"A group called the Boston Area Coalition of Reason has spent $11,000 to buy ads on more than 200 subway cars on the Red Line and Green Line to raise awareness about people who believe that God is a myth."
"...It plans ads for another 10 cities, which will coincide with the publication of a book titled “Good Without God,’’ by Greg Epstein, a member of the coalition’s board who is the humanist chaplain at Harvard.
What's amusing to me is how religious these athesists and "humanists" can be! Harvard has a chaplain for their humanists. Why do you need a chaplain, exactly, if you're rejecting religion? They seem to be awfully bent on spreading their non-belief, these atheists and humanists. Downright evangelical, I'd say!
I'm sorry, it seems silly to me. As G.K. Chesteron said: "If there were no God, there would be no atheists."
"Acting on faith in politics means exactly what it does in personal life: to do what is right even when it is dangerous to do so, when received opinion howls against it, and when the ultimate consequence of such actions cannot be foreseen. After Pope Benedict XVI showed unprecedented courtesy to visiting American President George W Bush last week, much has been written about the Christian faith that binds the pope and the president."
Spengler speculates on why the U.S. invaded Iraq after September 11th, and he discusses the Bush's decision to do so:
"Bush was magnificently right to conduct a punitive expedition against Saddam, but horribly wrong to wade into the mire of nation-building. He should have found a cooperative dictator to replace Saddam and marched out, as American neo-conservative historian and political commentator Daniel Pipes suggested at the time. Nevertheless, as I wrote in 2004, 'The West should be thankful that it has in US President George W Bush a warrior who shoots first and tells the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to ask questions later. Rarely in its long history has the West suffered by going to war too soon.On the contrary: among the wars of Western history, the bloodiest were those that started too late.' "
Finally, while many in the West wring their hands about post-Christian Europe - not to mention post-Europe Europe (due to the failure of Europeans to reproduce themselves, while their Muslim populations have large families), Spengler sees a very different possibility:
"For some years now, the Vatican has made reciprocity the key to its relations with Muslim-majority states. For example, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran,
the Vatican equivalent of foreign minister, commented in 2003 that
'There are too many majority Muslim countries where non-Muslims are
second-class citizens' and pushed for reciprocity: 'Just as Muslims can
build their houses of prayer anywhere in the world, the faithful of
other religions should be able to do so as well'."
"...Should even a single church open in Saudi Arabia, no matter how
restricted, hidden, and threatened in, it will be truly significant
step, a tribute to both the Vatican's new, tougher policy and to King
Abdullah's reform efforts."
Feast of Naw-Ruz (Baha'i and Iranian New Year, also Persian New Year and Heritage Day)
Good Friday (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Eastern, Greek and Russian Orthodox))
Birthday of Muhammad (Islamic)
Sikh New Year/Holla Mohalla
The entire list for New Jersey is really quite something. I counted 76 daysduring the school year that a student can be excused from school for a religious holiday. When do the kids actually go to school?
It must tough for teachers to accomdate so many different schedules, move test dates around, allow make-up exams, etc., etc. Some of the religious holidays for which the school district must allow a student to be excused (upon written request from a parent) seem to be a stretch. Do Hindus really take the whole day off to celebrate Ganesha on September 7th? I hope some Hindu can set me straight on that. There are eight holidays for Hindus (nothing for Vishnu or Kali, though). Is this reasonable for a public school in the U.S.?
I can speak to the Catholic holidays on the list, and the idea that a student gets Shrove Tuesday off from a public school is ludicrous. I attended Catholic grammar school, and believe me, nobody ever got Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wedneday or Holy Thursday off there. Nobody ever got the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) or the Ascension (May 1) off either! If Catholic schools don't let students out for these holy days, why on earth are public schools doing that?
I was thinking recently about the many excellent lectures I've attended in the past three or four year in Boston. I've heard Bat Ye'or, Robert Spencer, Caroline Glick, and now Wafa Sultan and Mark Steyn. They have all given fascinating, provocative lectures on what's going on in the world, especially the rise in Islamic fundamentalism, and the threats to Christians, Jews and Muslims by radical Islamists in the Middle East and now South East Asia. Where have I heard all of them speak? In Jewish temples in the Boston area. Why don't Catholic churches ever host speakers like these folks?
Where are the lectures about our history, about the persecution of Christians in the modern world, about modern day slavery? Why do I have to look outside my own church to get information on the plight of the few remaining Christians in the Holy Land? Instead, we're permanently sidetracked with pedophile priests and parish reorganizations, and now a priest who stalked Conan O'Brien!
Why has the Archdiocese of Boston said not one peep about the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) lawsuit saga, about their new new mosque built with significant Saudi funding and with Saudi trustees? Does the Archdiocese have any concern that the recent spokesman for the ISB is a former Catholic? Think of the symbolism of that. Does the Archdiocese really want the only Catholic person seen in the media commenting on the ISB case to be the extravagantly liberal Fr. Raymond Helmick?
Talk about where you'd least expect a resurgence in Christianity: the militantly secular Netherlands, with its street-level brothels in Amsterdam and hashish cafes. Is a post-Christian country becoming post-secular? Imagine that! The Weekly Standard has an interesting article by a Dutch columnist and editor about an apparent resurgence of Christian religiosity in Holland. "Throughout Western Europe, and also in Holland, liberal Protestantism is in its death throes." Some examples of the Dutch moving back to God:
"Prayer in the workplace is fast becoming a universally accepted phenomenon."
Crucifixes and religious artifacts are being reintroduced into Catholic schools (why were they ever removed from Catholic schools??)
"Holland's most prestigious literary prizes were awarded in 2005 to books dealing in a sympathetic way with Christian issues of faith and redemption."
The bestselling Dutch-language book of the past decade was a new Bible translation published in 2004,
"...the number of self-described Christians stopped declining as early as the beginning of the 1990s. Among the under-20s, the number has started to increase in recent years."
Liberal Protestantism and liberal Catholicism are waning big-time. What's replacing it are a stream of Christian immigrants from Africa, Asia and Europe (there are twice as many Christian immigrants as Muslim immigrants to Holland). These immigrants are founding charismatic church communities. Also there's a new movement of youth churches, where young people come together to worship God in unorthodox ways ("Skateboarders for Christ"). At the same time, there's a movement of "House Christians":
"At its core, the house church is based on the practice of the earliest Christian communities of the first century: small groups of people meeting in each other's houses, sharing a meal and worshipping God. Westhuis: 'the idea is that you don't just share a meal once a week, you actually share your lives. It's a radical departure from modern life, which leaves most people feeling increasingly lonely.' ....youth churches are also an indicator of another significant development, namely the move away from the church of bricks and mortar to a less clearly recognizable, more informal setting. Youth churches seem to meet anywhere but in traditional church buildings: cultural centers, sports halls, school assembly rooms, parking lots, even in night clubs....'We don't want to go to church, we want to be a church.' "
The article notes that "Dutch Christianity is now largely an underground phenomenon." Interesting - back to the catacombs (but not because of persecution). Which contrasts with Islam in Holland:
"While Dutch Christianity is making the move from church buildings to living rooms, sports centers, and factory halls, Dutch Islam is moving in the opposite direction. At the Kostverlorenvaart in the Amsterdam suburb of De Baarsjes, the foundations are being laid for a new mosque, with a 110-foot-high dome and 140-foot-high minarets. "We don't want to pray in basements and school buildings anymore. We want a proper mosque," is how Fatih Dag explains the idea behind this project. Dag is chairman of the board of the local Aya Sofia Mosque. He says he understands local objections to the scale of the project: "Of course, if I were living in Turkey and people wanted a big new church next to my house, I might object too. But the fact is that we are here, and we're here to stay. And we want a place to worship." Indeed, in all major towns in Holland, building projects are under way for the construction of supersized mosques."
The Muslim population has increased from 1% of the Dutch population in 1970 to 6% today. One point in the article I take issue with is a claim that "Islam, at least in its Dutch variant, is not a proselytizing faith." Wow, that's a tough one to swallow. Islam and Christianity both seek to proselytize. The article continues with the problems faced by Holland's Islamic communities:
"In the meantime, Islam is already finding itself in a difficult position fighting off another threat, namely that of apostasy. Traditional approaches--honor killings and fatwas--have caused outrage among Holland's general public and political class."
I bet. The writer stated that Islamic converts to Christianity still insist on anonymity in Holland, as practically everywhere in the world.
"In the book, he cites extensive data analysis to demonstrate that values advocated by conservatives -- from church attendance and two-parent families to the Protestant work ethic and a distaste for government-funded social services -- make conservatives more generous than liberals. The book, titled Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books, $26), is due for release Nov. 24."
He sounds like an interesting guy with a curious mind:
"Outside professional circles, he's best known for his regular op-ed columns in The Wall Street Journal (13 over the past 18 months) on topics that stray a bit from his philanthropy expertise. One noted that people who drink alcohol moderately are more successful and charitable than those who don't (like him). Another observed that liberals are having fewer babies than conservatives, which will reduce liberals' impact on politics over time because children generally mimic their parents."
Ah yes, the Roe Effect. Back to who is more generous and the unexpected repercussions:
"The book's basic findings are that conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure."
"Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone's tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even when governments don't provide them with enough money."
"Such an attitude, he writes, not only shortchanges the nonprofits but also diminishes the positive fallout of giving, including personal health, wealth and happiness for the donor and overall economic growth. All of this, he said, he backs up with statistical analysis."
Although I've always donated to charitable organizations (Thanks, Ma, for teaching that), I find that since going back to church, I've given lots more. First, the church reminds us (all the time) that we must take care of the needy. Also, you're expected to tithe a portion of your income. Every Sunday, we're asked to support specific local organizations such as transitional housing, unwed mothers homes, soup kitchens, prison, schools, and elderly folks. It just becomes part of what you do all the time. And this sounds terribly "New Age-y," but it's undeniably true that the more you give, the more you get.
If only I had a nickel for every time someone said: "Islam is the fastest growing religion, you know." I'd be rich, rich, rich! Nihad Awad* of CAIR was on Nightline in March 2006, speaking from Iraq about the release of reporter Jill Carroll in Iraq. Awad stated that CAIR went to Iraq "on behalf of 8 million American Muslims." Wow! Now there's a population explosion. Two years ago, CAIR routinely claimed that there were 4-5 million Muslims in the U.S. Last year, CAIR's number rose to 6-7 million. In early in 2006, we allegedly have 8 million American Muslims. Call me skeptical and disbelieving, this sounds like a bunch of hooey. Is CAIR just making numbers up? And what's behind the claim that Islam is the fastest growing religion?
According to Adherents.com, a website of statistical information on all different religious groups, the "highest reasonable total number of Muslims in the United States is 2.8 million." The Adherents.com website has several articles that discuss the methodology and reliability of several surveys of American Muslims. The U.S. State Department estimates there are 2 million Americans associated with a mosque. The State Department further asserts "...there is no official count of Muslims in the United States nor is there a number that is commonly accepted by all who have studied the question." The Brittanica Book of the Year estimates 4 million. A recent article published by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) asserts that "Muslims comprise less than 1 percent of the (US) population." Ummm, that would be 3 million Muslims, not 8 million.
Only CAIR comes up with a number like 8 million. But they repeat it over and over again, and most reporters and newscasters accept it and repeat it some more. Special interest groups like to inflate their numbers, in an attempt to obtain greater political influence. Next time you hear or read about the vast numbers of Muslims in the U.S., please politely protest. We need to keep a check on the feigned influence. It's a mighty squeaky wheel as it is.
Is Islam really the fastest growing religion in the U.S.? That one strikes me as horsefeathers too. Again, checking with Adherents.com, the religions which show the greatest increase from 1990-2000 include Buddhists (+170%, with roughly equal numbers to Muslims), Hindus (+237%), Bahai (+200%) and Sikhs (+380%). Islam increased 109% from 1990-2000. One wonders why Buddhist, Hindu, Bahai and Sikh advocacy groups aren't pumping out regular press releases about their increasing population.
Regarding whether Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, that's a subject for another time. But with Christianity on the rise in China and Africa, somehow I'm doubting that one too.....
* CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a group identified by a U.S. intelligence official as a front for Hamas. Nihad Awad was the group's public-relations adviser. Awad praised Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini and at a university forum in 1994 declared, "I am in support of the Hamas movement."
Christianity, though still vibrant in the United States, is waning throughout Europe, which now faces the dual challenges of materialistic secularism and Islamic fanaticism. America alone seems capable of maintaining a balance of religious and secular cultures—although even here intellectual elites may be moving toward a radical laïcisme. The consequences of this momentous shift are just beginning to unfold. What are we to make of the future of the West?
Religion and the Arts
From the sculpture of Michelangelo to the canvases of Caravaggio, from the cantatas of Bach to the Requiem Mass of Mozart, from the prose of Augustine to the poetry of Milton: many of the greatest achievements of Western art have been inspired by the Christian tradition. Yet few artists today seem inclined, or capable, to explore these depths. At the same time, Western art finds itself much impoverished. Is this merely coincidental? Or is there, as Tolstoy suggested, a relationship between great art and religion? Can great art be created absent a belief in the transcendent power of truth, beauty, and goodness? What are the chances of a renewed religious seriousness within the fine arts?
Damn day job! Why can't I be rich and gallivant around, attending workshops and going to museums? Luckily, AEI appears to post podcasts and text of speeches. Will check for the transcripts in a few days.
"Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog. The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries."
Amazing find. Also oddly enough, the book was opened up to Psalm 83, which begins:
Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.
For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.
They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
Cue Twilight Zone music (Dee dee dee dee, Dee dee dee dee....)
Peat bogs are an acidic environment, but they do a remarkable job of preserving some materials, including plants, leather and skins, which are essentially tanned in-place. A number of incredibly intact people have been found in bogs in Denmarks and Germany, such as Tollund Man, shown at left. He died in approximately 350 B.C., and was found in 1950 with the rope used to strangle him still tied round his neck. Many of the bog people had their necks cut and were believed to have been ritually slain, sacrifices to Celtic gods back in the Iron Age. While today's post-Christian neo-pagans like to glorify pre-Christian Celtic religion, there was more to it than painting yourself blue and worshipping oak trees. There were plenty o'human sacrifices back in the day.
But I digress. Finding a medieval book of psalms opened up to the 83rd Psalm, with Israel asking for God's help against a hostile alliance! That's a message from a God with a sense of humor and amazing timing.
"Cardinal Pell's speech described concerns about global warming as "hysteric and extreme". He says these worries are a symptom of pagan emptiness. Cardinal Pell says in the past, pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate the gods but today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions."
Pretty funny! There is so much in the way that leftists/feminists/environmentalists think and act that demonstrates that the post-Christian world has retreated to paganism. They don't believe in the myths and stories of the Bible, but they happily believe (with religious fervor) in a great many other baseless things (recycling glass matters, gun control works). I'm just thinking out loud here, but here are some of the beliefs, sacraments and sacred texts of the neo-pagans:
God has been replaced by Mother Earth (Gaiea).
The sacraments include recycling and abortion. Maybe I should label them dogma, since they can never be questioned. "We value diversity" is a great incantation to protect yourself with. Another protective incantation is "No always means No, no matter how softly said." Buddha and Ganesh are proper statuary. One must show adoration for all cultures except for white, Western culture (which really is no culture at all anyway).
Sacred texts: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, anything by Noam Chomsky.
I'm sure there are many more examples. Please add to this compilation of sacred dogmas, sacraments and texts of the post-Christian neo-pagans. Thanks in advance!
OK, this e-mail isn't outrageous, like the NBC Dateline e-mail soliciting Muslims for a sting operation at NASCAR events, but it's curious nonetheless. From a Boston area Muslim American Society e-mail received this week:
Are you a teenage convert to Islam? Are you experiencing problems explaining your beliefs to your parents?
BBC television in the UK is developing a documentary idea for TLC. In this documentary we plan to follow the lives ofAmerican teenagers who have turned to a form of belief which is different from their parents. We are considering a variety of faith groups including Hinduism, Evangelical Christianity, and Islam. Through this documentary narrative we will gain a better awareness of each faith group, through the experiences of the teenagers, and come to a new understanding of what it means to follow that type of religion in the U.S.
If you feel that your personal story fits our programme description then please check with your parents and contact me Rob Cowling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a fine story line, but why is the BBC more interested in American religious teenagers than in British teens?
New York city's Mayor Bloomberg recently suspended the head imam of the city's jail system, as reported here.
"The move by the city came after the New York Post reported that Mr. Abdul-Jalil declared in a speech that the White House is run by terrorists and that Muslims were tortured in Manhattan prisons after the World Trade Center attacks. He also reportedly urged Muslims in America to stop letting "the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us"......The imam, who has been with the department since 1993 and has been overseeing all clergy members at the agency since 2004, could not be reached yesterday. He did, however, publicly deny that he was promoting extremist views and said his comments were taken out of context."
(Hmmm, one hears that phrase rather a lot these days.....)
It's not just this one imam. Back in 2003, Senator Charles Schumer of New York recognized the problem of militant Islamists dominating the Muslim chaplaincy and spreading Wahabi extremism in prisons. He urged the state to remove militant clerics. Prisons are widely recognized to be a fertile ground for da'wa, or Islamic proselytizing. And unfortunately it's not the "Religion of Peace" version being spread, it's the "Osama bin Laden is a soldier of Allah" version. Schumer's press release describes how Shia Muslim inmates are being threatened by extremist Sunni inmates. Whiskey tango foxtrot? There's a Shia/Sunni conflict in prisons in the U.S.?!? How disturbing that our tax dollars are paying the imams' salaries and supporting this extremism right under our noses.
What to do?
1) Write to your congressman and ask whether chaplains are being monitored at prisons in your state. Who's paying attention to what they are saying? I have no idea how many Muslim chaplains there are in the Massachusetts prison system, whether they are moderate or radical, or what they are preaching. I'm going to see what I can find out though.
2) Support Christian prison ministries, there are a great many of them, and most are struggling for funding. They are essentially competing for the hearts and souls of the inmates. I give money to the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association, 3031 Fourth Street NE, Washington DC. Here's their website: WWW.PCNEA.ORG Please let me know of other prison ministry organizations.
I didn't really believe this story when I first heard about it over at Solomonia, but it has been largely corroborated by The Big Pharoah: Mokhles Tharwat , a Coptic Christian in Egypt, was arrested by Egypt's National Security Police for eating Danish cheese. The Pharoah reports that Tharwat has been jailed for over two weeks. Yeeks.
It's Ash Wednesday today, "Rember thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."
What are you giving up for Lent? The last time I gave up something for Lent - which was chocolate - I ended up discovering and consuming lots of non-chocolate delicacies. Lemon cookies, almond biscuits, fruit ice cream - I really just replaced my chocolate with something else. Not exactly what Lent is all about....... So this Lent, I'm going to give up a habit, not a thing, and I hope I don't figure out a way around that. No gossiping for me for the next 40 days and 40 nights. Talk about suffering!
And are you keeping the ashes on or brushing them off? There's a discussion of that over here.
This article from Brussels Journal deals with the apparent collapse of European society from within, as Europe leaves its Christianity behind:
"By subverting the roots of its own Judeo-Christian culture – a process that started with the French Enlightenment (as opposed to the Scottish Enlightenment, which was not anti-religious) – a religious and cultural vacuum was created at the heart of European civilization. The collapse of faith in its own values has, not surprisingly, led to a demographic collapse because a civilization that no longer believes in its own future also rejects procreation. Today, a new religion and culture is supplanting the old one. There is little one can do about it, but hope for a miracle."
"In Europe a secularized post-Christian culture is facing a Muslim one. The secularized culture is hedonist and values only its present life, because it does not believe in an afterlife. This is why it will surrender when threatened with death because life is the only thing it has to lose. This is why it will accept submission without fighting for its freedom. Nobody fights for the flag of hedonism, not even the hedonists themselves."
"....America, unlike secular Europe, has remained rooted to a larger extent in traditional Christian values. I do not doubt that if these values continue to decline in the U.S., American culture will collapse as European culture and civilisation have collapsed. However, America can learn from the impending European catastrophe, and avoid a similar fate."
I do wonder why Christianity has apparently largely died out in Europe. It seems that the great cathedrals in France are thronged with tourists, but not with worshippers going to Mass, much like the beautiful cathedrals in Montreal. Does this decline in religiosity reflect a fundamental weakness in the religion? How will Christianity survive another millenium? Will Christianity light up again somewhere else in the world? Once a society is post-Christian, is there anything that can bring it back?
I think that Christianity (and its predecessor- if that's the right word- Judaism) are the very backbone and nerve system of our modern civilization. But the secular folk, the "progressive humanists" so absorbed in their self-actualization, seem ignorant of the contributions of Judaism and Christianity to the modern world. The way we think, what we value, how we structure our government, how we conduct business, if we feel a twinge when we tell a lie, the kinds of art we create, the music we listen to - these things didn't come from secularism or paganism, they came from the Church. While non-religious people are only too eager to tally the misdeeds of the Church over it long history, they are oblivious and unappreciative of its many contribution to the modern world and their very own free-thinking mindset.