Five for Friday

Here are five interesting things going on in the world of religion that might give you food for thought for the weekend … or maybe something to do if you can bear getting out in 110 degree weather.

1. Starting locally, M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder AIFD and a Muslim, will be participating in a discussion Sunday (July 19) on “A Strategy to Defeat Radical Islam: A Muslim Perspective on the Only Way to Eradicate the Threat of Terrorism.” The talk, sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, will be from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the DuVal Auditorium on the University of Arizona campus. If you aren’t in church on Sunday morning, join the Center for Inquiry at 10 a.m. for a showing of the film The Third Jihad at 10 a.m., also in the DuVal Auditorium. Jassar founded AIFD in Phoenix in 2003, according to the organization’s Web site, “as an unmistakable expression of American liberty and freedom in an attempt to take back the faith of Islam from the demagoguery of the Islamo-fascists.”

2. Following along the skeptics-are-us theme, uber-atheist Richard Dawkins is funding an atheist children’s summer camp in Somerset, England right now. According to this story, “Alongside the more traditional activities of tug-of-war, swimming and canoeing, children at the five-day camp in Somerset will learn about rational scepticism, moral philosophy, ethics and evolution.” Dawkins isn’t personally involved in Camp Quest, which started in the mid-1990s in Kentucy, but he’s funding England’s version through his Richard Dawkins Foundation.

3. Saudi Arabia, after pressure from clerics and some of the public, has decided to ban public cinemas. The problem here is not the government, according to reports in the Jerusalem post, but clerics and followers of the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam. You’ll recall that Wahhabis reject any religious innovation coming after the third century of Islam. This orthodox branch of the Sunni sect of Islam believe that films have the potential to ruin the Islamic fabric of Saudi society. You know, Harry Potter could lead all the young folk to become witches or something. Odd that they think its ok to cut off hands and that that atrocity doesn’t ruin the fabric of society but a little Proposal might.

4. And speaking of Harry Potter, the Vatican’s newspaper this week sponsored a face-off with two writers, one who argued the HP books teach lessons about love and self-giving and another who argued that the books teach that “with secret knowledge, one can control others and the forces of nature.” Interestingly enough, all the quad-rillions of HP readers over the past decade have yet to produce a giant increase in witches, warlocks or teenagers controlling the forces of nature, so I don’t think the books or movies are near the threat people think they are. And the movies are especially fun to watch if you’re playing “Who is the Jesus figure?” while watching them.

5. Finally, God is being asked to solve the financial crisis – at least in Washington State. Several hundred people showed up on the Capitol lawn in Olympia yesterday to pray for financial relief and were encouraged by pastors to act on their faiths and volunteer help for those struggling to get a job, put food on the table or keep a family together. This is an example of good religion – in that it calls on humans to do something for each other. It will be interesting to see if this brings the community together.

Have a great weekend and remember to love your neighbor.

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