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Jing ’an Temple · Its sprawl­ing gold­en roof, all curls and curves, dom­i­nat­ed my hotel’s neigh­bor­hood vi­su­al­ly. This is im­pres­sive since its neigh­bors are tow­er­ing skyscrap­ers and gleam­ing mall­s. I wouldn’t say it re­al­ly be­longs on Shanghai’s must-see list, but there were some aw­ful­ly nice pic­tures to be tak­en in­sid­e ...
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Graven Images · San Cristóbal hill (Cer­ro San Cristóbal) ris­es 300m above San­ti­ago, Chile. On the hill are a park, a zoo, a Ja­panese gar­den, and some re­al­ly great views when it’s not too pol­lut­ed, but the sum­mit is about that old-time re­li­gion, in this case Catholic. Pope John Paul II rode the fu­nic­u­lar to the top and gave a mass, in 1987. I rode it last week, along with some French hip­ster tourist­s, in the car with the best view, which still has a plaque about John Paul ...
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The Old Testament · Our son, now 9½, still en­joys hav­ing some­thing read to him at bed­time. So, hav­ing fin­ished Huck Finn, we’re do­ing the Bi­ble. He’s nev­er been to Sun­day School, so this is his first ex­po­sure. We’re work­ing our way through Ex­o­dus and I’m de­vel­op­ing a re­al at­ti­tude prob­lem about that par­tic­u­lar God ...
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Honen Again · I’ve writ­ten be­fore about the Ho­nen mis­sion in La­haina on Maui, but I’ll nev­er vis­it this is­land with­out drop­ping by ...
 
Tab Sweep — World · Wel­come to the 2008 dispatches-from-the-front flow ...
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1921 Church · Here are three shots of the old­est Swedish Luther­an church in Canada, which you’ll find down a side road off a side road that doesn’t go any­where else ...
 
Blasphemy · If you’re go­ing to pub­lish blas­phe­mous pic­to­ri­als about Mid­dle Eastern prophet­s, the least you can do is be fun­ny, as in Je­sus and Mo. The qual­i­ty is up and down, but I liked this one. Ac­tu­al­ly, I do have two se­ri­ous com­ments about the Danish-cartoons/Muslim-riots sto­ry. First of al­l, a lot of peo­ple in Arab dic­ta­tor­ships gen­uine­ly have no no­tion that a press can be in­de­pen­den­t, so get­ting mad at the whole coun­try is a lit­tle less loony than it sound­s. If a Syr­i­an pa­per pub­lished some­thing nasty (ac­tu­al­ly, I sus­pect they prob­a­bly do), it would be en­tire­ly ap­pro­pri­ate for rea­son­able peo­ple to get mad at the Syr­i­an gov­ern­men­t. Se­cond, I have ad­vice for re­li­gious peo­ple who don’t want their prophets or deities or sym­bols blas­phemed again­st: curb your cra­zies. Let’s run through some news­mak­ers in re­cent times who claimed to be faith-driven. On the Mus­lim side, there’s Mo­hamed At­ta, Pres­i­dent Ah­madine­jad, and var­i­ous oth­er racist cra­zies; for the Chris­tian­s, Pat Robert­son, Jer­ry Fal­well, and their le­gions of smarmy grasp­ing ditto-heads; and for the Jews, Baruch Gold­stein and Yesha’s “trans­fergeno­cidaire-wannabes. The Chris­tian batshit-loonies dif­fer from the oth­ers in be­ing ap­par­ent­ly less mur­der­ous but vast­ly more hyp­o­crit­i­cal. To all the ex­cel­lent Chris­tians and Jews and Mus­lims out there: I know you ex­ist. But you’re van­ish­ing from view be­hind the cloud of mucky dust be­ing raised by your lu­natic fringe; as of right now, in the twenty-first cen­tu­ry, when some­one claims to be deeply re­li­gious, that’s grounds for sus­pi­cion of big­otry, greed, and a pre­dis­po­si­tion to homi­cide. Which is one rea­son my lit­tle boy isn’t be­ing tak­en to church, for the mo­men­t.
 
Christmas Eve · Three pic­tures and a fa­mous sto­ry ...
 
No Religious Courts · On­tar­i­o, the province in the mid­dle of Cana­da that’s the biggest and rich­est, was com­ing un­der pres­sure from Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty ac­tivists to al­low “voluntary” use of re­li­gious tri­bunals in civ­il family-law cas­es. There are a cou­ple of ob­vi­ous prob­lems with this. First, some as­pects of Mus­lim re­li­gious law are pro­found­ly in­com­pat­i­ble with mod­ern Cana­di­an val­ues, which tend to re­gard wom­en as per­sons more or less equiv­a­len­t, legal­ly, to per­sons who are not wom­en. Another prob­lem is that the Mus­lim world does not ex­act­ly have con­sen­sus on ex­act­ly what Sharia law says, let alone what it mean­s. On the oth­er side, there were two ar­gu­ments, one bad and one plau­si­ble. The bad ar­gu­ment was that the choice of re­li­gious courts was “voluntary”. I put the word in quotes for a rea­son; to an op­pressed wom­en in the grips of a semi-closed im­mi­grant cul­ture, the right to opt out of Sharia would be the­o­ret­i­cal at best. The sec­ond ar­gu­ment is that it turns out that On­tario ap­par­ent­ly al­ready al­lowed Jews and Catholics to opt for re­li­gious tri­bunal­s, and giv­en that, it’s re­al­ly tough to say “no” to the Mus­lim­s. In a re­fresh­ing out­burst of san­i­ty and fair­ness, the On­tario gov­ern­ment sim­ply banned all re­li­gious tri­bunals. I can’t imag­ine any­thing more sen­si­ble; if liv­ing in a civ­i­lized so­ci­ety means any­thing, sure­ly it means one rule­book for ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of which God they be­lieve in. Un­sur­pris­ing­ly, at least some of the Jews and Catholics are ir­ri­tat­ed. They get no sym­pa­thy from me, and good on the McGuin­ty gov­ern­men­t. [Up­date: in­formed follow-up from Rob.]
 
Buddha and the Insect · We were vis­it­ing the Ho­nen Bud­dhist Mis­sion in La­haina, and found the great Bud­dha there un­trou­bled by small things ...
 
Three Chapels · The Brus­sels air­port has three chapels all in a row: Protes­tant, Ortho­dox, and Catholic. I found my­self walk­ing back and forth spend­ing time look­ing at each, and now you can too, with­out go­ing there ...
 
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