Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

March 4, 2019

What Makes Happy

So the same things don't seem to drive happiness for everyone. 

Some like big jobs and lots of power. 

Others are happier with more work-life balance. 

Some like to pursue lots of degrees and certifications.

Others like to learn on their own and through life experience. 

Some like to travel the world.

Others like a day in nature or at the museum. 

Some like big families and lots of people around them. 

Others like smaller families, close friends, intimacy, or even being more on their own. 

Some like lots of money. 

Other are happy with having what they need.

Some like to be tremendous athletes. 

Other like to just stay fit or maybe are more comfy as "couch potatoes."

Some like to be very religious and follow all the laws.

Others prefer mindfulness, a sense of spirituality and being a "good person."  

Some like lots of activities and to always do different things. 

Others are more comfortable with routine and incremental change. 

We all have basic needs, but we also have different values, priorities and comfort zones. 

Happiness isn't a yes or no answer, but what makes us feel on track and doing good. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 2, 2019

Jerusalem Center of The World

I love this map by Heinrich Bunting, a German Protestant pastor and cartographer. 

This beautiful artist and thoughtful map was published in 1581.

It shows the 3 continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa as 3 leaves of a clovers with Jerusalem at the center. 

Jerusalem, Israel is the focus, nexus and crossroad between these 3 worlds of Western, Asian, and African civilizations. 

Israel is so multi-cultural and holy to the 3 major monotheistic religions of the world (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).  

Light, healing, peace, and prosperity should emanate from Jerusalem to the whole world and G-d should bless us from his heavenly abode.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Wikipedia)
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February 24, 2019

Interfaith Movie Today

This afternoon, we attended the interfaith movie screening of “The Judge.

The movie is about a Palestinian woman who becomes “the first woman judge in a Shari’a ‘family law’ court.” 

Let's just say it wasn't easy for her to break into this male-dominated profession within institutionalized religion in the Middle East.  

Thinking in an interfaith way, I guess it's maybe not so dissimilar to women breaking into the profession of the Rabbinate. 

Another similarity between the religions was that there were many Islamic religious leaders that were very conservative and dead set against women in the Shari'a courts, while others stood up against the tide and inspired change--I think we have similar disagreements in Judaism between the ultra-orthodox who want to stick with the "old" historical ways of doing things, and the more liberal Jews that seek the freedom to alter those ways. 

During the movie, there were some interesting take-aways like under Shariah law, men are allowed up to 4 wives!  

Another funny line in the movie was when one of the men said that the men never make trouble for the women (i.e. it's all the women's fault). 

In the court cases filmed, there seemed to be a lot of cases of domestic violence and of divorce, and in one case in particular the wife was actually stabbed to death in the court house by her husband who she was trying to get a divorce from. 

Overall, it felt good to attend the event and try to be a part of the healing process between people. 

The event was sponsored by the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society (JIDS) of Washington, D.C. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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February 15, 2019

Shabbat Shalom!

Love this picture that my daughter took in Israel of the Challahs for Shabbat. 

So fresh and delicious. 

Plenty for all. 

G-d's blessing for a restful Shabbos.

Thank you for sanctifying us with your mitzvot. ;-)

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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January 1, 2019

Miracles of Charity and Faith

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Conviction of One's Faith."
What better way to welcome in the New Year of 2019 then with some inspirational true stories about amazing people and their faith in G-d and doing what's right. Recently, I saw firsthand from some special people, the miracles that happen when one is charitable and sticks to ones beliefs. 

As my father always taught me about G-d and doing what's right: "Stick to your convictions!" ;-)

(Source Photo of this amazing Tzedakah (charity) box in Israel: Minna Blumenthal)
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December 16, 2018

My First Interfaith Event

So I attended my first interfaith event today at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The first lady that I spoke to said that she wasn't any one religion.  

When I asked more about this, she said:
The core to all religions is Rachamim (mercy, compassion) and Ahavah (love).

Pictured above are the table seating cards that directed people to sit next to people of other religions:  Jewish, Muslim, Other. 

The event was led by the One America Movement, and the Director, Andrew Hanauer spoke very well about bridging what divides us. 

Here are some of the take-a-ways:

- We need to address the divisiveness, polarization, and conflict. 



- Remember that we are talking with other human beings and not with labels.

- Polarization is not just issues, but devolves into identity--"I hate your stupid face!"



- But we are all human beings (and children of G-d). 



- Republicans and Democrats each say that the other is 20% less human than they are. 

- We all have our own "facts":  My facts vs. Your Facts. 

- We attribute good that happens to us as being because of "us," but bad that happens to us because of "them."

- Similarly, we believe that we act out of love, but they act out of hate--and:

- We interpret threats to our viewpoints (political and otherwise), as threats to our groups and to ourselves. 

- Try to remove binary thinking (right and wrong, left and right, etc.), critique your own point of view, and share doubts


- Reconciliation:  If we can cross the divide, have open dialogue, and positive interactions with each others, and develop cross-cutting identities then we will make it easier to counter divisive narratives, solve problems, and reduce violence. 



(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 17, 2018

Striving To Be Good Enough (This Time Around)

Please read my new article in The Times of Israel called, "When Are We Good Enough?"
I too believe strongly in reincarnation. I think that is partially what G-d means by doing justice in this world. If you bomb out in life and don't fulfill your true potential than G-d sends you back for another try.  And this can happen as many times as it takes to get it right!

I hope I am getting it right in my life this time around. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 6, 2018

The Diversity Tapestry

I really liked this sign with the saying by civil rights leader, Maya Angelou:
"We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value, no matter what their color [or race, or origin, or religion, or age, or gender, or sexual orientation, or disability]."

Ok, I added the "or" statements at the end. 

But the point is the same and important.

Discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, and bias are stupid. 

They are a function of ignorance. 

- We learn from diversity. 

- Life is richer with diversity. 

If everything was in monocolor...if life was homogeneous...if there was only one type of everything, then what type of humdrum, monotonous, and boring place would this be?

Value the variety.  Value the diversity.  Value the differences. 

They make us better and stronger than we could ever otherwise be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 22, 2017

Israel Style

Today we walked around Tel Aviv and went to the Art Museum here and also the stores, grocery, and cafes.

What I really liked was seeing it up close and not from the back of a tour bus. 

After just a day or so, I started to feel like I was really experiencing life here. 

Crossing Menachem Begin Road, we ran into these fashion-conscious ladies. 

The colorful clothes and hair, the tall blue shoes, the ripped leggings of the women on the left definitely stood out.

Juxtaposed is the lady on the right in the black dress, short haircut, bag, and glasses. 

This pair was a standout!

In a way, I miss the Holy lifestyle of Jerusalem here in Tel Aviv, but at the same time, I like the cosmopolitan and modern life here too.

Anyway, I feel like I am learning a lot and enjoying experiencing culture and religion Israel-style. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 7, 2017

Where Does Organized Religion Go Wrong

So I am definitely someone who is spiritual and tries to be faithful to G-d.

I believe, He is my creator and sustainer and that we are here to learn and grow our soul before it goes back to Hashem. 

Yet often, like so many others now-a-days, I find organized religion to be a turn-off. 

Why?

1) There is a consistency and sincerity problem.

To some people, I believe it's partially the rote and robotic nature of some of the practices--where we just do it, because we are told to do it, and we do it over and over and time after time, again--even when we don't feel it in the moment, and even if we do other things that are not so right in other areas of our lives.  

In contrast perhaps, there can be more spontaneous and genuine feelings and actions, in the moment and every moment--that come from the heart and the soul of the person and directly to G-d--and they are consistent whether we are in a religious setting to how we treat others and how we act in business. 

In other words, we just don't follow the rules, but we live them fully and integrated with ourselves and all situations we find ourselves in. 

2)  There is a money and power problem.

In some religious environments, all people are not created equal or treated equal. Instead, the say, the attention, and the honor goes to the powerful and the rich, who are courted for their donations and their votes to the institution and the spiritual leader. Who gets talked up? Who is given the honors at the religious rituals, at the events and the dinners, and with their communal "peers"? 

In other cases, it's not just money and power that talks, but who is outwardly the "most religious" and presumably walks the walk.  If you but "seem" more religious than the next guy, then you are elevated and exalted in the religious community.  

Instead, what happened to welcoming and caring for everyone--to everyone being children of G-d--to each person having a soul and their personal life challenges. Why can't we treat everyone as religiously worthwhile and give everyone a chance to learn and grow in their own way from their starting point and to their destination?  

Religion should be the one place that isn't a competition with others. 

Religion is ultimately between man and G-d!

And only G-d knows what is inside man's heart and in his soul--and what his actions really are all the time and what they truly mean in context and in essence

I welcome G-d in my life, because I:

- Have faith in Him and that ultimately He has a master plan and that everything is for the good 
- Love Him for giving me the chance to learn and grow my soul to be better
- Fear Him for when I do something wrong in my life and need a course correction 

I wish for a time and transformation when religion would not just be based on outward manifestations but on being sincere and consistent in people's lives, and where people would no longer be superficially judged and (mis)treated because they are themselves and on their G-d given paths. 

If only we could religiously love, rather than endlessly judge, each other, oh what a heartfelt and inspiring religion that would be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 16, 2017

The Ultimate Rejection (Not)

Ok, folks.

This picture is not the message you want to get before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year and time of judgment). 

We want to see the long hand of G-d come down with love, caring, forgiveness, and blessings!

A flick of the Almighty index finger, definitely not what we want to see or get.  

Worse would be getting the middle finger, of course. 

But I definitely don't think G-d does that! 

Talking about rejection with a big R. 

To all my family and friends, a most happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 2, 2017

Greatest Museum of Them All

So the greatest museum of them all is scheduled to open in just 3 months!

The Museum of the Bible.

Right here in Washington, D.C.--a few blocks from the Capitol. 

There is a wonderful video on their website

It's 430,000 square feet and 8 stories floors. 

With two 40-feet-high bronze doors that look like the Ten Commandments. 

And an overall tall and narrow shape with a curved roof that reminds me of Noah's Ark.

It encompasses: 

Religion.

History.

Art. 

It all comes together here. 

There is an interesting display of all the different versions of the Bible.

But what it all points to is how similar we all really are. 

The emergence of faith in The One G-d who created us all--his children--and the foundation in the words of His book. 

Yes, we share in common much more than what separates us. 

If we can just see ourselves in His eyes and be the people we can be and were meant to be. 

The museum should be an inspiration to be better, to be brothers, to have peace, to partner and progress to the future.

With our faith sustaining us, and the Bible and our conscience as our guides, we can overcome. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 28, 2017

Arguing The Negative

I thought this was an interesting sign this gentlemen had.

It says:


"Those who reject Jesus do so because of sin, not science or evidence."

Overall, religion is a matter of personal faith not to be argued, but rather when based to good, to be wholly respected. 

This argument though was basically saying, not to reject this particular tenet of faith of a major religion because there is "not science or evidence" from which to reject.

But usually, don't we look for science or evidence to accept or do something. 

In other words, the default usually is that if you want me to believe in something or somebody, prove to me why I should

It's a bad argument when you ask me to prove to you why you shouldn't believe in something. 

Very often this is the same argument people use in relationships and in organizations.

We do the same thing everyday or over and over again, and we often don't ask ourselves why we do it this way or believe this is a good way of doing something...we just do it. 

And in fact, when someone new comes in with "fresh eyes" and questions why we do it a certain way or have we considered another approach, we ask them to prove to us with "science or evidence" why their way is better, rather than reexamine our own ways and means.

I'm not in any way questioning here G-d or religion, but rather simply our approach to self-examination, introspection, and betterment.

Don't ask me to prove to you why you should reject something, but rather be prepared to defend your hypothesis. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 13, 2017

Love For Every Reason

So in synagogue, there was a bat-mitzvah today.

And the 12-year old girl spoke to the congregation. 

She quoted from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and said:


"If you can hate for no reason, 
then why not love for no reason."

This seemed like a very smart idea to me--we have a choice between hate and love, so why not choose love!

Later at the luncheon after services, I sat and made a new friend with this very nice person who happened to be an Evangelical Christian preacher. 

I asked about his faith and learned more about the Evangelical belief in the strict words of the Old Testament/Torah. 

This wonderful man had taught in a Jewish school in South America, been to the Holy Land, was friends with our Rabbi, and spoke so highly of the Jewish People, Israel, and his faith in G-d. 

I asked about the differences from his perspective between the different sects of Christianity, and he told me a bit of the history of the movements.

But what was also really interesting was that in contrast to the Evangelical's strong support for Israel, he explained that there still to this day was some anti-Semitic remnants in the Catholic Church, even though the Pope, himself, has called it "wrong and unjust"

I asked why some still then blame the Jews for the murder of Jesus (who was Jewish himself), when it was the Romans that actually tortured and killed him and also, why the historical animus to the Jews if Jesus died for the sins of all mankind and this was his divine mission?

He explained that it was wrong and unfair, and that it was misguided scapegoat thinking that "someone had to take the blame."

He then went on to tell me about this great shirt that he liked that had a chart of all the various nation empires of the world that had risen against the Jewish people (from the Egyptians to the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Nazi's) and next to each one it said, GONE!  And then it said, Iran with a TBD--Yep! 

And even Venezuela's, hateful Hugo Chavez, who in 2009 said, "I want to condemn from the bottom of my soul, from the bottom of my guts, damn you State of Israel," and then by 2013 he was dead from stomach (gut) cancer!

So from their day until ours, the One G-d of Hosts continues to looks after Israel and manages the destiny of man--and this is evident throughout the Bible and the prophecies. 

I was so impressed how he was emphatic about the strong Judeo-Christian shared values, beliefs, and faith and that this was the true future for Christianity.

It was understood from the conversation that in all religions, we share more in love of G-d and of each other, and in doing good then in hate, bias, bigotry, and discrimination...and together, we can make it a better world. 

Together, love can conquer. ;-)

(Source Photo: Twitter)
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March 11, 2017

Purim Prayer

Tonight is Purim and it's a holiday of joy and celebration. 

It commemorates when the Jews where saved from Destruction by the Persian Empire and the evil Haman as told in the Megillah Esther.

So on Purim, we dress up and make fun and it this vein of humor that I post this sign about religions of the world. 

- Taoism:  Sh*t happens.

- Buddhism: If sh*t happens, it really isn't sh*t.

- Hinduism: This sh*t has happened before.

- Islam: If sh*t happens, it is the will of Allah. 

- Catholicism: Sh*t happens because you deserve it.

- Protestantism: Work harder or sh*t will happen.

- Judaism: Why does this sh*t always happen to us?

It's funny how each religion of the world has a perspective on life. 

Are we all so really different?  

Maybe we have more in common than not.

The hope and prayer is that the true evil Hamans out there utterly perish, and that for all good and decent people--whatever your religion and perspective in this world--may we all get along as loving brothers and sisters, and let there be true peace for all of us! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to RamblingsDC)
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March 5, 2017

Polarized and Not Going To Take It Anymore

So they say about Washington politics, "if you're not on offense, then you're on defense."

In the polarized mood of the nation, this has never been more true. 

The alt-left and alt-right are stronger than ever and pointing fingers and fists at one another. 

Each side, the ultra -liberals and -conservatives are duking it out over who is is going on the offensive today.

Only to be outmaneuvered the very next day and be placed back on the defensive. 

Who communicated with the Russians today?

Who used their private email today?

Who committed perjury and lied under oath today?

Who was offensive and even violent at rallies and protests today? 

And on and on...

You're either on offense or your stuck on defense!

And the more polarized and hateful of each other this nation has become, including in the media, the more the outrageous the accusations and the more alternate facts and fake news. 

But what I learned today is that this doesn't just apply to politics.

Religion is another prime source for discrimination and hate of your fellow man. 

I remember learning that over history, more people have died in wars in the name of religion than for any other reason.

So too today, the "crazy-hard line" ultra religious and the "throw-it-all away" irreligious are just as polarized. 

The religious mock the irreligious as self-haters and atheists and the irreligious make fun of the rightwing religious as abusive and robotic.

Moreover, any disagreement results in insults and loathing over who is morally superior.

Of course, everyone cites sources and authorities to show why their position is the correct one and everyone else is wrong about religion and G-d. 

Attack, defend, attack, defend. 

No wonder nothing is getting constructively done.

No wonder children are confused. 

No wonder those around us laugh at our seeming inability to come together, all as G-d's wonderful creatures. 

Who will be on the attack today and who will be on defense. 

If only we could have a panini instead of all this anger, hate, extremism, and rejectionist bias toward our fellow man. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 4, 2017

Kosher Trust Or Not

Here's the big controversy in our synagogue this week. 

The Rabbi is having a Purim open house and he invited everyone to bring a pot luck.

"Only home-made food, no purchased food please!"

In Jewish circles, this is the opposite of what you'd expect, where checking the kosher labels and symbols is critical to ensuring the food has followed the strict kosher dietary laws and can be eaten. 

Yet as pointed out, kashrut has been made into a whole commercial business these days...does it still reflect the intent?

The Rabbi explained in services today, in a very well received way, that we need to get back to respecting and trusting each other. 

That these values are essential to being truly religious people.

It was a wonderful speech in that it evoked unconditional acceptance and respect for everyone. 

As we know, no one is so perfect, even though the goal of course is to be as perfect as we can be. 

So two things:

1) I really like the notion of treating people well and putting that high on the priorities as we are all G-d's creatures.

2) I myself am kosher, but not fanatically so, therefore, I personally appreciated the acceptance and love in the community. 

Yet, after I got home, and thinking about this some more, and despite my own failings religiously and otherwise, I asked myself, "Am I really comfortable eating from a parve and meat community pot luck?"

And even as I ask this question, I am sort of squirming at the idea of just eating anyone's food--and not knowing anything about it. 

How am I doing due diligence in even trying to keep kosher like that?

While maybe I'm not the most kosher of everyone, it certainly is important to me to at least try (to some extent), but I ask myself can this be considered really even trying--when some people aren't religious, may not have a strong religious education, and perhaps some may not even be (fully) Jewish?

Sure, someone can even have the best intentions and try to bring kosher food, yet it's certainly possible that the food may not be kosher. 

Perhaps, in prior times, it was an issue of more or less kosher, but these days, it can be an issue of kosher or not kosher at all. 

This is a very difficult issue--because we can't put people up against the law--we must by necessity respect both. 

So yes, I love the idea of respecting everyone and that's a given assuming they are good, decent people, but trust is not something you just have, it's something you earn, by...being trustful!

I'm not one to preach religion to anyone...I struggle myself with the laws and in trying to do what's right in the commandments between man and G-d. 

And while I am ready to accept all good and loving people, I am perhaps not ready to just trust them without knowing that the trust is dutiful. 

Love thy neighbor as thyself is paramount, but also we have a duty to G-d to try to fulfill his commandments the best we can. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 26, 2017

Thank You Chaplain Berning

I read about this amazing "Spiritual Communications Board" that Chaplain Joel Nightingale Berning invented for New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. 

The board allows hospital patients who are intubated or otherwise can't talk to communicate their spiritual health and needs. 

The top part allows the person to say what religion they are. 

The bottom left, are choices for how they feel from afraid and lonely, to nervous, helpless, and hopeless, and even to identify on a scale of 0 to 10, the level of their spiritual pain. 

And on the bottom right, they can point to ask for spiritual help... from a prayer, song, or blessing to talk with me, sit with me, get my family or hold my hand. 

While hospitals have traditionally been focused on getting a person, with G-d's help, physically healthy again, it is wonderful to see people, like Chaplain Berning looking after the spiritual side of patients wellness and health as well. 

To heal, people don't just need surgeries and medicines, but they need to deal with all the emotions and pain surrounding their condition and their challenging life situations, and this is something that spiritual caregivers can make a huge difference with. 

The health of the soul and the body are linked in more ways than one. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chaplain Berning)
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December 24, 2016

Let's Ask The Messiah

Tomorrow is a special day indeed. 

It is both Chanukah and Christmas.

Rabbi Michael Gottlieb mentions a really interesting point in the Wall Street Journal about the connection between Jews and Christians as brothers and sisters. 

Reflecting on the thoughts of philosopher, Martin Buber:

The key difference between Jews and Christians is whether Jesus was the messiah. 


"Christians believe he was here and they are awaiting his return.  
Jews believe that the messiah hasn't yet come.  
His suggestion: let's all pray for the messiah--Christians and Jews alike.   
When he arrives, we'll ask if he's been here before."
With the messiah's arrival, we can all hope to achieve "personal and universal redemption"--to be kinder, humbler, and more human[e]"

We all have an underlying need to believe in a "superhero"--with G-dly powers that can save us from ourselves and from each other, as well as from disease, disaster, and destruction. 

If G-d can speedily send us the messiah to help us with all of this, together Jews and Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and everyone can band together to celebrate and welcome G-d's love and redemption of all his children. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 21, 2016

You Can Take This Niqab And...

So here is the quote of the day (compliments of the Wall Street Journal)...

From a woman fleeing the inhumane treatment in Mosul by ISIS religious terrorists:


"I want to take this niqab and stuff it down the throat of ISIS."

I've now read over and over again how one of the first things the women do, who get away from these ruthless fanatics, is to remove their confining "religious"-mandated garb that covers them so fully and put on normal clothes and be free human beings again.

While I certainly and highly respect women who freely and modestly cover up--especially in marriage--it is abhorrent to violently force women to dress a certain way or make them in any way lessor than or subservient to men. 

The women under ISIS are taught to be ashamed, when they have nothing to be ashamed about!

ISIS and these other radical Islamists that force their distorted version of religion on others goes like this when it comes to women:

"It is permitted to buy her, sell her, and give her away as a gift. They are just a possession and you can do whatever you want with them."  In their FAQS, they even ask, "Can I have sex with a slave who hasn't reached puberty?"

Yet, while they are having sex with abducted pubescent and pre-pubescent girls, they force women to stay at home, and they are not allowed to go out unless accompanied by a man (forget education, working, driving or traveling). 

Even at home, "Woman are cautioned to stay away from rooftops, balconies, and windows so they wouldn't be seen by outsiders."

And should a women be accused of sex outside of marriage--even when the women are the ones forcibly (gang) raped--they are the ones subject to death by public stoning for their being licentious. 

Are these "religious" fanatics with guns so weak that they fear sexual temptation more than they trust in the bonds of family, personal righteousness, and the ability of people to freely choose right from wrong?

Imagine...as they abduct and enslave women and children, rape them, sell them, and force them into bogus marriages, starve and torture them, these people actually think they are religious. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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