Category : Other Faiths

(Atlantic) Alexis Madrigal–Facebook believes too strongly in the goodness of people

In an unusually revealing moment for Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg told Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday that he didn’t support taking down content about Holocaust denial on Facebook. Zuckerberg is Jewish, and he finds such denials “deeply offensive,” he said. But Holocaust deniers were not “intentionally getting it wrong.”

When Swisher followed up that “in the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be,” Zuckerberg retreated to a stance he’s never quite made explicit before. “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said.

In place of “understanding” the intent, this statement makes clear that Facebook takes a default stance of assuming users act in good faith—or without intention, at least. Zuckerberg and Facebook have been repeatedly criticized, and accepted the criticism as largely true, that they have been too willing to ignore the potential negative ways the platform can be used. And yet here, one of the basic principles of how they moderate speech is to be so optimistic as to give Holocaust deniers the benefit of the doubt.

Zuckerberg seems to be imagining a circumstance where somebody watched a YouTube video that makes a case against the (real, documented, horrifying) Holocaust and ignorantly posts it to Facebook. Under the rules the platform has established, there is no penalty for that (in countries where Holocaust denial is not illegal)….

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, History, Judaism, Theology, Violence

(PewR FactTank) Populist views in Europe: It’s not just the economy

Ethnocentrism also plays a role in this wave of populist views. About six-in-ten (61%) AfD supporters in Germany, a majority (56%) of National Front backers in France and nearly half (47%) of Party for Freedom (PVV) adherents in the Netherlands say their people’s culture is “superior to others.” This sense of national cultural pre-eminence is far less prevalent among the rest of the publics in their countries.

Another sentiment strongly expressed among those who support right-wing European populist parties is that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with their country’s culture and values: 75% of Germans with a positive view of AfD, 66% of Dutch PVV supporters and 63% of French National Front backers say Islam is “fundamentally incompatible with our culture and values.” About four-in-ten or fewer adults with unfavorable views of populist parties in these nations agree.

Old-fashioned nationalism is still evident in modern European right-wing populism, too.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(LA Times) Avram Mlotek–Google could use a little godliness

Whether they realize it or not, technology leaders are writing a virtual universal constitution. What they’re doing is important to humanity. With a little spiritual guidance, maybe it’ll be easier for them to pause the emoji barrage and hear the human voice.

Just as clergy offer counsel to their congregants, the users, let’s bring chaplains into tech offices, the providers. Sure, it may be hard to envision the Pope giving a talk on sexuality at Tinder, but it’s a new dawn. Anything is possible and this rabbi is ready for the unexplored frontier. Google, you know where to find me.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

In 2009 an Anglican church was expelled from their building in Central NY under TEC Bishop Skip Adams and it became an Islamic Center for 1/3 the price the parish was willing to pay

Former Bishop of South Carolina, C. Fitzsimons Allison, has written about this matter here and described it as follows:

…nothing in the behavior of TEC suggests their goals with departing parishes and Dioceses have changed over time. They continue to litigate in the Diocese of Quincy, Illinois despite having lost at the highest level in the state courts there. In the Diocese of San Joaquin, California, after spending $15 million to recover the parish properties, only 21 have been declared “viable” with the other 25 reported as going up for sale. In Bishop Adams’ former diocese, the people of Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY were denied the purchase of their former church, seeing it sold for 1/3 their offer to become a mosque instead. The pattern of behavior is clear. For TEC, “reconciliation” has meant, “surrender, return the property and we’ll forgive you so you can rejoin us”. That is not a viable way forward.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Stewardship, TEC Bishops

(BBC) Chief rabbi: Labour should toughen up anti-Semitism code

The code does endorse the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes behaviours it lists as likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic – but critics point out that it leaves out four examples from that definition:

Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attacked the omission of these examples and said it was “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified” to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Spectator) Theo Hobson– Coffee House Justin Welby needs to get off the fence

He cheerfully admits that we can’t recreate a Christian-based social order – which was always a flawed thing anyway. But he cannot quite affirm our post-Christian social order, which privatises faith, and ‘leaves a vacuum’:

‘That is not to say at this stage that the answer is to reverse the privatisation of Christian faith (which is anyway not something within human gift) but rather that there is a need for a generous and hospitable meta-narrative within which competing truths can be held. It will be the suggestion of this book that Christian faith…provides the potential for such hospitable and generous holding.’

Is there an alternative to such awkward fence-sitting? As the leader of a Christian church he must say that Christianity is what the nation needs in order to reimagine the common good, but as this is the established Church of a liberal state he must also sound respectful of secular diversity. The problem is that his respect for secular diversity never quite sounds sincere. As I say, it sounds like he is reining in his dislike of it, forcing a cheerful smile.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Gerald McDermott–Attack on the Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi


This was the third time that Muslims have attacked Jos Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi.
The first time they stole his cattle. The second time they came to kill him. He was gone and so they savaged his wife, assaulting her womanhood, and left her half-dead.
[Friday] night all of his cattle were stolen by (Muslim) Fulani tribesmen, and when his dear neighbor Ayuba heard and shined a light on the rustlers, he was shot dead….

Here is what the AB wrote on FB:
…Ayuba Dung..
…Ayuba Dung..
A simple driver of a COCIN (a Nigerian Christian denomination) chairman…
Has a family a wife and children, living in an uncompleted house of his own. The doors and widows waiting to be bought to be fixed. He had hopes of finishing his house and living peacefully with his family.
The story changed last night…
He was shot through the head because he flashed his light when he heard footsteps of cattle being rustled…
The cows were mine…
I was at the Archbishop’s home today. Some of his bishops and priests with their wives were there, along with Gloria his wife and their many adopted orphan children. They were there to consult, and to encourage him. There was no grimness. Many smiled warmly. The general attitude was, “This is what God has called us to–mission amidst persecution. We love one another, and the devil is driving us Christians closer together.”
One of those who called on him to offer condolences was a Fulani tribal leader, a Muslim. He showed that not all the Fulani agree with what these terrorists, their fellow tribesmen, are doing.
At the same time, one of his priests told me that these Muslim Fulani were making a statement: “We know who you are. Be on the alert.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

Gerald McDermott–Religious Cleansing in Jos

Christians here are incensed that the Nigerian president is telling the world that the explanation for this brutality is conflict between Fulani herdsman and farmers. As a Nigerian headline put it, “Bukhari [the president] says 300 Fulani cows were stolen.” In other words, the Fulani herdsmen retaliated because their cows were stolen.

There are several problems with this explanation. The Fulani herdsman, who are Muslims, have lived in peace with their Christian neighbors for decades. Also, they cried out “Allahu akbar [Allah is great]!” as they swooped in upon these villages with death and terror.

The real story, Christians tell me, is that Islamists from other countries (like Niger and possibly Saudi Arabia) have radicalized previously-peaceful Muslim herdsmen. And the government, which is controlled by a Muslim administration, is taking advantage of this to consolidate its hold on this Middle Belt of Nigeria. Right now Jos is majority-Christian. But if the government can use these radicals to drive Christians out, Jos can become a majority-Muslim area.

The world media is reporting this as an “ethnic clash.” Some call it ethnic cleansing. But it is really religious cleansing. As Anglican Archbishop Ben Kwashi (seen here preaching) told us yesterday, a mere “clash” does not murder women and children.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

([London] Times) Act now on civil partnerships, urge mixed-sex couple after court win

The extension of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is one of the planks of The Times’s campaign with the Marriage Foundation to reform family law.

Lord Kerr, announcing the court’s decision, said the government “does not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same-sex and different sex couples. To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified.” He said that the government sought “tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it. That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim.” He added that it was “salutary to recall that a declaration of incompatibility does not oblige the government or parliament to do anything”.

However, there is mounting support for the change. Tim Loughton, MP, who has led a campaign for a change in the law, said that he was seeking an urgent meeting with ministers to amend a private member’s bill that is going through parliament at present, and was confident of support. “We now have a decision; we need to act on it,” he said.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Secularism, Women

(Economist Erasmus Blog) For those who fight sex-trafficking, dark rituals compound the problem

People who campaign against the ghastly phenomenon of human trafficking and sex slavery soon become aware that they are contending not only with flesh-and-blood wrongdoers but also with invisible forces which, if nothing else, are very much alive inside people’s heads.

One of the most notorious North-South rackets involves transporting young women, often minors, for sex work in Italy and beyond from Nigeria, in particular the southern area around Benin City. That part of the country has a powerful Christian presence, from Catholic to Pentecostal, but it is also a stronghold of traditional animist practices, including witchcraft. Its sex-slave trade has existed for three decades but it seems to have burgeoned recently. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that in 2016, some 11,100 Nigerian women landed in Sicily, and 80% entered a life of forced prostitution.

Before she is spirited off to Europe, the bond between a victim and her trafficker is often sealed with a voodoo ritual in which she surrenders pieces of clothing, fingernails and body hair; these fragments may be combined with drops of blood into a mixture which the victim is made to drink. This terrifies the young woman into thinking that curses will befall her family unless the debt to the trafficker, which can be around $50,000, is paid off.

According to Eugenia Bonetti, a Catholic religious sister who heads an NGO called Slaves No More, one of the many tragic consequences of all this is that young Nigerian women who are expelled from Italy or are helped by charities to return home can find themselves ostracised by their own families. Christian religious orders in Nigeria try to look after these returnees but they are treated as social pariahs.

In March, an attempt was made to tackle this problem by fighting fire with fire….

Read it all.

Posted in Italy, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(Washington Post) ‘What’s next?’ Muslims grapple with Supreme Court ruling that they believe redefines their place in America

“For all my life, I’ve felt that this is my country,” said [Ramy] Almansoob, a 34-year-old structural engineer who was born in the United States and raised in Yemen, returning in 2015 to the suburbs of Washington to build a new life for his family. “We all knew that the United States is the place where you have freedom, and that’s what I always had in my mind. It’s not how it used to be.”

Almansoob applied to bring his wife and daughters to the United States a few months before Trump took office in January 2017. The ban, which seemed to echo Trump’s campaign call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” quickly followed. And after two amended versions and a number of court battles, the Supreme Court in December allowed for the temporary implementation of the ban on Yemenis, Syrians, Iranians, Somalis and Libyans.

Now the court has upheld the policy, a decision that added permanence to the sentiment among many American Muslims that the government views and treats them differently from other Americans.

“It has put me in the position of second-class citizenship,” said Abrar Omeish, a Libyan American in Virginia who recently ran for a spot on the school board in Fairfax County.

Civil rights and religious advocacy groups across the country reacted to the court’s decision Tuesday in a passionate uproar.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Supreme Court

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on ‘The Great Partnership’ between Religion+Science

The human mind is capable of doing two quite different things. One is the ability to break things down into their constituent parts and see how they mesh and interact. This is often called “left brain” thinking, and the best example is science. The other, often called “right brain thinking,” is the ability to join events together so that they tell a story, or to join people together so that they form relationships. The best example of this is religion.

To put it at its simplest: science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. And we need them both, the way we need the two hemispheres of the brain.

Science is about explanation, religion is about interpretation. Science analyses, religion integrates. Science breaks things down to their component parts; religion binds people together in relationships of trust. Science tells us what is, religion tells us what ought to be. Science describes; religion inspires, beckons, calls.

Science practices detachment; religion is the art of attachment, self to self, soul to soul. Science sees the underlying order of the physical world. Religion hears the music beneath the noise. Science is the conquest of ignorance. Religion is the redemption of solitude.

One way of seeing the difference is to think about their relationship with time. Science looks for causes of events, and a cause always comes before its effect. How did the window break? Because I threw a stone at it. First came the throwing of the stone, then came the breaking of the window. Science looks back from effect to cause.

However, human action is always looking forward….

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

William Witt–Why I Do Not Take the “New Atheism” Seriously: “Flying Spaghetti Monsters,” Orbiting Tea Pots, and Invisible Pink Unicorns

While the above responses do indeed point to weaknesses in arguments that compare the existence of God to “Flying Spaghetti Monsters” or orbiting tea pots, they do not specifically address what I think is the most important problem with the New Atheists, and that is that the very use of such arguments shows that the New Atheists do not know what they are talking about when they use the word “God.” What all of these New Atheist memes – invisible pink unicorns, “Flying Spaghetti Monsters,” orbiting tea pots – have in common is that they compare God to finite contingent physical objects existing within the known physical universe. God is understood to be one additional entity among others in the same way that an orbiting teapot would be one teapot among other non-orbiting teapots or a “Flying Spaghetti Monster” would be composed of “spaghetti,” a physical substance of which every grocery store has numerous items. (This is also evident in the New Atheist claim “I just believe in one less god than you do,” or the claim, “I don’t believe in the Christian god, but I don’t believe in Zeus or Thor either.”)

In the same way that an argument about Physics as a scientific discipline would have to address accurate accounts of the scientific discipline and not beliefs in phlogiston or physical reality being made of earth, fire, air, and water, New Atheist rejections of the Christian God at least should clearly show an understanding of what it is that Christians mean when they affirm that God exists. And no competent Christian theologian or philosopher has ever claimed that God is one finite contingent entity among others – another item existing within the physical universe. When the New Atheists say that they do not believe in God, comparisons to “Flying Spaghetti Monsters” and “orbiting tea pots” make clear that they do not know what they are talking about.

If one is going to deny the existence of God, then what needs to be denied is the God of historical Christian faith, and the place to turn for an account of this Christian God would be classic Christian theologians such as Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, John of Damascus or Thomas Aquinas, or even more contemporary theologians such as Karl Barth or Thomas F. Torrance (among Protestants), or (among Catholics) Hans Urs von Balthasar or Matthew Levering or numerous philosophical theologians such as David Burrell (my dissertation director) or Herbert McCabe, or Orthodox thinkers such as David Bentley Hart.

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Posted in Atheism, Theology

(New Atlantis) Doug Sikkema–Taking a Careful look at the Modern disenchantment myth

That magic, religion, and superstition have all persisted up to the modern day does not quite demonstrate his claim that “we have never been disenchanted” — or, put another way, that “modernity signals a societal fissure” between religion and reason “that never occurred.” In his keenness to show that the idea of disenchantment is undermined by the persistence of both sides of the binary, he fails to examine a more interesting and arguably much more important line of inquiry: how this myth has altered the conditions in which both religion and science are now practiced. When we consider this, we see that despite the continued prevalence of enchanting beliefs and practices, we are indeed disenchanted in a more fundamental and pervasive way than Josephson-Storm recognizes.

Just recall his origin story for a moment and his blind spot becomes apparent. He deems pre-Revolutionary Europe to be merely a “historical moment” the Romantics were reacting against in their writings. In doing so “they were making grand themes out of the specifics of their local history.” But this reading fails to take seriously the broader cultural conditions in which such a political and philosophical climate even became possible. Might it have something to do with a broader notion of disenchantment, or “dis-God-ing” (to translate from Schiller’s “entgötterte Natur”), that transcended this particular place and time? If so, the German Romantics may have had real reason for concern, as may have the thinkers who built on their insights. Perhaps their understanding of history’s pattern as a linear alienation from God and nature was questionable, but the idea of a dis-godded condition becoming solidified in a theory of progress and in revolutionary politics, and of it manifesting in physical form in the new industrial world, was so terrifying to them precisely because they knew these things were greater than their particular historical moment.

The only way for the book’s argument to work, then, is to accept at face value the idea of disenchantment as the simple absence of religion and magic. But we are actually disenchanted in a much more profound way. Yes, religion and magic remain ubiquitous; but they are now performed against a backdrop in which disenchantment is regarded, in ways conscious and unconscious, as true. Disenchantment is the default position in the social imaginary, encoded in our language and in all manner of habits and practices that carry as if we inhabit a mechanistic world. It has become one of the myths we live by, even as we resist it.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Religion & Culture