Some Unfinished Thoughts on Syria

Since it looks more likely than not that the U.S. is going to attack the Assad regime in Syria, I wanted to write down some of the thoughts that have been on my mind the last few days. I don't have any particular reason to doubt that Assad used chemical weapons. We know that he possesses them, and he's shown himself to be an extraordinarily brutal dictator with no compunctions about bombing and shelling civilian populations as a form of collective punishment. I also don't think that this … [Read more...]

The Missing Diversity of Intelligence Squared

Intelligence Squared is a group that organizes live public debates on political and philosophical topics. I've been to one of their New York City events before, a debate about whether the world would be better off without religion. In general, I'm all for this idea. It's a welcome echo of the era of Robert Ingersoll, when public lectures and debates were considered the height of popular culture, and I'm all in favor of any kind of entertainment that encourages people to turn their brains on … [Read more...]

The Political Pull of New York’s Ultra-Orthodox

WilliamsburgBridge

New York City's mayoral election is approaching, and as the race heats up, more attention is being paid to the increasing political influence of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish sects of Brooklyn. Like their counterparts in Israel, New York's Hasidim have rebounded from the decimation of World War II. They were nearly wiped out by the Nazi genocide, but their numbers have swelled in the generations since, due to religious and cultural teachings that make it a duty for Hasidic families to … [Read more...]

American Fundamentalists Applaud Russian Eliminationism

I've been writing about Russia's brutally violent crackdown on LGBT people and whether the international community ought to respond by boycotting the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. Incredibly, that situation got even worse last week with the news that Vladimir Putin has decreed a "forbidden zone" around the Olympics where all forms of public demonstration and protest are banned. (Meanwhile, even Adolf Hitler granted a temporary exemption from Nazi Germany's anti-gay laws to foreign athletes … [Read more...]

Is It Worth Boycotting the Russian Olympics?

I've written about Russia's hostile and oppressive treatment of artists and the Russian Orthodox church's increasingly close alliance with the state, but in the last few years, things have gone from bad to worse. Journalists and anti-corruption activists have been murdered with impunity. Critics of the state have been subjected to trumped-up charges and show trials. Gay pride marches have been banned, and supporters of gay rights have been brutally assaulted by the police and mobs of skinhead … [Read more...]

The Pope and Gay People: Nothing’s Changed

DeadEnd

The media has been in a tizzy these past few days over some remarks made by Pope Francis on an airplane flight back from a trip to Brazil: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word "gay." Judging by the rapturous response from some quarters, one might think that these few mildly conciliatory, off-the-cuff sentences had wiped away centuries of dogmatically entrenched … [Read more...]

Remembering the Holocaust, Respecting the Constitution

OhioHolocaustMemorial

In Ohio, the state legislature recently approved a plan to build a Holocaust memorial on the grounds of the statehouse, with public money to be contributed towards the cost of construction. The winning design incorporates two tall structures of stainless steel, engraved with the testimony of an Auschwitz survivor, that are shaped so as to create a prominent negative space in the shape of a Star of David. You can see an image of the design above, to get a sense of it for yourself. The Freedom … [Read more...]

A Conscience Clause for Equal Protection

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she wouldn't defend the state in an ACLU lawsuit challenging a ban on same-sex marriage. She's following the same trail blazed by California, where state officials refused to appeal a district court ruling against the discriminatory Proposition 8. It cheers me enormously to see that more and more government officers are coming to recognize the fundamental injustice of these laws, and refusing to defend them where they … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: Abortion in the Bible

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, There's Nothing About Abortion in the Bible -- So How Do Right-Wing Christians Justify Their Crusade Against Women? In it, I discuss the biblical verses that touch on abortion - or more accurately, the lack of such verses - as well as the passages which strongly suggest that the Bible's authors didn't consider an unborn fetus to have the same moral status as an adult person. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest: One would think … [Read more...]

World News Roundup

FoundationBeyondBelief

I can't write about every story that crosses my radar, as much as I'd like to. But so much that's noteworthy has been happening in the world lately, I'm overdue for a catch-up post. First, there's a glimmer of good news: the Dáil, the lower house of Ireland's Parliament, easily passed a bill that (slightly) relaxes the draconian, no-exceptions abortion ban that killed Savita Halappanavar. The upper house, the Seanad, still has to approve it, but since the government controls both houses by a … [Read more...]


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