Australian Prime Minister won’t play religion card

Gillard won’t play religion card

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she has no intention of pretending to believe in God to attract religiously-inclined voters.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was a regular at Canberra church services and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is known as a devout Catholic.

In contrast, Ms Gillard says that while she greatly respects other people’s religious views, she does not believe in God.

Ms Gillard has been quizzed on personal topics including her attitude to religion and her relationship with her partner during interviews this morning.

She says does not go through religious rituals for the sake of appearance.

“I am not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel,” she said.

“I am what I am and people will judge that.

“For people of faith, I think the greatest compliment I could pay to them is to respect their genuinely held beliefs and not to engage in some pretence about mine.”

“I grew up in the Christian church, a Christian background. I won prizes for catechism, for being able to remember Bible verses. I am steeped in that tradition, but I’ve made decisions in my adult life about my own views.

“I’m worried about the national interest. About doing the right thing by Australians. And I’ll allow people to form their own views about whatever is going to drive their views.

“What I can say to Australians broadly of course is I believe you can be a person of strong principle and values from a variety of perspectives.”

Meanwhile Ms Gillard has rejected claims that she is soft on Israel.

Former ambassador to Israel Ross Burns made the accusation in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Fairfax press reported.

Ms Gillard’s partner Tim Mathieson works for prominent pro-Israel lobbyist Albert Dadon’s real estate company Urbertas Group.

“I’ve seen that letter to the newspapers, that’s not right,” Ms Gillard said today.

“I’ve made up my own views about Israel and made them known publicly well before there was any suggestion that my partner would work in a property group associated with Mr Dadon.”

Pakistan to monitor Google, others for blasphemy

Muslims need to be protected from reality; we can’t have them learning about things that might make them turn away from their bullshit religion.

Pakistan to monitor Google, others for blasphemy

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani authorities on Friday put seven major websites, including Google and YouTube, under watch for containing material deemed offensive to Muslims, officials said.

The Ministry of Information Technology is also blocking at least 17 links on Youtube and other websites for showing “blasphemous material.”

“YouTube, Yahoo, Amazon, Bing, MSN, Hotmail and Google will be monitored with relation to anti-Islamic contents,” said Khurram Mehran, spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

The companies that own the affected sites are Google Inc., Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon.com Inc..

But another official also made it clear the government had no intention of blocking major websites as they were important sources of education.

The move to impose monitoring was undertaken three days after a court in the eastern city of Bahawalpur ordered the government to block YouTube and eight other sites in response to a petition arguing they were showing material “against the fundamental principles of Islam.

The next hearing of the case is fixed for Monday. It is second time in a month that Pakistan has imposed such restrictions on internet.

Last month, authorities acting on a court decision blocked social network Facebook, YouTube and others sites for almost two weeks amid anger over a page that encouraged users to post images of the Prophet Mohammad.

BLASPHEMY A SENSITIVE ISSUE

Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims, who constitute the overwhelming majority in Pakistan.

Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. Five people were killed in protests in 2006 over publication of cartoons deemed blasphemous by Muslims in Danish newspapers a year earlier.

However, Latif Khosa, adviser to the prime minister on information technology, said the government had already been monitoring websites for any material prejudicial to “security of Pakistan and Islamic injunctions.”

Khosa said the government could not block major search engines and websites as they were major sources of information and education.

“The constitution of Pakistan ensures access to knowledge, information and education to all citizens of Pakistan. These are the basic rights of the people of Pakistan and Internet is a major source of it,” Khosa told Reuters.

Courts cannot violate those rights nor can any law be put in place to do so, he said.

“Many students are calling us and saying that they could not complete their higher studies if any step is taken to block these search engines,” Khosa said.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Threatened with Prosecution, Death by Pakistan Legal Authorities

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Threatened with Prosecution, Death by Pakistan Legal Authorities

It seems that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is under investigation by Pakistani legal authorities for violation of that country’s anti-blasphemy laws surrounding the recent Draw Muhammed contest.

The penalty for violating the Pakistani anti-blasphemy law can be death.

Section 295-C of the Pakistani penal code reads: “Use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet, whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine.”

The Draw Muhammed Contest was started in response, in part, to Comedy Central’s censoring of an episode of “South Park” that dealt with violent Muslim reaction over the depiction of the Prophet Muhammed in the West. A Danish newspaper and cartoonist have also been under violent threat because of a cartoon depicting Mohammed with an exploding turban.

The idea of the Draw Muhammed Contest was that it would be a response to violent, Islamic extremists to show that freedom of expression in the West applies to everyone and every subject. Muslims do not get to tell non-Muslims what to do and what to say.

It appears that Pakistani law enforcement disagrees with this sentiment. The Pakistanis actually expect Interpol to arrange for the arrest of Mark Zuckerberg and his handing over to the Pakistani authorities for trial and presumed punishment. A complaint to the UN General Assembly is also being contemplated.

The situation seems to derive in large part from cultural insensitivity on the part of Pakistanis and many other Muslims. Muslims may feel somewhat sensitive about depictions of their Prophet, especially unflattering ones. This has been known since the Salman Rushdie affair. On the other hand, Muslims need to realize that the right to express oneself, on any subject, with any point of view, is held as sacred in the West as Islam is considered in their own countries. Religion and the religious are scrutinized, criticized, and ridiculed frequently. This applies to all religions, not just Islam.

The difference is that Christians, Jews, and so on seem to be secure enough in their particular faiths that any assaults on them get relatively mild complaints in response. Not so with Muslims. It seems that many Muslims just want to kill people for disdaining Islam. This not only demonstrates a somewhat shaky religious faith, but also tends to reinforce the image of the Muslims as violent extremists.

Coddling or giving into this attitude, as Comedy Central did, is somewhat counter-productive. Self-censorship only enables violent extremists and ensures that the threats of violence will continue.

Thanks to JT Hundley for the link

6-story Jesus statue in Ohio struck by lightning

6-story Jesus statue in Ohio struck by lightning

MONROE, Ohio – A six-story statue of Jesus Christ was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and pieces of foam that were scooped up by curious onlookers Tuesday.

The “King of Kings” statue, one of southwest Ohio’s most familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid Rock Church along Interstate 75 in Monroe, just north of Cincinnati.

The lightning strike set the statue ablaze around 11:15 p.m. Monday, Monroe police dispatchers said.

The sculpture, about 62 feet tall and 40 feet wide at the base, showed Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed Touchdown Jesus because of the way the arms were raised, similar to a referee signaling a touchdown. It was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame, which is all that remained Tuesday.

The nickname is the same used for a famous mural of the resurrected Jesus that overlooks the Notre Dame football stadium.

The fire spread from the statue to an adjacent amphitheater but was confined to the attic area, and no one was injured, police Chief Mark Neu said.

Estimated damage from the fire was set at $700,000 — $300,000 for the statue and $400,000 for the amphitheater, Fire Capt. Richard Mascarella said Tuesday.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol was at the scene Tuesday to prevent traffic jams and potential accidents from motorists stopping along the highway to take photographs.

The patrol began issuing citations about 4 p.m. Tuesday to motorists for stopping on the side of the highway, dispatcher Adam Brown said. The number of gawkers coupled with construction had slowed I-75 traffic in the area to a crawl, the state Highway Patrol said.

Some people were scooping up pieces of the statue’s foam from the nearby pond to take home with them, said church co-pastor Darlene Bishop.

“This meant a lot to a lot of people,” she said.

Keith Lewis, of nearby Middletown, arrived at the church around 7 a.m. Tuesday to photograph the remains for his wife. Lewis said he had viewed the statue as both an oddity and an inspiration.

Cassie Browning, a church member from Dayton, said she was driving home when she saw smoke and noticed the statue was missing.

Story continues…

There is No God (And You Know It) – Sam Harris

There is No God (And You Know It) by Sam Harris

Somewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture, and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of six billion human beings. The same statistics also suggest that this girl’s parents believe — at this very moment — that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family. Are they right to believe this? Is it good that they believe this?

No.

The entirety of atheism is contained in this response. Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the obvious is overlooked as a matter of principle. The obvious must be observed and re-observed and argued for. This is a thankless job. It carries with it an aura of petulance and insensitivity. It is, moreover, a job that the atheist does not want.

It is worth noting that no one ever need identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (eighty-seven percent of the population) who claim to “never doubt the existence of God” should be obliged to present evidence for his existence — and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. Only the atheist appreciates just how uncanny our situation is: most of us believe in a God that is every bit as specious as the gods of Mount Olympus; no person, whatever his or her qualifications, can seek public office in the United States without pretending to be certain that such a God exists; and much of what passes for public policy in our country conforms to religious taboos and superstitions appropriate to a medieval theocracy. Our circumstance is abject, indefensible, and terrifying. It would be hilarious if the stakes were not so high.

Consider: the city of New Orleans was recently destroyed by hurricane Katrina. At least a thousand people died, tens of thousands lost all their earthly possessions, and over a million have been displaced. It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Katrina struck believed in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while a hurricane laid waste to their city? Surely He heard the prayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned there. These were people of faith. These were good men and women who had prayed throughout their lives. Only the atheist has the courage to admit the obvious: these poor people spent their lives in the company of an imaginary friend.

continues here…