‘religion’

Je Suis Charlie

I write for a living. I lecture large audiences for a living. I piss people off for a living. Je suis Charlie. My comrades were murdered for expressing opinions that others don’t like. Ordinarily, we’d call those murderers psychopaths. But because their instructions to kill supposedly came from their god rather than from random psychic noise, they’re considered “religious extremists.” That’s too polite. It subtly helps limit their responsibility for their behavior. Of course, that’s a primary goal of religion—to codify the ways in which people are not in charge of this world, and to provide a vocabulary for not…

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World Sexual Health Day 2014

According to the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS), today is World Sexual Health Day. Adopted along with the UN, here’s their definition of sexual health. Some of the key challenges to sexual health in the U.S. today include: * Childhood sexual exploitation: It can alienate people from their bodies and from sex, entangle sex with coercion, entangle attention with shame and pain, and create lifelong secrets or hatred. * Shame about our bodies, learned from an early age: No baby is born ashamed of her or his body. And no baby thinks their genitalia is any different than any…

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Ten Problems With Purity Balls

Purity Balls are more popular than ever. That’s the religious ceremony in which a girl (usually about 12) pledges her “purity” to her father and to God until she marries. Balls are like group weddings: dozens of dads wear tuxedos, girls wear (typically white) ball gowns, dads put gold bands on their daughters’ wedding finger, and then the couple has a First Dance together. The average age of first marriage in America is now over 27. That would make the non-sexual Purity Zone (from pledge to marriage) some 15 years long. If we adjust the figure for the demographics of…

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Hobby Lobby Decision Puts Government in the Religion Business

The Supreme Court decision allowing a corporation to exempt itself from the law—in this case the Affordable Care Act—does two very bad things at once: * It privileges religious beliefs over other deeply-held beliefs * It puts government in the business of deciding what are legitimate religions and religious beliefs. We can also bemoan the content of this case—contraceptive access, healthcare affordability—but the religious issues actually create larger, longer-range problems for America. The First Amendment, of course, guarantees that “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. But even before that, it says that “Congress shall make…

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Training Women to Have No Eyes

I’m in New York training psychologists this week, and as I always do here, I visited a neighborhood with a professional guide. On previous trips I’ve toured Harlem, Wall Street, Brooklyn Heights, Midtown, Upper Park Avenue, and several other neighborhoods. This year we went to Williamsburg, home to the most insular and religious community of Hasidic Jews in North America. The group is called the Satmars, who came to this country from Eastern Europe after WWII. They dress meticulously like the nobility of 18th century Lithuania/Poland. Even in summer, the men wear long sleeve white shirts, black vests, long black…

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