Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Why Do We Support A Morals Police?

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 10, 2011

A fascinating article reminded me of Saudi Arabia’s morals police. The rest of the article lists some nutters in our own society lest we feel too self-righteous. However, Saudi’s morals police are state sanctioned. How come we make official outcries over torture and human rights violations in countries like China, yet remain remarkably quiet on our Saudi ally?

The religious police in Saudi Arabia are employed in direct order of command from King Abdullah. They are tasked with enforcing Sharia as defined in Saudi Arabia. In addition to having the power to arrest anyone engaged in homosexual acts, prostitution, fornication, or proselytizing of non-Muslim religions, they can also arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, enforce Islamic dress-codes, Muslim dietary laws (such as the prohibition from eating pork) and store closures during the prayer time. They prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film). They also actively prevent the religious practices of other religions within Saudi Arabia. (Wikipedia)

western music

At the time of writing, various Middle Eastern governments are nervous that democratic protests in Egypt and Tunisia might spread to their countries. (Jordan has already had protests.) I wonder what it would take for something like that to happen in Saudi? I wonder what it would take for our Governments to stand up for justice there?

In May of 2007, a 28 year old man in Riyadh named Ali Al-Huraisi had a run-in with the Saudi CFPVPV. Because they believed that he possessed alcohol, they broke into his house, arrested his entire family, handcuffed him, and then beat him to death. In August 2008, a member killed his own daughter for converting to Christianity. These are just two examples of what is an extremely conservative and brutal organisation– I say again: Sanctioned by the Saudi Government.

Why do we consider these people allies?

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Sepultura | Under Seige
“Religious domain is all I see
Suffocate the scum with mediocrity”
(Saw these guys live in 1991)

Posted in ethics, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Conversation with an Imam

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 23, 2010

You may recall Santi was the initiator of Meal with a Muslim day a couple of months back. At the time he made friends with Kamal al Khatib, a local Imam in Southern California. Recently he’s been posting short clips of a conversation they had in the mosque.

Here’s the second one where they discuss the concept of love in Islam, among other things. Note: Where the Imam is referring to “narrations” I believe he is talking about the Hadith, traditions about Mohammed outside of the Qu’ran.

Here are the first and third conversations (so far).

Like me, Santi is an agnostic. I’d read and been taught that “love” is not one of the attributes of Allah talked about in the Qu’ran. Here, the Imam uses the traditions about Mohammed to add some light.

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What is your impression of “love” in Islam? Does this change anything for you?

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Posted in agnostic, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Conversation with an Imam

Dying for a Laugh

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 15, 2010

Or, How to Curse Really Well.

One of the disadvantages of being born in a country with no large wildlife is the lack of good swear words. “You’re a Kakapo’s bum” doesn’t compare with the exotic combinations of “Elephant”, “Donkey” and “Mother” which pepper Urdu and Hindi.

Well, I suppose the early Maori may have cursed about the Moa or the Giant Haast Eagle? “Your father is a Moa’s toenail. Now cook the man some eggs.”

laughing seal

My knowledge of Hindi was vastly improved by a work colleague who taught us how to swear in his language. This was mainly to tease another co-worker, by threatening to phone her mother and use these words in the conversation. She was a good Indian girl as far as her distant family were concerned, “Don’t you dare tell my parents about my boyfriend”. I think we did try out one or two phrases on a cab driver when we were drunk.

Boy, those cultures can really swear! Think of a body part, multiply by a large animal, insult its intelligence, give it a foul disease and have sex with it. That’s what a real insult is, none of this mild Anglo-Saxon rubbish. Perhaps even in their blasphemies the English are too polite.

Except the guys in Four Lions are also English. My knowledge of Pakistani swearing, which seems just as gleefully vile as Hindi, expanded by watching this film. Some time ago I listed top ten spiritual movies. I’ve discovered a few more, and this one would definitely make it into the list. Not because it’s spiritual as such, but because the story takes place within the current political and social climate of westernised Islam and offers wicked social commentary. Better than that, it’s hilarious.

Four Lions is the story of four English men wanting to martyr themselves for their faith. Unfortunately most of them are incredibly inept. At first I was concerned their failure and stupidity could appear racist, but it’s clear that other characters are also mentally challenged, for example the dim white girl who flats next door and the bumbling English authorities who deal with the group. I wonder what different Muslim communities think of this film? There are some poignant human moments too, and the social commentary is deeper than it first appears.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, so all I’ll say is: It’s funny— see it!

Four Lions Trailer

Guess what? There’s another fantastic movie about suicide bombers, I posted that here.

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Posted in humor, humour, Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

My Meal with a Muslim

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 27, 2010

As per my recent posts, last Thursday I met Sarah and Fariha for coffee after work. (Names changed as New Zealand is a very small place). I hadn’t thought I could find someone to meet in such a short space of time, but an internet acquaintance set it up, thankyou Sarah. Sarah is an atheist, with Muslim and Hindu parents who decided not to push either faith on her. Her mother is a “liberal” Muslim, so Sarah also has a lot of knowledge about Islam. When she told me her friend is Bangladeshi, I expected someone with a foreign accent. I was surprised to meet a second-generation Kiwi, intelligent, articulate and funny, working in a respected profession in the city.

Funny— we don’t think of Muslims with a sense of humour, do we?

We three got along well socially and could have talked about general topics the whole time, but I decided to ask what it’s like growing up as a Muslim in New Zealand. I felt the purpose was to share about Islam and non-Islam and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Fariha talked about her grandparents being some of the first Muslim immigrants in New Zealand, and helping start the first mosque in Daniel Street (now still owned by the community, but not a mosque). I mentioned my view that all New Zealanders are decended from immigrants and that should inform our thinking. It’s something I think us whiteys need to think about more.

I’m reasonably educated about Islam for a Westerner but I learned new things. I understood from what was said that both women are part of a smaller Shi’ite sect. For me, I associate Shiite with Iran, it’s weird to find people from the Asian subcontinent who identify as Shiite, which we discussed. Fariha referred to “the fundamentalists”, indicating that she felt some distance between her faith and the extremists.

I found out I can go to the mosque, as a non muslim. If I do go I want to have a friend there so that I know how to behave. I can’t go to Mecca, even as a tourist, although Sarah was unsure about that. “How would they know?” Both women love the fact that in Mecca everyone is dressed in white and racial and ethnic barriers are dropped. They love the idea of the one-ness of so many different peoples. Fariha hasn’t been on Haj and Sarah said she couldn’t, as a non-Muslim. Sarah said she’s been told there’s no such thing as a non-practicing Muslim, so you either are or aren’t. Hence, she is not a Muslim. However Fariha disagreed, saying there’s a bit of leeway, for example Fariha does not always pray five times a day.

Muslim women

Not Sarah and Fariha

I offered Fariha the opportunity to ask me questions, but it didn’t happen. Being a second generation New Zealander, no doubt she already knows a lot. She said she’d attended a Christian school growing up and had participated in chapel services. She was quite ok with that as Islam “developed from Christianity and Judaism”.

We didn’t talk much about difficult topics. They did agree with my suggestion that “a good outcome of the absolute horror of 9/11 is that it opened up the existence of Islam to many people in the West who had ignored it”. I mentioned I’d read a book by a woman of Pakistani descent which says Arab Muslims tend to look down on non-Arab Muslims. Fariha said she thought that was “probably the case”. She also could understand it “to some degree” as “the Quran was first given to Arabs”, and socio-politically most servants and menial workers in Saudi are foreigners.

We talked about head-coverings, and she said it “isn’t in the Quran”, but in the Hadith. She doesn’t wear a head-covering. She also said such head coverings are a sign of status, these women are copying the Prophet’s wives, something I didn’t know. (My older post on head-coverings here).

They agreed there is a lot of discussion and disagreement within Islam on some topics. Fariha said she was “speaking for herself, personally, not for the whole of Islam”. She said Imams (Mullahs) are “not like priests”, there is much more ability to disagree, it’s much more equal, which I didn’t know. This struck me like the “congregational” Christian way of running their churches; in theory there is no priest-equivalent as they view all believers are priests. We briefly discussed Sufism, and Fariha said she thinks Islam is a bit more about the group experience, than about “personal spirituality”, although that is there too.

Conclusions

Overall, the meeting was worthwhile in my view. I don’t know if Fariha thought so, but I think she did. She expressed at the start that it was nice of me to make the offer, and afterwards emailed Sarah that she enjoyed it.

Santi, who initiated Meal with a Muslim day, is thinking about hard issues, he’s raised some areas to think about. I think a real challenge is to meet with those Muslims who are “fundamentalist” and despise the West. On our side, it also requires the Western “fundamentalist” Islam-haters to be willing to meet. I don’t know how this could happen. Perhaps each side’s “moderates” can work on their more extreme bretheren? I also think that Muslim to non-Muslim dialogue needs to be an ongoing discussion, there are other questions I want to ask. At this point, Sarah, Fariha and myself have no further plans, and I do think “Meal with a Muslim Day” should be proposed as a one-off occasion each time with no further expectations.

One thing that has stayed with me is that when I think about Islam, I am thinking about a person— an intelligent, attractive neighbour whose humanity I want to support. I think this alone makes the experience worthwhile, to personalise beliefs into people rather than “other”. Though I doubt it is an issue for Fariha, I hope and believe the same is true from the other direction.

Can Muslims accept, flourish in and support Western-style “live and let live”? I think so, and I hope so. There is work to be done by both sides, but by such small actions maybe we can improve one part of this confused world.

What Are Your Thoughts?

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Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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Posted in agnostic, god, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Make Babies or Islam Takes Over?

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 10, 2010

Great local pizza and a bottle of chianti last night. At dinner I picked up a newspaper:

“European Christians must have more children or face the Continent becoming Islamised, a Vatican official has said.” I note that with their view on contraception, the Vatican is particularly keen on making babies anyway.

This ties in serendipitously with my recent posts. Quoting from a longer article on Snopes, who declare such claims “mostly false”:

babies!

“The falling fertility rates in large segments of the Islamic world have been matched by another significant shift: Across northern and western Europe, women have suddenly started having more babies … Immigrant mothers account for part of the fertility increase throughout Europe, but only part. And, significantly, many of the immigrants are arrivals from elsewhere in Europe, especially the eastern European countries admitted to the European Union in recent years.”

In short, the best demographers can do is make broad guesses about population trends based on current conditions and assumptions about how (and how much) those trends might be influenced by societal changes. Or, as summarized by [population expert] Walker:

“The human habit is simply to project current trends into the future. Demographic realities are seldom kind to the predictions that result. The decision to have a child depends on innumerable personal considerations and large, unaccountable societal factors that are in constant flux. Yet even knowing this, demographers themselves are often flummoxed. Projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality.”

See also my humorous White People Need More Sex.

Frankly, the question of Islam and its relation to modernity is complex; I’ve read various commentators, both Muslim and not, both extreme and moderate. I particularly enjoyed Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam Today. I’m not attracted to conservative Islam and I want to concentrate on other interests, perhaps I’ll write more fully in the futuretime.

This morning Romy sent me “Burn a Quran Day“, a tragical church parody ad:

I love it! For any Muslims watching, please remember this is a joke— a parody made by people who do not support burning of sacred books.

Also in the newspaper, thought reading machines are closer to reality. This is cool, and brings hope for severely disabled people, let alone the science fiction utopias of the future. Naturally there may be negative sides; if it becomes possible to read thoughts from a distance then Government spying on your brain may be possible one day. It may become impossible to have mental privacy— would any of us truly want our spouse to read our thoughts? All science brings with it the potential for both benefit and misuse, so concentrating on the positive, it’s a wonderful advance. Looking forward to the day when I can type at the speed of thought.

Even if a bigger Muslim population eventuates, if we encourage all peoples to live together in peace, there is hope. Please remember and publicise the 1st International Meal With A Muslim Day, next week. I’m not sure I can find someone in time, but at least if I can raise awareness, I’ve done my part.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Posted in god, humor, humour, Islam, Science, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Islam Interfaith Talk: There is Hope

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 27, 2010

I was profoundly moved by this video featuring Eboo Patel, an American Muslim. Please watch it.

While the talk is particularly aimed at the interaction between Christians and Muslims I think everyone needs to watch this, particularly those concerned about Islam in Western countries. My friends in the USA will find this particularly timely.

Seeing we’re here, I’ll add a couple of other useful links:
* Snopes debunks the myth that “Muslims will take over Europe by 20XX”.
* How many Muslims have condemned terrorism? A lot. Take a look at this list.

I wanna be honest: I don’t find Islam attractive or compelling as a religion. However, I do believe we can work together and live together in peace if we will actually listen to each other. Please share this post with those who need to hear this message.

Finally, here’s a useful video from Time Magazine about the current controversy over a Muslim center in New York. Can you see that these are ordinary, well-educated American people? Check out Somewhere, Over The Rainbow.

Also see International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day.

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Posted in Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Sufi Music

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 2, 2010

We’re in music week here at spritzophrenia. I couldn’t find any Islamic music I liked for Friday (the Islamic day of worship). I tried Yousef Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) but the songs seemed too preachy. Do you have any suggestions? Sufi is a mystical tradition within Islam, so here’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Unrelated quote I like:
“The post-Christian narrative is radically different; it offers spirituality without binding authority” R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Posted in Islam, music | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Should Society Tell Women What To Wear?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 17, 2010

In the news recently some European countries seek to ban the full face veil worn by some Muslim women – two variations known as the burkha and the niqab. Religious freedom and the veil has become a sticky issue.

This BBC article contains a useful guide to the most common styles of veil Muslim women wear – there’s more than two! Full face veils are a minority custom and a national Italian Islamic council is among many who point out that it’s not a core requirement of the religion. The Dean of Al Azhar University calls full face veiling “a custom that has nothing to do with the Islamic faith“.

Cultural differences can be both enlightening and amusing. It’s possible that veiling women only sexualises them more. I know of two women who lived in a country (Malaysia?) where women generally cover most of their body. They used to joke about local men lusting after body parts that nobody cared about in New Zealand. Then one day they both wore sleeveless blouses on a bus, and the driver almost drove off the road staring at their arms. After that they were more careful about what they wore.

In discussing the European situation with a friend we both agreed the only reason to ban full veils would be for security reasons. We don’t allow motorcycle helmets or balaclavas to be worn in banks and it’s probably reasonable to ban full face veils for the same reason. An alternative would be to require the veil to be dropped in certain situations, for example when stopped by the police.

esoteric
A woman wearing the Niqab protests in Tours, France, February 2010

However, some polititians have suggested that such veiling denigrates women and they propose a ban for feminist reasons. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the full veils “threaten the dignity of women”. Regardless of whether this is the case, that’s no reason to try and suppress someone’s culture. Let me say at this point I believe that, like conservative Christianity, conservative Islam represses woman and I’m not a fan of full face veils. Regardless, we may not like it but we must allow these women the freedom to choose such dress.

Ironically, I wonder whether the desire to “free” these women would have exactly the opposite effect, forcing them to stay at home because they won’t be able to go out in public. (On further reading I see the Muslim Executive of Belgium has argued the same thing, warning it would lead to women who do wear the veil being trapped in their homes.)

There is also some talk along the lines of “these people have come to our country and they should integrate with us”. Stefaan van Heck, an MP with the Belgian Green Party, is one who argues that unveiling women is better for social integration. However, integration should not mean assimilation. Diversity of cultures enriches our countries, and minority groups should be encouraged to retain their languages and customs provided we don’t end up with ghettos. I think if you are in a foreign country it’s respectful and wise to learn the language and follow local customs. However, this does not mean one has to completely lose one’s own culture.

Ban the burkha for security reasons if that’s the best solution, but don’t try to justify it by appealing to women’s rights or the need for cultural assimilation.

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What do you think?

Posted in Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

God Doesn’t Want You To Fly Into Buildings

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 6, 2010

I guess we needed some hope. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, a Muslim scholar based in the UK has condemned terrorism and criticized Islamic extremists who cite their religion to justify violence.

Ul-Qadri’s 600-page fatwa is “arguably the most comprehensive theological refutation of Islamist terrorism to date,” according to the Quilliam Foundation, a London organization that describes itself as a counterterrorism think tank.

“Terrorism is terrorism,” ul-Qadri said at a news conference hosted by the foundation. “Violence is violence. It has no place in Islamic teaching, and no justification can be provided to it.

The foundation mentioned says ul-Qadri “is the founder of the Minhaj-ul-Quran, an organization with hundreds of thousands of followers in South Asia and the United Kingdom” and is a “mainstream Muslim scholar” who is a “widely recognized and respected authority on Islamic jurisprudence.” I hope that’s so, I’m a bit sceptical of most people who say they have a following of hundreds of thousands when that can’t be verified. [Edit: On further checking he does seem to have a large following]. Islam is a large and varied religion, and I don’t know if he will be listened to or even heard of by people easily swayed by extremists.

Still, here’s hoping someone listens to him.

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10 Must-See Spiritual Movies

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 25, 2009

Given the holiday season, you’ll probably want something to do. Given I’m a movie buff I’m going to see Avatar [see my Avatar experience], and will probably watch a few others on my laptop when I can. If you’re hiring a DVD, here are my ten must-see movies to kick-start your spiritual journey [1], or provide sustenance along the way. Regardless of their spiritual subject matter (or not) these are good films in their own right. Note that some contain violence or sex; these aren’t the kind of films Pastor Bob shows to the youth group – no tacky evangelistic flicks here. Some films will inspire you, some will revolt you. All of them will make you think, and perhaps grow. In no particular order:

1. The Exorcist (1973, re-released 2000)
Evil. Some perspectives – Buddhist, atheist, Hindu – have no concept of it. Usually Hollywood portrays evil as somehow “cool”. Hell is a place where the fun people get to party for all eternity. Heaven is a boring place for wimps. Devils even have a sense of humour, a trait that C.S. Lewis rightly pointed out a devil could not have – humour is a good, not an evil. The Exorcist portrays hard, uncompromising, callous, hate-filled evil. Think of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings.

What’s truly scary about The Exorcist is the possibility that there could be malevolent entities as well as benign. I first encountered what may have been a demon when I was 16. Pentecostal christians like to talk a lot about demons, but this was the only encounter in 20 years I had where I truly believed it could be real. Comment if you’d like me to talk about this some time.

The New Age tends to ignore the dark side of spirituality. It’s perfectly possible if there are spirits that some could be the equivalent of the shark; hidden, unfeeling predators who will take opportunities to attack humans if given the chance. If this is so, it would pay us to find allies among the good spirits.

2. Breaking the Waves (1996)
This film blew me away. A ‘simple’ young woman from a strict christian group marries an oil rig worker who then suffers an accident. She believes g0d tells her to prostitute herself in order to heal her husband. Is she insane? Is God cruel? Why don’t her conservative church help her? Filmed by Lars von Trier, this is not an easy watch by any means, but is deeply thought-provoking and for me, ultimately rewarding.

Breaking The Waves is a movie about the protestant christian concept of grace – un-earned kindness. It’s about trust in g0d against impossible odds. Make sure you watch the final minute of the movie. It changes everything.

3. The Mission (1986)
Set in 18th Century South America, a warrior priest and a pacifist both try to save the people they love and care for. Who will succeed – just war priest, or tree-hugger priest? Another major plot concerns the conversion of a hard-living slaver to a devout Catholic. But can he truly give up his past? A provocative and powerful film.

4. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (2003)

The dramatic portrayal of Buddhist lifestyles and spiritual truths is perhaps more difficult to accomplish in an exciting way than depictions of Western religious practices and stories, because the Dharma is geared to inner transformation. And while enlightenment may be one of the most profound experiences a human being can undergo, it doesn’t exactly translate easily into compelling cinema.

From greencin

While that may be true, this Korean film is a moving and powerful portrayal of a Buddhist “redepmtion”. The movie is slow and lyrical – meditative, which is surely intentional on the director’s part. An old monk educates a young man, who subsequently leaves the monastery and commits atrocious crimes. The subsequent story is well worth an evening’s viewing.

5. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
Koyaanisqatsi is not an explicitly religious movie and in that respect one could call it an atheist meditation on life, technology and our interactions with them. Perhaps one could call this a humanist movie, the first of a trilogy. It’s more a documentary or a work of art yet has no spoken narrative, only a mesmerising soundtrack by Phillip Glass. For me, the film portrays a deep sense of the wonder and tragedy of human acheivement. Watching it is a meditation in itself.

6. Jesus of Montreal (1989)
This Canadian production is probably the best modern re-imaging of what Christians call the ‘gospels’ – the biographies of Jesus. Yet it’s a totally atheistic Jesus, one that could be believed without reference to a g0d. As one would expect from a movie that captures the ‘feel’ of Jesus, it’s brilliant and compassionate.

7. The Apostle (1997)
Robert Duvall portrays a Pentecostal preacher going through hard times. Exploring hypocrisy, belief and wrenching humanity this is one of the more challenging looks at the underbelly of US christianity.

8. The Rapture (1991)
Rapture (rap’chur) 1. ecstatic joy or delight. 2. a state of extreme sexual ecstasy. 3. the feeling of being transported to another sphere of existence. 4. the experience of being spirited away to Heaven just before the Apocalypse. You’ve possibly heard the fundies talking about being ‘raptured’ As far as I know the writer and director are not Christians, but chose to explore what it might be like if this really is true. A telephone operator living an empty, amoral life finds God and loses him again. What would it be like for a non-religious person addicted to sex to be ‘born again’?

9. The Message (1976)
I hesitated to include this in my list, but I think all non-Muslim Westerners would do well to acquaint themselves with the story of Muhummad. The film itself is well produced and acted, it won several awards. Bonus: It was announced just a couple of months ago that Oscar-winning producer Barrie M. Osborne, of ‘Matrix’ And ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame will make a movie about the founder of Islam. I will watch with great interest. Neo and Gandalf meet the last prophet?

10. Natural Born Killers (1994)
You’re probably wondering why I include this as a ‘religious’ movie. You’re right, it’s not – and that’s the whole point. To me it’s a movie about nihilism, one extreme form of atheism: Nothing means anything, there’s no right or wrong, only pleasure. If we want to kill, who cares? Other people have no value except as we choose to use them. Yet the love the two main characters share perhaps belies this point of view. Is this a redeeming factor? Or does it show that nihilism can’t be lived?

So there we are. It was hard culling down a large list to just ten. Perhaps we’ll have to do this again sometime. I hope you gain insight and connection through watching them. I’ve written part two of my pagan experience, I aim to get that online soon. In the meantime, have you seen any of the above films? What other movies did you find spiritually – or atheistically – enlightening?

Happy holidays

listening to Terra Nine and Aviatrix | Wonder, T9 + Aviatrix | Whisper (Pete Ardon and Helix drum n bass remix)
tful[2] Karen jokes about Santa Claus

[1] Again, I am including atheism as a spiritual journey for want of a better description. I mean no offence by this.
[2] Today’s Fun Unrelated Link

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, New Age, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »