In the News: Wax, Wits, William James, and more!

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

The Patient Body: Hospitals and the Pretense of Charity

“The Patient Body” is a monthly column by Ann Neumann about issues at the intersection of religion and medicine. Continue Reading →

A Theory of Ethical Blasphemy

By Austin Dacey The claims of the believer and the claims of the blasphemer, so-called, are symmetrical.The value motivating us to protect the believer’s beliefs from desecration is the very same value manifested by the desecrator: freedom of conscience. Continue Reading →

Moral Ambivalence in Modern China

From The Lancet, an article by Charles Stafford on Deep China: the Moral Life of the Person, a new book by Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan tianshu, Wu Fei, and Guo Jinhau (University of California Press, 2012):

Of course, mixed feelings are at the heart of ethical discourse and moral practice in all human societies. If life were simple, we wouldn’t have to think about morality very much—but life isn’t simple. What is striking in the case of China is that this “ordinary” moral ambivalence has played itself out against the backdrop of massive social experimentation. What if we try to wipe out our traditional cultural values and practices more or less overnight (as happened during the Cultural Revolution)? What if we restrict families to having one child (as happened with the family planning policy)? What if we take our rural youth and move them, en masse, to the cities (as is happening with the current wave of rural-to-urban migration)?

As anthropologists and others have shown, these experiments have generated an abundance of unintended consequences. Continue Reading →

Seeing God in Tahrir: Ethics of the Revolution

by Yasmin Moll

Many commentators both inside and outside Egypt have focused on the anticipated role of the Muslim Brotherhood in a post-Mubarak Egypt. In many of these analyses, the Brotherhood is used as a metonym for the projected role of Islam in the public sphere. However, while the Brotherhood will certainly play a formative role in post-revolutionary politics and governance in Egypt, it does not have a monopoly on Islamic discourse in the country.

Indeed, self-described moderate Islamic televangelists (al-duaa al-mutawasitoon) – figures such as Amr Khaled, Mustafa Hosni and Moez Masoud – enjoy a popularity and credibility with ordinary Muslim youth in Egypt that is hard to match. While the official religious establishment of Al-Azhar shied away from supporting protesters in Tahrir and elsewhere on the eve of the January 25th Revolution, many of Egypt’s most prominent televangelists were vocal in their support of thawrat al-shabab (the youth revolution).And throughout the uprising and after, their catchwords have been religious tolerance (tasamuh) and religious co-existence (ta’ayush).

In Mubarak’s Egypt, these televangelists’ credibility and authority with their primarily youthful publics derived not from a mastery of the authoritative textual canon of the Islamic tradition a la Azharite scholars, but rather from their projected status as “ordinary Muslims” struggling to lead an Islamically-correct life in a world where it is manifestly difficult to do so. Continue Reading →