Archives for June 2009

A reality TV show someone should watch (not me)

So far I've spent about half of my life in the US, half in Turkey. The populations of both countries are insane. That is, the vast majority in both countries are too fond of religious and nationalist forms of enthusiasm for my taste.Sometimes, though, I really don't know how to respond to a particular example of weirdness. I hear that a Turkish TV channel is going to put on a reality show in which representatives of world religions get to compete in order to convert an atheist each time. This … [Read more...]

Summary of every book on the state of Islam written by a Muslim

Here, as a public service, is a summary of every single book on the state of Islam ever written by a devout Muslim in modern times:The Muslim world is in crisis. But none of this indicates any fault with my version of Islam, which in its core precepts is divine and perfect. Muslims, however, have misunderstood Islam, and have therefore fallen into unfortunate circumstances.There. That should save you from having to read through an awful lot of books. You're welcome. … [Read more...]

Stained glass

I was in Europe earlier this month, adding to the list of Gothic cathedrals I've visited. I like the stained glass windows the best. Here is a small sample: a window from Chartres, a detail from Bourges, and a single pane from Bern:You'll notice I especially like the hell or judgment themed ones. Most windows are more pedestrian; I like more of an element of the fantastic. And even if hell, devils, and the day of judgment are damnable doctrines, they're pretty good for fantastic and fearsome … [Read more...]


Freedom is to act as one's real and true nature demands and so only the true exercise of that choice which is of what is good can properly be called 'free choice'. A choice for the better is therefore an act of freedom . . . Whereas a choice for the worse is not a choice as it is grounded in ignorance . . . it is then also not an exercise in freedom because freedom means precisely being free of domination by the powers of the soul that incites to evil.A statement by a conservative Catholic, … [Read more...]

(Not) Defending the Quran

I read way too much apologetic literature, of both the Christian and the Muslim kind. It's always hard to be confident I'm getting a representative sample; after all, I also ignore a lot that seems boring to me when I flip though a few pages. Still, I'll risk a broad-brush comparison.The Christian stuff I run into tends to be either not overly concerned with the Bible, or, if it's fundamentalist in character, will often at least gesture toward detailed reasons why the Bible is completely … [Read more...]

Why moral absolutism requires the transcendent

In my last piece, I mentioned that moral absolutists cannot be satisfied with any secular account of morality, and in particular, no naturalistic account of morality. I should clarify why this is so.The issue is not moral relativism, moral pluralism, or error theory, or any similar godless account of morality that explicitly denies objective moral realities. I think that if you want to have an accurate picture of the place of morality in the natural world, you should go in that direction, but … [Read more...]

Moral absolutists

Reading defenses of religion, I often encounter the complaint that the modern, secular world is caught up in moral relativism. What we need, however, are moral absolutes. We have to have a secure direction by which to orient our lives. Monotheistic religion is attractive to such moral absolutists, because conservative monotheism proclaims absolutes. It may do so in the form of divine law, but it also presents ideals such as stories of saints—images of lives oriented toward an unshakable … [Read more...]

The French way, or the Anglo-American way?

Some French politicians are indicating their displeasure with ultra-Islamic women's coverings again. Nicolas Sarkozy just said that "The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic."From an Anglo-American liberal point of view, this can easily come across as an example of the state overstepping its bounds, interfering with individual practices in order to impose a notion of the good. The liberal state should be … [Read more...]