Religion and its Discontents | Japan vs. South Korea | Praying For A Change




“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” 
– Harper Lee

“The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” 
– Mark Twain



Turkey’s Religious Revolt: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan belongs to a party steeped in political Islam. First coming to power in 2003 as prime minister, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 on a platform strongly focused on the economy. Over time, however, he has used his position to elevate Turkish and Ottoman traditions over Western values, and to promote religion. Erdogan has said his goal is to create a “pious generation” that will “work for the construction of a new civilization.” In 2017, he released an official video celebrating the booming growth of state-funded Imam Hatip religious schools like the one he attended as a boy. But despite his efforts to re-enforce religious behavior in the country, a new poll surveying personal beliefs showed that piety was actually decliningcompared to results from a similar survey taken in 2008. Some see the change as organic, but Turkish analysts say the shift could be a backlash, especially among young people, against this pious, authoritarian president and his push for religiosity.



A Bit-less-coin: Some young, unfortunate South Koreans couldn’t appreciate the concept of a boom and bust cycle. They can’t be blamed for wanting to escape their dead-end social and economic prospects and strike it rich. What’s questionable is the decision to tie all their dreams to cryptocurrencies. One 27-year-old, Kim Ki-won, made so much money trading in digital dollars he quit his job and planned to buy a house. Now the market has virtually collapsed; Kim lives with his parents, too embarrassed to tell them he’s deeply in debt. Millennials like Kim, at the bottom of South Korea’s economic rung with little real opportunity for advancement, relied on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as a way to disrupt the social order; in some respects, they still do. (NYT)

[THIS TITLE IS NOT AVAILABLE IN RUSSIA]: Russia’s draft law, the Digital Economy National Program, mandates technical changes needed to operate independently, as a stopgap to potential foreign efforts to isolate the country online. The draft law, introduced to parliament last year, requires Russia’s ISPs to bring router points that handle data entering or exiting the country within its borders and under its control. NATO and its allies have threatened to sanction the country over its alleged cyber-attacks and other online interference. Russia wants to build its own version of the net’s address system, known as DNS, so it can operate if links to internationally-located servers are cut. The move would also allow the Kremlin to censor what outside information people can access, much like China has done. Moscow plans to test its cyber-defenses by disconnecting briefly from the global internet sometime before April 1. (BBC)

Coup D’etattletail: New information has emerged about the coup attempt against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An eye witness smuggled out of the last hamlet in eastern Syria held by ISIS said foreign members of the terror group lost a two day battle with Baghdadi’s bodyguards before being rounded up and executed. He said the clash took place in a village next to Baghouz in September, three months earlier than first believed. “The fighting was very intense, they had tunnels between houses. They were mainly Tunisians and there were many people killed.” The witness said Baghdadi moved to Baghouz briefly, then fled to the desert in early January. (Guardian) Additional read: U.S.-Backed Kurdish Forces Launch ‘Final Push’ Against ISIS In Syria (NPR)

A Slightly More Clear And Slightly More Present Danger: A new Pew Research Center survey released Sunday shows far more people around the world believe their countries are threatened by US power and influence under President Trump than they are by either Russia or China. In interviews conducted between May and August last year, 45 percent of respondents in 26 large countries said the US posed “a major threat to our country.” Only 36 percent said that about Russia, and 35 percent said that about China. Russia and China may be deeply unpopular in certain places, but animosity and skepticism toward the US are relatively evenly distributed across the globe. (WaPo)

Additional World News



The Real Housewives: Asia-Pacific: Experts are saying the Trump administration’s inattention to Asia-Pacific alliances is allowing the relationship between the two most important US allies in the region to unravel fast. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have turned their backs on each other and traded insults, military and business ties are fraying, and the media is up in arms. A former South Korean ambassador to Japan described the two countries as “suffering a compound fracture unprecedented in the five decades since [they] established diplomatic relations.” While their leaders share blame, of course, the ambassador says the spats have been left to fester, and that could undermine US efforts to sustain a coalition of Asian democracies to help contain China.

The two countries have a complicated history. From 1910 to 1945 Japan ruled over South Korea, and often quite harshly. But since the end of WWII, South Korea has undergone immense changes, and emerged from Japan’s shadow to become a thriving democracy and economic powerhouse in its own right. A political science professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University opines that South Korea grew up, and Japan never really accepted that. “Many Japanese leaders are still caught up with a condescending, or even perhaps bordering on a racist, attitude toward South Korea as a smaller and less developed country,” he said. “There is this attitude among conservatives that, at the end of the day, we can bully Korea into submission.”

Additional read: “United States and South Korea reach stopgap deal on troop cost-sharing.” (WaPo)



Praying For A Change For The Better: In 2008 a Texas woman now in her 40s asked leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and its 47,000 churches to track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers. She had been sexually abused for years as a teenager and left pregnant by a Southern Baptist pastor in Sanger, about an hour north of Dallas. Despite the woman’s pleas to consider prevention policies like those adopted by faiths that include the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist leaders rejected nearly every proposed reform. In the decade since, more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes. An investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed that in all, since 1998, 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, including those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. Most of the perpetrators worked in Texas. (Houston Chronicle) Additional read: “The Lutheran Pastor Calling for a Sexual Reformation.” (New Yorker)




Is Capitalism Too High on Marijuana: We read the following article this weekend while plunging into recent issues of the New Yorker. It’s a fascinating read about how much more needs to be done in studying the health effects of marijuana. Here are some fascinating quotes from the piece, “As the National Academy panel declared, in one of its few unequivocal conclusions, “Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”” And “authors assumed that alcohol use among students would be a predictor of violent behavior, and that marijuana use would predict the opposite. In fact, those who used only marijuana were three times more likely to be physically aggressive than abstainers were; those who used only alcohol were 2.7 times more likely to be aggressive.” “For the moment, cannabis probably belongs in the category of substances that society permits but simultaneously discourages.” Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think?: Permitting pot is one thing; promoting its use is another. (New Yorker, $) There are a lot of marijuana advertisements in states that have legalized it. In San Francisco these ads are prominently displayed on large billboards. One person’s addiction (like painkillers), is another company’s and industry’s profits.

Additional reads:

Please consider making a donation to Daily Pnut, an independently operated and bootstrapped publication. Many thanks to everyone who already supports us!

Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: