Bangladesh Is Killing Atheists

There's horrific news from Bangladesh: the atheist activist and writer Dr. Avijit Roy was murdered on the street in Dhaka, hacked to death by two assailants wielding machetes as he left a book fair at Dhaka University. His wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna was seriously wounded in the same attack. An Islamist group calling itself Ansar Bangla 7 issued a statement claiming responsibility for the murder.Dr. Roy was the author of books such as The Philosophy of Disbelief and The Virus of Faith, as well … [Read more...]

What’s Behind the Appeal of ISIS?

Amidst the steady drumbeat of grim headlines in the Middle East, the trend I've been most concerned by is the strange drawing power of ISIS, also known as Islamic State or Daesh, the brutal extremist group rampaging through Iraq and Syria, capturing cities and committing horrendous acts of violence. ISIS seems to exert an almost magnetic attraction, drawing in not just the disaffected, the disgruntled, petty thugs and criminals, but also young Muslims from middle-class Western families, people … [Read more...]

The Rebirth of Nullification in Alabama

LittleRockIntegrationProtest

The week after I spoke in Alabama, there was a happy milestone in this reddest of red states: a federal court ruling for marriage equality was set to take effect. Judge Callie V.S. Granade, a George W. Bush appointee, struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage, and the state's request for a stay was denied by both the appeals court and the Supreme Court.But at the eleventh hour, there was a shocker: Alabama state supreme court chief justice Roy Moore issued an order directing state probate … [Read more...]

Marriage Is Suffering and Suffering Is Good: A Catholic View

BirthControlPills

Last week, I wrote about the crushing burden of fear and guilt about sex that women labor under in Orthodox Judaism. Taught to fear pleasure, to shun knowledge and to regard their own bodies as sinful vessels, they often end up in loveless and unhappy marriages, trapped by religious rules that bar them from happiness and affection.But I don't want to give the impression that Judaism is the only religion which has irrational, anti-humanistic rules about sex, and Catholicism has some uniquely … [Read more...]

The Crushing Burden of Religious Sex Guilt

OffLimits

This week, there was a lengthy profile of Bat Sheva Marcus, a Jewish sex counselor who helps Hasidic Jews with intimacy problems in their marriages. Marcus is merely Orthodox, rather than ultra-Orthodox like most of her clients: she "sometimes wears pants", and though her synagogue has segregated men's and women's sections, they're side-by-side rather than consigning women to the back. (By ultra-Orthodox standards, this is straying dangerously close to anything-goes liberalism.)As in other … [Read more...]

An Honest Look at Catholicism’s Decline

BlackAndWhiteChurch

I came across an essay by Peter Daly, a Catholic priest, that I wanted to address: "An attempt to answer the question: Where are the young adults?" It's notable for being the frankest admission I've seen from a Catholic of the demographic crisis the church is facing, as well as a bracingly honest study of the causes.Daly begins with a statement of the problem:Everywhere from Boston to Minneapolis, Catholic churches have closed or been consolidated into regional clusters. The chief … [Read more...]

When the Pope Excuses Violence

Last week, Pope Francis made some startling remarks about the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Speaking to journalists, he not only said that freedom of speech shouldn't include the right to ridicule religion, but that if anyone does ridicule religion, violence is an appropriate response!Asked about the attack that killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo - targeted because it had printed depictions of the prophet Muhammad - he said: "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other … [Read more...]

Saffron Fascism

GoldenBuddhas

While Western atheists are most familiar with outrages committed by monotheistic faiths, the followers of Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism can be just as violent, oppressive and xenophobic. As China, India and other developing nations become wealthier and more internationally influential, it's likely we'll hear more and more about this, as adherents of these religions begin to swagger and brandish their newly discovered power.Sri Lanka, for example, is grappling with a hardline … [Read more...]

#JeSuisCharlie

JeSuisCharlie

While trying to absorb the awful, awful news out of Paris this morning, I kept thinking of this passage from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, addressed to the poet's detractors:But yours the cold heart, and the murderous tongue, The wintry soul that hates to hear a song, The close-shut fist, the mean and measuring eye, And all the little poisoned ways of wrong.Although these words were penned almost a thousand years ago, you couldn't write a more apt description of the men who … [Read more...]

Whom Do the Police Serve?

Awful news from Brooklyn this weekend: A disturbed man shot his ex-girlfriend (who's expected to survive), then ambushed and fatally shot two police officers on patrol, and finally shot and killed himself as police closed in. His social media postings indicated that he was angry over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, although it's hard to see how the shooting of his girlfriend fits into that.After a senseless, horrific tragedy like this, you have to expect people to be angry and … [Read more...]


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