- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

Religious default

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship - be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles - is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

“If you worship money and things … then you will never have enough. … Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. … Worship power - you will feel weak and afraid … Worship your intellect, being seen as smart - you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

“Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.”

-David Foster Wallace, “On Life and Work,” adapted from a 2005 speech and published Sept. 19 by the Wall Street Journal Online

Religious priority

“[Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.] claims that higher taxes are not just a patriotic duty, but also his duty as a Catholic to impose: … ‘Catholic social doctrine, as I was taught it is, you take care of people who need the help the most.’ …

“So, let me get this straight. Sen. Biden, who has repeatedly stated his reluctance to ‘impose his Catholic beliefs’ on others when it comes to protecting the unborn, appears to have no qualms about invoking his Catholic faith to justify his desire to confiscate other people’s money to enrich the government coffers. Nice priorities you got there, Sen. Biden.”

-Jay Anderson, writing on “Willingness to ‘Impose Catholic Beliefs’ Apparently Just a Matter of Priorities for Sen. Biden” on Sept. 19 at CatholicsAgainstJoeBiden.blogspot.com

Religious history

“All happy book publications are alike - the book finally comes out. All unhappy book publications are unhappy in their own ways - except when they involve Islam. Then the story follows a familiar plot. The latest uproar, over the novel ‘The Jewel of Medina‘ by Sherry Jones, a journalist who lives in Spokane, Wash., erupted this summer. It’s not yet an international cause celebre, because the manuscript remains accessible only to those who got early galleys.

“It was 2002 when Jones began writing her historical fiction about A’isha, betrothed to the Prophet Muhammad at age 6 or 7, who became the third of his nine wives and a major proselytizer for Islam after his death. … A tentative publication date of August 12 had been set for the book, the first of a two-book contract worth a reported $100,000. Jones started prepping for an eight-city book tour.

“But in May, Random House, the book’s publisher through its Ballantine imprint, withdrew it. Remembering Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ (1988), a novel whose irreverence toward Islam led to the murder of the book’s Japanese translator and the famous fatwa against Rushdie by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the publishing house said it had received ‘cautionary advice not only that the publication of the book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.’”

-Carlin Romano, writing on “The Jewel of Medina: Anatomy of a Ruckus” in the Sept. 19 issue of the Chronicle Review

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