Furniture has surpassed Christianity as world religion (IKEA overtakes INRI)

My parody of an INRI cross I found on fotosearch.com

Well, it’s official — furniture has surpassed Christianity as the most important religion in the world. Specifically, according to a number of sources (Business Week , mental_floss , Wikipedia etc.), there are more IKEA catalogues printed every year than there are bibles. So I guess IKEA is in and INRI (the initials seen on many crucifixes) is out.

This apparently isn’t exactly news, as it’s been the case since at least 2006, but I hadn’t heard about it until now. (Thanks to Twitter users amiable84 and mental_floss for pointing this out.) The Bible still holds the all-time record apparently, and it would take IKEA some time to catch up considering the Bible’s over 500 year head start .

Based on the Business Week article, IKEA seems to have been the one to have publicized their achievement originally, but I can’t find this information on their site now. Maybe they remembered what happened what happened to John Lennon when he said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus was.

I have mixed feelings on this. While I’m glad that the Bible is no longer the most printed book in the world, couldn’t something else besides a catalogue have surpassed it? We’ve gone from worshiping God to worshiping furniture. I guess it’s a step up, since furniture actually exists.

I might have preferred something else overtake the Bible in number of copies printed: a science book, a freethought book, a work promoting peace, or pretty much any (other) work of fiction besides the Bible (since the Bible is, of course, largely fictional). Maybe in another 500 years?

Burkas — religious / cultural freedom vs. women’s rights / dignity

The big religious news in Europe the past few weeks has been French President Nicolas Sarkozy ‘s recent address to the French Parliament, in which he declared that burkas "won’t be welcome" in France. Well, he said it in French obviously, but that’s the translation.

I see the Pat Condell has recently posted a video on this as well. If you’re stateside or just haven’t read much about it, you may have a few questions: what the heck does a burka look like, and why would the French President seemingly attack women who are just practicing their religion?

Well, here’s a photo montage from the French daily newspaper Le Monde showing different types of veils often associated with Islam. People in the West have a tendency to call them all veils or burkas, but there are differences.

Les différents types de voiles

In a nutshell, the hijab in the 1st picture s the headdress that is described in the Quran, although according to Le Monde what exactly it is supposed to cover is "subject to interpretation".

The niqab (photo 2) has two veils, one to cover the hair, and the other to cover everything but the eyes. Le Monde says it’s "mainly worn in Persian Gulf countries."

The burka itself (photo 3)  is the one that has a "grill" on it, basically netting with small holes so that you can’t even see the woman’s eyes. Le Monde says they are normally worn in Afghanistan and some regions of Pakistan.

The last photo shows the chador , worn in Iran says Le Monde, which shows the entire fact but has no place for one’s hands.

So Sarkozy specifically singled out burkas apparently because they, according to him, "deprived women of identity" and are a "sign of subservience" (translations by BBC News ; the full video and part of the original text in French is here; note that the speech dealt with many issues, not just the burka).

Sounds like an attack on Islam, right? Well, as hinted at earlier in the descriptions of the different veils, an attack on burkas is not necessarily an attack on religion. Burkas aren’t mentioned in the Quran. So Nicolas Sarkozy emphasized this non-religious aspect, saying:

C’est un problème de liberté, de dignité de la femme. Ce n’est pas un signe religieux, c’est un signe d’asservissement, c’est un signe d’abaissement. ["It’s a question of a woman’s freedom, of her dignity. It’s not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience; it’s a sign of humiliation." Translation mine, "abaissement" can also mean "degradation/being degraded".]

A distinction is apparently being made by Sarkozy between the hijab, which shows the face and is mentioned in the Quran, and the burka, which hides it and is not. The burka, as stated in Wikipedia and elsewhere, comes from a cultural tradition that predates Islam and is not observed everywhere Islam is practiced.

Since it’s not seen as a religious practice but as a tradition, there will  be a parliamentary commission to investigate whether burkas should be outlawed in France. They already controversially outlaw veils in schools (as well as other overt religious symbols, in theory at least).

I agree that it is degrading to women to be completely covered and faceless to the world when men don’t have to. Despite the lack of mention in the Quran (absence of a doctrine in one’s Holy Book often doesn’t stop zealots from any religion), some women are coerced or forced to do so by their husbands or their mosques. This is clearly against individual freedoms guaranteed in most Western societies. But some women actually choose to wear burkas, as crazy as it may seem. What about those who say they willingly wear a burka or other garment which covers their face?

The issue of security comes up (you can hide stuff under burkas and since no one can see your face, apprehension and prosecution of law-breakers would be difficult. But then, one could say the same thing for Mardi Gras and Halloween costumes and masks in France. Are those to be outlawed, too?

It’s a growing issue in Europe, where more and more immigrants and 2nd- and 3rd- generation followers of Islam want to show their religious and cultural heritage. How much should people be allowed to follow the customs, rights, and laws of the country they’re in, and how much should they follow those of their religion or ancestors’ culture?

The issue in my mind is less with security and more this: if a woman says she is okay with degrading herself by becoming faceless because she thinks her God wants it, should society let her?

I really don’t know. I believe people have the right to choose their beliefs, but many of these women are coerced or forced into this degrading practice. I used to be more of a "let it be" type of atheist like Jon Stewart appears to be .  I just wish that these women wearing or wanting to wear a burka would realize that a God or anyone who tells you you have to hide your face in public does not give you the dignity or  respect that you deserve, and is not one that you should love and respect.

EDIT: Here’s a YouTube video of a British show discussing the issue, which Quit Your Apathy posted.

Just imagine…

While I’m working on trying to convert my old posts, and a new post that I probably won’t finish tonight, here’s my "Just imagine… " post, my most-viewed post from my Xanga blog. It talks about the Steve Well’s (from Skeptic’s Annotated Bible fame) proposed death total for people God is said to have killed in the Bible. Since it sums up pretty well some of my feelings on God and is also a big reason I decided to expand my website, it’s an appropriate post that I hope you enjoy.

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Imagine for a second that an insane bloodthirsty maniac decides he is going to kill the entire population of the Earth. He’s a whiz at computers and breaks into the US Defense Department’s computers and gains access to the United States’ vast nuclear arsenal (hey, if Matthew Broderick can do it in WarGames, so can he).

To be thorough (and dramatic), our madman decides to start at the bottom of the list of countries in the world and work his way up one-by-one. (He uses Wikipedia’s list of countries and self-governing territories as a source because like many computer-savvy people, he’s a huge fan of Wikipedia.) He is able to launch nuclear weapons against the 41 least populous places in the world before he is found and his killing spree is stopped. The entire populations of these countries and territories either die immediately or in short order due to the nuclear blasts he launched.

Now, who do you think will have killed more people: this crazy mass-murderer, or the God of the Bible? If you said the insane madman, you’d be wrong. According to Wikipedia (as of Jan 5 2009), the 41 least populous countries or self-governed states have a combined population of 2,211,501 people. That’s a lot of people. But according to the Bible, God killed at least 2,301,417 people. Steve Wells, the author of the Skeptics Annotated Bible, did the calculations in his blog Dwindling in Unbelief, but the numbers come directly from the Bible itself. The figure includes people that God killed personally, plus ones he commanded or sanctioned the death of in the Bible. It only includes incidents for which death totals are given in the Bible. So God outdoes our fictional mass-murderer by almost 100,000 people!

But wait, you protest. The nuclear fallout from our imaginary madman would certainly kill millions more, so he still is the top killer. Well, it turns out that God has also killed millions more. The 2,301,417 people Steve Wells includes in his total of God killings are just the ones for which figures are given in the Bible. If we include estimates for all the times God kills or sanctions a killing when the Bible doesn’t even bother to tally the dead, Steve arrives at a much larger figure: 33,280,237. Our fictional madman would have to kill the inhabitants of Wikipedia’s 80 least populous places in the world to match this total (either by nuclear bomb, or some other ingenious scheme).

You may argue with some of the estimates Steve gives (who besides God would know how many people actually died in the Flood, for example), but since the Bible doesn’t think it’s important enough to mention how many people died in these massacres, Steve had to come up with his own estimates. He gives his reasons behind the numbers if you follow the links. Some are more exact estimates than others. But even if he’s a few million off, that’s still an amazing amount of killing for an entity many Christians believe is a loving God who is the source of all morality.

To get an idea of just how many people the Bible says God killed, according to the conservative total (2.3 million), the following 41 countries or self-governing territories could all have their inhabitants wiped off the face of the Earth and still not equal the killings God is credited with in the Bible: São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada, Aruba, Tonga, Kiribati, Jersey, Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda, Northern Mariana Islands, Andorra, Isle of Man, Dominica, American Samoa, Guernsey, Bermuda, Marshall Islands, Greenland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Faroe Islands, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Palau, Anguilla, Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Helena, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City, Pitcairn Islands.

If we take Steve Well’s estimated total of over 33 million, here’s the list of places that could all have their entire populations slaughtered without reaching God’s glorious total: Slovenia, Lesotho, Botswana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Estonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Gabon, Mauritius, East Timor, Swaziland, Qatar, Djibouti, Fiji, Cyprus, Bahrain, Guyana, Comoros, Bhutan, Montenegro, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Solomon Islands, Luxembourg, Western Sahara, Suriname, Malta, Brunei, Bahamas, Iceland, Maldives, Barbados, Belize, Vanuatu, Netherlands Antilles, Samoa, Guam, Saint Lucia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada, Aruba, Tonga, Kiribati, Jersey, Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda, Northern Mariana Islands, Andorra, Isle of Man, Dominica, American Samoa, Guernsey, Bermuda, Marshall Islands, Greenland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Faroe Islands, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Palau, Anguilla, Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Helena, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City, Pitcairn Islands

Sure, if you’re like me and most people, you probably don’t recognize or know a lot about some of these places, but certainly you recognize a good number of them. But in case a list of random countries don’t hit home, maybe a few other examples might help:

• The entire region/continent of Oceania has around 30 million people, according to Wikipedia. If our crazy murderer could just make Australia, New Zealand, and the population of most of the Pacific Islands die overnight, that would still be less than how many lives God took in the Bible.

• The top 20 cities in the US could have their entire population croak on the spot (32.4 million people in all), and God’s total would still be almost 1 million more.

• According to Wikipedia, 185 countries/territories out of the 221 (about 4 out of 5) in the world have a population of less than 33 million people. If our madman could randomly take any one of these countries and just kill all of its inhabitants with a snap, he would likely have killed less people than the biblical God killed.

• With those odds, he could even just pick to destroy any one country in the world at random and he’d have about a 4 out of 5 chance of killing less people than God did in the Bible.

• The Bible was written (primarily) in Hebrew and Greek. God has killed more than the current populations of Israel and Greece combined (plus you can easily throw a country like Cuba or Belgium in for good measure).

• The Beach Boys (or what’s left of them) could go butcher all the inhabitants of the places they mention in the song Kokomo, and it would only add up to around 4.7 million people. They could also go ahead and easily bump off any tourists who might be there at the time, too, and still fall far shy of God’s 33+ million estimated deaths.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The Bible depicts a God with the blood of millions of people on his hands. Is this a good model for us or our children?

Fortunately, I have good news. Besides being mass-murders, our insane bloodthirsty maniac and our insane bloodthirsty God have one other thing in common: they’re both fictional. Unfortunately, at least some of the people in the Bible probably did die because people thought God wanted them to do it. Not to mention the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch-burning, and countless other cases where people have killed in the name of God. Or other deaths some people have recently attributed to God (Katrina, etc.). Or all the future deaths certainly still to committed in God’s name.

Couldn’t an all-powerful, all-knowing God and his followers think of a better way to get things done than death? Instead of thinking of all this senseless killing, wouldn’t it be nice to imagine a world without God? Just imagine…

Posted 1/5/2009 10:12 AM
– 419 Views

Just imagine… (a world without God)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Currently
Sounds Of Summer – The Very Best Of The Beach Boys
By The Beach Boys
Kokomo
see related

Just imagine…

Imagine for a second that an insane bloodthirsty maniac decides he is going to kill the entire population of the Earth. He’s a whiz at computers and breaks into the US Defense Department’s computers and gains access to the United States’ vast nuclear arsenal (hey, if Matthew Broderick can do it in WarGames , so can he).

To be thorough (and dramatic), our madman decides to start at the bottom of the list of countries in the world and work his way up one-by-one. (He uses Wikipedia’s list of countries and self-governing territories as a source because like many computer-savvy people, he’s a huge fan of Wikipedia.) He is able to launch nuclear weapons against the 41 least populous places in the world before he is found and his killing spree is stopped. The entire populations of these countries and territories either die immediately or in short order due to the nuclear blasts he launched.

Now, who do you think will have killed more people: this crazy mass-murderer, or the God of the Bible? If you said the insane madman, you’d be wrong. According to Wikipedia (as of Jan 5 2009), the 41 least populous countries or self-governed states have a combined population of 2,211,501 people. That’s a lot of people. But according to the Bible, God killed at least 2,301,417 people . Steve Wells, the author of the Skeptics Annotated Bible , did the calculations in his blog Dwindling in Unbelief , but the numbers come directly from the Bible itself. The figure includes people that God killed personally, plus ones he commanded or sanctioned the death of in the Bible. It only includes incidents for which death totals are given in the Bible. So God outdoes our fictional mass-murderer by almost 100,000 people!

But wait, you protest. The nuclear fallout from our imaginary madman would certainly kill millions more, so he still is the top killer. Well, it turns out that God has also killed millions more. The 2,301,417 people Steve Wells includes in his total of God killings are just the ones for which figures are given in the Bible. If we include estimates for all the times God kills or sanctions a killing when the Bible doesn’t even bother to tally the dead, Steve arrives at a much larger figure : 33,280,237 . Our fictional madman would have to kill the inhabitants of Wikipedia ‘s 80 least populous places in the world to match this total (either by nuclear bomb, or some other ingenious scheme).

You may argue with some of the estimates Steve gives (who besides God would know how many people actually died in the Flood, for example), but since the Bible doesn’t think it’s important enough to mention how many people died in these massacres, Steve had to come up with his own estimates. He gives his reasons behind the numbers if you follow the links. Some are more exact estimates than others. But even if he’s a few million off, that’s still an amazing amount of killing for an entity many Christians believe is a loving God who is the source of all morality.

To get an idea of just how many people the Bible says God killed, according to the conservative total (2.3 million), the following 41 countries or self-governing territories could all have their inhabitants wiped off the face of the Earth and still not equal the killings God is credited with in the Bible : São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada, Aruba, Tonga, Kiribati, Jersey, Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda, Northern Mariana Islands, Andorra, Isle of Man, Dominica, American Samoa, Guernsey, Bermuda, Marshall Islands, Greenland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Faroe Islands, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Palau, Anguilla, Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Helena, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City, Pitcairn Islands.

If we take Steve Well’s estimated total of over 33 million, here’s the list of places that could all have their entire populations slaughtered without reaching God’s glorious total : Slovenia, Lesotho, Botswana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Estonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Gabon, Mauritius, East Timor, Swaziland, Qatar, Djibouti, Fiji, Cyprus, Bahrain, Guyana, Comoros, Bhutan, Montenegro, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Solomon Islands, Luxembourg, Western Sahara, Suriname, Malta, Brunei, Bahamas, Iceland, Maldives, Barbados, Belize, Vanuatu, Netherlands Antilles, Samoa, Guam, Saint Lucia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada, Aruba, Tonga, Kiribati, Jersey, Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda, Northern Mariana Islands, Andorra, Isle of Man, Dominica, American Samoa, Guernsey, Bermuda, Marshall Islands, Greenland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Faroe Islands, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Palau, Anguilla, Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Helena, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City, Pitcairn Islands

Sure, if you’re like me and most people, you probably don’t recognize or know a lot about some of these places, but certainly you recognize a good number of them. But in case a list of random countries don’t hit home, maybe a few other examples might help:

• The entire region/continent of Oceania has around 30 million people, according to Wikipedia. If our crazy murderer could just make Australia, New Zealand, and the population of most of the Pacific Islands die overnight, that would still be less than how many lives God took in the Bible.

• The top 20 cities in the US could have their entire population croak on the spot (32.4 million people in all), and God’s total would still be almost 1 million more.

• According to Wikipedia , 185 countries/territories out of the 221 (about 4 out of 5) in the world have a population of less than 33 million people. If our madman could randomly take any one of these countries and just kill all of its inhabitants with a snap, he would likely have killed less people than the biblical God killed.

• With those odds, he could even just pick to destroy any one country in the world at random and he’d have about a 4 out of 5 chance of killing less people than God did in the Bible.

• The Bible was written (primarily) in Hebrew and Greek. God has killed more than the current populations of Israel and Greece combined (plus you can easily throw a country like Cuba or Belgium in for good measure).

• The Beach Boys (or what’s left of them) could go butcher all the inhabitants of the places they mention in the song Kokomo , and it would only add up to around 4.7 million people. They could also go ahead and easily bump off any tourists who might be there at the time, too, and still fall far shy of God’s 33+ million estimated deaths.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The Bible depicts a God with the blood of millions of people on his hands. Is this a good model for us or our children?

Fortunately, I have good news. Besides being mass-murders, our insane bloodthirsty maniac and our insane bloodthirsty God have one other thing in common: they’re both fictional. Unfortunately, at least some of the people in the Bible probably did die because people thought God wanted them to do it. Not to mention the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch-burning, and countless other cases where people have killed in the name of God. Or other deaths some people have recently attributed to God (Katrina, etc.). Or all the future deaths certainly still to committed in God’s name.

Couldn’t an all-powerful, all-knowing God and his followers think of a better way to get things done than death? Instead of thinking of all this senseless killing, wouldn’t it be nice to imagine a world without God? Just imagine…

10:12 AM 422 views