Small car, big heart?

People still talk sentimental drivel about what a nice man the Pope is. It may be that he is a nice man in a personal sense – he may be the kindest, warmest, sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet. We’ve heard that he’s a simple-lifer, preferring a humble little guest house to the gilt […]

The she-demons of Ireland

Last week two women set up a Twitter account, TwoWomenTravel, to document their journey from Ireland to the UK for an abortion. Priest-ridden Ireland of course still bans all abortion except (grudgingly) those absolutely necessary to save the woman’s life. They tweeted a photo of the plane under a lowering sky, of their message of […]

Democracy in America

The US has a long inglorious history of hucksterism and fraud. You’d think it was something we took pride in, along with the Enlightenment ideas in the Declaration of Independence and the hot dog. Think of the meeting of the Duke and the Dauphin in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example. “What got you […]

The thin fabric

Well this has been a shock. I don’t know why I wasn’t more prepared for the Brexit win – just a foolish trust in people’s reluctance to vote for unabashed xenophobia, I guess. I thought the UKIP poster, above, that coincided with the murder of Jo Cox last week would be a turn-off, for one […]

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 […]