Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saudi cleric wants death for astrologers

So as you are aware there is a lot of financial turmoil in the markets now, what with many investment banks, as well as one of the largest insurance companies in the world (AIG), seeking buyers and/or facing bankruptcy. Someone e-mailed me for my opinion on it the other day. So what is my take on it? Sorry, that's work-related stuff. No work chat on the blog.

As for more mundane matters the knee is improving but not 100% yet. I've been seeing a physiotherapist recommended to me by a colleague and it seems to be working out well. No pain anymore but the right knee still gets uncomfortable when I stand for longer than 15 or 20 minutes. The physiotherapist has me on an exercise programme to strengthen the muscles so I'm sure in a few more weeks everything will be a-okay.

In critical thinking news a cleric in Saudi Arabia recently announced that astrologers should be put to death by the sword. A bit harsh, don'tcha think? I don't think the sharia courts of Saudi Arabia plan to follow through on that recommendation but I think things such as astrology are illegal there anyway so one astrologer would face a lesser penalty of some sort. Though I have not looked at the laws here I am sure it's illegal since you never see astrologers advertising their trade in Qatar. Now I am not a big fan of astrology, centuries of discovery and advancement in astronomy and related sciences have shown quite conclusively that astrology does not work. It has been studied extensively by scientists. The positions of celestial bodies do not influence us. That said, while I wish people would stop supporting astrology I am not some rabid anti-astrology campaigner. I know someone here who believes in astrology and they are a real nice person. I'm not about to start getting confrontational about astrology just to prove a point. I might consider getting in a confrontation if an astrologer was trying to skim money off of someone I knew, as while some astrologers are true believers I am of the opinion that most are just con-artists walking the walk to get easy money off of astrology-believers. Similar to a lot of the "psychics" that plague North America.

I suppose it is the same with any belief system, if you start to challenge a person's beliefs out of the blue people will just get defensive and "close the wagons" so to speak. That creates nothing but animosity. I would be the same. Better to make information available for people to educate themselves, or discuss it with them if they ask.

But back to Saudi Arabia. The unusual thing about this cleric is that for him to recommend the death penalty for astrologers means that he actually believes that astrology works. If I recall correctly sorcery is a very grave crime in Islam, so I think this cleric equates astrology to sorcerous practices. He would be better off educating himself a bit more about astronomy and physics and save the death-penalty rants for murderers and other horrendous criminals. I suppose he might be annoyed at the prevailance of such things on television in the Arab world. Many Arabic channels geared to young people have little "compatibility" charts on the side where viewers can text their name, a potential mate's name, and maybe their birth dates and watch as this little compatibility thing on TV spits shows a rating of how compatible you are. It is really a harmless gimmick to get teenage girls to text and would be shocked if people were actually using that to make choices about who they will marry. I suppose stranger things have happened though.

Sorcery being a crime has actually led to some interesting situations here in the Gulf -- the police treat seriously reports of individuals selling "magic amulets", "love potions" and other New Age tomfoolery and have arrested people in the past for it. The person arrested is now in a quandary as they will have to tell the court that they are either (a) a con artist as the stuff they were selling does not work, or (b) engaging in sorcery because the stuff does work. I suspect most opt for (a) as the penalties for sorcery or probably a lot greater.

E-album of Slovakia is almost done! You should see it soon.

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