This rather reminds me of the old days when the Taliban was destroying the priceless, irreplaceable artifacts of Buddhist culture. This time, for about the same reason, ISIS is hard at work destroying the precious history of Assyrian culture. Once again, religious extremism is working hard to destroy everything that doesn’t happen to be part of their particular ideology. Violent dogma at work. So…. let’s have a look:

Needless to say, you don’t go out and buy some new ancient Iraqi artifacts. So, like the Taliban before it, ISIS is killing not just humans but history.

What a pity.

Every once in a while someone writes something so good that I’m totally blown away. The essay “Divorce as Primer” by my friend Miriam Gottfried is one of those writings. Other than to say how much I admire her candidness, openness, and honesty, I won’t say more. Well, ok I’ll say one thing more… Miriam’s mom Emily was a very dear friend and, though she is no longer with us, I’m sure that if there is a heaven, Emily is up there beaming with pride. Check out the essay on here:

Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:

This post is like telling people that Christians now worship Jesus. But I put it down for the record, for, after all, many Muslims accept evolution. It’s taught, for example, in Iranian public schools.

Nearly all devout Muslims, however, are human exceptionalists with respect to evolution: while they may accept other species of plants and animals as having evolved, humans are supposed to have been created directly by Allah. So it’s theoretically possible that ISIS could sanction the teaching of non-human evolution. But of course the chance of that happening is close to the chance of the Republicans enacting immigration reform in the U.S Congress.

At any rate, all we know about evolution and ISIS is this report from last September, detailing what ISIS decreed when it took over the Iraqui city of Mosul. As Talking Points Memo noted:

In Mosul, schools have been presented with a new set of…

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I think it’s a great day in the music world when a recording of Byzantine Chant makes it into the Billboard top-10. So, first I want to congratulate my pals at Cappella Romana for hitting #8 today on the classical chart with their recording “Good Friday in Jerusalem“! Perhaps it’s funny that a Jewish dude is happy about a recording of music for Good Friday. After all, the story from whence it came is not particularly kind to my people. Still, gorgeous music is gorgeous music no matter what tradition spawns it,

Good Friday in Jerusalem” is a magnificent recording. It is acoustically stunning and has a very solid foundation in scholarship. Singing early music is not simply a matter of reproducing pitches. It is very much the product of study and research, at least when done well. This I say because the techniques, intonation, vocal style, and performance practice is variable and subject to much speculation. You can’t just grab a page of neumes and chant away. Eastern Orthodox, more than most early music, takes a lot of research.

I remember being in music history classes in the 70s and the pride i felt in understanding the parts of the early Catholic Mass and the divine offices. But, the fact is, everyone with a degree in music has to study that. We think we know a lot about early Christian music but, guess what? We are not as smart as we may think. Indeed, we do study a lot of church music… WESTERN Church music! But, when I look back at my old music history text books, I see not more than a few pages on the other half of the early Christian world… EASTERN church music.

It is important to remember that, just like we Jews have both a European Ashkenazi Jewish civilization and a different but equally compelling Middle Eastern Sephardi tradition, the history of Christianity includes both Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. They are not the same and the Eastern tradition is not as well-known. But Eastern Orthodox music, with its microtonal tunings, sometimes less consonant interval relationships, foundations in both rhythmic and melodic “modes”. and characteristic drones, or “isons”, is at least as interesting as (arguably more interesting than) its western counterpart.

Cappella Romana’s “Good Friday in Jerusalem” is a superb example of just how lovely this music can be. It was recorded in a Church at Stanford and engineered by some clearly acoustically savvy members of Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). It was created, structured, and directed by UBC Musicologist and CR Artistic Director Alexander Lingas, And it was sung by a very talented subset of a very talented and multifaceted vocal ensemble. In short, it is one of the best recordings of Byzantine church music you’ll find.

Definitely worth a listen. Personally, I want to see them get their Grammy! Check it out.

In 1988, 60 headstones were overturned in the Jewish cemetery in the Alsatian city of Sarre-Union. In 2001, the same holy resting place had 54 graves vandalized. Yesterday, once again, a place supposedly of peace was desecrated. From what I have heard, Sarre-Union cemetery consists of about 400 graves and, this time, around 200 of them (!!!) were violated,” Not only is the is the 3rd time in 27 years, but it is the worst attack yet.

According to Bernard Cazeneuve, the Minister of the Interior: “The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share”… “Every effort will be made to identify, question and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this ignominious act.” Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Tweeted that the attack is “a vile, anti-Semitic act, an insult to the memory” of the dead.”

Well, no shit M. Cazeneuve et M. Valis! This is indeed a vile act. The question, though, is: What is France going to do to stop it? It really does not seem much.

As a huge Francophile, who loves your country, your art, your music, your food, and your culture I want to say this to my French friends:

Nous ne sommes pas votre problème!!! Laissez nos tombes en paix!  L’antisémitisme français doit arrêter maintenant!

I’m sorry that my French sucks but you get the point. I won’t post the photos that have bounced around the media because I won’t share the crime of the swastika here. But, suffice it to say, French troubles are not the fault of the Jews. Leave us in peace.

Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:

Australia, though a pretty nonreligious country compared to the U.S., still has its pockets of faith. One was recently emptied on the Australian Broadcasting System’s (ABC’s) site “The Drum,” in piece written by Simon Smart, a man described on the ABC’s site as

. . . a Director of the Centre for Public Christianity and the co-author with Jane Caro, Antony Loewenstein and Rachel Woodlock of For God’s Sake – An Atheist, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim Debate Religion. A former history and English teacher, he studied theology at Regent College, Vancouver. He is the author of a number of books including Bright Lights Dark Nights – the Enduring Faith of 13 Remarkable Australians.

All it takes is a degree in theology to screw up one’s thinking, or so it seems in Smart’s piece “Fry vs. God: the comedian’s concerns aren’t new.” In it, Smart…

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Fundamentalist Baptist preacher-man turned sadly humorous presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says that the Obama administration is “stomping all over Christians”. Specifically he this to the American Family Association:

“This administration, they will bend over backwards to do everything possible to accommodate Muslims, but they don’t mind stomping all over Christians, and they do it regularly. This is just the most astonishing reversal of true American tradition that I’ve ever seen.”

Of course this is just silliness. But the guy is considering another run for Commander-in-Chief. So, it’s worth considering where he gets his inspiration.

You may recall that Mr. Huckabee is a huge fan of the supremely rational (not) late Jerry Falwell. So, let’s see what Falwell has to say about religion, government, and equal rights. After 9/11, he has this to say:

“Throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. The pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’ “

It seems to me that one of Mr. Huckabee’s greatest mentors just “stomped on” every single person in the entire country who does not agree with Fundamentalist Christianity.

But, of course, those were the words of Falwell, not Huckabee. Mike would, perhaps, not go quite that far. But how about this:

“If we’re determined to change the definition of marriage to accommodate how people feel and what they wish to do because of their mutual consent, then we should immediately release those incarcerated for practicing polygamy or bigamy. And, frankly, let’s make all consensual adult behaviors legal, whether prostitution, assisted suicide, or even drinking 16 ounce sodas in New York City.”

in equating the love of 2 human beings to “assisted suicide”, the ol’ Huckster has made a pretty damn good “stomp” on a hell of a lot of people, both gay and straight.

In that context, how dare Mr. Huckabee speak about stomping on anyone.

Our best response: Let’s go stomp on any possibility that Huckabee or any other anti-rational, closed-minded,, dogmatic, religionists, ever gets a realistic shot at the White House.

A man like this would, like Rick Santorum and others in the “everyone who doesn’t agree with me will burn in hell” camp, take his very best shot at destroying the American values of liberty, democracy, separation of church and state, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom or religion, and respect for diversity.

Let’s not let that happen!