The test of spirituality

You know how Karen Armstrong, above, likes to say that compassion is at the heart of every great religion? For a year or two around 2009 she seemed to be saying nothing else. She said it in a lecture to the Unitarian Universalist Association for instance: And yet, each one of the major faiths, I […]

Erdogan is not amused

Free thought is not just thought itself in the narrow sense – it has many components, such as free inquiry, free exploration, free speculation, free discussion, and so on. One important part of free thought is free joking. Laugh if you like, but I’m serious. An idea or institution or ruler we’re forbidden to joke […]

Cameron the theocrat

Let’s take a look at the last few days in Atrocities Against Random People Going About Their Lives. Sunday it’s Lahore, Pakistan, where a bomb went off at a crowded park, killing at least 60 people and injuring many more. There is speculation that Christian families out for the Easter weekend may have been the […]

Islam takes slavery for granted

A few days ago Deutsche Welle started a story on women in Islam by introducing us to one generator of fatwas in Saudi Arabia: Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid [above] is not really that old. Nevertheless, despite being born to Palestinian refugees living in Syria in 1960, and having lived in Saudi Arabia since he was a […]

You can’t do both

People have been talking about hijab a lot lately. The Associated Press reported: On the night of the California mass shooting, Asifa Quraishi-Landes sat on her couch, her face in her hands, and thought about what was ahead for her and other Muslim women who wear a scarf or veil in public. The covering, or […]

Our minds are our own

Remember the Inquisition? Those were fun times. Being alive now is being subject to a roving freelance Inquisition that can grab us at any time, as if we were 13th century Cathars. I feel pretty safe where I am, but with a freelance Inquisition one just never knows. If they did pounce, and pause to […]

What the theocrats forgot

There’s a thing that publicists for religion do when they’re trying to explain why human beings can’t possibly get along without some sort of god in their lives: they insist that God is the only source of ‘meaning’ for humans and that all secular sources are poor thin broken substitutes. It’s a very common claim, […]

Pope frenzy

  Greetings from happy-clappy popey-cuddly land, where it’s all pope all the time and we just can’t say enough about what a wonderful, warm, caring, new, different, thrilling, compassionate pontiff the dear man is. The New York Times for instance, gushing like a Beyoncé fan: Pope Francis swept across Manhattan on Friday from the center […]

Islamists behead antiquities scholar

There are people who do good things for their fellow human beings, and there are people who destroy them. On Tuesday in Palmyra, Syria, Islamic State murderers beheaded 82-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, above, a renowned antiquities scholar, and hung his mutilated body on a column in a main square on the site. The Guardian reports that […]