Category Archives: Religion

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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]

Parallel Postulates

Lawrence Auster is a very smart fellow, and I admire his formidable presence on the ramparts of Western culture. But he has curious blind spots, for one so intelligent, and one of them has to do with Darwinism. Have a look at this exchange with a reader, one who patiently tries to explain, as I […]

Two Masters

Recently President Obama, in what he must have known would be a controversial choice, selected the geneticist Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins is an eminent scientist, and a capable administrator — indeed, his professional qualifications for the post are unimpeachable — but he has also […]

Hot Off The Press

An engaging item in today’s Physorg Newsletter reported on a recent study, published in Nature Geoscience, that examined the Earth’s carbon chemistry during a period known as the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM. During this torrid interval, which took place about 55 million years ago, the Earth’s average temperature shot up by 7° C. over […]

This Town Ain’t Big Enough

Today we offer a heaping helping of heresy, cooked up by some of our hardest-hitting, highest-profile heathens. First, as a little amuse-bouche, we have a recent editorial by the astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss, in which the author argues that, despite conciliatory efforts to get “militant” atheists to stop being such party-poopers, the fact is that religion […]

Resting Comfortably

Readers will have noticed that output has fallen off drastically here lately; the demands of the workplace have continued to press heavily upon me. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, however, and in fact I am actually spending this weekend doing things other than writing and debugging program code — […]

Schlong Of Solomon

We’ve been on the road for the past two days, and have just got home late on this Sunday evening. There’s been no time for keeping up with events, or for the brooding and rumination necessary for the germination of a serious post. So here’s another pungent item plucked from the ether by our reader […]

Mind Over Matter

I am working late once again, and have as yet been unable to return to normal operations around here. So for tonight here’s a little item about physicsists and mysticism.

The Twain Have Yet To Meet

As has been the case for over thirteen centuries, East and West are still glowering darkly at one another across a deep cultural divide. One hopes always for harmony and rapprochement — themes that Mr. Obama will, I am sure, focus on in his upcoming speech from Cairo — and perhaps, in this small and […]

Murder Most Foul

From commenter JK comes a link to a story about a young girl with juvenile diabetes who died because her parents, besotted by delusional religious fantasies, saw fit only to pray for her, rather than seek simple and effective medical treatment. We read: Last Easter Sunday, 11-year-old Kara Neumann of Weston, Wisconsin, lay motionless on […]

Boot Sequence

In what may be an enormously important piece of scientific work, chemist John D. Sutherland of the University of Manchester has discovered a reaction path by which RNA nucleotides can have been assembled from molecules likely to have been present in the Earth’s early environment.

Love Thy Neighbor

An item in the news today informs us that the celebrated and photogenic Catholic priest known as “Father Oprah” (whose actual name is — you just can’t make this stuff up — the Rev. Alberto Cutie) has admitted having had an affair of the flesh. This is always awkward for Catholic clergymen, and has put […]

It Rubs The Lotion On Its Skin Or Else It Gets The Hose Again

Over at CNN today we learn that a Saudi judge has ruled that it makes perfectly good sense, when wives spend more than they ought to on the accoutrements of their oppression, for their husbands to slap them around a bit. We read: Arab News, a Saudi English-language daily newspaper based in Riyadh, reported that […]

Worlds In Collision

There was a brief item in the Times today about a court ruling against one James Corbett, a California schoolteacher who, it was ruled, violated the Establishment Clause by dismissing creationism in class as “religious, superstitious nonsense”. This offended the sensibilities of a student of his, Chad Farnan, who sought legal remedy, and got it […]

Give Him A Great Big Hand

Today’s conversation piece at CNN is this comical item, in which an Idaho man seeks a pigeon credulous enough to pay U.S currency for an approximately hand-shaped arrangement of rocks. According to the vendor, one Paul Grayhek, what makes this such a desirable item is that it is a calling-card left in his Coeur d’Alene […]

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Diligently doing its part to undermine America’s intellectual respectability and competitiveness, the Texas Board of Education is taking up an amendment this week that seeks to smuggle religious myths, such as the transparent Creationist fraud known as “Intelligent Design”, into the science classroom in the name of “academic freedom”. Were this dispute taking place only […]

Worlds Apart

In his latest post, Jeffery Hodges has brought to our attention, and commented upon, a very interesting article by Roger Scruton about some of the fundamental distinctions between Islam and the West. I do hope you will go and read it.

An Eye For An Eye And An Eye

From the AP comes a fine example of the moral rectitude of Islamic law. A woman from Iran was attacked with acid by a suitor she rejected (which seems, by the way, to be an increasingly popular way to brutalize Muslim females these days, and I expect Middle-Eastern acid merchants are doing well even in […]

In God We Trust

If I told you that I knew there were invisible beings directing the flow of traffic on the highway, or that I had just seen someone rise from the dead and ascend into the sky, you’d want some proof — and if I had none to offer, you’d begin to doubt my sanity, and might […]

Is God Necessary?

I have said often in these pages that it seems likely that the human propensity for religion is a cognitive adaptation that has flourished because it tends to improve the cohesion of social groups, thereby increasing the fitness of those groups in competition against others. As David Sloan Wilson argues in his book Darwin’s Cathedral: […]

Truth, Or Consequences?

The debate continues at Mangan’s; the issue is whether one can genuinely be interested in conserving the virtues of Western society while at the same time publicly questioning the truth of the central claims of Christianity. The Christians in the conversation would, unsurprisingly, like us to agree that Western civilization is essentially and inextricably bound […]

Because They Say So

In a comment to a recent post, reader Greg Estren raised a question that has been implicit here for quite some time. Should we encourage religious belief, even if we think religion’s claims are false? We asked this same question, regarding the notion of objective moral truths, back in September: are these beliefs genuinely necessary […]