Religion

Sectarianism and the Arab revolutions

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What explains sectarian divisions such as the Shia-Sunni divide in the Middle East?
Lebanese socialist Bassem Chit rejects claims that sectarianism is a "pre-modern" force and argues it is rooted in the pattern of capitalist development and crisis in the region.

There is a growing debate over the role of religious sectarianism in the Middle East since the outbreak of the Arab Revolutions. Most writing on the issue deals with the question from a cultural perspective. One of the most striking examples of such an approach is the debate surrounding the supposedly Shia-Sunni divide, which many authors treat as an extension of a conflict over who should have assumed power following the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 CE.

The decline and fall of Rangers FC

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Back in February Glasgow Rangers Football Club entered administration. The administrators claimed there were short-term problems and the club would be back to normal shortly. In the period since there have been almost daily revelations about toxic bank debt, tax avoidance, cheating on the football field and legal investigations that may result in charges of fraud and corruption. On 14 June Rangers' creditors refused to accept the administrators' offer of a 3p payment for every pound owed. The result was the liquidation of the club. How did this happen?

Unholy row

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In the August edition of Socialist Review I wrote about the crises that have hit successive ruling class institutions, from parliament to the banks. Few would have predicted that the next pillar of the establishment to be riven with turmoil would be the Church of England.

It was the intervention of the police on 15 October that resulted in Occupy London setting up camp outside St Paul's rather than Paternoster Square, home to the Stock Exchange - the original target. An institution that many would dismiss as unimportant suddenly found that it had been lobbed a political hand grenade. The internal division inside the Church produced by 150 tents was a remarkable reflection of the depth of the ideological crisis within the ruling class.

The scandal of faith

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Why are some in the West so terrified of Muslims? There are many tediously familiar answers: because they are all potential terrorists, because they are a drain on the social services, because their culture threatens to swamp British civilisation and so on.

There is, however, a more subtle reason for Islamophobia. Think of the sheer strangeness, in the eyes of sceptical modern Europe, of the presence of countless millions of ordinary men and women whose everyday lives are shaped and guided by belief. What sense can an agnostic, pragmatic society make of that? How can faith possibly fit into its materialistic priorities?

Don't blame religion

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Where do homophobia and transphobia come from? Many people point to religion as the root cause. But the belief that religion is to blame is a reworking of an old argument first fought out in the 1840s.

Then as now there was an argument about where awful ideas come from and how we can change them. It was not Richard Dawkins who first said that "religion is the root of all evil" but the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. It was against Feuerbach's ideas that Marx and Engels first formulated their ideas of historical materialism.

Pope Idol

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John Paul II's social conservatism should not be taken as gospel.

John Paul II was, according to that impeccable news source Yahoo!, 'the people's pope'. Other than a huge ego, it's hard to say what he had in common with 'the people's princess' Diana, and the headline probably had more to do with the ease of alliterating the 'p' than anything else. If there is an afterlife, Pontius Pilate must be kicking himself that he wasn't born 20 centuries later.

We've also heard endlessly about 'spontaneous outpourings of emotion', the way he 'touched people's lives' and all the other mawkish sentiments rolled out whenever someone famous cops it.

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