Anthropologist Melvin Konner explains the persistence of religious belief in the face of atheistic criticisms. Konner discusses his religious background and his path to a study of biological anthropology, including his work with the !Kung people in Botswana. Konner also challenges the New Atheists’ insistence that humanity can and should do away with religion.
Historian John Coffey discusses his book, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1558–1689, and its lessons for today. Coffey reviews the establishment of the Anglican church and the tensions between that church and both the Catholics and the Puritans, tensions that often erupted into state-sponsored violence. Coffee also discusses the theological and political disputes over toleration in this era.
In Out of the Flames, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone recount the remarkable life and shocking death of Michael Servetus, theologian, editor, physician, and heretic. Lawrence discusses Servetus’s religious views and his lifelong rivalry with John Calvin, who eventually had him tried for heresy and burned at the stake in Geneva in 1553. But Servetus’s work escaped the flames to inspire generations of scientists, religious reformers, and advocates of liberty of conscience.
James Valliant discusses his book, Creating Christ, in which he and his coauthor Warren Fahy argue that the Roman emperors Nero, Vespasian, and Titus played an active role in the development of early Christianity. Valliant discusses the broader context of the Jewish-Roman conflict of the First Century, the themes of the Gospels, and the remarkable parallels between the Flavian emperors and the Christian story.
Colorado voters remain caught in the vicegrip of theocratic Republicans and hard-left Democrats who often select candidates far from the values of mainstream Colorado. Here I focus on the Republican side of the problem as revealed at the April 14 state assembly, which I attended as a delegate. Continue reading “Theocratic Republicans Dominate Colorado Assembly”
As a long-time atheist, I’ve made my peace with my eventual death. More or less. I mean, I want to delay death as long as feasible, given a reasonable quality of life, but it isn’t something that preoccupies my thoughts. Still, I found myself suppressing a strange sense of dread, at times, while reading Michael Shermer’s new book, Heavens on Earth (Henry Holt, 2018). Death sucks—there’s no getting around that. Continue reading “Michael Shermer Stares Down the Grim Reaper in Latest Book”
If I say that two plus two equals four, and someone else insists that two plus two equals five, am I closed-minded if I do not find that person’s mathematical arguments persuasive? Am I closed-minded if I reject the idea that two plus two can at the same time equal four and five? A recent study implies that the answer is yes. And that study, along with various media accounts of it, conclude that, by comparable standards, atheists on the whole are more closed-minded in certain ways than are theists. Clearly something has gone wrong. Continue reading “What the Study on “Closed-Minded Atheists” Really Proves”
So-called “jihadi-tourists” have traveled from European nations to help Islamic State pursue its brutal totalitarian agenda. “At least 320 Germans and more than 2,000 other Europeans are thought to have made the trip” to Turkey and then to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic cause, Matthew Schofield reported for McClatchy a couple months ago. Many of these people are children of immigrants from Muslim countries who “end up finding a sense of community online and in the radical splinters of Islam set up to prey upon the lost,” Schofield writes. Michael Brendan Dougherty recently picked up Schofield’s story for the Week.
And Madeline Grant and Damien Sharkov report for Newsweek: “Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, estimates that at least 1,500 young British Muslims have been recruited by extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria in the last three years.”
One thing this illustrates is that jihadists are not made because they live in impoverished regions; they are made because of the ideology they embrace.
Muslims commit atrocities against women, against gays, against “infidels” in many regions around the world. Yes, violent Muslims are the minority. But how many more Muslims openly endorse such violence or tolerate it by failing to condemn it? That, to my mind, is an open question. Consider some recent articles on the subject.
Mehdi Hasan writes for the New Republic that violent jihadists tend to be youths who are largely ignorant of their own religion. Hasan claims that “religious fervour isn’t what motivates most” jihadists; rather, Hasan points to such factors as “moral outrage” (about what?) and “peer pressure” as motivators. True, as Hasan points out, many serious Muslims do not practice and to not advocate violent jihad. But does Hasan doubt that many serious Muslims do advocate violent jihad and (especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran) actively finance it?
Patrick Goodenough reports for CNSNews.com that a Cairo-based Suni leader, Shawki Ibrahim Allam, has actively condemned Islamic State and called “for people to post messages or video clips opposing ISIS terrorism.” And, Goodenough reports, Saudi grand mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said that “extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam.” I don’t know anything else about those two figures, but on their face such statements appear to be a move in the right direction, and hopefully one other Muslims will follow.
In Arizona, M. Zuhdi Jasser has been berated by his fellow Muslims for daring to criticize Hamas. He writes for AZCentral, “I had criticized the radicals of Hamas on national television for their supremacist Islamist doctrine hatched from the Muslim Brotherhood that daily and viciously oppresses the people of Gaza.” Jasser discusses the widespread Muslim “silence on the terror tactics of Hamas [that] speaks volumes to terror apologia.” Jasser’s own perspective is encouraging, but the opposition he apparently faces is frightening.
The Islamic militants active with Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq believe they are doing God’s work on Earth. General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said of the group: “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated. . . . ISIS will only truly be defeated when it’s rejected by the 20 million disenfranchised Sunni that happen to reside between Damascus and Baghdad.” This is as reported by the Associated Press.