One thing I didn’t get into today was Zamenhof’s ideas about an neutral auxiliary religion, which he first called Hilelismo (after the Jewish sage, Hillel) and later called Homaranismo: a philosophy of humanity. I mentioned this to a minister friend this afternoon and regretted that there’s so little about it in English. Now that my Esperanto reading is getting better, I can at least survey what’s available.

Easier to find images for reuse

The BoingBoing-noted launch of a Google image search feature makes finding images sorted by Create Commons license much easier.

Take, for example this search for images labled unitarian or universalist that are available for reuse and modification, but not in commercial applications.

Useful, too: found this nineteenth-century picture of old First Universalist, Minneapolis, which looks like the spitting image of (still) First Universalist, Providence. Who knew? Makes me wonder if there was a relationship or influence, like through its ministers or through Tufts. (One of Tufts’s presidents of the period was a former minister at Providence.)

On Sinkford and Ahmadinejad

When I saw the news at UUA.org that Unitarian Universalist Association president Bill Sinkford had met, in a delegation, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I groaned. I did not, however, write about it because

  1. Jonathan and I were up to our eyeballs in boxes, and
  2. I try not to get worked up about lame-duck presidents.

But it’s clear there’s a lot of warm and righteous anger about this meeting. And I share it.

The one thing I haven’t seen is a comparison of this meeting with the dust-up at the first presidential debate of whether the United States president should or should not meet with leadership like Ahmadinejad “without preconditions.”

For the record, I think that American diplomats and presidents should be able to meet with anyone without preconditions. You don’t conduct hard and vital diplomacy only with your best friends, and I’m not willing to tie anyone’s hands if there can be a peaceful and successful diplomatic solution that prevents an economic or military action. And Senator McCain would have my backing thus should he end up president.

But I can imagine the fear behind the “meetings without preconditions” rhetoric. Wouldn’t we just be Iran or North Korea or whomever’s patsy? Wouldn’t the full faith and credit of the American people and republic be flushed down the crapper to satisfy some impossible tyrant?

Well, no, but that level of trust doesn’t devolve to private citizens. There’s a difference between a diplomat and a dilettante.

For Sinkford, there came the opportunity to something relevant, that most intoxicating of mod-churchly ideals.

For Ahmadinejad, he gets Americans who seem to support him. Sinkford’s unflattering (and unnecessary) comparison of Ahmadinejad with President Bush — for whom I hold no love or esteem — only reinforced the point. Propaganda gold that’s as useful as the delegation’s message is forgetful.

For Unitarian Universalists? Well, I can imagine the finger-shaking we’ll get from Bahais and — as others have mentioned — Jews in days to come.

In a word, while diplomats play hardball, Sinkford — and by extension, us — just got played.

The bull and the jackass

Because of its coverage on BBC World, I’ve followed the unhappy story of Shambo the temple bull at Skanda Vale in Wales. The bull had — as it has since been demonstrated — bovine tuberculosis and was taken from the temple under orders of the public authorities (but amid protest) and was slaughtered yesterday.  This much is known and a matter of public record. I would have done differently, but I’m sure that’s my American sense of deference to religious practice and faith in (veternary) medicine speaking. And a soft spot for cattle and the pious Welsh (whether Christian, Hindu or otherwise.) That’s not the point.

Enter the National Secular Society (UK) from which we get this:

Shambo the supposedly “sacred” bull has been disposed of at last. The face-off between the intransigent Hindus in Wales (who seemed hell-bent on creating a confrontation) was one of the more pathetic examples of recent attempts by religions to exempt themselves from the law.

The message of equality before the law tightly wrapped in smug and nasty rhetoric and there’s more at their site if you want to induge. Of course, Christians very often get tied up in this kind of haughtiness and I won’t excuse that either. Other groups do to. But why? The origin’s the same the world around: an assertion that I have more power than you. Which I doubt the UK secularists or even the fringier kind of Christian do. One can bray and bray yet have no kick.

Words matter. Sensibilities matter. And if the British secularists think this is a suitable tactic to convince and attract people then God help them.

With this post, I open the category Religious pluralism.