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May 14, 2010

The goat ate my prophecy!

CSI | The Goat That Ate Islamic Science
It seems that the stone-the-adulterers commandment has long been the subject of theological controversy because although mandated by traditional religious law, or shari’a, it does not appear in the Quran. Instead, the Quran mentions the much less severe punishments of flogging or perhaps confinement. Some fornicators actually get into such things, maybe even in combination. Presumably a death sentence would have been important enough to merit inclusion in the revelation. Why didn’t Allah mention it before? According to another hadith, He did. Muhammad had written down the revealed verse on a piece of paper and placed it under his bed for safekeeping. One day while Muhammad had taken ill and the household was preoccupied with nursing him, a goat wandered in and ate it. Islamic scholars took from this story not the lesson that I find obvious—that the goat was a second Messenger of Allah, who wanted to show Muhammad exactly what he could do with his bonkers idea of stoning adulterers. Instead, they used it to argue that were it not for the goat, the Quran would have (therefore should have?) included the missing verse and that this resolves the apparent doctrinal inconsistency—a hermeneutics of animal husbandry. I’m sorry. This comic tale doesn’t really have a punch line. But it does reveal something about the nature of knowledge and epistemic authority in Islam, and this may go a long way toward explaining why Arab-Islamic societies never produced a scientific revolution while European societies did.

May 10, 2010

Come Out, Virgina
A victim of of child sexual abuse at the hands of a priest blogs it out

The blogger is an old school chum and a crackerjack writer. This is what it sounds like when the abused strike back. Come Out, Virginia Why I Didn't Tell
Many people have asked me why I didn't tell someone. My parents are heartbroken that I didn't, and I sympathize. But was different in the 1970s in a parish community. We didn't have a non-threatening, comprehensive, age-appropriate book about sex called It's So Amazing. This lady did not come to our school and help our parents figure out how to explain sex and sexuality to us. Our lives were centered in the church and the school; the person guiding our parents in talking to their kids about reproduction was...Monsignor. I honestly didn't know adults would think it was wrong. I knew it terrified me. I knew I hated it. ... Other kids told. I have just begun looking at some of the news articles in my hometown paper about the criminal and civil cases against Monsignor. I found two articles that briefly describe what happened when a child spoke up.
“…She said that when she told a school official of the abuse, that official made her kneel on a tile floor for hours as punishment for what was perceived as lying.” (from a 2002 article) "...A former student at [my] Catholic school says that she accused Monsignor of fondling her in 1968 or 1969 but that the principal -- a nun -- didn't believe her and did nothing. ‘Sister K. was principal of the school at the time,’ the woman said. ‘She was told. I told her myself. She said that it was ridiculous.’… Sister K., who is now chancellor of the Diocese, doesn't remember a complaint about Monsignor during her year as principal.‘I have no memory of anyone saying anything like that to me, never in my life,’ she said. ‘That's not true. She must have me confused with someone else.’” (from a 1993 article)
If you are interested enough in the subject of how the Church, as an institution, has responded historically to accusations by abuse victims to be reading this blog at all, you know the routine by now: the kids usually don't tell. If they tell, they usually aren't believed. If they're believed, they're made to shut up. The numbers are overwhelming, and statistics are, as ever, an incomplete picture. The John Jay report says US bishops report hearing of 5,600 abusing priests and 14,722 victims between 1950 and 2002. These numbers are unexcusable in themselves, but then remember that those are only the complaints that made it past the teacher, past the principal, past the abuser's immediate superior, past his immediate supervisor and up to the Bishop. But I am not writing about numbers or statistics. I am trying, in this blog, to convey what it was like.

Fox News anchor fails to debate Atheist over National Day of Prayer

And Mr. Atheist schools him in a calm, reasonable way. Well done sir. Fox News anchor tries to debate atheist over National Day of Prayer