Parrot Fatwa

You sometimes have to admire the comprehensive ambitions of Muslim scholars. They have to have a ruling for everything. Hence my favorite fatwa of the week. Some guy asks if he is religiously obligated to return an "al-salaamu ‘alaykum” greeting spoken by a parrot. The scholar duly answers, comparing the parrot situation to tape recordings.Too bad casuistic reasoning has fallen out of fashion in popular Christian circles. It can be so entertaining. … [Read more...]

The Miracle of Creation?

To clarify how Richard Swinburne thinks about the question “Did God create the universe?” I think it might be helpful to consider how Swinburne thinks about the question “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?” In The Resurrection of God Incarnate, Swinburne distinguishes his thinking from that of “a typical New Testament expert”:To start with, we need to take into account what I shall call ‘the general background evidence’, evidence (the data) about whether or not there is a God able and likely to i … [Read more...]

“Because God Made it that Way”

Sometimes something humorous can provide philosophical insight. I got an e-mail from a former student, now community college instructor, called "how to fail with dignity." It had exam questions with funny wrong answers actually given by students. One question was "Why is phosphorus trichloride (PhCl3) polar?" The answer, given by a student who appears devout but too lazy to study for a chemistry exam, was "Because God made it that way." Presumably, the answer was marked wrong. But just why … [Read more...]

Turkish Pat Robertson

A Turkish conservative newspaper columnist yesterday published an op-ed in which he acted as an Islamic version of Pat Robertson. Observing that "The Quran tells us that if collective sins are not met with collective repentance, that some disasters will occur in that region," Nuh Gönültaş then says that "The fundamental reality of [Haiti] is that the majority of its people are engaged in witchcraft." Indeed, "Voodoo is Haiti's national religion. The majority of blacks living in Haiti perform sa … [Read more...]

Secular aid and charity

The most prominent US humanist organizations, the Council for Secular Humanism and the American Humanist Association, have appeals for donations to help Haiti, through secular channels. (CSH site; AHA site.)In the interests of equal opportunity cynicism, though, I have to wonder how much of this is motivated by a need to demonstrate that the nonreligious can also be charitable. ("Look, we can do this too!") I would expect it's part of the picture. Christians often point out the social benefits … [Read more...]

Haunted by demons

It's nice to know that we can count on Religious Right figures to say something grossly stupid at regular intervals. This time it's Pat Robertson, talking about how Haitians are paying for a past pact with the devil. I guess liberal believers and the nonreligious can use the sense of outrage this produces for a short while. Not a bad thing too—the fact is that people such as Pat Robertson are not just buffoons who are media-fodder. They enjoy real power and influence.Still, outrages aside, … [Read more...]

Multicultural Respect

I keep trying to make sense of recurrent demands for "respect" of religious traditions that come from politically liberal and leftish circles, whom you wouldn't immediately think of as affirming ways of life in which religious faith is central.But then, these days "left" often means the multicultural left, the postmodern animal, rather than the left wing of the Enlightenment political tradition. So maybe the background notion of "respect" for other cultures ("the Other," if I succumb to the … [Read more...]

American Evangelicals Promote Rabid Ugandan Homophobia

Uganda has recently considered imposing insanely draconian laws that would punish homosexuality with death and even imprison landlords who rent to gays or relatives who fail to rat out their gay kin. Who whipped up the homophobic frenzy that led to this madness? You get one guess. Yep. Fundamentalist nitwits, disappointed in their efforts to purge America of godless sodomites, have taken their crusade to Africa. According to Jeffrey Gettleman, writing in The New York Times, last March three … [Read more...]


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