Archive | Religion

Riot and Arson Over Apparent Koran Desecration in India

Times of India reports; it’s not clear to me from the article whether the dead were the rioters or innocent victims of the rioters:

[S]ix people were killed and 12 injured, including two critically, in violence and arson during a protest against alleged desecration of the Quran. This is the sixth incident of communal violence in six months rule of Samajwadi Party so far….

“A member of our community saw pages of the holy Quran on which objectionable words were written along with a mobile number. He showed the pages to senior community members in the town, who took the pages to the police station,” said Ayub, a local advocate. “Instead of taking action, the police ignored the complaint,” he added. Following which an angry mob set the Masuri police station on fire.

Four police vehicles, six buses and some other vehicles were also damaged in the incident….

Ghaziabad district magistrate Aparna Upadhyay and senior superintendent of police Prashant Kumar told reporters that six persons were killed in the violence. A sub-inspector and a head constable suffered serious injuries and are in critical condition.

Asked whether protesters died in police firing, officials said it was a matter of investigation and they were awaiting post-mortem report to ascertain the cause of deaths….

Thanks to commenter shakerb for the pointer. [...]

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Criminal Mockery of Islam?

That’s what MSBNC contributors Mike Barnicle and Donny Deutsch, the University of Pennsylvania’s Prof. Anthea Butler (Religious Studies), and of course the Egyptian government argue with regard to the movie that mocks Mohammed:

Prof. Butler: “Good Morning. How soon is Sam Bacile going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now.When Americans die because you are stupid…” “And yes, I know we have First Amendment rights,but if you don’t understand the Religion you hate, STFU about it. Yes, I am ticked off.” “And people do to jail for speech. First Amendment doesn’t cover EVERYTHING a PERSON says.” “[T]he murder of the Ambassador and the employees is wrong, wrong. But Bacile will have to face his actions which he had freedom[.]”

Mike Barnicle: “Given this supposed minister’s role in last year’s riots in Afghanistan, where people died, and given his apparent or his alleged role in this film, where, not yet nailed down, but at least one American, perhaps the American ambassador is dead, it might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact.”

Donny Deutsch: “I was thinking the same thing, yeah.”

The Egyptian government: “We ask the American government to take a firm position toward this film’s producers within the framework of international charters that criminalise acts that stir strife on the basis of race, colour or religion.” [...]

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All of You Who Harshly Condemn Anti-Homosexuality Religious Beliefs, Take Note

And same for all of you who mock young earthers, or devout Scientologists, or believers in miracles — and all who say that, for instance, racist or sexist religious beliefs are contemptible — and maybe even all those who, even politely, contend that rival religions’ views are wrong and will deny salvation to the holders of those views:

The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.

So says the Secretary of State, in quite categorical terms. After all, in all the examples given above, you would presumably be intentionally denigrating the religious beliefs of others: saying that they are immoral and foolish. The U.S. government deplores your speech. It’s not just that the government doesn’t endorse the speech, not just that it deplores a limited and narrow category of blasphemous acts (e.g., burning a Koran, treading on a crucifix, and the like), but rather that it deplores any attempt to denigrate religious beliefs. Religious beliefs, which are routinely used by billions as a guide to private action and a guide to lawmaking, are supposed to be somehow immune from the denigration that is a commonplace and necessary part of debate about ideological beliefs generally.

The government statement also rightly condemns the murder of American diplomats and soldiers, but in the process deplores anti-religious speech as well. And, yes, I understand the context in which the statement was made, the demands of diplomacy (which often include the need to lie), and the reality that the State Department likely cares only about denigration of those religious groups that contain a substantial extremist fringe likely to respond to the denigration with murder. But the statement says what it says, and deliberately goes beyond an expression of nonendorsement to an expression of official governmental condemnation.

Here, by [...]

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The Boy Scouts’ Other Discriminatory Policy

Over the last decade, a lot of attention has focused on the Boy Scouts’ policy banning gays and lesbians from participating as Scouts or working for the organization. Most recently, a group of Eagle Scouts have returned their merit badges in protest of the policy. Unfortunately, very few have protested the Boy Scouts’ equally unjustified exclusion of atheists and agnostics.

It would be understandable for the Boy Scouts to exclude atheists if the purpose of the organization was to promote a particular religion, such as Catholicism or Judaism. But in fact that is not their purpose at all. They accept members of any and all religions (including ones with beliefs that most Americans would find highly objectionable) so long as they believe in God. Such an “anyone but atheists and agnostics” policy smacks of bigotry.

The most likely reason for the Boy Scouts’ policy is the belief that you can’t be a moral person without believing in God. As I explain in this article, such beliefs are widespread (shared by about 50% of Americans), but false. One can be an atheist and yet still have strong ethical commitments. And there is no evidence that atheists or agnostics have higher rates of criminal or unethical behavior than religious believers do.

It’s also worth noting that the Girl Scouts have allowed open atheists and agnostics to participate since the early 1990s, allowing members to omit the word “God” from the Girl Scout oath. There is no evidence that this has caused any problems for the organization. The Boy Scouts should follow their example.

Prejudice against atheists is more widespread than hostility towards any other religious or ethnic group, and more common even than homophobia. But the Boy Scouts – and others who aspire to moral leadership – [...]

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“21 Killed in Attacks on Churches in Nigeria”

ABC News reports:

Suicide bombers killed 21 people [and wounded at least 100] in attacks on three churches in Nigeria during Sunday services, exacerbating religious tensions in a West African nation that is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians….

It was the third Sunday in a row that deadly attacks have been carried out against Christian churches in northern Nigeria. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest one, but suspicion fell on the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram because it took responsibility for the two earlier weekend assaults.

Boko Haram is waging an increasingly bloody fight with security agencies and the public in Nigeria. More than 560 people have been killed in violence blamed on the sect this year alone, according to an Associated Press count….

Atrocity has, unsurprisingly, begun to lead to atrocity, though fortunately at this point at a smaller scale, and apparently just beginning (which suggests that it can more easily be stopped); the Christian Science Monitor reports:

Frustrated with the government’s inability to stop a string of such attacks in recent months, some Christians responded today with reprisals, killing at least 7 more people….

Until today, Christians living in the predominately-Muslim north have mostly resisted being provoked to violence, responding instead with calls on the government to suppress Boko Haram and reestablish security. Today’s retaliation from some Christians is raising concerns that a cycle of religious violence could start in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

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Yeah, That’s the Way to Persuade People

ABC News reports:

Christian protesters traveled across the country to Dearborn, Mich., where they taunted attendees and even held a severed pig’s head for three days at the annual Arab International Festival. The protests turned violent Sunday, and by the end of the day as many as 10 people facing disorderly conduct or assault charges, according to ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ.

“You’re going to burn in hell,” a missionary reportedly yelled at a group of Arab-American boys, while other protesters held anti-Muslim signs that made bigoted remarks about Islam and its prophet Mohammed, including “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and “Muhammad (Islam’s prophet) is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”

Young festival attendees later threw soda cans at the protesters and yelled, “Allah-U-Akbar” [God is the greatest], the Detroit Free Press reported.

Violence eventually broke out between festival goers and protesters, prompting Dearborn police to arrest a protest[er] they claim incited the violence. Some protesters say that they were attacked first.

It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, and whether the arrestee was arrested for simply stating opinions that led to retaliation, or for using constitutionally unprotected personal insults directed at a particular person (so-called “fighting words”). It’s possible the police behaved properly, for instance if the arrestee was indeed using fighting words — or attacking people first — and if the people on the other side were either just defending themselves, or couldn’t be identified. Or it’s possible that the police behaved improperly, for instance if they declined to arrest people who behaved violently, or arrested the arrestee simply for expressing his religious opinions. (Note that the other protesters weren’t arrested, even though they presumably were expressing similar religious opinions.)

But it’s hard to see how the protesters are likely [...]

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Buddhist-Muslim Violence in Burma

The L.A. Times reports:

The unrest was sparked Friday following last month’s rape and murder of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by three Muslims, and the lynching of 10 Muslims in retaliation. The weekend saw rival Muslim and Buddhist mobs burn houses. The government said about 4,100 people have lost their homes, many taking refuge in schools and Buddhist monasteries.

Analysts said that while the problem surfaced over the past week, the underlying conditions have developed over decades. A longstanding narrative of the military junta that had ruled the country for more than half a century was the preeminence of the ethnic Burman majority, which makes up about 68% of the population of Myanmar, also known as Burma.

“The rest, the non-Burmans, were pretty much persecuted,” said Jan Zalewski, a London-based South Asia analyst with IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm….

As is common in such situations, it’s not clear to what extent the crimes reflect religious ideology and to what extent they are ethnic clashes where the ethnic groups are defined partly by religion. Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. [...]

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How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution

I posted a draft of this article a few months ago, and I thank VC readers for some helpful comments in improving it. The final version has been published by the Charleston Law Review, and is available on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

This Article chronologically reviews the British gun control which precipitated the American Revolution: the 1774 import ban on firearms and gun powder; the 1774-75 confiscations of firearms and gun powder, from individuals and from local governments; and the use of violence to effectuate the confiscations. It was these events which changed a situation of rising political tension into a shooting war. Each of these British abuses provides insights into the scope of the modern Second Amendment.

From the events of 1774-75, we can discern that import restrictions or bans on firearms or ammunition are constitutionally suspect — at least if their purpose is to disarm the public, rather than for the normal purposes of import controls (e.g., raising tax revenue, or protecting domestic industry). We can discern that broad attempts to disarm the people of a town, or to render them defenseless, are anathema to the Second Amendment; such disarmament is what the British tried to impose, and what the Americans fought a war to ensure could never again happen in America. Similarly, gun licensing laws which have the purpose or effect of only allowing a minority of the people to keep and bear arms would be unconstitutional. Finally, we see that government violence, which should always be carefully constrained and controlled, should be especially discouraged when it is used to take firearms away from peaceable citizens. Use of the military for law enforcement is particularly odious to the principles upon which the American Revolution was based.

Readers interested in more detail on the role of [...]

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Is Atheism a Religion?

At the Reason website, Kennedy (who apparently has only one name), argues at length that atheism should be considered a religion:

[W]hether you make sense of the world as an atheist and don’t require the God postulate to complete your understanding, or you are a theist and your feelings and experiences tell you something greater is there, biologically speaking, that big blob of gray Jell-O in our skulls is like a giant arrow pointing us in the same direction. I believe that is delicious. And religious….

I contend that if your system is about God—or about the non-existence of God—God is still at the center of the argument’s “aboutness.” In the spirit of that “off is a TV channel” comment above: God is the TV. Religions are the channels. If it is off, maybe he’s dead or disengaged, but at least you admit there’s a TV….

When atheists rail against theists (as many did on my Facebook page), they are using the same fervor the religious use when making their claims against a secular society. By calling atheism a religion, I am not trying to craft terms or apply them out of convenience. I just see theists and atheists behaving in the same manner, approaching from opposite ends of the runway.

These kinds of claims are often made, but they fall apart under close inspection. Obviously, if you define the term “religion” broadly enough, atheism can qualify. But such a redefinition obfuscates important differences between atheism and religion, and is also contrary to ordinary English usage.

Kennedy argues that atheism is like religion because both atheists and theists 1) try to understand the nature of the world, 2) have beliefs about God, and 3) are often emotional about their beliefs and intolerant of opposing views. All of these points are [...]

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Judge Tries to Pressure Ex-Husband to Give Ex-Wife an Islamic Divorce; Court of Appeals Reverses

The case is Hammoud v. Hammoud (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 8, 2012). An excerpt:

Defendant next contends that the award of spousal support was excessive and improperly imposed as a sanction for defendant’s refusal to grant plaintiff an Islamic divorce…. “The object in awarding spousal support is to balance the incomes and needs of the parties so that neither will be impoverished; spousal support is to be based on what is just and reasonable under the circumstances of the case.” The factors traditionally to be considered by a trial court in awarding spousal support include:

(1) the past relations and conduct of the parties, (2) the length of the marriage, (3) the abilities of the parties to work, (4) the source and amount of property awarded to the parties, (5) the parties’ ages, (6) the abilities of the parties to pay alimony, (7) the present situation of the parties, (8) the needs of the parties, (9) the parties’ health, (10) the prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others, (11) contributions of the parties to the joint estate, (12) a party’s fault in causing the divorce, (13) the effect of cohabitation on a party’s financial status, and (14) general principles of equity.

… The trial court awarded plaintiff modifiable spousal support in the amount of $602 a month for a minimum of four years, with early termination upon the death or remarriage of plaintiff. The spousal support figure was based on the imputation of annual income of $14,616 to plaintiff. The trial court imposed the continuation of modifiable spousal support, in this amount, for an indefinite period unless terminated by plaintiff’s receipt of an Islamic divorce by defendant, her death or remarriage.

In awarding spousal support, “a judge’s role is

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Posthumous Baptisms

I find it hard to get upset about “posthumous baptisms” by Mormons of Jews, whether Holocaust victims or otherwise.

Either the Mormons are right about their theology, or they’re wrong. If they’re right, then the posthumous baptism will do good. If they’re wrong (and, being not a Mormon, I by definition think they are wrong, or else I’d be a Mormon), then the baptism will have no effect whatsoever: It is just some people going through some ineffectual — by hypothesis — rituals in their own temple, and I don’t see what it should be to me that those rituals use the names of (say) my late relatives, however much I love those relatives.

I suppose if someone’s theology was that Mormon baptisms did have metaphysical effect, but a bad effect (e.g., made the subject go to Hell), then that person would understandably object to those baptisms. But as best I can tell, that’s not Jewish theology — the Jewish religious view is that those rituals have absolutely no consequence, temporal or spiritual.

Nor do I see anything particular ill-mannered about this. True, the baptisms rest on a certain form of arrogance: The Mormons think they know God’s will better than others do, and think that it’s better for a soul to be baptized Mormon rather than to remain Jewish (assuming for purposes of discussion that such a statement can make sense). But that isn’t much different from the normal view of most religious people that their religious view is right and those that disagree with it are wrong — and, again, it’s a sort of arrogance that has no practical effect on anyone, living or dead, other than the Mormons themselves.

Now apparently Mormon authorities had said they wouldn’t do this [UPDATE: though some say no such [...]

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Atheism, Religion, and Presidential Voting

The New York Times Room for Debate Forum has an interesting symposium on the role of religion in presidential elections. In his contribution, polling expert Andrew Kohut cites a 2007 Pew survey showing that atheism is viewed more negatively by voters than virtually any other possible trait of a presidential candidate. A whopping 63% of respondents said they would be “less likely” to vote for a presidential candidate who “doesn’t believe in God” (3% said they would be more likely). This easily exceeds the percentages who say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who never held elected office (56), a Muslim (46), a homosexual (46), a person who had “used drugs in the past” (45), or a Mormon (30). Opposition to female, black and Hispanic candidates is several times lower (ranging from 4 to 14 percent, though some racists and sexists probably hid their true attitudes from the pollster). A more recent 2011 version of the same survey gets very similar results when it comes to atheists (61%), though there is less hostility towards gays (33%).

By contrast, 39% in the 2007 survey said they would be more likely to vote for a Christian candidate, compared to only 4% who said they would be less likely. However, many voters apparently don’t want a candidate who seems too closely associated with religion. The same poll found that 25% would be less likely to vote for a candidate who has been a minister, while only 15% said they would be more likely to support him. The questions about Christians and ministers were not repeated in the 2011 study.

The data cited by Kohut reinforce other evidence showing that atheists are by far the most widely hated religious or ethnic minority in modern America. The evidence suggests that [...]

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President: “I do not believe in the Divinity of Christ.”

The President also said that he did not believe “in the literal truth of the creed as it is recited in the orthodox evangelical churches.” He did, however, believe that Jesus had set forth an outstanding system of moral precepts.

Although the general views above were shared by Thomas Jefferson, the President quoted above was William Howard Taft, who served from 1909-13, and later as a very good Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Americans today tend to congratulate themselves for being more tolerant and open-minded than their ancestors of a century or two ago. Yet those earlier Americans elected the great Jefferson twice, and elected Taft once. Taft is not today remembered as a great President, but he at least he did much less harm to the United States than the man who succeeded him, Woodrow Wilson.

I find it disgusting that a Gallup Poll found 22% of Americans (18% of Republicans, 19% of Independents, and 27% of Democrats) say that they would not vote for a well-qualified candidate of their party who happened to be a Mormon. That’s actually an increase compared to 17% who gave the same answer in 1967.

If some Christians want to take the theological view that Unitarians, or Mormons, or, for that matter, Catholics are not true Christians, that’s their privilege, and it’s very legitimate source of religious debate. I don’t think that whether a candidate fits a voter’s definition of orthodox Christianity is a legitimate basis for voting for a public official.

Kudos to Mitt Romney, in his speech today at the Values Voters summit, for denouncing the “poisonous language” of Bryan Fischer, another invited speaker at the event, who makes the idiotic claim that the First Amendment was not intended to protect non-Christians. [...]

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Oral Argument in the Hosanna-Tabor Religious Freedom Case

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held oral arguments in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, a key religious freedom case that Eugene Volokh blogged about here. SCOTUSblog has a round-up of coverage of the argument. I found this exchange particularly telling, as the federal government did itself no favors by taking the extreme position that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment isn’t even implicated when the state uses antidiscrimination law to challenge the firing of church employees – even if the latter are ministers or have religious duties:

At one point, Justice Elena Kagan asked Ms. Kruger whether she believed that a church has a right grounded in First Amendment religious protections to hire and fire employees without government interference.

Kruger answered that the government was basing its argument on the freedom of association, rather than the parts of the First Amendment that deal with religious freedom.

“We don’t see that line of church autonomy principles in the religion clause jurisprudence as such,” Kruger replied. “We see it as a question of freedom of association.”

The position surprised several justices, including Justice Kagan, the Obama administration’s former solicitor general, who said she found the comment “amazing.” After the hearing, one representative of a religious association called the government’s position a “full frontal assault on religious liberty.”

Chief Justice John Roberts first raised the issue when he asked whether the administration considered anything “special about the fact that the people involved in this case are part of a religious organization.”

Ms. Kruger said, no, that there was no difference whether the group was a religious group, a labor group, or any other association of individuals.

“That’s extraordinary. That is extraordinary,” Justice Antonin Scalia declared. “We are talking here about the free exercise clause and about

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Upcoming 2012 Mayan Apocalypse Upcoming Transhumanism-Triggered Second Coming of Jesus?

From a WorldNetDaily article:

Secret U.S. experiments to prompt 2nd Coming? …

Secret experiments now underway in the U.S. and elsewhere are sparking fears of a potential extinction-level event hastening the 2nd Coming of Jesus ….

The possibility of humans eradicating their own existence through technological advancement has some Christians cracking open their Bibles to see what Scripture has to say on the matter.

The 24th chapter of the Book of Matthew is often cited, as Jesus talked specifically about the end of the current human age, saying, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21–22)

Britt Gillette, the Virginia-based Christian publisher of End Times Bible Prophecy, has been studying transhumanism in the light of Scripture, and says:

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