THE HOUSES OF GOD

9 Nov

There’s a blogger somewhere in America, Emily. She writes:

When I was eight years old, Twin Towers were attacked. This tragedy shattered my young mind to pieces. I was a little girl who did not understand why the same bad men who killed so many people in New York wouldn’t come to my town in Texas and hurt me too. I began to suffer from severe anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. I wouldn’t eat or drink without being forced. I wouldn’t go outside and play with my friends. I couldn’t bring myself to cross the street to get the mail in the good neighborhood where I lived. I couldn’t sleep at night.

Emily grew up in a Christian home she tells us. I wonder how she feels about Muslims. There’s no loud references to coming Jihad on her site. She tells us that she turned away from God and despite this she found herself doing the Lord’s work. God was using her, she said. She goes to Africa to help out somehow. She has trouble sleeping still. But she’s reconciled, regained her faith. She has no doubt; she knows that God works with her and thru her.

Somewhere else, another American also knows there is a God. He supports the Park51 project. This is the infamous ‘ground zero mosque’ which is actually nothing of the kind. The site is near but not on the site of the collapsed World Trade centre towers. This is significant. Actually on the site would be an unbearable slap-in-the-face, obviously. Regardless the attitudes of Muslims world-wide to the ideology and activities of Usama bin Laden and his followers, to build a mosque on the site of so many deaths perpetrated in the name of Islam is a symbol of victory. A mosque near the site could be a symbol of tolerance. What better response by a great pluralist democracy to Jihadist intolerance than to have a large mosque where American muslims pray?

Corbodacathedral

It’s not only a mosque; the proposal is for a community centre which includes a large mosque. Its supporters maintain that it’s intended to facilitate peaceful co-existence among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Originally it was to be called “Cordoba House” after the relatively tolerant Islamic Iberian caliphate. Naturally there’s controversy. The inevitable Jihadwatch-watch rebuttal takes the ‘liberal’ point of view, as I have, telling us that the Taliban want the project scrapped because of opposition. The argument is that banning the mosque helps the enemy.

What follows is the by now wearily familiar rhetorical war where facts are merely optional instruments in the service of some higher truth defined as unquestioned loyalty to God and the armies blessed by same. These blend seemlessly with the egos of whomsoever casts an opinion. JihadWatch, for example, likes to repeatedly post a photograph of Park51’s owner Sharif El-Gamal that casts him in the dodgiest light possible without being blatantly Berian. There’s guilt by association, a Muslim blogger name of Aziz Poonawalla is, apparently, “the kind of man who posts obscene photoshops about his ideological opponents”. They’re both Muslim right? What else do you need?

I tried one of the links which apparently substantiates this claim. It doesn’t. And it’s just more blogwar. If Poonawalla engages in such slander or unreason I wouldn’t know. Seems pretty civilized to me. It’s not that I’m taking one side against the other. I’m inclined to duck out the door in the event of a barroom brawl. If people wanna punch each other’s heads in fine. But leave me out of it. Unless I’m in it.

What God is he, writes laws of peace and clothes them in a tempest? Jews, Christians and Muslims all tell me that their faith is about peace and love and here I am in a 21st century city writing on 21st century technology for a 21st century publication medium and I find I’m worried about, of all things, a religious war!! The secular West lumps these troublemakers under the heading ‘monotheism’ and we see the rise of the anti-theist movement led by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who should know better, but don’t, I’d say because their ability to reasonhas been blitzed by their anger at the obstinate hostility of the agents of religious faith. Abrahamic religious faith in particular. Of course, elsewhere, the view that the world would’ve been better off without monotheism has been expressed with much less heat.

The traditional alternative, in the West, to the Abrahamic ethos has been that of the Greco-Roman world in particular Stoicism as articulated by Epictitus, Aurelius and Seneca; the ethics of Aristotle. From Machiavelli to Nietzsche, the proto-modern world is stuffed with philosophers who have fetishized Athens and Rome. This counter-tradition, as adherents know, has certain advantages over the Judeo-Christian tradition. Principle among this, as Nietzsche’s Geneology of Morals argues, is the difference in moral architecture.

In the Abrahamic faiths the universe is the site of a battleground between the forces of good and evil. History is a process of conflict between these forces that leads to an inevitable final battle which lays waste to the whole shebang. In Athens and Rome good was a path of moderation between extremes. In the former virtue is held to be the opposite of the nefarious: we are good because we are not them. Virtue comes by virtue of being and believing. The latter holds that virtue is an accomplishment. Its aim is to cultivate a self capable of enjoying life without over-indulging in its pleasure or giving in to depravity: emotions are mastered by reason.

I, myself, conceive of morality in this fashion. God writes laws of peace and the followers of God slaughter each other over the fine print. It’s crazy man. The pictures on this post are of the Great Mosque of Córdoba, now the Mezquita Cathedral. When the Catholics took back Spain they converted the infidel’s blasphemy into a house of God. And before that the Moors built a house of God on the site of the infidel’s blasphemy: the Visigoth St Vincent’s. Before that it was a pagan temple to what god I wouldn’t know. But you get the picture.

Over time you see it. As we change, our ideas of God or gods change. In pagan times God didn’t cause wars your god’s worth was adjudged by your success or failure in war. Then came the one true God and the laws of peace and people started using it as an excuse to bust skulls big time! Well, they tell me, it’s written. It’s written in the Talmud an eye for an eye. It’s been written ever since. Hitchens and Dawkins write it too. We are good. They are bad. Why? Because of what they believe. It’s written.

Personally I’ve never felt the touch of God in the words. I guess I’m a pagan throwback, Catholic naturally, I always found the images spoke more clearly. But still they were simply images as the Bible is simply stories. There’s nothing spiritually profound necessarily especially as they’ve been in the service of so much hatred. (And always it’s they that hate). But in a mosque, in a cathedral, in a Buddhist temple, a synagogue, on land held sacred by Aboriginal people – yeah. A temple has no hatred.

Cathedral

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One Response to “THE HOUSES OF GOD”

  1. Muslim in America November 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    I appreciate the link up and think you are a good writer though. I enjoyed reading your piece and look forward to reading more.

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