TIME faith

No, Bill Maher, the West Doesn’t Have a Monopoly on ‘Liberal Principles’

Rabia Chaudry is a National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation.

The television host and pundit's arguments about Islam are not only inaccurate--they're dangerous too

Bill Maher is upping the ante in his campaign against Islam. In a steady escalation over the past year, he has shown a real commitment to his belief that Islam is an inherently evil and anti-liberal faith that animates much of the violence and oppression across the Muslim majority world. He’ll find, eventually, that he is fighting a losing battle – but it won’t be a battle without Muslim casualties both in the U.S. and abroad.

Last Friday, Maher dedicated a good portion of his show Real Time With Bill Maher to maligning Islam, backed up by notorious anti-theist Sam Harris. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pushed back, offering some nuance to their wholesale condemnation of the fastest growing religion in the world, and actor Ben Affleck responded with clear disgust, calling their arguments “racist.”

Putting aside the unavoidable optics and dynamics of a conversation about Islam that excluded Muslims (oh, and women too), it’s vital to point out what Maher seems to be missing: the absolute inefficacy of an argument that he could win only if 1.6 billion people suddenly decided to abandon the religion. Between you and me, Bill, that’s not going to happen. But here is what is happening:

This is a partial view of the landscape of what Muslims are doing without abandoning Islam, and instead being compelled by faith to work for justice across a spectrum of issues.

Under Maher’s construct, Islam itself is the culprit. It’s not an issue of terrible Muslims, it’s an issue of a terrible system, or as he put it “the motherload of bad ideas.” As if racial equality, women’s rights, social justice, charity, minority protections, and the avoidance of conflict were ideas generated in the liberalized West that Islam missed completely 1,400 years ago. To those of us who are countering social and political ills using Islam as our authority and foundation, Maher’s understanding of Islam is not just profoundly myopic, it is dangerous and hurts our work.

Thanks to the extreme rhetoric around the dangers of ISIS to the homeland, Muslims in the U.S. are already facing increased threats. A number of prominent American Muslims leaders I personally know have recently been advised by the FBI to keep a firearm and take the death threats seriously. We are having internal conversations on how to keep mosques and Islamic schools safe, training our communities on active shooter scenarios, keeping our homes and families safe. When the fear-mongering against Muslims on the political right starts being echoed in the political left, you can be assured a serious attack or attacks in this country against Muslims will happen. It’s no longer a matter of if, but when.

Likewise, as Maher and others step up attacks on Islam, it feeds directly into the narratives used by terrorists and extremists abroad to justify attacks on any Muslim person or institution seen as a Western apologist. Those of us who firmly believe that “liberal” Western values are part and parcel of Islam are viewed as apostates by extremists, and Maher is evidence that Islam is indeed under attack by the West.

I want to believe that Maher speaks from a real concern for humanistic values, and not from a deep-seated personal prejudice. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for not knowing what he doesn’t know about Islam, but I can’t give him a pass for not making a genuine effort to fill in his knowledge gaps. I won’t be surprised if Maher shows up soon wearing a “I learned everything I need to know about Islam on 9/11″ t-shirt.

If not compelled by the inaccuracies of his arguments, Maher should deeply consider their inefficacies. He could be a tremendous asset to Muslims fighting for the same kinds of social justice and reform he desires, if only he didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Rabia Chaudry is a National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation, the President of the Safe Nation Collaborative, and a CVE expert and consultant who focuses on community resilience and law enforcement engagement. She is an attorney with a background in immigration and civil rights law and has been a community and interfaith advocate for many years. She writes and speaks frequently on Islam, Muslims, gender inequities, violent extremism, community advancement, and faith and gender oriented approaches to social justice and conflict.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

The Hajj Airlift You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Hajj
Pilgrims arriving at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Oct. 10, 2013, during the hajj pilgrimage Fayez Nureldine—AFP/Getty Images

After thousands of pilgrims were stranded in Beirut on their way to Mecca, one American diplomat saw an opportunity to lend a helping hand.

The annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca kicks off this week, with some 2 million people expected to join. The religious occasion is considered to be the largest annual mass gathering in the world and is, unsurprisingly, accompanied by a litany of logistical hurdles, ranging from transportation to accommodations.

But it could be worse: in 1952, the problem was particularly acute. As TIME reported then, far more pilgrims were headed for Saudi Arabia, where Mecca is located, than had been expected, in part because Saudi Arabia had waived an entrance fee for pilgrims that year. As a result, flights from Beirut–a common layover–were overbooked, and thousands of people found themselves stranded in Beirut on their way to Mecca.

One American diplomat in Lebanon, Harold Minor, saw an opportunity to lend a helping hand and, in so doing, also attempt to mend the U.S.’s then-shaky relations with the Arab world. Here’s TIME’s account of the ensuing “miracle in Washington:”

Minor promptly dashed off a “night action” (most urgent) cable to Washington, pointing out that here was a real chance for the U.S. to make friends in the Arab world. Something of a miracle then happened: the State Department got the point. At Rhein-Main airport in Wiesbaden, Germany, at Wheelus Field in Tripoli, at Orly Field in Paris, U.S. airmen were suddenly alerted for special duty. Three days later, the first of 13 huge U.S. C-54s landed at Beirut’s airport. Next morning Operation Hajj was under way…

Five days later the last of 3,763 stranded pilgrims was loaded aboard the last flight. The airlift had traveled a total of 121,800 miles. Some of the U.S. airmen had spent 27 out of 40 hours in the air, but the trips had been more than worth it. The pilgrims’ airlift had done more good than any other act of the U.S.’s otherwise fumbling and unimaginative action and inaction in the Middle East. It was the one success U.S. diplomacy could claim in a week of continued crises.

The operation was reportedly a huge success and drew praise from Arab leaders and TIME readers alike. Wrote one reader, Nashville resident Robert Alvarez:

What a thrill—to read of our big, bumbling State Department actually showing a little imagination. This is the kind of thing they ought to be doing every day in the year—instead of once a decade . . .

Read the 1952 story about Operation Hajj: Airlift for Allah

TIME faith

‘Proof of Heaven’ Author: Science Is Being Forced To Take the Afterlife Seriously

Map of Heaven
Map of Heaven

Dr. Alexander is a neurosurgeon, and the author of the bestselling Proof of Heaven and the forthcoming The Map of Heaven.

People who have undergone near death are increasingly being allowed to describe the experiences they've undergone.

Ever since Proof of Heaven, the narrative of a life-changing seven-day coma I underwent in 2008, was published two years ago, I have had a front-row seat (and often a seat on the stage itself) at the battle between those who believe in heaven, in a spiritual realm beyond this one, and those who, just as fiercely and adamantly, don’t believe.

This debate is most often couched as one between “religion” and “science,” but these terms really do it a profound disservice. For at its best, this debate is a battle of genuine ideas – a battle between people with passionate but different views, arguing about the greatest and deepest issues anyone could ask for. What is matter? What is consciousness? Are human “realities” like love, meaning, and beauty in fact realities, or are they just fantasies, destined to vanish, as our physical selves are?

This is a battle that has gone on for hundreds – indeed, thousands – of years, and it has had brilliant, profoundly worthy advocates on both sides. The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (99-55 BCE), an early proponent of atomism, the view that the world is made up of countless tiny, unbreakable objects that endlessly come together and fall apart, found the notion that a person should survive the dissolution of the physical body ridiculous. Meanwhile his near contemporary Philo of Alexandria (c. 25 BCE – c. 50 BCE) believed that at death the soul could reach “a higher existence, immortal and uncreated.” Worthy advocates of each side of the argument can be found in every age. If, as the nineteenth-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky suggested, the question of whether we survive death is the question, the single most important one there is, there have been no shortage of great minds that have responded to the challenge of answering it.

These days, however, this battle is increasingly becoming one not of ideas but ideologies: of people who “know” they are right, and are determined simply to out-argue, or to out-shout, their opponents.

This battle doesn’t just take place on televised debates or books or articles in magazines, however. It is happening, right now, inside each one of us.

It is at work in the mind of that widow we’ve all recognized in the nursing home. On good days, this woman knows her husband surely does still exist, even if she can no longer see or touch him physically. She knows that the man she loved so much for all those many years could not have simply vanished when his body died. In certain passing but powerful moments, she not just knows but feels his reality: both out there in a world beyond the physical, but also deep within herself as well.

But on other days – days like the particular gloomy, rainy afternoon we’re imagining – she doubts. For though she knows that the “religion” side of the debate says her husband truly does still live, she also knows what the “science” side has to say on the matter. Yes, she loved her husband. But love is an emotion, a subjective experience generated by the electrochemical processes within our brains, and the hormones and other chemicals that our brains trigger the release of within our bodies, dictating our moods, telling us whether to be happy or sad, joyous or desolate. Love is unreal, just as is that other ancient and woefully misled fabrication, the soul. The molecules of steel and chrome and aluminum and plastic in the chair she sits in; the carbon atoms that make up the paper of the photo she holds in her hand; the glass and wood of the frame that protects it. And, of course, the diamond on her engagement ring and the gold of which both it and her wedding ring are made: those are real. They’re real because they’re made of matter. But what they signify — the perfect, whole, and everlasting bond of love between two immortal souls – is a fantasy. It’s simply not science.

The wonderful discoveries of science have wrought staggering and irrevocable changes upon our world, and on our understanding of that world, in the last three hundred years, and there is no reason to suspect that these discoveries are about to slow down. That’s why it’s so important to understand that beneath the “religion vs. science” debates that lead nowhere, there is another, deeper, and fantastically fruitful discussion going on. In this discussion, a new group of participants — people who have undergone near death experiences, out-of-body experiences, and other experiences suggestive of the survival of consciousness – are increasingly being allowed to describe the experiences they’ve undergone. And a small but select group of scientists have decided to take them seriously: to ponder, with the combination of fierce intellectual rigor and vigorous, empirical open-mindedness that all good science demands, what they might mean. In this debate, we are allowed to stay open – as all true science must – to what kind of universe we really live in. When a person who has been clinically dead returns to life and describes traveling to other, larger worlds, we need to listen to what this person says and ask not whether what they say sounds silly to us (truly new discoveries just about always do), but whether there might just be some truth to it. We must overcome our innate tendency to deny and disbelieve, just as people in Europe had to in the great age of exploration, when travelers returned with tales of lands and peoples and ways of life entirely beyond the ken of those who had sent those explorers out to begin with.

We are right now in the process of entering a new age of exploration: one in which we will suffer shocks of disorientation every bit as great as those we suffered when the earth turned out not to be flat, when the sun turned out not to revolve around the earth, and when the mists of the Milky Way revealed themselves to be composed of billions of stars – suns like ours, some vastly larger and more powerful — and that beyond our own galaxy lay other galaxies (more than the number of people alive on earth today!), each of them holding billions of suns of their own.

These new discoveries will be shocking, but they will also be profoundly comforting and healing. I know, because I have been to the edge of these new worlds, and returned. As a result, I know that love, beauty, and goodness are real, and that the soul is real as well. They are part of the actual geography of the cosmos within which we live and move. They are as real as rain, as real as the stick of butter on your dinner table, as real as wood, or stone, or plutonium, or the rings of Saturn, or sodium nitrate.

Nor are these worlds general, vague, or abstract. They are deeply, piercingly alive and intimate, and about as “theoretical” as a bucket of fried chicken, the glint off the hood of your friend’s new Trans-Am, or your first crush.

That’s why the descriptions of these worlds brought back by those who have seen them sound so crazy, so completely and thoroughly unacceptable to those still living in the old world. There are trees and flowers in these worlds. There are fields, and there are animals. There is water too – water in abundance. It flows in rivers and descends as rain. Mists rise from the pulsing surfaces of these waters, and fish glide beneath them. Not abstract, mathematical fish. Real ones. Every bit as real as any fish you’ve seen, and way, way more so. The objects one encounters in these worlds are similar to earthly objects, yet they’re not earthly objects. They are, to state it in a manner that falls profoundly short of the real experience but is accurate all the same, more than simply earthly. They are closer to the source, the true center of our spiritual/material cosmos. Closer, like the water higher up on a meandering river is closer to the springs from which it emerges.

The reality that binds all of these worlds together, is that most real, most un-abstract, most central thing there is: Love. Nothing is isolated in these worlds beyond our own. Nothing is alienated. Nothing is abandoned, and no one is allowed to despair. Everything is, as Martin Buber put it, a “you,” rather than an “it.” I know this sounds very hard to swallow. Again, newly discovered aspects of reality always are. “The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose,” remarked the celebrated twentieth-century geneticist and evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane, “but queerer than we can suppose.” When the reality of these worlds beyond is full established, when people come to understand beyond all argument that they are a genuine fact, everything in our own world will change. There will still be pollution. There will still be overpopulation. There will still be evil and dishonesty and selfishness and all the terrible things that flow from them. The world will, in short, remain what it is, and all the problems we face today will still be there.

But those problems will appear in a dramatically different light. And when, on a rainy afternoon a widow sits by a window in a nursing home gazing at the image of her departed husband, there will not be that terrible, hopeless fight within her between the voice that says “he still lives,” and the one that says “he is gone forever.” She will know, with a certainty that leaves all the shallow and vitriolic arguments of our current moment behind, that the true person, the spiritual being whose eyes she gazed into on that long-ago day, lives on.

“The existing scientific concepts,” wrote German physicist Werner Heisenberg, “cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word ‘understanding’.”

That’s exactly where we are right now. We are about to take another jump in our understanding of just how vast and profoundly strange a place the universe really is. But rather than making us feel small and insignificant in the face of this vastness and strangeness, this jump in understanding will make us feel hugely empowered and joyful. We will grasp that we are not accidental and insignificant blips in the universe, but the very heart and reason for its existence. All the arguing between “spiritual” people and “scientific” people will stop, and we will join together in mapping and understanding the true universe in ways not even dreamt of now.

It’s about time!

 

Dr. Eben Alexander, a renowned academic neurosurgeon, wrote the bestselling Proof of Heaven (2012) after a transcendental Near-Death Experience (NDE), in which he was driven to the brink of death and spent a week deep in coma from an inexplicable brain infection. His follow-up, The Map of Heaven, publishes next week.

Adapted from The Map of Heaven, by Eben Alexander M.D. with Ptolemy Tompkins. Copyright © 2014 by Eben Alexander LLC. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

ISIS is the Antithesis of Hajj, the Holy Pilgrimage

Crowd at Kaaba ahead of upcoming Eid al-Adha
Muslim pilgrims from all around the world circle counterclockwise Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, ahead of upcoming Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) at Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque) in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia on September 30, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

This year, hajj will take place against the ugly backdrop of a group that has come to represent the antithesis of what the pilgrimage signifies

PatheosLogo_Blue

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Every year during the time of hajj a feeling of nostalgia overcomes me as the media begins covering one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings. Although I performed hajj almost nine years ago, the experience feels like yesterday. It was the journey of a lifetime.

But this year, hajj will take place against the ugly backdrop of a group that has come to represent the antithesis of what the pilgrimage signifies: Unity through diversity, brotherhood and equality, and the sanctity of religion, its symbols and holy places.

As ISIS sends another two hundred thousand Muslim Kurds fleeing into Turkey after terrorizing Christian, Yazidi, and other populations for months, millions of pilgrims in Islam’s two holiest cities are gathered to peacefully commemorate Abraham, the father, not only of Islam, but of Judaism and Christianity.

The entirety of the hajj takes place in and around Mecca and commemorates the life and struggles of Abraham, who is revered as an important prophet in Islam. Many of the themes and rituals of hajj focus on Abraham’s devotion and submission to God and the sacrifices that he and his family made. They include walking in the footsteps of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, whom all Muslims emulate when they perform the required ritual known as Sa’i. During the ritual pilgrims run or walk swiftly in Hagar’s footsteps to commemorate her desperate search for water for her young son — water which eventually gushed up at his feet in what would become known as the well of Zamzam.

Another major theme of hajj is the interconnectedness of humankind, which is demonstrated by the simple white pieces of cloth which all male pilgrims wear during the duration of the hajj, no matter from where in the world they come.

One of the first things that struck me when I landed at the airport in Jeddah was the variety of airlines, each carrying pilgrims who had come for one singular purpose – to perform the fifth pillar of Islam which is required of all adult Muslims at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to make the journey. While I was unable to communicate in words with most of the pilgrims who hailed from every part of the world, there was little need for words. We all performed the same rituals, speaking an unspoken language of common purpose and objective.

Central for the diverse group of 2-3 million people gathered for communal worship, is the Kaaba, the cubical structure believed to have been built by Abraham and Ishmael as the first house of worship. One of the highlights of my trip, as it is for most pilgrims, was setting eyes on the Kaaba for the first time as it stood in its simple splendor in the center of a sea of humans circling around it.

At the end of the week 1.5 billion Muslims will celebrate Eid ul-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice, which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, a story also recounted in the Hebrew Bible. Muslims across the world mark the holiday by sacrificing a lamb and sharing its meat with those in need. This year, Muslim charities offer dozens of choices for people who want to sponsor a sheep in countries where poverty and war have made meat a rare and expensive luxury. This act of sharing with those in need is at the heart of two other major Islamic pillars, zakat, or poor-due, and fasting in Ramadan.

All of these acts of worship have the dual goals of bringing adherents closer to God and encouraging good character, including the good treatment of other people. Ihsan, or moral excellence, is said to be the highest level of Islam.

Especially at this holy time, the stark contrast between the lofty goals of the religion and the actions of groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and others who make a mockery of Islam with their brutal and merciless behavior is a painful reminder that religion is not about terminology or slogans. Rather, true religion is explained in a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, “I was only sent to perfect good character.”

Ameena Jandali is the Content Director for ING. Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a non-profit organization that counters prejudice and discrimination against American Muslims by teaching about their traditions and contributions in the context of America’s history and cultural diversity, while building relations between American Muslims and other groups.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME NFL

NFL Under Fire for Penalizing Muslim Player After End Zone Prayer

He was handed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct

The NFL sparked yet more outrage Monday after appearing to penalize Kansas City Chiefs player Husain Abdullah, a devout Muslim, for kneeling on the ground in the end zone to praise God after scoring the second touchdown of his career.

This post-TD reaction was deemed unsportsmanlike conduct for excessive celebration and resulted in a 15-yard penalty:

The reaction from Abdullah’s brother and agent indicated this was indeed a moment of prayer:

Which, according to former VP of Officiating at the NFL Mike Pereira in a 2013 tweet, is not the intent of the rule against going to the ground:

In a 2009 interview, Pereira said that he didn’t want to penalize prayer for fear of getting “struck by lightning.”

Fans took to Twitter to denounce the call, which has incited the creation of various memes showing what prayer is deemed acceptable and what is penalized:

But Abdullah himself said it was likely his slide across the end zone that had provoked the penalty call, and not his impromptu prayer. “I got a little too excited,” he told local media. “The slide before it, I’m pretty sure that did it.”

The Chiefs ended up beating the Patriots 41-14.

MONEY Financial Planning

Why Financial Planning Needs More Religion

In God We Trust on a coin
iStock

Acknowledging faith and spirituality helps people better understand their financial goals — and stick to them.

As part of my getting-to-know you interview with new clients, I ask about their faith. Most are caught off guard. “Why do YOU care?” was one client’s response.

Such a reply comes with good reason; my clients hired me to talk about money, not religion. But there are many advantages to discussing spirituality with clients before we address their finances.

Know Thyself

Spiritual thinkers from Socrates to John Calvin advocated the importance of introspective familiarity in the pursuit of wisdom. Certainly, in the financial realm, the client who understands why he behaves the way he does will be more successful in achieving goals. Asking him to articulate the spiritual beliefs that drive him is a great exercise for him as well, even in cases where those beliefs are simply, “I don’t practice any sort of spirituality.”

If you don’t practice your own spirituality, or you simply don’t want to talk about spirituality with clients, a discussion of values can be an effective start to the relationship. Everyone has values, regardless of their stated faith or religion. Even old Ebenezer Scrooge valued wealth, frugality and financial independence. My clients receive a list of 140 common values from which they select the most important. I then have them narrow the list down to 20, then 10 as they look at themselves in a completely new way.

Integrating Faith into Financial Plans

As many advisers have learned by experience, it is the long term that will make or break a client’s financial goals. When our assets serve a larger purpose, we experience a deep inspiration and motivation over the long haul. By incorporating the big picture into our planning, we have better success with helping clients implement behavior changes. Rather than saying, “You need to spend less next month, and every month thereafter,” we can include a client’s faith to motivate a greater level of intentionality: “I know you want to be able to provide XYZ for ABC. That will be much easier if you spend less in the short term.”

Putting money in its place

Maybe money shouldn’t be the key ingredient in our financial decisions. Where strong values are present, ideally our financial life will reflect them. When your money is in service to your values, it becomes a supporting cast member of a show where your values play the leads.

In a fast-paced, credit-loving society, it is easy to let money guide our decisions. We make risky investments in hopes of large payoffs with money we can’t afford to lose. We take jobs that pay well but require such dedication of time that we begin to lose touch with the people we love. We constantly seek “more” without taking the time to be grateful for what we have.

But when values take the lead in our decision-making, our behavior finally changes for good. Investments no longer cause insomnia, jobs support a worker’s lifestyle, and gratitude becomes a regular part of life. Clients will appreciate an adviser who cares for the whole person and advocates that kind of wellness.

I have one client who took a different view of money; she hated it. Despite tremendous earning potential, she considered wealth the cause of greed in this world. In what she deemed acts of faith, she continually put herself in positions to earn very modest amounts. Is she wrong? That’s not my place to determine, but I do have a responsibility to help her understand her default reactions so she can evaluate whether or not they reflect her core beliefs.

I knew she was a Christian, and her upbringing took place in a notoriously upper class town. I suggested she examine her religious teachings for more detail on the topic of wealth. She eventually decided that her attitudes don’t reflect the actual teachings of her faith. She read of biblical figures who used the power of their wealth to serve God and in so doing, mightily improve the lives of others.

My client’s entire financial plan changed once she acknowledged her attitudes toward money were more reflective of her teenage response to her home town than they were an outcropping of her faith. She has accepted a new mantle; while avoiding monetary entrapments, she wants to make more money so she can use it to improve the lives God brings into her path.

It’s About Our Roots

I liken our spirituality to the root system of a tree: It gathers nutrients and supports the weight of the tree. In nature, what we see above ground only partially represents the root structure we can’t see. Everyone has roots, and ignoring those root systems can lead to ineffective attempts to grow.

As much as we hate this fact, we grow in leaps and bounds when we suffer. For those who dedicate their lives to a higher purpose, even life’s pitfalls present growth opportunities; we learn to grapple gracefully and walk out of those pits with our soul intact. I frequently mention to my clients my own financial struggles due to two chronically ill family members. While I wouldn’t want to relive those life setbacks, their spiritual benefit seriously outpaces the dollar signs. Where the prudent financial plan would create such stability that you never find yourself in a financially precarious position, there still is beauty in those down times, and they serve to forward our purposes for being in this world.

Certainly, knowing your client’s faith is not a shortcut; there are as many varieties of beliefs among denominations as there are types of trees and root structures. But it helps you know the right questions to ask. Perhaps you are wondering why there is a disconnect with a longtime client of yours. When you look at her, could there be something underground that will give you a better understanding of the whole person? How much more effective could you be if you brought your advice under the umbrella of her faith and spirituality?

——-

Candice McGarvey, CFP, is the Chief Story Changer of Her Dollars Financial Coaching. By working with women to increase their financial wellness, she brings clients through financial transitions. Via conversations that feel more like a coffee date than a meeting, her process improves a client’s financial strength and peace.

TIME faith

Rand Paul: America Is in a Full-Blown Spiritual Crisis

Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit on Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington.
Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit on Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

How did we stray so far from the Constitution? And how do we find our way back to the traditions of our founders?

America is not just experiencing growing pains. America is in a full-blown crisis — a spiritual crisis.

Soothing voices seek to reassure us that everything is OK. Everything is just fine. All is well. All is well until… Until one day all is not well. The problem, as Os Guinness puts it, is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor. Our foundation is cracking. It’s not that we’ve chosen the wrong politicians. It’s more fundamental than that.

We have arrived at that crossroads. We have arrived at a day of reckoning. Will we falter? Or will we thrive and rediscover our mojo?

America has much greatness left in her. If we believe in ourselves, if we believe in our founding documents, if we believe in the system that made us the richest, freest, and most humanitarian nation ever. But cracks are evident. The sand is shifting. Our moral compass is wavering.

Guinness makes this point. When he states that: “The only proper restraint to freedom is self-restraint.”

What does that mean? It means that those who love freedom must realize that freedom is not a license to do as you please, freedom can only be realized when citizens know self restraint, or put another way — virtue. This parallels George Washington’s belief that democracy requires a virtuous people. Laws don’t really restrain people. Ninety-eight percent of people follow a virtuous course with or without laws. This is not an argument against laws but an argument that laws alone are not enough to civilize a nation.

What America needs is not just another politician or more promises. What America needs is a revival.

Two hundred years ago Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” The question is now as important as it was then, will you be “sunshine patriots” shrinking and gone when the going gets tough or will you stand, shoulder to shoulder to defend the Republic!

As your representative, I swore an oath to defend the Republic against enemies foreign and domestic. Now that I’ve been to Washington and seen the belly of the beast, I can tell you that I’ve met the enemy and the enemy is too often right here in this town.

In the White House. In Congress. In both parties.

In bipartisan fashion, Congress defies its own rules on publishing bills online in advance of votes.

The President acts as if he were a king. He ignores the Constitution. He arrogantly says, “If Congress will not act, then I must.” These are not the words of a great leader. These words sound more like the exclamations of an autocrat.

In the face of war, the President is just as arrogant. Instead of coming to Congress, he illegally acts on his own.

We are faced with a crisis in the Middle East that does require action. While I am one who is hesitant to involve us in their civil wars, ISIS is now a threat to our consulate in Erbil and possibly to our embassy in Baghdad.

We must act but we should act within the rule of law. The Constitution states that only Congress may declare war, yet this President has, in Libya, and then again this week in Syria, committed our sons and daughters to a war that is not authorized by Congress.

Had I been President, I would have called for a joint session of Congress, laid out the threat, and requested Congressional authority to respond. By failing to follow the Constitution this President missed a chance to unite the nation. He missed a chance to galvanize the country. He missed the chance to become a great American leader.

How did we stray so far from the Constitution? And how do we find our way back to the traditions of our founders?

Don Devine writes of how Freedom and Tradition are intertwined: “Freedom needs tradition for law, order, and inspiration. Tradition needs freedom to escape stagnation, coercion, and decline. The great achievement of the Constitution’s framers was in providing a means for synthesizing freedom and tradition.”

America needs to revive tradition. America needs to revive virtue. America needs to revive the hope that springs eternal from the transcendent teachings of a humble carpenter who died on a cross. Government can supply bread, but it can’t mend a broken spirit.

Mother Teresa was once praised for her social work in India. She replied, “We are not social workers. We do this for Jesus.” No secular government, no social worker can claim the same motivation. No government, no law, can force a people to be virtuous. Our churches, schools and parents must fill that void.

This is not the norm right now. Speaking of a revival, speaking of our values, is sadly considered nonconformity in this day and age.

In other words, we must do something that our world often tells us not to do: Seek God.

Walker Percy laments in “The Moviegoer” that we’ve left no room for the seeker. Maybe, our country’s revival depends on seeking and re-discovering the synthesis of freedom and tradition.

Some seem to believe you must choose either liberty or virtue — that to be virtuous you can’t have too much liberty. That is exactly wrong. Liberty is absolutely essential to virtue. It is our freedom to make individual choices that allows us to be virtuous. Government cannot impose virtue, we must impose it on ourselves.

This does not mean our government should or cannot reflect our values. In fact, it must. The first Amendment is not about keeping religious people out of government, it is about keeping government out of religion. Some seek to separate the issues of our day. Separate our debt, from the issue of life. Separate our charity from our education policy. Separate our values from our government. This does not work.

Obamacare tries to force us to separate our faith from our business. Fortunately, The Supreme Court thought otherwise.

Reagan understood this unity of message when he wrote: “We do not have a separate social agenda, separate economic agenda, and a separate foreign agenda. We have one agenda, just as surely as we seek to put our financial house in order and rebuild our nation’s defenses, so too, we seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of schoolchildren by utopian planners and permit the acknowledgement of a Supreme Being in our classrooms.”

As Christians, we should always stand with the most defenseless. I believe that no civilization can long endure that does not respect life from those not yet born to life’s last breath.

The debate isn’t really about whether government has a role in protecting life. The debate really hinges on when life begins. I’ve held one and a half pound babies in my hand. I’ve seen them sucking their thumb on ultrasound and I’ve seen surgeons operate on babies still in the womb. So don’t tell me that five and six pound babies have no rights simply because they are not yet born. I am one who will march for Life and will continue to stand up in defense of life as long as I am privileged to be in office.

Another way we as Christians should stand up to the current status quo is in foreign policy. Reagan in his first speech to the UN said: “The record of history is clear: citizens of the US resort to force reluctantly and only when they must.” Reagan believed in strength, but also peace. He said: “As for the enemies of freedom, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people.”

Our foreign policy, though, has too often accepted war instead of peace, and intervention instead of strength, leading to a host of unintended consequences. Toppling secular dictators in the Middle East led time and time again to chaos and ultimately that chaos enabled and abetted the rise of Radical Islam. As secular dictators fell in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and now Syria, radical jihadists exploited the vacuum and Christians have been forced to flee. Where will the Syrian Christians go when the civil war breaks down their door?

Across the Middle East, the story is the same. Christians are either persecuted or on the run. In Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim is on the run. She is a Christian. For her beliefs she was sentenced to death by the Muslim courts of Sudan. Meriam was raised by a Christian mother and married a Christian man. At the time of her arrest, she had a young son and was pregnant. Because Meriam’s father was Muslim, Islamic law considers Meriam and her son to be Muslim. So when she was arrested, Meriam and her young son were taken and kept in prison. Meriam was forced to give birth in prison, shackled to the floor. When Meriam’s Muslim brother was asked about her sentence, he replied: “If she repents and returns to our Islamic faith, then we are her family. But if she refuses she should be executed.”

After her conviction, Meriam was given a chance to recant her Christianity and save her life. She refused, declaring: “I am a Christian and I will remain a Christian.” Luckily, Meriam was granted asylum and in August she was allowed to come to the United States. But there are more like her.

Across the globe, Christians are under attack as if we lived in the Middle Ages or as if we lived under early pagan Roman rule.

In Libya, once the secular dictator Muammar Gadaffi fell, radical jihadists raided Christian churches rounding up over a hundred Christians accusing them of being missionaries because they possessed Bibles and crosses. Many were tortured and one Christian died while being tortured.

In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian, sits on death row for blasphemy. She says it all began when she drew water from a Muslim villager’s well. As she was filling her bowl of water, a crowd formed chanting, “Death! Death to the Christian!” She pleaded for her life. She was pelted with stones, punched in the face and drug through the streets. The local Imam finally intervened only to say, “If you don’t want to die, you must convert to Islam.” The crowd descended on her again beating her with sticks. Finally, the police stopped the attackers only to arrest her. For several years now, Asia Bibi has been on death row for the alleged crime of blasphemy.

Until Asia Bibi is freed, Pakistan should not receive a penny of U.S. aid! Not one penny should go to any nation that persecutes or kills Christians!

You would think your representatives would get that message but they don’t. This summer I introduced legislation to stop foreign aid to any country that gives the death penalty or life in prison to Christians for religious choices. Both Republicans and Democrats voted overwhelmingly to continue funding countries who persecute Christians. The committee voted 16-2 to continue aid to countries persecuting Christians.

Our foreign policy must also let us Stand with Israel. That’s why this year, I introduced a bill to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas until they laid down their arms, stopped firing their rockets, and publicly recognized Israel’s right to exist. The irony is impossible to escape: Our taxpayer dollars may well end up funding Hamas, allowing them to buy more missiles to attack Israel with. My bill was opposed by Republican and Democrat leaders.

Instead, this past week Congress voted to arm Islamic rebels in Syria. One group of these so-called moderate rebels has stated publicly that when they’re done in Syria, next they will head to Israel. I asked on Senate floor last week: “To those of you who wish to arm these Islamic rebels, tell me who among them will recognize Israel’s right to exist?” No one answered because not one of these Islamic rebels will ever think about recognizing Israel.

In country after country, mobs burn the American flag and chant Death to America. Congress responds by sending more of your money to these haters of Christianity. I say not one penny more to any nation that is burning our flag!

It is time to put a stop to this madness, re-examine our foreign policy, halt all aid to Islamic radicals in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, and take a good hard look at what our foreign policy has done. You and I must and should stand with our fellow Christians in the Middle East and around the world — but that does not necessarily mean war and it certainly does not mean arming both sides in every conflict.

As Christians, we understand that the right to life, and freedom of religion, pre-exist all government. These rights are not granted to man by other men, these rights are granted to us by our Creator.

God, help us in these troubling times to make wise decisions, to make moral decisions, and to listen to the voice of God that lives and breathes and resides in us all. Amen.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky. These remarks are as prepared for delivery to the Value Voters Summit today in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Malaysia

Shari‘a Law Is Threatening LGBT Rights Across Muslim-Majority Southeast Asia

Protesters raise placards during a prote
Protesters raise placards during a protest outside a mosque in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur, on Nov. 4, 2011. The demonstration was to urge the government to give recognition to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community AFP/Getty Images

Harsh interpretations of Quranic law are being used to justify violence against transgender people in particular, activists say

Growing religious conservatism is threatening LGTB rights in Muslim-majority nations across Southeast Asia, say activists, with a new report claiming serious abuses against Malaysia’s transgender community.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published I’m Scared to Be a Woman: Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Malaysia. The document makes serious allegations of physical and sexual assault committed against transgender people while in official custody.

Malaysia is a 60% Muslim nation where 13 of 15 states have invoked Shari‘a law to ban transvestism among Muslim men; three states also prohibit women “posing as men.” The statues are loosely defined and leave gaping loopholes for abuse, venality and vindictive prosecution, says HRW.

“Malaysian authorities frequently abuse transgender women at the expense of their dignity and in violation of their basic rights,” Boris Dittrich, LGBT-rights advocacy director at HRW, said in a statement. Malaysia’s Religious Department and other state officials have license to do “whatever they like” with transgender women, he added.

The 73-page report includes testimony from 42 transgender women, three transgender men and 21 other medical professionals, legal representatives, activists and outreach workers.

Victoria, a transwoman from Negeri Sembilan state, told HRW she was “completely humiliated” when Religious Department officials photographed her naked while under arrest in 2011. “They were rough,” she said. “One of them squeezed my breasts. One of them took a police baton and poked at my genitals.”

Gender-reassignment surgery was once available in Malaysia, but rising Islamic conservatism led to a ban issued by the National Fatwa Council in 1982. Thus many transgender people undergo medical transitioning in neighboring Thailand, but this leaves them in legal limbo upon their return.

Such problems are not limited to Malaysia. Brunei recently adopted a Shari‘a penal code, with draconian sanctions such as death by stoning for adulterers and flogging or even death for homosexual acts. The code applies the death penalty to both Muslims and non-Muslims in the case of adultery and sodomy, says the International Council of Jurists, despite official claims that non-Muslims will not be subjected to Shari‘a.

In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, the semiautonomous state of Aceh is also adopting increasingly harsh interpretations of Shari‘a. A draft bylaw announced this week would punish anal sex between men and “the rubbing of body parts between women for stimulation” with 100 lashes. The law would also apply to non-Muslims.

“We have studied the implementation of Shari‘a in countries like Saudi Arabia, Brunei Darussalam and Jordan to draft this law and we are happy with it,” said Ramli Sulaiman, an Aceh lawmaker who led the drafting commission, reports AFP.

Other states in Indonesia only use Shari‘a for civil matters such as divorce and alimony. But since 2006, an increasing number of districts have issued local ordinances based on Shari‘a to govern social conduct. Although many of these are unconstitutional, the central government often fails to decisively strike them down for political reasons, says Freedom House.

According to Faisal Riza, an activist for the Violet Grey LGBT advocacy group, who hails from Aceh but is now based in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, Shari‘a law makes “society feel free to take action or use violence against LGBT people, especially transgender people.”

Discrimination is “getting worse,” he tells TIME, and is exacerbated by “lack of formal education and job access, so some [transgender people] become sex workers.” Possession of condoms is often deemed evidence of prostitution, leaving another window open for abuse and corruption, as well as hampering efforts to tackle the spread of communicable disease, including HIV/AIDS.

In Malaysia, LGBT activists hope an upcoming court case may give them some legal protection. Following the arrest of 16 transgender women at a wedding party in the western coast state of Negeri Sembilan in June, four applicants are claiming that local Shari‘a law is incompatible with national and constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, freedom of movement and equality. The Putrajaya Court of Appeal is slated to rule on the issue on Nov. 7.

“Malaysia urgently needs to scrap laws that discriminate against transgender people, adhere to international rights standards, and put in place comprehensive non-discrimination legislation that protects them,” said HRW’s Dittrich.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Keeps Silent on Syria Strikes

Pope Francis arrives with his popemobile at the Catholic University in Tirana, on September 21, 2014.
Pope Francis arrives with his popemobile at the Catholic University in Tirana, on September 21, 2014. Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images

The pontiff's decision not to comment on latest airstrikes may be as close as he comes to an endorsement — but it has its risks

One voice has so far remained quiet since the United States and five allied Arab nations launched airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) late Monday: That of Pope Francis.

The Holy Father’s silence is a complete contrast to his all-out effort a year ago this month—almost to the week—to prevent U.S. military strikes against the Syrian regime. Then, Pope Francis dominated the news cycle with his message opposing U.S. intervention. He wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 summit that President Barack Obama was attending, urging leaders to oppose military intervention in Syria: “To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” he argued.

The Pope singled out a Syrian refugee family during a private visit to the Astalli refugee center in Rome so he could hear their story. He flooded his Twitter feed with messages like, “War never again! Never again war!” and “How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake” and “With all my strength, I ask each party in the conflict not to close themselves in solely on their own interests. #prayforpeace.”

He declared a day of prayer and fasting for Syria and held a five-hour prayer service in St. Peter’s Square as the U.S. and France contemplated military strikes. “How many conflicts, how many wars have mocked our history?” he asked the tens of thousands of faithful gathered. “Even today we raise our hand against our brother. … We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent letters to all members of Congress urging them to vote against military intervention in Syria. The USCCB also wrote to President Obama to make clear that for the Pope and Middle Eastern Bishops “a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences.”

The Pope’s messaging this past week could not be more different. As the U.S. has considered its next steps in combating the ISIS threat, @Pontifex’s tweets have been about spiritual poverty and God’s love that does not cease. In his visit to Albania, he briefly rebuked (unnamed) religious militants who act in the name of God—“May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity,” he told diplomats at the presidential palace on Sunday—but that’s about it.

Why the change? Certainly the political landscape has shifted over the past year. The ISIS threat has risen to the global scene, and these latest airstrikes are targeting militant groups rather than Assad’s regime. Russia may now seem like less of an obvious partner for peace after its actions in Ukraine. Pope Francis himself has a panoply of issues on his agenda, from migration crises to Vatican financial reform to the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the family. Plus, there is the risk that the appearance of Vatican support for military intervention against ISIS could flame a “Christian v. Muslim” narrative that could further endanger religious minorities in the region.

The Pope is not usually a figure world leaders look to for foreign policy advice when considering military action—his role is more one of a moral symbol, and so his voice is relevant chiefly for its perceived influence in shaping public opinion. The Catholic Church traditionally holds to the theory of just war, historically accepting military intervention as a sometimes necessary step toward peace. But no one expects a symbol of peace to ever be an advocate for war — and so the Pope’s silence may be as close as the Holy See gets to giving an endorsement.

Francis did hint at his approval of the U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq last month, when it began targeting ISIS positions there. So long as the international community was involved, and not just a sole actor, he told a reporter on his return flight from South Korea, “I can say only it’s licit to stop an unjust aggressor.”

He also sent special envoy Cardinal Fernando Filoni to Iraq to visit displaced and threatened minorities—Christian, Yezidi, and other—in August. “The Church as Church is and will always be against war,” Filoni, who was the Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq under Sadaam Hussein, said upon returning. “But these poor people have the right to be defended. They have no weapons, they have been driven out from their homes in a cowardly way, they have not engaged the enemy.”

But silence about human rights more broadly however has its risks, especially in pivotal political moments like we are seeing this week. Veteran Vatican reporter John Allen Jr. put what’s at stake in the Pope’s diplomatic career best. “To date, the only concrete diplomatic success to which Francis can point is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cling to power by opposing Western strikes [last year],” Allen wrote for the Boston Globe’s new Catholic site Crux. “Yet assuming that Assad reasserts control, the question is whether Francis will use the Church’s resources to promote greater respect for human rights and democracy. If not, his major political accomplishment could go down as propping up a thug.”

TIME Religion

The Air Force Scandal Shows Secular Americans Still Need Equal Rights

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Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and internationally best-selling author. Robyn Blumner is the executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Too many religious Americans are convinced they can't trust people who don't subscribe to a faith—it's time for the secular to make themselves known

It took the threat of a lawsuit before the Air Force agreed on Wednesday to allow airmen to omit the phrase “So help me God” as part of a required oath. Until then, they claimed an airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was ineligible to re-enlist after he crossed out the phrase on his re-enlistment form.

This controversy will rile up many people of good will—not against the military, but against the airman. Why make a big deal out of words that the majority of Americans believe in? Just cross your fingers if you must and say the words. Why rock the boat?

Here’s why: the incident betrays a subtext of intolerance and hostility toward secular people that is embedded in American culture and public institutions. The Air Force was ready to end a man’s military career because he would not submit to its religious demands.

To secular Americans, requiring an oath to God is like asking a Jewish airman to swear, “So help me Jesus,” or asking a Christian to say, “So help me Allah.”

The objection to forcing the oath on nonbelievers should be obvious. It’s not.

But a new campaign is hoping to change all that. Openly Secular, launching today, is a new coalition of more than two dozen secular groups—one of the largest of its kind—coming together with the goal of raising awareness of the numbers of nonreligious people in the country. We include not only atheists and agnostics, but our allied organizations include religious people of many denominations who cherish the Founding Fathers’ ideal of church-state separation.

Secular Americans make up a huge and growing stratum of society. Atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and the nonreligious make up 20% of Americans overall and fully a third of millennials under 30 years old. But until secular people come forward and introduce themselves, the misconceptions marginalizing them will persist.

The polls are pretty startling. A Pew poll this year found that nearly half of Americans say it’s necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. Another recent poll found Americans would rather vote for an adulterous or pot-smoking candidate for President than one who is an atheist.

Many religious Americans would be startled to discover how many nonbelievers they already know and like. Too many religious Americans are convinced they can’t trust people who don’t subscribe to a faith. The truth is, they are constantly trusting nonbelievers; they just don’t realize it.

Secular people are not just academics and scientists—although most academics and 93% of members of the National Academy of Sciences are nonbelievers. Secular people are in police departments protecting streets from crime. They are taxi drivers, waiters, shopkeepers. They are doctors and nurses treating the sick. And they are serving in the military, putting their lives on the line to protect the country.

Watch the videos on OpenlySecular.org to see average, hardworking Americans come forward and talk about their lives as nonbelievers.

The Openly Secular coalition hopes to eliminate the social costs of coming forward. It is lamentable that people fear they are risking their jobs, businesses and personal relationships, simply through being true to who they are.

One day soon, the stigma and disdain will be so diminished that allowing an airman to re-enlist in the Air Force without swearing to a deity he doesn’t believe in won’t have to become a federal case.

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and internationally best-selling author. He has published eleven books, all still in print, including The Selfish Gene, the blockbuster The God Delusion, and his magnum opus The Ancestor’s Tale. Dawkins is a fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He was the inaugural holder of the Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and is the Prize of Japan.

Robyn Blumner is the executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in Washington, D.C. She was a nationally syndicated columnist and editorial writer at the Tampa Bay Times newspaper (formerly the St. Petersburg Times), where she was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize with colleagues. Blumner was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and of the ACLU of Utah.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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