The Twilight of ISIS

I almost missed this story, but it's a big one: ISIS has been vanquished and driven out of the Iraqi city of Mosul, its capitol and the biggest city it had ruled, by an Iraqi-American coalition assault:Flanked by Iraqi forces of all stripes, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared Mosul has been recaptured from ISIS."From here, from the heart of the liberated and free Mosul, by the sacrifices of the Iraqis from all the provinces, we declare the great victory for all of Iraq and … [Read more...]

Is Belief in Hell Inherently Hateful?

In 2015, the evangelical Wheaton College fired Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor, for taking a stance of solidarity with Muslims against hateful rhetoric. Ostensibly this was because Hawkins, a black woman, had contravened the college's statement of faith by suggesting that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Unofficially, it's easy to see as a reaffirmation that evangelical Christianity is a religion only for bigoted white people.At the time, a Wheaton graduate named … [Read more...]

FGM: An American Problem

We may like to think that the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation is a Third World relic, happening only in distant and uncivilized backwaters. Not so. FGM is happening right here in America, in communities of successful and highly educated people.Here's some unfortunate evidence. In April, the FBI arrested Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency-room doctor and native-born American citizen, on charges of cutting two seven-year-old girls. Two more people, including another doctor, were … [Read more...]

Letter-Writing Wednesday: The Problem of Religious Pharmacists

One of my earliest blog posts was about right-wing pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions on religious grounds. It's still a problem.This week, I read this story of a Walgreens in New Mexico whose pharmacist refused to fill a woman's prescription for misoprostol. It's a common drug for stomach ulcers, but it also relaxes the cervix, which makes it useful for abortion, for inducing birth, or for preparing for an IUD insertion. You get one guess which of those uses this sanctimonious … [Read more...]

Does Atheism Lead to Islam?

As a society becomes increasingly secular and unchurched, what's the natural next step? Will it continue to become freer, more liberal, more peaceful? Or will it take a sharp 180-degree turn into ultra-fundamentalist Islam?You might find that idea absurd. If so, you're probably not archbishop emeritus (which I'm assuming is code for "ultra-conservative old fossil who pines for the Inquisition") Carlo Liberati, of Italy, who reportedly said the following:Because of their "stupidity," … [Read more...]

Roy Moore’s Final Act

Good news from Alabama: disgraced Christian theocrat Roy Moore has been booted out of his judicial seat. The state Court of the Judiciary suspended Moore without pay for the rest of his term, removing him from office in all but name.This is the final act of a drama that began last year, when Moore attempted to provoke a constitutional crisis by ordering state courts to ignore a federal court decision in favor of same-sex marriage. He called it an "unlawful opinion[] issued without … [Read more...]

Does Religious Diversity Undermine Religion?

There's bound to be more than one reason why religion is on the decline. I've written about the spread of the internet and about churches obstinately clinging to bigotry that turns off younger generations. Now, from FiveThirtyEight, there's another answer: it's because of increasing religious diversity.The practical effect of rising religious diversity is to expose Americans to ideas and views that could challenge their religious beliefs. A recent survey found that 77 percent of Americans … [Read more...]

France’s Burkini Ban Isn’t About Secularism

There was an ugly spectacle this week on a beach in France:Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini....Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing "an outfit respecting good morals and secularism".As a response to recent Islamist terror attacks, cities like Nice have banned clothing that "ostentatiously displays religious … [Read more...]

The Rising Tide of Republican Extremism

Last week, in a failed last-minute bid to prove himself bigoted enough to be Donald Trump's running mate, Newt Gingrich said this:.@newtgingrich: "We should...test every person here who is of a Muslim background, & if they believe in shariah they should be deported."— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 15, 2016This isn't just unconstitutional, it's anti-constitutional. The idea of a religious test for American citizens, used for expelling those whose views are deemed … [Read more...]

Donald Trump Isn’t the Secular Candidate

The 2016 election presents atheists with a strange contrast. In contrast to Hillary Clinton, who by all accounts is a conventional liberal Protestant, Donald Trump has never had a reputation for being religious. It's no great secret that his outreach to the GOP's Christian-fundamentalist base has consisted of clumsy pandering. For example, here's Trump with Jerry Falwell Jr., with a framed Playboy on the wall behind them:Literally a framed pic on the wall of the candidate and a porn star, as … [Read more...]