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Religion

Islamicide: How the Mullah Mafia Is Destroying Pakistan

February 4, 2016

Photo credit: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters By Maajid Nawaz Somewhere in the world there is a Muslim-majority country in which a 15-year-old boy accidentally raised his hand to answer the wrong question at a religious sermon. The boy said yes, when he meant to say no. His religious instructor, his mullah, had been asking, “Who among you loves their prophet?” All present raised their hands. The mullah then followed with another question: “Who among you doesn’t believe in the teachings of the Holy Prophet? Raise your hands!” The boy thought he was answering the first question again. He stuck his right hand up in pride. Yes. Yes, I love my prophet, he thought. But to the poor boy’s horror, the mullah had asked the question in the negative. Upon realizing his mistake, which I remind you was raising his hand too quickly, the boy was told before 100 worshippers that he had committed blasphemy. He was mortified. The boy promptly departed that day and walked home. All along the way he must have been thinking about his mistake. Had his hand exposed him as an apostate by bearing false witness against his soul? How could he ever regain his lost status as a believer? In his utter depression, perhaps the boy recalled the passage of the Quran that describes the Day of Reckoning in which believers’ own limbs will testify against them, betraying their misdeeds. He may even have recalled a traditional saying ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad, “Even if my own daughter Fatima stole, by God I would cut off her hand.” In this spirit, hadn’t a member of ISIS just executed his own mother for apostasy? Whatever was on his mind, this boy, who wanted so much to be considered a true, fearful believer, decided that he must take action to fix his terrible mistake. What happened next has alternately shocked, embarrassed, infuriated, and depressed me. It has come to symbolize the collective suicide—let’s call it Islamicide—of this boy’s country. The boy went into his father’s workshop, placed his right hand inside the grass-cutting machine, and chopped it clean off. That’s right. He cut off his own hand in the name of the prophet. “When I raised my right hand unwittingly, I realized I had committed blasphemy and needed to atone for this,” he told the BBC. “I came back home… but found the place dark, so I took my uncle’s phone to point some light at my hand. I placed it under the machine and chopped it off in a single swirl.” Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Why Nepal Has One Of The World’s Fastest-Growing Christian Populations

February 4, 2016

Photo credit: Sworup Nhasiju By Danielle Preiss Famous for its high peaks and wind-whipped prayer flags, Hindu-majority Nepal used to be a nation unreached by Christianity. Now the country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world, according to the World Christian Database, which tracks global trends in Christianity. Bishwa Mani Pokharel, news chief at Nepal’s Nagarik newspaper, pulls out copies of the census to show the statistical gallop of Christianity across Nepal. It listed no Christians in 1951 and just 458 in 1961. By 2001, there were nearly 102,000. A decade later that number had more than tripled to more than 375,000. Pokharel and others think the increase is really much higher but inaccurately reported. “Before, when the Christians had a party, they slaughtered a chicken. Now, they slaughter a goat,” says Pokharel, who has been reporting on the conversions. That extra meat, he explains, is necessary to feed all of the new people who’ve joined the guest list. Much of this growth can be attributed to Nepal’s internal changes. Before 1950, Nepal was closed to foreigners. Mountain climbing changed that. And starting with the Maoist Civil War of the 1990s and culminating with the end of the monarchy in 2008, the country has transitioned from a Hindu kingdom to a communist-led secular republic with greater freedom of religion. Encouraging someone to convert to another religion was always illegal, but as Nepal eased away from its official Hindu status, the rules lightened up. Churches now mushroom throughout the Kathmandu Valley and across the terraced hills. Proselytizing remains illegal, but with political instability and weak law enforcement, that doesn’t stop it from happening. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Why Bernie Sanders doesn’t participate in organized religion

February 2, 2016

Photo credit: Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters By Frances Stead Sellers and John Wagner Growing up, Bernie Sanders followed the path of many young American Jews. He went to Hebrew school, was bar mitzvahed and traveled to Israel to work on a kibbutz. But as an adult, Sanders drifted away from Jewish customs. And as his bid for the White House gains momentum, he has the chance to make history. Not just as the first Jewish president — but as one of the few modern presidents to present himself as not religious. “I am not actively involved with organized religion,” Sanders said in a recent interview. Sanders said he believes in God, though not necessarily in a traditional manner. “I think everyone believes in God in their own ways,” he said. “To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.” Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Peter Boghossian accused of hate speech for correctly defining “faith”

February 2, 2016

Photo credit: Jerry Coyne/Oxford English Dictionary By Jerry Coyne I’m not quite sure who “James Bishop” is, as I hadn’t heard of him previously, but he writes at the website Historical Jesus Studies, and the header of his public Facebook page is strange. Has anyone else described their official position as “apologist”? What brought Bishop to my attention was his bizarre article called “Answering Peter Boghosssian—atheist hate & the definition of faith.” And I want to say a few words about it because, although the piece is abysmally written, it appears to support a criticism leveled at many atheists, and at me in particular: namely, our conception of the nature of “faith” is completely off the rails. Moreover, Bishop goes farther, saying that those who use the classical conception of faith are promoting hate speech. I’ve been told by some believers, especially after Faith versus Fact came out, that religious “faith” does not mean “belief in the absence of evidence”, or “pretending to believe something”, but is much more than that. What the “much more” constitutes is often unspecified, but Bishop appears to tout something called “evidence-based faith”. That apparently means “religious belief based on evidence”. In other words, it’s like science. In fact, Bishop argues that there’s no substantive difference between the nature of scientific “belief” (I don’t like to use that term for science) and religious belief. The good thing about Bishop’s admission is that, since he claims there’s evidence supporting his Christianity, we can now engage him in a debate about the nature and strength of that evidence—in other words, a scientific debate. He also clarifies, as have some other Christians, that belief really is about evidence—that religion is more than just communality, fellowship, values, and morality, but, to be meaningful, must at bottom rest on verifiable epistemic claims. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Her Father Shot Her in the Head, as an ‘Honor Killing’

February 2, 2016

Photo credit: HBO By Nicholas Kristof Whether it wins or not, the Oscar nominee with the greatest impact — saving lives of perhaps thousands of girls — may be one you’ve never heard of. It stars not Leonardo DiCaprio but a real-life 19-year-old Pakistani woman named Saba Qaiser. Her odyssey began when she fell in love against her family’s wishes and ran off to marry her boyfriend. Hours after the marriage, her father and uncle sweet-talked her into their car and took her to a spot along a riverbank to murder her for her defiance — an “honor killing.” First they beat Saba, then her uncle held her as her own father pointed a pistol at her head and pulled the trigger. Blood spewed, Saba collapsed and her father and uncle packed her body into a large sack and threw it into the river to sink. They then drove away, thinking they had restored the family’s good name. Incredibly, Saba was unconscious but alive. She had jerked her head as the gun went off, and the bullet tore through the left side of her face but didn’t kill her. The river water revived her, and she clawed her way out of the sack and crawled onto land. She staggered toward a gasoline station, and someone called for help. About every 90 minutes, an honor killing unfolds somewhere in the world, usually in a Muslim country. Pakistan alone has more than 1,000 a year, and the killers often go unpunished. Watching the documentary about Saba, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” I kept thinking that just as in the 19th century the central moral challenge for the world was slavery, and in the 20th century it was totalitarianism, in this century the foremost moral issue is the abuse and oppression that is the lot of so many women and girls around the world. I don’t know whether “A Girl in the River” will win an Oscar in its category, short subject documentary, but it is already making a difference. Citing the film, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan has promised to change the country’s laws so as to crack down on honor killings. Saba’s story underscores how the existing law lets people literally get away with murder when honor is the excuse. After doctors saved Saba’s life — as police officers guarded the door so her father didn’t return to finish the job — she was determined to prosecute her father and uncle. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

The G.O.P.’s Holy War

February 2, 2016

Photo credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images By Frank Bruni IN the final, furious days of campaigning here, it was sometimes hard to tell whether this state’s Republicans were poised to vote for a president or a preacher, a commander or a crusader. The references to religion were expansive. The talk of it was excessive. A few candidates didn’t just profess the supposed purity of their own faith. They questioned rivals’ piety, with Ted Cruz inevitably leading the way. A rally of his devolved into an inquisition of Donald Trump. Speakers mocked Trump’s occasional claims of devout Christianity. Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, pointedly recalled Trump’s admission last summer that he never really does penance. Cruz, in contrast, “probably gets up every morning and asks God for forgiveness at least a couple of times, even before breakfast,” Perry told the audience. The evangelist or the apostate: That’s how the choice was framed. And it underscored the extent to which the Iowa caucuses have turned into an unsettling holy war. Religion routinely plays a prominent part in political campaigns, especially on the Republican side, and always has an outsize role in Iowa, where evangelical Christians make up an especially large fraction of the Republican electorate. But there was a particular edge to the discussion this time around. It reflected Trump’s surprising strength among evangelicals and his adversaries’ obvious befuddlement and consternation about that. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]
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