Merry Christmas?

Unfortunately there is no merry Christmas for the Christians of the Middle East.  Although people tend to believe that there are very few terrorists and most Muslims are good people, nevertheless Christians throughout the Middle East are experiencing Muslim persecution, and their co-religionists in the West Don’t seem to care.  Here is a  statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, Justin Welby (whose father was Jewish) “Middle East Christians are on the verge of extinction ….this is the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th Century.”

Coptic Christians in Egypt are under constant attack with many deaths in bombings of Churches by terrorists, and the Government is not able to willing to protect them,  consequently many are emigrating.  Christians in Lebanon are under constant pressure from the growing power of the terrorist Shia organisation Hezbollah, that openly attacks them.  In Iraq the historic Christian heartland of the Chaldean Christians has been nearly wiped out during the wars that have convulsed the region.

Christians in the Palestinian areas, notwithstanding the claim by Pres. Abbas that Jesus was a “Palestinian”, when everyone knows he was a Jew, have been hard hit by constant anti-Christian actions.  The Christian population of Bethlehem, where they are holding Christmas celebrations, has been greatly reduced from 86% in 1950 to 12% today.  Also, in Gaza where there were ca. 6,000 Christians when Hamas took over in 2012, there were estimated to be only 1,100 in 2016.  This reduction in Christian population is a feature of the whole Muslim Middle East, including Turkey and Pakistan,where attacks on Christians are rife.

By contrast, the Christian population in Israel has grown by about 5,000 in the past 20 years, although staying around 2% as the total population has grown, from natural increase and immigration.  All religions have freedom of worship in Israel, the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East.  Merry Christmas to our Christian friends!

 

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Sexual Abuse in the Church

In Australia, Archbishop Wilson of Sydney has been found guilty in court of covering up cases of sexual abuse in the Church.  Specifically two cases by a priest named Fletcher were brought to his attention in the 1970’s, but he did nothing.  The Pope accepted his resignation, when at first he refused to resign.   The Archbishop is the highest Catholic forced to resign over sexual offenses, but in 2017 Catholic Cardinal Pell of Melbourne was found guilty of sexual offenses and resigned.   There have been severe cases in Australia involving the British children who were sent illegally there from the 1940s-70s, many of whom were used virtually as slave labor (and as sex slaves) in Catholic institutions.

In Chile, due to widespread sexual abuse in the Church, all Catholic Bishops have tendered their resignations to the Pope.  A terrible case was the mistreatment of children in Canada, orphans who were deliberately labelled mentally ill were put in a Catholic orphanage where they were treated to medieval torture and sexual abuse in the 1940’s-60s.  It was routine for them to be tied to metal springs and whipped.  The so-called Duplessis orphans sued the Church and received civil damages in the amount of millions of dollars.  It is believed the Church made ca. m$70 from the Quebec Government for “housing” these children.  It is believed many also died and were buried secretly.  Native American Children were also taken from their parents and subjected to abuse, mistreatment and even death.

In Ireland there is ,of course, the similar case of the Magdalene Order, who essentially imprisoned and exploited young women sent to them because they were “wayward” or “promiscuous.”  They were forced to work long hours without pay in laundries throughout Ireland and the Church made money off them.  Their plight was highlighted in a  book and a movie entitled ‘The Magdalene Sisters.”

In fact sexual and physical abuse of children and others is a notable feature of the Catholic Church, presumably because the requirement for male priests who are supposed to be celibate attracts homosexuals.  There is a list of such abuse country by country (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_sex_abuse_cases_by_country) including France, Belgium, England, Croatia, Italy, Poland, the USA and so on.  It defeats logic that believers in Catholicism continue to support this immensely rich organization that systematically abuses their children.

Of course, the Catholic Church is not the only religious institutions in which abuse occurs.  There are many cases of Anglican priests engaging in such activities and cover-ups by Bishops and so on.  Recently there was a case of a Jewish female teacher extradited from Israel to Australia where she was wanted on sexual abuse charges in an Orthodox Jewish school.  Religion is a powerful attractant for people who seek to abuse others through hierarchical power.

Did Einstein Believe in God?

I was invited to a dinner and at the dinner I met an interesting man named Bernard who was a physicist although he was religious.  When he found out that I am a biochemist he asked me several direct questions, and we had an interesting conversation about metabolism, drugs and cancer.  Then he also asked me if I believe in God.  I said that I did not (even though I was also wearing a kippa as a courtesy).  He asked me why and I explained this by saying that I did not have a religious upbringing and that I am a scientist.  Then Bernard made the statement that “Einstein was certainly a scientist and he believed in God.”

At that point I had to correct him, having read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Einstein and other material. I pointed out that Einstein’s famous statement “God doesn’t play dice with the universe,” was not a statement of belief by Einstein, but rather a refutation of quantum theory, that is based on probability, that Einstein spent the latter half of his life trying to disprove (unsuccessfully).  Bernard challenged me to provide another quote that proved Einstein was not a believer in God.  I told him that I could not remember such a quote verbatim, but I would gladly send one to him.

Instead of going to Isaacson’s book, I looked up “Einstein’s religious beliefs” in Google, and indeed there was a long article there.  I chose more or less at random a short paragraph with some quotes from Einstein, and sent them to Bernard, with  a covering note saying that I agreed with him.  Here is the quote :

Einstein expressed his skepticism regarding the existence of an anthropomorphic God, such as the God of Abrahamic religions, often describing this view as “naïve” and “childlike“.   In a 1947 letter he stated, “It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously.” In a letter to Beatrice Frohlich on 17 December 1952, Einstein stated, “The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.”

This proved my point that Einstein rejected the so-called Abrahamic God and any kind of personal God, and although he remained a skeptic, he was in awe of the universe and retained some spiritual sense of a creator.

I received a pleasant response from Bernard, and a quote that he considered showed that Einstein’s was not an atheist:

Einstein stated, “I am not an Atheist.”   According to Prince Hubertus, Einstein said, “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.” 

My views are more atheist than Einstein.  I do have spiritual feelings when I see the amazing complexity of the animals in the world, but I know them to have been created by evolution by natural selection.  I am amazed at the complexity of molecular biology, but I see no reason to bring God into consideration to explain the interaction of bio-molecules.  I also cannot accept that the God that Jews have beseeched to protect them actually exists after the Shoah.

Science has refuted many religious views, such as that the earth is flat, that the sun revolves around the earth, that God made man from dust, that God created all the animal species as we find them, that God dictated the Torah (Bible) to Moses (writing on parchment did not appear until at least 300 years after the estimated date of the Exodus) and so on.  It is clear that religion is not equipped to handle the physical world, on the other hand science is not really equipped to handle the spiritual world.  Science deals in measurable quantities, such as length and time.  But religion deals in immeasurable quantities, like love and faith.  It is better that we keep that separation, equivalent to the separation of Church and State.

Note: I have expounded further on my views in an essay “The Tolerant Atheist” that I published in a book entitled “Of Gods and Lemurs,” available on Amazon.

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Rajneesh in America

I watched the 6-part Netflix documentary series entitled “Wild Wild Country” about the establishment of the settlement of Rajneeshpuram in the wilds of central Oregon. This was supposed to be a farming community of the followers of the Indian guru Rajneesh, named the Bhagwan. They had been essentially forced to decamp from their compound in Poona, India, for tax and other violations. The Bhagwan, a frail beaming, long-bearded man, usually dressed in pure white flowing robes, entrusted this move to his assistant, a 17-year-old Indian acolyte named Sheela.

This seemed quite a risky thing to do, but Sheela was bursting with confidence and hubris, and as the representative and top administrator of a new religion, she chose to move the whole religious cult to the USA and to the wilds of Oregon.  Let it be said that although she was an excellent organizer, she knew precious little about the US and although she chose an isolated area, she misjudged the reaction of the American people.

Rajneesh had written some books on philosophy and had developed what in America was called a New Age Cult, a mixture of Indian mysticism, free love, and opposition to established values.  What attracted many western youth to his cult was that they were allowed to express themselves without restraint and to engage in unbridled sexual activity and they were also expected to engage in meditation and self-criticism.  The sessions with thousands of people consisted of these 4 main aspects, always ending with the sex that went on for hours.

Sheela took a course at a College in the US and met and married an American Jew and became Mrs. Silverman.  But, her husband soon died, and played no role in the further events.  Sheela chose an area in central Oregon near a small town (pop. 40) called Antelope, where the cult bought a large unused farm.  They seemed to have unlimited money, although they depended on the contributions of their followers (called sanyasins), who all dressed in maroon or orange clothing.

Once they had bought the farm in 1981 they started moving in and developing the area, both expanding the farming and building many buildings.  To do this they had their own experts in construction, architecture, plumbing and so on.  They had their own generators and water supplies.  The inhabitants of Antelope were both amazed and frightened by the influx of strange people dressed in red passing thought their small town.  They became upset that the local authorities and the State of Oregon did nothing to check what the Rajneeshis were actually doing on their farm, now a new town called Rajneeshpuram.  They seemed to have unlimited funding, they built roads, an airfield, they had two planes and the Bhagwan had 7 Rolls Royce cars, that later became 20, all money supposedly obtained from their followers.  Certainly the locals were upset with what they heard was going on there, but they also resented that all this development was going on without any permits or checks as required by law.

A law suit was started because the Rajneeshis were supposed to be developing a farm not a city, that they said would have 10,000 people and eventually 100,000.  Because they did not have any legal right to incorporate as a city, Sheela, the manager of the whole project, found a  way around this.  They bought up property in Antelope, forced some of the people out, and took over the City Council and voted to merge Rajneeshpuram with Antelope, and then dropped the latter name.

Then Sheela made a big mistake, she went on TV and said that yes, they had taken over the town of  Antelope and they would soon take over the Wasco County.  This made people sit up and take notice and a movement started to prevent their expansion plans.  The Bhagwan had given Sheela the task of getting some Rajneeshis on the County Council.  But, she realized she did not have the votes, so she made another clever move.  She sent buses out all around the US, as far away as New York, Texas, and Minnesota, and they picked up all the homeless people they could persuade to go with them.  Some 2,000 were bussed back to Oregon, where they were given food and a place to sleep, and were registered as voters in the County.  Now she hoped she could obtain enough votes.

But before the next election, this tactic backfired.  Some of the homeless became unruly, they started fights, destroyed property, and one even tried to choke Sheela.  She had no option but to remove these anti-social elements from her “perfect” society, so she put them on buses and dumped them in the surrounding towns.  This did not sit well with the local inhabitants, who now had the homeless from all over the country dumped in their lap.  As a result of the bad feelings the hotel that the Rajneeshis owned in Portland was bombed and went up in flames.  It was at this point that Sheela started buying weapons on a large-scale and threatening that if they were attacked the Rajneeshis would fight back.  See how quickly a cult based on free love turned to violence.  It was also at this point that she started planning the assassination of several US officials.

Sheela also organized a campaign by her followers to spread salmonella over the salad bars in local restaurants so that people became ill.  But, to ensure that the Rajneeshis did not take over the county, the inhabitants did the same as Sheela had done, they bussed in people from surrounding areas and they stayed with them for a few days as required to register to vote and they then outvoted the Rajneeshis who got no representation on the County.  This was a significant defeat for Sheela.  Soon after this the Wasco County offices were set on fire.

At more or less the same time, in 1984, a group of wealthy Californians moved to the ranch, and one couple became very close to the Bhagwan, the man became his doctor and the woman an adviser.  Sheela saw her control over the Bhagwan and access to him being eroded.  By this time she had a small group of her own loyal followers and so they decamped in a plane to Germany.  In doing so she narrowly missed being arrested. The Bhagwan denounced her, claimed that she had stolen m$45 from his Foundation that she was administering, and cooperated with the police in attempting to get her extradited and charged.  In doing so he claimed no knowledge of any crimes she had committed.  He also claimed that he had never had sex with her, although this seemed unlikely since she had joined him when she was 16 and openly stated her love for him, and he preached free love.

After an investigation by the FBI, she and others were charged with the following crimes: 1. Attempted murder of the AG of Oregon and the US Federal AG (she had planned these assassinations and the US AG narrowly missed being shot); 2. Spreading bacterial infection (a bio-terror incident) in order to affect the outcome of an election; 3. Burning down the Wasco County Offices; 4. Illegal activities at Rajneeshpuram that included, an extensive secret wire-tapping system, including in the Bhagwan’s house, buying arms illegally and outfitting an army larger than the combined police forces of the State of Oregon;  5. Fleeing the US to avoid arrest.

Sheela was finally extradited from Germany to the US, where she was tried, found guilty and received a sentence of 20 years.  She now lives in Switzerland where she runs a Home for the aged and infirm.  Two of her loyal supporters received sentences of 10 years. Sheela claimed that the Bhagwan was complicit in all her crimes, but the FBI could not prove this. However, his claim that he was a religious leader was undermined by the fact that he had taken a vow of silence and had not preached in three years.  He was arrested in 1985 while fleeing to South Carolina and given a choice, either go on trial or leave the country.  Although he claimed his innocence, he chose the latter and returned to India, since no other country would allow him entry. He died there in 1990, with rumors circulating that he had been poisoned by some of this followers to obtain access to the wealth he had amassed .

In the course of 5 years he and Sheela had done irreparable damage to the inhabitants of the State of Oregon and to the trust anyone might have in such so-called “enlightenment” movements.  The Bhagwan had turned from a relative aesthete to a power-hungry leader, from wearing pure white clothes to flashy jewelry, gold watches and thick blue robes and driving around in his many Rolls Royces.  Sheela had turned from an ambitious girl to a murderous criminal.  And yet people gave up their lives and their fortunes to follow them!  It is ever thus.

Primitive Islamic Societies

I noticed an item in the media that two female volunteers were tortured and murdered in Pakistan because they were administering polio vaccinations to children.  The report said that the Taliban stated that it was “unislamic” to vaccinate children.  A few months ago a Ghanaian doctor at a hospital in Karachi was shot dead for similar reasons.

In Afghanistan, apart from attacks on health workers, women are unable to run any form of business without threats by the Taliban and need constant bodyguards.  One older lady who ran a bakery in Kunduz that employed only women, swore that she would not give in, but soon was forced to flee.  Now men work in the bakery and keep guard on it too.   You might think that because the Taliban no longer control Kunduz or Afghanistan that this is only a problem of the extremists, but interviews with men on the street (women are fully covered in burkas and cannot talk to strange people) showed that most of them agree that according to the Koran women should not be allowed to run businesses.  Note also that in Afghanistan, after the supposed defeat of the Taliban, schools for girls are regularly fire bombed and female teachers are regularly murdered.

This is not only a problem for those supposedly backward societies, but these kind of attitudes permeate all Muslim societies, with only a few allowing “westernization” or “modernization.”  Saudi Arabian schools and universities are completely gender segregated, with only teachers of the same gender allowed, or they can teach via remote media.  Even in supposedly secular societies, such as Turkey, the current trend is back to Islam rather than accept foreign western influences.  I am always amused by the TV ads for Doha and Dubai that show them as so modern, yet away from the cameras the same restrictions on women apply.  It is a traditional part of Islamic culture to keep women in their place, under control.  They are about 100 years at least behind the West and they are losing the incredibly valuable input of half their population.  It keeps their societies more violent, less civilized and backward.  Why don’t the liberals of the BDS movement campaign about this?

The Seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979

The BBC Arabic Service has produced a short documentary giving the full story of the seizure of the Grand Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) in Mecca in 1979, that was a crucial turning point in the modern history of Islam.  Contrary to my previous statements, based on false reporting from Saudi Arabia, the seizure was not carried out by Shia gunmen allied to Iran, but by the very same fundamentalist Muslims from the eastern district of Arabia, the Nejd, from where the Saudi royal family itself originated.

Many people think Saudi Arabia is a very ancient kingdom, but that is not the case. Arabia was conquered in 1932 by the army of the Saudi clan under King Ibn Saud, who defeated and replaced the former rulers of Mecca, the Hashemites, who traced their descent from Mohammed the Prophet.  The Saudis were in coalition with a group of fundamentalist Muslims who followed the teachings of a preacher named Ibn Wahhab, and were called Wahhabis.  Their extreme ascetic form of Islam is known as Salafism, and they were against all forms of modernization and westernization of Islamic culture and Muslim society.  The justification for their campaign was that the Hashemites had become corrupt due to contact with the West and were introducing modern western features into Islamic society.  The only remaining Hashemite monarch in the world today is King Abdullah II of Jordan.

By 1979 the Saudis had themselves become quite westernized and had introduced modernization (such as TV) into their Kingdom.  In the Nejd, the grandsons of former supporters of the Saudis, who themselves were brought up on Salafi Islam, were becoming very disquieted by these trends.  A particular former drug dealer, Juhayman al-Otaybi, a member of an influential family in the Nejd, decided to take action.  He declared his brother-in-law, Mohammed Abdullah al Qahtani, a very religious Salafist, to be the Mahdi.  The Mahdi is the concept of a Messiah or redeemer taken by both Islam and Christianity from Judaism.  Juhayman then started to plot to overthrow the Saudi regime and decided that his first step would be to take over the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

He organized his plan very efficiently.   He reconnoitered the structure of the Mosque and prepared for the take-over.  The day of the take-over, November 20, 1979, which was the first day of the year 1400 according to the Islamic calendar, his followers carried numerous coffins into the Mosque covered with religious slogans.  The coffins were filled with automatic weapons and no-one challenged them.  As soon as the Imam finished the final prayer, Juhayman’s followers took over the microphone and announced the take-over.  They ordered their followers, some 200 in all, to take their positions, which included on the tops of the 4 minarets and at all the gates.  Juhayman then announced the coming of the Mahdi.  He had taken all the attendees hostage, maybe 50,000 people, but then released most of them

For up to 2 hours nothing happened, then finally the Saudi police sent a  few policemen to see what was going on, they were met with a hail of bullets and most of them were killed.  Then the Saudis sent some Army soldiers and the same thing happened.  Then they sent their special forces unit, and the same thing happened.  With gradually higher levels of attack and with great losses on both sides, the rebels were forced into the huge basement of the Mosque,   But, the Saudis, without any apparent organization, were unable to dislodge them from there.  At this point the Saudis contacted French President Giscard d’Estaing for help.  He sent his top security team to advise the Saudis (as non-Muslims they were not allowed into the Mosque).

They set up a central headquarters and decided that since the rebels were well-armed and there was no way to defeat them fighting in the labyrinthine basement they would use poison gas.  They drilled holes all around the perimeter of the Mosque, then they threw in grenades and pumped in high levels of CS gas.  The rebels were then defeated, and after 17 days they had no more food or water and were overcome by the gas.  Some surrendered and others were captured by Saudi forces with gas masks. Approximately 65 surviving rebels, including Juhayman, were quickly tried and executed.  Some 200 Saudi forces and rebels were dead as well as ca. 50 civilians and some 500 were wounded.

The significance of this attack is that it set the pattern for what was to follow.  The development of Al Qaeda by Osama bin Laden, who  also from a pro-Saudi family. He also, as a fundamentalist Muslim, resented the introduction of modernization and westernization into Arabia (although he and his followers were not against using Western arms and communications).  But, he saw the Americans as the major target. This was followed by ISIS led by the self-proclaimed Caliph al-Baghdadi, who saw the establishment of the Islamic State as his major aim.  Both bin Laden and Baghdadi (supposedly) are gone now and the IS is almost defeated.  But, this pattern is established. The Saudis are now thoroughly westernized, and the next fundamentalist Sunni reformer is probably waiting in the wings, to declare the next Mahdi or Caliph to overthrow the corrupt Saudis.

Correction: In my analysis of the US economy I made a mistake in the current value of the Dow Jones Industrial Averages.  It has now reached 22,000, a huge increase of 4,000 since Pres. Trump was elected 7 months ago.

 

Facts About Jerusalem

Here are some facts about Jerusalem, perhaps unpalatable to some:

  1. Mohammed died in 632 ce. In the Koran it says he ascended to heaven on his steed Buraq from the “fatherest Mosque.”  This clearly refers to a Mosque in Arabia, because Mohammed never left Arabia and there were no Mosques outside Arabia at that time and no Muslims had ever been to Jerusalem up to that time.
  2.  The Arab Muslims under Mohammed’s successor Caliph Omar (or Umar) conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding country from the Byzantine Christians in 637 ce, 5 years after Mohammed’s death! Jerusalem was still a predominantly Jewish city at that time.
  3. The Mosque of the Dome of the Rock was not built until 691 ce and the Al-Aksa (or “Fartherest”) Mosque was not built until 705 ce, although a wooden structure existed on the site before that.  However, it is clear that Mohammed could not have ascended to heaven from this Mosque because it was not built until 73 years after his death.
  4. It is evident that the Mosques on the Temple Mount (called Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary by the Muslims) where the Jewish Temples stood for thousands of years before, were claimed as holy or sacred to Islam in order to establish their claim to the Holy city of Jerusalem.
  5. Jews and other visitors who enter the area of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount from West Jerusalem must go through metal detectors and undergo a security check.  Muslims entering the Temple Mount and the Mosques from East Jerusalem until now have not had to undergo any security check.
  6. This is because after the 1967 Six-Day War, in an attempt to show magnanimity, Gen. Moshe Dayan then Israeli Defense Minister, allowed the Temple Mount (the holiest site in Judaism) and its Mosques to be controlled by the Jordanian Muslim Trust or Wakf.  As Churchill said “in victory magnanimity” but the Muslims have shown no gratitude for this colossal mistake by Dayan.  It has led to many years of further strife over the site.
  7. Many times there have been violent confrontations between Muslim gangs throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below and the Israeli border police or IDF.  On several occasions Israeli forces have had to enter the Mosque to put down riots and attacks.
  8. The fatal shooting of two Israeli Border Police last week by a gang of Palestinian Arab terrorists who came from the Mosque with guns and then returned there has caused the IDF security experts to decide that metal detectors are needed there too.
  9. Metal detectors are used at most major Mosques, including the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and at most Mosques in India.  This is a basic security precaution and does not in any way interfere with the ability of Muslims to access or to pray at the Mosques.
  10. The current rioting and violent confrontations in Jerusalem and elsewhere are part of the usual Arab Muslim reaction to anything Israel does in Jerusalem, where Israel has full sovereignty.  The false rumor that “Al-Aksa is in danger” has been used time and time again to foment Muslim anger at Jews and was the primary excuse for the anti-Jewish riots in 1929 in Jerusalem and Hebron that resulted in massacres of the Jewish inhabitants.  The murders of the Salomon family in the settlement of Halamish by a Palestinian Arab last week is another example of that false incitement.