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Interview With Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk

Oct 12th, 2009 | By Tauriq Moosa

With atheist best-sellers flying off the book-shelves, people are now finding their beliefs questioned, probed and examined. Lumping all arguments together, many dismiss the new wave of intellectual concern as a crass form of schoolyard bullying, calling all those critical of religion “new atheists”. But what is forgotten in these discussions is the human side, the reasons for not believing and what that means in our lives. Many know the arguments against belief but now the point has come to ask another question: why does that matter? In an effort to do just that, two philosophers, Russell Blackford from Australia and German-born Udo Schüklenk have co-edited a book which seeks to solve recent problems for the modern non-believer. 50 Voices Read the rest

Child Witchcraft and Child Rights in Akwa Ibom State

Oct 6th, 2009 | By Leo Igwe

Child witchcraft stands for the claim that children can be witches and wizards or that infants can or do engage in witchcraft activities like turning themselves into birds or insects – at night – to suck blood or mysteriously inflict harm on someone. It is the belief that children have evil powers which they use or can use to destory people particularly their family or community members. As I have pointed out here, child witchcraft is a claim, a belief – a superstitious belief. Child witchcraft is manifested in different forms: accusation, confession and persecution.

Children are accused of being witches and wizards. Somtimes children who talk in their dreams or sleep walk are said to be witches. They are … Read the rest

Humanists to Hold an Anti-witchcraft Conference in Uyo

Sep 26th, 2009 | By Leo Igwe

In October (21-22) humanists will be meeting in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, for yet another conference on witch hunt and child abuse This is the second antiwitchcraft program to be organized by the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM) this year. In July, NHM cosponsored with Steppingstones Nigeria a public symposium in Calabar on Witchcraft and Child Rights. The October meeting, sponsored by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, will be held at the University of Uyo Commmunity Centre. The Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chief Godswill Akpabio is expected to declare it open.

The theme of the conference is Witch hunt, Christian Fundamentalism and Child Abuse. In the past 10 years, there has been an upsurge in witchcraft … Read the rest

The attack in Calabar: Religious Extremism in Nigeria

Sep 26th, 2009 | By Leo Igwe

Around 11:30 am on Wednesday July 29 2009, a mob of about 200 persons from the Liberty Gospel Church invaded the Cultural Center in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. The Cultural Center was the venue of a public symposium on witchcraft and child rights organised by the Nigerian Humanist Movement and Stepping Stones Nigeria.

Most of them arrived at the venue in buses wearing orange T-shirt while others donned plain clothes to hide their identity. As we were about to start, some of them stormed the conference hall stamping their feet on the ground and chanting slogans critical of the event and the organisers.

I tried calming them down without success as they were determined to disrupt the event and … Read the rest

Review of Keith Ward’s Why There Almost Certainly Is a God

Sep 22nd, 2009 | By Eric MacDonald

Connecting the Dots: Aquinas to Ward

As I set off to review this book it may be just as well to say, at the outset, that I can no longer find much sense in typical philosophical arguments for the existence of God. They tend to be, not only far-fetched and implausible, as they seem to be to Richard Dawkins, for example, but even simply unintelligible. Keith Ward suggests that Dawkins’ treatment of Aquinas’ famous Five Ways (of proving the existence of God) is unacceptably brief. In fact, he tells us that Dawkins does not discuss Aquinas at all, but rather five arguments of his own (102). This may well be true, though Ward’s own discussion of Aquinas’ Five Ways in … Read the rest

Rape in the Mullahs’ Prisons

Sep 8th, 2009 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

Since the inception of the Islamic regime in Iran in 1979, rapes of political prisoners have increasingly been committed, although rarely reported. Many courageous victims have recently revealed their subjection to rapes. Surprisingly, however, after the controversial June 2009 election, the losing candidate Mehdi Karrubi revealed that people detained during the post-election protests, both male and female, have been systematically subjected to vicious rapes.

After the conquest of ancient Persia by the Arab Muslims in 644, tens of thousands, probably, millions of Iranian females were raped, enslaved, and transported away as war-booty to be sold in slave-markets of Arab-Islamic territories. The Persian word ‘Tajovoz’ does not only mean ‘rape’ by which a man seized or stole a wife, but also … Read the rest

The Myth of the Holy Fool

Sep 7th, 2009 | By Joshua Leach

One of the mainstays of conservative writing in the last two centuries has been the “holy fool.” We find him in Russian novels and English poems, in Gandhian musings and Tolstoyan diatribes. While the term originally referred to a person lacking intelligence but endowed with great spiritual wisdom, it has since come to describe the reactionary’s notion of the common man; lacking in independent thought and uninterested in free expression, he toddles through life perfectly untroubled by the skepticism and cold reason of liberalism and modernity.

The fool is the eternal darling of the deepest reactionaries. He is the pious underling, the serf who kisses his master’s whip. He toils through life as his ancestors did before him, never questioning … Read the rest

Review of Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God

Sep 4th, 2009 | By Eric MacDonald

One comes away from this book with the sense of having been bludgeoned into acquiescence, of being stunned with detail, and bewitched by misdirection. In his review of this book, Simon Blackburn begins by calling it interesting and eloquent. (Simon Blackburn on Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God.)
I did not find it eloquent, and my interest often flagged as I ploughed one after another through a loosely connected catena of examples. It seems that Karen Armstrong has one book to write, and it involves, practically every time, an exhaustive telling of the history of how we became modern, and how terrible this has really been.

Armstrong has scant ability to discipline her writing, to make selections, and to … Read the rest

Saving Child Witches: a Nigerian Perspective

Sep 3rd, 2009 | By Leo Igwe

Leo Igwe is the executive secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement.

December 2008

Some months ago, a British film-maker drew my attention to the plight of children in Akwa Ibom State who had been accused of being witches and wizards and thrown out of their homes by their families and relatives. In August, I travelled to the city of Eket to meet with these kids and the individuals helping to look after them, to find out how my organization could offer help and support.

First of all, I met with Luckyimoh Inyang of Stepping Stones Nigeria. The UK branch of his organization is raising money to support these children. Mr. Inyang told me how they had been rescuing children … Read the rest

Iran: A female revolution

Aug 16th, 2009 | By Azar Majedi

What we are witnessing in Iran is not only a movement against a dictatorship and for political freedom; it is not only a movement against poverty and socio-economic injustice and for equality and prosperity; it is a movement against religious institution, hypocrisy, corruption and superstition. In this context, it is for cultural and moral emancipation as well. The political uprising in Iran has a strong anti-religious character.

30 years of religious oppression has created a generation which wants to emancipate itself from any religious domination, restriction or meddling. 30 years of imprisonment by a brutal religious state, which has interfered in the most private spheres of people’s lives, a state run by the most greedy, corrupt and dehumanized men of … Read the rest

The Uses of Common Sense

Aug 15th, 2009 | By Joshua F. Leach

A great deal of ink has been spilled in the course of Western
philosophy over the question of whether or not the material
world exists. Some great minds have been led to insanity by
the possibility that it does not; others have accepted their
nihilism cheerfully. But just about all philosophers, whether
they came from the tradition of empiricism and skepticism,
like Hume, or from that of idealism, like Hegel, were
eventually forced into a sort of extreme subjectivism,
concluding that we do not, in fact, exist, and that the world
is merely the product of our imagination. Various
philosophers accepted this solipsism to a greater or lesser
degree, but it formed the essential tenor of philosophy in the
modern … Read the rest

The far-left campaign to silence critics of Islam

Aug 14th, 2009 | By Edmund Standing

Today, many liberal, progressive writers who are critical of Islam and Islamist politics find themselves accused of ‘Islamophobia’, and by far the most prolific promoters of the myth of a liberal hate campaign against Muslims are found on the secular far-left of the political spectrum. For many, this obsession with hunting down and condemning ‘Islamophobes’ seems a somewhat strange phenomenon, but the far-left’s apparent concern with exposing and condemning ‘Islamophobia’ needs to be seen within the context of its worldview and political goals.

Marxism is, at heart, to use the ‘buzz words’, a ‘totalising narrative’. It is essentially based around a deterministic view of history which has much in common with conspiracy theory and theology. The Marxist historical vision incorporates … Read the rest

Reading Darwin in the Divinity School

Aug 13th, 2009 | By Michael Clegg

The Cambridge Darwin Festival was an ambitious attempt to mark the great man’s (and his great book’s) anniversary year. In setting up a Festival, not an academic conference, the organisers made a bold move to combine lectures and seminars with exhibitions and artistic responses, and gave attention to the man and the history as well as current scientific and philosophical work underpinned by the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Big names from the neo-Darwinian vanguard (Dennett, Dawkins) received star billing. But quite a lot of time was given over to theologians (not to mention one or two non-tenured god-botherers cashing in on the margins) and the core message from them has been the same: not just the compatibility of … Read the rest

Reply to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Aug 5th, 2009 | By Eric MacDonald

The Rev’d Canon Eric MacDonald
The Redoubt
26 Katie Court
P.O. Box 3638
NS, B0N 2T0

The Most Rev’d. Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace
London, SE1 7JU
United Kingdom

1 August 2009

Dear Archbishop Williams,

Thank you for your response to my letter.

You may not want to start a correspondence with me, but you can scarcely expect me not to respond to some of the things that you said, and the claims that you made, since your response to my letter comes in the form of an argument so stunningly biased that it deserves, in my view, not much more than a fairly curt dismissal. (I will try to provide more than that, but you … Read the rest

Judith Shklar and Materialist Mercy

Jul 18th, 2009 | By Joshua F. Leach

Religious people, and Christians in particular, are generally
supposed to be outstandingly merciful is all things, as is
their God. True, there is a range of behavior which falls
within the definition of mercy. For Saint Augustine, writing
after the sack of Rome, the greatest act of mercy he could
think of was that the Christian tribes who torched the city
spared people seeking sanctuary in Churches. As for the fate
of the non-Christians in Rome who were either slaughtered or
raped, Augustine was entirely unconcerned. What did bother
him was that a few Christians were subjected to the same fate.
Still, he reassured himself by recalling that many of those
Christians were too attached to worldly goods and possessions… Read the rest

Free Speech in a Plural Society

Jul 15th, 2009 | By Salil Tripathi

The Conference Room, British Library, London
February 20, 2009

Ian McEwan’s novel, Saturday, begins with the image of a sharp, bright light in the sky
that the neurosurgeon Henry Perowne sees from the corner of his eye on a restless
night when he is unable to sleep. It is a troubling time for Britain; it is February 15, 2003, the
day of the big march, where hundreds of thousands of people from around Britain are
going to come to central London, with the vain hope of stopping the impending war in

Perowne is a liberal; he does not like torture – in fact, he has learned much about Iraq by
treating an Iraqi refugee fleeing the terror of … Read the rest

Unscientific America and the ‘New’ Atheists

Jul 11th, 2009 | By P Z Myers

To return to Unscientific America again, I hardly touched on chapter 8, where they express their dismay at those uppity “New Atheists”. I am not going to address his personal criticisms of me — there’s no point, you obviously know I think he’s completely wrong, and the uncharitable will simply claim my disagreement is the result of a personal animus — so instead I’m only going to address a couple of other general points that Mooney and Kirshenbaum get completely wrong. They plainly do not understand the atheist position, and make claims that demonstrate that either they didn’t read any of the “New Atheist’s” books, or perhaps the simple ideas in them are too far beyond their comprehension.

This is … Read the rest

Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Jul 10th, 2009 | By Eric S MacDonald

This letter was sent a week ago. The archbishop has had time to receive it and was informed that it will be published here.

Dear Archbishop Williams,

I have been trying for over two years to write this letter, and it never seems to come out right. Your recent
letter to the press, co-signed by Archbishop Nichols of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi of the United
Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks, spurred me on to bring this process to an
end. You will probably say, and with some justice, that you have more important things to consider, but
since what you said has led me to a settled distrust of all religion, I believe that you should at … Read the rest

Fool’s Gold: Reflections on the Great Crunch

Jun 25th, 2009 | By Max Dunbar

In What a Carve-Up!, his State of England novel set just before the recession of the early nineties, Jonathan Coe introduced us to the criminal aristocrats of the Winshaw family, whose avaricious interests exert disproportionate influence on economics, foreign policy, healthcare, agriculture and art. Coe’s voyeuristic banker, Thomas Winshaw, describes banking as ‘the most spiritual of all professions’:

He would quote his favourite statistic: one thousand billion dollars of trading took place on the world’s financial markets every day. Since every transaction involved a two-way deal, this meant that five hundred billion dollars would be changing hands. Did the interviewer know how much of that money derived from real, tangible trade in goods and services? A fraction: ten per

Read the rest

Iran: Myths and Realities

Jun 24th, 2009 | By Azar Majedi

Iran is at the top of international news. What led to the mass protests? How did the situation change so dramatically over a week? What do people want? What will be the outcome of this protest movement? These are the questions discussed repeatedly on TV channels and in the press. Different political analysts and members of Iranian-American/European academia, all with different degrees of allegiance to the so-called state reformist camp, are invited to throw light on the situation. All these different commentators make one common assumption: “The people in Iran do not want a revolution.” By this, they mean that the people do not want to overthrow the Islamic regime. They claim that the people want an evolution, a gradual … Read the rest