Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

22 Mar 2005, 10:14 a.m.

We All Fall Down

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2005 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

"A woman's battle for the soul of Islam" and "A 'virtuous pagan' looks at the priesthood" make it seem that every week Salon interviews an interesting woman who's thinking about Abrahamic (Judeo-Christian-Muslim) faith. I think that isn't true, but should be.

Emily Proctor quotes an Indianapolis bishop as saying, "Of course the church messes up. We have to mess up or else we would have to believe the Inquisition was a good thing." I love seeing officials of organized religion admit fallibility. Religious officials as a group tend to emphasize obedience and belief too much for my taste. For example, Bill Keller of LivePrayer will say that he's an imperfect servant of the Lord and that we're all depraved, sinful, and far from the mind of God, which rather makes me wonder why I should listen to him in particular when he tells me that he knows what the Lord wants from us. (His usual defense: circular arguments involving the Bible.)

I think it's a good thing that there is no one Pope governing Islam. Asra Nomani's local mosque isn't being very flexible (and ShaBot would not approve), but Islam as a whole can be. Witness the Spanish imams' fatwa against bin Laden and Nomani's Muslim Women's Freedom Tour.

Maybe a schism is coming. Maybe we'll have Sunni, Shiite, and Nomani Islam. Maybe the new flavor will descend into rigid hierarchy and one of its sects will launch an attack aginst an alien community on Mars. When I speculate about the future of these organized religions, I can't see how they can escape their cycles of schism and fundamentalism.

Geeks say of using "regular expressions" to solve certain computer problems that "now you have two problems." When politicians and religious activists try to solve problems, I feel lucky if they only double them. How do we finally get the bubble of air out from under the wallpaper instead of just moving it from side to side?