We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.
Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)
We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.
There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.
“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.
“We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”
Membership in Ásatrúarfélagið has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from Statistics Iceland showed.
People probably find about the same amount of meaning as they do from competing myths. Their site shows they show movies and have coffee, pastries and popcorn.
The Wall Street Journal has published some remarkly wrong anti-science pieces in the past few years. Physicist Lawrence Krauss reponds to a recent bit of wrongness. Eric Metaxas should be writing about real issues. It is too bad folks like Larry have to spend time correcting the mistakes .. over and over and over...
For nearly 40 years, Bengston has overseen the Longitudinal Study of Generations, which has become the largest study of religion and family life conducted across several generational cohorts in the United States. When Bengston noticed the growth of nonreligious Americans becoming increasingly pronounced, he decided in 2013 to add secular families to his study in an attempt to understand how family life and intergenerational influences play out among the religionless.
He was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation.
“Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the ‘religious' parents in our study,” Bengston told me. “The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose.”
YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — Hundreds of bodies — too many to count — remain strewn in the bush in Nigeria from an Islamic extremist attack that Amnesty International suggested Friday is the "deadliest massacre" in the history of Boko Haram.
Mike Omeri, the government spokesman on the insurgency, said fighting continued Friday for Baga, a town on the border with Chad where insurgents seized a key military base on Jan. 3 and attacked again on Wednesday.
"Security forces have responded rapidly, and have deployed significant military assets and conducted airstrikes against militant targets," Omeri said in a statement.
District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when insurgents drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents.
"The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous," Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for poorly armed civilians in a defense group that fights Boko Haram, told The Associated Press.
He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies. "No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now," Gava said.
An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.
A Saudi blogger who was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes will be publicly flogged for the first time after Friday prayers outside a mosque in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, according to a person close to his case.
Raif Badawi was sentenced on charges related to accusations that he insulted Islam on a liberal online forum he had created. He was also ordered by the Jeddah criminal court to pay a fine of 1m Saudi riyals, or about $266,000.
Rights groups and activists say his case is part of a wider clampdown on dissent throughout the kingdom. Officials have increasingly blunted calls for reforms since the region’s 2011 Arab Spring upheaval.
Badawi has been held since mid-2012, and his Free Saudi Liberals website is now closed. The case has drawn condemnation from rights groups.
He called from prison and informed his family of the flogging, due Friday, said a person close to the case. The person, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal, said Badawi was “being used as an example for others to see”.