- “Burn a Koran” event spurs violent Muslim protest
- Gender, religion, and volunteering
- Secularism and religious tolerance (in the 16th – 18th centuries)
- Mosquema Madness
Posted: 07 Sep 2010 04:55 PM PDT
Days before the planned “Burn a Koran Day” at
Chanting “Death to
General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in
A similar protest on Saturday took place in Indonesia, with 3,000 Muslims marching to the US Embassy in
Asked in an interview on National Public Radio about his responsibility for such actions, Jones asserted that he is responsible for his own actions . . . not those of others. If others choose to respond violently to his book-burning, that is their choice, not his. He went on to say that if someone were burning Bibles, he wouldn’t like it, but wouldn’t threaten to kill people over it.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Jones stressed the same belief that he should bear no blame for the result of his incitements. “We think it’s time to turn the tables, and instead of possibly blaming us for what could happen, we put the blame where it belongs — on the people who would do it. And maybe instead of addressing us, we should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form.”
Even Christian evangelicals, many of whom may well quietly agree with Jones’s assessment of Islam as a false doctrine, are bringing pragmatism to the fore and coming out against Jones’s event:
While Jones claims that Islam is of the Devil, as printed on his church’s t-shirts, his motivation in this event may be questioned. Is his action only to destroy Korans? Surely, Jones knows that any books destroyed will be replaced by publishers. His statements instead betray what may be a more sinister purpose — to knowingly incite a violent reaction and demonstrate to the world that the “religion of peace” is anything but; to encourage terrorist attacks on the
Is that his purpose, to bring about an all-out war on Islam? Or does he genuinely believe, as he has said before, that he will bring people to Jesus by burning books?
Posted: 07 Sep 2010 03:21 PM PDT
Here’s a quick one on a study of volunteering among older people. It’s well known that religious people do more formal voluntary work, on average, than the non-religious. What’s less well understood is why that should be.
Well, one other thing that’s notable about religion in the
In this new study, Lydia Manning of Miami University, analysed data from the Health and Retirement Study which, since 1992, has been tracking a group of over 12,000 retired people across the USA.Manning’s analysis looked at the original 1992 survey, focusing on the 6,000-odd people who reported doing over 100 hours of voluntary work a year.
What she found was that women were much more likely to be volunteers – 15 times more likely, in fact. Once she took this into account, however, there was no relationship between religiosity and volunteering.
Now, there are a few deficiencies in this study – most notably that religion was only measured as affiliation (are you a Catholic, Protestant or whatever). Previous studies have shown that religious service attendance is, unsurprisingly, a better predictor of volunteering.
But Manning’s study does reinforce a general point about these sorts of correctional studies. Religious and non-religious people are different for all sorts of reasons. You have to be very careful before assuming that religion is the cause of any differences you see.
Manning LK (2010). Gender and religious differences associated with volunteering in later life. Journal of women & aging, 22 (2), 125-35 PMID: 20408033
Posted: 07 Sep 2010 12:53 PM PDT
Secularism holds that a person’s religious belief or lack of same is no business of the government. Separation of religion and state is secularism in action. Secularism is an outgrowth of the struggle for religious tolerance: both religious and anti-religious groups have opposed secularism.
Religious governments tried to impose their beliefs and practices on the entire community. Anti-religious governments have tried to promote atheism and totalitarian governments, whether religious or non-religious, have authorised official churches. The Marxist governments opposed secularism as they wished to wipe out or control religion.
One step towards tolerance was the outrage at Michael Servetus’ burning at the stake for heresy on October 27, 1553 in John Calvin’s
However, Castellio, who disagreed with Servetus’ ideas, led the protests. He published in 1554 Concerning Heretics: Whether they are to be persecuted and how they are to be treated. It was the first major treatise in early modern
Calvin defended Servetus’ trial by attacking its critics:
Theodore Beza’s refutation of Castellio appeared later in 1554. Beza pointed out that Castellio, in selecting from the writings of Protestant reformers, had drawn solely from the authors’ early works. The same reformers had often adopted far less tolerant stances in their later, more mature works, from which Beza offered counter quotations. Concerning the status of dogma he wrote:
Castellio’s arguments to the contrary, said Beza, were themselves blasphemous and heretical. In making them, he had betrayed the cause of the Reformation. The license he demanded was worse than “papal tyranny”. When a heretic committed blasphemy and impiety, scorning God’s Word and resisting all attempts at correction, the death penalty was fully justified. Indeed, it was required, so as to stop heresy from “infecting” other people and destroying the church from within. Magistrates are “guardians and protectors not only of the second table of the [Mosaic] law,” that is, the moral code embodied in the second half of the Ten Commandments, “but also, indeed principally, of the pure religion, in matters concerning external discipline”. Those who protested against Servetus’s trial were “servants of Satan,” Beza declared, “mortal enemies of the Christian religion”.
Castellio had an eloquent rebuttal, “To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man.”
In The Right to Heresy: Castellio Against Calvin Stefan Zweig, described Calvin’s
One would think it would not be possible to defend the execution of Servetus in today’s world. Yet here is a website which extenuates John Calvin.
Loraine Boettner, an American theologian, is the author.
He opens with, “We must now consider an event in the life of Calvin which to a certain extent has cast a shadow over his fair name and which has exposed him to the charge of intolerance and persecution”.
He defended Calvin by the following:
1. A civil court condemned Servetus. (This neglects the fact that religion determined the finding of the civil court.)
Boettner describes Servetus:
Michael Servetus, (1511-1553) was actually a Renaissance man. He was a theologian, physician, cartographer, and humanist. He was the first European to describe the function of pulmonary circulation. His interests included many sciences: mathematics, astronomy and meteorology, geography, human anatomy, medicine and pharmacology, as well as jurisprudence, and the scholarly study of the Bible in its original languages. He is renowned in the history of several of these fields, particularly medicine and theology. He participated in the Protestant Reformation, and later developed a nontrinitarian Christology. His murder was not only an outrage to justice and tolerance but also a setback to emerging science.
The Catholics, in turn, burned Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) at the stake for heresy. Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, who postulated the infinity of the universe. He went beyond the Copernican model in identifying the sun as just one of an infinite number of independently moving heavenly bodies. He is the first man to postulate that the stars are identical in nature to the Sun. Bruno also wrote extensive works on the art of memory.
The Thirty Years’ War, (1618-1648), was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. Initially the war was fought largely as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the
Christianity demonised its enemies, especially those within the fold, from the beginning. Originally that enemy was the Jew, but by the late second century it was the heretic. Heretics were not mere erring humans but evil incarnate. The churches of early modern
There were many murders and atrocities committed by the followers of the “Prince of Peace”. The independent and brilliant thinkers, Servetus and Bruno, were not alone in their suffering.
However, the heretic existed and some way of coexisting had to be devised. One way was that the ruler had the right to impose his faith (Catholic or Lutheran) on his subjects. His subjects could only accept or leave.
Another way was to have town councillors represent the followers of the various religious doctrines in proportion. As the demographic patterns changed conflicts resulted as some followers of doctrines felt they were no longer represented.
All solutions to religious conflict that were tried failed to some degree. However, a bold solution was tried in the 18th century. Boettner writes:
The solution was not merely putting all Christian denominations on a parity before the law. It was separation of religion and state.
Posted: 07 Sep 2010 12:34 PM PDT
Today there is a raging debate about whether Muslims should build an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in lower
Objections to the Islamic center began with right-wing anti-Islamic bloggers. However, many pundits and the mainstream media have chimed in with their opinions on the issue. On August 13, 2010, Charles Krauthammer wrote a column that appeared in The Buffalo News under the title “Sacrilege at ground zero.” Krauthammer and others have argued that just as opponents of a proposed commercial tower at
This is the root of the problem. Many people are so offended by the Islamic faith and its adherents that they do not want mosques erected anywhere near them or the areas they deem sacred. Indeed, throughout the
In the case of the misnamed “Ground Zero Mosque,” many have said that it is too close to Ground Zero. That raises the question: How far away should a mosque be from Ground Zero? One mosque opponent believes that 10 blocks from the hallowed ground would be just fine. However, there is already a mosque four blocks from the site. Should that mosque be moved and/or destroyed? (Incidentally, Muslims have held prayer services at the proposed site for some time, with no opposition from Islamophobes.)
Opposition to the mosque near Ground Zero is clearly rooted in many Americans’ deep resentment against Islam. In 2005, a poll released by the
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) stands opposed to the construction of the proposed center. However, the Jewish rights group acknowledged “an intensified level of anti-Muslim bigotry” in recent months, according to an article in the August 27, 2010 issue of
“The mood in the country, in general, is one of lack of civility and anger and rage,” said Abraham Fox, director of the ADL. “When you raise the rhetoric on hate, there is always potential for violence.”
Islamophobia has become integral to conservative politics. Many conservatives consider all Muslims to be enemies of Christianity and the West. In many cases, Islamophobia meshes neatly with anti-Black bigotry. For example, it should not be surprising that a recent poll from the
Paladino and his supporters make predictable denunciations of so-called political correctness. Yet Paladino has sent racist and pornographic emails to his friends. In August, he came up with a proposal to reopen prisons for voluntary programs that would include training welfare recipients in “personal hygiene.” African American officeholders responded angrily with a demand that he apologize for the proposal.
“His…suggestion that they need lessons on personal hygiene is appalling and plays into harmful stereotypes,” they claimed in a signed statement. Paladino simply portrays himself as courageous and open.
Opposition to the proposed center—and the Islamophobia it incites—should not be viewed as an isolated incident. It is just one part of a conservative agenda. White conservatives are constantly grumbling about taking “our country back.” From whom do they want to take it back? They obviously believe that a Black president is making life hell for them. However, many of them also hated Bill Clinton, yet never seemed to believe the country was not theirs while
Many conservatives are worried about what they see as “the browning of
Why do so many people believe that construction of a mosque near Ground Zero is a bad idea? Why could it not be viewed as a victory over Muslim terrorists by Muslim moderates and true believers in cultural pluralism and religious liberty? Pat Buchanan has stated that because
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the project to build the proposed center, has a long record of interfaith work. He is a Sufi Muslim, a sect that militant Muslims despise because of their openness to various cultures. Rauf is now working with Obama to promote peace and understanding throughout the world, but he has also worked with the Bush administration. The Islamic center would be like the YMCA—open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Perhaps opponents should visit the Islamic center in
Imam Rauf’s critics have complained that he asserted that the
Many people try to paint Islam with a broad brush. They argue for the notion of collective guilt—that every member of a group must be punished for the crimes of a few. However, that is not what true justice is about. Only those responsible for a crime should be punished for its commission. For example, why should all Americans be held accountable for the Vietnam War, even though many of us protested against it—some of us risking our lives? Collective guilt is a dangerous idea that promotes stereotypes and even genocide. It needs to be swept into the dustbin of history.
Just because some people are offended by the idea of a mosque near Ground Zero, does not mean that they should feel offended, or that any offense is intended. It seems that peaceful Muslims just so happened to find a great place to build a center. Why read any more into it than that? (Incidentally, a coalition of the center’s supporters known as New York Neighbors for American Values includes families of 9/11 victims.)
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker noted that, just as Westerners rightfully insist upon the right to blaspheme the Prophet Muhammad or anyone or anything else, they must recognize Muslims’ right to build a mosque wherever they wish. However, the reverse is also true: if Muslims recognize their right to religious liberty, they should also recognize the right to blaspheme. The willingness to be offended is the price we all must pay for genuine liberty.
The bottom line is that too many people still believe in democracy only as far as the defense of their rights. Those that truly believe in liberty, however, must be concerned with everyone’s rights. Otherwise, true democracy will never be realized.
Norm R. Allen, Jr. is secretary of the executive board of the Institute for Science and Human Values and former executive director of African Americans for Humanism.