Posts Tagged ‘religion’

After the Rapture

Posted: May 25, 2011 in humour
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If god were on Facebook …

Posted: March 17, 2011 in humour
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At least it’s quite irreverant :)!

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Given the intricacies of the human mind, dialogue can be quite fascinating. Here we have Terry Eagleton being interviewed on Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, two of the current ueber-atheists.

Eagleton could have a lot in common with them given his Marxist background that could make him see any religion, while having historical relevance, an illusion. Far from being such a straight-down-the -line materlialist though, Eagleton (who is also rooted in formative years of Catholic education in Ireland) attempts to construct an image of god on a level outside scientific but supposedly inside theological discussion and relevance: god as impersonal, unruffled and incomprehensible pure love; and Jesus in this narrative becomes a compassionate and also passionate social justice activist and agent of change (is that Liberation Theology revisited?).

It would be easy for almost any atheist to dismiss these arguments as those of just another religionist, but that would do them injustice. In a way, Eagleton argues against taking black and white views for and against religion. For example, and I hate to concede that point, but Catholic education might actually encourage analytical thinking and even lay a foundation for critical thought. And while the pope and his bishops might be part of the social injustice establishment, there is an army of nuns, monks and priests out there who have done and still doing lots more for social change than most likely all atheists thinkers put together.

All that of course is only relevant, if the atheist alternative to religion is not nihilism but for example humanism (and I’d prefer an even more holistic, cosmological approach that embraces all existence as we perceive it). Dawkins certainly seems to push the liberation line of humanistic thought and practice but, as the interview reveals, his interpretation of reality could be seen as idealistic as that of his adversary Eagleton. So, we have a Marxist Eagleton who is religious and a scientific Dawkins who abandons a central tenet of science, testability, when claiming his high ground. But that’s  simplifying the argument – which makes this Laurie Taylor interview for the New Humanist magazine so readable: Eagleton certainly seems to have much more depth, and atheism therefore needs to become more sophisticated!

Tragic hero: Laurie Taylor interviews Terry Eagleton

Laurie Taylor meets the Marxist critic gunning for the New Atheists

Terry Eagleton photographed in Dublin by Cliona O'FlahertyReading the first sentence of Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion in the October 2006 edition of the London Review of Books was not unlike watching a gunfighter kicking over a table of cards in an otherwise well-ordered saloon. “Imagine,” fired Eagleton, “someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

And that was only the opening volley. Further down the page Eagleton proceeds to shoot up Dawkins’s failure to do justice to the complexity of the God he sought to rout (“He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap”), his literality and lack of imagination (“Dawkins occasionally writes as though ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness’ is a mighty funny way to describe a Grecian urn”) and his belief in the progressive nature of history (“We have it from the mouth of Mr Public Science himself that aside from a few local, temporary hiccups like ecological disasters, famine, ethnic wars and nuclear wastelands, History is perpetually on the up”).

Entertaining, even exhilarating stuff. But no great surprise to those who’ve followed Eagleton’s career in any detail. He has a reputation for entering other people’s rooms and kicking over their cards. He appears equally happy whether outraging conventional students of literature at Oxford with his vigorous espousal of critical theory, confounding his long-time Marxist allies with his periodic dabblings with spirituality, or lambasting Martin Amis for his suggestion that British Muslims “must suffer” for the actions of suicide bombers. (These comments, said Eagleton, were “not unlike the ramblings of a British National Party thug”).

Neither does the degree of Eagleton’s intellectual aggression seem to be modified by past friendships. In his new book Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, he is not content with amplifying his LRB attack upon Dawkins. He widens his target to include a new antagonist he calls Ditchkins, a composite of Dawkins and Eagleton’s old International Socialist drinking mate and author of God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens.

It was enough to make me think, as I made my plans to interview Terry Eagleton, that I might be unwise to try to gain his attention or interest by stressing our biographical affinities, our shared attendance at northern Catholic schools, our one-time virtual comradeship in the ranks of International Socialism, even our common interest in the work of such cultural theorists as Roland Barthes or Michel Foucault.

None of this, after all, was likely to obscure the considerably less acceptable news that I was to interview him for a magazine which not only laboured under the intellectually suspect title of New Humanist but was also a product of an organisation called the Rationalist Association. (Eagleton is particularly exercised by the New Atheists’ tendency to conflate reason and rationality. “We hold many beliefs that have no unimpeachably rational justification, but are nevertheless reasonable to entertain.”)

But when we finally sat down to talk in a Dublin hotel (Eagleton currently divides his life between Dublin and Derry and a string of international universities) he looked so relieved to be out of the torrential rain that was pouring down outside on St Stephen’s Green that I decided to take a chance and play the Catholic card. As an ex-Catholic myself, I said, I couldn’t help but wonder why you were quite so generous about your Catholic schooling in your autobiography The Gatekeeper.

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iranian riot police

July 08, 2009
By Stephen Shalom, Thomas Harrison, Joanne Landy, and Jesse Lemisch
Source: Campaign for Peace and Democracy
View online
here

(July 7, 2009) — Right after the June 12 elections in Iran, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy issued a statement expressing our strong support for the masses of Iranians protesting electoral fraud and our horror at the ferocious response of the government. Our statement concluded: “We express our deep concern for their well-being in the face of brutal repression and our fervent wishes for the strengthening and deepening of the movement for justice and democracy in Iran.” Since the elections, some on the left, and others as well, have questioned the legitimacy of and the need for solidarity with the anti-Ahmadinejad movement. The Campaign’s position of solidarity with the Iranian protesters has not changed, but we think those questions need to be squarely addressed.

Below are the questions we take up. Questions three, four and five deal with the issue of electoral fraud; readers who are not interested in this rather technical discussion are invited to go on to question six. And we should say at the outset that our support for the protest movement is not determined by the technicalities of electoral manipulation, as important as they are. What is decisive is that huge masses of Iranians are convinced that the election was rigged and that they went into the streets, at great personal risk, to demand democracy and an end to theocratic repression.

  1. Was the June 12, 2009 election fair?
  2. Isn’t it true that the Guardian Council is indirectly elected by the Iranian people?
  3. Was there fraud, and was it on a scale to alter the outcome?
  4. Didn’t a poll conducted by U.S.-based organizations conclude that Ahmadinejad won the election?
  5. Didn’t Ahmadinejad get lots of votes from conservative religious Iranians among the rural population and the urban poor? Might not these votes have been enough to overwhelm his opponents?
  6. Hasn’t the U.S. (and Israel) been interfering in Iran and promoting regime change, including by means of supporting all sorts of “pro-democracy” groups?
  7. Has the Western media been biased against the Iranian government?
  8. Is Mousavi a leftist? A neoliberal? What is the relation between Mousavi and the demonstrators in the streets?
  9. Is Ahmadinejad good for world anti-imperialism?
  10. Is Ahmadinejad more progressive than his opponents in terms of social and economic policy? Is he a champion of the Iranian poor?
  11. What do we want the U.S. government to do about the current situation in Iran?
  12. What should we do about the current situation in Iran?
  13. Is it right to advocate a different form of government in Iran?

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child marriage

In the West it would be seen as a dirty old man having sex with with under-age kids, and he would be in for pedophilia. But in parts of the Muslim world the same practice is encouraged by ‘god’.

There certainly is cause to protect cultural tradition, but as everything in life changes, some encrustations need to be broken as we as a species become more humane, enlightened and respectful. That goes specifically for religious conventions, which show a particular tenacity when it comes to surrender to the calls of change – because they supposedly are based on the direct demands of a divine will. Apart from every single religious text being written by humans, which alone makes any claims of heavenly authorship more than doubtful, it is also hard to imagine that a benign godly entity would wish institutional cruelty, inequality or injustice upon its creation.

Children in these cases of course are girls, and the adults often are older men. In April this year, a judge in Saudi Arabia upheld for a second time the arranged marriage between an 8-year old girl and a 47-year old man. The marriage was a result of the girl’s father trying to settle his debts with the man to become the groom.

While such outrageous violations contravene the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory, it is of course the religious establishment of old men in that country that by and large is in favour of such practices. They claim that the prophet Muhammad married his wife when she was only 6-years old. This is one of the problems with religions: they deify social practices and then declare them to be eternal truths.

Fortunately though, despite the world-wide resurgence of fundamentalism, there are enough voices today that raise concerns and have the power to makes themselves being heard. In the past few months, activists, writers and journalists in Saudi Arabia have become more outspoken about child marriage and been demanding a minimum age for marriage enshrined in Saudi law.

In response to the public debate, the legislative Shura Council passed a resolution on November 24, 2008 setting the legal age of majority at 18; the Council though shied away from defining a legal minimum marriage age. As a result, protests continue. In a recent statement, Saudi human rights activists declared:

We will fight the phenomenon of child brides in our country by every legal means. We call for the passage of religious family laws to protect the rights of women and children within the family.

As the press articles below indicate, the marriage was in the end annulled on a second appeal, and Saudi Arabia’s justice minister apparently plans to enact a law that will protect young girls from such marriages. At the same time though, the arch-conservative kingdom’s top cleric, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, said according to the regional Al-Hayat newspaper that it’s OK for girls as young as 10 to wed.

It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger. A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong, and they are being unfair to her.

Sounds like it’ll be a long road for young girls to have their human rights protected, but at least activism is forcing the elite to rethink religious traditions.

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The Iranian uprising crosses all classes, and it’s neither the result of internet access (especially Twitter) nor CIA involvement, argues Reese Erlich, journalist and author of The Iran Agenda.

It’s been around for a couple of years and had 114,086 views so far, but it can’t be watched often enough: a song by Mélange Lavonne against gay bashing and Christian hate-filled homophobia. Fictional character Kevin, Mélange’s friend, becomes a victim of a hate crime. Mélange’s confronts those including the “Church” who condemned him and his lifestyle.

Directed by Little Red Pictures.

myspace.com/melangelavonne

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