Sex After Death?

Knight Ridder’s Faye Flam has an interesting survey of different religion’s views of whether people in heaven/paradise/whatever have sex.

Of course we’re all now aware Islam’s promise of many perpetual virgin-like Houri to devout adherents.

Not surprisingly, Christianity, especially in pre-Protestant forms, was not especially kind to the idea of getting it on in heaven,

Early Christians believed that after the end of the world they’d all get their bodies back in heaven, and this led to inevitably to questions about sex and marriage. On pondering resurrection of the flesh, St. Augustine decided we’d keep our sex organs for aesthetic reasons, but we wouldn’t use them.

Wow — Augustine in the anti-sex camp. That’s a real shock.

Zoroastrianism has a different but still odd view,

Zoroastrians, he said, believed there was sex in heaven, but people would wean themselves from both food and sex as they got used to being dead.

Personally, being in heaven wouldn’t be the time to start denying myself sex and food, but your mileage may vary.

Of course we atheists just sort of stop existing and wait for our atoms to scatter around the universe, so you can forget about any hot and heavy post-mortem atheist action. Damn.

Borders/Waldenbooks Won’t Stock Free Inquiry Issue that Republishes Those Cartoons

According to the Associated Press, Borders and Waldenbooks won’t stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry, because it republishes several of the cartoons that had Muslim extremists all in a tizzy a few months ago.

The Associated Press quotes Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham as saying,

For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority.

It is nice for Bingham to give every nutcase cause out there an open invitation — just make a few violent threats, and Borders will pull any offending material.

The odd thing is that Free Inquiry regularly contains articles that large numbers of people would find offensive to their faiths. Hell, I’m an atheist and I can usually find one or two things to be offended at in any given issue of Free Inquiry.

The difference, of course, is that the Christian creationists — to whom most of the April-May issue is devoted to debunking — won’t threaten to kill Paul Kurtz if he doesn’t shut the hell up. Most likely they’ll write boring letters that, like the original magazine itself, almost no one will actually read.

Borders and Waldenbooks decision not to carry this issue is especially delicious in light of an article by Ibn Warraq that apparently accompanies the cartoons. Warraq notes that ever since the Enlightenment, Western scholarship has engaged in a relentless critique of received wisdom and a wholesale intellectual assault on non-secular sources of knowledge. But, he writes, Islam has been largely given a free pass in that endeavor,

QurÂ’anic criticism, on the other hand, has lagged far behind. But surely, Muslims and non-Muslims have the right to critically examine the sources, the history, and dogma of Islam. The right to criticize is a right of which Muslims avail themselves in their frequent denunciations of Western culture, in terms that would have been deemed racist, neocolonialist, or imperialist had they been directed against Islam by a European. Without criticism, Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress: ossified, totalitarian, and intolerant. It will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality, and truth.

Western intellectuals and Islamologists have totally failed in their duties as intellectuals. They have betrayed their calling by abandoning their critical faculties when it comes to Islam. Some Islamologists have themselves noticed this appalling trend in their colleagues. Karl Binswanger has remarked on the “dogmatic Islamophilia” of most Arabists. Jacques Ellul complained in 1983 that “in France it is no longer acceptable to criticise Islam or the Arab countries.” As early as 1968, Maxime Rodinson had written, “An historian like Norman Daniel has gone so far as to number among the conceptions permeated with medievalism or imperialism, any criticisms of the ProphetÂ’s moral attitudes and to accuse of like tendencies any exposition of Islam and its characteristics by means of the normal mechanisms of human history. Understanding has given way to apologetics pure and simple.”


Borders, Waldenbooks Won’t Carry Magazine. Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press, March 29, 2006.

Chess A Muslim Invention?

This article describes a British exhibition — supported by the UK government — that highlights 1,001 Muslim inventions from the 6th through the 16th centuries. The problem is that it includes inventions that do not appear to be Muslim in origin.

For example, the exhibit apparently describes chess as a Muslim invention, which is a bit of a stretch. Chess traces its origins back to a game called Chaturanga. Written references to Chaturanga go back to 500 BC, though how close that game was to chess is debatable. But references to a chess-like Chaturanga clearly emerges in the first few centuries of the first millenia AD which, the last time I checked, is pre-Islamic.

As one commentator notes it is also a bit ironic to attribute the invention of chess to Muslims given that chess has been viewed unfavorably by Muslim literalists. For example, Ayatollah Sistani writes of chess,

Question : Why is chess forbidden?

Answer : It is not permissible, because it is a means for Lahv (debauchery) and gambling. Many traditions have been reported from the Holy Prophet and the Imams (a.s.) that prohibit playing chess. Moreover, when we do not know the reason behind the forbiddenness of an act, we are bound to obey in absolute obedience. There is a reason for it, but we do not know it and when we do not know it, it does not mean that we should not abide by it.

Who knew those high school chess clubs were a form of debauchery? Sure puts a new twist on the Queen’s Gambit.

Pakistan Jails Writer for Blasphemy of the Judaic Kind

In Pakistan this week, 40-year-old writer Younis Sheikh was sentenced to life in prison for writing a “blasphemous” book that insulted the four Imams.

The four Imams are Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal and Imam Shafi, who all lived and wrote in the 8th century. Their interpretation of the Qu’ran and Hadith forms the basis of Sunni Islam. Malik’s writing is the earliest surviving book of Islamic law.

According to a Pakistan’s Daily Times,

“The court has sent him to jail for life as he described the four Imams as Jews in his book,” public prosecutor Naimat Ali Randhawa said after the court in Karachi sentenced the man on Thursday. . . The writer also committed blasphemy by saying that stoning to death for adultery was “not mentioned in the Quran”, he [Randhawa] said.

Sheikh has had countless confrontations with Pakistani officials over such “blasphemies.” In 2002, he was sentenced to death for saying at a public lecture that the Prophet Muhammad was not a Muslim until the age of 40 when he had his first vision, and that Muhammad’s parents were not Musims when they died, since their death preceded Muhammad’s religious revelations.


‘Blasphemy’ author gets life term. Daily Times (Pakistan), August 16, 2005.

The Muslim Fred Phelps

The other day I noted that religious nutcase Fred Phelps was thanking God for the tsunami that hit Indonesia and other Asian nations. Apparently Phelps is joined in this assessment by a number of Muslim extremists.

According to MEMRI, Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris gave a sermon televised on Palestinian Authority Television claiming,

The oppression and corruption caused by America and the Jews have increased. Have you heard of these beaches that are called ‘tourists’ paradise?’ You have all probably heard of Bangkok. We read about it, and knew it as the center of corruption on the face of this earth. Over there, there are Zionist and American investments. Over there they bring Muslims and others to prostitution. Over there, there are beaches, which they dubbed ‘tourists’ paradise,’ while only a few meters away, the locals live in hell on earth. They cannot make ends meet, while a few meters away there is a paradise, ‘tourists’ paradise.’

Do you want the earth to turn a blind eye to the corrupt oppressors? Do you want the seaÂ… Do you want the sea to lower its waves in the face of corruption that it sees with its own eyes?! No, the zero hour has come.

While Mudeiris thinks this was God punishing the Jews, Saudi Arabian professor Sheikh Fawzan Al-Fawzan hits the Phelps theme that God hates homosexuals — and banks,

hese great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities, and even entire countries, are Allah’s punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims.

Some of our forefathers said that if there is usury and fornication in a certain village, Allah permits its destruction. We know that at these resorts, which unfortunately exist in Islamic and other countries in South Asia, and especially at Christmas, fornication and sexual perversion of all kinds are rampant. The fact that it happened at this particular time is a sign from Allah. It happened at Christmas, when fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world come to commit fornication and sexual perversion. That’s when this tragedy took place, striking them all and destroyed everything. It turned the land into wasteland, where only the cries of the ravens are heard. I say this is a great sign and punishment on which Muslims should reflect.

All that’s left for us to do is to ask for forgiveness. We must atone for our sins, and for the acts of the stupid people among us and improve our condition. We must fight fornication, homosexuality, usury, fight the corruption on the face of the earth, and the disregard of the lives of protected people

Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajjid blames the tsunamis on Christmas and New Year revelers,

The problem is that the [Christian] holidays are accompanied by forbidden things, by immorality, abomination, adultery, alcohol, drunken dancing, and Â… and revelry. A belly dancer costs 2500 pounds per minute and a singer costs 50,000 pounds per hour, and they hop from one hotel to another from night to dawn. Then he spends the entire night defying Allah.

Haven’t they learned the lesson from what Allah wreaked upon the coast of Asia, during the celebration of these forbidden? At the height of immorality, Allah took vengeance on these criminals.

Those celebrating spent what they call ‘New Year’s Eve’ in vacation resorts, pubs, and hotels. Allah struck them with an earthquake. He finished off the Richter scale. All nine levels gone. Tens of thousands dead.

It was said that they were tourists on New Year’s vacation who went to the crowded coral islands for the holiday period, and then they were struck by this earthquake, caused by the Almighty Lord of the worlds. He showed them His wrath and His strength. He showed them His vengeance. Is there anyone learning the lesson? Is it impossible that we will be struck like them? Why do we go their way? Why do we want to be like them, with their holidays, their forbidden things, and their heresy?

Religious extremism — it is the other universal language right after English.


Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Tsunami: It was a Punishment from Allah for Celebrating Christmas and Other Sins; It was Caused by the U.S., Israel, India. Middle East Media Research Institute, January 7, 2005.

Final Thoughts on Appearance by Siraj Wahhaj

I was not very happy to open up the student newspaper last week and see another big story about Siraj Wahhaj without a single mention of his history of extremism. Oddly enough, I contacted a number of local media outlets about Wahhaj and none of them mentioned anything about his history (like I said, sometimes I wish these folks were Christian extremists since the media actually seems to care about that).

Anyway, here’s my letter-to-the editor about Wahhaj’s appearance,

The Western Herald headlined its story on Islamic scholar Imam Sirraj Wahhaj, “Scholar tells truth about Islam.” It’s a shame that in two separate articles, the Western Herald couldn’t be bothered to report the truth about Wahhaj.

The Western Herald couldn’t be bothered to report that Wahhaj is on record as supporting the stoning to death of adulterers, saying that “If Allah says stone them to death, through the Prophet Muhammad, then you stone them to death, because it’s the obedience of Allah and his messenger — nothing personal.”

Nor could the Western Herald be bothered to mention Wahhaj’s odd view of Osama bin Laden, of whom he told the Wall Street Journal in 2003, “I’m just not so sure I want to be one of the ones who say, ‘Yeah, he did it. He’s a horrible man.'”

And, of course, space reasons probably precluded mentioning that Wahhaj was an unindicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing or that he appeared as a character witness on behalf of terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is currently serving a life term for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing.

Presumably if Osama bin Laden ever appears at WMU, the Western Herald will headline the event, “Former Construction Engineer to Give Speech.”