In many countries the barrier is non-existant or small. In Iceland everyone has to pay a parish tax which goes to churches. You pay even if you're a non-believer. Now a new religion is courting atheists and promises to rebate their tax. Unfortunately the playing ground still isn't level for non-believers as they have to pay taxes on the rebate.
Most people think that you have to believe in God to believe in Satan and that the later makes you evil. Most don't realize there are theistic and atheist Satanists. I had one of the later as a math professor in college. A lovely and exceptionally moral fellow. Their church had a version of the Ten Commandments that was similar to the one (or should I say ones) in the Bible minus the vain God parts. He held the strong belief that Satan didn't exist as an entity (consistent with his belief that God didn't either), but rather was a symbol of liberty, enlightenment and questioning. Some atheistic Satanists cite entropy as the manifestation of Satan- although that is an entirely different form of the belief.
In any even the notion held in much of the country that this is a Christian nation needs challenging. It is the rights of the minority rather than the will of the majority that needs protection and enforcement.
Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.
According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”
All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”
Religion is a puzzle to me. It is often invoked as a justification - often appearing opaque to outsiders. Poetry is part of Arab tradition and it has been mixed in with Islam.
Last Summer The New Yorker published Battle Lines a fascinating essay on jihadi poetry by Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel. It is currently outside the magazine's paywall. I can't understand or be an apologist, but I've learned a bit.
Furthermore, the old poetry is alive and well in the popular sphere. Among the most successful television programs in the Middle East is “Sha‘ir al-Milyoon” (“Millionaire Poet,” but also “Poet of the People”), which is modelled on “American Idol.” Every season, amateurs from across the Arab world recite their own verse in front of a large and appreciative studio audience in Abu Dhabi. Winners of the competition receive up to 1.3 million dollars—more than the Nobel Prize in Literature, as the show’s boosters are fond of pointing out. Last year, the program had seventy million viewers worldwide. The poems recited on “Sha‘ir al-Milyoon” are highly conventional in form and content. They evoke the beauties of the beloved and of the homeland, praise the generosity of local leaders, or lament social ills. According to the rules of the show, they must be metered and rhymed, and the judges’ comments often zero in on contestants’ technique. The show has produced a number of literary celebrities. In 2010, a Saudi woman named Hissa Hilal became an audience favorite after reciting a poem criticizing hard-line Saudi clerics. During the Arab Spring, an Egyptian man, Hisham Algakh, appeared on a spinoff show reciting several poems in support of the demonstrators at Tahrir. He became a media star, and soon his poems were being recited in the square itself.
The views expressed in jihadi poetry are, of course, more bloodthirsty than anything on “Sha‘ir al-Milyoon”: Shiites, Jews, Western powers, and rival factions are relentlessly vilified and threatened with destruction. Yet it is recognizably a subset of this popular art form. It is sentimental—even, at times, a little kitsch—and it is communal rather than solitary. Videos of groups of jihadis reciting poems or tossing back and forth the refrain of a song are as easy to find as videos of them blowing up enemy tanks. Poetry is understood as a social art rather than as a specialized profession, and practitioners take pleasure in showing off their technique.
One can imagine several reasons for the rule. There are pressures from liberals and conservatives in the church. The liberal threat is the smaller of the two and this in more in synch with the conservatives. It also sets the 'gay' apart and makes it less likely that members will interact. An inwards purification if you will.
One can imagine a number of unhealthy edge consequence for children. I suspect a number of liberal members will resign, but they're not a large force and their leaving may be welcome.
The message, on the other hand, is terrible for those who aren't bigoted against LGBT folks.
suffer little children indeed...
a friend recommended this dissection for those who are interested in a discussion (audio about an hour. I've only sampled it as it makes my blood boil)
I can imagine this being calculated to shore up membership. By hardening identify boundaries they've written off the progressive/liberal segment who have been hoping for change. Increasing the social cost of being a member serves the hardcore and traditionally increases retention in social group. Increased social pressures from the outside - say athletic teams boycotting church games - will only strengthen the us versus the world feeling. Most interesting to me is the social and political cover they have from coalitions with evangelicals and right wing Catholics.
An interesting paper on the association between altruism in children and how religious they are. A summary in The Economist. While it is just one study it involves a large sample of subjects and is suggestive - the children of non-believers were more generous those of the religious. This is in contrast to religious parents own perception of their child's altruism.
The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World
Jean Decety,1,* Jason M. Cowell,1 Kang Lee,2 Randa Mahasneh,3,4 Susan Malcolm-Smith,5 Bilge Selcuk,6 and Xinyue Zhou7
1The Child Neurosuite, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA 2Erick Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5R 2X2, Canada 3Department of Educational Psychology, Hashemite University, Zarqa 13133, Jordan 4College of Education, Qatar University, 2713 Doha, Qatar 5Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa 6Department of Psychology, Koc University, Rumelifeneri Yolu 34450, Turkey 7Department of Psychology, Sun-Yat Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
•Family religious identification decreases children’s altruistic behaviors
•Religiousness predicts parent-reported child sensitivity to injustices and empathy
•Children from religious households are harsher in their punitive tendencies
Summary Prosocial behaviors are ubiquitous across societies. They emerge early in ontogeny [ 1 ] and are shaped by interactions between genes and culture [ 2, 3 ]. Over the course of middle childhood, sharing approaches equality in distribution [ 4 ]. Since 5.8 billion humans, representing 84% of the worldwide population, identify as religious [ 5 ], religion is arguably one prevalent facet of culture that influences the development and expression of prosociality. While it is generally accepted that religion contours people’s moral judgments and prosocial behavior, the relation between religiosity and morality is a contentious one. Here, we assessed altruism and third-party evaluation of scenarios depicting interpersonal harm in 1,170 children aged between 5 and 12 years in six countries (Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa), the religiousness of their household, and parent-reported child empathy and sensitivity to justice. Across all countries, parents in religious households reported that their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life than non-religious parents. However, religiousness was inversely predictive of children’s altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies. Together these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children’s altruism, challenging the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior.