Category Archives: Religion

A bad day for Islam in American media.

Today, the people of Switzerland voted in a public referendum to ban the construction of minarets in their country. Yes, the Swiss, those bastions of neutrality and tolerance, have made it illegal to top a mosque with its traditional prayer tower. As argued by the political parties behind its promotion, this step was necessary in order to lessen the influence of Islam on Swiss culture. I know, right? WTF? I couldn’t believe it. And check out their charming campaign poster:

Those don’t look like bombs at all, and the whole poster definitely doesn’t play on sensationalist fears…

Well, the New York Times wrote a predictably sympathetic piece that includes some intelligently outraged quotes from prominent Muslims and certain members of the Swiss government. It paints the decision as a step backwards in the global progression towards religious tolerance and freedom. That article was published online today, and I generally agree with its sentiment.

Also published today, completely unrelated, is another piece, this one by Glenn Greenwald of, detailing the history of Thomas Friedman’s slightly less sympathetic collection of columns in the New York Times on the issues of Muslims and their freedoms. It’s worth reading if, like me, you’ve never taken Friedman seriously enough to discover how much of a zealot he was during the Bush administration and how much of that zealotry remains today. I thought he was a pop-science-environmentally-friendly-Dr-Phil lookalike. Whoops

I don’t really have much of a thesis to present here or a point to make… I was just surprised to learn these off-putting facts about such a famous journalist and foreign policy expert (Friedman, that is) and wanted to share them. Also, while I make it no secret that I am in favor of a lessening of religious influence on American culture, this vote in Switzerland depresses me, the same way it would if they had outlawed crosses on top of churches (so don’t think I just pick on the American religious right because they’re such easy targets!). The coincidence of reading these different articles left me confused, and wanting to hear other people’s perspectives on them, so please let me know what you think.

Furthermore, some of the comments on the Times article make me uneasy- people saying that this seemingly anti-freedom movement is actually a victory for women and homosexuals and other groups that are oppressed by most branches of Islam. Lessen oppression by oppressing others? That doesn’t seem to add up properly, yet the concern about the “Islamicazation” of Europe seems to be growing and is not necessarily appropriately ignored.

I’ll leave it at this: it makes me uneasy.

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A morning chuckle

I just came across this “Guest Voice” column from the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section of their website. While it’s fairly offensive and disturbing, I can only assume this is meant to be a satire. Perhaps a massively exaggerated send-up of religious right rhetoric – not a legitimate column. Singing the praises of Mel Gibson? Celebrating the political strategy of “breeding like rabbits”? Nobody writing this stuff could hope to be taken seriously, right? Right? Hmmm… let me Google its author, Catholic League president Bill Donahue.

Oh. Never mind.

Ok, so it’s depressing that wackos like this are out there having their hateful drivel showcased on a legitimate newspaper’s website. And it’s even more depressing that plenty of people probably agree with them. But this morning, I’m just going to laugh over his ridiculous ideas and nutty beliefs. For one thing, this guy doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. And for another, I don’t have time to get all worked up. I have to get back to walking my dog, going to bathhouses, and aborting my kids.

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My date with Richard Dawkins

I purchased tickets today to Richard Dawkins’s speaking appearance at Wordstock, Portland’s annual book/writing/literary festival (yes, literary festival – yet another reason why I love this town).

I get to see this guy!

If he causes Bill O’Reilly to be this visibly uncomfortable and incoherent, I’m in. And the boyfriend is coming with me, whether he likes it or not (he will).

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Kirk Cameron vs. Charles Darwin

Kirk Cameron is deeply concerned about well-educated people choosing not to believe in his God… and has a plan to change their minds. I checked my Twitter account this morning to find an alert from Richard Dawkins, famous author and even more famous atheist. While I don’t read all of Dawkins’s tweets (yes, I follow him on Twitter, and no I haven’t read his books – I know) I did follow up on this one because I always liked Growing Pains. In a scheme equal parts concerning and amusing, Kirk Cameron (yes, that Kirk Cameron) and the organization Living Waters have commissioned, printed, and plan to give away thousands of copies of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, across college campuses, on the 150th anniversary of its original publication. The catch is, they’ve supplemented Darwin’s work (well, an abridged version of it) with their own 50-page “Special Introduction”. This introduction attempts to debunk and discredit Darwin’s work through various strategies, including blaming the Holocaust on its influence on Adolf Hitler. Side note: don’t think too hard about how many people have been killed due to the influence or outright orders of various religious texts – I don’t want you to get depressed.

Sensationalist tactics aside, the underlying argument is that it’s impossible to create something from nothing, and the world is something, so therefore the Christian God created the world and died for your sins and yada yada yada. The introduction is basically a glorified tract, and the whole publication and giveaway of the book is a way to get college kids to accept Christian literature disguised as a free science book. Personally, I think they’d have better luck printing their requisite sinner’s prayer on a pizza box, but it’s not my call. Although it seems a little silly (read the introduction and decide for yourself if this stellar research and argument will persuade your typical Harvard student) an opposition Facebook group has sprung up to organize people to ask for the books, rip out the introduction, and donate the remaining pages to libraries, Goodwill, etc. While the Cameron clan is targeting “50 of the top universities” in the United States, and thus probably NOT little old Portland State University, I’ll still check around on November 24th and grab a copy or two. But I’ll probably hang on to the introduction, because in 150 more years, I’ll bet it will be a downright hilarious memento for a collector to come across.

For a good time, read the introduction here:

And then check out Kirk Cameron’s special message for dessert:

Thanks, social networking, for giving me both a laugh and a way to be a better atheist today.

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