The good sheikh didn’t go far enough. He should have recommended the destruction of all religious buildings, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and anything erected to hold religious services.
They are a complete waste of money and manpower to build, of electricity, water and the rest to keep them open.
Why stop with the Arabian Peninsula? Raze them all, everywhere. Who needs the huge churches in Europe, which dominate towns -- like Notre Dame Cathedral (left) in Paris -- and may have taken centuries to build? They might be architectural masterpieces, but as religious structures, they are usually cold, drafty and very uninviting.
People may like the places – in fact, they are often beloved – but what’s their purpose? To house God? That was the intent of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. He must not have been very fond of it. The Temple was destroyed twice and remains a distant memory.
Besides, religious buildings are not necessary for prayer. No religion teaches that. God, in all monotheistic faiths, is everywhere. Like Santa, He knows “when you are sleeping and when you are awake.” Location doesn’t matter: The revival tent, the quiet corner of a gymnasium, the back room of a house. You can pray anywhere. In fact, that kind of behavior is encouraged.
The loss of churches might cantilever a few architectural careers, but it would also stop the ridiculous one-upmanship that often accompanies construction. In fact, in both Christianity and Islam, religious structures were required to be the biggest buildings. Many European structures extended underground to evade that stricture.
The services held on the ocean shore, by a lake, in quiet fields and other such bucolic settings would quickly replace the destroyed buildings. It would also solve a Jewish dilemma of finding enough room for all the Jews who suddenly remember their faith during High Holy Days. No more tickets necessary. There’s plenty of room in a field where everyone can commune with nature and “feel” God’s presence in the rippling breezes.
With modern technology, microphones would be no problem. Everyone could be in the same chatroom or on Facebook anyway. The simulated church could replace the real one, with resulting savings on travel expenses, parking and maintenance.
The sheikh’s comments were instantly condemned, of course, by leaders with vested interests in keeping their property. Abdullah T. Antepli (left), a Muslim chaplain at Duke University, harshly criticized Abdullah's statements. In an email, he wrote:
"Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah should be condemned and protested for his very unfortunate and un-Islamic statement about the Christian communities in Arabian Peninsula. This is clearly violation of Islamic Law, Islamic morals and ethics. I highly encourage Christian communities in the area to press charges against him both in Sharia courts and regular courts on the basis of violating the rights of religious minorities. Saudi society deserves a better grand mufti. This is a clear example of how highest religious authorities have become puppets and clowns in the hands of ruling tyrants in the Muslim world."
Forget hiring a lawyer. Actually, everyone should get behind the wrecking ball. Start bringing the churches down as soon as possible. Then, get the other buildings.
Once they are gone, the next logical step is to get rid of organized religion. This was what, I believe, the sheikh had in mind. Of course, being the head of a religion, he couldn’t say that. He could only recommend a step that seems drastic, but would actually lead to complete religious freedom.
That’s the only way there will be peace in the Middle East. In Palestine, Israeli authorities are tearing down mosques being used – they said—as staging areas for terrorists. Synagogues in that country have been attacked; so have mosques.
Nor is it limited to just one country. In this country, religious leaders have used mosques to call for a jihad. Christian ministers have fomented racism and hatred from their pulpits. Get rid of the pulpits by destroying the churches. They can still communicate by e-mail, but everyone can just delete that, too.
That sheikh definitely hit upon the solution to bring peace in the world. What foresight. He deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, if he was really advocating simply an attack on someone else’s religious structures, he could be initiating a universal religious war.
No one would be that stupid.
Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.com. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.