Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Looking for Allah at Wal Mart 

I've been thinking about religion lately. I think it stems from the recent to do about the pope. If you don't follow the news, in some speech the pope was delivering, he quoted a historical text that criticizes Islam for spreading its faith by the sword. The Muslim world was outraged. "How dare the pope say we're a violent religion." The natural response was of course riots and the murder of an elderly nun. Yep, that's a peaceful religion for you.

Of course Christianity is no better in that respect *cough* inquisition *cough*. I have no particular fondness for the Catholic church. I feel it's a branch of the Christian family much in need of some updates and modernizing, much like their distant though equally intolerant cousins the Southern Baptists. On this particular occasion though, I think I have to side with the pope. While I'm generally considered a liberal on the political scale, I'm not going to become an apologist for religious fanatics. From the behavior of the adherents to Islam, I would think that medieval text citing them as violent is pretty accurate. Of course, I would still say the exact same thing about Christianity.

But, oh, Christianity preaches tolerance and love and forgiveness and puppies and rainbows.

I've read up on Christianity, belonged to both above mentioned branches of the church even so I have some familiarity with the beliefs. I'm not so familiar with Islam. As a pseudo-intellectual I felt pained at the obvious gap in my knowledge and immediately resolved to rectify it. Whenever I am faced with a crisis of knowledge I first turn to the internet, the most infallible source of information known to man. Knowing there was too much out there to filter through before I hit menopause I decided to go back to the ancient method of reading a book.

The best way to read about a religion is to read the text the religion is based on. For Islam, it is the Koran, or Quran or Qur'an. Like any red-blooded American, I went to that pinnacle of capitalism: Wal-Mart. Living in the south, I should have known what I would find there. Nestled snugly behind the cigarette aisle is the spiritual section of books. Bibles of every shape, size and color, Bible study guides and various chicken soup for the soul conceives and maybe the latest Left Behind novel lined the short shelves. There was no sign of the Koran, or for that matter any non-Christian religious book. Giving Wally World the benefit of the doubt I went to the main book area to continue the search. I found plenty of sudoku, teen angst, and romance novels, but no Koran. Saddened, I left the store with only cat food.

Outside, in the parking lot was a white van that had been painted over with various religious phrases, mostly invectives against the gays, the KKK, the sinners and for some reason the reverend T.D. Jakes who would all burn in hell. The van was covered with this on all sides. Standing around the van was a trio of children waiting for their parents (the van owners) to come out of the store. The children looked like they were between seven and twelve years old. The children were shouting at all passers-by. This is what they were shouting at strangers they had never met:

"God hates you!"

Over and over again, God hates you.

Tolerance, love, forgiveness, puppies and rainbows.

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