Category Archives: Religion

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

In middle age, after a youth of unreflective atheism, I began to have a serious interest in the role of religion in human affairs, and in the doctrine and philosophy of the great religions. I determined to educate myself, with a particular focus on the history and teachings of Christianity and Islam. I’m still an […]

Battle Lines

Last year I wrote this about liberal orthodoxy’s unavoidable antagonism to truth: A sine qua non for the modern liberal ideologue is a flair for living comfortably in a state of cognitive dissonance. This is made necessary by the internal contradictions of his worldview, and by its frequent, and calamitous, collisions with the social, political, […]

How Can This Be?

The CBS program 60 Minutes reported tonight, to everyone’s astonishment and dismay, on a recent, and heretofore completely unsuspected, scientific discovery. The context was specific — differences in the effect of the sleeping pill Ambien on men and women — but it appears, shockingly, that the scope of the problem might be far more general, […]

Casting Out The Devil

Here’s something that seems to be in the air today. Yesterday I added a comment to our Benghazi thread from a few days back. As usually happens as threads lengthen, the conversation had wandered off-topic toward the more general sort of ideological scuffling that is a constant attractor in any discussion of current events these […]

Relativize This

Here’s a a 3D zoomable panorama of the Sistine Chapel.

Whoops!

From Reuters, no less.

When In Rome

On the elevation of the new Pope, we’ve seen a lot of sulking about the Catholic Church’s inexplicable reluctance to get itself properly aligned with the Left’s social-issues agenda. It is, as Dennis Mangan points out here, perfectly understandable for socially ‘progressive’ sorts to consider the Church a political opponent, and to seek to reduce […]

Ave, Kevin!

Kevin Kim, whose academic specialty is the study of the world’s religions, has written a stupendous essay on the possibly-divine nature of Peter Sellers’s character Chance, from the movie Being There. Get thee hence and read it, here.

Chasing Rainbows

A vexing feature of modern physicalistic non-theism is that, followed to its logical conclusion, it leads to moral nihilism. (I realize that theistic attempts to put morality on an objective basis also face serious challenges, but that’s not the point tonight.) Moral nihilism being, to most folks, bad, there’s been a rash lately of books […]

Let’s Get Real

Last week the New York Times published an Op-Ed piece by Susan Jacoby called The Blessings of Atheism. In it, Ms. Jacoby attempts to rebut a colleague’s remark, apropos of Newtown, that atheism has no consolation to offer when people are suffering. I’m an atheist myself, and I think Ms. Jacoby is on a fool’s […]

In ? We Trust

I’m an admirer of the philosopher Daniel Dennett. He can be overconfidently brusque and dismissive, and in particular I have parted company with him on the issue of activist atheism (more about that in a minute), but he has an enviably fertile and wide-ranging intellect. He’s also a terrific writer; in particular I highly recommend […]

Belief In Belief

Since emerging, chastened, from the militant atheism of my not-so-distant past, I have in recent years come round, despite being an unbeliever myself, to the opinion that wide-scale secularism is a maladaptation that sharply — perhaps even lethally — reduces a society’s fitness. In a recent lecture at Washington University in St. Louis, George Will […]

Any Kids?

Here’s an attention-grabbing item: an ancient Coptic papyrus fragment referring to Jesus’s wife.

Smells Like Team Spirit

Here’s an item that should come as no surprise to anyone: Religion Is a Potent Force for Cooperation and Conflict, Research Shows The article discusses a paper by Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges that describes religion as strongly fostering cooperation within human social groups, as a means of competing more successfully against other groups. We […]

Seriously?

Here’s an item from NightWatch‘s Robert McCreary: Iran: For the record. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei provided the following guidance in response to a question about whether it was sinful to use social media. “In general, the use of social networking websites (such as Facebook, FriendFeed, Orkut, etc) is impermissible if their use entails a corrupt […]

Sam Harris On Islam

Here’s a thoughtful new item by Sam Harris called Islam and the Future of Liberalism. A sample: As I tried to make clear [in a recent podcast], we know that intolerance within the Muslim world extends far beyond the membership of “extremist” groups. Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate, yet again, that ordinary Afghans grow far […]

Pop Quiz

With a hat tip to hbd chick (and to reader JK as well), here’s a little test: how well do you know Sunni from Shia Islam? The British, meanwhile, are soon to be experts. Paul Weston explains.

Contra Kristof

Nicholas Kristof weighed in today on the Catholic-contraception kerfuffle, in a Times op-ed piece. Even Mr. Kristof acknowledges that this issue is hardly cut-and-dried. He writes: Look, there’s a genuine conflict here. Many religious believers were sincerely offended that Catholic institutions would have to provide coverage for health interventions that the church hierarchy opposed. That […]

Rubber Match

The Obama administration made an embarrassing political blunder recently when it mandated, with swaggering disregard of First Amendment niceties and pugnacious indifference to the moral teachings of the Roman Church, that Catholic organizations would be required to provide contraceptives to their employees. When Catholic institutions objected, they were told they had a year to get […]

Kim On Vallicella On Dennett

Our friend Kevin Kim has written a meaty response to Bill Vallicella’s latest remarks on Dennettian theoskepsis. (The study of religion is Kevin’s academic specialty; and in passing I’ll recommend his book Water From a Skull for those with an interest in the field of comparative religion.) A quibble: in this post Kevin discusses Bill’s […]

One Size Fits All?

In the discussion thread of our recent post about Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the issue soon became: what should the attitude of the West have been toward the democratic uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere? On the one hand, as Americans it seems we ought to support democracy wherever we can; on the other, […]

It Only Encourages Them

Interesting item over at Jeffery Hodges’ place: Jeff comments on an interview with the prominent Egyptian Protestant Ramez Atallah. Atallah talks about the unique centrality of Islam in Arabic-speaking lands. He also has this to say about Western indignation over the ubiquitous persecution of Christians in Muslim territory: I need you to please understand that […]

Islamism, Or Just Islam?

Over at NRO today, Andrew McCarthy and Robert Spencer debate the distinction between Islam and “Islamism”. Mr. Spencer argues that Islam is in its very essence “Islamist”: that its core doctrines, on any coherent and broadly acceptable interpretation, are normative and prescriptive not only spiritually and socially, but also legally and politically. Mr. McCarthy insists […]

Take That, Temple-Pants!

The Texan pastor Robert Jeffress caused quite a ruction last week with his endorsement of Rick Perry for the GOP nod. Mr. Jeffress said that he thought all good Christians should prefer a Christian as their president, and that in his opinion this disqualified Mitt Romney — because the “cult” of Mormonism is something other […]

For The Spirit Of The Living Creature Was In The Wheels

A conversation with my father on the subject of the Armenian mystic Gurdjieff has led me to a re-reading of Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, which apparently G. had recommended to his study groups. (My father was a member of Gurdjieff’s London group after the war until G.’s death in 1949, and in fact went to […]

JC And QM

I’ve been reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s outstanding history of Christianity (it’s enormously absorbing, and full of fascinating detail) and I’m currently immersed in the factional disputes of the fourth century A.D., when the biggest problem of the day was to work out a good account of the Trinity, and in particular the nature of Christ. It’s […]

We’re Good

This just in, from my old friend Dave Pauley.

Celebrity Deathmatch

This might be worth watching (I can’t say for sure, because I haven’t watched it myself yet): a debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig.

The Moral IS the Story

In the (rambling) discussion thread to Sunday’s post, commenter Dom gave us a quote from Niall Ferguson’s book Civilization: The West and the Rest: He quotes a scholar from the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences “We were asked to look into what accounted for … the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West […]

Under New Management

The taxonomy of contemporary conservatism isn’t simple; it’s more of a bush than a tree. Nevertheless, we can point to at least one major bifurcation — at the level of phyla, one could say — and that is the split between secular and Christian conservatism. Christian conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan or Lawrence Auster, see […]

Road To Damascus

I’ve been re-reading the Koran the past few weeks. I’d previously read it only in bits and pieces, and I thought it was time I read it straight through, with truly focused attention and an open mind — and I have to say it has been, to put it mildly, an eye-opening experience. I’ve been […]

Spin

In a recent study of psychological “priming”, boffins at two universities have turned up an unsurprising result: anxiety about death can incline people more favorably toward belief in supernatural agency and purpose, in particular “intelligent design”. (The study might have been somewhat slanted, however; one of the metrics used for confidence in naturalism was “liking […]

Blowback

Lawrence Auster brings to our attention an article, published by the National Association of Scholars, about a Christian student’s experiences in the Islamic Studies department at the Hartford Seminary (which is, by the way, the oldest Islamic Studies department in America). The Seminary represents itself as a secular institution dedicated to interfaith dialogue and comparative […]

Sam Harris On The Ramparts

A while back I noted that Sam Harris has a new book out (The Moral Landscape), in which he argues that it is possible to develop an objective, entirely naturalistic science of human morality that would be not just descriptive, but prescriptive as well. From a philosophical perspective this is a hugely audacious assertion, because […]

May God Thy Gold Refine

As a generally conservative sort of blogger, I write a lot about how important it is to defend our traditional American culture against its many foes, foreign and domestic. But in case you’ve forgotten just what it is we’re fighting for, have a look at this inspiring clip, courtesy of the indefatigable JK.

Sam Harris Presents His Case

Sam Harris is about to release a new book, called The Moral Landscape. Dr. Harris has been working for a while now to try to put morality on an objective footing (something I think can’t be done). His premise, if I may sum it up with extreme brevity, is that there are some moral systems […]

New Emperor, Still No Clothes

In an apt follow-on to yesterday’s post, computer scientist Jaron Lanier contributed an Op-Ed piece to today’s Times on what he sees as a budding secular religion — a kind of soteriology-by-Singularity that has taken root, he argues, amongst our technological elite. We are far too quick, Lanier writes, to see a kind of transcendence […]

Veiled Threat

Yet another excellent item from today’s above-average miscellany at NRO: a balanced and thoughtful essay on the banning of the burqa, by independent journalist Claire Berlinsky. Ms. Berlinsky begins by acknowledging the many good arguments against such a ban — in particular the compelling point (previously emphasized here at waka waka waka by commenters Peter […]

Why Be A Religious Moderate?

Over at Maverick Philosopher, Bill Vallicella has written a fine post in response to a query from a reader about religious zealotry. The reader’s argument was: Given that, as most religions claim — 1) There is an afterlife of infinite duration; 2) Those who live in strict accordance with the religion’s requirements and prohibitions will […]

Good Lord!

Australia has a new Prime Minister. Her name is Julia Gillard, and in a gesture that would be utterly unthinkable here in America, she has announced that she doesn’t believe in God. Being an atheist myself, it is difficult for me not to be delighted. But recently I’ve come to wonder, as a purely practical […]

Evil: Still A Problem, Apparently

Our friend Kevin Kim, whose academic specialty is theology and comparative religion (I recommend to you all his excellent book Water From a Skull), has been involved in a lively discussion about theodicy (also known as “the Problem of Evil”) over at Bill Keezer’s place. Bill’s position is that in order to arrive at a […]

Over Here, Diogenes

Stopping by Gates Of Vienna today, I read an item about yet another “interfaith dialogue” conference, this time in Macedonia. Given that religious acrimony has been such a mighty engine of sanguinary conflict throughout all of recorded history, people generally take a hopeful view of these little pow-wows, and their participants, for rising above the […]

It’s All In Your Head

In Tuesday’s post about the puzzle of consciousness (I was off duty last night, celebrating my 54th at an Argentine steakhouse on the Lower East Side), I mentioned having seen an item in the paper that day that I thought seemed timely. It was a piece in the Times about growing interest in the use […]

Ought From Naught

In a post over at VFR, Lawrence Auster comments on an essay by Stanley Fish in which Professor Fish remarks on the inability of pure “secular” reason, bereft of normative bedrock in the Divine, to provide any “oughts”. This is catnip to Mr. Auster, who is, despite having various admirable qualities, a crusading anti-Darwinist. The […]

A People’s History Of Purim

A week from tomorrow begins the Jewish festival of Purim, which celebrates the success of the Jews living under the ancient Persian Empire in reversing a plot to annihilate them. The tale is told in the Book of Esther, also known as the Megillah. Summing up briefly: During a feast, a drunken King Ahasuerus [likely […]

The Flaming Sword

It’s been a busy Saturday, and what time I’ve had for writing today I have spent commenting here and elsewhere, rather than on the gestation of new posts. So, it being late, and with my computer on the fritz (a new one is on the way), I’ll just leave you with this amusing recent story […]

Let’s Be Clear

There was an article in yesterday’s Times about friction between European Muslims and their host culture. In it we find the following: Youcef Mammeri, a writer on Islam in France and member of the Joint Council of Muslims of Marseille, says that the debates over minarets, burqas and national identity have angered many French-born Muslims […]

Man Bites God

Over at CNN today we learn that the Coalition of Reason, an association of godless heathens, has purchased some advertising space in Gotham’s subway system. Their ads will point out the plain empirical fact that it is possible for people to be good without religion. What’s telling about this is not the story itself, but […]

Atheists In The Trenches

Over at Maverick Philosopher Bill Vallicella cites, with apparent approbation, an essay by the atheist author Julian Baggini that criticizes the agenda of “New Atheism”, exemplified by the “Four Horsemen” Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens, as misbegotten and counterproductive. What Bill does not link to is a piquant response, at the same website, by the […]

Can’t Touch This

Anybody who had the patience to wade through yesterday’s far too long-winded post (do forgive me for having such a low-rent editorial staff) knows that I have religion on my mind lately. In that post I mentioned, as I have often done in the past, the magnificent defensive arsenal of highly evolved religions. I ran […]