Drawing Mohammed in Spite of Violence

The American religious right loves to play-act as martyrs: bemoaning how cruelly the government oppresses them, fantasizing about how they're on the verge of being imprisoned or killed for their beliefs. Usually, these claims are pure fiction. But this weekend in Texas, for once, the pretense became reality.The American Freedom Defense Initiative, a religious right group run by the flamboyant anti-Muslim activist and Ayn Rand devotee Pamela Geller, held a contest for cartoonists to draw the … [Read more...]

#BlackLivesMatter in Baltimore

It's only been a few short weeks since the agony of Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter protests in New York, and here we are again. This time, the protests, marches and sporadic riots are happening in Baltimore, sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a black teenager who was arrested after he ran from police patrolling his neighborhood - which, for the record, is not a crime - and suffered a fatal and so far unexplained spine injury while in the police van. (According to his family, he underwent … [Read more...]

No, Belief in Satan Doesn’t Make Us Moral


One of the new writers at the rebooted New Republic, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, wrote a column titled Pope Francis's Populist War on the Devil. It begins this way:Pope Francis isn't engaged only in earthly battles. He's also waging a cosmic war against the power of evil, a crusade that has garnered considerably less press than his comments on, say, climate change or homosexuality. For Francis, as for scores of faithful Christians, this struggle isn't abstract. It has genuine agents, real … [Read more...]

How Religious Bigotry Was Beaten Back in Indiana


Last month, Indiana's Republican-dominated legislature passed, and Gov. Mike Pence signed, an intensely controversial "religious freedom" bill very similar to the one that almost passed in Arizona last year. It was based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but with several crucial differences, especially the fact that it allowed for-profit businesses to assert a religious-freedom defense in cases brought against them by private parties. In other words, it allowed them to use … [Read more...]

Some Thoughts on Trigger Warnings

The latest thinkpiece that's consumed the internet is an editorial by Judith Shulevitz about trigger warnings. A trigger warning, if you don't know, is a warning label intended to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. It's meant to give advance warning of material they might find distressing so that they can avoid it and keep from suffering a flashback, panic attack or other recurrence of their trauma. It's become a popular concept on college campuses, such as at UC-Santa Barbara, … [Read more...]

The FLDS Cult Is Unraveling

Eight years ago, a particularly nasty cult leader named Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison. Jeffs was - and still is - the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an extremist Mormon splinter group with enclaves scattered across the American West.The FLDS, like most cults, was controlled with an iron fist, and members were expected to live like slaves serving the whims of an all-powerful leader. Both Warren Jeffs and the previous leader, … [Read more...]

ISIS Is Bleeding Human History


On top of all the other atrocities they've committed, we have to add another entry to the list of ISIS' crimes against the human race: their penchant for destroying ancient relics and other historical artifacts in the cities they've conquered. While it's not comparable to the mass slaughter of human beings, this cultural vandalism stands out for its sheer senselessness. Like the Taliban fanatics who dynamited the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan, or the militants of Ansar Dine who destroyed the … [Read more...]

Constitutional Crisis in Alabama?


My newest column on AlterNet is up, Right-Wingers' Secession Threats: Fighting Tooth and Nail on the Wrong Side of History. It's an expanded version of my earlier post on Roy Moore and other social conservatives arguing that they shouldn't have to obey laws they don't like. Here's an excerpt:When a U.S. federal judge - an appointee of George W. Bush, no less - ruled in favor of marriage equality in Alabama, Judge Roy Moore didn't take it lying down. The chief justice of the state supreme … [Read more...]

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...]