Century Marks

Century Marks

A matter of means

An anti-homosexuality bill being considered by the Ugandan parliament, which calls for penalties against gays as severe as life imprisonment or even death, has American backers in high places, claims Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family. David Bahati, the legislator who introduced the bill, refuses to name his American supporters. It is known that Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, are on friendly terms with Bahati and the Ugandan Fellowship, an evangelical group within the Ugandan parliament. Sharlet says Inhofe and Warren Love voiced only muted opposition to the Ugandan bill and that they share its goal of eradicating homosexuality. (Harper's, September).

Religious shifts

There can be no peace in the world, especially the Middle East, without peace between the world's religions, starting with Judaism, Christianity and Islam, argues theologian Hans Küng. He thinks dialogue between the religions must include an awareness that no religion is static or monolithic. Küng outlines paradigm shifts each Abrahamic religion has undergone but points out that old religious paradigms can live alongside new ones—which is a source of internal conflict for religions. Particularly important is how each religion reacts to its own "middle age" and to modernity. Islam has not had a reformation in response to modernity, yet most Muslims reject forced marriages, oppression of women and honor killings. "They suffer from the constant sweeping condemnations of 'Muslims' and 'Islam,' without differentiation," says Küng (Theology, September-October).

Cost of war

Two years ago Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes estimated that the cost of the war in Iraq would be $3 trillion. They now think that number is too low, because it didn't include the cost of treating and compensating disabled veterans. Without the Iraq war, they argue, the U.S. would not still be stuck in Afghanistan, oil prices wouldn't be as high and the current economic crisis wouldn't be as severe. They figure that the Iraq war added $10 to the cost of a barrel of oil. Before the current crisis, the federal debt ballooned from $6.4 to $10 trillion, and at least a quarter of the increase is attributable to the war, excluding health care and disability payments to disabled veterans. "Can we learn from this mistake?" they ask (Washington Post, September 5).

Beyond fear

Susan Retik and Patti Quigley were made widows by the attacks of 9/11. In response to their loss they formed Beyond the 11th, a not-for-profit organization that has helped more than 1,000 Afghan widows start businesses, including one that makes soccer balls and one that raises chickens for selling eggs. The project also supports a women's center where carpets are woven for export and a literacy center with a bakery. The work of Beyond the 11th over the past nine years has cost less than keeping one American soldier in Afghanistan for eight months (Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, September 8).

God above the border

According to a new poll, slightly more than half of Canadians believe in heaven, but fewer than a third believe in hell. About 53 percent said they believe in life after death; about 27 percent said they believe in reincarnation; and half expressed belief in religious miracles. The Canadian poll, which surveyed 420 people earlier this year, found that about 30 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, "I know God really exists and I have no doubts." Most of the "nonbelievers" believe in a higher power, stated Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, which conducted the study with Carleton University in Ottawa (RNS).