From the category archives:

Religion

But according to a new poll, one in five Americans think that he is:

Americans increasingly are convinced — incorrectly — that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a growing number are thoroughly confused about his religion. Nearly one in five people, or 18 per cent, said they think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11 per cent who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released Thursday. The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is down to just 34 per cent.

Some of this could be considered backlash for Obama’s apparent cardinal sin in promoting the principle of freedom of religion with respect to the plans to build a mosque in downtown NYC, near the World Trade Center site. Because everyone knows that the US is a Christian theocracy, and the Constitution be damned. And of course, freedom of religion simply means freedom to practice the “right” religion.

But between the conspiracy theorists who don’t believe Obama is American, the racists who question whether he’s black, white or purple, and now the growing segment of Americans who want to make an issue of his religion, you have to wonder where the percentage of Americans are who would honestly say that they do not care.

Why should Americans be so afraid of electing a non-Christian anyway?

It’s an obvious fallout of a culture that emphasizes that the personal is political, and that not only tolerates but expects its leaders to put personal religious conviction ahead of public interest when making decisions. The arguments haven’t changed much since Kennedy – a Catholic (gasp!) was elected in 1960. Separation of Church and State? Hogwash. They want a leader who is seen going to church and quoting the bible in speeches. Which is why any hint, suggestion or misconception about Obama is such a big story.

Us Canadians, in contrast, have a stronger tradition of making the distinction between the personal and the political. Jean Chrétien was a Catholic prime minister who refused to bow to religious pressure when passing legislation for same-sex marriage, for example. We expect our politicians to have personal lives that are just that – personal.

Barack Obama is Christian, not Muslim. But it would be nice to think that maybe one day, Americans would be happy to elect a Muslim president. Or a Jewish one. Or a Buddhist one. Or – imagine – an atheist one. Oh, the horror!

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Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, recently reinstated by the Pope, much to the anger of Jewish groups worldwide, has issued the classic non-apology apology:

“Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems,” Williamson wrote.

In other words, “I’m not sorry for what I did; I’m just sorry it caused you headaches”. Has he been taking lessons from Mel Gibson?

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From the priceless headlines file

09.26.2008

This one’s a real doozy: EU worried about freedom of religion in Iran. Every joke I could make here would be just too easy, so I’ll let it speak for itself.

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They’re at it again

11.08.2006

The endless squabbling between the Hasidic Jewish Community and the general population in Outremont/Mile End has a new chapter. In the past, they’ve argued about the right to build succahs, to put up an eruv, and even to run a bus service to New York. The latest issue? The right to work out: It was [...]

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Courageous voices

10.26.2006

These women stood up to speak out against radical fundamenatalism in the middle east and in the world: “We must speak out now, because we’ve got nothing to lose,” said Dr. Wafa Sultan, one of four Middle Eastern women taking part in a panel discussion in Montreal yesterday to argue their position on the West’s [...]

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Aseret yemei teshuvah

09.27.2006

These ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are traditionally the days when Jews ask forgiveness from people and from G-d for any wrongs we might have done throughout the year. I’m not religious by most definitions, but I’ve always liked the concept, and particularly the notion that we need to be forgiven by [...]

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Catch-up time

09.14.2006

Believe it or not, other newsworthy things happened in the world yesterday and today. You’d never know it from watching the local news, of course, which has been covering Dawson nonstop since yesterday afternoon. But here are a few things that happened in the world outside our little corner: Sadaam’s judge doesn’t think he was [...]

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Beliefs versus facts

12.20.2005

Something Damian Penny wrote the other day came back to me just now: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Damian was, of course, referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. However, I think the quote is a good one, and it popped into my head when I read about today’s [...]

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Wilma’s coming

10.20.2005

Hurricane Wilma is heading towards Florida in what seems like an extra underline to this year’s horrible “act of God” season: Tropical Storm Wilma is the 21st named storm of the 2005 season and is expected to become a hurricane before heading to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and possibly the battered U.S. Gulf coast by the [...]

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A courageous stance

08.02.2005

Here’s Irshad Manji, once again refusing to be silenced on what she believes despite what I’d imagine is relentless pressure: Still, as long as Muslims live in pretense, we will be affirming that we have something to hide. It’s not enough for us to protest that radicals are exploiting Islam as a sword. Of course [...]

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