Update: Just to be clear, I think the variation across cultures is probably explained in large part by confusion as to what is being asked, and differential sampling. In particular, I suspect that the ‘Turkey” sample is more representative than the “Bangladesh” sample, because Turkey is a more developed society. I’ve mentioned before that [...]
Over at The American Conservative Noah Millman and Rod Dreher are having a discussion over the basic premise that founding texts (e.g., Bible, Koran) and individuals (e.g., Jesus, Muhammad) have a deep influence upon the nature of a religion. Long time readers will be aware that I side much more with Millman on this. In [...]
The Bill Maher clip has to be watched to be believed. Not the guest’s attempt to obfuscate. The fundamental issue is simple: most non-Muslims don’t care about Islam or Muslims so long as Islam and Muslims don’t impinge upon their lives. We don’t care about the heterogeneity of Islam or history when faced to real [...]
Rod Dreher has an interesting post up at The American Conservative, The Lie Of Atheism (It’s Not What You Think). He relays a scourging of the New Atheists by Damon Linker. Rod has an interesting passage which I think highlights the difference between his psychology and that of my own: …I have never understood why [...]
This morning in Slate I encountered a rather peculiar piece, The Original Jewish Genius: How the Gaon of Vilna helps explain Jewish intellectual achievement. The reason I found this piece peculiar is that it strikes me as something of a rewriting of the conventional historical narrative for anyone who is not what we today term [...]
In a few days South Korea will have a new president, and this is very important because of how large North Korea looms in geopolitics. An interesting aspect of this race for Americans is that the candidate of the conservative party, Park Geun-Hye, may be an atheist, running against a Roman Catholic liberal. I say [...]
It’s that time of the year, and I quite like “the Holidays.” I am, of course, looking forward to my daughter’s first Christmas. Though no one in our family believes in the religious justification for the holiday, it is still an important time of the year, for reasons I have outlined before. But for the [...]
A generous definition of rare I would think is 10% or less (you might argue for a more stringent threshold, but let’s work with 10%). So what are the politics of atheists? I bring this up because someone named Bridget Gaudette is looking for cons…
Pew has an important new report out, “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation. Here is the bottom line in terms of numbers: over the past generation the proportion of Americans who explicitly reject a religious affilia…
A comment below: To be honest with you, being of a Hindu background I’ve never ever understood the concept of conversion. It seems so alien to me and seems to be prevalent only among the monotheistic religions, to me it … Continue reading →
A few years ago I pointed out that as among American whites religious affiliation was often the best predictor of voting patterns among Asian Americans. The Republican party is for all practical purposes the white Christian party, but the minority of A…
In the wake of 9/11 there was a lot of talk about an “Islamic Reformation.” Such discussion was a key pointer to elite and public ignorance about the exact nature of the Reformation. On the one hand, the Reformation did allow for the emergence of what we might term today the democratic liberal consensus in [...]
Via Facebook I stumbled upon a page where an ex-Muslim Pakistani female expat has a picture posted of a Koran placed in front of her vagina (she’s naked). Whether you think this sort of behavior is juvenile or courageous or boring depends upon your perspective. But it does illustrate the power of blasphemy and symbols. [...]
Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse: The first shock came when Mordechai Jungreis learned that his mentally disabled teenage son was being molested in a Jewish ritual bathhouse in Brooklyn. The second came after Mr. Jungreis complained, and the man accused of the abuse was arrested. Old friends started walking stonily past [...]
After the power of Islamists in Tunisia and Egypt made itself felt, and current domination of Iraq by Shia political parties, and the likely strength of Islamists in Libya, the media finally has become more cautious about pushing any narrative which ma…
One of the non-science aspects of this weblog which I’ve been addressing over the past 10 years is attempting to get a grip upon cultural variation. There are two major dimensions in terms of the problem. One is positive, in that people don’…
In Queens, Seeking to Clear a Path Between Yoga and Islam: As a community activist in Queens, Muhammad Rashid has fought for the rights of immigrants held in detention, sought the preservation of local movie theaters, and held a street fair to promote diversity. But few of those causes brought him anywhere near as much [...]
I’m going to be speaking at the Moving Secularism Forward conference in Orlando next week. They invited me because I’m a conservative atheist public intellectual, and the three other conservative atheist public intellectuals in the United States were presumably busy. In any case, going over what I’m going to talk about I was double-checking political [...]
Rod Dreher at The American Conservative, White Working-Class ‘Seculars’: What’s interesting to think about is that these working-class non-churchgoers are probably not secular in the same way white intellectual elites are secular. I bet if you polled them, 999 out of 1,000 would say they believed in God and considered themselves to be Christians. It’s [...]
Chattering classes here in the U.S. have recently been absorbed in discussions that dance around, but never quite address, a question that cuts to the heart of how we think about the basic architecture of reality: are human beings purely material, or something more? The first skirmish broke out when a major breast-cancer charity, Susan [...]
I have seen references to this around the web, and don’t really know if I can believe this, because the details are so disturbing to consider. So I’ll pass it on, You can expect threats if you discuss Sharia: My One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law [...]
It is well known that President Obama has a religion issue. The big looming one has to do with whether he is Muslim or not. My own position that he’s as Muslim as I am. With that out of the way, is Barack H. Obama a Christian? To borrow a turn of phrase from [...]
For some reason The New York Times has given the execrable Lee Siegel space to write on its website. Ruminating on Mitt Romney’s candidacy Siegel puts up a post with the title What’s Race Got to Do With It?, and states: In this way, Mr. Romney’s Mormonism may end up being a critical advantage. Evangelicals [...]
A few years ago I listened to Brad Stine, who happens to be a conservative Christian, make a joke to a sympathetic audience about how funny it was that some non-Christians were offended and objected to the image of a cross in a classroom. Stine’s assertion was to the effect that “It’s only a cross people! [...]
The above results are from an Ipsos MORI from last summer. Please note, the opinions above are restricted only to those who asserted a religious affiliation. Obviously in Saudi Arabia this is irrelevant, as nearly the whole population has a religious affiliation. But it is important in Japan, because there nearly 2 out of 3 [...]
Anthony Shadid has a poignant piece up, … But There’s a Slim Hope in History, on the specter of extinction facing Arab Christianity in the wake of the Arab Spring. This is an issue which I think most of my Left-liberal friends simply seem unable to confront forthrightly: ethnic and religious cleansing are often the [...]
In a rambling column at Slate on (ir)religious intermarriage Jesse Berring observes: Still, I concede that the irreducible alchemy of romance makes my cold logic rather difficult to apply to individual marriages. There are more things to a person—and to a relationship, one hopes—than religious beliefs. But since atheistic bachelors and bachelorettes are very rare [...]
A few weeks ago over at Slate Dave Weigel stated that “Electing Mitt Romney in 2012 would mean electing, for the first time, a president whose religion is not part of orthodox Christianity.” I tweeted to Weigel that this was just plain wrong. There have been plenty of presidents who rejected orthodox Christianity, the last [...]
Michael Totten points to this piece in The New Republic which sheds some light on the cult of personality around the Assad family which has developed amongst the Alawites. Based on the piece Totten declares that the Alawites are definitively not Muslims. This is problematic on two levels. First, Totten is an atheist last I [...]
There’s a rather vanilla piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer which reviews the ideas of how humans became human. I say vanilla because the headline is somewhat more sensational than the text itself, which seems sober and accurate. But this paragraph jumped out at me: A main source of the idea that we humans are above [...]
Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of Hinduism: In this village near the heart of Borneo’s great, dissolving rainforest, Udatn is regarded as a man of deep spiritual knowledge. Of all the people in this tiny settlement, he speaks better than any other the esoteric language of the Sangiyang, the spirits and ancestors of the [...]
Update: An ungated version of the paper. I used to spend a lot more time talking about cognitive science of religion on this weblog. It was an interest of mine, but I’ve come to a general resolution of what I think on this topic, and so I don’t spend much time discussing it. But in [...]
My post below on atheism and autism caused some confusion. I want to quickly clear up some issues in regards to the model which I had in mind implicitly. In short I’m convinced by the work of cognitive scientists of religion (see Religion Explained and In Gods We Trust) that belief in gods and spirits [...]
Tyler Cowen points me to a PDF, Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism, which has some fascinating results on the religiosity (or lack thereof) of people with high functioning autism. I’ve seen speculation about the peculiar psychological profile of atheists before in the cognitive science literature, and there’s a fair amount of [...]
I was sent off to purchase some cheap white wine yesterday to further the production of a very tasty tuna pasta. So I quickly ran over to the neighborhood mini-mart. Actually, this was my first visitation to the mini-mart. The woman behind the counter was brown. Going by the numbers she was probably an Indian [...]
At The American Scene Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry states: To have a religion is to hold a belief about metaphysics. Either you believe that Allah is God and Muhammad is his Prophet or you don’t. If you do, and you eat pork, this will not make Muhammad more, or less, the Prophet. The two things aren’t related. [...]
The New Republic has a long take on the G.O.P. turn away from foreign policy interventionism between 2008 and 2011. The article presages the fact that the recent debt deal seems to open the door to defense spending cuts if that’s the price for no increases in taxes. The flip side of this shift away [...]
The decline of political terrorism & the rise of religious terrorism.
The media has been reporting a lot about Anders Breivik. I’m curious about the tendency of some to label Breivik a “Christian Extremist”. Additionally, there is widespread repetition of the Norwegian official deeming him a “Chr…
Egypt’s Fundamentalist Summer: “Once the discussion turns to religion and the [religious] text, it’s a discussion that the Salafis are well-positioned to win. So that’s the danger—that even though Salafis don’t represent many Egyptians, they have a disproportionate effect because of their ability to frame the contours of the debate,” Hamid added. Their influence is [...]
Bryan Caplan* found something interesting in the GSS:
People who believe in the Bible’s literal truth (BIBLE=1) are much more satisfied with their jobs than people who believe it’s just a book of fables (BIBLE=3)….
In reading Strange Parallels I am struck by the broad cross-cultural tendencies in mainland Southeast Asia to transition from a Hindu sacral state to a Theravada Buddhist sacral state. Granted, the latter does not seem to be at great rupture with the former, as is evidenced by the “Hindu” aesthetic resonances of Thai and Khmer [...]
I am currently reading Victor Lieberman’s Strange Parallels: Volume 2, Mainland Mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the Islands: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800-1830. The author is a scholar of Burma, and his focus is on analogies between the rise of mainland Southeast Asian nation-states and other zones of Eurasia (or, lack thereof). [...]
Josh Rosenau has a post up discussing the impact of “New Atheism” on public perceptions of atheists. He mentions offhand that “New Atheism” as a movement really only crystallized in the mid-2000s, which made me wonder: what does…
I made a quick comment below wondering about the lack of acknowledgment of the influence of Persian culture, specifically the set of religious ideas which became Zoroastrianism, upon the “Abrahamic” religions. This influence is particularly important during one stage of the “evolution” of this religious tradition: the 6th century Babylonian Exile, during which the Jews [...]
CCTV checked after dispute at Sikh cultural centre: Up to 200 people went in the building in Dudley on Saturday angry that meat and alcohol was being served, which they feel is against the religion. It is understood they were there for five hours until managers agreed to ban the supply of meat and alcohol. [...]
Zach always talks about his “Abrahamic perspective.” This is to some extent considerate, acknowledging the importance of inter-subjectivity. On the other I think it might be perceived to be divisive, in reception if not intent. Christians, Jews, and Muslims, make a big show of unity, of common identity and lineage, but in group coherency often [...]
I’ve had to deal with vulgar* expositions of
The New York Times has a weird article up, Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?, which digests the Pew Religious Landscape Survey descriptive statistics on the demographics of American religious denominations. It’s kind of a strange piece be…
In the comment thread on ‘selective liberalism’ there was a lot of talk about how ‘white liberals’ are more pro-Islam than pro-Hindu. I think this is based on the false axiom that white liberals are smart enough to have a clear and distinct sense of the difference between Islam and Hinduism. That’s because like most [...]
I’ve mentioned Elaine Ecklund’s research before on ‘spiritual atheists.’ Though I had a hard time understanding the thrust of her conclusions or inferences on occasion I could grapple with her raw quantitative results. But now s…
On my most recent Sepia Mutiny post the issue of my aggressive atheism came to a head. Some commenters, rightly, suggested that this sort of attitude is out of the norm in South Asia, where to some extent a respect, if not necessary belief, in the norms and propositions of religion are taken for granted. [...]
Reading some of Adi Shankara’s commentaries right now. At least he wasn’t a lawyer….
A friend mentioned last night that he was watching a bit of A Game of Thrones, the new HBO series based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ll probably wait until after the DVD version comes out, if I watch it at all. …
In In Our Time. I listened to the program via the podcast.
When I discuss archaeogenetics with people they often automatically bring their preconceptions to the table, and reframe my own position in a way to make it more intelligible to them. For example, the ground-breaking paper Reconstructing Indian Population History shows that modern South Asians can be viewed very confidently as a compound between two parent [...]
Trying to Relish the Big Time, Even When It Brings a Cringe:
The house lights came up and it was intermission at “The Book of Mormon,” the new Broadway musical about a pair of innocent young Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda to spread the faith. …
Well, different things come to the fore in state houses, Creationism Makes a Comeback: The irony is that in the past, creationist institutions and advocates used to be allies of laws and reforms which would give a stronger role for a parents choice in their child’s education, whether through voucher programs, charter schools, or even [...]
The other day I was listening to NPR and they were discussing at length the upheavals in the Arab world. Offhand I noted how the discussants would occasionally shift between “the Arab world” and “the Muslim world,” and naturally…
SuperSnail asks: Hey Razib, could you compile a list of Chinese and Indian religious history/philosophy books? I’ve actually made the call for books on Indian religion and philosophy elsewhere. My knowledge set in this domain is very thin, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending anything. I have read primary sources such as The Bhagavad Gita [...]
Since 9/11, and even earlier back to the Iranian Revolution, Western journalists have served as oracles for the mass public, decrypting the ethnographic confusions of the Islamic world. There are many subtle shadings which no doubt can’t make int…
Any recommendations? As clear in my list of books on religion I haven’t read too much on the topic. In particular Hinduism. I’ve read a fair amount about Chinese religion-philosophy though, so no need in that domain.
As someone with minimal religious intuitions and nominal indoctrination it’s been a long hard slog for me to understand religion as a human phenomenon. Books have been important. Not newspapers. And not just the words of believers. I’ve expressed irritation and exasperation at some readers who talk about things which they clearly have only a [...]
In the comments to my post “The double standard” many liberals objected to my assertion that much of the Left engages in a situational criticism of religion, whereby conservative Christians bear the full front of the secular critique, where Muslims do not. My own personal experience with this is that almost everyone I have close [...]
I was just listening to Freeman Dyson on Econtalk. Dyson was asserting that there need be no necessary conflict between being religious and being a scientist. I agree with that point. But, Dyson entered into the record that the Nobel Prize winning physicist Abdus Salam was an “orthodox Muslim.” He was not. He was a [...]
A few years ago Markos Moulitas wrote a book, American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right. This is in a long tradition of demonization of American Christian conservatives by the Left. All’s fair in love and war, but I think this tendency to make an analogy between American [...]
One of the peculiar aspects of modern South Asian identity, in particular, that of Hindus, is a sense a of civilizational involution. By this, I mean that Islam and Christendom have an expansive self-conception, which at some point in the future is presumed to reach an equilibrium whereby the whole world is dominated by its [...]
One of the problems with being an atheist and not a member of an organized religion is that life’s not a “package deal.” My materialist metaphysic, or perhaps more precisely my skepticism of metaphysics, doesn’t entail anything except what it entails. I am, for example, a political conservative, which goes against expectations. In contrast, religious [...]
One of the major back stories about Bahrain is the disjunction between the religious confession of the ruling family, and the populace. The elite and the monarchy are Sunni, while the masses are Shia. This is of a piece with the nearly 1,000 years of rule of the Arab Shia by Sunni monarchs since the [...]
British gay Muslims seek Islamic weddings: “We met about three years ago, at an iftar – a breaking of fast during Ramadan. “I think a lot of Muslims find that time of year very spiritual and very enlightening, and so I think that’s why our relationship developed, because we spoke about our faith.” “Eventually we [...]
Via Politics Daily: A Catholic priest who traveled the country performing exorcisms and launching fierce attacks against anyone he viewed as insufficiently tough on abortion — he once suggested Fox News host Sean Hannity was a “heretic” for saying birth control could be a better option than abortion — has been removed from ministry for [...]
The New York Times profiles one of my weblogs. Interestingly, they refer to me as an “apostate.” I think that’s kind of amusing. The reporter is aware that I’ve never been one plagued by superstitious intuitions, so he’s just referring in many ways to my cultural background. One thing that irritates me is that people [...]
A long post at Discover Blogs where I outline what I perceive to be the fallacies and misrepresentations in the media today about the Egyptian democratic revolution. In particular, I think terms like “secular” and “Islamist” are…
I’ve been keeping track of events in the Arab world only from a distance. There’s been a lot of excitement on twitter and Facebook. Since I’m not an unalloyed enthusiast for democracy I’ve not joined in in the exultation. But I&…
The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died
Link to review: The view from somewhere smart.
Link to review: Next Christianity.
Link to review: God’s Contintent, Christianity, Islam and Europe’s Religious Crisis.
One of Zach’s friends found my attacks and dismissal of astrology objectionable. He states: But seems like i picked one post, which was very under researched and the gentleman had strong… no very strong views- quite offensive to some of us- but he didn’t care. Anyways, i tried my best to reason out- but got [...]
please look at the attached excel sheet
“The present day Muslim society is divided into four major groups (i) the ashrafs, who trace their origins to foreign lands, (ii) the upper caste Hindus who converted to Islam, (iii) the middle caste converts whose occupations are ritually clean, (iv) the converts from the erstwhile Untouchable castes – Bhangi (scavengers), Mehtar (sweeper), Chamar (tanner), Halalkhor (Dom) and so on”. (p. 192)
Hitting my 3-a-day quote but I’ve been meaning to ruminate on Hindi-Urdu for a while, a couple of weeks actually, but can do so now that the Blasphemy Panel has wrapped up, successfully to boot (trying to effect dialogue, let alone change, in a decreipt community generates an incredible amount of ill-will).
My 18mth old nephew and mother have caught a virus, which means I’m staying in tonight.
In the comments, Omar sayeth: The Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic distinction is mostly meaningless. But not totally so. There seems to be some difference in their tendency to push for a “religious state” (especially in terms of the legal code) in a modern state. This is not to say that Buddhism or Hinduism are not used [...]
Recently, a self-described traditionalist Catholic correspondent observed that my discussion of religion was “respectful.” I did find it a little interesting, insofar as personally I’m not sure that I really “respect” religion as such. Rather, I take it seriously as a cultural phenomenon, and take it on its own terms as an intellectual one (I [...]
From my HinJew thread I’m nominating Omar as my online shrink and Zaynab as his deputy.
Link to review: In the lands of the living God
Good morning. Thanks to Opera Comments feed I can now catch up on all comments instead of clicking on Most Recent Comment.
Link to review: How the Swedes became white
Link to review: The dismal gods
My post on HinJew led to my uncle and I to banter about on email.
The police on Saturday arrested a teenage boy for allegedly writing blasphemous material on examination answer sheets.
At Discover I report some of the attitudes in Muslim nations in relation to particular crimes or infractions against social mores: Support for harsh punishments (affirm action) Stone adulterers Whip & amputate hands of robbers Death penalty for apostates Indonesia 42 36 30 Turkey 16 13 5 Egypt 82 77 84 Pakistan 82 82 [...]
Link to review: The wheel of history turns to the gods.
I am obviously an atheist. I am also an atheist who finds supernatural belief personally baffling, though like Quantum Mechanical dynamics I now can perceive an internal logic in the phenomenon. Unlike some atheists I am highly skeptical that the majority of the human race can ever truly be atheists. The herd needs gods. So [...]
About 20 years ago I lived for a year in a rural area where Amish were a common feature of country roads and farmers’ markets. My parents, being Muslims, would sometimes buy chickens from the local Amish and slaughter them according to halal. We had a relationship with a particular family. They were nice people, [...]
The book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us has been getting a lot of press, as it should. It’s pretty rich in data, and finally puts a spotlight on one of the most underreported trends between 1990-2010, the massive surge in irreligion. Because of the power of the Religious Right many Americans perceive [...]
A friend was skimming Lonely Planet Bengali Phrasebook, and brought this to my attention: Bengalis may feel uncomfortable if you do not profess a religion. To avoid any embarrassment, it may be a good idea to claim a religion. I joked that this was the equivalent of telling a traveler to an exotic land to [...]
Recently a “hot story” in the barbaric nation that is Pakistan is that a politician did not know how to recite a prayer properly. An important back story here is that Muslims generally pray in Arabic, but most Muslims are not Arabic language speakers (and in any case, colloquial Arabic is very different from “Classical [...]
In response to my two posts below on atheism statistics, people in the comments and around the web (e.g., Facebook) have pointed out that Buddhism is necessarily/can be atheistic, and that Buddhism, is not/not necessarily a religion, and therefore that explains the statistics. Some of these people are lazy/stupid judging by the way the argument [...]keep looking »