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Dec-01-2013 13:11printcomments

'Tis the season to be jolly...
A Dissertation On Comparative Religions

Man is the only religious animal... that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven... - Mark Twain

Pillory at Charing Cross
Pillory at Charing Cross. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

(DAYTONA BEACH) - Our godly neighbor nation to the south has just about run the gamut of the current news cycle, exhausting their tears and incredulity over the massacre of children. But this holy tide of Christmas all other doth deface, so its high time all of us were getting on with it, redirecting our attention to ringing sleigh bells and shoe-horning beloved carols into the doggerel of year-end car sales.

Infanticide, after all, is nothing new, at least in religious circles, having been (and still being) practiced by no end of human cultures, groups, and individuals. It has even been observed among higher orders such as fish - noticeably rock bass - mammals ranging from field mice to male lions, and more commonly among central Europeans of deep religious conviction. It currently takes place in the Western world, variously because of parental psychosis, or communal sociopathology, and occasionally as a form of population control, invariably with tacit popular acceptance.

But God knows there are much larger issues to think about as we gird ourselves for 2014: for Americans, the debt ceiling and the implosion of the Republican Party. Here, where "the thistle shamrock rose entwine the maple leaf forever," that is closer to shale oil, we are currently demonstrating more maturity as a nation.

With a single landmark initiative, the Canadian Government is abolishing those colonial Indian reservations. Think of it: at one and the same time, we are moving to maximize resource development on all that former native real estate hitherto considered worthless and, much more important, we are making equal opportunity available to the resulting liberated native Canadians in the downtown, east side, skid row of our cities.

But there's an even wider sphere for all of us to address, as we move beyond this holiest of all seasons, and that is the religious world, not only the similarities among all the world's religions, but perhaps how we of the Western Hemisphere are culturally, spiritually challenged to catch up with the older, more mature cultures in our comparative religious development.

Just last year, for example, a story carried by Salem-News.com, that excellent independent news agency in Oregon, described an event in the Muslim world that should be thought-provoking for all casual Canadian theocons, and even more decidedly by our even more spiritually-challenged southern neighbors. It illustrates how similar we all are - how we should practice more inter-faith, joining hands worldwide - so that we can benefit from the complexity and sophistication of the world's most established religions.

Datelined in Pakistan, the story began as follows:
"Second Incident of 'Qur'an Desecration' in 2012 Muslim Mob Reportedly Kills Suspect then Burns Body."

The report reads:


    Police did not identify the person who died. It is estimated that the man was forty-two years old. (By his belt buckle? -Ed.) Police in Dadu in Pakistan's Sindh Province say a man who allegedly desecrated the Qur'an was the victim of a mob murder. The killers reportedly sprayed gasoline on the man's already dead body and lit the remains on fire.

    Witnesses at the scene told The BBC that the incident occurred in the village in the area of Sita, and that the killing and lighting of the body occurred at the mosque. At least one person accused in the murder was handed over to the police, although it wasn't clear why.

    Near dawn on that morning, on news of the Qur'an's desecration, a large crowd had attacked the police station, seized police weapons and had taken the accused person from the station. He was dragged a kilometer to a square, where his body was set on fire after having been doused with gasoline. Although the man was not identified, he was estimated by several onlookers to be in his forties. "Police suspect," said the report, not surprisingly, "that the accused was not mentally stable." (The accused, not the mob. - Ed.)

    Subsequently, what has been described as "the helplessness of the local police," led to a heavy deployment of additional police in the area, the arrest of some 30 people and the suspension of six local police officers, who have been accused of negligence and sent home, although there is no Christmas holiday in Sindh Province.

    A "first information report" had been registered against the accused under blasphemy law, on the complaint of an Imam, who unlike the accused appears to be mentally stable. Since the event, another first information report has been filed against the 500-strong Muslim mob that attacked the police station and murdered the victim.

In the preparation of this dissertation on comparative relgions, I couldn't help noting the similarities - albeit the disparities - between this event and the situation in Canada surrounding the case of Kevin Annett some 20 years ago, although the Canadian experience under Canadian colonial law may be moot due to the statute of limitations.

Before dwelling on that, a closer parallel might be drawn between the Pakistan event and that of Kevin Annett's ancestor Peter Annett, an 18th Century English pamphleteer who wrote and spoke in defiance of the Church of England (that well-known religion that owes its ecclesiastical existence to the failure of Rome to grant six or seven annulments to King Henry VIII, so that he could create a male heir, in view of the shortcomings of his succession of barren wives).

Peter Annett wasn't dragged for a mile and then ignited with petrol, but close. He was locked in the stocks in Charing Cross in 1762, and after being pelted with garbage by at least 500 religious English citizens, he was thrown in Bridewell Prison, a fate perhaps comparable to being immolated like a marshmallow.

Kevin Annett

The case of Reverend Kevin Annett is jam-tart by comparison with either that of his ancestor Peter or that of the Muslim human torch. Or rather, on completion of the following checklist, the reader may consider it a toss-up.


Kevin Annett didn't desecrate the Holy Bible, but he did bad-mouth the real estate proclivities of the United Church of Canada, MacMillan Bloedel, the giant forestry company, and its blushing parent company, Weyerhaeuser (blameless in Seattle). But he did of course violate Canadian blasphemy law by pointing out that the Federal Government, its minions the RCMP and ALL of the major religious denominations in Canada had been complicit in a system of 141 charnel houses across Canada, which resulted in the rape, sodomy, medical experimentation and murder of some 50,000 Indian kids over a century or so.

But nothing quite as bad as dissing the Qu'ran, or Koran, or however they spell it. The equivalent would be something like insisting that Adam and Eve only had one kid, from which sprang the current seven billion earthlings. Or maybe to say that it would be impossible to get all the earth's species on Noah's Ark, even without ballast tanks.

Granted, Kevin Annett wasn't dragged and lit up like a Christmas tree, but there are worse things. Such as being defrocked, ejected like a frisbie from your livelihood, deprived of your family, the roof over your head, the ability to get a job flipping hamburgers, your friends, family and the kindly sympathy of the Canadian media, Parliament, The Crown and all the ships at sea. This minister was not for burning, as they say, but maybe 20 years of minimalization, of becoming a non-citizen, is worse.

My final conclusion is that all religions are created equal, but some are more equal than others. You be the judge.

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Bill Annett grew up a writing brat; his father, Ross Annett, at a time when Scott Fitzgerald and P.G. Wodehouse were regular contributors, wrote the longest series of short stories in the Saturday Evening Post's history, with the sole exception of the unsinkable Tugboat Annie.

At 18, Bill's first short story was included in the anthology “Canadian Short Stories.” Alarmed, his father enrolled Bill in law school in Manitoba to ensure his going straight. For a time, it worked, although Bill did an arabesque into an English major, followed, logically, by corporation finance, investment banking and business administration at NYU and the Wharton School. He added G.I. education in the Army's CID at Fort Dix, New Jersey during the Korean altercation.

He also contributed to The American Banker and Venture in New York, INC. in Boston, the International Mining Journal in London, Hong Kong Business, Financial Times and Financial Post in Toronto.

Bill has written six books, including a page-turner on mutual funds, a send-up on the securities industry, three corporate histories and a novel, the latter no doubt inspired by his current occupation in Daytona Beach as a law-abiding beach comber.

You can write to Bill Annett at this address: bilko23@gmail.com

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