Monday, January 12, 2009

Sailing Alone Around the World

In 1895, Captain Joshua Slocum left Boston to sail around the world alone. At one point he landed in the Cocos Islands where the majority of the people are Sunni Muslims. He wrote about how ship was stuck in the sand. Apparently a big crab was holding onto the boat. Slocum wrote:

This being so or not, it was decided that the Mohammedan priest, Sama the Emim, for a pot of jam, should ask Mohammed to bless the voyage and make the crab let go the sloop's keel, which it did, if it had hold, and she floated on the very next tide.

At another point he landed on a Catholic island and was the guest of a priest. Slocum wrote:

The good abbe of San Gabriel entertained us all royally at the convent, and we remained his guests until the following day. As I was leaving his place, the abbe said, "Captain, I embrace you, and of whatever religion you may be, my wish is that you succeed in making your voyage, and that our Saviour the Christ be always with you!" To this good man's words I could only say, "My dear abbe, had all religionists been so liberal there would have been less bloodshed in the world."

He did run into some Christian idiots in South Africa who still wanted to argue that the earth was flat:

It sounds odd to hear scholars and statesmen say the world is flat; but it is a fact that three Boers favored by the opinion of President Kruger prepared a work to support that contention. While I was at Durban they came from Pretoria to obtain data from me, and they seemed annoyed when I told them that they could not prove it by my experience. With the advice to call up some ghost of the dark ages for research, I went ashore, and left these three wise men poring over the _Spray's_ track on a chart of the world, which, however, proved nothing to them, for it was on Mercator's projection, and behold, it was "flat." The next morning I met one of the party in a clergyman's garb, carrying a large Bible, not different from the one I had read. He tackled me, saying, "If you respect the Word of God, you must admit that the world is flat." "If the Word of God stands on a flat world--" I began. "What!" cried he, losing himself in a passion, and making as if he would run me through with an assagai. "What!" he shouted in astonishment and rage, while I jumped aside to dodge the imaginary weapon. Had this good but misguided fanatic been armed with a real weapon, the crew of the _Spray_ would have died a martyr there and then.

I find all of this interesting because over 100 years later you still have good religious people and you still have extremists and idiots. And not only are we not any better today, we are actually far worse off as it seems that things are even more stirred up. Many people in the West claim that Islam is evil, while ignoring its best traditions, while many also actively support the worst elements of Christianity and Judaism.

Certainly, one cannot look at the Sufis in Islam and say that somehow they are evil. The Neturei Karta movement in Judaism is opposed to the use of human force to establish a Jewish State and believes in fair treatment for all people. I mention these groups, because it seems that with all of the fanatics out there people might get the impression that religion itself is evil. Like anything it can be abused. But it is not as though atheists, such as Stalin or Mao, have done anything for humanity. Any philosophy, whether religious or anti-religious, can be used for evil ends.

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