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Don’t Answer That Phone

6 Dec

This Foreign Policy blog post about religion and the slow cultural acceptance of new technologies by different faiths contains an unintentional warning. This is the picture they use at the top of the post to illustrate faith/technology side-by-side:


Uh, I’d be careful about using that phone. The shrine next to it is commonly found along the sides of roads in Greece to memorialize a fatal accident–or to give thanks after a near-miss. This picture looks like the side of a road. So while you’re fumbling for your phone card, some guy zips around a curve too fast and takes you out and a part of the public telecom system. Better hope he’s driving smart car or a moped¹.

P.S. I think the sign on the shrine is for the icon inside: The Holy Unmercenaries. A true godsend if you lack health care.

¹ Actually, when I was in Greece, my traveling companions and I agreed that “death by moped” was one of the worst ways to go.

Dropping Some Hanukkah Science

4 Dec

Since the Festival of Lights begins tonight, I thought I’d share the spirit and bust out one of my favorite holiday songs: Beck’s “Little Drum Machine Boy”. Sure, it has nothing to do with Christmas and–true–I’m Catholic, but you have to admire a song that includes lines “Hanukkah pimp” and “Funk so illegal, I think I’m gonna need a lawyer.” You don’t even need to be Bar Mitzvahed to enjoy it¹. Herewith, I give you the Holiday Robot Funk.

(Note: Use iTunes or Windows Media Player to play the file.)

¹Nor, thankfully, involved with Scientology.

Imperfect Adherence

11 Oct

Both Matt Yglesias and Young MZ see Coulter’s comments about “perfecting Jews” as the unsurprising response of a Christian who sees her faith as the one true faith, and that expressing disdain misses the exclusionary nature of sincere religious adherence. In response, I’ll point to djw at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, who accurately sums up my thoughts on the matter:

I think this post exemplifies a problem analytic philosophy types discussing religion. The fact is, squishy liberal religious people, who exist in very large numbers, exhibit an set of beliefs and justifications that wouldn’t stand up in the seminar room. Their epistemology might be described as flabby, lazy, incoherent. But really, that’s ok. Ecumenicalism can be defended on political grounds quite well, but it harder to defend as a coherent and logical worldview.

The Turkey Question

28 Aug

Viewed through the lens of national self-interest, I’ve always thought of Turkey joining the EU as a general good, irrespective of what what it meant for Europeans. To some extent, I think fears about a changing European character or an immigration onslaught aren’t part of the US calculus for support, to say nothing of these fears being overblown. Having a moderate Muslim country as part of a Western transnational legal and trade framework is a boon to the world superpower. Of course, it’s the Europeans (or at least their elected representatives) and not the United States who will decide, so what’s best for America is somewhat besides the point.

With that in mind, I’m not sure how to think about a Turkey with a Muslim president (via Yellow is the Color). A president with strong religious credentials seems like a great partner for a Turkish EU induction. I often find European (and in this case, Turkish) secularization too aggressive, but much of that comes from living in a country where candidates openly profess their belief in God and no one tries to lead a coup. I accept that different concepts of secularization will be optimal for different countries.

Additionally, without narratives of long-term immigration and citizenship to fall back on, many Europeans are hostile to Muslim immigrants, and see their open displays of faith as an affront to European culture (witness France and their ban of the hijab). But Turkey bans the headscarf in government offices and schools too, and the Turkish military is hyper-vigilant on the secularization front.  A Muslim president might upset powerful secularists within Turkey, causing internal turmoil that impedes integration, or spark a backlash against the country from right-wingers in Europe, making an invitation to join the EU even less likely.  Turkey in the EU might be great for the US, but it seems increasingly harder to convince either Europeans or the Turkish that it’s also in their interests.