Yoga is to North America what McDonalds is to India: both are foreign implants gone native. The urban and suburban landscape of the United States is dotted with neighbourhood health clubs, spas and even churches and synagogues offering yoga classes. Some 16 million Americans do some form of yoga, primarily as a part of their exercise and fitness routine. Thus, when everyday Americans talk about yoga, they mostly mean physical, or hatha yoga, involving stretches, breathing and bodily postures, or asanas. Many styles of postural yoga pioneered by India-origin teachers are thriving, including the Iyengar and Sivananada schools, the Ashtanga Vinyasa or ‘power yoga’ of Pattabhi Jois, and ‘hot yoga’ recently copyrighted by Bikram Chaudhary. The more meditational forms … Read the rest
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In what appears to be another move to combat the allegations of witchcraft and child abuse, the governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has inaugurated a six member Commission to inquire into witchcraft accusations and child rights abuses in the state. He charged them to recommend appropriate actions to be taken to protect children from being branded witches and wizards in order to guard against future occurence. The governor asked the Commission to determine the veracity of all the allegations of witchcraft against children and infliction of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment upon such children and to examine the role and culpability of all the allegations and abuses or practices and make recommendations.
He then urged the people … Read the rest
[References to Dixon’s book are to location numbers in the Kindle edition. There are 2548 locations in the book, so those using the print edition should be able to access the general page vicinity of the quote based on the percentage of the book traversed at the location number indicated. This, by the way, raises a question for publishers of ebooks. They should include page numbers for the sake of scholarly reference.]
This is a worryingly confusing and confused book, as I shall try to show in detail. It purports to be a very short introduction to a field of academic study, and yet it does not really address the question of whether or not there is such a field. … Read the rest
Today a Federal High Court in Calabar in Cross River State, presided over by Justice P.J. Nneke, dismissed the application by Helen Ukpabio and some members of the Liberty Gospel Church seeking to enforce their fundamental rights against Akwa Ibom state government, the Commissioner of Police of Cross River state, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Leo Igwe, Sam Ituama, Gary Foxcroft and others as respondents for daring to organize a workshop which they perceived to be critical of their activities. They asked the respondents to pay them 200 billion naira ($.1.3 million dollars) in damages.
The court wondered why Helen and her church members attacked some of the respondents and still came to court to enforce their fundamental rights for … Read the rest
Polygamy is illegal in Canada but to date no one has been arrested or faced the consequences for being in a polygamist relationship. This inaction has led to no enforcement of the law. Such policies allow polygamist families to legally enter Canada by declaring the first wife as the legal wife and the second, third and fourth “wives” as dependents along with their children. Young girls are pushed into polygamy relationships by the leaders of their parents’ religion. A wave of women involved in polygamy fled from Bountiful (BC) and presented their case publicly. Books and articles were written by these brave women. They discussed the effects of polygamy on their lives and their children, they talked about women’s oppression, … Read the rest
I recently chanced upon Scientists Anonymous: Great Stories of Women in Science (2005), by Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor and Director of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Clare College, Cambridge. Aside from her several popular books on science, Dr Fara is relatively well-known in the UK for her contributions to Melvyn Bragg’s BBC Radio 4 series “In Our Time”, on which she has featured on seven occasions in the years 2008-2010. Scientists Anonymous is published in the series Wizard Books (the children’s imprint of Icon Books), and is designed to be read by teenage schoolchildren. This to some extent dictates the style the author has chosen, and she succeeds in making it a very readable book.
As the title … Read the rest
From John R. Shook, The God Debates: a 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers (and Everyone in Between). (pp 16-18) Wiley-Blackwell 2010. Published by permission.
Nonbelievers who reject traditional theistic Christianity have many options for positive worldviews. Besides other nontheistic religions, there are many kinds of pantheisms, spiritualisms, and mysticisms, along with varieties of humanism and naturalism. Forming a positive worldview is hard enough; selecting a label for oneself from a limited menu is even harder. Demographers polling people in America and around the world consistently find that few nonbelievers prefer the label of “atheist” for labeling their own position (Zuckerman 2007). This reluctance probably has more to do with the perceived meaning of atheism rather than … Read the rest
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The insistence, if only implicitly, on a choiceless singularity of human identity not only diminishes us all, it also makes the world much more flammable. The alternative to the divisiveness of one pre-eminent categorization is not any unreal claim that we are all much the same. Rather, the main hope of harmony in our troubled world lies in the plurality of our identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one single hardened line of vehement division that allegedly cannot be resisted. Our shared humanity gets savagely challenged when our differences are narrowed into one devised system of uniquely powerful categorization.
— Amartya Sen. What Clash of Civilizations? Why religious identity isn’t destiny. Slate, March
The Mississippi is a mess. I live in the agricultural, rural upper midwest, and one of the nasty surprises lurking beneath the rich green fields is that the rivers are ugly stews of fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides from agricultural runoff. We have data that it hurts people, too: premature births and birth defects show seasonal fluctuations that peak for children conceived in the spring and summer, when the chemicals are being sprayed into the air and are dribbling into the streams. The villains are agribusiness and overproduction and the corn ethanol boondoggle and horrors like the fecal lakes associated with swine farms. Louisiana’s environmental problems are partly the product of Minnesota’s toxic largesse.
It needs to be known. The … Read the rest
Ordinarily, not much is heard about Malawi -a country that was ruled for so many years by the late dictator, Kamuzu Banda. Apart from the recent case of a gay couple convicted and later pardoned by President Mutharika who is also the current Chair of the African Union, Malawi is hardly in the news.
But that does not mean that all is well with this country. No, all is not well with ‘Nyasaland’. Malawi like many other African countries is trapped in the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance, superstition and religious fanaticism. Independence has not brought this nation emergence and prosperity. Education has not resulted in emancipation, civilization and enlightenment. The different religious groups in the country are living together … Read the rest
The behaviour of dictators like Ahmadinejad, Ghadafi, Idi Amin etc., is not solely a funny subject for people, a witty personage for media, and a caricature for satirists; such behaviour has the potential of catastrophes for a whole nation. They represent an Islamic, authoritarian or even totalitarian regime which is morally bankrupt and thus can commit any wrongdoing.
While many psychopaths are incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals and penal institutions, it has been recognised that a few of them were clever enough to enter the history of mankind, creating catastrophes. All these misfits need to rule is an insane ideology or belief system through which they surround themselves with mad people, devoted followers and blind killers who are equally clueless about … Read the rest
Mr Mark Zuckerberg
156 University Avenue
Dear Mr Zuckerberg,
I am writing to ask that you reinstate the Facebook accounts of Maryam Namazie and Mina Ahadi as a matter of urgency. Their accounts were disabled without warning on Monday 13 September 2010. As well as reinstating these accounts, we ask that an explanation is provided as to why they were disabled.
Maryam Namazie and Mina Ahadi are well known human rights campaigners who have worked globally to end the barbaric practice of stoning, as well as other human rights abuses. Both have been awarded Secularist of the Year by the National Secular Society (UK) and named in the top 45 ‘women of the year’ … Read the rest
An opening address delivered by Leo Igwe at the 2nd Annual conference of the Free Society Institute of South Africa, co-hosted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
Date: September 11 2010 Venue Cape Milner Hotel, Cape Town South Africa
Once again the FSI has demonstrated its commitment to the mission of promoting free thought and free speech in South Africa. Last year we all met in this hall for the first conference of this Institute co-hosted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. And I must say that last year’s event remains one of the best humanist programs I have attended in Africa. I was deeply impressed by the quality of the presentations, debates, and discussions. I was inspired … Read the rest
As an atheist, I am often told that I shouldn’t criticise religion, as it offers comfort to people in difficult situations. When you suffer every day, the faithful tell me, you need the hope and meaning that religion gives you – the implication of course being that atheism is a luxury, something that only privileged, comfortable, healthy, able-bodied people can indulge in.
These same people are often surprised to learn that I have a debilitating chronic medical condition, and in fact I do suffer every day. And yet, I have still not turned to god. I still do not believe in an afterlife, despite the fact that in my Earthly life, I will probably never feel truly healthy or ‘normal’ … Read the rest
In a 2003 essay for Daedalus, Christopher Hitchens wrote that, “religious absolutism makes a good match with tribal feelings and with sexual repression—two of the base ingredients of the fascistic style.”
There’s no doubt that repressed sexuality is a feature of most religions, and the cause of many an unhappy union made under god’s banner. But less often discussed is religion’s facilitative role to sexual perversions. The more fundamentalist the dogma, the sicker the stuff taking place in between the sheets.
Take the bacha baz of Afghanistan for instance. The bacha baz are men who take boys as lovers, or more accurately, as repeated rape victims. Over the years I’ve worked in Afghanistan, there has always been hushed … Read the rest
Here are a few statistics you may or may not be familiar with. The 2002 Arab Human Development Report estimated that the Arab world translates around 330 books annually, one fifth of the number translated by Greece. Taking the long view, the authors also estimated that the Arab world had translated 100,000 books since the Caliph Ma’mun in the ninth century. This is just under the average number translated by Spain in a year. How many books are actually produced? We don’t really know. While they admitted that there were ‘no reliable figures’, the researchers indicated that ‘many indicators suggest a severe shortage of writing; a large share of the market consists of religious books and educational publications that are … Read the rest
Nepal is the youngest secular country in the world. With the interim constitution moving farther away from the nitty-gritty of constitution making, the so-called secular Nepal lingers farther away on the horizon. The politicians are busy manifesting the new but failed doctrine in the name of national consensus to make the national government, merely for the sake of power. Paradoxically, the pro-Hindu faction keeps on demonstrating and chanting against the abolition of the Hindu kingdom, the religious icon of Nepal. There are hundreds of ethnic groups based on particular religions. Ethnic diversity prevails along with the geographic diversity of Nepal. The society is inevitably polarizing in terms of caste, region and religion. Is this the notion of the new secular … Read the rest