Tag archives for: religion

On Trying to Escape Your Past

There's an Irish joke that runs as follows:

A journalist, researching for an article on the complex political situation in Northern Ireland, was in a pub in a war-torn area of Belfast. One of his potential informants leaned over his pint of Guinness and suspiciously cross-examined the journalist: "Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?" the Irishman asked.

"Neither," replied the journalist; "I'm an atheist."

The Irishman, not content with this answer, put a further question: "Ah, but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?

This joke resonates with me. I think it's both funny and profound. Funny …

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Have You Ever Actually Read That Thing?

I saw this headline today:

How Islamic is Islamic State?

And I started gibbering just a little. I admit, I haven't read the full article because, frankly, I don't really care about the answer. It's a stupid question.

But, like those who insist on calling the hijab a cultural artifact when confronted with the grim reality of women who are forced to wear it, many people seem to find the question pertinent.

It disturbs me how much energy is spent debating the issue. Ask yourself: if ISIS really were following the Koran to the letter, would that, in itself, make …

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On Being "Accommodating"

Niqabs are in the news again. Stephen Harper wants them off during the Canadian citizenship ceremony. The whole thing is surely a tempest in a teapot, as there have been a grand total of two, count 'em, two women since 2011 who have refused to show their faces during the ceremony, but it has started occasionally ugly debates on the limits of what is generally known as "religious accommodation".

First off, I should mention that I really dislike the term "religious accommodation".

It evokes entirely the wrong imagery. When someone is being "accommodating" they are doing something active, something they …

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You Keep Using That Word

It's hard to talk about the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo without sounding like you're either a) apologizing for violence or b) spouting tired platitudes about free speech.

I mean, sure, like everyone else, I fully condemn the attacks, given that being offended is not a reason to, you know, shoot people. I feel really weird having to say that. Like they joked on The Daily Show, I sometimes worry if I'm being "denouncy" enough.

But there was something in France's reaction to the attacks (all those myriad "Je suis Charlie" placards) that rubbed me the wrong way …

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Charter Ramblings

Many years ago I read a book called The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. The backdrop against which the story occurs is a relatively near future society where traditional notions of country and state have been largely supplanted by notions of "phyles" - tribes or groups having similar ethnic or cultural characteristics. One of the main characters, a Mr. John Hackworth, belongs to the Neo-Victorian phyle who, like their namesake, are a somewhat prudish lot who follow a rigid and absolute moral code.

The book is good, but one scene in particular has stayed with me. Hackworth is having a conversation …

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Church, State, and Culture

Have you ever wondered why the separation of church and state is good idea?

I'm assuming, of course, that most everyone in my immediate social circle actually thinks it's a good idea, though since I read about that fiasco involving the mayor of Saguenay, this assumption is perhaps on shakier ground than I would have liked.

But, assuming that I'm correct, have you ever sat down and actually thought about why you think it's a good idea?

I've noticed at least two schools of thought among my friends. Some of them are simply anti-religion. They look at, for example, the …

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Religion Versus Culture

In the past, I've commented on France's ban of the niqab, noting in passing that the distinction some people make between religion and culture (emphasizing, for example, that the niqab is a Middle Eastern cultural tradition rather than a specific Islamic law), is irrelevant to question of whether a woman has the right to wear whatever the hell she wants in public - including, of course, a niqab if that's what floats her boat.

At the time, I more or less glossed over what I thought the actual distinction was between culture and religion, so with that in mind I'd like …

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On the Banning of Niqabs

I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but last year France started fining women who wear the niqab in public, in defiance of a recently passed law banning religious face coverings in public. From the article, other countries (Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland) are planning similar legislation.

The article is noteworthy, not only for the content, which is informative, but also for the handy reference at the bottom explaining the difference between hijabs, niqabs, burkas.

(According to the article, hijab is a generic name for a headscarf, a niqab is a veil the covers …

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