Monday, May 19, 2008

Quaran as Target

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a U.S. soldier's desecration of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, requires the "severest of punishments," not just an apology and a military reassignment.


Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond apologizes after a U.S. soldier admitted using the Quran for target practice.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the movement of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, condemned what it said was a "blatant assault on the sanctities of Muslims all over the world."

An American staff sergeant who was a sniper section leader used a Quran for target practice on May 9.

The U.S. commander in Baghdad on Saturday issued a formal apology and read a letter of apology from the shooter.

The sergeant has been relieved of duty as a section leader "with prejudice," officially reprimanded by his commanding general, dismissed from his regiment and redeployed -- reassigned to the United States.

But the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which said it reacted to the news "with deep resentment and indignation" -- wants the "severest of punishments" for the action.

"What truly concerns us is the repetition of these crimes that have happened in the past when mosques were destroyed and pages of the Holy Quran were torn and used for disgraceful acts by U.S. soldiers," al-Hashimi said.

"I have asked that first this apology be officially documented; second a guarantee from the U.S. military to inflict the maximum possible punishment on this soldier so it would be a deterrent for the rest of the soldiers in the future."

Jeez-o-peet. Don't you wish the US could just say, "OH, go to hell". Quran, Qurshran. Big deal. How about trying to have a real government instead of a bunch of little bitchy, religious tribes. Why in the hell are mixed up with these idiots. Oil? Naw!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Space and Time

Any introductory physics class always starts with the basic measurements of time and distance. Seems reasonable that those two observations are fundamental to measuring other things about our universe. Things are where they are and are some distance from other things whether we measure that distance in feet or furlongs or leagues. The fact that things obviously move implies that time goes by and it’s arbitrary measure in seconds or months or leagues is a logical result. Time. We are born and we die. Seasons come and go. Day and night. The phases of the moon. Time is an obvious and necessary quantity to keep track of. We’re not high level thinking, obscure physicists when we measure these two things. We could be as simple as a shepherds or carpenters measuring out fields, deciding when to plant, or building a barn. We’d understand discussions of time and distance.

So then, as I understand it, the word of god was given to man via divine illumination or inspiration. . . or indigestion. They wrote it down as is was received from the creator and that’s the bible. To read what was illuminated is to believe that the earth is the center of the known universe (it’s not). That the earth is about 5000 years old (it’s not) and, moreover, that the earth IS the universe and the unreachable heavens are where the clouds are and where god and heaven are (way off). Look at any religious painting and you’ll see angels and demons hanging out in the clouds. Not on mars. Not in the Orion nebula but in the clouds.

So why all the misinformation from the creator? I know the faithful will say that those stories are just metaphor. But, why should they be? Why are they not the real thing if they’re so stinking real? Why couldn’t the creator just as easily have told the various shepherds and so forth who were put in charge of writing the bible, “Listen, the universe is way bigger than you can imagine right now. Imagine something really far that’s still to close”. And, the earth is way older than you can imagine (4.5 billion years!) and all of my creation (the entire universe ) is even older (13.5 billion years). A better question is why try to tell these ignoramuses anything! They’re not ready. Why not let us discover what we now know to be true and measurable about the nature of time and space, the size and age of the universe and then come down and say, “Yeah, I did that”! Although I beg my own question. . . come down from where?

And, what if. . . What if there are other intelligent creatures out there in the universe. Universe? Let’s stick with the galaxy for now. Not even Star Trek allowed missions to other galaxies. Our Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light years in diameter. That means that a radio or light signal from one end would take 100,000 years to get to the other side. Imagine putting in a phone call! After 100,000 years your signal would get to the receiving party and then another 100,000 years for you to receive the response. And you got the machine! Ha! But there are millions of stars in our own galaxy and it is starting to look like lots and lots of them have planets. Some of those may be the right distance from their star and some of those may have the right mix of water and oxygen to support life. If so, some of them may be millions of years ahead of us in evolving. What would the theists do if an alien species came here and didn’t know what the hell we were talking about when it came to Jesus, god, and the holy ghost?

More significantly, doesn’t it seem a little outrageous that the creator of the universe would give such a skewed story about creation to some undereducated farmers from pre-history? Why no mention of the big bang?

As Jack Nicholson said in the movie of the same name, What if this is as good as it gets? What if the universe is exactly as it looks? Why would that be so bad? Life evolved here in a completely natural way. Humans survived by sticking together and taking care of their own and their tribe. We still do that. Magical appearances and disappearances of things, walking on water, coming up out of the grave, curing by touch. . . these things do not happen! They are stories from long, long ago and they are killing us literally and intellectually.

A possible out?

So, maybe the judeo/christian god is not the creator of the entire physical universe. Maybe he is just the god of people. Maybe god evolved as people evolved and he is an earth bound entity with no knowledge or interest in the rings of saturn or the Orion nebula. Maybe this god has no more idea about what caused the big bang than we do. Sounds good so far? Let’s keep following this line. . .

Does this god have power and what does it mean to have power? Can he affect events in the lives of people? Can he be petitioned by prayer? If so, how does any of that work? Did the power of god evolve as naturally as everything else evolved here on earth? Moreover, things evolve or not depending on their usefulness. What environmental conditions would support the evolution of a single god? The nature of evolution itself is that things come from simpler things. Did god evolve from simpler gods? What would that even mean? A proto-god who could make it rain but couldn’t smite thine enemy? I can see where he might be useful if there was any evidence that you could affect things by prayer but there is not one shred of evidence that this happens despite very carefully controlled testing. Why would nature support the evolution of a single entity that cannot be detected? To what end?

So it seems that a pan-universal god is illogical and an earthbound god is impossible. Then, what the hell are we doing? Could we please get about the business of feeding everybody and educating everybody to not make so many babies? Could we educate everybody on how to not foul their own nest so that our children and grandchildren might also enjoy the planet? And, could we please just drop all the religious rhetoric which would in turn stop 99% of all the wars?

But, god, if you’re there, could I please have a Cub world series win?