All posts filed under: Religion

When Protected Characteristics Collide

This weekend, the city of Birmingham hosted a dazzling array of colourful floats, sparkling costumes, and groups bearing a message of love and equality as part of its annual celebration of Gay Pride. However, in an unprecedented move, this particular march was led by LGBT Muslims. Often subjected to discrimination and ostracisation by their own religious communities, and shunned by certain sections of wider LGBT communities for adhering to any form of religion, LGBT Muslims are in a bind. Some people even maintain that the term is an oxymoron. Yet it is precisely young Muslims—who might be experiencing profound questions about their sexuality or identity, and torn between two different sets of expectations—who have the most to lose as a result of the LGBT schools row engulfing the city. It was therefore encouraging to see them front Gay Pride this year, alongside someone who has done more for equality and diversity than 99 percent of the UK population: Andrew Moffat, Assistant Headteacher of Parkfield Community School. In 2017, Moffatt was awarded an MBE, and subsequently …

Religious Faith and the Family: An Interview with Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox

Bradford Wilcox is a professor of sociology and the lead author of a recently released report entitled The Ties that Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family? As part of my research on the psychology of meaning, I study religious beliefs and practices, so I was curious to learn more about the research in this new report. Below is an interview I conducted with Dr. Wilcox for Quillette about the report and his broader work on marriage and family. *     *     * Quillette Magazine: I’ll start by asking you to answer the question posed in the title of your report. Is faith a global force for good or ill in the family? Bradford Wilcox: In the main, religion is a force for good in the families we examined in this report—from 11 countries ranging from Mexico to Canada, from the United States to Ireland. Partners who attend religious services together tend to do better than their secular peers and their peers in nominally religious, or religiously mixed, …

Identity, Islam, and the Twilight of Liberal Values—A Review

A review of Identity, Islam, and the Twilight of Liberal Values by Terri Murray, Cambridge Scholars, 212 pages (Dec. 2018) After the collapse of the totalitarian Communist regimes in 1989-91, Francis Fukuyama famously wrote in The End of History and the Last Man that “we may have reached the end of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government.” Terri Murray begins Identity, Islam and the Twilight of Liberal Values by arguing that Fukuyama’s optimism was premature, because the rise of religious fundamentalism—especially radical Islam—has become a powerful bulwark against the spread of liberal democracy. Rather than exposing and opposing the damage done by Islamism in the West, soi disant liberals, leftists, and progressives have acted as its supporters and cheerleaders. Murray instead labels them as “pseudo-liberals” and the “regressive Left” as a result of their abandonment of bedrock liberal principles, and progressive and secular values. Murray aims to diagnose the ways in which European and American social liberalism has been eroded in the post-9/11 era, asserting …

Bearing Witness: My Journey Out of Mormonism

My parents named me after Spencer W. Kimball, who was the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the time I was born. The church derives its informal name, Mormonism, from the Book of Mormon, which is purportedly the work of Hebrew prophets in the ancient Americas (though it’s not clear where, exactly). Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, the church’s founder, translated the Book of Mormon from golden tablets that the angel Moroni helped him discover. Near the end of the Book of Mormon is a passage known as “Moroni’s promise”: And when you should receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:4). Many people say that God has fulfilled this promise to them. What it’s like to receive …

Feminism’s Blind Spot: the Abuse of Women by Non-White Men, Particularly Muslims

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was a young woman who attended a madrassa in the rural town of Feni in Bangladesh. In late March of this year, she attended the local police station to report a crime. Nusrat alleged that the headmaster at her madrassa had called her into his office several days before and sexually assaulted her. After the assault, Nusrat told her family what had happened and decided to make a report to the police, no doubt trusting that they would treat her with some decency. The officer who took her statement did no such thing. He videotaped it on his camera phone and can be heard on the footage telling her that the assault was “not a big deal.” The headmaster was arrested, but someone within the police leaked the fact that Nusrat had made allegations against him and the footage of her statement ended up on social media. She was soon receiving threats from students at the madrassa as well as other people in the community. Influential local politicians expressed their support for …

Values, Even Secular Ones, Depend on Faith: A Reply to Jerry Coyne

Jerry Coyne’s article “Secular Humanism is Not a Religion” is longer than my “Is Secular Humanism a Religion?”, perhaps because he is confused about what I said. Or perhaps I was too concise. Possibly the problem was my title (not mine, but Quillette’s) which is a bit misleading. I wasn’t saying that secular humanism is a religion. I was saying that in those aspects of religion which actually affect and seek to guide human behavior, secular humanism does not differ from religion. It has commandments, just as Christianity has. But they are covert, not in plain sight and not easily accessible: not, therefore, as vulnerable to criticism as religious dicta. Moreover, in no case are secular commandments derivable from reason. Like religious “oughts” they are also matters of faith. Secular morals are as unprovable as the morals of religion. Coyne asks us to believe that secularists are somehow above the fray: “In contrast [to religious morality], the morality of secular humanists derives from rational consideration about how we ought to act—principles based largely on reason …

Secular Humanism is Not a Religion

These days you can dismiss anything you don’t like by calling it “a religion.” Science, for instance, has been deemed essentially religious, despite the huge difference between a method of finding truth based on empirical verification and one based on unevidenced faith, revelation, authority, and scripture. Atheism, the direct opposite of religion, has also been characterized in this way, though believers who criticize secular worldviews as religious seem unaware of the irony of implying, “See—you’re just as bad as we are!” Even environmentalism has been described as a religion. The latest false analogy between religious and nonreligious belief systems is John Staddon’s essay “Is Secular Humanism a Religion?” for Quillette. Staddon’s answer is “Yes,” but his reasoning is bizarre. One would think that it should be “Clearly not” for, after all, “secular” means “not religious,” and secular humanism is an areligious philosophy whose goal is to advance human welfare and morality without invoking gods or the supernatural. Nevertheless, Staddon makes an oddly tendentious argument for the religious character of secular humanism. After first giving a …

Keep Calm and Hail Satan

On its surface Hail Satan?, directed by punctuation enthusiast Penny Lane (Nuts!) and distributed by Magnolia Pictures (Man on Wire, Capturing the Friedmans), is a straightforward if openly sympathetic report on the rapid growth of the Salem, Massachusetts-headquartered Satanic Temple and the Temple’s goading of heartland conservatives in the perennial debate over the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. All of which is entertaining enough. But, below the surface, Lane’s film is also a case study in the resiliency of religious identity and atheism’s waning power as a rallying cry, as a movement, as a flag worth waving in an age of identitarian politics. A revealing line is delivered about halfway through the film when Mason, a clean-shaven, bow-tied Satanist from Little Rock, Arkansas (yes, there is such a thing; a central message of the film is that the Satanists aren’t who you think they are), explains that he’d been a “zesty little atheist” before becoming involved with the Temple. Mason’s disdain for his former identity is mischievous but unmistakable. So is his enthusiasm for a more positive, more nourishing …

Is Secular Humanism a Religion?

It is now a rather old story: secular humanism is a religion. A court case in 1995 examined the issue and concluded, rightly, that science, in the form of the theory of evolution, is not a religion. In 2006, the BBC aired a program called The Trouble with Atheism which argued that atheists are religious and made the point via a series of interviews with prominent atheists who claimed their beliefs were “proved” by science. The presenter, Rod Liddle, concluded that Darwinism is a religion. That is wrong, as 18th century philosopher David Hume showed many years ago. Science consists of facts, but facts alone do not motivate. Without motive, a fact points to no action. Liddle was half-right: both religion and secular humanism provide motives, explicit in one case, but covert in the other. What is religion? All religions have three elements, although the relative emphasis differs from one religion to another—Buddhists are light on the supernatural, for example.  The first is the belief in invisible or hidden beings, worlds and processes—like God, heaven, …

Banning Evil: In the Shadow of Christchurch, Quasi-Religious Myths Can Lead Us Astray

On March 15, a 28-year old an Australian gunman named Brenton Tarrant allegedly opened fire in two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques, killing 50 and wounding 50 more. It was the worst mass shooting in the history of that country. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was rightly praised for her response to the murders, declared: “While the nation grapples with a form of grief and anger that we have not experienced before, we are seeking answers.” One answer took form a week later, when Ms. Ardern announced legislation that would ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Will such gun-control measures work to reduce gun crime? Maybe. They did in Australia following a 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania in which 35 people were murdered. A 2006 follow-up study showed that in the 18 years prior to the ban, there had been 13 mass shootings. But in the decade following, there had been none. Gun culture is different in every country. But there is at least an arguable case to be made that the …