolved, as well as providing for the management and maintenance of any "subsidiary entities" that may have arisen as a result of the merger. (That is, children of the marriage.) The bottom line, from the state's perspective, is to ensure that the disagreements don't disrupt the public order; and to make sure that the chance of any participants becoming dependent upon the resources of the state (especially financial) is minimized or, ideally, prevented. Such language is not limited to the union of one man and one woman. Same-sex and "poly" unions can just as easliy be integrated into statutory language.
The practice of polygamy in certain areas of the western United States, and, in particular, in southern Utah and northern Arizona, is an open secret. There are two legitimate reasons for the states to intervene: the practice in these (and other) areas of marrying underage girls to older (sometimes, much older) men -- usually without their consent (although typically with the consent of their fathers); and the tendency of these families to request and receive economic assistance from the state (welfare) because the mothers are typically "stay at home" moms, and the single husband is unable to earn enough to provide for all of his wives and offspring. Well, this can be easily addressed in the law: prohibit the marriage of minors, regardless of consent, if the marriage will be a plural one; and exclude such families from welfare eligibility. In such cases, it will become the responsibility of the community (which usually has a religious basis) to provide for the needs of its own.
Of course. when Christian morality is brought into play, the rules change; but, as this morality is increasingly unwelcome in the governmental process, we can only hope to hold on to what we have -- and that won't be enough...
Gay Mormon Faces Excommunication
The Associated Press has reported that a Utah man who obtained a legal "marriage" to his same-sex partner in Canada faces excommunication for violating the teachings and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Buckley Jeppson, of Washington, D.C., who married Mike Kessler in Toronto on August 27, 2004, was told that a "disciplinary council" of the LDS Church will decide what action should be taken. The article adds, "It is believed that if Jeppson is excommunicated, it would be the first time a Mormon in a legal, same-sex marriage was punished by the church."
It will be interesting to see if Mr. Jeppson is, indeed, excommunicated; and what will happen next if this is the action taken. Is there a lawsuit against the LDS disciplinary council in the future?
The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to increase the debt "ceiling" by some $800 billion dollars, setting the new ceiling level at 9trillion dollars. (The old limit had been $8.2 trillion.) The move was necessary to prevent a U.S. default on U.S. Treasury notes, particularly those held by foreign investors. The vote was 52-48. The vote came just hours before votes scheduled to appropriate funds for the war in Iraq and continued recovery costs from last summer's hurricanes, especially Katrina. According to the report by ABC-News, the increase in the debt level allows the increased expenditures without making it necessary to raise taxes. The increase in the debt ceiling equals about $30,000 for each man, woman, and child living in the United States.
Comments:Let me see if I have this right. I'm spending more money than I'm earning; and I want -- no, need -- to spend more. Rather than cut back on any discretionary expenses, or finding a way to oncrease my income, I call all my credit card companies and ask them to increase my credit limits. Not only do they all agree to let me spend even more (as I am approaching the point where I've maxed out my existing credit limits) -- they are relieved to do so, because it means I won't default (today, anyway) on my debt. Huh??? No doubt about it, Rocky -- there's something about this I don't comprehend...
Economic Warfare, Iraq, and Iran
An interesting theory is floating around about the reasons for the war in Iraq which have nothing to do with the al-Qaeda form of terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction. According to this theory, the war in Iraq is, in part, a preemptive strike against Iran, which may be thinking of attempting something Saddam Hussein tried in the 1990's in Iraq: namely, establishing an exchange ("bourse") for oil that would be tied to euros, rather than the U.S. dollar. The bottom line on this argument is that the transfer for the dollar to the euro would constitute an attack on the dollar, leading to an economic panic as the dollar is displaced as the "benchmark" for the world economy.
There are several articles that offer more details: one by William Clark, entitled, "The Real Reasons Why Iran is the Next Target"; "The Approaching War with Iran"; and an interesting consideration of the parallels between the Roman Empire and the American "empire" as each, the only "superpower" of its time, extended its influence in the Middle East, "Empire," by Cyril Capdevielle. Here's an excerpt from one that sums it all up quite clearly, entitled "The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse," by Krassimir Petrov:
A nation-state taxes its own citizens, while an empire taxes other nation-states. The history of empires, from Greek and Roman, to Ottoman and British, teaches that the economic foundation of every single empire is the taxation of other nations. The imperial ability to tax has always rested on a better and stronger economy, and as a consequence, a better and stronger military. One part of the subject taxes went to improve the living standards of the empire; the other part went to strengthen the military dominance necessary to enforce the collection of those taxes.
Historically, taxing the subject state has been in various forms—usually gold and silver, where those were considered money, but also slaves, soldiers, crops, cattle, or other agricultural and natural resources, whatever economic goods the empire demanded and the subject-state could deliver. Historically, imperial taxation has always been direct: the subject state handed over the economic goods directly to the empire.
For the first time in history, in the twentieth century, America was able to tax the world indirectly, through inflation. It did not enforce the direct payment of taxes like all of its predecessor empires did, but distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. Dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods—the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax. Here is how this happened.
Early in the 20th century, the U.S. economy began to dominate the world economy. The U.S. dollar was tied to gold, so that the value of the dollar neither increased, nor decreased, but remained the same amount of gold. The Great Depression, with its preceding inflation from 1921 to 1929 and its subsequent ballooning government deficits, had substantially increased the amount of currency in circulation, and thus rendered the backing of U.S. dollars by gold impossible. This led Roosevelt to decouple the dollar from gold in 1932. Up to this point, the U.S. may have well dominated the world economy, but from an economic point of view, it was not an empire. The fixed value of the dollar did not allow the Americans to extract economic benefits from other countries by supplying them with dollars convertible to gold.
Economically, the American Empire was born with Bretton Woods in 1945. The U.S. dollar was not fully convertible to gold, but was made convertible to gold only to foreign governments. This established the dollar as the reserve currency of the world. It was possible, because during WWII, the United States had supplied its allies with provisions, demanding gold as payment, thus accumulating significant portion of the world’s gold. An Empire would not have been possible if, following the Bretton Woods arrangement, the dollar supply was kept limited and within the availability of gold, so as to fully exchange back dollars for gold. However, the guns-and-butter policy of the 1960’s was an imperial one: the dollar supply was relentlessly increased to finance Vietnam and LBJ’s Great Society. Most of those dollars were handed over to foreigners in exchange for economic goods, without the prospect of buying them back at the same value. The increase in dollar holdings of foreigners via persistent U.S. trade deficits was tantamount to a tax—the classical inflation tax that a country imposes on its own citizens, this time around an inflation tax that U.S. imposed on rest of the world.
When in 1970-1971 foreigners demanded payment for their dollars in gold, The U.S. Government defaulted on its payment on August 15, 1971. While the popular spin told the story of “severing the link between the dollar and gold”, in reality the denial to pay back in gold was an act of bankruptcy by the U.S. Government. Essentially, the U.S. declared itself an Empire. It had extracted an enormous amount of economic goods from the rest of the world, with no intention or ability to return those goods, and the world was powerless to respond— the world was taxed and it could not do anything about it.
From that point on, to sustain the American Empire and to continue to tax the rest of the world, the United States had to force the world to continue to accept ever-depreciating dollars in exchange for economic goods and to have the world hold more and more of those depreciating dollars. It had to give the world an economic reason to hold them, and that reason was oil.
In 1971, as it became clearer and clearer that the U.S Government would not be able to buy back its dollars in gold, it made in 1972-73 an iron-clad arrangement with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and also accept only dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil countries, it had the reason to hold dollars as payment for oil. Because the world needed ever increasing quantities of oil at ever increasing oil prices, the world’s demand for dollars could only increase. Even though dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil.
The economic essence of this arrangement was that the dollar was now backed by oil. As long as that was the case, the world had to accumulate increasing amounts of dollars, because they needed those dollars to buy oil. As long as the dollar was the only acceptable payment for oil, its dominance in the world was assured, and the American Empire could continue to tax the rest of the world. If, for any reason, the dollar lost its oil backing, the American Empire would cease to exist. Thus, Imperial survival dictated that oil be sold only for dollars. It also dictated that oil reserves were spread around various sovereign states that weren’t strong enough, politically or militarily, to demand payment for oil in something else. If someone demanded a different payment, he had to be convinced, either by political pressure or military means, to change his mind.
Food for thought...
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Maybe that's not news where you are, but here in Phoenix, where it's been 143 days since we last had a measurable rainfall, it's big news. The last time we (officially) had water fall from the sky was October 18, 2005 -- and that was just a trace. The forecast for today is about 0.75 inch -- and that hasn't happened here since August 2, 2005, when we got 0.59 of an inch of rain. Better still, it is snowing in the mountains to the north of us, where, last week, a survey of the sites used to measure snowpack -- which is where our water really comes from -- found no snow at all at 57 of the 61 sites.
OK, so, it's a desert -- and a principal (if not the ) defining characteristic of a desert is the lack of water. That's no surprise. Yet even the driest of deserts get some rainfall. It's almost like adding insult to injury when a desert experiences a drought -- but that's what's happening here right now. The rain that's falling today will knock some of the crud out of the air, and cut the dust (and make the windshields of cars parked outside really muddy); and it will perk up some of the vegetation -- there's going to be an explosion of weeds real soon! -- but it doesn't add any water to the reservoirs that we rely on for our needs. And, while some south-faciong mountain slopes might get as much as 30 inches of snow, the overall forecast is for 5 to 8 inches above 6,000 feet -- maybe a foot in some places. Since that's only about 10% of the "normal" snowpack, this is not a "drought-breaker" by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully, the moisture that is falling will ease the dry conditions that threaten to make this summer a form of "hell" for firefighters in the forests -- but quite often the result of a rainfall and snowfall of the type that is happening right now is to encourage an explosive undergrowth that, when the dry summer arrives, will die, and make it even easier for wildfires to start and to spread. Not much of a silver lining to these dark clouds right now...
Why dwell on this? (Which is to say, why blog about this?) Perhaps it is because the rain brings on a pensive side; and the sound of rain hitting the roof makes us think about water, and the drought here in the desert.
I found myself thinking earlier today about the way that any population is affected by the resources needed to sustain life, and how the limits to just one factor affect the "carrying capacity" -- the ability of a region to support a given population -- for the geographical area in question. Here in the desert, the carrying capacity is directly linked to the water supply -- or lack thereof. The system of reservoirs, canals, and wells tapping groundwater supplies has enhanced the carrying capacity by allowing the use of stored water -- or, in the case of the Central Arizona Project, to bring water from the Colorado River to the central counties of Maricopa and Pima (home to the Phoenix metor area cluster of cities, and to Tucson, the "other" big city in the state of Arizona) to supplement local water supplies.
Once upon a time, there was a civilization that lived in the Phoenix area, known now as the "Hohokam" -- we have no idea how they called themselves. They vanished without a trace about 500 years ago. Theirs was, for a time, an apparently successful civilization here in the desert. Indeed, a number of the canals that deliver water here today are built along the routes used by the irrigators of the Hohokam people; and other traces of their irrigation system remain to this day. But of the people, nothing.
We tend to think that, because our technology is better, we are somehow immune from the pressures that ultimately forced the Hohokam civilization here to collapse. It may even make us think we are better, smarter, than they were. But drought was, apparently, the cause of their downfall -- and could be ours, as well... And drought, of course, is solely in the hands of God.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Twenty years from now, polygamy will be legal in the United States. How do I know this? Because there's no longer a good argument against it. Gay marriage has made polygamy inevitable.
Here's what I wrote in a message entitled, Marriage: Is "Poly" the Next Step?, posted here on June 30, 2005:
While the proponents of same-sex marriages deny that they favor any developments beyond extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples, the "wall" that will be torn down by their efforts will no longer be effectively in place to address any other definitions that may be advanced for marriage. All of the arguments being advanced today to "change society's morality" to gain acceptance of same-sex marriages -- fairness; equality; acceptance of minority (that is, non-mainstream) points of view and practices, and so on -- can be made in favor of the "polys"; polygamy (one husband, many wives), and polyandry (one woman, many husbands). Indeed, here in the "wild, wild west," we have a group with significant money, power, and influence, whose central tenets at one time required its adherents to practice polygamy as the best way to salvation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known to many as the "Mormons") only rescinded this as a principle of belief when required to do so by the federal government as a condition for admitting the territory of Utah as a state. Why would they not return to this practice if the mood of the nation is to change the "traditional" understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to allow same-sex marriages? After all, the proponents of polygamy have Biblical precedent on their side (at least, in the Old Testament), where many of the patriarchs had multiple wives. The practitioners of the Islamic faith also are permitted as many as four wives. Why should either of these groups refrain from entering the fray, and extend the definition of marriage to allow their religious beliefs to be practiced? Granted, part of the problem is that the practice has often been abused, with men marrying girls under the usual state-established age of consent -- girls young enough to be their daughters. But the abuse doesn't abrogate the right; and there's no reason why, with proper documentation, women of legal age to marry should be denied entry into a polygamous marriage if they choose to do so of their own will.
Nor should the legalization be limited to polygamy. After all, that would be unfair to that part of the female population who would prefer instead to have several husbands providing for their care, comfort, and pleasure. Again, as long as everyone is at or above the age of consent, and enters knowingly into such a union, registered with the state, why should anyone object? And, while there isn't (so far as I know) a "poly" for more complex relationships, there's no need to limit the establishment of some sort of "multiple marriages," where, say, three men and two women, or three men and four women (or "a" men and "b" women) desire to be joined in marriage and be recognized as each other's spouses. With everyone at the age of consent, and all open and above-board, why not? After all, we can't use Christian morality as an argument against any of the "polys"; that argument is out-of-bounds in the dialogue today. And, after all, just because only a few people, comparatively speaking, will actually want to enter into these forms of union doesn't make them wrong. Even though they are only a small minority, hey, minorities have rights, too -- remember? (See above.)
Still, it's a mixed blessing. It's nice to be vindicated by comments in the secular press. But how sad to be "right" about this particular issue...
Saturday, February 04, 2006
I met Volodya and Elena on the flight from Moscow; and spent the next several days with them, as my one semester of studying the Russian language was not at all sufficient to allow me to understand the announcements made on the plane or at the airport. They let me stay in their room at the hotel, bought my meals, and kept me company while I worried and waited. And Volodya and I drank his vodka -- lots of vodka. He had what seemed to be an endless supply in his travel bag.
He told me, while we were on the ground in Moscow, that he was a captain (first rank) of a submarine, and had been based on the Kamchatka peninsula, where he and his wife we going for a vacation at a resort for naval officers at the hot springs at Paratunka. I had asked him, only half-jokingly, whether he would have to file a "report" about our meeting and conversations. Now, on the second night together, as we drank more vodka (more than I had ever thought I could consume, as it turned out), I asked him again. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then looked directly at me and said, "One day, we are going to need each other, the Americans and the Russians." I nodded to the south, and said, "China?" He shook his head and said, "No. The Moslems."
A few years after returning home, this conversation was forgotten (for the most part) until I saw the events of September 11, 2001, unfold on the television screen. As we talked about what had happened, and what it meant, on that day, and for days to come thereafter, I thought again and again of Volodya's comment, made over 7 years earlier. He had correctly identified the threat: the Moslems.
It's probably not correct to make such a blanket statement -- "all Moslems" -- any more than it would be correct to say that the Crusades were, or are, supported by "all Christians"; or that the bombings of abortion clinics are favorably endorsed by "all Christians." But there is no doubt that there is a segment of the Islamic world that sees itself as manifestly meant to rule the world, imposing shari'a law and the worship of Allah upon all peoples; and will stop at nothing to achieve these goals. There is also no denying that the principal teachings of the Islamic faith support these goals, and approve of any means for the accomplishment of the same. Such a "destiny" makes every other religion -- and even atheism -- incompatible with Islam; and means an inevitable conflict between those who believe in, and work for, the triumph of Islam, and every other system of belief.
There are two things now taking place that add to the "war on terror" that has arisen with the acts of al-Qaeda, and with the things we have done to provoke, intentionally or unintentionally, the hatred and mistrust of many in the Islamic world. There is, first of all, the incredible (to westerners) response to the publication of cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper last September, which now has led to protests, boycotts, and the bombing and burning of Danish embassies; with threats of violent responses, including killing, to other nations, such as Norway, France, and Germany, where the cartoons have been reprinted. The U.S. State Department has issued a statement condemning the action of the Danish and French newspapers; and the editor of the French newspaper has been fired. The Danish government has apologized; and it seems that appeasement appears to be the order of the day.
Part of me wants to ask, where was the U.S. State Department when the "artist" Andres Serrano took a photograph of a crucifix immersed in a flask of urine? Or when the most holy Lady Theotokos was depicted in a pile of dung? What would the State Department say if a mob of Christians, after the reported plan to show an episode of "Will and Grace" in which Brittany Spears plays the host of a (fictitious) Christian cable network cooking show called, "Cruci-fixins" airs on the day the western church marks as "Holy Thursday" -- the day before western Christians remember the crucifixion of our Lord -- what if this mob of outraged Christians goes to their local NBC affiliate, storms the building, sets it on fire, and beheads the station manager? Isn't that the same thing as what is taking place among many Moslem communities today?
Of course, such a response would be totally wrong, on every level, both with respect to the law, and to the Christian moral understanding. No sane person could advocate such a response; and while I may not have all my marbles, I think I'm sane. Why, then, is such "sanity" expected, even required, of Christians, but not of Moslems? (By the way, I don't plan to watch the show. I've never watched "Will and Grace"; and we don't watch any television during Great Lent.)
Where are the voices of sanity and reason among the Moslem leaders? Where are the Moslem leaders calling their people to restraint, and to find other ways to express the wrong they believe they have experienced by these cartoons? And where are the Moslem leaders, the imams and others, who recognize that the continued unfavorable depiction of Christians and Jews in Islamic publications and media is of the same stripe, and, while being outraged by the insult to their prophet, call for an end to the outrages directed at others? If such people are "out there" saying these things, it sure hasn't made it to the media that I've seen...
Meanwhile, the "war of words" between Iran and the West seems to be escalating. As I read the reports, I cannot help but think that, on one level, once again, we're missing something: a sense of history. (I said the same thing with regard to our efforts to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo.) We think we know everything; or, at least, enough to know the way out of any given situation. In the Balkans, we ignred the 800+ years of conflicts between Christians and Moslems. How many people know that we still have troops on the ground in Bosnia? (Granted, it's down to about 150 -- but we're still there...)
Iran is an ancient culture. Iranians today have not forgotten that their nation is heir to a heritage that derives from one of the empires of the ancient world -- the Persian Empire. What people does not dream of recovering the greatness from which they have fallen? What country allows itself to be bullied by another when it has, or can obtain, the means to strike those whom it sees as aggressors or oppressors? This is a situation that requires the utmost care and diplomacy; yet it seems our leaders think the best think to do is rattle our sabers and make threats of attacks. What would we do if we were the ones being threatened?
Another complication is the U.S. support of Israel; so much so that our government has declined to discuss the option mentioned by Iran, to make the Middle East a "nuclear weapons free zone," because of what this would mean for the Israelis. Are we serious about mitigating the threat of Iranian development of nuclear weapons?
And if, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said, military spending and preparedness on the part of the U.S. and its allies must be increased to prevent the development of a “global extremist Islamic empire,” while also claiming that Iran is a significant sponsor of terror attacks around the world, one must wonder what our government plans to do.
It is increasingly obvious that the "war on terror" is more than that: it is a war of culture against culture, a war between the Islamic world and the western world -- and, because the western world still has its Christian veneer, it is a war of Islam against Christianity.
May God help and save us.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Meanwhile, the Family Pride Organization and other activist groups are planning to focus their efforts toward obtaining tickets to the national Easter egg roll at the White House, to showcase their campaign, "Love makes a Family," on behalf of gay and lesbian families. Tickets to the event, which are free, are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis two days before the event, which takes place this year on April 17th. According to the news report, some 16,000 tickets were distributed last year. Apparently, the Family Pride Organization is urging its supporters to "camp out" in line the day before ticket distribution begins; and now some conservative groups are pondering taking the same action.
Of the two situations noted above, the Easter egg event seems almost childish on the part of both the liberals and the conservatives. What's next: "Love Makes a Family" protests at Little League games? "Love Makes a Family" signs in the end zones at NFL games? Of course, love makes a family -- but there is more to it than that -- at least, from an Orthodox Christian point of view.
The decision by the Maryland judge -- admittedly, only one judge (so far) in the system -- has much greater implications. After all, the situation in Massachusetts was triggered initially in just about the same way, if I recall correctly. Among other things, the trend for state legislatures to adopt laws restricting the definition of marriage, only to have these laws struck down as unconstitutional, has led many states to amend their constitutions to place the restriction at that level; and to calls for doing the same in the U.S. Constitution.
Even as groups organize themselves on either side of the issue, it seems that public opinion is being swayed, and it is moving toward the more permissive position. After all, can anyone have imagined that courts would be legalizing same-sex unions as marriages by judicial order twenty years ago? For that matter, although this is admittedly a poor point of comparison, when the 1999 movie "Wild Wild West" first aired on television, the line spoken at one point by Will Smith (starts with a "d"; rhymes with "ham"...) was bleeped; but not today. When that line was used by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler at the end of 1939's "Gone with the Wind," what an uproar took place! ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a ...") It's a small piece of the puzzle; but it shows, I think, the movement of our culture from them until now in the more permissive direction. What once was shocking is now, all too sadly, routine...
Here's the point: The appeals being made by those who oppose the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages ultimately rest upon a Christian foundation; and, as that foundation loses its place in our culture, as it is eroded by the increasingly permissive morality of our culture, we will see the state part company with its heretofore Christian-derived position. Same-sex unions will be legally recognized as marriages; perhaps even in a generation, or less. It's a "brave new world" ahead for the faithful...
We must not lose heart; and we must not ever contemplate surrendering what we believe and practice. If the state chooses to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, and same-sex households as "families," we must continue to hold to the Truth that has been revealed to us.
But let us pray now that that day is long in coming...
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
"The bishop consulted with church officials in Russia, and in June 1992 they sent Father Sergey to Baikonur. With the Russian space program nearly bankrupt, the situation wasn’t the easiest. The congregation grew rapidly, however, and soon there were too many attendees to fit into the small store during services.
"Easter 1994 marked a major turning point for the congregation, when about two thousand people crowded the street outside the makeshift church and city officials approved a live TV broadcast of the services."
(read the full story at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10729300/)
The newly-consecrated church building in the city of Baikonur (formerly known as "Leninsk") was open for services for the Nativity of our Lord, just ten days ago.
How is it possible that a congregation of 2,000 people could grow so quickly? How is it that they could raise the funds necessary to build a temple? After all, their priest was sent by a bishop of the MP.
Can any of us say that our congregation has 2,000 people? Does any congregation in our entity have that many people?
There will be some who will say, "Numbers aren't what is important." Numbers alone are not a good indicator one way or the other -- but something must be said for a people who had been denied an opportunity to express their faith to have responded in such a way when given the freedom to do so.
"Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." (Luke 3:8) And, no doubt, His own children from the stones of atheist Soviet Russia...
unworthy Priest John McCuen
Constitution, many Arizona cities are rolling out the welcome mat to
gay tourists, marketing the state as a cosmopolitan, tolerant place to
"Tempe is in the midst of a sophisticated campaign to lure gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender travelers. The Tempe Convention &
Visitors Bureau launched a Web portal for GLBT visitors on its Web
site, and the city plans to usher travel writers from gay publications
around town in the spring.
"It's not the only Valley municipality eyeing a slice of the estimated
$65 billion gay travel market."
(Read the full story at
While we are quick to pronounce judgment against those with whom we
share the Orthodox faith and way of life, the world around us is going
to hell -- and the realms of business and government are often leading
We are called to be salt and light. We are called to be messengers of
the Gospel to those who dwell in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
But we seem to be straining at gnats, while swallowing the camels of
the advancing immorality of the world around us...
be based on the Muslim faith.
"The Campaign for Muslim Schools said 90 per cent of pupils at St
Albert's Primary, in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow, are Muslim,
yet children are having to take part in Catholic rituals like saying
the Lord's Prayer and attending mass."
"The call came just days after Scotland's most senior Catholic,
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, sparked controversy by stating that Scotland's
core faith was Christianity and that other faiths should recognise
they were 'living in Scotland as a Christian country'. A spokesman for
the Catholic Church in Scotland was not available for comment tonight."
(The full story is available at
This has implications for every Christian nation (including the USA);
especially given both the demographics involved, and the fact that the
fastest-growing religion in western Europe and North America is the
We probably all know the joke of the two Russians who meet on the
train, and begin comparing notes on their church and faith; and find,
at about the 17th element, that they finally disagree; at which point,
the one says to the other, "You're nothing but a filthy heretic!"
Our enemies aren't going to make the distinctions that are often made by those who are all too quick to say that such-and-such a group is not part of the Orthodox Church.
We can focus on what separates us; or we can focus on what we have in
common.... the Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox faith.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Here are two quite relevant quotations:
And yet the world is utterly altered. Just to recap those bald statistics: In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30% to 15%. By 2000, they were the same: each had about 20%.
And by 2020?
So the world's people are a lot more Islamic than they were back then and a lot less "Western." Europe is significantly more Islamic, having taken in during that period some 20 million Muslims (officially)--or the equivalents of the populations of four European Union countries (Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia). Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West: In the U.K., more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week.
A decade and a half after victory in the Cold War and end-of-history triumphalism, the "what do you leave behind?" question is more urgent than most of us expected. "The West," as a concept, is dead, and the West, as a matter of demographic fact, is dying.
What will London--or Paris, or Amsterdam--be like in the mid-'30s? If European politicians make no serious attempt this decade to wean the populace off their unsustainable 35-hour weeks, retirement at 60, etc., then to keep the present level of pensions and health benefits the EU will need to import so many workers from North Africa and the Middle East that it will be well on its way to majority Muslim by 2035. As things stand, Muslims are already the primary source of population growth in English cities. Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?
"In the U.K., more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week." This should give us all pause; as should the author's noting that, in the most rapidly growing countries in Africa, where there is a Muslim majority, the legacy of democratic rule left behind by the Western colonial powers is rapidly being displaced by the imposition of shari'a law. Those who fail to note that the groups largely responsible for the violence and destruction (burning cars, among other things) in France a few weeks ago were, for the most part, largely young men of Muslim background ignore the shift of the population base in many of the European countries, such as Germany (as well as France).
Where will the jurisdictional questions be then?
This posting has been made at several Yahoo! discussion groups. I felt it should also be posted here. My thanks to Jamesofthenorthwest for calling the article by Mr. Steyn to my attention.
Judge Orders Priest to Prove Existence of Christ
A judge in an Italian court has ordered a priest to prove that Jesus Christ was a real person. The case involves an action brought against Fr. Enrico Righi by Luigi Cascioli, a retired agronomist who once studied for the priesthood, but then became an atheist. Mr. Cascioli wrote a book entitled, The Fable of Christ, which Fr. Righi challenged in his parish newsletter for questioning the existence of our Lord Jesus Christ in history.
Cascioli asserts that there is no reliable evidence for the existence of Christ, apart from the Scriptures – and, therefore, no historical basis for the Christian faith. He adds that all other works cited for the existence of Christ, such as the histories of Josephus and Tacitus, were written “long after” the period in which Christ lived as an earthly man, and so are not reliable witnesses, but rather merely report hearsay evidence. He has also said that the Gospels themselves are full of inconsistencies – for example, they do not agree on the names of the 12 apostles. He claims that early Christian writers confused our Lord with someone he calls “John of Gamala,” supposedly an anti-Roman activist in first century Palestine.
Cascioli said that he would withdraw his legal action if Father Righi came up with irrefutable proof of Christ’s existence by the end of the month.
Where is the proof for the claim that “John of Gamala” was a real person, with a “real” basis in history? It’s a wonder – and another bit of evidence of the hatred that exists against our Lord Jesus Christ to this day – that the judge only ordered proof of His existence. What about the proof of the existence of Moses, or Abraham? (But that would be anti-Semitic!) What about proving the existence of Lao Tze, or Gautama Buddha? Did Mohammed really exist? Prove it!
And how, one wonders, will Cascioli or Judge Gaetano Mautone, prove their existence 100 years from now? Or 2000 years from now? Assuming, of course, anyone (beyond their families and friends) cared to even ask…