Wittgenstein’s ‘defense’ of religion

I really enjoyed philosopher Stephen Law’s 2011 book Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole where he takes apart many common beliefs, including religious ones, and provides tips about how to deal with the slipperiness of the many arguments put forward by believers. (I wrote three blog posts about it that you can read here.) I can highly recommend the book to those who find themselves constantly drawn into interminable discussions of religion with friends and family.
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Religion’s last refuge in the face of scientific progress

As a result of the rapid advances in science, the explanatory claims of religion for natural phenomena have been all but discredited. But that has not stopped religious people from trying to retain some relevance. Some have taken the tack of arguing that religion ‘explains’ things like the meaning of life that science cannot, a fatuous claim since those ‘explanations’ are simply evidence-free assertions. But others take the position that their ancient religious texts actually predicted scientific phenomena.
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Impressive demonstration by women in India protesting temple ban

The southern Indian state of Kerala has been roiled with turmoil for three months ever since the Indian Supreme Court ruled that a major Hindu temple’s ban on women of menstruating age entering it was unconstitutional. Because of that rule, women between the ages of 10-50 had been barred. The temple leaders and their male supporters have resisted the decision and stopped women from entering and as a result there have been clashes between them and the police trying to enforce the ruling, the latest occurring when two women entered the temple under police protection.

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Bizarre kidnapping case

It is unfortunately not uncommon for the parent of a divorced or separated couple that was denied custody of the children to abduct the children. But one kidnapping case had so many bizarre and disturbing features that it merited some comment, the chief one being that the child who was kidnapped had been ‘married’ to one of the kidnappers, so it was simultaneously a wife kidnapping as well as a child kidnapping.

Four members of “extremist Jewish sect” Lev Tahor were arrested Friday and charged with kidnapping two children in upstate New York, the Department of Justice said. U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York’s Southern District charged Nachman Helbrans, Mayer Rosner, Aron Rosner, and Jacob Rosner with kidnapping two children from Woodbridge, New York and transporting them to Mexico, with the eventual goal of returning them to the sect’s base in Guatemala. The children’s mother had fled the Guatemala compound six weeks before the kidnapping, reportedly fearing for the safety of her children, and gained legal custody of all six. The release notes that “Public news reports indicate that children in Lev Tahor are often subject to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.”

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The Rapture and The Book of Revelation

Most people are familiar with the wacky ideas about the Rapture, where the chosen are whisked away into heaven leaving those behind to face years of carnage in the battle between good and evil. Into this mix are thrown ideas about the AntiChrist leading the forces of evil against the forces of good that culminates in the end of the world. In his new book The Book of Revelation: A Biography, Timothy Beal, professor of religious studies at Case Western Reserve University, explains that although many people think that these ideas about the Rapture emerge from the Book of Revelation, that is not the case.
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“The Little Racist Who Could”

In their efforts to flog the tired old ‘War on Christmas’ trope, Fox News and Tucker Carlson, the person vying to be the worst person on it, reached new lows, combining immigrant-bashing with gender stridency. Stephen Colbert tries to understand the silliness.

Carlson’s show has already lost more than 20 advertising sponsors following his remarks.

Cue the right-wing outrage over ‘censorship’. These ardent supporters of capitalism and the market don’t seem to quite get that businesses protect their brand image, and not wanting to be associated with someone as odious as Carlson is a business decision.

Everything you might want to know about what you will look like in heaven

Of course, since many of the readers of this blog are godless heathens, this is at best an intellectual exercise. But I am sure that many have wondered, at idle moments or when they were believers, how the idea of life after death will deal with the fact that we age and change on Earth. Do we take the form that we had at the end of life? If so, a lot of people in heaven will be old and decrepit or disfigured because they met a tragic end. This clearly will reduce the appeal of life after death and may even suggest that it may be best to die when one is in the prime of one’s life so that one looks buff for all of eternity. Evangelical preachers like Billy Graham, when asked this question, said that people will look their best in heaven but shy away from details. But if we don’t look like what we did when we died, then what?
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Uh oh, head for cover! Andrew Sullivan is having deep thoughts again

Catholic apologist, fervent Iraq war-cheerleader, and Bush-Cheney booster Andrew Sullivan has a long article where he ruminates on how only religion can save us from tribalism. That alone should set off warning bells because religion has been one of the major drivers of tribalism. This article reveals clearly the kind of apologetics that Sullivan specializes in, whether it be for warmongering or political opportunism, where he starts from his desired conclusion and then works his way back to the beginning.
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