Welcome to our articles section. The articles below either have been written specifically for ButterfliesandWheels or are appearing here having been published elsewhere previously.

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Trading Faith for Spirituality: The Mystifications of Sam Harris

Dec 9th, 2005 | By Meera Nanda

Spirituality at Faith’s Funeral

There is something decidedly weird about this business of spirituality. Just say the word “spiritual,” or, if you prefer more gravitas, “mystical,” and you will witness a strange phenomenon. You will find many tough-talking, God-is-dead rationalists morph into Mahesh Yogi lites, peddling sweet-nothings about merging the “self” into the universe, and promoting world peace and reason while they are at it.

In his much acclaimed The End of Faith, Sam Harris declares the death of faith, only to celebrate the birth of spirituality. He wants to convince us of the proposition that “Mysticism is rational…religion is not” (p. 221). Traditional Judeo-Christian and Islamic conception of God who heeds your prayers is a mere leap of … Read the rest

Godless States in God Lands: Dilemmas of Secularism in America and India

Dec 1st, 2005 | By Meera Nanda

God and Politics in America and India

This essay tells the tale of two religious nationalisms: Christian nationalism in America that has found a welcome home in the Republican Party and George W. Bush’s two administrations, and Hindu nationalism in India which always had a welcome home in BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), the party that ruled the country, off and on, through the 1990s until 2004. Christian nationalists declare the United States of America to be a Christian nation, its land God’s New Jerusalem, and its destiny to spread liberty around the world. Hindu nationalists, for their part, proclaim India to be a Hindu nation, its land the body of the mother Goddess, and its destiny to spread spiritual enlightenment … Read the rest

Fear and Loathing in Lacania

Nov 28th, 2005 | By Filip Buekens

Abstract How do his interpreters explain and justify Jacques Lacan’s baroque and unintelligible rhetorical strategies in Ecrits and the Séminaires? Many philosophers, cultural critics and psychoanalysts begin their project of elucidating Lacan with explanations and justifications of their master’s obscure voice. I argue that all these arguments are either circular, unsound, inconsistent or – what is perhaps the worst feature they all share – that his readers are taken hostage: ‘Only if we take what he says as revealing the truth about the unconscious will we understand Lacan’ seems to be the conclusion of many scholars desperate to ‘understand’ Lacan. [1]

‘Parfaupe orecluspa nannanbryle anaphi ologi psysoscline ixipad anlana – égnia kune n’rbiol’ ô blijonter têtumaine ennounç…’ [2]

Countless readers … Read the rest

Intelligent Design or Natural Design

Nov 23rd, 2005 | By Raymond Bradley

I’m going to begin by taking you on a personal tour of my own
thinking about intelligent design over the past 60 years.

It began in 1945 when I was a 14 year old at Mt Albert Grammar.
Our Fourth Form English teacher decided we should learn the skills of
debating. The topic chosen was “Creation versus Evolution”. And I, as an
ardent young Baptist, volunteered, along with a Seventh Day Adventist,
to take up the cudgels on behalf of Creation.

But even before the debate began, I found myself cast in the role of
devil’s advocate.

While preparing, it dawned on me that the case against evolution
foundered on an ambiguity between two meanings of the simple word
“creation”: … Read the rest

Religion, Uncertainty and My Mother

Nov 15th, 2005 | By Paula Bourges-Waldegg

There are people who are very dear to you, a childhood friend for instance, that you’ll never see again in your life. You don’t know you are never going to see them again so that doesn’t hurt much, or doesn’t hurt at all. You think there’s always a chance of bumping into them someday even though that’s never going to happen. However, when you consciously know that you will never again see someone you love it’s different. That simple fact is like a great big wall. A wall that seems impossible to surmount.

My mother passed away a few weeks ago. Since then, some persons have tried to convince me that religion is the best way to jump that wall. … Read the rest

Was Freud a Pseudoscientist?

Nov 9th, 2005 | By Frank Cioffi

The following is an extract from an essay titled “Are Freud’s Critics Scurrilous?”, translated and published in Le livre noir de la psychoanalyse (Editions des Arènes).


‘He thought it wrong of Rank to propagate ideas that had not been properly tested.’ (Sigmund Freud: Life and Work, E. Jones, 1957, Vol.3 p.71)

It is a pity that the word science was ever introduced into the dispute over Freud’s claims to knowledge, though it is worth remembering that the term was introduced by Freud himself and that his critics employed it in order to counter his pretensions It would spare readers much tiresome rationalisation of Freud’s deficiencies if it were clearly understood … Read the rest

A Zero Theory

Nov 5th, 2005 | By Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen; introduction and translation by Frederick Crews

Five weeks ago, an article on this site introduced habitués of Butterflies and Wheels (among whom I enthusiastically count myself) to Le livre noir de la psychanalyse (Éditions des Arènes), a book that has had all of intellectual and therapeutic France in an uproar throughout the fall season. France is one of the few remaining countries whose psychiatric establishment remains committed to Freudian—in this case specifically Lacanian—notions, and until now no critique, most notably Jacques Bénesteau’s powerful but largely boycotted Mensonges freudiens of 2002, could make a dent in the reigning complacency. The ambitious, massive, and well-publicized Livre noir, compiled from original and reprinted contributions by forty authors, has changed all that. The book has already run through three … Read the rest

Does Relativism Matter?

Oct 18th, 2005 | By Simon Blackburn

September 11th, we are told, changed the world. That may be true, at least because it has changed how many people perceive the world. And a change in peoples’ ideas is a change in the world. We should not, however, expect many of those changes to be for the better, since it must be a general rule that when people are angry and afraid their ideas and actions go worse. In 1726, we may recall, Voltaire was exiled from France to London, where he was amazed and enchanted by the freedoms of the English. He was lucky not to be exiled here in the twenty-first century, and still less to the United States of America. As a foreign national, he … Read the rest

Afghanistan: Women’s rights editor Mohaqiq Nasar arrested for blasphemy

Oct 13th, 2005 | By Rationalist International

Mohaqiq Nasar (50), editor-in-chief of the magazine Hoqooq-i-Zan (Women’s Rights), has been arrested on 29 September 2005 on charges of blasphemy. He was detained on instructions from the religious adviser to President Hamid Karzai, a government official said. President Karzai’s religious adviser – though not explicitly named in this connection – is Mohaibuddin Baloch. The editor’s arrest is violating the press law of Afghanistan, which clearly demands that a journalist can only be arrested after the government appointed media-commission has studied the case, questioned him personally and recommended his arrest. This has obviously not happened. In a letter to President Karzai, Rationalist International strongly condemned the illegal arrest of Mohaqiq Nasar and the act of violation of press freedom and … Read the rest

Secularist of the Year Award

Oct 9th, 2005 | By Keith Porteous Wood, Maryam Namazie

Maryam Namazie wins the NSS Irwin prize for Secularist of the Year award

Yesterday, October 8, 2005 Maryam Namazie, adjudged to have made the most significant contribution to the promotion of secularism in the preceding year, was awarded the National Secular Society’s (NSS) first Irwin Prize for “Secularist of the Year” in London. The £5,000 annual prize, sponsored by NSS member Dr Michael Irwin, was presented by Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee at a lunch at the Montcalm Hotel in London. The event also featured cutting edge cabaret from stand-up comedian Stewart Lee, who is also co-author of the controversial “Jerry Springer – the Opera”.

In introducing Namazie, Keith Porteous Wood, NSS executive director stated: ‘Maryam is an inveterate commentator and … Read the rest

Freud and his Critics: a Discussion

Oct 1st, 2005 | By Allen Esterson, Richard Warnotck, Paul Power

From B&W’s Letters page, a discussion of Freud, Webster, Masson, the unconscious, the seduction theory. Allen Esterson is the author of Seductive Mirage: an Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud.

Richard R. Warnotck, 25/09/2005

Understanding history may not be absolutely essential to understanding psychology but it is at least very helpful. The truth is that Webster gets some of Freud’s ideas just wrong, so his arguments are directed not so much against Freud as against his caricature of Freud. Consider the issue of ‘unconscious emotions’.

Here is Webster, page 250:

“One of the central objections to Freud’s methodology, however, is that by positing the existence of an Unconscious he effectively deepens the very mysteries which he claims to … Read the rest

French Connection III?

Sep 28th, 2005 | By Robert Wilcocks

A year and a half ago Catherine Meyer, a bright young Normalienne who had served her publication apprenticeship with the small and daring independent firm of Odile Jacob (their offices are a stone’s throw from the French memorial mausoleum to great writers, Le Panthéon – they braved the French politically correct and intellectually ridiculous classes by daring to publish the decisive opening of the French mind to critical inquiry, Alan Sokal’s and Jean Bricmont’s Impostures intellectuelles) … as I was saying, Catherine Meyer served her apprenticeship at Odile Jacob. The lessons were learnt. She is today a Senior Editor at the newly established adventurous publishing house, Les Arènes and a year and a half ago she conceived the idea of … Read the rest

Political Spirituality

Sep 26th, 2005 | By Sean McCann

I’ve been reading Foucault and the Iranian Revolution by Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, and the picture it paints is not pretty.

As Afary and Anderson note, although Foucault’s particular fascination with the revolution is well known in France, the full range of his writing about it has never been translated into English. In fact, since much of that writing was originally published by the Italian daily Corriere della sera, and until now was not republished, the full extent of his thoughts has rarely been taken into account even by Foucault’s French readers. Foucault made two, week long trips to Iran in the fall of ’78. He interviewed a number of prominent political actors, wrote nearly a dozen … Read the rest

Open Letter: Don’t ghettoize women’s rights

Sep 11th, 2005 | By Margaret Atwood, Maud Barlow et al.

In support of the “No Religious Arbitration Coalition”

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Dear Mr. McGuinty:

An important tenet of Canadian democracy hangs in the balance of your response to the matter of religious arbitration in the province of Ontario. While many Canadians may assume that we are all governed by one system of laws, created by publicly elected officials who are accountable to the electorate, your government is poised to shift the ground under this cornerstone of liberal democracy.

While our public system of law is not always perfect, it is designed to recognize the realities of all citizens and is open to public scrutiny and improvement. Such is not the case with private systems of law, such as religious … Read the rest

Islamic [In]Justice

Sep 2nd, 2005 | By Maryam Namazie

The ‘Islamic Institute of Civil Justice’ or what has become known as the Sharia Court has been heralded by proponents as a multi-cultural way of determining personal and family disputes for those who ‘choose’ to abide by Sharia law in Ontario, Canada. We are told it will promote ‘minority rights’ and that it is equitable, tolerant, and fair. We are told that if it is not established, the ‘Muslim minority’ will be marginalised and discriminated against. That anything less is racism pure and simple.

This is not the case.

Deceptively sugar-coating an Islamic Court in civil rights terms cannot and will not conceal the stark realities of Sharia law and its regressive implications for human beings and Canadian society.

To … Read the rest

Women Victims of Islam

Aug 25th, 2005 | By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Due to the sensitivity of this subject I will start by making a distinction between Islam and Muslims. Islam can be described as a civilization, as a source of spiritual guidance, as a way of life and so on. Most of all Islam is a moral framework, and central to this moral frame is the decree that a believer or follower submit his will to Allah. How this submission should be practiced is worked out in the Qur’an and hadith.

A Muslim is any one – regardless of race or sex – who subscribes to or testifies to believing, among other things, that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet. Besides accepting god as Allah, … Read the rest

Sharia Law and the Globalization of Political Islam

Aug 23rd, 2005 | By Homa Arjomand

I am very pleased to be here amongst you all, next to Ayaan Hersi Ali and Irshad Manji. It is hard to find opportunities such as this; to be able to share the idea of having a better life for all and identify with the supporters in an audience such as yourselves. So I will make the most of these moments by giving the focus of this discussion to the topic of this conference, Sharia Law and the Globalization of Political Islam.

I need to emphasize that I am talking about political Islam as a movement. As a movement it is very active in politics and is after its own state. Other aspects such as culture and laws serve its … Read the rest

Toronto Sharia Conference

Aug 16th, 2005 | By Homa Arjomand

TORONTO – Canada, August 12th, 2005 – Over 400 people filled the ‘Earth Sciences Centre’ at the University of Toronto on August 12th. Despite three changes of venue leaving less than a week to sell tickets with no proper ticket selling process, people eagerly came to hear three brave women speak about how Sharia law is used to oppress Muslim women in Canada, Holland and around the world.

Sixty-six media people attended the press conference. Some of the news organizations present were CBC, CTV, Global TV, Omni TV, PBS, Globe and Mail , NOW magazine, Reuters, Toronto Star and Vogue.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who must live under police protection in a safe house in the Netherlands, took the risk of … Read the rest

Who is William T. Vollman and Why Did the NY Times Invite Him to Write about Nietzsche?

Aug 15th, 2005 | By Brian Leiter

A review of a Nietzsche book in The New York Times is rare, and even rarer, it seems, is the decision to enlist a reviewer competent in the material. Although Curtis Cate’s biography of Nietzsche appeared nearly two years ago, just today the Times has run a lengthy review of the book by the writer and novelist William Vollman, who, best I can tell, has no expertise in the subject, and who certainly displays none in the review.

The review – predictably, I suppose, for the Times – concentrates mostly on gossip about Nietzsche’s personal relations, and although there are breathless references to Nietzsche’s “bravery,” his “savagely independent intellect,” and “his incomparable mind,” there is almost no actual discussion of … Read the rest

IT Giant India Has Feet of Chalk

Aug 9th, 2005 | By Rajesh Kumar Sharma

Has information technology arrived in India? I doubt it has.
Notwithstanding the booming software exports, burgeoning BPO services
and mushrooming software parks.

Let us climb out of our fantasy balloons and do a reality check.

Information technology has not affected people’s lives in any
significant way. Apart from a small e-lite segment of the digirati,
most people have no access to a PC and the internet. Nor has
information technology enhanced the quality of their lives. Other than
remix music, Bollywood stunts and special effects, online train
reservations and a few pilot projects in telemedicine, precious little
has happened that touches people’s lives. E-governance has just not
taken off. Public servants and services remain as inaccessible as they
were two … Read the rest