All posts filed under: Religion

William Peter Blatty’s Counter-Countercultural Parable

In her new book Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics (excerpted in Quillette on August 27), essayist and cultural critic Mary Eberstadt documents just how damaging the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and its normalization of divorce in particular, has been to America’s children. She mentions many publications that comment on “the correlations between crumbling family structure and various adverse results,” particularly for the children of divorce. The authors she cites include former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, social scientist James Q. Wilson, and Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. A writer she doesn’t mention, however, is William Peter Blatty, author of the blockbuster 1971 horror novel The Exorcist. Those who have never read the novel, or are familiar only with its 1973 cinematic incarnation, probably believe the book to be a potboiler about demonic possession. But it is also an allegorical warning about the importance of the traditional family unit and the devastation wrought when it breaks down. Curiously, this aspect of the …

David Gelernter is Wrong About Ditching Darwin

I’ve never been one to judge somebody’s arguments by their scholarly credentials. After all, two major contributors to my own field of evolutionary genetics, Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin, were amateur naturalists and autodidacts trained more thoroughly in theology than in biology. So when well-known Yale professor and computer scientist David Gelernter rejected Darwinian evolution in his recent essay, ‘Giving Up Darwin,’ we can’t dismiss him simply because he’s not a biologist. Nor can we ignore his arguments because the piece appeared in a conservative journal, the Claremont Review of Books. No, we must attack his arguments head on, especially because they’ve been widely parroted by the media, as well as by conservative, religious, and intelligent-design (ID) websites. Sadly, his arguments are neither new nor correct. Gelernter’s claim—that evolution as envisioned by Darwin (and expanded into “neo-Darwinism” since the 1930s) cannot explain features of organisms and of the fossil record—depends heavily on the arguments of ID creationists. And every one of those arguments has been soundly rebutted over the past few decades. While Gelernter doesn’t fully …

Memories of Life at Kingdom Hall: An Alberta Schoolgirl Waits for Armageddon

In 1909, a wealthy man from Pennsylvania bought a brick building on a steep street just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, across the river from Manhattan. Blocks away from where Walt Whitman had set to type the first editions of Leaves of Grass, a small, relatively unknown group that called themselves the “Bible Students” was regrouping, with this building as their hub. Their leader was feeling discouraged after another failed prediction that the world would end. But he was not deterred. Spending his days overlooking the same East River that had inspired Whitman to write verse, he rewrote his own inspired prose that warned of the world’s imminent, violent end and urged all to join him so that they, too, could live forever in paradise on Earth. Russell had always been interested in religion and as a young man had painted fire and brimstone Bible verses on fences around his hometown as a pastime. He met a man named William Miller, who had founded a religious movement, Millerism, which was the precursor to the Seventh-day …

The Uncertain Boundaries of Corporate Morality

A deeply unusual public spectacle has been playing out in Australia for a number of weeks involving a prominent rugby player, a mangled bible verse, the rugby player’s wife, a crowdfunding platform, a major bank and a health insurance fund. All the elements of a terrible joke are present, yet the core of the matter—the messy intersection of legal freedom and corporate morality—is proving to be serious. Rugby player Israel Folau, domestic and international superstar, allegedly breached his contract with Rugby Australia by posting an adaptation of a bible verse to Instagram which suggested unrepentant homosexuals would ultimately find themselves in hell, alongside liars, adulterers, persons with tattoos, and a variety of other sinners. As a consequence of his refusal to remove the post, Folau’s lucrative contract with Rugby Australia was terminated. The legality of this decision has yet to be decided in court. The case has attracted immense interest and is already being touted as a potential landmark for freedom of religion and religious expression in the domain of Australian employment law and—to a …

The Rise of the Illiberal Right

In recent days, American right-of-center Internet has been consumed by an often acrimonious and sometimes comical public drama: a polemical battle over an essay by author and New York Post oped editor Sohrab Ahmari entitled “Against David French-ism.” The subject of this philippic, published in the religious conservative magazine First Things, is National Review writer David French, who Ahmari considers to be emblematic of a conservatism too weak and effete for the modern-day culture wars. Some of this quarrel is plainly over the simple matter of allegiance to Donald Trump: French is a staunch “Never Trumper,” while Ahmari is a former Never Trumper who, depending on where you stand, either saw the light or surrendered to the dark side. However, it is also a dispute about more fundamental issues related to the future of American conservatism, and the future of liberal democracy. French, like Ahmari, is a Christian who subscribes to traditional sexual morality. But Ahmari’s quarrel with him is twofold. One, “Though culturally conservative, French is a political liberal, which means that individual autonomy …

When Protected Characteristics Collide

This weekend, the city of Birmingham hosted a dazzling array of colourful floats, sparkling costumes, and groups bearing a message of love and equality as part of its annual celebration of Gay Pride. However, in an unprecedented move, this particular march was led by LGBT Muslims. Often subjected to discrimination and ostracisation by their own religious communities, and shunned by certain sections of wider LGBT communities for adhering to any form of religion, LGBT Muslims are in a bind. Some people even maintain that the term is an oxymoron. Yet it is precisely young Muslims—who might be experiencing profound questions about their sexuality or identity, and torn between two different sets of expectations—who have the most to lose as a result of the LGBT schools row engulfing the city. It was therefore encouraging to see them front Gay Pride this year, alongside someone who has done more for equality and diversity than 99 percent of the UK population: Andrew Moffat, Assistant Headteacher of Parkfield Community School. In 2017, Moffatt was awarded an MBE, and subsequently …

Religious Faith and the Family: An Interview with Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox

Bradford Wilcox is a professor of sociology and the lead author of a recently released report entitled The Ties that Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family? As part of my research on the psychology of meaning, I study religious beliefs and practices, so I was curious to learn more about the research in this new report. Below is an interview I conducted with Dr. Wilcox for Quillette about the report and his broader work on marriage and family. *     *     * Quillette Magazine: I’ll start by asking you to answer the question posed in the title of your report. Is faith a global force for good or ill in the family? Bradford Wilcox: In the main, religion is a force for good in the families we examined in this report—from 11 countries ranging from Mexico to Canada, from the United States to Ireland. Partners who attend religious services together tend to do better than their secular peers and their peers in nominally religious, or religiously mixed, …

Identity, Islam, and the Twilight of Liberal Values—A Review

A review of Identity, Islam, and the Twilight of Liberal Values by Terri Murray, Cambridge Scholars, 212 pages (Dec. 2018) After the collapse of the totalitarian Communist regimes in 1989-91, Francis Fukuyama famously wrote in The End of History and the Last Man that “we may have reached the end of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government.” Terri Murray begins Identity, Islam and the Twilight of Liberal Values by arguing that Fukuyama’s optimism was premature, because the rise of religious fundamentalism—especially radical Islam—has become a powerful bulwark against the spread of liberal democracy. Rather than exposing and opposing the damage done by Islamism in the West, soi disant liberals, leftists, and progressives have acted as its supporters and cheerleaders. Murray instead labels them as “pseudo-liberals” and the “regressive Left” as a result of their abandonment of bedrock liberal principles, and progressive and secular values. Murray aims to diagnose the ways in which European and American social liberalism has been eroded in the post-9/11 era, asserting …

Bearing Witness: My Journey Out of Mormonism

My parents named me after Spencer W. Kimball, who was the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the time I was born. The church derives its informal name, Mormonism, from the Book of Mormon, which is purportedly the work of Hebrew prophets in the ancient Americas (though it’s not clear where, exactly). Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, the church’s founder, translated the Book of Mormon from golden tablets that the angel Moroni helped him discover. Near the end of the Book of Mormon is a passage known as “Moroni’s promise”: And when you should receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:4). Many people say that God has fulfilled this promise to them. What it’s like to receive …

Feminism’s Blind Spot: the Abuse of Women by Non-White Men, Particularly Muslims

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was a young woman who attended a madrassa in the rural town of Feni in Bangladesh. In late March of this year, she attended the local police station to report a crime. Nusrat alleged that the headmaster at her madrassa had called her into his office several days before and sexually assaulted her. After the assault, Nusrat told her family what had happened and decided to make a report to the police, no doubt trusting that they would treat her with some decency. The officer who took her statement did no such thing. He videotaped it on his camera phone and can be heard on the footage telling her that the assault was “not a big deal.” The headmaster was arrested, but someone within the police leaked the fact that Nusrat had made allegations against him and the footage of her statement ended up on social media. She was soon receiving threats from students at the madrassa as well as other people in the community. Influential local politicians expressed their support for …