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Archive for March 2011



What happened to those fiscal priorities?

Well, different things come to the fore in state houses, Creationism Makes a Comeback:

The irony is that in the past, creationist institutions and advocates used to be allies of laws and reforms which would give a stronger role for a parents choice in their child’s education, whether through voucher programs, charter schools, or even homeschooling. There is a logic to this approach: rather than tear towns and communities apart over protracted and agonizing legal battles, simply give parents the power to choose what education their child can have.

Laws such as HB 368, and other “academic freedom” bills are not about giving parents more options about where they can get their children educated. They are about empowering and protecting those creationists who are already in the public education system and are waiting to be given the legal cover to evangelize and teach bad science.

I’m a conservative who is passionate about science. I can tell you from personal experience that the American right-wing’s periodic love affair with Creationism, whether through genuine sincere belief or political opportunism, is a major reason for the alienation of scientists from any engagement with American conservatism. I do not believe that scientist are by their nature lovers of the Leviathan, nor are they often died-in-the-wool cultural relativists. But often they have a hard time taking seriously a movement whose stated aim is to replace established science with science-inflected religion. I don’t know if it is amusing or sad, but many of my scientist acquaintances are very skeptical that I really can be a conservative. I don’t fit their image of a right-winger, and I am of course pro-science. Now, there are obviously orders of magnitude more American evangelicals than scientists. For politicians they are a substantial voting block which needs to be wooed. But for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?




Via Politico:

SAN ANTONIO — Newt Gingrich stood before thousands of evangelical churchgoers Sunday night to deliver a dire warning that nation’s Christian roots are under attack.

“I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9,” Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

The former House Speaker held up his own faith (he converted to Catholicism two years ago) as proof of his undying patriotism.


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Honors for Sale

A traditionally British form of fundraising appears to have been given a fresh twist. The Mail on Sunday reports:

One of Britain’s most high-profile Catholic priests has admitted arranging papal knighthoods for wealthy businessmen for money. Father Michael Seed, who regularly celebrated Mass for Tony Blair and his family in Downing Street, now faces questions from his religious order… Papal knighthoods are awarded to lay men and women for conspicuous service to the church and society. They are among the highest honours the Pope can bestow. Tonight a source close to Fr Seed’s order, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, said his superiors were ‘appalled’. Although he failed to solicit funds from Mr Bezalel [an arms dealer mentioned earlier in the story], at least four wealthy Britons were impressed by his overtures. Fr Seed admitted they made donations to an Archbishop friend’s charity in Serbia to become papal knights.

It was unclear last night if the four, who are each understood to have contributed between £25,000 and £50,000, had done anything else to merit their honour… Fr Seed, who has taken a vow of poverty, denied profiting from any of the deals…

…Fr Seed is honorary chaplain to the International Committee on Human Dignity, based at the European Parliament in Brussels. But it was as unofficial Catholic envoy to Parliament that he acquired many well-connected friends. He was praised by Cherie Blair for turning ‘the great into the good’ and helped to convert Tony Blair…



Forget 2012, The End is Even More Nigh…

Via the Independent:

The end of the world is nigh; 21 May, to be precise. That’s the date when Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California, is confidently predicting the Second Coming of the Lord. At about 6pm, he reckons 2 per cent of the world’s population will be immediately “raptured” to Heaven; the rest of us will get sent straight to the Other Place.

If Mr Camping were speaking from any normal pulpit, it would be easy to dismiss him as just another religious eccentric wrongly calling the apocalypse. But thanks to this elderly man’s ubiquity, on America’s airwaves and billboards, his unlikely Doomsday message is almost impossible to ignore.

Every day Mr Camping, an 89-year-old former civil engineer, speaks to his followers via the Family Radio Network, a religious broadcasting organisation funded entirely by donations from listeners. Such is their generosity (assets total $120m) that his network now owns 66 stations in the US alone.

Those deep pockets were raided to allow Family Radio to launch a high-profile advertising campaign, proclaiming the approaching Day of Judgement. More than 2,000 billboards across the US are adorned with its slogans, which include “Blow the trumpet, warn the people!”. A fleet of logoed camper vans is touring every state in the nation. “It’s getting real close. It’s really getting pretty awesome, when you think about it,” Mr Camping told The Independent on Sunday. “We’re not talking about a ball game, or a marriage, or graduating from college. We’re talking about the end of the world, a matter of being eternally dead, or being eternally alive, and it’s all coming to a head right now.”

Mr Camping, who makes programmes in 48 languages, boasts tens of thousands of followers across the globe, with radio stations in South Africa, Russia and Turkey. After 70 years of studying the Bible, he claims to have developed a system that uses mathematics to interpret prophesies hidden in it. He says the world will end on 21 May, because that will be 722,500 days from 1 April AD33, which he believes was the day of the Crucifixion. The figure of 722,500 is important because you get it by multiplying three holy numbers (five, 10 and 17) together twice. “When I found this out, I tell you, it blew my mind,” he said


If that was really the case, his mind may not have been in the best condition in the first place, but I’ll let that pass.

This, however, is too entertaining to overlook:

Critics point out that this isn’t the first time Mr Camping has predicted the second coming. On 6 September 1994, hundreds of his listeners gathered at an auditorium in Alameda looking forward to Christ’s return.

“At that time there was a lot of the Bible I had not really researched very carefully,” he said last week.

Ah yes, there’s always that next time…

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Secular Celebration

From this weekend’s Radio Derb (transcript here):

As an unbeliever, I have naturally asked NRO to give me paid leave for the entire month of May so I can celebrate the tercentenary of the birth of David Hume, taking a trip to the great philosopher’s birthplace in Scotland and devoutly attending the four-day public reading of the Treatise being planned by my colleagues at Secular Right.

Have we fixed a location for the party yet?

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The Rush for Judgment (2)

Via (for some background on that site, here’s a New York Times piece from last year), here’s another tale of someone else who sees the tragedy in Japan as an example of divine retribution. On this occasion it’s a Hasidic rabbi who sees Japan’s detention of some students accused of drug smuggling as the cause of God’s wrath. Here’s what is described as a loose translation:

God is landing blow after blow on the Japanese. But they’re like Egypt and Pharaoh. Japan does not understand that it is holding the detainees [Satmar yeshiva students arrested for drug smuggling] for no reason. They think the yeshiva students know what this drug is, but from where would Hasidic yeshiva students know what this is? Only goyyim [non-Jews] know what drugs are. Rather than [Japan] admitting its mistake, it continues to hold them, and for that [Japan] is punished.


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Long Spoon Needed

Crossposted in the Corner:

This report from yesterday’s New York Times does not bode well. Here’s a key extract:

Cairo: In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

It is possible to understand the interim government’s motives, but Egypt’s military is playing a dangerous game. One of the characteristics of the Mubarak regime was the amount of space he ceded to religious hardliners in the religious and cultural spheres, a terrible mistake that did nothing other than store up trouble for the future. Now it seems that the retreat will begin from the political arena as well.




Veena Malik

Cross-posted over at the Corner:

Even if you are going to watch nothing else over the Internet today, make sure you check out a clip of actress Veena Malik taking on some snake of a mullah on Pakistani television. You can find it here on the (London) Spectator’s website.

Here’s what the Spectator’s Nick Cohen has to say:

If we are going to avoid a clash of civilisations, we are going to need many more like the Pakistani actress Veena Malik. Watch her take on a mullah, who is trying to accuse her of immoral behaviour. This is no small accusation in Pakistan where Islamist death squads and their collaborators in the state intelligence service, operate at will. The talk show setting of the attempt at trial by media is commonplace too. The murder of Salman Taseer followed days of hacks whipping up “Muslim rage” against him.

Instead of being frightened, Malik turns on her accuser and the journalist, who helped set her up, and lets them have it.

Brave, beautiful and utterly magnificent.

And, I’d add, very moving.

My only dissent would be over Mr. Cohen’s implication that it is still possibile to ‘avoid’ a clash of civilizations. It’s too late for that. The main questions now concern the form that this contest is taking, and, of course, how it will unfold. So long as there continue to be people in traditionally Muslim countries with the courage to speak out against bullying clerics and the rising tide of retrograde and brutal religious intolerance there are, I think, still some grounds for some hope.

Just watch the video.

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Men, not gods

The New York Times Magazine has a long profile up of Yasir Qadhi, a religiously conservative American Muslim cleric. It is long and worth reading in and of itself, but I want to focus on one section:

American Muslims, Qadhi told the audience, needed to abide by the laws of their country, understanding that had they been born in Palestine or Iraq, their “responsibilities would be different.” He did not elaborate.

It is this kind of ambiguity that gnaws at some of Qadhi’s students. “We just get wishy-washy nonanswers,” one female student told me, adding that Qadhi’s “jihad of the tongue” was unconvincing. Being martyred in the battlefield, she said, is “romantic,” while “lobbying your congressman is not.”


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And Iowa…

Via the Des Moines Register:

Poor Iowans would be prohibited from having a taxpayer-paid abortion in cases of rape or incest under an amendment to a budget bill approved by a House committee this week.

Again, grotesque…


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