All posts filed under: Religion

Religion

Sisi’s religious revolution in Egypt

“We need a religious revolution!” Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi declared those words a month ago as he addressed senior religious leaders from al-Azhar University and elsewhere while Egyptians celebrated the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The speech was widely applauded in Egypt, particularly as it opened an ideological front to the battle against the Islamist violence that has troubled the country since the summer of 2013. His words seem especially significant after last week’s attack on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least thirty and wounded many more. However, before Sisi is praised any more as a visionary and a reformer, observers should understand that Egypt and Sisi may not have the capacity to carry out much reform in Islamic thinking. First of all, what exactly does Sisi mean by a religious revolution? The general Western observer might interpret it as a call to overturn central Islamic institutions and principles in a bid to combat extremism. After the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, a number of Western media outlets hailed …

Shift in Japan’s Religions

New religious movements have been a part of Japanese society since the early nineteenth century. Some of them, much like the American new religions, Christian Science or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, have become accepted institutions with one or even two centuries of history. The more established, such as Kurozumikyō (founded in 1814), have university-educated leaders who serve on the boards of respected museums and corporations, sit on government bodies, and are pillars of their communities. Unlike Sōka Gakkai and its political party Kōmeitō, or Happy Science and its Happiness Realization Party, they do not preach politics from the pulpit, because they believe in the separation of religion from state. Many new religious movements joined the Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan (Shin Nihon Shūkyō Rengō Kai, generally called Shinshūren), founded in 1951. Shinshūren lobbies for a variety of progressive causes, including opposition to constitutional revision, and supports liberal politicians. Although the Association of Shinto Shrines (Jinja Honchō) previously belonged to Shinshūren, both it and numerous other religious organizations have recently …

Church of England’s ban on sex reassignment therapy

The Church of England has called on the government to ban conversion therapy and has condemned the practice, which aims to change sexual orientation, as unethical and potentially harmful. At the end of an emotional debate in which two members of the C of E synod described their experiences as spiritual abuse, the church’s governing body overwhelmingly backed a motion saying the practice had “no place in the modern world”. Conversion therapy is usually described as an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Some churches in the C of E and other denominations have encouraged LGBT members to take part in prayer sessions and other activities to rid them of their “sin”. Proposing the motion, Jayne Ozanne – who underwent conversion therapy resulting in two breakdowns and two spells in hospital – said conversion therapy was “abuse from which vulnerable adults need protecting”. It was “discredited by the government, the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of General Practitioners and many other senior health care bodies,” she said. …

Turkish schools to stop teaching evolution

In the US there have been many attempts to expunge evolution from the school curriculmor demand that creationism – the idea that all life was uniquely created by God – is given equal treatment in science textbooks. While all these have failed, the government in Turkey has now banned evolution from its national curriculum. US creationists want both views to be presented, to let children decide what to believe. Bids to reject this are wrongly characterised as attempts to shut down debate or free speech – to promote a scientific, atheistic, secular, ideology over a more moral, ethical, commonsense religious worldview. Turkey’s decision goes much further. This isn’t about claiming equal treatment, it’s an outright ban. The government justifies it by claiming evolution is “difficult to understand” and “controversial”. Any controversy however is one manufactured by ultra-religious communities seeking to undermine science. Many concepts in science are more difficult than evolution, yet they still get taught. Creationist arguments Evolution, creationists argue, is just a theory – it’s not proven and so up for debate. Evolutionary …

Skeptic Society Magazine Child Marriage and Religion

Child Marriage and Religion

Last month, academics, advocates, and religious leaders gathered at an event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations during the American Academy of Religion conference to discuss the relationship between religion and child marriage. Although global rates of child marriage are on a downward trajectory, progress in curbing this practice has been far too slow. The United Nations estimates that one in three women aged twenty to twenty-four —almost 70 million women total — married under the age of eighteen. Approximately 23 million were married under the age of fifteen, and some were married as young as eight or nine years old. The implications are dire: child marriage is linked to poor health, curtailed education, violence, and lawlessness, all of which threatens international development, prosperity, and stability. Religion is often blamed for the prevalence of child marriage. Notably, however, the practice is not unique to any one faith; in fact, it occurs across religions and regions. For example, in India, where 40 percent of the world’s known child brides reside, child marriage is prevalent among both …

Skeptic Society Magazine Morocco to Ban Sale of Burqas

Morocco to Ban Sale of Burqas

Although the government did not confirm the ban, media reports said vendors and merchants received notice of the prohibition on the full-body veil. The government of King Mohammed VI may have conceived the ban as a gesture to get that point across. Relatively few Moroccan women wear the burqa, which is much more common in conservative Muslim societies like Afghanistan and Pakistan, but many do wear traditional dresses and head scarves.

skeptic society Ethics Problem

Ethics Problem

This article is neither a defense of nor an attack against either religion or secularism. It treats them as well established sociological facts and no more than that. I take them as given and argue that a greater moral good can be achieved if the two belief systems find common moral ground in virtue ethics. Moral choices infuse most aspects of our life, whether we know it or not. And a great number of these moral choices are bad ones. This is why our prisons are filled to overflowing, and recidivism is so high at 66%. This is why we have so many war dead and this is why so many die violent deaths at the hands of murderers or radical ideologues. This is also why we have such an inequitable distribution of wealth. This is why cheating is rampant at schools and universities. We maintain large standing armies to protect ourselves from the bad moral choices of others and on occasion we use it to inflict our bad moral choices on others. This is …

skeptic society Divisions of Islamophobia

Divisions of Islamophobia

A false dichotomy is a basic type of informal logical fallacy, consisting in framing an issue as if there were only two choices available, while in fact a range of nuanced positions may be on offer upon more careful reflection. There are nonetheless plenty of instances were they do identify truly bad reasoning.Another one is arguably represented by the never ending “debate” about Islamophobia. It is easy to find stark examples of people defending what appear to be two irreconcilable positions about how to view Islam in a post-9/11 world. For the sake of discussion, I will bypass pundits and other pseudo-intellectuals, and use instead two comedians as representative of the contrasting positions: Broadly speaking, I don’t think religions in general are particularly good ideas. In my mind they originate from a combination of false presuppositions (that there are higher beings of a supernatural kind) and a power grab by individuals (i.e., religious leaders) who sometimes unconsciously (and sometimes not) end up exploiting the fears and hopes of the people that they are supposed to …