Posts Tagged ‘religion’

on sin and hypocrisy

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Here are excerpts from a powerful column by Dutch writer Ian Buruma that was published more than seven years ago. Click on the link to read the full essay.

In more traditional days, not so very long ago, when God reigned supreme and most people still turned to their priests (or ministers, rabbis, etc.) for moral guidance, sexual behavior was often dictated by power. Christians may have believed in sin. The values espoused by the Church were paid their due deference.

But hypocrisy gave privileged people, including priests, a certain leeway. Wealthy men had mistresses, professors had affairs with students, and even the lowly village priest, a man of social and spiritual power, if not of great wealth, often enjoyed the sexual favors of a woman conveniently at hand to take care of his domestic needs. ….

[It is] no longer all right for men to have mistresses, teachers to have affairs with students, or priests to enjoy the favors of their chambermaids. People became less tolerant of hypocrisy. In a way, the social transformations of the 1960

Quakers and Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

I never thought of this before, but Wikipedia has much in common with a Quaker meeting. In neither case is there an authority in charge. Anyone may contribute to a Wikipedia article, just as anyone may speak during worship at a meeting of Friends (Quakers).

Simon DeDeo, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has long studied Wikipedia, says that the online encyclopedia has operated like the Quakers: anyone can contribute whenever they are so moved.

John Thornhill, “Wiki-journalism may be part of the answer to fake news“, Financial Times, 2 May 2017 (gated paywall).

Donald Trump and evangelical Christians

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Gary Silverman, the FT

Christian faith and reason

Friday, December 16th, 2016

This is the promised second letter to the editor from today’s Financial Times. A reader from Berlin responds – beautifully – to Anjana Ahuja

science under siege

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

The conflict between scientists and political leaders (secular and religious) in some countries is moving toward levels that were common centuries ago, writes British-Indian science journalist Anjana Ahuja. The coming change of government in the USA is but one example, though a surprising one.

Four centuries ago, Galileo caught the unwelcome attention of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1616, his conviction that the Earth went round the Sun, contrary to the geocentric view of the universe, simply irritated theologians; by 1633, the astronomer was under house arrest and forbidden from propagating his beliefs, a situation that prevailed until his death in 1642. It might have been worse for a heretic: he could have been burnt at the stake.

Scientists may well feel the heat from those in power once again. Donald Trump, US president-elect, established his anti-science credentials by declaring climate change a Chinese hoax. In Mike Pence, he chose a running mate who seems not to believe in evolution. One science blogger said Mr Trump

Advice for Young Muslims

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Beautiful words. Everyone should read them. This is what the editors of Foreign Affairs think, so they have left it ungated. There is no need to subscribe, even to register, to access this essay from the current issue (November 29, 2016). Highly recommended.





forgiving our enemies, Venezuela edition

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

In the late 1990s John Paul Rathbone worked in Caracas as a journalist. He returned recently to accompany “a friend, the Benedictine monk Laurence Freeman, acting as his translator”, and subsequently wrote a wonderful account of the experience. Here is a brief excerpt. (more…)

on pacifism

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and left wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton wrote that in 1910, and during the hundred or so years since, nothing has changed. “Difficult” concepts (thou shalt not kill; love your enemies; do good to those who hate you) become impossible in times of war and are conveniently forgotten.


During the 1939-45 war … all the churches I knew … seemed in support of the war. …. [J]ust as we prayed to God for victory and deliverance, so did the German people; and just as chaplains on our side blessed the men before battle, so did the other side. […]

Gradually [as years went on] the church I had grown up with ceased to have relevance. …. In my early thirties, I found myself on a spiritual search and to my everlasting gratitude was led to Quakers and read the great testimonies. It was … as though everything came tumbling into place. …. I knew then that I could not answer all the questions that arise, such as “What would you do if …” and “What about Hitler and his attempt to execute all the Jews, the homosexuals, the mentally ill, the gypsies?” Later, I met a relative who had been a conscientious objector in the 1939-45 war, and he gave me great help. His brother lived in a psychiatric hospital due to injuries received in the 1914-18 war, and indeed died there in the early 1970s. The simplicity of his answer, “I did not want to do to anyone what had been done to my brother,” put into words what has remained a truth for me.

Quaker Quest,

good and evil

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

If there is a loving God, why does evil exist? This is a question that troubles everyone with faith. Quakers believe that there is potential for good and for evil within each of us. There exists no Devil to tempt us or attack us, no Hell to punish us.

We Quakers are often accused of a rosy view of the world and of people that denies the existence of evil. That is entirely to misunderstand what we mean when we speak of ‘that of God in every person’. it does not mean that every person is good, that no person is capable of evil, but rather that every person has the seeds of goodness, and of God, within her or him. It means that every person has within the potential to reach some perception of God. …. To put it in conventional religious language, even the most sinful person is capable of redemption.

Likewise, we all have within us the potential for wrongdoing. …. The absolute ethic that my religious perception leads me to is simple: loving my fellow beings is right; hurting them is wrong. Any action hurting or diminishing another is an evil one, bearing within it the seeds of greater evils. Thus can contempt of one’s neighbour escalate and accumulate force until it results in war.

Quaker Quest, “Twelve Quakers and Evil”, Quaker Quest Pamphlet 4 (London, UK, 2006), pp. 16-17.

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.

Psalms 23:4

Quakers and Nazis – conclusion

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

I have completed all of Hans Schmitt’s book Quakers and Nazis: Inner Light in Outer Darkness (University of Missouri Press, 1997), and am posting my final blog on it. The previous two blogs can be downloaded