37 Percent of People Completely Lost

Shared by Azeem Farooki

37 Percent of People Completely Lost

by Mark Morford

Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns. Thirty-six percent believe in UFOs. A whopping 24 percent believe dinosaurs and man hung out together. Eighteen percent still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. Nearly 30 percent believe cloud computing involves… actual clouds. A shockingly sad 18 percent, to this very day, believe the president is a Muslim. Aren’t they cute? And Floridian?                         How it all really happened. Obviously.

Do you believe in angels? Forty-five percent of Americans do. In fact, roughly 48 percent – Republicans and Democrats alike – believe in some form of creationism. A hilariously large percent of terrified right-wingers are convinced Obama is soon going to take away all their guns, so when the Newtown shooting happened and 20 young children were massacred due to America’s fetish for, obsession with and addiction to firearms, violence and fear, they bought more bullets. Because obviously.

In sum and all averaged out, it’s safe to say about 37 percent of Americans are just are not very bright. Or rather, quite shockingly dumb. Perhaps beyond reach. Perhaps beyond hope or redemption. Perhaps beyond caring about anything they have to say in the public sphere ever again. Sorry, Kansas.

Did you frown at that last paragraph? Was it a terribly elitist and unkind thing to say? Sort of. Probably. But I’m not sure it matters, because none of those people are reading this column right now, or any column for that matter, because reading anything even remotely complex or analytical is something only 42 percent of the population enjoy doing on a regular basis, which is why most TV shows, all reality shows, many major media blogs and all of Fox News is scripted for a 5th-grade education/attention span. OMG LOL kittens! 19 babies having a worse day than you. WTF is up with Justin Timberlake’s hair?!?

It is this bizarre, circular, catch-22 kind of question, asked almost exclusively by intellectual liberals because intellectual conservatives don’t actually exist, given how higher education leads to more developed critical thinking (you already know the vast majority of university professors and scientists identify as Democrat/progressive, right?) which leads straight to a more nimble, open-minded perspective. In short: The smarter you are, the less rigid/more liberal you become.

Until you get old. Or rich. And scared. And you forget. And you clamp down, seize up, fossilize. And the GOP grabs you like a mold.

Oh right! The question: How to reach the not-very-bright hordes, when they simply refuse to be reached by logic, fact, or modern mode? How to communicate obvious and vital truths (conservation, global warming, public health, sexuality, basic nutrition, religion as parable/myth, the general awfulness of Mumford & Sons) the lack of understanding of which keep the country straggling and embarrassing, the laughingstock of the civilized world?

And who are these people, exactly? And are they all really in Kentucky and Florida and Mississippi? Are they all in the Tea Party? Is failing education to blame? A dumbed-down media? Reality TV? In the wealthiest and most egomaniacal superpower in the world, why is the chasm so wide?

There is no easy answer, but there is a great deal of irony. It is a wicked conundrum that you and I can debate the definition of elitism, whether or not it’s fair to criticize those who believe that, say, gay marriage means kids will be indoctrinated into homosexuality, or that evolution is still a theory, or that Jesus literally flew up out of a cave and into the sky, when the discussion itself is, by nature, elitist, exclusionary, requiring fluid, abstract thinking the very people we’re discussing simply do not possess, and therefore cannot participate in.

Discussion of elitism is elitist. Intelligence can talk itself blue about what to do about all the dumb; the dumb will never hear it.

It’s a fact even recognized by Louisiana’s own Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had the nerve to defy his own state’s (and his own party’s) famously low IQ by saying, after the last election, “The GOP must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.”

Of course he’s right. But where would that leave their base? And who will tell the megachurches? And does Jindal not know Louisiana is where they teach that the existence of the Loch Ness monster is evidence that evolution is a lie?

Brings to mind a stunning study about facts and truths. Have you ever heard it? It goes something like: Here is hard evidence, scientific evidence, irrefutable proof that something is or is not true. Here is dinosaur bone, for example, which we know beyond a doubt is between 60 and 70 million years old. Amazing! Obviously!

But then comes the impossible snag: If you are hard-coded to believe otherwise, if your TV network or your ideology, your pastor or your lack of education tell you differently, you will still not believe it. No matter what. No matter how many facts, figures, common senses slap you upside the obvious. You will think there is conspiracy, collusion, trickery afoot. The Bible says that bone is only eight thousand years old. Science is elitist. Liberals hate God. The end.

It is not enough to say people believe what they want to believe. They will also believe it in the face of irrefutable counter-evidence and millennia of fundamental proof.

This! This is what stuns and stupefies liberals and progressives of every intellectual stripe. We cannot understand. We cannot compute. We think, “Well, if more people just had the facts, just heard a reasonable and cogent argument or read up on the real science, surely they would change their minds? Surely they would see the error in their thinking?”

Oh, liberals. All those smarts, and still so naïve.

Here is the body of Jesus! We found it! In a cave in a hole deep in an iron-gated alcove beneath the Vatican! Turns out he is not the Messiah after all! Turns out – look at those tribal tattoos! Those mala beads! That blond hair! – he’s a wild non-dualist guru from parts unknown. Christianity is a total fabrication! Always has been, always will be.

Here is hard evidence coupled with an ocean of common sense that more guns equal only more violence and death! Stat after stat, mass shooting after mass shooting proving we have it all wrong about protection and fear. Also! At least 2,605 people have died by gun violence in America since the Newtown shooting. Can we ban them now? No?

Here is overwhelming evidence that global warming is ravaging us like a furious god, and not only are we complicit, not only have we blindly raced forth into the abyss, we are, if all goes according to current trends and speeds and attitudes, totally f–king doomed.

Ah, unicorns. You look better every day.

© 2013 The San Francisco Chronicle

Mark Morford’s new book, ‘The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism,’ is now available at daringspectacle.com, Amazon, BN.com, and beyond. Join Mark on Facebook and Twitter, or email him. His website is markmorford.com. Mark’s column appears every Wednesday on SFGate.

[Published on Thursday, March 14, 2013 by The San Francisco Chronicle]


Islam vs. “islam” –An Expat’s Perspective on Religion and Pakistan

An insightful and inspiring article by Sophia Chawala

Islam vs. “islam” –An Expat’s Perspective on Religion and Pakistan
When I came home for spring break, my father urged me to read a pile of novels. One that I am reading right now is called “Moving the Mountain” by Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf. Responsible for the plans to build a mosque three blocks away from ground zero, Rauf seeks to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West with his novel by speaking on behalf of disenfranchised Muslims in America and around the world and by calling for a progressive, pluralistic kind of religion as a bedrock of tolerance and understanding, one that would melt away hateful stereotypes like stubborn iced snow sliding off an onrushing car and collapsing into glittery dust upon impact.

Few nights ago, amid the bombastic syncopated beats from my sister’s drum playing, the hissing of the pressure cooker from the kitchen, and the belting of debaters from Pakistani news, I was particularly engrossed by Rauf’s first chapter, which explored two sides of the Muslim-based religion: capital “I” Islam and lowercased “i” islam. The former is the one Rauf believes many Muslims today inadvertently act upon: a proper noun that calls for a solid state-of-mind, a construct of mere belief to give followers that extra pizzazz of identifying themselves from the point of view of outsiders. The latter, conversely, is the one Rauf champions. It is a verbal noun, the more humanistic approach of the religion that consists of a set of actions people should utilize as a supplement to every sect of their life. To explain the actions needed in islam, Rauf sets up an interfaith dialogue between the actions and first two commandments of the Christian faith. To believe in one God and to love others as ourselves are the core principles and intentions Muslims should always keep in mind when doing any kind of action—religious or non-religious—to ensure the best spiritual experience as possible for not only themselves, but for others as well. We gain understanding through our actions and through understanding, we could finally achieve the entity of “us”, defined not by otherness, but by inclusiveness of believers, one that steers away from establishing differences between “us” and “them” as a cause of hostility, one that fosters communities of faith as opposed to sectarian hierarchies situated in a vacuum, tightly sealed from any kind of interfaith dialogue or interaction.

Now, I am new to the realm of questioning religion. Nevertheless, Rauf’s connection managed to dazzle me to a point where all the surrounding drumming, hissing and yelling lowered to a sedative hum. For a second, I actually imagined a scene of Christians, Muslims, Jews and other faiths convening and confiding in one another to create tighter-knit bonds, deeper understandings, new crucial layers of meaning to morality and righteousness. I thought of a scene where for once political disagreements did not trump relationships with faith, which runs much deeper than any opinion or fact. Even further, I thought of a religion not named Islam, Christianity or Judaism, but just a religion known as the Religion of God.

But all of a sudden, a glare fires up in the periphery. Caustic red font splashed across the flat screen screaming “BREAKING NEWS.” It was there when I learned about mobs burning over 40 Christian houses in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore in response to alleged blasphemy towards the Prophet Muhammad. From there, my sister’s drumming crescendos into a seismic tremble, my mother’s pressure cooker hiss turns into a deafening sizzle, the voices of the news anchors became more rapt with loud, chaotic excitement. Ears shot, I looked up and down frantically from Rauf’s words to the TV screen, from islam to an obnoxiously capitalized ISLAM plastered in front of me. Then I thought to myself, where do Muslims go from here? Or put generally, where do Pakistanis go from here?

Call this coincidence painfully convenient, but it shows something that I am trying to make sense of when it comes to Pakistan, to religion, to the ways of human nature in general. I am only an expat witnessing at the periphery, fathoming the land of my parents through limited media sources and a plethora of books. I am only the novice inspector under the bridge trying to see what beams are deteriorating. I can only say so much about these riots and religious hate-based attacks on Pakistan, for the arguments against such a crime is as implicit as the dangers of fire. But what I can say is that Muslims are not the only ones marginalized in this world. Muslims victimize themselves too much and accredit themselves too much pity. Culture and colonialism has infiltrated the religion, morphing it into a fuzzy adjective. No wonder non-Muslims also extend Islam to include terrorism. These terms hurt, but we Muslims are partly responsible for their creation.
This country was founded as an “Islamic Republic”, a place where Muslims could become the majority by basking in a land of the religious free and by creating ideas and fostering innovations they never had the chance to do in British India. But just by looking at this title—a title that hangs above Pakistani heads like a shrill fluorescent light bulb—Islam is indeed capitalized, not only orthographically but politically as well. Pakistanis need to regain the true grasp of faith. But in order to do that, they must de-capitalize literally and figuratively, their views of religion and most importantly, their pride.

Sophia Chawala

Is Hinduism a Religion?

Shared by Marwan Majzoob
Brief excerpts of an article appeared in Times of India are  given below. For further details you may access www.TimesOfIndia.com

MUMBAI: Lord Shiva, Hanuman and goddess Durga do not represent any particular religion but are regarded as supernatural powers of the universe, the Nagpur income tax appellate tribunal has said.

The observation came when the tribunal was hearing an appeal by Nagpur-based Shiv Mandir Devstan Panch Committee Sanstan against an income tax commissioner’s order denying it tax exemption on grounds that more than 5% of its expenditure was incurred on religious activities.

The I-T act stipulates that for the purpose of tax exemption, an institution or trust must not be for the benefit of any particular religious community or caste.

Differing with the I-T commissioner’s order, the tribunal said, “Expenses on worshipping of Lord Shiva, Hanuman, Goddess Durga and on maintenance of the temple cannot be regarded as having been incurred for religious purposes.”

The tribunal went on to say that Hinduism was neither a religion nor a community. It consisted of a number of communities having different gods worshipped in different ways. Even the worship of god wasn’t not essential for a person who had adopted the Hindu way of life, it said.

“Hinduism holds within its fold men of divergent views and traditions who have very little in common except a vague faith in what may be called as the fundamentals of Hinduism,” the tribunal observed.

According to it, the word ‘community’ meant people living in the same place, under the same laws and regulations and who have common rights and privileges. This may apply to Christianity or Islam but not to Hinduism. “Technically, Hinduism is neither a religion nor a community,” the tribunal said.

In 2008, the sanstan had spent Rs 82,977 on maintenance of its building, providing free food, festival prayers, training people in tailoring and yoga, and free distribution of spectacles. The I-T commissioner had said that expenses for building maintenance, providing free food, festival prayers and daily expenses related to ‘religious purposes’. This added up to more than 5% of the organization’s expenditure. Only Rs 6,700 was spent on non-religious activities, the taxman said.

The sanstan had countered this, saying its temple was open to everybody, irrespective of caste and creed. “The temple does not belong to a particular religion. Installing idols is not a religious activity,” the counsel for the sanstan said.

The I-T tribunal’s accountant member K Bansal and judicial member D T Garasia agreed. They said the word ‘religion’ meant belief in, and worship of, a “superhuman controlling power”, a particular system of faith and worship.

“It means the trust should not be for the benefit of any particular group of persons having common belief in worshipping of superhuman controlling power or having common system of faith and worship. If the trust is for the benefit of any particular religious community, it would include the advancement, support or propagation of a religion,” they said, adding that no evidence or material had been placed on record to prove that the sanstan was promoting a particular religion.