Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Bin Laden’s Burial and Other Religious Frauds

Bin Laden’s Burial and Other Religious Frauds

By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach


The bizarre burial of Osama bin Laden at sea – an action necessitated by our government’s need to accommodate Islamic law requiring that a Muslim be buried within 24 hours of death – raises urgent questions about the definition of faith in America. Can a mass murderer be said to be religious? Can there be religious ritual without religious values? And should Western governments participate in this definition of religion as something that is preached as opposed to practiced?


For years US government officials as well American Muslim leaders have been saying that Osama bin Laden is not a Muslim but a charlatan, a man who ostensibly lived in accordance with Islamic ritual but whose actions violated the Islamic prohibition against killing civilian non-combatants. At his death the Islam Society of North America released a statement noting, “The ideology of bin Laden is incompatible with Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.” A spokesperson for the Muslim Public Affairs Council echoed the sentiment. “He basically hijacked Islam and became a disgrace to Muslims.” Why then if bin Laden did not live as a Muslim did it our government rush to bury him as one?


This unfortunate endorsement by the United States of faith as a collection of spiritual ritual unattached to basic laws of morality feeds a growing perception of faith-based hypocrisy that is alienating large numbers from religious tradition.


Religious truth is notoriously difficult to gauge given the competing claims of the world’s great faiths. For Jews the deification of any man is an act of sacrilege yet the divinity of Jesus is central to Christian belief. Likewise, Christianity affirms that Christ is the sole path to salvation. Yet Islam insists that Muhammad was a prophet who lived after Jesus and paved a new and exclusive road to heaven. Religious truth, therefore, is established by a different criteria entirely, namely, its ability to shape and mold righteous character in its adherents.



As a Jew I do not believe that Joseph Smith discovered golden plates written in Reformed Egyptian in 1823 which he translated with seer stones. But having had extensive exposure to the strong families and charitable communities that the Mormon Church has built worldwide, I do believe that in Western New York where he claimed to have found the plates Smith encountered universal religious truths that were incorporated into Mormonism and which account for the high ethical standards of his followers. Conversely, when a religious figure devotes his life not to compassionate acts but to a blood-filled apocalypse it is either him or his religion which is fraudulent.


Bin Laden never walked in the footsteps of Muhammad but worshipped a god of his own making. While the Koran expressly prohibits the taking of an innocent life in the strongest terms – “We ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone slew a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole of mankind” (Sura 5:32) – bin Laden told Al Jazeera in 2001 that those who say “killing a child is not valid” in Islam “speak without any knowledge of Islamic law” because murdering a child may be done in vengeance. Bin Laden subscribed not to Islam but toOsamaism, a satanic faith of his own making where he devised the rules.



Indeed, Bin Laden and others who preach murder in the name of G-d are in no way analogous to the Pastor or Rabbi caught cheating with a congregant or the Priest found to be molesting a child, and not just because the taking of a life is more a more serious sin. For while the latter involves acts of religious inconsistency, however heinous, the former constitutes outright religious hypocrisy.

The difference is not merely semantic but cuts to the core of human nature. Few pastors believe that adultery is not a sin and few priests would argue that child molestation is a virtue. So why do so many religious people disgrace themselves by acting in contravention to basic morality? Because humans are fallible and selfish, weak and inconsistent, which is not to excuse their actions so much as to explain their failings. They mean what they preach but tragically cannot always live up to their own moral preaching.


The hypocrite, however, is he who professes a piety that he himself never believes in merely for public consumption. I was not surprised that the video trove captured by our Navy SEALs displayed bin Laden as a vain and shallow man obsessed with his celebrity and tinkering with his physical appearance. It confirmed the hypocrisy of a man who inveighed against Western corruption while enthusiastically embracing its emphasis on image to the exclusion of spiritual substance.

The same hypocrisy can be found in home-grown religious hate groups like Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church who, with their loathsome slogan ‘G-d Hates Fags’, protests the military funerals of fallen soldiers claiming that their death is the revenge of a G-d angered by America’s tolerance for homosexuality. Here is an ostensibly Christian Church whose very foundation – whatever it thinks of homosexuality – is in direct contravention of the Bible’s core teachings of reward and punishment: “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” (Ezekiel 18:20)


But notwithstanding the larger point of the difference between inconsistency and hypocrisy, the growing chasm between faith-based teachings, on the one hand, and the actions of the faithful on the other, is the greatest cancer afflicting modern religion and accounts for the popularity of the new high priests of atheism like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They exploit the duplicity of religious ritual unaccompanied by religious values and use it to make a wider point, that religion is itself a control-motivated fraud and faith a money-making scam.


It was not Martin Luther who in 1517 was responsible for the Reformation but rather the crooked indulgences of a then-corrupt Church that had become religious without being spiritual, more interested in the soaring spires of St. Peter’s Cathedral than the moral elevation of its priests.



America is rapidly becoming a debtor nation of insatiable consumers whose unhealthy dependency on material objects for happiness three years ago collapsed down a $10 trillion economy. We are purveyors of an increasingly decadent culture whose exploitation of a fame-obsessed obsessed citizenry on television now passes for ‘reality’ and whose institutions of higher learning are often better known for drinking than for learning. We are in desperate need of the inspiration and moral realignment that only religion can impart. But it will not happen so long as we falsely define religion as a collection of empty ritual unaccompanied by moral behavior and values.


Shmuley Boteach, ‘America’s Rabbi,’ is the international best-selling author of 26 books including his most recent work, ‘Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.’ Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


Comments read comments(19)
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posted May 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm

“We are in desperate need of the inspiration and moral realignment that only religion can impart.”

No, religion is not by any means the only thing that can get us back on track. Concern for our fellow humans would be a good start and religion can be good or bad for that.

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ilya shapiro, CATO

posted May 23, 2011 at 11:10 am

.. “that religion is itself a control-motivated fraud and faith a money-making scam.”

A fine description of Chabad/Lubavitch and their sheygetz leader, Menachem Schneerson!

Read more:

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mary beth brown

posted May 23, 2011 at 11:12 am

“we falsely define religion as a collection of empty ritual unaccompanied by moral behavior and values.”

wasn’t that Jesus’ critique of the Jews/Pharisees?

Rabbi Shmuely is a closet Jesus-freak!

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posted May 26, 2011 at 10:26 am

dead is dead who carea what they did with the body?

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posted May 26, 2011 at 10:31 am

dead is dead who cares what they did with the body?

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nene caraballo

posted May 31, 2011 at 11:05 am


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Pastor Goodman

posted May 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm

A applaud the way bin Laden’s burial was handled. I believe it was a gesture of cultural sensitivity and was an act of “taking the high road.” Even though he committed evil acts, his body was treated humanely in a way that would not further inflame a sensitive situation. Folks, Islam is here to stay. How do we learn to live together, even though some of them want to kill those they feel have offended them? Clearly, we must be ready to act with even higher ideals and greater sensitivity than we perceive in those toward whom we are acting. This is Grace. It is modelled on the Grace that we receive from God. If it is what we hope to receive, than it is what we must model for others.

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Pastor Goodman

posted May 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm

The above should read, “I applaud,” not “A applaud.” Apologies.

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Nancy Jones

posted June 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Criminals are given burials in this country even if they have committed heinous crimes. I view bin Laden as a mass murderer. Were it up to me, I would have brought his body back to America, buried it and created a dog park over it.Since Muslims view dogs as unclean animals bin Laden could have for all eternity been dishonored by the activities of the dogs over his grave. But since anything like that would further inflame the religious fanatics we have to pussyfoot around someone who should be reviled.
I wonder what people would have done had they gained possesion of Hitler’s body. Osama bin Laden is cut from the same cloth. They both wanted to rule the world and used any means they could to reach that goal.

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SB Smith

posted June 4, 2011 at 5:11 am

My first thought when I heard that the ship had dumped bin laden overboard was that perhaps those onboard basically wanted to unload the trash – bin laden. The only way they were going to get away with throwing him overboard like garbage was to cloak it in some sort of excuse for doing so and the Muslim funeral came to someone’s mind.
Perhaps their first intent was to simply unload him like the garbage that he was and had to reluctantly use the funeral as a front.

Great article, by the way !

SB Smith

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A.W. Bowman

posted June 4, 2011 at 11:44 am

I fully agree with the content of this article, Rabbi Boteach has captured the essence of the religious reality in the world today. Of all three major religions today, each is looking for its own ideal messiah to come and correct all of mankind’s ills. While a messiah will most assuredly arrive in due course, the results of looking forward and not at the present is that we have, in great numbers, become a people searching for scapegoats to blame for our collective failures. We seek to hide from our own responsibility in contributing to the decline of the moral (spiritual) foundation of our respective religions, while blaming others for our own lack of spiritual integrity. That is, the collective failure to practice what we preach, to hold ourselves and others accountable for our expressed belief systems, the resulting consequences of our worldview, and the unwillingness to pay the price for taking an unshakable moral position.

The requirement: To define, identify, and expose evil wherever it exists, starting within ourselves, our families, organizations, communities, nations, and the world at large and work to make corrections. Or, we can openly join the ranks of the self deceived; the self justified, and continue down the road to self destruction.

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posted June 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I regret having to inform Jewish readers of this blog of a first-class Jew-hating bigot who has infiltrated the ranks of BELIEFNET as a blogger with his own blog.

His name is Jack Kerwick, and his blog- often referenced at the BELIEFNET Saint of the Day (Catholic) section- is entitled “at the intersection of faith and culture.”

A defender of the imperialist Crusades, Kerwick is a self-righteous neoconservative and Christian supremacist/triumphalist. Not to mention an outspoken apologist for Mel Gibson; indeed, Kerwick has nothing negative to say of the latter’s famed anti-Jewish DUI Malibu meltdown.

In one of his blog threads, Kerwick even insists that the existence of anti-Semitism is Jewry’s own fault, the result of their own anti-Christian bigotry. Talk about blaming the victim!

Kerwick’s role model as blog host seems to be Arab dictators, the Burmese junta: i.e., in the guise of ‘civility’ he cracks down on dissent from his infallible insights by deleting postings which present arguments persuasively disputing his biases.

One such deleted posting is that of “Seymour” (below). The entire context of exchanges is reproduced to provide the complete picture. Read from the bottom up. Then voice your complaint with the powers-at-be at BELIEFNET.

June 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Herr Kerwick:

I recognize Ben’s quote. it is from a Jewish legal source, discussing action to be taken in self-defense against a pogrom or threat of one.

You apparently disagree with the quote- which I must then interpret to mean that, when threatened, you want Jews to proceed like sheep to the slaughter. Alas, as happened, far too often, during the Holocaust.

Two words: NEVER AGAIN!

And since you seem to want to define “Jewish self-defense” as a hate crime; and even insist on defending Gibson’s anti-Semitic attacks(!); then I am certain that the A.D.L. will be happy to raise this issue with your boss(es) at BELIEFNET.

You are threatening “to pursue this matter”, take legal action against Mr. Shapiro? I know any number of – fine, Jewish – lawyers who will eagerly take this case, and PUBLICIZE it extensively. (If you want, you can even call Mel Gibson as a character witness for your side!)

p.s. you can’t “slur” someone by telling the truth about him. Growing up as the son of a Holocaust-denying father, Gibson’s anti-Semitic views were in evidence all along; the DUI incident simply supplied irrefutable corroboration.

• Jack Kerwick
June 1, 2011 at 8:28 pm
Gibson was slurred as an “anti-Semite” long before his run in with the police. And he wasn’t slurred untilhe made The Passion. That is, it wasn’t until he gave expression to his Christian faith that he invited this charge.
• Jack Kerwick
June 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm
Ben, I posted a cautionary note yesterday to all who visit this blog. I appreciate those of you who have taken the time out to come here. I really do. But I also decided that I ad hominem attacks–e.g.’s charges of “anti-Semitism,” “racism,” and the like–and incivility generally would not be tolerated. What this in turn means is that when any postings including such language will be deleted as soon as I get around to reading them. But this post of yours sounds dangerously close to a threat, and maybe even a hate-crime. I will leave it here, for if I may very well pursue this matter.

• ben shapiro
June 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm
“Goy hamerim yad al yisrael chayav mita”-(A gentile who raises his hand against an Jew must be put to death).
• jenny rubin
June 1, 2011 at 10:53 am
Dr. Kerwick mentions the Gibson film, but without reference to Mel’s subsequent notorious Malibu DUI anti-Semitic meltdown.

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posted June 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

There are many important issues in the world today; this is not one of them. The United States of America acted in a respectful and honorable way by disposing of a body in accordance with the beliefs and traditions associated with that individual and keeping peace in the world.

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posted June 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

All this talk about Bin Laden’s burial, and the controversy about Muslim religious beliefs, and the Jew vs. Gentile exchange and mud-slinging, not to mention who’s right and who’s wrong, is pointless. I think in the final analysis, those who are guilty will be punished by God, no matter how they try to cover up their motives. He will see right through them, and in fact He knew how they were going to respond on this blog, even before they were born. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” How that little saying sticks in my mind is anyone’s guess. But we do know where it comes from, don’t we?

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posted June 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm

i and many others from my generation going back to the white house administration of president richard millhouse nixon and have been diaffiliated and in all up to this time of government now have in all due respect concludes that not all of government are crooks… far as the burial for osama bin laden, there is nothing in this world that can lead me too believe he is dead (first and foremost) and second too believe his body was put to rest at sea, and especially by the united states navy seals…..regardless what this man has done with his life and too others to add, we here in these united states are in know kind of position whatsoever to throw the first stone who is without sin……..i will stick too my word in expression to insist the united states clean up there own back yard and looking there clear glass windows….there’s much concern we still haven’t put too rest as far as the history of our own united states goes…..and anyone who agree can take that to the bank!

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posted June 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Rabbi Shmuley, I agree with youalmost comlpletely. I know from reading other of your writtings and having seen you interact with other people on T.V., you consistently come from the point of enduring, eternal moral values. That is why I was surprised to note that made a distiction between adulery and pedaphilea and murder. From what I can humblely discern a sin is a sin. I believe the shoa stinks as bad to G-d, as do the genocides of Native Americans, the Sebians, the Sudanese, Dafur, the list can go on for pages. I know people recoil from discussing pedophilea. Non-pedophiles cannot begin to phathom the living hell the child victims grow-up and try to appear like everyone else. Even though they stumble around, socially akward, These children bear the weight on the sin of their offender (that ususally has about 30 victims in a lifetime). Even worse, these victims are betrayed by their own bodies, which the perpatraitor uses to “bind” the child deeper into the dark world of the pedophile. I am a survivor! I know for a fact that countless times I tried to get out of a hell (that I now have learned was not mine to be in) the only way I knew, dieing. Yet, G-d did not answer those desperate most heart-felt requests to be granted to come home to His presence. Maybe I have been kept alive to send this one text. Wrong is wrong and sin is sin; nowhere in the Scripture have I ever seen “degrees” of sin. Nowhere have I read that G-d has a yardstick divovong sin into levels. While I despise what happened on 11 Sept 2001, how much wrong has been done in the name of G-d?

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SB Smith

posted July 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I could be way off, but my very first suspicion re: bin laden’s burial at sea was that they simply wanted to dump him overboard which also would mean there wouldn’t be a gravesite for anyone to visit. Perhaps it was realized that they could give him a Muslim funeral and it would make Dumping him over board legit. They just wanted to get rid of him and whatever Muslim funeral ceremony was performed was really just a facade.

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posted July 18, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Enough already. Have you run out of other things to write about?

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posted October 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Wonderfully done Rabbi, I am so glad you wrote it .

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