Note: This is a repost of a portion of one of my 2012 posts. I've extracted just this section on Islam, for convenience.
So, maybe it's time for me to go off on Islam. Not that this specific religion deserves special scorn for any reason. It's just time. I'm actually a little bit in awe of it. I'm not all that much of an expert on the history of Islam's religious development, such as, "Who thought this or that up?" although it would be interesting to know because some of this stuff is just damn genius. One of the up sides, for the supporters of Islam, is that with their system, I'll bet only a tiny handful have been raised inside the system and have gone on to awaken and become atheists. Here's why:
I've lived among the real Muslims (as opposed to the recently invented Afro-American Muslims) through work and play. I've lived through an entire Ramadan and I've been allowed to stand quietly among them during prayers. Islam is brilliantly unparalleled by any religion at any time in history by its super-clever and all-pervasive methods of ensuring that their faithful remain faithful and that those "faithful" partake of religion so constantly that there isn't much time to sit around and cogitate on "why the hell did I just do that?"
First, unless one has an agenda (e.g., the Afro-Americans) or unless one is under threat of death, there ain't going to be many willing converts stepping forward to join the Muslim flock. It is just too hard and takes up too much time. Any outsider who has experienced any of the other world religions, which are generally (way) less demanding, isn't going to be easily "awakened" by Islam and go running to its bosom. So, my earlier noted principle of "you're born into it," pretty much says it all. And a LOT of people have been born into it. A lot more will be.
Second, the religion's adherents are probably the least philosophically circumspect and open thinkers on the planet. That means that none of the usual intellectual arguments will work on them, so don't bother. That, and there's the "you renounce Islam and we'll kill you" thingy. That might give one pause. The following are the clever methods by which the people are kept from thinking anything but Islam.
The trappings: People have to carry around their prayer rugs or have them stashed, everywhere they'll be (requires thinking about religion.) They have to plan ahead, where they're going to be throughout the day, so that they can perform their purification (i.e., where can I find a spot to wash my damn feet,) know ahead of time (think about) which direction to face, identify a place (think about) to spread out the prayer rug, etc. Also, an amazing number of them physically carry a copy of the Koran, everywhere -- work, play, no matter. Walking around in public, prayers commence, in public, at the appointed times. Therefore, there have to be provisions for people to wash (purify) in the public sphere. So, even if it ain't prayer time, you'll probably be passing washing stations which are another means of reminding adherents, constantly, of their religion. In short, the trappings keep the faithful thinking about the mechanics of Islam worship even more frequently than one would suppose.
The Shouter: National Geographic films, etc., don't do The Shouter (actually called The Muezzin) any justice because the impact of his "call to prayer" just doesn't come across the tiny, tinny speakers of your TV. This is kind of like hearing an AK47 shot in the movies and firing one in your own two hands. Yowzer! There's no comparison. The Shouter is using a PA system the likes of which you've probably never seen or heard. It is so loud that it is guaranteed you ain't going to sleep through it or miss it over the noise of your job during the day. For non-Muslims, I'm willing to bet we all have the same reaction every time he goes off, calling the faithful to prayer ... and that is, "Fucking Shouter!") But no Muslim can say, "I didn't hear it," which brings me to the next point.
Public Prayer: I haven't known Muslims to quietly do a solitary, quiet little prayer to The Big A, such as, "I promise to be really good if you'll just let me pass this test." Nope. (Although, see The Talk, below.) In the Muslim countries it's ALL your neighbors and ALL your coworkers dropping whatever they were doing and getting together as a group to pray five times a day. If someone doesn't show up, it's pretty obvious to a lot of people. You SHALL show up -- and that leaves very little time in between moments of each reminder of Islam during which a Muslim mind might wander.
This isn't just "if it's convenient." Even offshore, on the oil rigs in the Red Sea, the world stops at prayer time, upon the notice of The Shouter, everyone drops everything (there are emergency or safety exceptions) troops to some pre-ordained space on some deck where they can roll out the AstroTurf "prayer rug" wash their feet in the provided ritual ablution facility and get busy with the prayin'. No kidding.
In addition to this public prayer, the faithful seem to be taught to do little recitations and readings of the Koran during any idle time. (Idle minds might be the devil's playground. Better keep them occupied.)
Peer Pressure: If you don't show up to pray or go to the mosque when you're supposed to, first you'll get the evil eye and questions from your family, friends & neighbors. (This can be defended as being a "good" aspect of Islam. Everybody is "concerned" about everyone else. If Little Hesham doesn't show up for afternoon prayers, he might be sick or in trouble. People will know to go check up on him.) But, that checking up is the real point. You don't pray and you'll be checked up upon, pronto. And it won't be just mommie checking. It always seemed to me that the oldest, nastiest, brutish looking beast-of-a-being was the dude who walked around giving the "official" evil eye to any strays or infidels. Big time "shudder" when they came around. Must be like it was when the Gestapo or the KGB operatives walked into a room -- except, of course, Brutus is a "good" guy.
The Mark: At first I couldn't figure out why so many of the faithful, even top business executives, had these patches of dark marking, about the size of a U.S. quarter, right in the center of their foreheads. Makeup? Hereditary?!? After enough time, you see why. The true faithful touch that spot on their forehead fully down onto their prayer rug, several times per prayer, and the prayers are five times per day, every day, forever. It's a freakin rug burn. Avoidable, but obviously not avoided. I've concluded that it is a mark of the pious, i.e., "See ... I ain't just going through the motions ... I'm actually banging my damn head down on the ground to The Big A!" Brilliant! Here's a religion which has pervaded the culture so totally that the men go to great lengths to bash the shit out of themselves, for god, many times a day.
The Talk: Unlike the Western habit of saying, "Bless you," when somebody sneezes or even Western extremes like the Christian nut-job few who will say, "Go with God," or such when you part their company, etc., in the sphere of Islam I think it is impossible to have a one minute conversation with anybody about anything without some Islamic religious saying being tossed into the transcript. I didn't have a long enough immersion in the culture to know for sure if this is true everywhere; or, if maybe they were piously posturing for the "infidel" but there are more than 30 derivations of common language greetings or wishes which employ the name of Allah and/or Mohammed (none of which are swearing, as a Westerner might say "God damn it" or similar.) For details, see http://arabic.speak7.com/islamic_expressions.htm
Special Times: This ain't just like a few extra trips to church around Easter or Christmas. For instance, Ramadan is an entire freaking month wherein the faithful "fast," every day, from sunrise until after sunset, and cannot eat, drink, smoke, screw or swear -- at all. Lucky-me got to the Red Sea station on the first day of Ramadan (oh, goodie!) . Supposedly, non-Muslims don't have to play by these rules, but, a). see above about Brutus; b). where do you think you're going to get food or drink when all such sources are closed up tight from sunrise to sunset; c). how much shit that you've squirreled off the tables in the mess hall can you carry in your backpack, into the helicopter, out to the platform, before even you're desperate for sundown (and where do you think you can "partake" that is totally out of site of Brutus?) Thus, for an entire month, everybody is up to their who-ha's in religion as they're getting ready, eating like maniacs before The Shouter lets them know, officially, the sun is up, DIEING of thirst and stomach growling all day after about 10am, praying five times (nope, ya don't get to quit doing that) and then sitting around the table, in front of gobs of food and pitchers of drink "praying" for the fucking sun to set (again, announced by The Shouter.)
On top of the actual time of Ramadan, when there are long-into-the-night celebrations (resplendent with food and drink), at the official end of Ramadan there is a huge celebration to end the fast. This party is such a big deal that it requires a lot of planning -- more time to think about things to do with Islam.
There are a whole pot full of other special days and events in Islam, beyond Ramadan, which all work to keep the faith in front of the faithful. If interested, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_holidays
Now, looking back at all of the above, isn't this a brilliantly planned out religious system? There ain't no stopping these guys. They have it all together. My only regret is that I never figured out how to make big money off of their crazy system. Oh well.
That's it for today, friends. Please save your IED's and fatwas for somebody who is really worth it. I'm just one crazy old loon living and loving real paradise.