Women who fly, men who anchor

torah-bright

Watching the women athletes at Sochi, I was amazed at the physical and mental courage of the competitors, male and female. And then it occurred to me: what must the Taliban be thinking in Afghanistan, what must they think in Saudi Arabia, seeing women do death defying ski jumps? When I see the aerial skiing jumps, the bobsleigh rides, the ice hockey, the figure skating, I understand women can do almost anything physically that a man can do, and sometimes better. The thought that women should be locked away because of some ancient tribal law, or interpretation of a religious edict, is offensive. And yet, in Saudi women are not allowed to drive cars — for their own protection, of course! They are faced with all kinds of restrictions, such as not being allowed out of the house without a male relative to supervise them. Traveling on public transport is banned, but not enforced. In Afghanistan, the Taliban say girls must not go to school. Reading is okay for boys, but evil for girls. I don’t understand where these beliefs came from, but they sound suspiciously familiar: the same laws that were applied to slaves in America, Jews under the… Continue reading

Sin for beginners

Ned Flanders: I’ve done everything the Bible says — even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! TRIBAL TABOOS Sin goes back to the earliest days of humanity; it was not called sin then, but breaking a taboo. These taboos were put in place for practical reasons, rather than spiritual reasons — incest, fouling waterholes, and killing clan members were not good for the tribe. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have elevated taboos into sin: a crime against God. In Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, the closest they get to the concept of sin is that wrong deeds have to be purged, usually by some unpleasant process. ORIGINAL SIN When God created humans, She gave them an instruction: do not eat from the apple tree (the tree of knowledge). But Adam and Eve disobeyed, thus they became the first sinners and — rather unjustly — all who were born after them were declared to be sinners from the moment of birth. That doesn’t leave us with much free-will! At least with Islam they do not believe everyone is cursed with original sin. We each create our own sin by ‘disobedience to God’, rather than inherit it. The concept of original sin did not appear… Continue reading

– Freedom of choice –

   Have you ever thought about why you have the religious beliefs you have? What made you choose to be Protestant rather than Catholic, or Muslim rather than Jewish?  There is an expression: “Hobson’s Choice” meaning that you take what is offered or nothing at all. I heard that this expression came from horse lender Hobson, (rent-a-horse), who would not allow riders to pick and choose among his horses, but offered them the first horse in the stable or none at all. What has this got to do with religion? Quite a lot for most people! Children brought up in a Christian family usually become Christian, often within a few weeks of birth, those who are born into a Muslim family usually become Muslim, those born into a Jewish family are  Jewish. Even worse: if your parents are a particular denomination such as Catholic or Protestant, Sunni or Shia, then their children will almost certainly follow their parents. You are, it would seem, born into the “one true religion“. Where was your choice? You were given Hobson’s choice. Did you ever examine the other religions/ philosophical beliefs without looking through the eyes of your religion? Did you ever consider another… Continue reading

– Life and death in Shanghai –

This is a wonderful story of determination and mental strength of a 51 year-old woman. A perfect book for International Women’s Day! Accused of being a spy, she survived more than six years of harsh imprisonment by the Red Guards in China. It is a story of adaptability, courage, and bravery. This is an autobiographical account of Nien Cheng who, after her husband died, became an assistant advisor to the manager of Shell Oil in China. Shell was one of the few companies that stayed on in China after the Communists came to power in 1949. Chinese by birth, Nien Cheng and her husband had been educated in England. Her husband was head of Shell Oil for many years. He died of cancer in 1957. Nien was then asked to assist in the running of Shell in China. In 1966 The Chinese Cultural Revolution burst onto the streets like the 1938 Nazi Crystal Night. It was a highly organised, political movement, aimed at removing all opposition, all disagreement to Mao Tse-tung. Anyone who showed the slightest opposition to his authority was murdered by the Red Guards. If you have read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, then you have a very good… Continue reading