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Thursday,October 31,2002

The vast majority of Islamists (meaning: those Muslims who would like to establish a state governed by Shari'ah and Islamic jurisprudence) are not militant.

Moreover, a similar phenomenon exists in the United States. Most fundamentalist Christians, including the venomous Jerry Falwell, are not militant. However, there are "Timothy McVeigh" type fundamentalists (extreme Christian Identity), too.

The difference is that Christian militants are ***usually*** constrained by Western Enlightenment norms and values. Constraints do not, to the same degree, exist in certain Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia.

posted at 11:32:30 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,October 30,2002

>>How is it that you feel qualified to speak on SPIRITUAL matters when is it clear by your posts that spirituality escapes you?<<

What is the qualification to speak on spiritual matters, and how does spirituality escape me?

>>I would say contrary to your belief it's really hierarchical in nature. God the Father, Christ, and the church.<<

I am not talking theology but sociology. Regardless of the official teachings of a religious organization, all religions, except those which use extreme means (threats of torture, imprisonment, etc.) to keep their members in line, are fundamentally grass-roots in nature.

How did a teaching (Christianity), which was originally about orthopraxy (right behavior), not about orthodoxy (right beliefs), become so concerned with establishing a check list of beliefs necessary to be a Christian?

The Latin word used in Roman Catholic theology is "cultus" (where we get the word "cult"). Confusion exists because, literally, cultus (cult) means either worship or veneration (respect).

In this case, the term "the cult of the Virgin Mary" means the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Any Roman Catholic theologian would say that Roman Catholics only worship God.

>>If religion in question is that of Hicksite Quakers or the like, this might be true, I guess. On the other hand, separating extremistic religion like Roman Catholic (and probably Islam too) from society, is BMHE&O a very good riddance. Not easy to achieve, but beneficial.<<

Here in the U.S., Roman Catholicism is not very extremist, which makes this country a thorn in the side of the Vatican. Even many priests and nuns do not always agree with the Pope.

That is true with any religious organization. The same religion may take on a decidely unique character in different societies. The leaders may object, but, ultimately, religion is a grass-roots (not a top-down) phenomenon.

Much of the Islamic world is right now in a similar place to where the Western world was prior to the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment (with the free inquiry which they gradually promoted). If those of us who are in the West would reflect on our own histories, we would see a lot of parallels to some of the more traditional societies in the Islamic world.

>>Here my understanding is that He said you can be killed if you believe that God had biological progeny.<<

To my understanding, the Qur'an was saying that any *Muslim* who accepted this Christian idea should be executed.

>>here we can say it's ok, in course of jihad, to kill an enemy plus any unbeliever, right? once again, you don't argue against their claims...<<

I am not a Muslim (although I do accept the prophetic legitimacy of Muhammad), so I am not interested in arguing for or against the claims of individual Muslims.

I would not say it is permissible to kill any unbeliever - only those who are waging war against Muslims.

>>The same can be aplied in this case.

you don't challenge this question you prefer go 500 yrs back and talk about Inquisition. you are clearly evading the question.<<

I am just attempting to avoid giving too many of my own opinions. As a sociologist of religion, I try to respect other religions, even when I may not agree with them.

Personally, however, I believe that many Islamic practices and ideas are antiquated. However, I have similar attitudes concerning certain doctrines and practices in the Christianities, the Judaisms, etc.

>>To some Muslims, hadith have no authority ...well, to some Muslims, hadith have that autority<<

Yes. Here in the U.S. (headquartered in Tucson, Arizona), there is an Islamic group called the United Submitters. They believe that the hadith are the work of Shaytan (Satan).

>>Again,they don't blame Koran,they blame Muslims and btw, where were the good Muslims at that moment??<<

My guess is that they were afraid of being bullied, too. Most people are not heros.

>>No one says they are wrong? No one to show them the good path? No one to confront them? Ewerybody's looking west/east direction?

Not my problem?.....Well,well,well....<<

Frequently, more moderate (less fundamentalist) individuals are also those who are less likely to be confrontational.

>>Are you surprised ?I'm not. If they can't leave...... I'm wondering how many Myslims love the Islam and how many MUST love the Islam?<<

Islam is rapidly growing largely because of conversion (Africa, Asia, etc.). Also, in most of the world (outside the West), the idea of leaving one's religion is almost unheard of.

posted at 05:52:07 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Tuesday,October 29,2002

>>Christians and Jews are going to burn in hell because disbelief in Islam is fabricating a lie against him. (Quran, The Cow (all) and The Dinner Table, 5.103)<<

There is no mention of Jews or Christians in that verse, or in the surrounding verses. I am not sure where you got that from.

The Qur'an is referring to "nakasin" (Arabic for violators), i.e., those who accept Islam but dissimulate their faith or attack it for selfish reasons (hypocrites). He is also speaking of those who attack Islam. Obviously, not all Jews and Christians were attacking Islam.

>>Anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God is guilty of blasphemy and should be put to death by having his head cut off. (Quran,The Women, 4.82)<<

Anyone who believes that God actually has a son is committing blasphemy. Muhammad, in my view, is criticizing those who literally believe that God had biological progeny. In other words, the Arab Prophet is certainly attacking biblical literalism. As to whether Muhammad believed that the sonship of Christ might have a symbolic meaning is an open question.

>>It is forbidden to kill a fellow muslim but it is OK to kill a non-believer. (Quran, The Women, 4.92)<<

Please read the verse again. It is okay, in the course of jihad (a defensive measure), to kill an enemy - not just any unbeliever.

>>It is not forbidden to lie to non believers but it is forbidden to lie to another muslim (Sharia law).<<

Please give me the text (and the reference), and I will comment.

>>Mankind is ordered by Allah to be tolerant toward each others, but not toward aggressors, oppressors and tyrants (2: 134 &190; 60:8 and 103:1-3)<<

Yes, that sounds like a good idea to me.

>>Isn't it wonderful that in the West one can choose, or even change, one's own religion? It seems many are using that freedom to become Muslims.<<


>>Having said this, we must recognize that to convert from Islam to another religion is a capital offence in many countries which adhere to Islamic law.<<

That is a matter of religious juridprudence. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't too long ago that the Roman Catholic Church authorized the Inquisition either.

>>To quote the Koran, Sura 4:89: "If they turn their back, take them and slay them wherever you find them: Take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper."<<

The question is, Who is "they"? The Qur'an is referring to enemies who launched military attacks on the Islamic 'umma (community), especially in Medina.

>>Or as the Prophet Muhammad said: "If someone [a Muslim] discards his religion [of Islam], kill Him." (Hadith, vol. 4, 260.)<<

First, hadith (traditions) can be disputed. To some Muslims, hadith have no authority at all. Second, to discard one's religion, in a traditional Islamic context, is meant that one turns against Islam. Therefore, it is permissible to wage jihad (a defensive struggle or, sometimes, war) against him.

>>We enthusiastically shared our newfound faith with every one, including Muslims. What did it get us? Four death threats, numerous times where we were sworn at, kicked, shoved or had rocks thrown at us.<<

You can't blame the Qur'an for poorly behaved individuals who call themselves Muslims.

>>My friend has repeatedly been warned to return to Islam, or face death. We have been warned to stop sharing our beliefs.<<

Ditto. IMO, they are misinterpreting the Qur'an.

>>All the while these same people boast of the stream of converts to Islam in their mosques. Perhaps we are not as free here as we had thought.<<

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world.


Muhammad permitted defensive military operations. However, Muhammad was a statesman and ruled the city of Medina fairly and justly.

>>You'll be probably talking about others religion violence but I remind you that the topic of this forum is about Islam.<<

Nope. No mention of other religions.

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posted at 05:18:42 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,October 28,2002

[An email to the Nation of Islam]


I am a white, Jewish American (despite the fact that I am using a British web email service), originally from New York City and now living in Olathe, Kansas (suburban Kansas City).

I wanted to say that, in my view, Minister Farrakhan is one of the moral geniuses of our time. If, in this time of a possible global convulsion or catastrophe, more people would listen to him, the United States might be able to avoid the hell that it seems to anxious to walk into.

If you are interested in my perspective, please read my paper, highly critical of U.S. and Israeli policies, "An Anti-Terrorist Manifesto: Praxis for a Radical Sociology of Religions." The URL is:


Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.

>>Islam is NOT a peacefull religion. Islam is part of all the types of religions in the world which all are babylonian [expletive deleted] showing "path's" to follow for man to rise to some form of "divinity".<<

First, not all religions believe in divinity, and not all religions which do believe in divinity believe it is possible for humans to rise to that level. Theologically, it would depend on whether the religion was monistic or dualistic. In Hinduism, monism is called advaita, and dualism is dvaita.

Second, there is no such thing as "Islam" (in an absolute sense). There are different "Islams," as there are different "Christianities," "Judaisms," "Buddhisms," etc.

>>Islam is pure hate filled non sense;<<

Have you studied the Sufisms or the Ismaili movement? If not, I think you would be surprised. It is easy to generalize about something one has not deeply studied.

For instance, how would a Marxist feel if someone said, "You have seen one Marxism, you have seen them all"? Such a statement would fail to take into account the sometimes bitter struggles between Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, Maoists, and revisionists of various stripes.

>>"Personal network"... OK. I knew I'll have trouble with terminology here. Anyway, it was not just personal network. My country was communist from 1945-90, and influence of religion was drastically reduced.<<

I am not certain that the pre-1990 Soviet-style command (centralized) economies were Marxist. Certainly, Marx would never have forbidden the practice of religion. He simply felt, with Engels, that religion, like the state and the social class system, would "wither away and die" under a communist (post-socialist) economy. Marx would not have supported the repressive tactics used against the proletariat in the Soviet Union and its satellite countries.

>>That was one of communism's rare advantages, BMHO. True, Marxism was attempted to be treated as religion, but it was not meant for that.<<

Yes, whenever an ideology becomes accepted as a set of unalterable first principles, it takes on quasi-religious characteristics.

>>Lunatic fringe is the only thing non-believers can judge without studying & absorbing religion. Sensible or not, it's the only option they got.<<

Why do you say that? I am not a Christian, but I have developed my understanding of the teachings of Jesus largely by turning to the recent writings of the Hicksite (liberal) Quakers. I am also not a Muslim, but Sufism comes closer to my understanding of the Qur'an (and I can read basic Arabic) than al-Qa'ida.

>>Study of any extremist, monotheistic religion does not make sense (unless you are sociologist, of course), because one is not supposed to "properly" understand it without accepting it.<<

And we sociologists of the religions (sometimes called sociologists of religion) are frequently distrusted by some religionists because we try to objectively study what, to some followers, can only be experienced subjectively and intuitively.

>>You say, if I understand you correctly, that society formed religion because of it's benefits.<<

Not necessarily. As I said, I don't think that there is such a thing as "religion." There are only different "religions." Religions frequently develop and are accepted because they enable people to answer certain of life's unanswered questions. Whether that is a benefit (in every case, only in some cases, or in no cases) is a subjective judgement.

>>I say, that exactly opposite is true. Religion grew upon society by itself. It lives the life of it's own. It does not care about society's benefits, it's only purpose is self-perpetuation. It needs society only as a substrate for it's growth.<<

IMO, the religions are a part of the social institution (a set of rules) of religion. To separate the religions from a particular society would make no more sense than separating families, schools, economies, or governments from a society.

posted at 06:18:59 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,October 27,2002

>>When socialdemocrats is ruling a country as in Sweden and Finland = they also implements socialist views on laws which controlling economy.<<

Specifically which social democrats? Do you think that the politics of these social democrats are representative of what socialists in general do? Democratic socialists? Trotkyites? Maoists? Leninists? Stalinists? Pragmatic market socialists? Profit-oriented market socialists? All of these? What about the numerous forms of socialism I did not mention?

Theologically, George W. Bush would probably be called a liberal evangelical.

Politically, Bush's so-called "compassionate conservatism" seems to have given way to neoconservatism.

>>"Socialism" has destroyed much. Try to look on the "fruits" of Socialist involvement in Africa ! Sweden's Olof Palme was much involved in destroying Africa. He was a Socialist leader.<<

IMO, you may be conflating socialism, which is an economic system, with a political system, such as totalitarianism or authoritarianism.

Capitalism can exist under either a dictatorship (Nazi Germany or modern-day Mainland China) or in a supposed republic (the United States).

Likewise, socialism can exist in a dictatorship (Cuba) or in a republic. There are, for instance, strong elements of socialism in various Scandanavian countries and in the Netherlands.

Socialism represents economic democracy. It is global capitalism, an economic system, which has prevented many countries, such as the United States, from being truly democratic. Capitalist globalization has also promoted a degree of fascism in some of those same countries, including the U.S.

posted at 01:48:10 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,October 26,2002

Contrary to the distorted view of the Bible presented by fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, the the Book of Acts, at least, does appear to me to teach socialism:

"2:44 All who believed were together and held everything in common,

2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need.

2:46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,

2:47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved."

Too bad that fundamentalist Christians have bought into global capitalism.

The Jam'at-ud-Da'awa site is a fundamentalist Islamic site. Say, I was an enemy of Christianity, and to prove that Christianity was dangerous, I provided links to Ku Klux Klan and other Christian Identity sites?

Both the Qur'an and the Bible can (and have) been interpreted to support a variety of positions, including by quoting from these scriptures (usually out of context).

Here are some liberal Islamic sites:

>>Many of the people who read this forum will not understand, let alone agree, with the beliefs that I hold but may I sugest that we all, everyone of us, in our own way do whatever our faiths allow us to do to try to secure safe release for these poor people being treated so awfully by forces of pure evil.<<

Which is more evil, the way that the Russians have been oppressing the Chechens or the incident, just resolved, in Moscow?

Evil is in the eye of the beholder. Although I entirely disagree agree with the tactics used by these Chechen freedom fighters, I have no problem with their desire for freedom and independence.

>>"Sura 9, verse 5 of the Koran, [which reads] 'Then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them. And seize them, beleaguer them. And lie in wait for them, in every stratagem."<<

Of course, there are similar statements in the Tanakh (the Old Testament).

Texts need to be understood in context. The verse you quoted refers to idolaters with whom the Muslims had not made a formal agreement. Muhammad made a distinction between those idolaters with whom the Muslims had made a formal agreement, and those whom they had not.

During Muhammad's lifetime, people were attacking Muslims almost constantly. He was giving Muslims permission to wage a jihad (Arabic, struggle) against these idolaters as a defensive measure.

It is for reasons such as this that many Muslims have been attracted to the liberation theologies - including those explicitly Marxist (e.g., the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). Just as the early Muslims were struggling against oppression, so many contemporary Muslims believe they are now doing the same thing against the U.S., Israel, the Russians, etc.

posted at 08:19:02 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,October 25,2002

>>Preach that "Islam is Peace" lie to the dead of September 11. Tell it to the families of the hostages in Moscow, the families of the dead in Bali. Come on fool, preach some more. Hell, it even turns out that the two bit sniper in the US is a Muslim. He worked for Farrakan a while back.<<

That could be said about most any religion - at some time. Imagine trying to convince the Jews, during the Inquisition, that Roman Catholicism was a religion of peace.

What is happening in Islam now needs to be understood as a struggle between modernists, those who want to bring Islam into alignment with the Enlightenment movement (including democracy and republicanism), and traditionalists ("fundamentalists"), those who would rather see a focus on Islamic religious integrity and scriptural purity.

I had written:

>>>>Religion is a part of society<<<<

You replied:

>>Not according to MHE. I grew up in strict atheistic/agnostic family, in a circle of atheistic/agnostic/pagan/communistic friends & relatives. Religion never was part of my society.<<

As a sociologist, I would not use the term "my society," just society. I interpret your use of "society" to be something like "personal network."

Religion, in some form, is a part of all societies - Russian, American, French - ***all*** societies.

>>There's no priest even at our funerals, for example. That's why I experience religion as something entirely alien.<<

Yes, but your or my experiences do not define society.

>>Beliefs can exist without religious organizations, religions can't.<<

Beliefs can exist without religious organizations. Likewise, religions can exist without religious organizations - if you mean formal (complex) organizations.

For millennia, Jainism existed without any religious organizations. It is only relatively recently that some organizations have developed with a Jain focus.

>>Religion & it's religious organization are so closely interconnected, that it's quite adequate to use the same term for both, especially in colloqial language.<<

Christianity is a religion. Buddhism is a religion. Wicca is a (new) religion. However, there are a plethora of organizations (denominations, sects, etc.) which support each of these religions.

>>Indeed. Ummm... is there any technical term for this type of fanatics? Closet fanatics? Non-monotheistic fanatics? Whatever. As long as I don't have to deal with them & their religion, they are of no interest to me.<<

The word "fanatic" is not a technical term. I was using your term. Personally, I prefer to avoid too many non-specific labels and just describe and explain what I observe.

As I suggested, each religion, and each religious organization, needs to be studied in its context. A religious extremist, fundamentalist, or fanatic can only be understood in relation to a specific religion or religious organization.

>>I'm not particularily interested in any religious tradition, and I do not approach them. I only have contact with their lunatic fringe, because they approach me. There is nothing else I could judge.<<

That is your experience, but it doesn't mean that it makes sense to judge an entire religious tradition by these "lunatics."

After it was pointed out that Paul Wellstone [who just died in a small plane crash] was a professor [at Carleton College] before becoming a U.S. senator, Judy Woodruff [CNN] said that he came out of nowhere. As a college professor, I object to the statement that being a college professor is "nowhere."

posted at 04:08:30 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,October 23,2002

Combining responses to two messages:

>>You assert --"All religions are manipulated by social forces. "

>>I disagree.

>>In Islam there is strict and irrevocable instruction against any manipulation in any way even to the very thought that there may be a future prophet.<<

The fact that the Qur'an refers to, and prohibits, the "corruption of the book" does not mean that religions are not social creations. The author of the Qur'an argued that the Gospel had been corrupted, which is variously interpreted as referring to the texts of the Gospel themselves or to the meaning of the Gospels.

In any event, none of that has any relation, that I can see, to the issue of the social origin of religions. In other words, I am not necessarily questioning the existence of divine knowledge or divine revelation. I am simply arguing that, once knowledge is acquired (by whatever means), it is inevitably subject to social construction. I am calling those social constructions "religions."

>>It is this total constraint and freezing of social norms to a time and a society that is part of the problem.<<

I agree with you completely on that point.

>>A little bit, yes. But social forces are manipulated by religion a whole lot more.<<

Religions are social structures - just like government, economies, family systems, militaries, and other social institutions are social structures. Social structures are sets of rules which govern human social behavior. As such, these institutions influence each other continuously. Religion is a part of society, so I don't know what it would mean to argue whether religion influences society more than the other way around or vice-versa. There is constant interaction between these sets of rules (or social structures).

>>Service to society, 'beneficial fruits' are means, not purpose of organized religion. The one & only purpose of organized religion is self-perpetuation. Everything else is secondary.<<

Well, to me you are essentializing religion. In other words, you are assuming that religion is a single thing, a universal, which exists independently of individual religious organizations. I would not be willing to make that assumption. IMO, "religions" (plural) exist. "Religion" (singular) is simply an abstraction and has no independent reality.

>>Politically representative. It's their goals and influence that matters, not their numbers.<<

I agree with that.

>>Religious fanatics want to make their worldview universal, they want to enact it.<<

Not in every case. There are some religious "fanatics" who belong to religions which have exclusive requirements for membership. They have no desire for their beliefs or practices to become universal.

>>Sometimes they succeed, and when they do, they don't let anybody ignore them. Willing or unwilling, you have do deal with them. That's why they are the ones to be judged.<<

Again, you appear to me to be speaking of religion as if it were a thing - a universal.

>>There are religions, which don't have perceivable lunatic fringe. You'll probably never hear about fanatic Viccan or Pagan.<<

In the course of my researches, I have met some. I am a sociologist of religion.

>>Even if there are any, they probably won't demand their religion to be compulsory.<<

I have never met such a person, no.

>>They'll never say "you are not real American patriot if you aren't Viccan", for example. On the other hand, lunatic fringe of monotheistic religions is numerous, well organized, aggressive, and politically active.<<

There are different types of fanaticism. Or, to put it another way, fanaticism takes its shape according to the dictates of its repository. Fanaticism represents an exaggeration of the claims of a particular religious movement. Therefore, one would need to look at the specific religious ideology under consideration and then examine how it becomes exaggerated.

>>Judging a religion by lunatic fringe it produces is the only sensible thing to do, as far as I am concerned. It's lunatic fringe everybody has to deal with, not moderate believers. Moderate believers can be safely ignored.<<

I think that you are collapsing two unrelated categories here. First, I agree that the "lunatic fringe" needs to be closely watched. I do not agree, however, that it makes sense to judge a religious tradition (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) by that fringe.

Dear Mr. [Brit] Hume:

Your network claims to be fair and balanced. However, I have yet to see any representatives of the Iraqi government, either directly from Iraq, the United Nations, or elsewhere, address your viewers on any of the programs of the Fox News Channel.

Why is that?

posted at 05:52:39 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Tuesday,October 22,2002

Younger conservative and older liberal priests are simply reflecting trends in the larger society. Generation X and generation 9/11 (the millennial generation) are, on average, more conservative on issues than baby boomers. However, that conservatism is often not reflected in moral behavior. In other words, although the younger generations are more socially, politically, and economically conservative, they are not necessarily more morally conservative (in praxis).

Hi, Jerry [Nachman of MSNBC],

As someone with degrees and journalism and sociology, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the high quality of your reporting on the sniper investigation. Your interviewing and reporting style reminds me of what I learned in journalism school back in the 1970s and is in marked contrast to the yellow/advocacy journalistic styles of so-called journalists such as Bill O-Reilly.

I am sorry that you moved your program back to 4pm (my time). That means I can only watch it live a couple of times per week. This week, however, I have been taping your show and watching it in the evening.

Thanks again.

>>... French revolution is Secular humanism, not moderate Christianity. I dare to say, that Europe without French revolution would't be much different from Islamic countries.<<

All religions are manipulated by social forces. Is there any branch of Islam which resembles so-called 1st-century Christianity? No. First-century Christianity was a turf war between the Paulines, the Hebrew Christians, and the Gnostics. In other words, there was no uniformity in belief or praxis within Western Christianity until it was imposed, in the wake of a victorious Pauline Christianity, by the state.

The effects of the Enlightenment, including the French Revolution, on the Christianities, were just the latest of a long line social structural influences. Religion is a human creation - an ongoing social accomplishment.

>>So, those who adhere to doctrine most faithfully are called 'hardcore', while fanatics are primarily concerned with power and harming others. Point taken.<<

I am just giving my own viewpoint. If Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. are social creations, it pays to look at the most socially beneficial fruits which each of these religions has produced. In my view, Hicksite Quakerism (Friends General Conference, in the U.S.) comes closest to that.

>>I guess it's obvious enough, that English is my 2nd language, and I hope you'll excuse me for being clumsy around terminology sometimes.<<

No, your English is fine.

>>I should say than "if you want to find out what certain religion is really about, and what to expect from it when & if it gets out of control, you must look at it's lunatic fringe (or fanatics, whatever)."<<

That assumes that there is an essence, a quidity, to each of the religions. IMO, a religion is what we collectively make of it.

>>Fanatics are (potentially) more influential, therefore more important, more representative. They are the ones to be looked at.<<

More representative? Do you mean statistically? Only a small number of those who call themselves Christians, globally, are fundamentalists. The fundamentalist Christian movement started in the United States in the early 20th century. Most of the world has, thankfully, been largely unaffected by it.

>>i wouldn't worry too much about your inability to create a wealth based religion, there are enough posters here who can cover that facet although they would have to be kept on a short leash.<<

Well, we'll need a messiah, an avatar, a perfect master.

When Guru Maharaji, the 14-year-old guru from the early 1970s (who is now 44), called himself the lord of the universe and the one whom Jesus would bow down and worship, he had tens of thousands of followers. Now, he just calls himself a teacher, and has dropped all the messianic claims. His membership base is also just a fraction of what it used to be.

Messiahs sell.

posted at 12:31:48 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,October 21,2002

>>Harry Draper to his credit wanted to set up a Jewish homeland in southern Germany but Truman wouldn't allow it so Palestine was chosen.<<

Qadaffi has the same idea.

>>Moderates? Or Atheists/Humanists behind French revolution?<<

You are talking hundreds of years ago. I am speaking of the present time.

>>In any case, if you want to find out what certain religion is really about, and what to expect from it when & if it gets out of control, you must look at it's hard core.<<

I don't agree that a religion's hard core should be equated with fundamentalists and fanatics. In Christianity, the fundies have attempted to appropriate to themselves, exclusively, the label "Christian." That does not mean that they are the hard core of the Christian tradition. To the contrary, I would say that the liberal, mystical (Hicksite) Quakers come closer to that hard core than do the fundies.

>>this is excellent news! you've done this before, yay!<<

Yeah, but these days, creating new religions is a money-making operation, and I never made a dime on "Soulology," so I am probably a poor candidate to start one now.

Think of all the money that the late L. Rob Hubbard made on Scientology, or the billions that Sun Myung Moon has made on the Unification Church/Movement and the media conglomerate which has developed out of it (the Washington Times, United Press International, and the News World Corporation).

>>how about: youism.<<

Yeah, Youism might work, or maybe Newism or Bestism. The roots of all of those terms are used excessively by Madison Avenue advertising firms to market products.

>>that's almost bound to attract the bazillions of selfish bastards planet-wide, perfect fodder for conversion.<<

Yeah, but you need to package it so to attract at least one Madonna or Travolta. Madonna is involved with the Kabbalah Centre, and Travolta is with Scientology. Maybe combining them - a religion which makes people clear through a study of Lurianic Kabbalism (one of the main branches of Kabbalism).

posted at 07:37:44 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,October 20,2002

>>I don't think so. It's exactly fundamentalists and fanatics by which religion must be judged, because they are the most representative sample of it's believers. They are the ones, who define certain religion, push the edge, and lead the way. Moderate believers are just a silent majority.<<

In all religions? In all countries? Actually, in many cases, it is the moderates who have driven the fundamentalists into relative oblivion. That is, for instance, true with respect to the Christianities in most Western countries. Notable exceptions are the United States and Australia.

>>To judge any religion by its lunatic fringe is of course quite wrong but what is valid is to see a) how that religion manages and deals with it's idiots, and b) what the religion gives as instructions on how such idiots sholude be seen by the main stream.<<

Well, that's easy. Loads of scholarly Muslims, including some friends of mine (though I am not personally a Muslim), have criticized the events of 9/11 and al-Qa'ida in general. The problem is that the media simply don't pay much attention to them.

>>In both xtianity and in judieism the zelots 9and beyond) are restrained generaly by secular law. In islam secular law is seen as allways being inferior to shaia law and the 'teachings' of the koran. Now - look at what the koran has to say about non-believers and so on.<<

Most Muslims are Sunni, and Sunni Islam is comparable to Protestantism (not to Roman Catholicism or Greek Orthodoxy). In other words, there is no single leader of the Sunnis - no one person who is universally regarded as authoritatively interpreting the Shari'ah for all Muslims. Shari'ah law has four main interpretations (called "schools of jurisprudence"), amd each of these has numerous variations.

In terms of what the Qur'an has to say about non-believers: The Qur'an refers to Jews, Christians, and Sabians (Mandaeans) as people of the book and demands that they be respected and tolerated.

>>What I would accept is that it is wrong to use the term 'muslim' without defining which particular branch of muslim 'belief' is refered to - comments?<<

Yes. It is easy to generalize about something we are not familiar with.

>>If salvation was dependent upon only brains then I suppose you take the cake Mr.Foster! But, it's according to God's mercy and grace combined with humilty (on our part) that devine revelation brings the Vision of God.<<

Is it humble to judge someone else as not being humble?

>>I might add through the merits of Christ though. Faith is really a heavenly journey on this planet that brings us into the presence of God.<<

I agree with your second sentence.

>>Please read the 13th Chapter of 1 Corinthians and you will see the order that God places upon knowledge.<<

I am familiar with 1 Corinthians. My Ph.D. dissertation was on the American pentecostal movement.

>>what the [expletive deleted] is a 'meaningless essentialism' ?<<

If I say that I like Japanese food, that is a meaningless essentialism. On the other hand, if I say that I liked the sashimi served at Japanese Garden Restaurant this past Thursday, that is a particularism.

Essentialisms are sweeping generalizations. Particularisms are references to a specific thing. Essentialisms do not objectively exist (outside of the mind of a person). Particularisms **do** have an objective reality.

>>Merry Meet mark!

Big words do not for wisdom make nor inteligence portray.<<

Neither do small or medium-sized words.

>>No, the evidence is clear.

Religion of peace

Yeah. Right. Not.<<

Would you judge all Christians by the Christian Identity movement (such as the Ku Klux Klan) or by the nonsensical statements of Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, or Pat Robertson?

It is inappropriate to judge any religion by its fundamentalists and fanatics.

posted at 07:45:43 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,October 19,2002

>>religion has well passed it's sell by date, what was written even yesterday has only relevence to yesterday.<<

IMO, the term "religion" is a meaningless essentialism. There is no such thing as religion. There are only different systems which some people have elected to call "religions." In other words, using the same term (such as religion) for differing phenomena does not make these phenomena the same.

>>people of a religious bent tend to adhere to yesterdays news.<<

Again, I do not know what a "religious bent" is. It is important to first specify the particular religious tradition. Then, to explain the branch (sect, denomination, etc.) of that religion that particular groups of people belong to.

For instance: Religion is not a group. Christianity is not a group. The Baptists are not a group. On the other hand, the Southern Baptist Conference or Free Will Baptists are a group.

>>shall we create a new 'religion'?<<

Who is "we"?

>>Well its nice to know that people pay for you to teach this crap to their kids. Thank goodness that there are still some patriotic Americans, unlike you.<<

When I say I did not claim to be patriotic, I meant that I do not agree with what the U.S. has become. I am, however, patriotic in the sense that believe in working for what the U.S. ***can*** become.

A news story just began on Fox News Channel with the following:

In other axis of evil news ...

More of the "fair and balanced" coverage we have come to expect from Fox.

>>Should claims without evidence be taken as truth? Or should asserted truths without proof somehow stand to be "disproven?"<<

Evidence is appropriate for scientific questions, not for axiological (ethical) or metaphysical questions.

So, when some fundamentalist Christians claim that God literally created the universe in 6 days, they are making a scientific statement, and it should be evaluated based on evidence (for which there isn't any).

On the other hand, if a religion says that it is good to be just, truthful, and compassionate, that is an axiological statement, and no evidence is possible.

>>Islam does call for peace and so does the Quran. One of the names of God in the Quran is Al-Salam which means peace. All the chapters in the Quran start 'In the name of God the merciful the beneficiant'<<

Islám, as originated by the Prophet Muhammad, was a religion of peace and surrender to God (salám). However, as with Christianity, Islám changed from its original focus of orthopraxy (right action or behavior) to orthodoxy (right beliefs).

There is no basis in either the Qur'án or the New Testament for the concept of heresy. Nonetheless, heresy, based on saying or believing the "wrong" things, appears to have become more important in most branches of both these religious traditions than having a simple faith in the Prophet or Messenger and living a life in submission to His Will.

>>I am not going to say much here, but I want you to know that I actually visited your web sight.<<


>>I would like to introduce myself as your antithesis. You finally met me.<<

Almost everyone I know would fall into that category, Doug.

>>They care not for the United States and in fact, the civil rights movement was and is a Jewish effort to destroy America.<<

Yeah, right, it's all those illuminati after us. ;-)

>>Dr. Foster, well well. You intellectual elitists never cease to amaze me.<<

So I am an intellectual elitist because I disagree with U.S. policy, but you are not because you agree with it?

>>Don't you think that it's rather humorous that you have decided that the Bush administration is the source of all evil in America, but yet you support a marxist political party that places animals and trees above man???<<

When did I say that I supported a Marxist political party or that I placed animals and trees over man?

Actually, I am a neo-Marxist (an extreme revisionist). My views come closer to some of the liberation theologies. In terms of economics, I have no problem with responsible local capitalism (not global capitalism), which I can see functioning side by side with cooperatives, collectives, and nonprofits.

>>Frankly, calling the Greens "marxist" would be too good for them. Environmental Nazis is more like it.<<

A fascist (or Nazi) is someone who scapegoats a particular group (like so-called "terrorists") to further a particular nationalistic agenda (like global capitalism). It seems to me that the Bush administration comes closer to that position than do the Green parties.

>>So, Dr. Foster, you denounce one Nazi only to support another? That makes sense.<<

How is the Green Party Nazi? Do you know what the term means?

posted at 12:33:55 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,October 18,2002

Well, now we know: North Korea has admitted to having nuclear weapons. Iraq has not, and there is no convincing evidence to the contrary.

The Bush administration, however, has continued to express more concern over Iraq than over North Korea. The administration even withheld information about North Korea until Congress passed a resolution giving the President permission to wage war on Iraq.

Care to guess why?

Give up?

How much oil does North Korea have?

posted at 03:05:56 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Thursday,October 17,2002

Interesting competition at the 9pm Eastern Time (8pm Central Time) hour on the three U.S. all-news channels:

Why would anyone watch anything but Hardball?

>>Wow Doc. That's really Patriotic to compare Ashcroft to Hitler. Explain the simmilarities between them please... While I dont personally like Ashcroft, I dont think he has attempted Genocide lately. I hate how unrealistic comparisons are made.<<

I never claimed, personally, to be patriotic. Both Ashcroft (w/Bush) and Hitler took advantage of a crisis (the Depression, with Hitler, and 9/11, with Ashcroft/Bush) to justify the suspension of civil liberties for a certain segment of the population (Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others, with Hitler, and Muslims, with Ashcroft/Bush). Both regimes imprison(ed) their citizens without a trial (or even a prospect of one).

One of the leading American terrorist organizations, the National Rifle Association, now opposes attempts to register guns in order to be able to fingerprint bullets. Irrespective of the effectiveness of a particular proposal, the NRA generally reacts negatively to any efforts at restricting access to killing machines.

Why is that both Arizona Senator, John McCain, and MSNBC's Pat Buchanan both regard themselves as Reagan Republicans? McCain opposes Buchanan's isolationism.

In a regular news report today (not in an opinion show), a Fox News Channel anchor, David Asman, said that the U.S. was helping one of the members of the axis of evil (North Korea) in its nuclear program.

What about the criticism continually leveled by Fox against CNN for interjecting commentary or bias into its regular reporting? I guess, for Fox, it is okay to do it, as long as the the anchor is bought and paid for the Republican Party.

Bias is unavoidable. We all have it. Fox News Channel, the chicken hawk channel, just has a bias that some people find more palatable.

posted at 10:43:01 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,October 16,2002

>>Why are white Americans the lousiest people on Earth? Because they're the guiltiest people of the planet's guiltiest country; guilty, lousy, and we should celebrate their demise and deaths.<<

Please do not judge all Americans by King George, der Fuhrer Ashcroft, or the corrupt leaders, political or economic, who currently oppress us in the U.S. I am a (white) American, born and raised in this country, and I thoroughly and completely reject the American corporatocracy and the role played by this country in promoting global capitalism.

If you would follow some of the recent anti-war demonstrations throughout the U.S., and the work now being done by the American Green Party, perhaps you would not be as inclined to make such sweeping generalizations.

Actually, I think it was a mistake to establish Israel in Palestine in the first place. As Col. Qadaffi has said, Israel should have been placed in post-World War II Germany. The Germans had a great deal to repent of. The Palestinians did not.

Now, however, a more practical solution, IMO, would be to create a multi-ethnic state. Guarantee Jews and Palestinians each 50% representation in the Knesset (irrespective of their actual numbers in the country). Put both Sharon and Arafat on trial for war crimes.

posted at 03:52:39 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,October 14,2002

>>So between the WTO and them [Mainland China] literally starving for money, they turn the proverbial blind eye?<<

Even worse is that many members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted against their consciences in favor of the war resolution. Election Day is next month.

posted at 01:47:19 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,October 13,2002

What do you know, an Islámic fundie asking for the murder of a Christian fundie. Will two negatives cancel each other out?

Iranian Muslim cleric, Muhsin Mujtahid Shabistari, has declared a fatwa, or religious edict, calling for the death of a major player in the American axis of evil, Jerry Falwell.

Falwell, who headed the now defunct American fascist organization, the Moral Majority, had referred to the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. As the old adage says. "The evil thou seest in others, in thyself may be true."

A Christian Zionist, Falwell, a victim of chronic foot-in-mouth disease, later apologized for his remarks, but not for his views, on this subject. His apology was also too late for those who died in India, as a result of his comments, in rioting.

May God forgive this misguided, publicity-seeking preacher when he stands before his Creator.

>>I can't imagine a muslim would write "Dear policeman, I am God" though, otherwise I would have suspected it could have been Al Queada. The guy is turning out to be a real bastard though, he seems to be getting someone every day.<<

I think he may have been repeating statements made by Clint van Zant, a retired FBI profiler and an over-used news pundit on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News Channel. Mr. van Zant said that the sniper thinks he is God.

>>I agree the whole world (especially Britain) needs saving from American Imperialism, but CAN'T ANYBODY DO BETTER THAN A STUPID SNIPER?!?!?!?!<<

If I am right, and the sniper is from al-Qá'ídá, I think it will backfire, as we saw in the wake of 9/11. If anything, it will lead to even more U.S. imperialism.

However, it seems to me that Usama bin Ladin has indicated that he is actually interested in bringing about a war of civilizations, so he may get his wish.

In any event, I think that the activities of this sniper may be only the first in a series of attacks.

Subject: RE:

Date: Sat, 12 Oct 2002 16:25 EST

From: "Henneberg, Molly"

To: "''"

Dr. Foster,

Thank you very much for your email. It was a bright spot after reporting for several days on very sad news.

These sniper shootings just tear at my heart. I hope and pray that police catch the killer very soon.

Your kind email was an encouragement.

Thank you...and thanks for watching Fox.


Molly Henneberg

-----Original Message-----

From: []

Sent: Saturday, October 12, 2002 3:46 PM

To: Henneberg, Molly



I wanted to say how much I enjoy your reports. You appear to have genuine compassion for the people in the stories you cover, including the current killings in the Washington, D.C, area.


Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.

>>Throughout all of this [Iraq, Middle East, al-Qá'ídá, India vs. Pakistan, etc.], why is China being sooooo quiiiiiiet.....?<<

China recently gained admission to the World Trade Organization and doesn't want to do much to antagonize the U.S. A year or so ago, when it was discovered that a governmental aircraft built in the U.S. for China was bugged, China was (at least publicly) as quiet as a lamb.

posted at 12:13:24 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,October 12,2002

As promised by al-Qá'ídá, we are now seeing the first fruits of Bush's global imperialism.

It appears to me as though the sniper(s) in the Washington, D.C., area is/are connected with al-Qá'ídá. Perhaps the individual(s) is/are part of a cell.

Symbolism is important to these people:

First, consider attacks on persons in gas stations and the Bush family's oil money. The al-Qá'ídá organization believes, and this opinion journalist agrees, that there is a connection between wanting to attack Iraq and the fact that Iraq is the second-largest producer of oil in the world (after Saudi Arabia). In other words, the U.S. corporatocracy, including the Bush family, wants to protect its oil. (Vice President Cheney, of course, ran the Halliburton oil company.)

Second, two persons near two Michael's craft stores were attacked. Michael figures in Jewish, Christian, and Islámic angelology.

The following comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. Four times his name is recorded in Scripture:...

"... Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices:

"'To fight against Satan.

"'To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.

"'To be the champion of God's people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.

"'To call away from earth and bring men's souls to judgment ("signifer S. Michael repraesentet eas in lucam sanctam", Offert. Miss Defunct. "Constituit eum principem super animas suscipiendas", Antiph. off. Cf. "Hermas", Pastor, I, 3, Simil. VIII, 3).'"


  1. The al-Qá'ídá organization is trying to "rescue the souls of the faithful [Muslims] from the power of the enemy [America and its imperialism]."

  2. The snipers allegedly left the Tarot death card ("hour of death") near one of the dead bodies.
  3. The snipers are trying to "bring men's souls to judgment" in the United States.

More importantly, in Islám, Michael, the angel of protection (or providence), is connected with the blowing of the trumpet on the Day of Judgment:

"Mentioned by name once in the Quran (II, 98), he is charged with providing nourishment for bodies and knowledge for souls. He stands above the 'Swarming Sea' (LII, 6) in the seventh heaven, and if he were to open his mouth, the heavens would fit within it like a mustard seed in the ocean.

"According to a hadith, 'Every prophet has two viziers from the inhabitants of heaven and two from the inhabitants of earth; my two from heaven are Gabriel and Michael.' When Israfil blows the trumpet, Gabriel will stand at his right hand and Michael at his left."

posted at 06:29:55 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,October 11,2002

From (including the ad):

"Uncle oSAMa Says:

"'I Want YOU To Invade Iraq'

"Go ahead. Send me a new generation of recruits. Your bombs will fuel their hatred of America and their desire for revenge. Americans won’t be safe anywhere. Please, attack Iraq. Distract yourself from fighting Al Qaeda. Divide the international community. Go ahead. Destabilize the region. Maybe Pakistan will fall -- we want its nuclear weapons. Give Saddam a reason to strike first. He might draw Israel into a fight. Perfect! So please -- invade Iraq. Make my day."

I want YOU to invade Iraq

As a personal note: a war in Iraq might also bring about the war of civilizations, a state of affairs much hoped for by Usama bin Ladin.

posted at 07:37:58 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Thursday,October 10,2002

In an apparent Freudian slip today, Fox News Channel's Britt Hume referred to "us," and then quickly corrected himself to say the "Republican Party."

It definitely appears as though FNC does not stand for the Fox News Channel. It is, rather, a secret fascist code for the Federation of Neoconservative-chicken-hawks and Christian-new-rightists.

posted at 05:28:28 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,October 09,2002

Gee, what do you know, the government of the land of the free and the home of the brave admitted today that it tested biological weapons on Maryland, Alaska, and on other places during the Cold War. Some experts have blatantly said that these tests were conducted on unknowing civilians.

Who's going to jail on that one? Yeah, right.

posted at 04:06:24 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,October 07,2002
To Fox and Friends (Fox News Channel): I thought that Steve's comment about the sniper's victims circling the Washington, D.C. area was interesting. As we know, al-Qa'ida looks for symbolic value to its attacks. Could they be circling the capital city in preparation for hitting the bull's eye?

Hi, Jerry [Nachman],

Has MSNBC checked out or verified this story from the British Observer/Guardian newspapers?

Click here

Briefly, it alleges interception of bin Laden's recent conversations by satellite.

[The following text of the message added to the blog]

Bin Laden still alive, reveals spy satellite

A year of life on the edge

Jason Burke in Jalalabad
Sunday October 6, 2002
The Observer

Osama bin Laden is alive and regularly meeting Mullah Omar, the fugitive leader of the Taliban, according to a telephone call intercepted by American spy satellites.

In the conversation, recorded less than a month ago, Omar and a senior aide were discussing the American-led hunt to track them down. The two men, using a mobile Thuraya satellite phone, spoke about tactics for several minutes. Omar then turned to a third person who was within a few yards of him, voice analysis has revealed. After exchanging a few words, Omar said that 'the sheikh sends his salaams [greetings]'. Senior Taliban figures habitually refer to bin Laden as 'the sheikh'.

Voice analysis appears to corroborate the identification of bin Laden. 'It shows he was alive recently at least,' said a senior Afghan intelligence officer. 'Some people might like to think he is dead, but that's just wishful thinking.'

The revelation comes amid growing speculation that bin Laden is dead. He has looked gaunt and unwell in videos released by al-Qaeda, and appeared unable to use his left arm. There has been no public statement from bin Laden since early this year.

Some analysts say this lack of communication indicates that he might be dead, but others say he is biding his time. 'He does not want to be rushed into saying something reactive. He wants to make statements on his own terms,' said Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of al-Quds newspaper in London.

Other analysts feel Omar could have been bluffing, knowing he was being listened to by the Americans.

Bin Laden's whereabouts are unknown, but it is thought he is moving between Pakistan and Afghanistan via the border between the Afghan province of Paktia and the Pakistani tribal area of Waziristan. There were unconfirmed sightings of him in eastern Afghanistan in March and April. The only confirmed location for him was at Tora Bora, the cave complex south of Jalalabad, in December.

posted at 07:56:22 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Tuesday,October 01,2002
Americans, including politicians, are trapped in a collective delusion that there is really a difference between the two major parties. The fact that both parties are about to approve an Iraqi war resolution should, hopefully, shake some people out of their mass hallucination.

posted at 09:45:02 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Copyright © 2002 Mark A. Foster, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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