Young Theologian Who Needs a Job Says the Media Must Invest In Journalists Who Understand Religion

I can think of many things that are worrisome about the state of journalism, but I hadn’t yet considered the dwindling number of full-time religion correspondents to be among them. Maybe I’m wrong.

Conor Gaffey (below), writing a familiar plaint for the U.K.’s Catholic Herald, sounds the alarm, after noting that the BBC will be reassigning its head of religion, Aaqil Ahmed, and that religious-affairs writer Ruth Gledhill left the Times last year.

Gledhill herself thought it was a good thing that “religion had been taken out of the sanctuary and into the arena of general current affairs,” as Gaffey puts it, but he has his doubts.

Many papers have columnists on religion (Giles Fraser at the Guardian, for example) or journalists who cover faith among other things (eg, the Telegraph’s John Bingham). But this media landscape suggests that religion does not command anywhere near the same weight of attention and investment as sport, politics or even showbiz.

This is a worrying trend — and not just because I’m a newly qualified journalist with a theology degree in need of full-time employment.



[Read more...]

Could ISIS Forces Attack Italy?

“Italy Fears ISIS Invasion From Lybia,” trumpets a headline in the Daily Beast. The prospect of such a thing initially seems silly and far-fetched, but author Barbie Latza Nadeau, who also contributes to NPR and Newsweek, explains why Italians are worried.

[T]here is no question that there is a palpable tension in Italy over the ISIS threat – Libya is just 109 miles away from the island of Lampedusa and 300 miles from Sicily – made worse by a 64 percent increase in illegal migrant arrivals by sea since last year.  In all of 2014, more than 170,000 people arrived from Libya and Turkey, the highest number ever recorded. Last weekend, as the embassy staff [from the recently-shuttered Italian embassy in Tripoli] made their way to Italy on a mercantile ship, 2,164 migrants left the same Libyan shores en route to Sicily.

Nadeau says the young, untested, and teetering Italian government is taking the ISIS threat seriously. Last week, on Twitter, ISIS members posted links to a video of 21 Coptic Christians being beheaded. That video was titled “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.” The title of another recent ISIS production was “We are south of Rome.”

Pure bluster? Perhaps. Reports Nadeau:

Italy has only 5,000 troops available that are even close to deployable, according to the defense ministry. … [T]he military budget was cut by 40 percent two years ago, which has kept the acquisition of 90 F-35 fighter jets hanging in the balance and left the country combat-challenged to lead any mission – especially one against an enemy like the Islamic State. … Anti-immigration politicians have argued for months that it would take little for jihadi fighters to infiltrate a migrant boat and effectively end up taxied into Italy by rescue ships and the Italian navy.



[Read more...]

Sam Harris on the Chapel Hill Murders and Militant Atheism… and Why He Now Fears For His Safety

In his latest podcast, posted last night, Sam Harris addresses the tragic murders of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad. After saying that he feels nothing but horror over the crime, and that the victims were by all accounts marvelous people, he addresses the assertion that New Atheists like him have “blood on their hands,” in the lovely phrasing of C.J. Werleman.

The deluge of claims of equivalence between this crime, and the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the daily behavior of a group like ISIS, has been astonishing to witness. You can sense that people have just been waiting for a crime like this that could conceivably be pinned on atheism.

But of course the analogy between militant atheism and militant Islam is a terrible one. It’s an anti-analogy. It is false in every respect. Atheists are simply not out there are harming people on the basis of their atheism. Now, there may be atheists who do terrible things, but there is no atheist doctrine or scripture; and insofar as any of us have written books or created arguments that have persuaded people, these books and arguments … only relate to the bad evidence put forward in defense of a belief in God. There’s no argument in atheism to suggest that you should hate or victimize or stigmatize whole groups of people, as there often is in revealed religion.

And what we’re seeing is that people like Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan, the usual suspects, the bevy of apologists for theocracy in the Muslim world, are using this very real tragedy in Chapel Hill to try to stoke a kind of mob mentality around an imagined atheist campaign of bigotry against Muslims. It’s an incredibly cynical and tendentious and opportunistic and ultimately dangerous thing to do.

Of course people like Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan are alleging that there is some kind of double standard here – that atheists are so quick to detect a religious motivation in the misbehavior of Muslims worldwide, [but] when it comes to their own, well, then they discount the role played by atheism. But this is just a total misrepresentation of how an atheist like myself thinks about human violence.



[Read more...]

Pastor Scott Lively Wants You To Know He’s Not Anti-Gay, Only “Anti-Homosexuality”

I once called Scott Lively a “gay-hating pastor,” and now he’s mad. Not at me in particular, but at every headline writer who publishes that descriptor about him. He’s not gay-hating or anti-gay at all, he swears.

I’ll let him explain, via a letter to the editor he got published yesterday in The Republican, his hometown newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts:

The news page is supposed to offer impartial fact-reporting for its readers to analyze and interpret for themselves. Instead, The Republican‘s stories about me are often peppered with conclusory statements from a decidedly leftist perspective and deliberately poison the well against me by citing only facts that bolster the accusations of my opponents – even though I have a long history of doing good works in Springfield that have benefited the city.

Most irritating and misleading is that all or most of the stories identify me (often in the title) as “anti-gay pastor,” as if that were some sort of professional title rather than an editorial comment. I strongly object to that characterization, which deliberately misrepresents my opposition to the mainstreaming of homosexual conduct as hatred of homosexual persons.



[Read more...]

Obama-Bashing Victoria Jackson Wasn’t on SNL’s Anniversary Show, but Here She Does Her Own “Comedy” Thing

Gay-hating Tea Partier and rape apologist Victoria Jackson was at Saturday Night Live‘s 40th-anniversary show this past weekend, but not in it. Jackson denies that her political views had anything to do with being kept off the special episode, and I hope that’s true. She shouldn’t be excluded because she’s a right-winger. Rather, she should be excluded because, as Jessica Bluemke wrote on this site two years ago,

What I … naïvely mistook for quirkiness [in her SNL days] was just thinly-veiled legitimate lunacy.

OK, even lunacy can be beguiling in a comic (ladies and gentlemen, Andy Kaufman!), but I can’t understand who gets a belly laugh out of Jackson’s antics these days, or why.

Here are the comedienne’s latest six minutes of YouTube artistry.



[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X