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A Very Intelligent Magazine: Free Inquiry

Pros Great articles, thought-provoking ideas.
Cons Not for people with strong religious convictions, expensive.
Recommended it? Yes
The Bottom Line:  Filled with thought-provoking articles, Free Inquiry is a worthwhile magazine indeed, even for 7 bucks.
Recently, I purchased the latest issue of Free Inquiry, with the large heading of Islam: Voices of Dissent. It was this issue that convinced me that I ought to read this magazine with every issue released. Unfortunately, the fact that Free Inquiry is a quarterly means that I won?t be buying this magazine too often, even if I do buy all the issues.

Free Inquiry is published by The Council for Secular Humanism. I don?t know much about this group -- all I know is that you can donate to it, if you would like to support its research, and its principles, which in a tiny (and somewhat flippant) nutshell boils down to the belief that religion is a bunch of baloney and that we should trust our own abilities as humans in the here and now, rather than live for an afterlife which may never come, or may never exist. Most of the articles take a very skeptical view of religion, although there are differing and conflicting opinions even within the humanist and atheist circle.

I?ve actually bought Free Inquiry occasionally a number of years ago, but never gotten around to reading it until recently. This had nothing to do with the quality of the magazine --- it?s just that I have so many interests and curiosities to satisfy that I end up buying a few of everything (just look at my Playboy review!!) instead of all of one thing. Even now, it took me a long time to decide if I ought to buy this issue of Free Inquiry. For one thing, it is quite expensive (6.95 Canadian), and also, I know that I buy too many magazines, etc., and really ought not to have so much clutter around the house. But I buckled down, as that last copy kept staring me in the face for about the next week, and I just had to take it home with me. And I?m glad I did!

This issue on Islam is very timely..... after Sept. 11, many people, from ?experts? to reporters to ordinary people, took a look at Islam, tried to explain Islam?s role in the terror attacks. The big statement that many, including those in the White House, tried to express was that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the terrorists perverted their religion. Yet, being Free Inquiry, this magazine is determined, not to demonize Islam against all other faiths, but to show that religion, as well-meaning as it can be, can and does allow for such ?evil? to happen.

One article, by Pervez Hoodbhoy, explains religion as a whole in words that I wish I could have said: ?Islam... like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other religion... is not about peace. Nor is it about war. Every religion is about absolute belief in its own superiority and its divine right to impose itself upon others.? Sounds about right, wouldn?t you say. All religions believe they are right, and everybody else is wrong. It?s just that some people are more forceful than others. The gunman who shoots abortionists. Or the guys who fly planes into buildings.

At the same time, many of the writers are willing to say that Islamic societies, if not so much the religion itself, has issues that do not exist in Western countries. Many of these countries are still in the dark ages, and haven?t had experiences similar to the Renaissance or the Reformation. The most powerful and influential people in these countries are not skeptics, but very religious, so in turn, the citizens only get a religious point of view, because the countries themselves are run in varying degrees in accordance with Islamic rules, not ?democracy? or secular ideals.

There are also a few other interesting articles in this current issue, including one that actually makes a religious group look good. The article refers to a Supreme Court ruling that considered prayer before school football games a violation of church and state. A big supporter for this ruling was the Baptist Joint Committee. They actually agreed that any state-sponsored religious support is unfair..... because people from other religions would naturally be discriminated against. I kind of wonder if perhaps the Baptists don?t like state-sponsorship because they aren?t the ones being sponsored, but that?s just me being cynical again......

I don?t necessarily believe in all the stuff that is being said in this magazine. But sometimes I enjoy reading anything just to hear other points of view, or just to be shocked. I sometimes get a real thrill out of reading something that is shocking, or totally insane, or just so willing to go against popular opinion, or taboos, not necessarily because I agree, but because it is illuminating.

I can honestly say that I?ve read almost every page of this magazine, which is more than I can say for most others (including the Playboy I just reviewed). I don?t claim to know all the details on the subjects this magazine discusses, but I can say that Free Inquiry is an intelligent magazine that brings up some good issues and ideas. I will definitely read it in the future, no matter what the subjects are about.

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