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Sunday, April 29, 2007 - Finding Religion

Christopher Hitchens has a new book - God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.  Jack Miles is distinguished professor of English and religious studies at UC Irvine and the general editor of the forthcoming "The Norton Anthology of World Religions."  In the Sunday, April 29 Los Angeles Times Book Review, he didn't much like the Hitchens book.  That's okay - the Times here just cut its Sunday book review by two-thirds and may dump it altogether.  They're also about to dump seventy more newsroom people - a lot of award-winning journalists will be looking for work.  The newspaper will soon be not much more than a gossip rag with display ads - the widely respected editors left months ago. The shareholders expect profit, and if people want news and book reviews, they can look elsewhere.

You don't have to look elsewhere for excerpts from the Hitchens book. Slate has them.

God Is Not Great (1) - Religion poisons everything.

    There are four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.

God Is Not Great (2) - Was Muhammad epileptic?

    There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all. It initially fulfilled a need among Arabs for a distinctive or special creed, and is forever identified with their language and their impressive later conquests, which, while not as striking as those of the young Alexander of Macedonia, certainly conveyed an idea of being backed by a divine will until they petered out at the fringes of the Balkans and the Mediterranean. But Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require. Thus, far from being "born in the clear light of history," as Ernest Renan so generously phrased it, Islam in its origins is just as shady and approximate as those from which it took its borrowings.

God Is Not Great (3) - What happens when a racket turns into a religion? Mormonism.

    If the followers of the prophet Muhammad hoped to put an end to any future "revelations" after the immaculate conception of the Koran, they reckoned without the founder of what is now one of the world's fastest-growing faiths. And they did not foresee (how could they, mammals as they were?) that the prophet of this ridiculous cult would model himself on theirs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - hereafter known as the Mormons - was founded by a gifted opportunist who, despite couching his text in openly plagiarized Christian terms, announced that "I shall be to this generation a new Muhammad" and adopted as his fighting slogan the words, which he thought he had learned from Islam, "Either the Al-Koran or the sword." He was too ignorant to know that if you use the word al you do not need another definite article, but then he did resemble Muhammad in being able only to make a borrowing out of other people's bibles..

Jesus billboard, La Brea at Rosewood, Los Angeles, Sunday, April 29, 2007
Angel, at a maternity shop, La Brea at Rosewood, Los Angeles, Sunday, April 29, 2007

You can see why Jack Miles was a bit defensive.  So, after the morning coffee and reading through what's left of the local book review, the Sunday photo excursion was looking for religion, or more precisely the residue of religion, and here is what you'll find just south of Hollywood - Le Brea, from Rosewood to Melrose - starting with a mysterious billboard above the Bank of America parking lot at Rosewood. And there's the angel, at a maternity shop, Le Brea.

Figures at the Asian antique shop at Rosewood...

Figure at an Asian antique shop, La Brea at Rosewood, Los Angeles
Figure at an Asian antique shop, La Brea at Rosewood, Los Angeles

Perhaps without religion the world is dark and chaotic -

Poster/Stickers - La Brea at Melrose, Los Angeles
Poster/Stickers - La Brea at Melrose, Los Angeles

The posters, if you look closely, contain promotional material for Zen Sushi -

    2609 Hyperion Ave (Cross Street: Griffith Park Boulevard)
    Los Angeles, CA 90027

    Basic Beats happens every Saturday night when DJs Dr. No and Yuuki spin a deep house blend of dance floor favorites. … Indie music fans and like-minded locals flock here to catch the nightly entertainment that includes everything from rock to spoken word to drag shows.

Zen is a religion, right?

Existential sadness on Melrose…

"Sad" wall graphic, Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

Some might worship pigs, like this one, at the hyper-trendy Camden Lock clothing shop, where you could once buy the ultimate cool from the UK - but they are going under.

Camden Lock clothing, pig graphic, Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
Camden Lock clothing, pig graphic, Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

Some of us just worship the image itself - as at this Color Lab on La Brea, just north of Melrose -

I. Nagle graphic, Color Lab, 835 North La Brea, Los Angeles

On the other hand, this may be the door to Hell.

I. Nagle graphic, Color Lab, 835 North La Brea, Los Angeles

Ah!  Buddha! But what is the mindlessly right-wing radio guy, Dennis Prager, doing in the frame?  Well, he started his radio career out here in August 1982 as the moderator of "Religion on the Line" - Sunday nights on KABC-AM - discussions between representatives of various religions, usually a priest, a Protestant minister, and a rabbi.  It was pretty cool. That lasted ten years - then he discovered the world of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and signed up.  Now he's a big star on national radio, and the nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn now worships George Bush.  Buddha sells furniture. 

Buddha Furniture, Dennis Prager billboard, North La Brea, Los Angeles

Perhaps it is time to sit down and think about all of this.

Bench for sale at an Asian antique shop, La Brea at Rosewood, Los Angeles

If you wish to use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me. And should you choose to download any of these images and use them invoking the 'fair use" provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, please provide credit, and, on the web, a link back this site.

Technical Note:

Most of these photographs were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0.  Earlier photography was done with a Sony Mavica digital still camera (MVC-FD-88) with built-in digital zoom.

[Finding Religion]

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - Alan M. Pavlik