Entries Tagged as 'religion'

Saint Putin?

October 3rd, 2011 at 12:30 pm 5 Comments

Putin’s supporters pull astounding stunts. If its not busty Russian chicks calling for a collective Putin “strip” or European techno odes to the Russian alpha male it is more solemn Russian women who are glorifying the Russian prime minister.

It seems that apart from being a gifted Judo fighter, stellar fisher, tiger shooter and whale aficionado, Putin is none other than the reincarnation of Saint Paul himself. The reasoning seems plausible enough for Mother Fotinya, founder of the “Putin sect”. According to Fotinya there are certain parallels between the life of Putin and St. Paul:

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Thank God the US Doesn’t Count Religions

September 16th, 2011 at 2:12 am 57 Comments

As Stephen Richter points out in passing nobody really knows what percentage of New York’s ninth Congressional district is Jewish. And that’s a good thing.

The United States government–which tracks things like the number of farms of 100 to 499 acres in Missouri–does not keep any statistics on people’s religious persuasions. In fact, the keeping of such records is expressly forbidden by federal statute.

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Higher Ground Shows Down to Earth Evangelicals

August 26th, 2011 at 4:50 pm 29 Comments

Premiering at June’s LA Film Festival, top-notch character actress Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut hits the big screens (and arthouses) this week.

It’s the story of a shy, curious-about-the-world, and intellectual woman (Farmiga) in the 1970s and ’80s (the height of the Religious Right’s ascent), raised by disinterested parents and with a wildcat sister, who converts along with her aspiring country-rock musician husband (Joshua Leonard) to fundamentalist Christianity, in search of Higher Ground.

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God Does Not Play Baseball

August 19th, 2011 at 6:08 pm 7 Comments

As if Jews haven’t suffered enough, pills it turns out that Ralph Branca is a member of our tribe.  The man who served up Bobby Thompson’s Shot Heard Round The World in 1951 recently learned that his mother was a closeted Jew.  The full story, prostate told in poignant detail in a recent New York Times article by Joshua Prager, suggests that Branca’s hidden religion may have had major ramifications for baseball.

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What Scott D’Amboise Told FrumForum

July 20th, 2011 at 4:01 pm 34 Comments

A number of people have requested to know the context of the quotes from Scott D’Amboise. Originally, physician we were asking him about some endorsements he received – but he said something interesting about Obama’s religion, physician so we conducted a follow-up interview to focus on that comment.

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Are Voters Ready for a Mormon Prez?

June 9th, 2011 at 6:06 am 66 Comments

Political watchers claim that the greatest impediment standing between Mitt Romney and the White House is his almost comic history of flip-flopping on major issues. Guess again. Ironically, diagnosis a new Quinnipiac poll reveals that Mitt’s biggest political problem may be the only belief that he has held constantly throughout his career: his religion.

Similar to the ABC News/Washington Post poll, the new Quinnipiac poll reveals that, as things stand now, Romney appears to be the only Republican capable of knocking off the president in the general election. Head to head with the president, the poll shows Romney trailing by 6 points (47% – 41%).  The results show Palin getting annihilated (53% – 36%), while Huntsman and T-Paw don’t do much better: trailing 48% – 34% and 48% – 36% respectively.

However, there is bad news for Romney (and the GOP’s chances of taking back the White House). Americans, it turns out, don’t much care for the idea of a Mormon being president. The poll finds that less than half of voters have a favorable view of the Mormon religion. More than three in ten have an unfavorable view of the religion. This could be overcome by Americans’ distaste for President Obama’s politics, but it appears that for once, identity politics might actually swing in favor of the Democrats (a black Democrat, at that). Only 60% of those that responded to the poll said they were entirely or somewhat comfortable with a Mormon being President.

Yet, despite this unfortunate reaction and Romney’s record of flip-flopping, he’s running far ahead of the other GOP candidates and is toe to toe with Obama. This fact speaks to the weakness of the Republican field and the high level of voter discontent with Obama.

In 2008, Obama inspired a large portion of the country to actively support (rather than simply settle on) his candidacy.  No candidate (the president included) will inspire the same enthusiasm this time. For a variety of reasons — rightly or wrongly — when Americans head to the polls in November 2012 it appears they will be voting either out of sheer party loyalty or for the candidate they dislike the least.

Hirsi Ali: Honor Killings on the Rise in the West

June 2nd, 2011 at 3:19 pm 37 Comments

Islamic honor killings are making appearances in the West, cure and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is determined to do something about it.

Hirsi Ali is the founder of the AHA Foundation, an organization aimed at spreading awareness about honor violence and defending women’s rights through raising awareness and promoting legislative action.  The AHA Foundation is hosting an honor violence symposium in New York City on June 6. FrumForum talked with Hirsi Ali about the goals of the symposium and what honor violence means for western culture.

“The mission of the foundation is to protect the rights of women from militant Islam and tribal custom,” said Hirsi Ali. “What we would like to do is make professionals aware of the fact that some of these practices are growing in the United States.”

By ‘practices’, Hirsi Ali is referring to the multiple types of honor violence supported by radical Islamism such as forced marriages, honor beatings, female genital mutilation, and honor killings.  Dozens of other examples of honor violence are outlined on the AHA Foundation website.

Most Western government agencies categorize these acts as domestic violence, but Ali says that “this is a specific type of violence, and I think it is important to bring awareness to the people whose job it is to address these issues so that they know, you know, that this is a different form of violence. And that this is culturally sanctioned and religiously sanctioned.”

There have been cases of honor violence in the United States in the past few years that have attracted media attention.  In 2008, teenage sisters Sarah and Amina Said were shot and killed by their father in Texas because he believed they were becoming too Westernized. In 2009, father Faleh Almaleki ran down his 20 year old daughter Noor with his car because she refused to marry the Iraqi man he had selected for her. And, just this year, 20-year-old Jessica Moktad was murdered because her stepfather believed she wasn’t sticking to traditional Muslim customs.

FrumForum asked Hirsi Ali how widespread these honor killings have become in the West. “In no western country is there systematic counting of exactly, you know, how many girls are affected in this way, chiefly because it’s still taboo,” she said. “And so the choice that you then make is to not to talk about and not to connect the dots.”

Through some of her own research, however, Hirsi Ali found that in the UK, based on the number of women who go to police stations to ask for help, there are up to 1,000 forced marriages a year.  She also found that in a very small region in the Netherlands there were up to 16 honor killings a year.

“These are all criminal acts,” Ali said. “These particular crimes have to be tracked and the perpetrators have to be punished…This is pervasive.”

Hirsi Ali has high hopes for the success of the AHA Foundation’s efforts, and believes that the United States is the place to start: “Through awareness and education, hopefully we will be able to eradicate these practices in the US, and hopefully set an example for other countries.”

Airbrushing Hillary? It’s a Sin

May 9th, 2011 at 7:12 pm 20 Comments

The story has now gone around the world.  The Orthodox, Hassidic, Jewish newspaper, Di Tzeitung, republished the famous photo of President Obama and his advisors watching the raid on Bin Laden’s compound while they were sitting in the situation room.  The only thing is that this publication cut out Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, from this photograph.


Let it be stated for the record that this Orthodox Hassidic newspaper through this action was itself in violation of many severe sins.

First, they have violated the sin of “baal tosif”, there is a prohibition in Torah against adding more prohibitions.  This is based upon Deuteronomy 4:2, which states, “Do not add what I have commanded to you.”  Nowhere in the Torah does it state that it is prohibited to look at a picture of a woman who is modestly dressed.  In cutting out Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, they are thus guilty of this sin.

They have also violated the sins of “midvar sheker tirchak”, not distancing themselves from falsehoods (Exodus 23:7).  One is guilty for this sin by presenting a story that is inaccurate. Similarly they have violated the Talmudic sin (Babylonian Talmud, Hullin 94a)of “geneivat data” (stealing the mind), tricking someone into believing an inaccurate idea.

By tampering with this photo in violation of White House guidelines, they have violated the Talmudic sin that one must obey the laws of the land, (“dina demalchuta dina”, the law of the land is the law).

They have also violated the positive commandment of “hakarat hatov”, showing gratitude.  This commandment is described in the classic and great medieval work, Sefer HaChinuch as follows:  ”recognize and bestow kindness upon one who has done him good and that he not be base, a dissimulator, and one who denies the good done him by another.”  Since Ms. Clinton and Ms. Tomason worked on this effort for many years, it is disgraceful that they were cut out of this photo.

Is It Wrong to Feel Joy at Bin Laden’s Death?

May 2nd, 2011 at 10:36 am 22 Comments

How does our religion teach us to respond to the death of a hated and evil man like Osama Bin Laden?

When hearing about the downfall of an enemy, prostate the rabbis remind us of the verse from Proverbs:  “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, find and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”

This is in line with the tradition that no matter how wicked our enemies are their destruction is not a cause for celebration.  The Talmud tells us that “God does not rejoice with the fall of the wicked.”  As the rabbinic teaching goes, as the Children of Israel were crossing the sea and the army of Pharaoh was drowning, God rebuked the angels for showing excessive joy.  And to this day, our liturgy reflects that by limiting the psalms of joy that we recite to commemorate that event.

The reason for this muted celebration is twofold.

First there is recognition that even when our enemy falls, this does not signal an end to all our troubles.  Just because one enemy or one army or one threat has been removed does not mean we are entirely safe.

Second, we must acknowledge that the destruction of the enemy did not necessarily arise from our own merits.  We are perhaps not worthy of the good fortune that we have received and so we do not want to tempt God, as it were, or remind the Angel of Death of our own defects.

So our tradition is clear: Public rejoicing about the death of an enemy is entirely inappropriate.

However, our tradition is also clear that it is appropriate to express deep gratitude when hearing about the death of Osama Bin Laden.

We should express gratitude to the Navy Seals who bravely killed him.  We should express gratitude to all those who were involved in removing this horrible being from our world.  And we should express gratitude to our Maker for removing a danger from our lives.

Charity Done Right

David Frum April 28th, 2011 at 2:26 pm 30 Comments

This short piece by Charles Moore in the Spectator contains a great quote about money:

He has thought about his own wealth, and he sees it as neither good nor bad in itself: ‘I earn in a week just about the annual median wage. I don’t see this as a disgrace. I see it as an absurdity. The disgrace comes when you see it as your own.’

The “he” in the story is Jonathan Ruffer, a British money manager. The occasion for the story is an act of philanthropy of a very unusual kind:

[Ruffer] is buying the 12 Zurbaran paintings of Jacob and his Brothers at Auckland Castle, the palace of the Bishop of Durham. And when he has bought them from the Church of England, he will give them back, keeping them in the castle, thus bestowing them upon the people of the north-east in perpetuity. The price is £15 million.

Ruffer has never actually seen the pictures he rescued, although he owns a copy of one of them. (By Gainsborough, so it may be worth more than the original.) Giving to the Church of England is not exactly fashionable in Britain these days. Ruffer’s explanation of his actions?

[He] says he is useless ‘talking to prostitutes or dealing with needles, but what I am good at is encouraging people. I want to help the helpers,’ such as clergy and charity workers. ‘In a rough society,’ he thinks, ‘the real heroes are those who stay put’ and do not desert the bits of cities where people don’t want to live.

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