A leisurely Sunday afternoon riot

After we returned from an early dinner with friends late Sunday afternoon, we began to hear the reports of disturbances a few blocks away from where we live in downtown Huntington Beach.  The annual eight-day-long and well-attended US Open competition had just concluded around 5:00.  The neighborhood had been packed with attendees all weekend, and…

FNC: Where a Muslim is Just a Muslim

Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus Christ, pushes back against FNC’s Lauren Green’s assertions that it was somehow inappropriate for a Muslim to write a book about the founder of Christianity.  Nevermind that Aslan has a PhD (among other degrees) in religion, a point he makes several times throughout the…

The End of Absolute Sexual Morality

My friend Darwin observes: When trying to make-nice to conservatives, proponents of “same sex marriage” tend to emphasize it as a way of enshrining commitment and sexual morality. However, while this tends to suggest that same sex relationships should have the same moral obligations and boundaries as traditional ones, in practice I have never known…

The Development of Sex, Marriage, and Nature in Christian Thought

“To have intercourse without intending children is to violate nature, which we must take as our teacher.”  – Clement of Alexandria Throughout many traditions of Christian thought, theologians have taken nature, by which they’ve generally meant human nature, as an instructor of moral norms.  It would be a mistake to read “nature” here as simply…

Being in Uncertainty

Claire Creffield, an atheist who finds that, sometimes, “invoking the concept of God seems a very compelling way indeed of doing justice to the strangeness, the beauty and the peril of our lives,” asks whether a religious person could ever conceive of religion as a “non-creedal” way of “being in uncertainty” instead of as a…

Visiting Heaven

Eban Alexander has journeyed to heaven and returned to tell the tale. In addition to writing an upcoming book, he chose to publish his private revelation in the pages of Newsweek. He’s a neurosurgeon, so he’s credible, and we should believe his self-described logical and scientific account of what he experienced. Except he doesn’t proceed…

Human Sexuality and Religious Norms

Decades after the sexual revolution, many religious conservatives remain fiercely committed to preaching, if not always living, an absolute and absolutist understanding of human sexuality. Mainstream biologists, psychologists and sociologists, building on the science of evolution and other modern advancements of understanding, have helped redefine the meaning of normal when it comes to sex, moving…

Whiteville: Endgame

I have previously written about the water tower cross in Whiteville, Tennessee three times: here, here, and here. The story is pretty much over now. On August 8, 2012, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the town of Whiteville settled the lawsuit. The actual terms of the settlement are here. The FFRF’s press release regarding the settlement can be…

Culture is the villain

I’ve had this sort of nebulous notion that culture itself is a problem. Not any particular culture, mind you, but rather the entire concept of culture.  The exclusivity of the group over the individual. A lot of people will hold up individualism against collectivism, but what if that’s just scratching the surface? Culture is the…

Talk radio, taxes, and the Bible

~by M.A. Conor P. Williams, in Conservatism Isn’t Radical—It’s “Modular”, argues that there is a certain amount of mental jiu-jitsu involved in shifting frameworks from argument to argument. An interesting test of this very case came up this morning with the local radio talk host bringing up the topic of the death penalty in conjunction with…

Hexalogue

A certain kind of religious activist takes it as a given, and as an imperative, that the Decalogue must be displayed prominently on and in public buildings. Gratefully, these folks are rare; sadly, they have influence because few people want to be seen as opposing them. Which is why there are groups like the ACLU and the…

What are women for?

I keep trying to better understand James Poulos. I like James a great deal, though we disagree pretty fundamentally on many things. I’ve been fascinated by his discussions of the Pink Police State (a conservative argument against panem et circenses.) And yet postmodern conservatism has always been somewhat vague. It’s unorthodox in terms of American debate –…

A (Long) Musing On The New Contraception Rule

There’s been a long and somewhat intense discussion going on in the comments over at Kyle’s sub-blog about the Obama administration’s rule requiring Catholic institutions to provide coverage for contraception in their health care plans. There are a number of interesting threads I’d like to pull out here and state explicitly in a post that’s…

How Finding a Job is Like Losing Your Keys

“Who do you think made the first stone spear? That wasn’t the yakkity yaks sitting around the campfire. It was some Asperger sitting in the back of a cave figuring out how to chip rocks into spearheads. Without some autistic traits you wouldn’t even have a recording device to record this conversation on.” – Temple…

Fantasy and the Anglosphere

When I published my fantasy piece in the Atlantic it was linked (reproduced?) by Richard Dawkins’ site and a number of the atheists in the commentariat had scathing things to say about fantasy literature. Apparently it is not enough that readers of fantasy do not, in fact, believe in their make-believe. Apparently the fact that dragons…

The weird ideological inversion of the school reform debate

At one of our excellent sub-blogs, Alex Knapp makes this commonsensical point: We live in a country where Creationists can run for President without being laughed out of the room, homeopathy is seen as real medicine, millions of people buy into “The Secret” that wishing for something hard enough makes it real, and the cast…

Abortion and Slavery again

Ta-Nehisi has pushed once again into the abortion and slavery debate, this time following the invocation of that analogy by Rick Santorum and Joe Klein’s subsequent defense of Santorum’s rhetoric. Now, I’ve admitted in the past two things about the fetus-as-slave analogy: first, that it is not a very good analogy – and indeed I…

Fear and Failures of Interpretation

By Kyle Cupp In his post on Islamic terminology, Ned Resnikoff observed: Whereas Talmudic scholars disagree with one another of the interpretation of their holy text, there’s vast disagreement within Islam about what constitutes the text itself. There’s a reason why you’ll never find a single volume or collection of volumes everyone can agree makes…

How to govern well

What do Singapore, the United States, Canada, Denmark, and England all have in common? At first glance, not much. One is an oligarchic city state, two are parliamentary democracies, another is a Scandinavian social democracy, while the United States supposedly represents the laissez-faire extremes of the developed world. But we intuitively understand there are certain…

Beck and Obama’s radically different theologies

[updated] It is perhaps a little ironic that Beck is invoking theology so often and especially in order to demonize Obama further. Ironic because conservative and evangelical Christians probably have more in common theologically with Barack Obama than with Glenn Beck. Mainline Protestantism is still a lot more similar to evangelical Christianity than Mormonism –…

Capra-corn and the life of our time

There’s a quote about Carl Jung that I’ve come across a couple of times and shamelessly stolen every chance I’ve had: “We live a double life whether we know it or not. We live our own life and we live the life of our time.”  Economists are now warning of a double-dip recession, even though…