Category Archives: Religion

Wednesday smorgasbord.

An infrequent article dump to clear the tabs on my computer. Topics include: Latin America; the end of Fannie and Freddie (I can only dream); biblical misconceptions; autism; innovation and unemployment; Leon Panetta’s strategy to cut defense spending; and things happy people do. Enjoy!

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The Washington Post interrupts “the current gloom about the global economy to bring you a word about progress. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the portion of the population living in poverty fell substantially from 1990 to 2010, from 48.4 percent to 31.4 percent, according to a new United Nations report. And this occurred as the population grew from 440.7 million to 582 million.”

Meanwhile, media outlets in Mexico report that over 12,000 people were killed last year in drug-related violence. “Annual indexes of torture, beheadings and the killing of women all showed increases.”

William M. Isaac and Richard M. Kovacevich, writing for CNN Money, explain their plan for closing Fannie and Freddie.

John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, explains the three biggest bible misconceptions: “First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it… The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim… The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.”

The New York Times explains the romantic relationships of those with autism.

On a day early this month, before their planned trip to the animal shelter, Kirsten and Jack stood before a group of young adults with autism at the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support in Philadelphia, answering their questions while Jack’s father addressed their parents in a different room. “Did you ever think you would be alone?” one teenager wanted to know.

Kirsten answered first. “I thought I was going to be alone forever,” she said. “Kids who picked on me said I was so ugly I’m going to die alone.”

Her blunt tip on dating success: “A lot of it is how you dress. I found people don’t flirt with me if I wear big man pants and a rainbow sweatshirt.”

Then it was Jack’s turn to answer, in classic Aspie style. “I think I sort of lucked out,” he said. “I have no doubt if I wasn’t dating Kirsten I would have a very hard time acquiring a girlfriend that was worthwhile.”

A mother who had slipped into the room put up her hand.

“Where do you guys see your relationship going in the future?” she asked. “No pressure.”

Kirsten looked at Jack. “You go first,” she said.

“I see it going along the way it is for the foreseeable future,” Jack said.

One of the teenagers hummed the Wedding March.

“So I guess you’re saying, there is hope in the future for longer relationships,” the mother pressed.

Kirsten gazed around the room. A few other adults had crowded in.

“Parents always ask, ‘Who would like to marry my kid? They’re so weird,’ ” she said. “But, like, another weird person, that’s who.”

Francisco Dao, writing for the Washington Post, explores whether innovation is leading to higher unemployment:

Instead of the normal evolutionary rise and fall of industries, our economy is now at something analogous to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event (the end of the dinosaurs). Going forward, those who will prosper will be characterized by their ability to leverage technology, while everyone else will find themselves relegated to obsolescence by exponentially more powerful machines.

What is different now is the power and scale of technology at our disposal. One hundred years ago, “leveraging technology” meant using a better plow to plant more land than your neighbor. Eventually he would go out of business and you would take over his farm.

Today, it means a handful of people at Instagram and Flickr can bankrupt Kodak and put hundreds or thousands of people out of work.

According to the NYT, “Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is set this week to reveal his strategy that will guide the Pentagon in cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from its budget, and with it the Obama administration’s vision of the military that the United States needs to meet 21st-century threats, according to senior officials.”

Lastly, Mark and Angel Hack Life reports on 12 things happy people do differently.

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Filed under Economy, Health & Nutrition, Latin America, Mexico, Miscellaneous, Religion

Hitchens on loving your enemies

“[Christianity] tells me to love my enemies. And I don’t do that and I don’t want you doing it for me either. Go love your own enemies. Don’t be loving mine.  I’ll get on with the business of destroying, isolating, and combating the enemies of civilization.” -Christopher Hitchens

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Are China’s Rulers Finding Religion?

With worsening inflation, a slowing economy, and growing concerns about possible social unrest, China’s leaders have a lot on their plates these days. And yet when the Communist Party met at its annual plenum earlier this week, the issue given greatest attention was not economic policy but what it described as “cultural reform.”

The concern appears quixotic, but China is now in the grips of a moral crisis. In recent months, the Chinese Internet has been full of talk about the lack of morality in society. And the problem is not just associated with the very rich or the political connected—concerns shared in western countries—but with the population at large. This has been precipitated in part by a spate of recent incidents in which people have failed to come to aid of fellow citizens caught in accidents or medical emergencies. A few weeks ago, a two-year-old girl in Guangzhou was hit by a car and left dying in the street while eighteen passers-by did nothing to help her. The case riveted China, causing people to ask what sort of society is being created.

So, no sooner was the plenum over than the party indicated that it would limit the amount of entertainment shows on television and possibly set limits on popular microblogs. While it is easy to read this move simply as censorship, which it certainly is, it also reflects the new preoccupation with morality: many of the banned shows are pure entertainment—the party now wants more news programs—and Chinese microblogs have long been a forum for anonymous character assassination. Meanwhile, though it has been far less noted, Beijing is giving new support to religion—even the country’s own beleaguered traditional practice, Daoism.

After decades of destruction, Daoist temples are being rebuilt, often with government support. Shortly after the plenum ended, authorities were convening an International Daoism Forum. The meeting was held near Mt. Heng in Hunan Province, one of Daoism’s five holy mountains, and was attended by 500 participants. It received extensive play in the Chinese media, with a noted British Daoist scholar, Martin Palmer, getting airtime on Chinese television. This is a sharp change for a religion that that was persecuted under Mao and long regarded as suspect. What, exactly, is gong on here?

Read more here.

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The Obedient Wife Club

Membership is open.

An “Obedient Wife Club” known in Malaysia for its controversial views has published a book urging men in polygamous Muslim marriages to have group sex with their wives, a report said Friday.

The club, formed earlier this year, has made headlines with its radical suggestions on sex and marriage in conservative, Muslim-majority Malaysia.

They include earlier calling on women to be “whores in bed” to prevent their men from straying and pursuing divorce.

In a 115-page book titled “Islamic Sex, Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World,” the group calls on Muslim husbands to have sex with all their wives simultaneously, The Star daily reported.

One chapter, “How Sex Becomes Worship,” contains unusually explicit sexual descriptions for a Malaysian publication, such as a tutorial on breast-fondling.

Islamic Sex, Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World is not yet available on Amazon.

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Hitch in Paris

I’m a big fan of Christopher Hitchens, and thanks to Daily Hitchens, discovered a new video (to me) of him during a book tour for God is Not Great. The interview was in Paris in February 2009. He is, as always, a firebrand… and a pleasure to listen to.

Part 1 of 7:

Update: This post was corrected. I originally listed the source as Hitchens Watch (an anti-Hitch website) rather than Daily Hitchens (a pro-Hitch website). Thanks to a reader for pointing this out.

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