#FreePussyRiot: “Punk Prayer” Translated

To mark the impending ban of Pussy Riot from the Russian Internet for being “extremists” dangerous to the state, I’m reproducing  Carol Rumen’s translation of the Riot’s “Punk Prayer,” the song that gained them a trial for “hooliganism” and world attention in the first place.

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish him, we pray thee!

Congregations genuflect,

Black robes brag gilt epaulettes,

Freedom’s phantom’s gone to heaven,

Gay Pride’s chained and in detention.

KGB’s chief saint descends

To guide the punks to prison vans.

Don’t upset His Saintship, ladies,

Stick to making love and babies.

Crap, crap, this godliness crap!

Crap, crap, this holiness crap!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

Be a feminist, we pray thee,

Be a feminist, we pray thee.

Bless our festering bastard-boss.

Let black cars parade the Cross.

The Missionary’s in class for cash.

Meet him there, and pay his stash.

Patriarch Gundy believes in Putin.

Better believe in God, you vermin!

Fight for rights, forget the rite –

Join our protest, Holy Virgin.

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, we pray thee, banish him!

Mystic or Manic?: Religion on the Brain (or Your Brain on Religion)?

Last night I was having a twittersation with someone named Simon Albert, a nonconforming, conservative Ron Paul supporter who refuses to go along with the Romney Republicans, about something entirely unrelated (at least in obvious ways) to politics: the nature of cosmic reality and what human minds can know about it. It’s not easy to have conversations of such weight in so ephemeral a format, but, of course, that rarely stops “tweeple” from trying.

It began when Albert tweeted, “God is real. #jesus #atheism.” Clearly, Albert was trolling for an argument with an atheist and he put a great big juicy worm on his hook. I bit. Continue reading

A Sufi View on the Proper Islamic Response to “Innocence of Muslims”

Sheik Imran Hosein is an Islamic scholar of the Sufi tradition, born in Trinidad and educated in Pakistan and Europe. He’s been a diplomat in his native Trinidad and Tobago and imam at a Long Island masjid, among many other accomplishments.  His academic specialty is Islamic eschatology, which, like Christian eschatology, concerns the end times. He gives a hint of the flavor of his scholarship at the end of the video posted above, the final segment of a three-part interview with a British vlogger who calls himself 108Morris108.

I’m posting the video here because, in a sense, Sheik Hosein answers a comment from Sreenivas on a previous post marveling at the audacity of Islamic protests against the film Innocence of Muslims in Libya and Pakistan. I have to say I think  Sreenivas’s main point about the irrationality of the attacks is hard to argue against. And in fact, Hosein expresses a similar disdain for what he suggests is a non-Islamic reaction that, without reflection and in pure reflex, lashes out violently at the wrong targets. He suggests the protestors behave like puppets on a string being yanked by their enemies. Protestors should peacefully target their own governments, he says, as the Tunisians and Egyptians did in the spring of 2011. Why? Because their governments are enabling the enemies of Islam.

Oddly, he criticizes governments in the Arab world (namely Saudi Arabia) that are lending moral and other forms of aid to the Syrian rebels. Is it because he thinks the Syrian rebellion is essentially violent and “un-Islamic?” Actually, he implies that it’s because the Syrian government, whatever evils it has done in the past, is a steadfast bulwark against Israel. And here is where the Sheik’s eschatology comes in. Just like George W. Bush, the imam believes end times are nigh.

What a mad world we live in!

Not So Innocent: How “Desert Warriors” Became “Innocence of Muslims”

Curious about how the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” was ever made? The writer Neil Gaiman has one take on the story from a Georgia (former USSR)-born actress and friend of Gaiman’s named Anna Gurji. Here’s a little taste:

My character Hilary was a young girl who is sold (against her own free will) by her parents to a tribe leader known as GEORGE. She is one of his (most likely, the youngest) brides in the movie.
The film was about a comet falling into a desert and different tribes in ancient Egypt fighting to acquire it for they deemed that the comet possessed some supernatural powers.
The movie that we were doing in Duarte was called “Desert Warrior” and it was a fictional adventure drama. The character GEORGE was a leader of one of those tribes fighting for the comet.
There was no mention EVER by anyone of MUHAMMAD and no mention of religion during the entire time I was on the set. I am hundred percent certain nobody in the cast and nobody in the US artistic side of the crew knew what was really planned for this “Desert Warrior”. Continue reading

“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” Bush told Chirac.

Whenever I read an account of the lead-up to the Iraq war, I usually marvel over how much the critics of the war got right. We guessed Saddam was not lying about weapons of mass destruction. We knew from the beginning the Bushists were going to have the war no matter what anyone else said. We knew they had been planning it all along. We knew they were not going to topple Saddam and *poof* like magic a wonderful new Iraq would appear. We knew they had let the sectarian monster out of the labyrinth. We knew they didn’t give a shit about the members of the military they were using and reusing and reusing again and again to fight their war. We knew!

Now I find out, the truth was probably even weirder than we suspected.

Vanity Fair has a six-page excerpt from Kurt Eichenwald’s 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars up on its site and its an eye-opening read. Most of it confirms what critics suspected. I always did know Bush was an embarrassment, but if the following scene Eichenwald describes actually took place… well, there just are no words!  This is alleged to have occurred in a phone call between the two world leaders as Bush was trolling for support for his Iraq policy from UN Security member nations, at the insistence of Tony Blair, in the late fall of 2003:

But before Chirac could elaborate on that point, Bush veered into another direction.

“Jacques,” he said, “You and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord”

Chirac said nothing. He didn’t know where Bush was going with this.

“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” Bush said. ‘’Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.”

Gog and Magog? What was that?, thought Chirac.

“This confrontation,” Bush said, “is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a new age begins.”

Chirac was bewildered. The American president, he thought, sounded dangerously fanatical.

After the call ended, Chirac called together his senior staff members and relayed the conversation.

“He said, ‘Gog and Magog.’ Do any of you know what he is talking about?”

Blank faces and head shakes.

“Find out,” Chirac said.

“Putin Lights up the Fire [of Revolution]!”

Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist collective and punk rock band, three of whose members (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevic) were recently sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism,” have just released an answer to that sentence in the form of a blood-racing and rather catchy rocker of an anthem . Don DeLuca, music critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, posted an informative little piece about the group and the song.

These women are serious punks!

On Moral Arguments for the Death Penalty: “Kant” and Retribution

Immanuel Kant: “If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death.”.

“A society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral.”

Cited by Dudley Sharp in comments on a previous post

Continuing a conversation begun here and taken up by commenter Dudley Sharp (for whose contribution I’m grateful), I want to turn to Sharp’s “MORAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE DEATH PENALTY, Part I) (See the comment linked to above–and I hope Sharp will share Part II or more). I probably won’t spend much time addressing the religious arguments–or I may come back to them later. I will just say that I don’t believe any human is capable of speaking for the alleged ultimate authority on morality, which many name “God.” I think it’s more fruitful to assume that justice on earth is more of a political or social problem than a cosmic one. So let me focus on Sharp’s “foundations” that jibe with that view, such as the argument from “Kant” above for starters. Continue reading

An Atheist Answers the Pope

From a Reuters article “Pope reaffirms ban on women priests, assails disobedience”:

“Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?,” he asked rhetorically in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the day Catholic priests around the world renew their vows.

Disclaimer: I am an atheist, not a lapsed Catholic having never been Catholic, and should, therefore, maybe, not be so interested in this subject. But I can’t help it. This anachronism of an institution to me is like a train wreck in super-slow motion.

Pope, your holiness, forgive me for butting in, but the answer to your question, which something tells me you don’t know, is yes.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Jesus

Does it feel good to think of this face as Jesus’s?

Bart D. Ehrman is a fairly liberal theologian, an ex-fundamentalist who calls himself agnostic, who hasn’t been afraid to ruffle some feathers among his fellow scholars of Christian texts, especially among those who used to think of him as of the same flock. For more on his background, read his wikipedia entry. I want to get to his newest book’s argument, which he summarizes on Huffington Post, and which seems designed to ruffle feathers of another of his former flocks, or a “small but growing cadre” of it,  “who call themselves mythicists,” he says.  Continue reading

The Bishops and Their Pawns

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, spreading smoke at his day job.

I’ve been focusing on monied interests in the past few weeks, but if you want a striking example of how American democracy has evolved to favor the interests of the powerful over the people, consider this article on Huffington Post by Laura Basset about another form of ungodly influence over the body politic:

A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent. Continue reading