Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fatwa of the Day #8

Islam Phone ServiceThe website of Dar Al-Ifta Al-Masriya (the Egyptian House of Issuing Fatwas) is a popular online database, which logs millions of Fatwas in the form of Q&A. Muslims from all over the world submit an inquiry about a certain personal, familial or social issue; and religious scholars respond with a ruling. According to this article, the “Dar” has issued 465,000 Fatwas in 2010 alone! I chose the one below from a huge compilation of absurd topics.

The Question:

This Fatwa is divided into two parts. The first question was whether a divorcee woman is allowed to have the fertilized egg, which she had stored in a fertility clinic prior to her divorce, planted in her womb. The second question is the same except that it inquires about a widow rather than a divorcee.

Islam Egypt Grand MuftiFor the first part, Dr. Ali Goma Mohammed (the “GRAND Mufti”) explains that in the case of a divorcee whether the divorce is irrevocable or not is crucial. In other words, if a man says to his wife “I divorce you” three times, it is an irrevocable divorce. If he says “I divorce you” once, it is revocable. In the latter case, [the woman] can be taken back” by the husband, and marital bonds are not broken.

The Ruling:

In the case of an irrevocable divorce the ex-wife is prohibited from planting egg because now that marital bonds are broken “she becomes foreign to [the ex-husband]”; and in Sharia Law, planting the egg of another female or an egg fertilized by a man other than her husband is considered “unlawful”.
In the case of a revocable divorce, the woman is allowed to plant the egg, only if the husband gives permission.

As for a widow, the same “reasoning” applies. A woman is prohibited from planting her own egg, fertilized by her dead husband, because, according to Sharia Law, death breaks marital relations and therefore the husband becomes a stranger to the wife.


Older Fatwa of the Day articles:

Fatwa of the day #1Fatwa of the day #2Fatwa of the day #3Fatwa of the day #4Fatwa of the day #5Fatwa of the day #6Fatwa of the day #7

Tuesday, December 28, 2010 by Eli ·

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Friday, December 24, 2010

A Reflection on Drama-Loving Islam (Part 2)

(Read “A Reflection on Drama-Loving Islam [part 1]”)

 

A reader of Free Thinking Lebanon sent me the link of the video below after reading my post “Lebanon: it can’t be 2010?!”. He wrote:

“[…] This link is for a funny video of a guy faking a cry during Ashura celebration. I hope you’ll enjoy it”

I watched the video and it is hilarious. I’m not sure, however, if it is during a Ashura celebration; it looks like a funeral to me. But who cares? The clip is still funny as hell.

All religious ceremonies contain some sort of drama; and when taking part in these rituals and celebrations, some religious folks become really emotional and the dramatic behavior they demonstrate is in deed honest. However, many of these “spiritual” reactions are simply FAKE, Watch how the cheikh (in brown), in the video below, reacts once he spots the camera!

 

Drama Loving Islam

Friday, December 24, 2010 by Eli ·

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lebanon: it can’t be 2010?!

I’ve always wondered why so many non-Lebanese people hold an extremely pessimistic view of Lebanon. I guess I’ve known the reason all along: religious extremists. But since Lebanon is my home country, sometimes I tend to ignore this sad reality, and convince myself that Lebanon is the most developed country in the middle east as well as the one with the most open-minded people—which is true to some extent. However, every time I put on the news, the same hopeless and sad feeling takes over me. It’s impossible for one to escape from his or her own reality.

Lebanon is a really strange country. On one hand, a large part of society consists of hard-working, civilized folks who enjoy their own lives, and respect that of others. On the other hand… (I’ll leave it to the video below to fill in the rest)

 

 

Source: CNN

Sunday, December 19, 2010 by Eli ·

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Word “God” in Books from 1500 - 2008

A couple of days a go, Google launched an interesting search application, Google NGram Viewer, used for graphing how one word, or a combination of five words, have been trending (by word frequency) in books since the 1500’s.

I played around with a few word combinations. Here’s one of my evil results; It shows the trend for the word “god” from 1800 till 2008.

chart

Saturday, December 18, 2010 by Eli ·

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Back From The Dead

Secular Lebanon Logo

I’m glad to announce that this blog is back online as of today..
Although if you read the last post, I had already said that I would be back to blogging but I wasn’t able to! The reason was that back then I had been very busy and I had to decide between taking a long break from Free Thinking Lebanon or losing my mind. Also those who follow(ed) me on Twitter (my new twitter ID is Eli_FTL) might have realized that I haven’t been active there either. I hope now I’ll be able to manage my time more efficiently and keep FTL running..

by Eli ·

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Back from my Month-long “Vacation”

More than a month ago I wrote my last post on Free Thinking Lebanon, on July 16th; and if you had been reading my blog, prior to that, you would know that I was posting on a more frequent basis (every other day). However, it has been an extremely busy month (work, traveling), and I haven’t been able to contribute to this blog. Actually, I have been almost completely out of touch with the “outside” world; I haven’t been online much during that time. But the good news is—at least for my frequent readers and especially for me—that I am back now, and Free Thinking Lebanon is back on as well!

Stay tuned :)

Friday, August 20, 2010 by Eli ·

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Bloodless Fish?

Non-believers, and freethinkers alike, know what it feels like to discuss matters of religion with a narrow-minded, fundamentalist person. After every single conversation, with such faith-blinded fellows, I tell myself that this is the last time in which I will debate someone whose head is buried too deep into the pages of the bible—or the Quran—that he or she can no longer distinguish between what’s logical (sane is a more accurate word here) about the things they say, and what’s not.

  Some of the arguments they offer are really absurd. However, it’s the answers they give to the probing questions—once they feel cornered—that are the most bizarre. The last guy I had a discussion with about religion, made me crack-up on so many occasions, that it made him feel really uncomfortable, and respond with more and more stupid answers.

John (this is not his real name by the way; I’d rather spare him the humiliation) is a thirty-something guy and a Catholic. We started the conversation, like most religious chats, discussing the corruption of the church, how it is getting in the way of science, and the fact that it should be separated from state. Then, I moved on into a more general “religion is a lie” argument, which carried on with the usual back and forth disagreements. I’m not going to recount all the arguments; I’m only going to tell you about one strange answer he offered, in reply to one of my questions.

Near the end of our conversation, we were discussing Lent and some of the Christian rituals and customs practiced by believers during those forty sacred days before Easter. When I got more specific in my questions, and asked John how come do Eastern-Christians eat fish during Lent while it is forbidden to consume meat during this period? His ridiculous answer was: “Because you are not supposed to eat anything that has blood, and fish don’t have blood!”Fish Circulatory System

Of course I laughed so hard at this reply, especially at the seriousness and conviction with which he was talking. This surely marked the end of our debate; I couldn’t listen to such inane reasoning any longer. Fish Circulatory System Cartoon

I went back home and tried to look it up online because I would really love to know if this idea is shared with others like John. I’m sure he didn’t come up with it by himself; he must have heard it from someone, or maybe it was something close to it and he modified it. It could be the common belief because why else would eating fish be okay and not other types of meat? This question has always intrigued me, and I still haven’t found a convincing answer, even after an hour looking it up.

 

A Note to John: Buddy, if I were you I would think carefully before expressing such STUPID claims again. At least, if you’re not able to reflect on how would fish be a living animal without blood, Google it! Here’s a link for you.

 

Friday, July 16, 2010 by Eli ·

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fatwa of the Day #7

A month ago I launched a new segment on Free Thinking Lebanon, writing about Fatwas issued by Muslim scholars in the Arab world. Seven posts later, I’m still amazed by some of the material I read on new Fatwas, while I decide on which of these bizarre edicts to write my next article. After reading so much about these Islamic rulings, I formed a somewhat personal opinion on the reason why some of these Fatwas—if not all—are issued. I believe that the folks who come up with those ridiculous Fatwas—except for a minority who might have a political agenda—are simply bored individuals, looking for a couple minutes of media exposure.

As an atheist I regard organized religions as a threat to the advancement of science—and to human progress in general, and I usually condemn any stumbling block(s), fashioned by religious absurdities, to hold back our development as a reasonable and scientifically-oriented culture; however, I find some of these Fatwas extremely funny, and I enjoy reading about them. I hope you’ve been enjoying them as well, because I’ve prepared another ridiculous one (below) for you to digest.

Coca-Cola BackwardsAs you all know, Islam—as well as Judaism—prohibits the ingestion of any products coming from pigs (I will not go into the detail to why it is prohibited, because I am preparing a detailed article on this subject, which I hope to publish soon). One day, Ayatollah Sheikh Qasim Attayi declares that all Muslims should avoid drinking Pepsi or Coke because they contain an enzyme called Pepsin which is extracted from pig intestine. Even though, the information he offers about the source of this enzyme is true (pig intestine is one source from which this enzyme can be extracted, read here); however he doesn’t indicate the source of the information on which he bases his affirmation that these two beverages contain Pepsin. I did some research on this issue and came across other forums discussing it, but none gives any reliable source of information, which is normal because the companies producing these two popular drinks do not release their secret recipe to the public, and therefore it would not be possible to affirm if they do contain Pepsin or not.

Evil Pepsi Coca Cola was hit by an additional wave of hate from the Muslim world. An Islamic website, “specialized” in propaganda for boycotting western products and Israel, offers another reason why Muslims should not drink Coke. They claim that Coca Cola is a supporter of Israel since 1966, despite the boycott lobbied against Israel by Arabs. To enforce their claims, they point to a page on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website titled “Timeline of Events- Half a Century of Independence 1948-1998”, which under the year 1966 reads the following:

“Coca Cola announces its plans to open a plant to produce Coca Cola in Israel, despite the Arab boycott”

I’m not an expert in politics but I’m inclined to believe that the reason behind this BUSINESS expansion by Coca Cola is, well, to expand their Business! I don’t really see a conspiracy taking place, but maybe I’m too na├»ve to uncover this Zionist scheme. Unlike me, however, many seem to have exposed this mysterious plan; one of them is Fahri Hassan, a filmmaker who shot a documentary titled “Coca Cola & Israel: Is Not the Real Thing”. In an interview with a correspondent from IslamOnline.net, Hassan explains the meaning of this title, he said “[…] it is a play on the Coca Cola slogan: "Coke is the real thing." [What] I am saying is that Coca Cola is not the real thing. It is deception since they are upholding the State of Israel with their money.” I tried to look for this documentary on YouTube but couldn’t find it. However, below is a bonus video which claims to expose Coca Cola and Pepsi; enjoy!

Saturday, July 10, 2010 by Eli ·

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Reflection on Drama-Loving Islam

Being a Lebanese citizen, living amongst Muslim people—many of whom are great people by the way, I have come to learn that Islam is a drama-loving religion. In order to explain what I mean by that, I will give an example of one concept which is common to many Muslims, and which I have been encountering ever since I was in middle-school. Even at that young age, I was able to recognize the drama that accompanied the religious lent which my friends were forced to “participate” into, by their parents.

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, during which they fast and are encouraged to help others and be more charitable. They abstain from ingesting anything—food, water, juice and even cigarette smoke—from sunrise till sundown. The two behaviors which Muslims display during this month, that have made me draw the above stated conclusions are the way fasting individuals make other people, who are not fasting, feel as if they are obliged to respect them, and even sympathize with them, by not eating or drinking in front of them. It is as if others should appreciate the “hardship” they are experiencing, and for some reason they ought to be grateful to them (however I’m not sure what for!)     

OvereatingThe other idea related to the month of Ramadan, which not only makes realize how dramatic this religion is, but also hypocritical, is the whole “Iftar” thing (or the eating frenzy which takes place after sundown). During this month, when the evening prayers announce the setting of the sun—and therefore the end of the daily fasting period, Muslims dive into their dishes of soup, salads, appetizers, entrees, main courses (note the plural), deserts and non-alcoholic beverages. Every day a magnificent feast is devoured after the not-so-long hours of fasting. While indeed, many devout Muslims do in fact deem this holy month as a time for increased reverence and worship, many others seem to regard it as a series of eating holidays.

Ramadan IftarI have been invited to many Iftars by my Muslim friends, and what I remember the most from these “eat-till-you-burst” food festivals is how when you look at the way many of the attendees were eating, you will get the impression that you are looking at uncivilized savages, who had been starving to death for weeks. From a religious perspective, it makes you wonder: isn’t fasting supposed to symbolize a will to sacrifice as well as some sort of giving-up some of life’s pleasures—such as overeating? I’m not sure how excessive eating would fit this description. And by the way, it doesn’t stop there; those same folks set their alarms minutes before sunrise in order to fuel-up furthermore on foods that have probably remained from the “more than you can eat” buffets. They stuff their still-full stomachs with as much food as they can and wash it all down with a lot of liquids, in preparation for the upcoming “terrible” foodless hours.

I can’t help but wonder how come many normal people remain without food or water for more than half the day, not because they are fasting, but simply because they are busy at work or in school. And the interesting idea is that, unlike the overzealous Muslims, you will not catch them overdosing on food, when they finally grab a normal meal.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 by Eli ·

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Friday, July 2, 2010

The Marketing of Saints

Proud to be LebaneseIf you happen to have a Lebanese friend, you might have spotted the enthusiasm in his or her speech when they tell you about Lebanon and its wonderful culture. They must have told you—at least once—about how smart  right and competent Lebanese people are, and about the fact that many of the successful people in the world—in different of disciplines—are of Lebanese origins. Of course, it is true that many important figures, both historical and actual, are either from Lebanon or have Lebanese roots ; to give a random example (out of many), the richest person alive today, according to Forbes’ World’s Billionaires List, as of March 10, 2010, is Carlos Slim Helua Mexican Telecom giant of Lebanese origins.

The reason we (Lebanese people) regard those facts as important is because our country is a tiny one, with a population of about 4 Million people (the same as the city of Los Angeles, California). Even more, when you consider the fact that Lebanon has been going through war and political instability for the past three decades, the pride we feel when we learn about a new successful Lebanese individual becomes justified.

As much as I love to hear about people, from my country, receiving worldwide recognition, which usually portrays success, wit, courage and hard work, there is one special category “celebrities” which I regret hearing about: it is our beloved saints. It seems Lebanon is also a great “originator” of sainthood, with 4 out of 5 appearing in the last decade.

Since 2001, two Lebanese saints have been canonized by the Vatican and two others beatified:

One other saint is of Lebanese origins—St. Charbel; however, this one has been recognized by the Vatican as a saint a long time ago (October 9, 1977).

Saints of Lebanon

Last week, when I first saw the billboard sign with the picture of monk Estephan Nehmeh and a message announcing his beatification on June 27, 2010, I was stunned. Brother Estephan NehmeFirst, because I had never heard about this man (neither did my friend, a dedicated Catholic, who was riding in the car with me). Second, because it’s hasn’t been long since the latest beatification of Father El Kabouchi, and honestly the Lebanese people—at least many of those whom I know—haven’t gotten used to idea yet, that we have a new saint from Lebanon, and some of them can’t even remember his name. And last but not least, it was very interesting to see this billboard sign next to another one, advertising a trance music concert (and by interesting I mean ironic). It’s funny how religion is resorting to the same marketing techniques used for commercial purposes. I wonder if one day they will even sell tickets to those who wish to attend the beatification of a new saint—which I’m certain will be in the near future?

Friday, July 2, 2010 by Eli ·

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Letter to God

Dear God,

I have been wanting to send you this letter a very long time ago, but I did not want to trouble you in your busy days trying to make life a lot better for all of us mortals out here.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have given us since you created us! I have read the story about Adam and Eve and how they could not but sin by eating from the forbidden tree which you must have had a very good reason to plant somewhere next to them! It's us, silly mortals who know not thy wisdom!

Thank you for giving us the need for sex, in every single lusty form of it, and thank you for helping us to test our strength in fighting the need for it!

Thank you for heaven and hell, for should we not have had the promise of heaven and the fear of hell, we would have failed to be your joyful slaves, oh mighty God!

Thank you for sending all those prophets who guided us to the path of righteousness! For without them, we would have forgotten about you and enjoyed each and every second of our short lives!

Thank you for promising us the world if we obey you, for if you haven't we might have sinned by enjoying the world!

Thank you for being so mighty! So mighty that you are closing our eyes so we can follow you, and you know better than us on where we should go!

How can I ever express how thankful I am! I am willing to give everything for you! Take me! Lead my way! I am blind, just like you want me to be! I am mindless, so think for me! I am powerless so hold me! I am afraid, please don't leave me! I am living for no cause, so let thy wisdom be my guide!

Thank you Lord for everything you have given me, but more for what you have taken away from me!

Yours truly,

Stupid Mortal

PS. Write me back sometime! I loved the Bible letter you sent!

Thursday, July 1, 2010 by Jonah Di Bap ·

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fatwa of the Day #6

NIKE Greek Godess of Victory This time it’s the athletes’ turn to be “Kuffar” (Arabic for sinners), according to Islam. Dr. Abdullah Al-faqih issued a Fatwa, claiming that wearing any clothing or accessories baring the Nike sign is a sin. According to this Muslim scholar, the Nike commercial sign is “a sign of a goddess of victory, daughter of the giant Pulas, as the Greeks believed.” And according to the Hadith, the prophet Mohammad said: "Whoever imitates some people, he is one of them." And since the Greeks are Kuffar, as per Muslim doctrine, imitating them—by wearing clothes with a sign symbolizing a goddess whom they worshipped—is a deadly sin.

Black Nike LogoI started this post by a statement that athletes are being considered sinners because they wear Nike clothes; however, this is not very accurate since Nike products are not restricted to athletics. From hats to shoes and even electronics, Nike products target a wide variety of customers. The Arab world is not an exception, and Nike regards the Middle-East region as an important marketing venue. Additionally, demand for Nike products haven’t really changed in the years following this Fatwa; it seems, this time, Islam has lost a battle to the Greek goddess of victory!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 by Eli ·

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Virgin Mary: Protector of Lebanon-Gaza Flotilla?

The ship is now ready," Samar al-Hajj, the organizer of the flotilla ship, destined to sail from Lebanon to Gaza, told AFP on Thursday. Women activists—from Lebanon and other countries—plan to sail on this humanitarian vessel, which will carry food and medical supplies to people in Gaza. Israeli officials were clear about their opposition to this campaign; they reported to the UN that they are determined to stop the ship from reaching its target. Despite these threats, al-Hajj remains determined to carry on with her objective. Israeli authorities are not the only concerned party; a UNIFIL report reveals the UN’s concern, and states clearly that they are ready to stop this campaign in the case of a breach in the 1701 Resolution. The organizers, on the other hand, reassured (see video below) that the sole purpose of the flotilla is to offer humanitarian aid to Gaza. A statement by Hezbollah also came as a pledge of peace. They stated that they will not be participating in this event because they “do not want to give the Israeli enemy an excuse to carry out an aggression against Lebanon.” 

The courage and dedication displayed by the participants in the flotilla, despite the Israeli threats, is really the sort of admirable strong-mindedness we all appreciate. However, the events of May 31st should have taught us that perseverance alone is not enough to ensure the safe arrival of these humanitarian sailors to shore. Hence, some of these women activists seem to have realized this fact and decided that more should be done in order to guarantee a safe journey to Gaza. But, instead of seeking diplomatic support, they resorted to the Virgin Mary, hoping to reinforce their campaign via prayer. The ship was christened “Mariam” (Arabic for Virgin Mary) in her honor. The activists believe that this will convey both a message of peace and of holy power.  

Women activists praying to Virgin Mary.The sail date of the flotilla is still unknown, but according to the organizers it won’t be long. In my opinion, there is still time for the activist to seek out realistic sources of support. If not, I really hope that mother Mary will be able to protect the passenger of the flotilla from another clash with Israeli commandos. An increase in the tensions between Lebanon and Israel is the last thing we need right now; war is only a few nautical miles away!

Sunday, June 20, 2010 by Eli ·

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Poem: “Black Church” by Jonah

1

There was a black church
In the land of mist and clouds!
Dressed in darkness inside
And so all the surrounds…
A holy cross rose atop,
Dark itself, too, so dull.
Built on an ancient graveyard
Of a hundred million skulls!
Days pass by… years just die…
But still it is this gloomy night!
Silence spread… that of the dead…
A witness to the death of light!

There, an old man prays…
To gods unidentified!
Alive, his flesh decays
Rotting before he died!
Down he kneels again
As far as he can…
Gazes at the dark…
And slowly embarks.
Emptiness…
Nothingness…
So called holiness!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 by Jonah Di Bap ·

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Documentary: It’s About Time Lebanon

A friend played me a documentary, yesterday, titled “It’s About Time Lebanon” by Lebanese filmmaker Pierre Dawalibi, released in 2006. I was really taken by the emotional footage intercut into this summary, reviewing the 30 years of war in Lebanon. Even though, it has been 4 years since it was released, I believe it is worth posting on my blog. This short film condemns all political movements, fueled by sectarian hate and corruption, by conveying a message of peace, love and tolerance.

 

 

(via YaLibnanTV)

by Eli ·

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Fatwa of the Day #5

So far I’ve been focusing on Fatwas that have received a fair share of publicity. For this post, however, I’ve chosen one from a website that issues Fatwa’s by the dozen, every day. Those Fatwas are in the form of Q & A; any Muslim, who has a concern or a question about a certain matter, can log in to this website/forum and submit a question. A group of religious scholars (Imams and Muftis) moderate the question and reply to each and every one. They offer “evidence” from the Sharia Law and refer to conversations from the Hadith. When I found this website I knew I have discovered the mother-ship of Fatwa’s.

Question number 11471 (they maintain a serialized system on this website), is titled:

 

“What is masturbation? And why is it haraam [a sin]?”

Funny "Masturbation is Bad"

Masturbation (or Solo Sex as it appears in the reply), is considered a sin in all three Abrahamic Religions, and in each doctrine we find a different reasoning on this matter. In the response to this query, they divide the answer into two parts: Scientific reasoning (or what I’d like to call Pseudo-scientific) and by reference to the Hadith.

In the first part, they quote a “dignified physician of the Unani medicine”, who’s referred to as Miftahi. After doing some research I found that this supposedly physician is Mufti Zafeeruddin Miftahi, a practitioner of Unani medicine, which is an alternative medicine, based on the belief that the body holds a mixture of the 4 elements: fire, water, earth and air. This Mufti (or religious cleric)—a reliable source according to the academic issuing this Fatwa—states in his book the following:

“[Masturbation] is such an evil practice that has ruined many families and many more are being ruined today… [It] affects equally the heart, the brain, the liver, the stomach, the kidneys along with the reproductive organs. This practice makes the muscles and the nerves of the reproductive organ sagging and lifeless. Accumulation of fluids in the veins makes it unfit for its normal function. There is extreme feebleness in the power of erection. The heat of the friction between the delicate muscles of the organ and the tough hide of the hand damages the former beyond repair."

After offering this pseudo-scientific answer they move to a more scriptural reasoning. Similar to the formation of all Fatwa’s, the scholars try to refer to conversations by the Prophet Mohamed and his followers in order to develop a “reliable” answer. In this case, they cite the Quran:

“The Believers are those who abstain from sex except with those joined to them in marriage bond, or those whom their right hand possess for (in their case) they are free from blame, but those who crave something beyond that are transgressors."

Other sources were alluded to as well, but I’m not going to mention them since they all approach the issue in the same manner; they claim that masturbation is a sin because the prophet said so. However there are two sentences which I would like to highlight:

Oppression of Muslim Women“Beyond the wife and slave woman all ways and means of sexual satisfaction are unlawful.”

And,

“… [Masturbation] was only permitted when it was performed by the hand of a man's wife or concubine, for he has a right to the enjoyment of her hand as he has to the rest of her body."

I quoted those two sentences just to underline the unreasonable approach to sexual affairs in Islamic doctrine. It seems masturbation is Haram but female sex-slaves are a queerly tolerable concept!

Monday, June 14, 2010 by Eli ·

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Beirut: best place to visit?

(Despite the on-going political and economic instability in Lebanon, fueled by the harboring of religious fundamentalism, the New York Times named Beirut as the best place to visit in 2009.)

 

Lebanon is one of the few countries that weren’t affected by the subprime crisis. Economists explain that the three main reasons behind this immunity are: the central-bank’s wise decision to prohibit commercial banks from stepping into subprime territory; the fact that Lebanon’s industry is mainly services-based; and the boom in touristic activities, which has luckily coincided with the worldwide crisis. Tourism has always been a significant contributor to our national income, and every summer people anticipate a large touristic turn up, hoping for a financial stimulus and a boost of the ever stagnating economy.

 

In terms of touristic attractions, Lebanon is well endowed with countless historical relics and monuments, diverse national museums, and an abundance of eye-candy natural vistas. These fascinating national treasures have attracted millions of tourists to this small Mediterranean country, throughout the years—the majority coming from other Arab countries. In the last decade, however, different factors have become the main touristic magnet: the large variety of leisure activities and the vibrant night-life.

 

 

Lebanon is the only Arab country in which people, with the exception of religious extremists, enjoy a liberal lifestyle. Even though religion plays an important role in the government, it is still regarded as a significantly moderate nation, if compared to the neighboring Islamic republics. Nowhere else in the Arab-world do people enjoy the laissez-faire way of life, such as the one offered in Lebanon. During the last ten years, tourists from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan have been swarming Lebanese shopping malls and have become regulars at the clubbing scene in Beirut. These “pious” Muslims, have found the optimal locale—in terms of luxury and freedom from their dictatorial religious dogmatism—to spend the billions of US dollars, hibernating in their nine-digits-interest-swelling-secretly-held bank accounts (Islamic doctrine prohibits Muslims from earning interest on their money. However, the Banking Secrecy system in Lebanon opens a completely private backdoor for those petroleum giants.)

Beirut Before and After The clubbing frenzy, sweeping through the streets of Beirut, every night of the week, 365 days per year, for the last decade, have breathed life into post-war Lebanon. This once demolished capital has been transformed into the ultimate party-city in the Middle East. However, this transformation is seen differently by the religious fundamentalists; for them, Beirut has become the Sin-City of Arabia. Honestly, I fear that one day those religiously eccentric individuals will drag Lebanon into another war (I say “another” because religion/sectarianism has been the cause of the previous ones),  which will undo all the progress that has been taking place for the last decade.  Every time I drive down the streets of Beirut and I hear El-‘Adaan (Muslim prayer) echoing from the loud speakers of the mosques, I wish that, one day, the optimistic dance beats of the nightclubs in downtown Beirut will be loud enough to mute these resonating prayers, and not the other way around.

Saturday, June 12, 2010 by Eli ·

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Fatwa of the Day #4

  Funny Simspons Left Hand

According to Muslim doctrine, around 157 Million Muslims living today are sinners for reasons they probably ignore. Why is that? Well, according to this Fatwa, eating or writing with your left hand is a sin. And since the percentage of Muslims in the world is 23% (2009) and the total population is 6.8 billion (2009), and the estimated percentage of left-handed individuals in the world is 10%, if you run a straight forward calculation, you come up with the figure 157 million left-handed Muslims living today.

This number would be much bigger if you consider all the population, and not only Muslims. However, it wouldn’t make any difference since non-Muslims are sinners “by default”. It is worthy of noting, however, that some scholars have a slightly different opinion. They believe that writing with your left-hand can be excused only if writing with the other hand is difficult. It would be great to know the opinion of those religious know-it-alls regarding masturbation with the left hand? But wait a second; isn’t masturbation a sin in the first place?

by Eli ·

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Added-Value to Free Thinking Lebanon

Jonah's Logo

Today, Jonah (display name: Jonah Di Bap), has joined the author list of Free Thinking Lebanon. He is one of my closest real-life friends. A free-thinker from Lebanon, endowed with a smooth writing-style and a twisted sense of humor, he’s a well versed fellow in both essay writing and poetry. I’m really glad to have him on board, contributing to this blog..

Please join me in welcoming Jonah to this lovely community. I hope you’ll show him the same support you’ve given me when I first started F.T.L.!

Cheers

Thursday, June 10, 2010 by Eli ·

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Fatwa of the Day #3

(I will be moving this segment “Fatwa of the Day” to a separate blog soon. Meanwhile I will keep posting them here.) 

   Emoticans are Bad in Islam

A Fatwa have surfaced on the Islamic religious forum ahlalhdeeth.com, which claims that, according to several narrations in the Islamic Hadith, the replication of God’s creations (humans, animals etc..) is “Haram” (impermissible), even in drawing. This can explain one of the reasons that might have driven Muslims to protest the “Draw Mohamed” phenomenon; however this is not the subject of this Fatwa. This one is related to EMOTICONS! It prohibits the use of smiley faces & co. on internet forums, chat rooms, blogs, emails and even in SMS. If you have read the previous two Fatwa’s that I have posted (the one about killing Mickey Mouse and the one about breastfeeding adult strangers), this shouldn’t be too bizarre in comparison. This edict, however, can be divided into 3 parts: 

1) Attempting to simulate God’s creations is a sin. Drawing any face that has eyes, a nose and a mouth, regardless of how distorted they are, is prohibited. In other words, even though a smiley face such as this one :-] can only be “read” if you visually flip it 90 degrees to right, it is still a prohibited, simply because it has the three facial features I mentioned above.

2) Women are specifically proscribed from using emoticons while chatting online, especially if they are engaging in a private conversation with a male stranger. This is because, in Islam, a woman is not allowed to communicate her feelings to a man who is a “non-mahram brother”. However, if women think wisely they can solve this problem simply by breastfeeding this stranger – at least five times. By doing so a family bond will be created between the two and the man will no longer be an “outsider”.

3) A third reason for this ban comes from the Hadith as well. One narration states “Angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture”. So in order not to prevent those winged creatures from entering your house, make sure there are no pictures inside; and if you’re writing a message online, make sure you don’t type in “a colon, a dash and a closed parenthesis” consecutively; and finally don’t forget to keep your dog in the backyard at all times!

Monday, June 7, 2010 by Eli ·

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fatwa of the Day #2

When you hear about a religious scholar, especially a Muslim Sheikh, fighting for women’s rights you might be thinking what a great step this is for the Muslim world. You might also praise him for finally breaking free from the nonsensical stereotype, which is deeply rooted in his religion, and which sets Men as the superior gender. But then you learn about the “workaround”, which this Sheikh has devised, and you discover that this supposedly improvement for the Muslim culture is, in fact, a more dehumanizing act for Women, that brings to light the sickening obsession of Islam in the matters of sex and the oppression of Women.

Muslim Women at workAs a solution to the segregation of sexes at the workplace in the Arab World, Dr. Izzat Atiya, an Egyptian scholar, found a “solution” that would make it okay for a man to stay alone with a woman colleague in the same room while at work (which is a great sin in Islam). He claims that if a woman breastfeeds a man five times, a family bond will be created between the two and it will become acceptable for them to be left alone in a room. Dr. Atiya based his research on sayings from the Hadith and he claims that since the prophet Mohamed gave this idea to his wife A’isha then it should be a genuine and blessed solution.

I’m not going to comment further on this Fatwa; simply thinking about the subject makes me sick. Such reasoning underlines the fact that religions are man-made, and by MAN I’m not only referring to human beings but to Males in particular.

Sunday, June 6, 2010 by Eli ·

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fatwa of the Day #1

Muslim Minnie Mouse in Burqa The Islamic Sharia law, states that all mice are evil and calls for their total extermination. This idea by itself is silly but then a cleric comes up with a Fatwa that takes this statement to a higher level of absurdity. Sheikh Mohamed al-Munajid, a renowned religious scholar in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, issued a Fatwa against Mickey Mouse! He stated that all mice are “agents of Satan” and that Mickey Mouse is one of his soldiers. His exact words were: “Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases.”  

This makes me wonder what’s next? A Fatwa for female Disney characters ordering them to wear a Hijab? Also, I wonder if a price will be placed on the head of this devilish mouse. In my opinion, a reward of “3 magical beans” would be the most appropriate compensation, by the sheikh, to anyone who kills this pesky little rodent.

Saturday, June 5, 2010 by Eli ·

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A New Daily Segment: Fatwa of the Day

I was talking today to a friend of mine who came from Saudi Arabia after living there for 3 years, during which she did her Junior and Senior years in high-school and her first year of college. She was telling me about her experience in that country and about the social life there (actually the lack of it). Even though I am well aware of how closed-minded the system is in the Kingdom and I’ve heard many stories about how religion, in this Islamic theocracy, controls every aspect of the people’s lives, I was stunned by the reality she was describing; some of these stories were hilarious while others were really horrifying.
 
At one point during our little chat, she started recounting some of the Fatwa’s that were being advocated in the period she was living there. A Fatwa is a religious opinion/edict announced by an Islamic scholar. Muslims who respect the judgment of this “mufti” regard these Fatwa’s as a law which they should follow. She told me about some of these bylaws and I couldn’t believe that such absurd, and even perverted, reasoning can be regarded by many people as “reasonable”.
 
After listening to those eccentric accounts, I was somewhat doubtful of how accurate they could be, so I googled them and guess what? She was right! I started reading about other bizarre Fatwa’s – there are so many of them – and it gave me an idea about a daily segment for this blog which I will call: Fatwa of the Day. Even though some of these stories happened a while ago, in my opinion, they would make an interesting read for anyone who takes pleasure in a little sarcasm. I will publish the first one right after this post so check it out hopefully you will enjoy this new theme.

by Eli ·

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Freedom Flotilla Attack: A badly executed plan?

Gaza Freedom FlotillaIn my opinion, the terrible attack on the freedom flotilla was bound to happen. Anyone, who has been following news related to this high profile fleet, would have expected such confrontation between the international activists and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, regarded the flotilla as a provocation and made it clear that the country’s forces are going to restrict the ships from arriving to port on Sunday, with any means necessary. He said “we really have all determination and political will to prevent this provocation against us,” and that he thinks they’re “ready at any cost ... to prevent this provocation."

MSNBC reported that the raid, which took place around 5:00am on Monday, resulted in the deaths of 9 activists and dozens of serious injuries, on board of the Mavi Marmara (one of the 6 ships carrying the aid to Gaza and on which the confrontation was the most hostile). The IDF later announced that soldiers opened fire in act of self-defense, after being attacked by the activists on board. They released the following footage (and this one) showing heavy fighting on the deck of the above mentioned vessel.

 

 

After this violent strike, the IDF took control of the ships and towed them to shore. Upon arrival, injured civilians were taken to four different hospitals while many of the activists, who were on board of the ships, were arrested and questioned – the government had planned these detentions prior to the sailing of the flotilla. The authorities had already set up a detention and interrogation facility capable of handling hundreds of people, reported Ma’ariv, a daily tabloid published in Tel Aviv, the port will be turned into a “giant interrogation room”. Most of what was reported on this bloody incident was from Israeli sources. A very small number of activists were quoted on the matter. An American passenger stated "I'm not violent. What I can tell you is that there are bruises all over my body. They won't let me show them to you".Freedom Flotilla protest in front of White House

Different opinions were being shaped in response to this hostile blockade. In many countries a series of anti-Israel rallies was triggered, condemning the hostile measures taken by the IDF (the picture on the left is taken in front of the white house). On the other hand, some people justified the Israeli actions taken against the freedom flotilla. They believe the activists were the ones who initiated the hostility – their only source of information is the IDF claims along with a prejudice against Muslims.

Given the unreceptive attitude on the whole idea of the flotilla, which the Israeli government has been advertising for weeks, as well as their clear intentions to intercept it, it is more likely that the IDF had already planned this “terrorist” attack against the activist on board of the Marmara. The following video was uploaded to YouTube by WilliamTomg, yesterday, and it contains the footage taken on board of the Marmara during the assault by the IDF. Three reporters (one of whom is speaking in English) are describing the actual scene; at one point, they report that the activists are raising a white flag for the Israeli soldiers but they are still shooting at them. This video gives a clear perspective on how the events unfolded. If you are going to watch the video do not worry about the lack of subtitles, all three reporters are disclosing the same information in three different languages (English, Arabic and Turkish).

 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 by Eli ·

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Friday, May 28, 2010

From Censorship to Absurdity..

When Martin Luther said “Reason is the enemy of faith” he should’ve added: “…and for the Arab world it’s freedom of expression”. Religions have always been demoting free-speech and in some regions, under a theocratic regime, freedom of speech is barely existent. Islamic governments are the best example of suppressive ruling. When your civil laws and regulations are based on the oppressive “Sharia” law, censorship comes with the package.
The stories you hear every day about cases of limiting freedoms, become absurd when you consider the fact that the mentality behind such limitations is being based on bylaws written thousands of years ago. I would like to mention a number of incidents that happened this week alone.
I will not go, however, into the “Draw Muhammad Day” issue because, personally, I believe this matter was dragged a long way off its originally intended message: advocating free-speech. Anyway, here is a 7-day sample of the censorship and oppression going on in the Muslim world

A Case of Double Restriction

Mohammed Abdel Qader Al-Jassem, a leading journalist from Kuwait was sentenced to 6 months in jail for saying in public that the country’s Prime Minister should resign because he is unable to run the country. Even more, journalists were banned from entering the court room and covering the event during his trial last Monday. It wasn’t enough that a journalist was being charged for having an opinion, other journalists were denied the right to tell the world about his hearing.

TEH Evil Blackberry! Evil Devil Blackberry

Again in Kuwait, the Ministry of Interior is planning to ban all Blackberry services in the country because “users of BlackBerry sets were taking advantage to spread rumors and call for strikes.” as reported by a local newspaper. The ban is not final yet but a decision will be made in the next couple days.

   

Back to the Dark Ages?

While in Kuwait the ban on BB services is being considered, in Pakistan it is a done deal; along with 1000 other websites including Facebook, Youtube, Flickr and Twitter. I read a funny story today, related to this issue, about the Pakistani Minister of Interior who was forced to start using Twitter because he could no longer access his personal page on Facebook after the ban. But now even Twitter is no longer accessible so hard luck Mr. Minister; why don’t you try Blogger? Oh I forget, it is blocked as well.

What’s the Point of a SECRET if not to Remain a Secret?

Last Tuesday, a book titled “Belgrave’s Diary”, published in Lebanon, was banned from entering Bahrain and copies already brought in were confiscated by the government. There are two main reasons behind this censorship, as reported by IFEX. First, because it criticized the ruling authority at the time this Diary was written. Second, because it conveys secrets about “distribution of wealth, land appropriation and sectarian discrimination”. That is not so bad, in my opinion. I’m sure they only did it to protect Mr. Belgrave’s privacy; I mean no one appreciates his personal Diary being read by the public, right?

Love the Song, Hate the Singer!

Elton John Portrait Yesterday, Elton John performed during a free concert in Morocco. The Muslim community was outraged by this gig because of this pop star’s sexual orientation and his public openness about it and could not believe how this event was allowed into their Kingdom and even supported by King Mohammed VI himself. The good thing, though, is that their rage did not turn into violence and the concert went on as planned. In Egypt, however, this same concert was banned from taking place in the country; this time the government expressed clearly its position on homosexuality.

The Finale!!

The oppression of Women has always been the favorite for all religions, but it seems Islamic Fundamentalism loves it the most. Yesterday, I read an article on Arab News, too absurd to be true. In the Indonesian district of Aceh, run by Islamic extremists, who prohibited all shops in the area from selling tight pants/dresses to Muslim women and outlawed the wearing of revealing clothes. They also distributed long skirts to the authorities and ordered them to catch any women whom they believe is wearing “inappropriate” clothing and to compel them to wear one of these skirts. On Thursday, 18 women were caught wearing JEANS while riding on motorbikes, and were ordered to wear the long skirts. One of them was a 40-year-old lady, she claimed that the only reason she wore jeans is because they are more comfortable when riding a bike. She also reported "I am not wearing sexy outfits, but they caught me like a terrorist only because of my jeans,"
Such ridiculous events are not a novelty in the Arab region. I wrote an article, here, on a similar story regarding Emo dress-code in Lebanon.

 

As long as religious fanaticism is given the authority to rule the people, similar stories will continue on happening. Some people might not see the dangers of such events, but when Sharia law is the only authority in control, oppression against women can, and have become, a brutality in many cases. The graphical poem by Nessrriinn, in the video below, is a very emotional one. I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint-hearted. This breathtaking visual poem depicts the sad reality of some of the men and women living under such barbaric regimes. Watch it till the end..

 

Friday, May 28, 2010 by Eli ·

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fresh Voices from the Arab World

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Today I posted my first article (originally posted here) on the MideastYouth website. It is an active community of young men and women from the Middle-east, writing about a wide variety of interesting subject. With their open-minded attitude, they are trying to show the world that nothing can hold them back from expressing their views about the experiences they are living in the Arab world.
This vibrant group of free-thinkers are getting the exposure they deserve in the regional media, which will definitely help them in spreading the word throughout the Middle-East.
Make sure you visit this great website anytime you feel like enjoying a good read or if you would like to stay up-to-date with the latest news on Religion, Atheism, Secularism, Politics, Lifestyle and many other interesting topics related to this side of the world, written by a large number of fresh voice from the young Arab community.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 by Eli ·

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Soccer 1 - 0 Politics

lebanon municipal election 2010 The Lebanese municipal elections kicked-off on May 2nd of this month, and are still under way, covering a different region every week. Because of the high political tensions, which have been rising ever since the assassination of the late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, opposing parties have launched extremely competitive campaigns against each other, with huge sums of money being injected in the process of “buying votes”. Even though elections in Lebanon are democratic, candidates have been known to pay for electors in return for their ballot. This year, the heaps of cash, being frittered away on these corrupt campaigns, are inestimable. In some areas, where the competition is fierce, it has been reported that the sums being paid – per vote – reached $5,000 US dollars. It saddens me to watch all that money being squandered away when, instead, it could have been donated to charity!

While politicians are taken by this naive campaign, the people are looking forward to a totally different kick-off: The 2010 Fifa World-Cup. For them, local politics is a joke, and the situation hasn’t changed for decades. In Lebanon, the same figures have been running the country for as long as they can remember. The World-Cup, however, is a totally different story. Even though our national soccer-team has never been qualified to play in this tournament, this competition has always been the most anticipated of all events. 

World Cup 2010 LebanonMonths before the opening ceremony, everyone decorates his or her car, home and shop, advertizing the team he or she supports. During this long awaited period, political and religious differences dissolve and are replaced by a friendly competitive spirit; you are no longer labeled as a Christian or a Muslim, but as a “Brazilian”, “German or Italian (the three most popular teams in Lebanon).

When you observe this completely different reality, overwhelming Lebanon for this short period of time, you realize that people, when left non agitated by our unethical politics, are able to overlook the differences among them, and it makes you wonder whether this could become a permanent reality simply by adopting political “Fair Play”.

Monday, May 24, 2010 by Eli ·

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lebanon: Calling for Secularism & Gay Rights

Thousands of brave secularists marched in Beirut, on the 25th of last month, rallying for a secular government in Lebanon and the abolition of political sectarianism. Those courageous men and women proved to the world that even in a region such as the Middle-East, in which freedom of expression is conditional, it is possible to trespass this red-line drawn by our pseudo-democratic governments.

Another group of activists, the Lebanese homosexual pride, Helem (arabic for “Dream”), organized an event last Monday to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), under the title “I am queer”.  One of the main goals of this demonstration was the abolishment of article ‘534’ of the Lebanese penal code ‘534’, punishing “sexual intercourse contrary to nature” (visit this link for a complete list of goals set by Helem). This is not the first protest by this group, in which they try to pressure the parliament to eliminate discrimination against homosexuals. The first public protest took place in February 2009 (see video below), which came as a shock to many Lebanese citizens. This first event was launched as a protest against the violent beatings of two gay men (violent assaults on homosexuals have been taking place for a long time in Lebanon; beatings by policemen were also reported on a couple occasions). This, however, did not stop the dedicated activists from rallying again; surely, they will not rest until both the government and the public condemn such injustice.

Saturday, May 22, 2010 by Eli ·

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Monday, May 17, 2010

The Irrationality of Belief

A couple of days ago my friend and I were at my apartment having coffee and discussing random subjects. At one point during our conversation we came across the subject of religion. Mazen is a Durzi – a religious sect derived from Islam, but which has many unique aspects to it. He told me that he is a believer but not a practicing one. In fact the structure of the Durzi faith is very complicated and not all Druzes are allowed to read their Holly Book (al-Hikma “The Wisdom”); only when you decide to become a “Sheikh” you are granted access to the scriptures. Most believers spend all their lives without even looking at the book once and they base their beliefs on the teachings of their parents, who, in turn, are most likely to have received them from their own parents. The Druzes are a minority compared to the other Islamic sects and the majority of them reside Syria, Lebanon and Israel. They do not marry outside their community and anyone who does is cast out.

We stayed on the subject for quite some time and I was really enjoying the discussion. I was able to strike him with powerful arguments that challenged his entire belief system. I could tell from his reactions to my reasoning that he had never before engaged in a conversation with a non-believer. The discussion became really interesting when he told me that he believes in reincarnation. The first question I asked him was “How would you explain the population growth if you believed that every time one person is born another one should already be dead in order for his or her soul to be transferred to the new host?” I was really shocked by the answer he gave me, mainly because he is a well educated person and I didn’t expect him to reply with such irrationality. He said “the truth is that the population is NOT growing and when God first created human beings, he created 6 Billion people right from the beginning” His reply really surprised me and it took me a while to ask him another question; I said “but what about the statistics which show the growth in the world’s population? I mean take Lebanon for example; the data proves that the number of Lebanese citizens has more than doubled since 1960. How would you explain that?” He replied by saying that the population of some other country must have decreased then, and also that there is no way I could prove these statistics are trustworthy.

Population of Lebanon Druze

After listening to his logic, I kept on probing his viewpoint and showing him how absurd his reasoning was. I knew he was becoming uncomfortable with his own approach, the more I spoke. However, like any other person basing his beliefs on blind faith, he wasn’t letting go of his convictions easily. I ended the conversation hoping that he will take into consideration my observations and maybe he will no longer take religious “truths” at face-value.

Monday, May 17, 2010 by Eli ·

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