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 ·


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, 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 ·


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 ·


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 ·


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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