May 27 - June 2, 2007

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.

I'll begin this week with a glance toward Asian Christians--evangelicals mostly--who are now outnumbering U.S. evangelicals on some of the nation's most prestigious campuses. Here is a report about that phenomenon at U.C. Berkeley, from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The end-of the-year mood in a classroom at UC Berkeley's Warren Hall was giddy as a crowd of mostly Asian American students watched a slide show of good times and candid shots and shared stories of intense pressure from their parents.

They weren't celebrating their culture, though. They were celebrating Christ. [...]

For three hours, they shared impassioned testimonies of faith and prayed for one another, laying hands in turn on each person receiving support. The graduating seniors passed down a 6-foot wooden cross for next year's senior leaders to keep in their apartment.

Asian Americans dominate evangelical Christian groups at UC Berkeley, far outstripping their share of enrollment, even as the number of Asian Americans on campus has grown markedly. The trend is visible to varying degrees at several of the nation's elite universities.

Read the rest of the Chronicle story here...

From the Boston Globe: Dean Barnett, a contributor to publications that tend to the political right, penned a rather simplistic (to me) view on why abortion should be outlawed except in the rarest instances. The "hook" to his argument? He's not "religious":

I'm proudly Jewish, but not at all religious. Quite frankly, I'm the very picture of the Chinese food-eating secular Jew who drives some of my more devout co-religionists batty. But I'm pro-life, and adamantly so. [...]

You might expect that since I'm pro-life, I would argue that life begins at conception. Actually, that's not quite right. In answering the question of when life begins, the best I can do is say "I don't know." Life may begin at conception. It may begin during pregnancy. Or it may begin at childbirth. While I have a feeling that life begins at conception, I certainly can't prove it.

Because we don't know where life begins, the only logical thing to do is to err on the side of caution -- the side of life. In other words, because an abortion might take an innocent life, it should be avoided. It should also be illegal in most cases.

Read the remainder of the Globe artice here...

Sadly, tragically, the men in the following story reported in the San Francisco Chronicle are "religious" and saw fit to stone a teenaged girl to death, for being attracted to someone outside of her religious sect--this happened in the "liberated" Iraq:

(05-22) 04:00 PDT Baghdad -- The video is shaky, but the brutality is clear.

A slender, black-haired girl is dragged in a headlock through a braying mob of men. Within seconds, she is on the ground in a fetal position, covering her head in her arms in a futile attempt to fend off a shower of stones.

Someone slams a concrete block onto the back of her head. A river of blood oozes from beneath her long, tangled hair. The girl stops moving, but the kicks and the rocks keep coming, as do the victorious shouts of the men delivering them.

In the eyes of many in her community in northern Iraq, 17-year-old Duaa Khalil Aswad's crime was to love a boy from another religion. She was a Yazidi, an insular religious sect. He was a Sunni Muslim. To Duaa's uncle and cousins, that was reason enough to put her to death last month in the village of Bashiqa.

Read the rest of the story here...

Another woman, a U.S. scholar, is being held in a wretched prison in Iraq, as a spy and seditionist. From the Boston Globe:

IN ITS TREATMENT of the Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, Iran is violating basic precepts of human rights, rule of law, and academic free inquiry. After being subjected to months of grueling interrogation, Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, was jailed May 8 in the brutal Evin Prison and, according to Iran's state -run television, will face grave charges of "seeking to topple the ruling Islamic establishment."

Fellow scholars know how preposterous those charges are and have acted in exemplary solidarity with Esfandiari. Their protests against her imprisonment signify more than a reflexive defense of academic freedom; they are rooted in a commitment to reasoned discourse, respect for cultural differences, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Her supporters understand that the conferences Esfandiari arranged at the Wilson Center, far from reflecting a US government plot to overthrow the regime in Iran, were intended both to encourage respect for human rights and women's rights in Iran and to discourage Bush administration fantasies about violent regime change in Tehran.

Read the rest of the Globe article here...

From the Dallas Morning News religion blog, a report that further investigates comments made by U.S. politicians and bishops, regarding the current pope's statement that Catholics who support abortion rights should excommunicate themselves.

We told you a few days ago about 18 Catholic House Democrats who took issue with the pope's recent pronouncements about politicians who support abortion. Basically, the Democrats told the pope to not to stick his nose into politics.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded to the Democrats. Here's what the bishops said:

"In an unfortunate May 10 statement, 18 of the 88 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives criticized Pope Benedict XVI's remarks concerning Mexican lawmakers legalizing abortion. The Representatives' statement misrepresents the Holy Father's remarks and implies that the Church does not have a right to voice its teaching in the public square."

Read the balance of the blog here,..

More from another Texas newspaper, the Austin-American Statesman, this time regarding high school graduation invocations:

ROUND ROCK — Seniors at three of the Round Rock school district's four high schools voted to have an invocation at their graduation programs this month, ending a week of discussion over how to approach the subject of prayer at graduation. [...]

The district follows a statewide policy suggested by the Texas Association of School Boards that prohibits public school administrators from ordering an invocation at graduation. The policy, based on the group's legal research aimed at avoiding conflicts over separation of church and state, allows students to request an invocation if they want one. [...]

School board member Vivian Sullivan reacted by urging the school board to give seniors a chance to request a nonsectarian prayer at their diploma ceremonies.

"We need a generic invocation asking God for guidance," Sullivan said. "If you're an atheist, then just humor us."

Read the rest of the Statesman article here...

Dear Conservatives: Channel Ronald Reagan, and keep the government out of personal moral decisions, argues Leonard Pitts, Jr.; his column has an outlet in the Miami Herald:

For a long time, Reagan's words were the prime directive of the American conservative movement. But something has happened to that movement in the past 26 years. Those who once promised to get government off the backs of the people, who swore an oath against its intrusion into our lives, now gleefully use it to poke, prod, peer and interfere.

The reasoning -- ''rationalization'' would be a better word -- is always that someone has transgressed morality. Which is just a way of saying someone has done something the conservatives disapprove of. But how do they get to define morality for the rest of us? If freedom means anything, doesn't it mean we get to make that decision for ourselves?

Read the rest of what Pitts has to day here...

Meanwhile another columnist, David Brooks, writes in the New York Times about the "quasi-religious," those who attend church but are bored and skeptical about what they hear (I was raised as a Catholic, and referred to the people Brooks describes as "cultural Catholics"):

The pope and many others speak for the thoroughly religious. Christopher Hitchens has the latest best seller on behalf of the antireligious. But who speaks for the quasi-religious?

Quasi-religious people attend services, but they’re bored much of the time. They read the Bible, but find large parts of it odd and irrelevant. They find themselves inextricably bound to their faith, but think some of the people who define it are nuts.
Whatever the state of their ambivalent souls, quasi-religious people often drive history. Abraham Lincoln knew scripture line by line but never quite shared the faith that mesmerized him. Quasi-religious Protestants, drifting anxiously from the certainties of their old religion, built Victorian England. Quasi-religious Jews, climbing up from ancestral orthodoxy, helped shape 20th-century American culture.

Read the rest of Brooks' article here...

Lastly, The Seattle Post Intelligencer notes a new lure in continuing science education for adults: beer.

Getting kids to learn science can take blackboards and story problems, wood blocks and three-ring binders. The occasional number-munching monster doesn't hurt either.

For adults, just take the science and add beer.

At least that's the theory organizers of Science on Tap wanted to experiment with when they started hosting the monthly science gatherings at Ravenna Third Place Books three years ago.

The beer-fueled forums have since garnered a growing following that often fills every seat at the Ravenna neighborhood bar, in the basement of the bookstore.

Read the rest of the story here...

The Talk of Lawrence