Interview on Science & Religion in The Tehran Times

This piece was originally published on August 1, 2016, pages 1 and 9.

It’s an honor and a pleasure to be interviewed for The Tehran Times. I am especially grateful that the put the very philosophical interview I gave on the front page of the newspaper. The Tehran Times is Iran’s major English language newspaper. I have had the opportunity to talk quite a few times about philosophy and democracy. Here’s photo of the interview, which links to the full Adobe PDF file for the day’s newspaper (August 1st, 2016). My piece is on pages 1 and 9:

This is a photo of a cut out of the front page interview I gave for The Tehran Times on science and religion.

I got a lot of positive feedback about this piece, as well as some interesting comments and questions on Facebook. In case you want to see those, here’s the post – sorry for the repeat image. I’ve not embedded a Facebook post on this site before, so here’s a test:

I’m honored to see my piece on the front page of the Tehran Times again. How cool is that? (See pgs 1 & 9):
Posted by Eric Thomas Weber, author on Sunday, July 31, 2016


If you’ve not yet connected with me on Facebook, “like” my author page, and if you’re a tweeter, following me @EricTWeber.

Mr. Bryant, Take Down the Flag

or "Governor, Take Down This Flag," in The Clarion Ledger, September 20, 2015, 2C.

Thumbnail photo of the Clarion Ledger logo, which if you click will take you to the Clarion Ledger's site where you can read the full article.My piece, “Mr. Bryant, Take Down the Flag,” came out in The Clarion Ledger this morning. In the printed version, the title is “Governor, Take Down this Flag.” For the next week or two, please head to the electronic version of the piece on the newspaper’s site. You can download and print a PDF of the article by clicking on the image of the printed version.

This is a photo of my op-ed. The link, when you click on the image, takes you to an Adobe PDF version of the published piece, with OCR.

I’ll soon post the full article on my site. For now, be sure to check out my blogpost arguing that “Racism Defies the Greatest Commandment.”

Reflections & Call for a Moment of Silence for September 11, 2001

I remember vividly how weird a morning it was on September 11, 2001. At the time, I was living in Nashville, heading to work at a downtown law firm. I learned that year why I didn’t want to be a lawyer. That morning was unusual, because I didn’t usually turn on the radio until I got in the car on my way in to work. That morning I did, though. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was something confusing about New York City.

Never before had I felt America stand still. It was eerie. Not knowing yet quite what was going on, I went to work, still feeling concerned and confused.

Image of the Twin Towers burning on September 11, 2001. Photo by Michael Foran, creative commons license, as found on Flickr and Wikipedia.

I grew up in the New York City area. People there were and are friends of mine. They’re not just American friends. The United Nations in the U.S. is centered in New York, not D.C. So diplomats from all over the world are there and were threatened too. New York City is also the landing pad for so many people who come to the United States, furthermore. It is a place that for so long was unique. It is such an icon for the country, as we are not a land of one ethnicity, race, or religion. America is an idea about how different people who want freedom can live together and govern themselves.

I don’t want to be too romantic. I live in a town that was the last battleground of the Civil War, resisting the integration of my university. People around this state were lynched in large numbers for the sake, explicitly stated, of white supremacy. Still, New York City is a symbol. It is a place people want to be. The best of so many things are or go there. It is a port. It has been an entryway into freedom for so many people. My own mother came to the U.S. through New York. It wasn’t to flee the tyranny of the French, of course, but even I am just a first generation American — on my mother’s side, at least.

One of my early memories from growing up was visiting the Twin Towers when my grandparents had come to visit from Iowa. There were a few generations of Americans in my family on Dad’s side. To many, the towers symbolized trade, given their name and purpose. They were also seen negatively by others as a symbol of American expansion around the world, and of modernism that radical conservatives rejected. A “radical conservative” sounds like an oxymoron, like an impossibility. If only it were.

White House photo of President Bush at a mosque, taken by Eric Draper, 2001.

White House photo by Eric Draper.

I wanted to take a moment to think about that day, to think about all the people who were killed. I want to think about all the people who gave their lives trying to save others. I also want to remind people on the Right and on the Left of the highest point that I admire most in President George W. Bush’s presidency. When people think about 9/11 and it’s aftermath, many people are still furious at Bush. I am not talking about any of those causes or conflicts. I am no defender of torture and I find base the attempt to deny some of what Americans did as something other than torture years later.

At the same time, we need to notice not only when people do wrong, but also when there are shining moments that get covered up, justifiably or not. Attending to high points reminds us what to strive for. The New York Times reported on Bush’s speech at a mosque a few days after September 11th, calling his words “eloquent.” Here’s their piece on Bush’s speech. If you haven’t read it, here is the transcript of Bush’s speech.

When President Obama says similar things, apparently he’s wrong about them, according to an op-ed in the Denver Post. Nonsense. There’s a nice PBS piece asking which President said it, Bush or Obama, about Islam. We need cooler heads, especially today.

If my title for this post is confusing, that’s because I’m not being very silent now. Actually, the point of it is to encourage others to do what I did with my class yesterday. The thing about September 11th is that no part of America said “New York was attacked,” to then go about their business, as if it had nothing to do with them. We can be so divided as a nation, and polarization can be one of our biggest problems. On September 11th, however, not only did all Americans feel for one another as a nation attacked. The rest of the world felt solidarity and felt attacked. “We are all Americans,” said Le Monde (“Nous Sommes Tous Américains“). It is important to remember how and when people felt extraordinary solidarity with the victims of a brutal attack.

Yesterday in my Philosophy of Leadership class, we took a few moments to be silent, to think about that day. Some prayed. All were thoughtful. We were silent together and we remembered.

Racism Defies the “Greatest Commandment”

Eric Thomas Weber, first published on The Second Breakdown, July 30, 2015.

In July 2015, University of Mississippi graduate, Adebanke Alabi invited me to comment on race and the Church for a series on her blog. The following is my piece, originally published on her page and reposted here with permission.

Preface: I am grateful to Adebanke (Buki) Alabi for calling me to comment on race and Christianity for the readers of her blog, The Second Breakdown: My Thoughts on Jesus and His Church.

Photo of a Church gathering of the KKK, meeting underneath a sign that reads, "Jesus Saves."


Photo of a church.Mississippi is still home to obstinate racism, even while in 2014 Gallup found it to be the most religious state in the United States. The vast majority of the 44 failing school districts’ enrollments in the state are majority- to almost totally made up of African American students. Some districts have been accused of  not having desegregated. We have seen  symbolic racism at the University of Mississippi, as well as troubling direct confrontations. Some young people planned and executed a  racially motivated murder a few years ago in Jackson, MS.

Photo of a Church gathering of the KKK, meeting underneath a sign that reads, "Jesus Saves."Despite all of these disturbing cases of racism in Mississippi, many citizens and public officials continue to resist change even to symbols of racism. I have argued that falsely romanticizing heritage does us harm  and that symbols, like the Confederate Battle Flag featured in the canton of MS’s state flag, contribute to the perpetuation of racism and injustice. What has gotten very little attention is the tragic inconsistency between the religious beliefs people say that they hold dear and the contradictory behaviors that we see here in Mississippi.

Bust of Socrates.In a passage from the Republic, Plato’s Socrates tells us that leaders must convince their people that we are all born of the earth, children of the same parent – a mother, according to the story. When threats to security arise, if people do not care sufficiently about their neighbors, they will fail to act in others’ defense. Kinship motivates us to take care of our children and our brothers and sisters. People thinking of each other as kin is one of the most important needs for a society’s safety and unity, he argues. He thought the story was a lie, but a necessary one. Christians today do not think it is a lie, and Darwin’s evolutionary theory confirms humanity’s common kinship.

Plato lived about 400 years before Christ. When we look to the Christian religion, we see a related social aim to the kinship that Socrates called for. A basic Christian belief is that human beings are all children of the same parent – in this case, a Father. One might think that the belief that we are all brothers and sisters would motivate Christians to treat others accordingly.

People are very good at finding ways around what they ought to do, however. Some people divide humanity into categories of those who are fallen and those who are elect or saved. If there are children of God in one community, what do we call people from another community or belief system? Galatians 3:26 explains that people are all children of God in their shared faith in Christ. If that is true, does that mean that nonbelievers or those who profess different faiths are not children of God? That is not logically necessary: “All things red have color” doesn’t imply that other things don’t also have color.

Iconic photo of black man drinking from a water fountain labeled "Colored."Many Christians treat others in ways that are not neighborly, even in deeply religious places. The tragedy of this fact is that people in Mississippi share many religious beliefs – that we are all children of the same Father. In their faith in Christ, Scripture says, they should all see each other as children of God.

For many, the core of the Christian religion can be distilled, as Jesus is said to have done in Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31, and Luke 10:25-28, into the Greatest Commandment, which has two parts. In addition to loving God, the first element, which people proclaim in word so commonly, Jesus calls for loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. This second element is far less often extolled in word, and evidence in deeds illustrates blatant defiance of the commandment.

Mississippi flag, featuring the emblem of the Confederate Battle flag.It is time to call people out on this gross contradiction. How in a place like Mississippi people can resist symbolic change, let alone progress in deeds, even with respect to a symbol of the state’s defense of slavery, while claiming to be Christians, is deeply distressing. Some public figures recognize this and have courageously called for progress. It is time others who profess their faith own up to what it means to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Weber at his desk in 2011.Dr. Eric Thomas Weber is associate professor of Public Policy Leadership at the University of Mississippi and author of four books, including Uniting Mississippi: Democracy and Leadership in the South (forthcoming in September 2015). He is representing only his own point of view. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @erictweber.