Category : Other Faiths

(The Local) The yellow vests and France’s new wave of anti-Semitism

For 30 years or so, there has also been a radical muslim and ultra-leftist strand of anti-Semitism in France, born from support for Palestine and hatred of capitalism (seen as dominated by wealthy Jews). The revival of anti-Semitic acts, and violence, in the 1990s and the 2000’s was mostly due to this new phenomenon.

The figurehead of this “new anti-Semitism” is M’bala M’Bala Dieudonné, the stand-up comedian who has been convicted of anti-Semitic hate-speech. His emblem is the “quenelle”, an arm gesture which may or may not be a perversion of the Hitler salute. It has certainly become a widespread means of deniable, anti-Semitic behaviour.

The kind of graffiti which appeared in Paris last weekend – the swastikas and the word “juden” – bear the finger-prints of the older, rather than the newer brand of anti-Semitism. Increasingly, however, it is difficult to tell them apart.

Anti-Semitic slogans can be found on Gilet Jaunes banners and anti-Semitic arguments in Gilets Jaunes sites on the internet. “Macron once worked for a Rothschilds bank. He is a tool of ultra-liberal, globalist forces, controlled by Jews….”

This is not something that you hear from “ordinary” yellow vests on roundabouts. Anti-Semitism has specifically been decried in several lists of Gilets Jaunes positions and demands.

But there is undeniably a sickening anti-Semitic obsession in one section of the yellow vests movement. It is tempting to attribute this influence to Dieudonné’s political mentor, Alain Soral.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) ‘It’s Not Getting Better’: Nigeria Braces for Election Day as Frustrations Boil

Nigeria is bracing for what could be a tight election this weekend. Threats of violence loom.

In the northeast of the country on Tuesday, a convoy heading to an election event and carrying Kashim Shettima, a state governor, was attacked by Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist group which operates in the region. At least three people were killed, officials said. Many of the governor’s entourage fled into the bush after militants dressed as soldiers and riding in stolen military vehicles attacked, local news media reported.

The incident drew attention to another of Mr. Buhari’s 2015 pledges: to destroy Boko Haram. Far from being crushed, Boko Haram has recently been gaining strength.

In the south, militants in the oil-rich Delta threatened to disrupt the economy, presumably by blowing up pipelines, if Mr. Buhari were re-elected. At a rally for the president in Rivers State this week, at least four people were killed in a stampede. Election officials reported fires in several sites where ballot materials were being stored.

Tensions have been so high that after the American ambassador to Nigeria called on both campaigns to carry out fair elections, Mr. Buhari’s party called his statements “implicit attacks against the government.”

Mr. Buhari and Mr. Abubakar, who each have pledged to accept the election results peacefully, wrapped up final appearances this week at rallies across the country, where thousands turned out wearing dresses, rings, hats and scarves plastered with their candidates’ photos.

Read it all.

Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) Sharp Rise in Anti-Semitic Acts in France Stokes Old Fears

Swastikas drawn on portraits of a women’s rights champion and Holocaust survivor in Paris; the word “Juden” (Jews, in German) spray-painted on a bagel bakery; a tree planted in memory of a young Jewish man who was tortured to death, chopped down in a Paris suburb.

A spate of reports in recent days illustrates what the government officially confirmed on Tuesday: Anti-Semitic incidents have risen sharply in France. Such episodes jumped by 74 percent in 2018, to 541, up from 311 in 2017, the interior ministry reported.

“Anti-Semitism is spreading like a poison, like a bile,” the interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said on Monday as he visited the site of the felled tree.

The tree was a memorial to Ilan Halimi, a Jewish man who was kidnapped and tortured to death after being held captive for three weeks by members of a French criminal gang in 2006. The authorities and Jewish institutions were preparing to commemorate the 13th anniversary of Mr. Halimi’s death, which falls on Wednesday, when the tree was found destroyed.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Quebec Muslims Seek to Transcend Trauma of Mosque Shooting That Took Six Lives

The attack, a rare mass shooting in Canada, shocked Quebec’s Muslim community and showed that the country wasn’t immune to the sometimes violent backlashes that have accompanied growing immigrant populations elsewhere.

Two years later, many are still trying to come to terms with what happened and their place in a province where tensions over religion and assimilation persist.

Those tensions revived in Quebec’s October election. The conservative Coalition Avenir Québec won the provincial vote after a campaign in which it pledged to curb immigration and make newcomers take tests to prove their knowledge of Canadian Quebec values and French language.

The new Quebec premier, François Legault has also promised to bar certain public servants—including teachers, police officers and judges—from wearing visible religious symbols, such as the Muslim head scarf and the kippah worn by some Jewish men, and sparked criticism last week when he suggested Islamophobia didn’t exist in the province. Mr. Legault’s office later said he misspoke.

“It’s a difficult time for Muslims in Quebec,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT) A Canadian Preacher Who Doesn’t Believe in God

Although as a child, she claimed Jesus had taught her to skate, she never considered herself a devotee. Instead, she says she has always understood God obliquely, as love.

After graduating from college with an arts degree and in search of adventure, Ms. Vosper moved to the far north of Canada, where she was married and had a daughter. After her marriage broke down, she returned to Kingston as a single mother and enrolled in divinity school.

“I wanted to learn how to make the world a better place through it,” said Ms. Vosper, who is sprightly, with short salt-and-pepper hair, chunky glasses and a penchant for bubbling over with language.

By then, the United Church of Canada was propelled more by social justice than theology, according to Kevin Flatt, author of “After Evangelicalism: The 60s and the United Church.” The first church to ordain transgender ministers, its leadership supported abortion and same-sex union before either became legal in Canada.

Divinity school cemented her metaphorical views of God, Ms. Vosper says. But once she began preaching, she realized many congregants thought she was talking about an all-knowing, all-seeing spirit who answered prayers and called some to heaven and others to hell.

“I realized how little of what I said got through to anyone,” said Ms. Vosper….

Read it all.

Posted in Atheism, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Vatican Radio) Pope and the Grand Imam: Historic declaration of peace, freedom, women’s rights

The “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed on Monday afternoon in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imama of Al-Azhar, Ahmad el-Tayeb, is not only a milestone in relations between Christianity and Islam but also represents a message with a strong impact on the international scene. In the preface, after affirming that “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved”, this text is spoken of as a text “that has been given honest and serious thought”, which invites “all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together”.

The document opens with a series of invocations: the Pope and the Grand Imam speak “in the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity”, “in the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill”, “in the name of the poor”, “orphans, widows, refugees, exiles… and all victims of wars” and “persecution”. Al-Azhar, together with the Catholic Church, “declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard”.

In the document, “we… call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing”.

Read it all.

Posted in Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, UAE (United Arab Emirates)

(NYT) Washington State Weighs New Option After Death: Human Composting

Katrina Spade, the founder and chief executive of Recompose, a Seattle company that hopes to build the first facility to use the new method and conduct funeral services based around it, said the movement toward cremation — now used in more than half of deaths in the nation — has led to an erosion of essential rituals. Remains are often just picked up from a crematory, she said, and that’s that.

“This is not simply a process to convert bodies to soil; it’s also about bringing ritual and some of that ceremony back,” Ms. Spade said.

Ms. Christian, the woman who is hoping recomposition will be an option after she dies, says she has long been uncomfortable with the other choices. She has ruled out burial. And she does not like the idea of cremation because of environmental costs — emissions and climate impacts of fossil fuels used in the burning process. But her friends remain divided on the issue.

“The vast majority are like, ‘That is so cool,’” she said. “And then the other response is, ‘Oh, gross.’”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Patheos) Philip Jenkins writes good piece on the history of Anti-semitism in America–The American Dictator and the Lone Ranger

…[William Dudley] Pelley formed a new political-religious movement, the fascist and anti-semitic Silver Legion of America, the Silver Shirts. This was “a great Christian Army fortified by the inviolable principles of the Christ.” Pelley was the “beloved Chief,” a term which could equally well refer to his role as American Führer, or as the living Secret Chief, a not-yet-Ascended Master.

The Silver Shirts were explicitly modeled on the German Nazi Party, and Pelley claimed that he was inspired to form his movement on January 30, 1933, the day Hitler became German Chancellor. But Pelley also drew ideas and images from the popular media, as this day marked the first broadcast of the radio western series, The Lone Ranger, with its heroic Rangers and the recurrent silver themes. Pelley’s followers were also Silver Rangers, and that was the title of one of his newspapers.

Whatever the origins of the idea, Pelley now focused on the Jews as the source of most evils and problems in the world, and he offered a solution based on the formation of a Christian Commonwealth, a Christ-Democracy. Pelley became the nation’s best-known figure on the paramilitary far Right, and he inspired Sinclair Lewis’s imaginary American dictator Buzz Windrip in the 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here.

The Silver Shirts boomed in the mid-1930s, and the movement may have had up to twenty thousand members nationwide at its height in 1933-34. Support was heavily concentrated in California, Oregon and Washington, though other centers of strength were scattered across the Midwest, in Chicago, Cleveland and in the Ohio steel districts. Pittsburgh was another major center of organization, where it spawned leftist and Jewish counter-protests. Though the movement looks like a classic fascist sect, it never lost its strong occult motivation, and some adherents claimed to be less interested in the anti-Semitic rhetoric than in Pelley’s mystic revelations.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(OUP Blog) Archaic and postmodern, today’s pagans challenge ideas about ‘religion’

Several people chuckled when they walked past Room 513B during the 2009 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, held in Montréal. The title of the session within was simply “Idolatry,” held by the AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group, papers such as “Materiality and Spirituality Aren’t Opposites (Necessarily): Paganism and Objects” were presented.

The nervous laughter at the session’s title shows that even among scholars of religion, topics of polytheism and idolatry seem quaint, antique, and even trivial. Do people still even take them seriously?

Indeed, they do. Pagan religions, both newly envisioned and reconstructed on ancient patterns, are growing throughout the world. In addition, followers of these newer Paganisms, such as Wicca, Druidry, and reconstructed Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Greek, and other traditions, have begun to reach out to people attempting to maintain other indigenous or tribal traditions.

In the English-speaking world, the best-known new Pagan religion is Wicca, which is one form of Pagan witchcraft. Arguably rooted in Romantic ideas — appreciation of nature, an idealization of the “folk soul” and the countryside, a great appreciation of feminine principles — it was created around 1950 by a retired civil servant and spiritual seeker named Gerald Gardner (1884–1964). Gardner did not seek a mass movement but more of a “mystery cult” in the classical sense — small groups of initiates who would meet according to the lunar calendar to worship a goddess symbolized by the Moon and a god symbolized by (among other things) a stag or goat or the Sun, and to perform magic.

Wicca, as the British historian Ronald Hutton has noted, is the “the only religion that England has given the world.”

Read it all from 2016.

Posted in History, Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

(RNS) After police foil terrorist attack on Islamberg, New York Muslims push for justice

In 2015, the FBI issued an alert after an Arizona man affiliated with militia groups allegedly threatened to attack Islamberg in a Facebook video. And for several years, a group of anti-Muslim bikers and right-wing activists led by American Bikers United Against Jihad drove past Islamberg in their annual Ride for National Security.

“The lies about Islamberg have been proven wrong countless times,” The Muslims of America’s chief executive, Hussein Adams, told media. “But what speaks volumes is that after 30 years there have been no instances where members of our community have done anything related to these accusations.”

TMOA said the new alleged plot sent “shock waves” of fear through the community, giving residents flashbacks to the “panic and unease” they endured after previous incidents. “And each time it happens, these grave tragedies compound the trauma of the previous instance,” Islamberg attorney Tahirah Clark said.

After the Doggart case, in which he was released to his family on $30,000 bail, TMOA officials were shocked to learn that domestic terrorism is not always considered a federal crime, and they are now pushing for a change in policy.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Violence

(RNS) Tara Burton–If God is dead, is it OK if we save ourselves?

…what we’re seeing is not a substitution of one kind of faith for another. As a culture we’re putting our faith in ourselves. Salvation has been relocalized; the new secular faiths think humans have the potential to save ourselves.

You can see this as communities across the United States actively attempt to remake and remap human nature. Transhumanists are attempting to radicalize cryogenics and reverse aging. “Intentional polyamorists” and “relationship anarchists” subvert “toxic monogamy culture.” They’re seeking out blueprints to rewire our bodies, our minds and our social relationships – exploring new avenues of what it means to become our “best selves.”

It’s possible, as Sullivan does, to read these quests as doomed attempts to override what we can never overcome. Maybe they are. But the increasing prominence of these “new utopian” groups represents more than the collapse of traditional religion. It also tells us about the collapse of traditional notions of human frailty.

Fewer and fewer of us may believe in God or spirits. But now, more than ever, we’re willing to put our trust in the better angels of our own nature.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(WSJ) Shashi Tharoor–How Hinduism Has Persisted for 4,000 Years

The word “Hindu” denotes more than a set of theological beliefs. In many languages, French and Persian among them, the word for Indian is Hindu. Originally foreigners used it when referring to the people beyond the Indus River, which is now in Islamic Pakistan. In fact, the word Hindu did not exist in any Indian language until its use by outsiders gave Indians a term for self-definition. Many Hindus, in other words, call themselves by a label that they didn’t invent but adopted cheerfully.

“Hinduism,” then, is the name that foreigners first applied to what they saw as the indigenous religion of India. It embraces an eclectic range of doctrines and practices—from pantheism to agnosticism, from faith in reincarnation to belief in the caste system. Yet none of these constitutes an obligatory credo for a Hindu. We have no compulsory dogmas.

The religion is predicated on the idea that the eternal wisdom of the ages and of divinity cannot be confined to a single sacred book. While others might look to the heavens to find God, the Hindu looks within himself. There is no Hindu pope, no Hindu Vatican, no Hindu catechism, not even a Hindu Sunday. Hinduism does not oblige the adherent to demonstrate his faith by any visible sign. Instead Hinduism offers a smorgasbord of options to the worshiper: of divinities to adore and to pray to, of rituals to observe, of customs and practices to honor, of fasts to keep. Hinduism allows believers to stretch their imaginations to personal notions of the creative Godhead.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, History

(Local Paper) Pittsburgh synagogue shooting survivors join Emanuel AME Church in shared sorrow

They stood hugging, a rabbi and an AME minister, two men of God united by the bloodshed of earthly hatreds.

Beneath their feet, in the fellowship hall of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, nine black worshipers died in June 2015 when a gunman opened fire during their Bible study, killing them because they were black.

About 700 miles north, in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, an antisemitic gunman killed 11 worshipers less than three months ago during their Shabbat morning services, simply because they were Jewish.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

([London] Times) Crispin Blunt–Why the time has come to scrap prayers in parliament

As our society becomes decreasingly religious we have to wonder why it is that in the House of Commons procedures of the day such as lawmaking and debates start with prayers.

During this time the doors are locked while MPs stand, perform an about-turn and pray. This process is closed to the public while Anglican prayers are read — hardly conducive with the diverse elected representatives and the constituents they represent.

While religious worship occupies a strong part in some people’s lives, it should no longer play a role in the way we conduct our political affairs as an independent, open and diverse nation. In 2019 for most MPs parliamentary prayers are the price paid to reserve a favourite place on the green benches for the day, having become a de facto seat reservation system. Many MPs have found that unless they attend these prayers, whether in line with their beliefs or not, they will struggle to secure a seat.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(NPR) ‘Muhammad: Forty Introductions’ Isn’t Setting Out To Satisfy

Michael Muhammad Knight’s Muhammad: Forty Introductions asks two questions at the same time — or asks the same two questions 40 times.

One is explicit: How should we think about the prophet Muhammad? The other is implicit, but barely. How, Knight asks in each chapter, should I write an introduction? Or how do I decide where to start? How do I decide who to be?

That question is key to Knight’s work. A convert to Islam, he has long written from — and for — the social and scholarly margins. His literary debut, a self-published punk novel called The Taqwacores, has become a cult classic. He’s now a scholar and professor, and has written nonfiction about the Five-Percent Nation, Salafism, and meeting Muhammad’s daughter while tripping on ayahuasca.

In Muhammad, Knight draws from his massive variety of experiences. He listens to canonical voices and marginalized ones, studies traditions from across Islam, cites both Deleuze and Star Wars. Muhammad is as intellectually diverse as a book can get….

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Islam, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) The Morality of Selfism–The Gospel of Saint You

You probably want to be a good person. But you may also be completely self-absorbed. So you may be thinking, “There is no way I can be good if I’m also a narcissist. Isn’t being good all about caring about other people?”

But how wrong you are!

We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself!

Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love.

But now we know this is actually harmful! In the first place, when people hold up external standards of moral excellence, they often make you feel judged. These people make you feel sad because you may not live up to this standard. It’s very cruel of them to make you feel troubled in this way!

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(CT) Remembering Lamin Sanneh, the World’s Leading Expert on Christianity and Islam in Africa

Dana L. Robert, director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University School of Theology:

Professor Lamin Sanneh was a giant in the field of World Christianity. His loss sends a tidal wave across multiple fields, institutions, and continents. He will be sorely missed by those of us who worked with him and called him friend, as well as by people who knew him only from his powerful writings.

As an African, a superb scholar, and a convert from Islam, Lamin Sanneh saw from the outside what those raised on the inside could not. His 1989 book Translating the Message showed how the gospel could become part of every culture, through being translated into the language and worldview of the people. He challenged the assumption that Christianity was merely a tool of western colonizers.

Through his founding of the annual Yale-Edinburgh conferences on mission history, his publications, his editorship of the Oxford University Press World Christianity Series, his leadership of the Dictionary of African Christian Biography, and many other important projects, Lamin Sanneh collaborated with others to transform the study of mission history, African religions, and World Christianity.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Africa, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Globalization, Islam, Missions, Muslim-Christian relations, Seminary / Theological Education

(BBC) Why a Saudi woman can be arrested for disobeying her father

Saudi Arabia drew international plaudits last year when it lifted a longstanding ban on women driving.

However, restrictions on women remain – most notably, the “male guardianship system”, a woman’s father, brother, husband or son has the authority to make critical decisions on her behalf.

These restrictions were highlighted in early January, when a young Saudi woman fleeing her family barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok saying she feared imprisonment if she was sent back home.

A Saudi woman is required to obtain a male relative’s approval approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married, leave prison, or even exit a shelter for abuse victims.

“This is something that affects every Saudi woman and girl, from birth to death. They are essentially treated like minors,” the Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy told the BBC.

Read it all.

Posted in Islam, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Women

([London] Times) Iraq’s battered Mosul clears rubble to greet first Christian back from Isis exile

For as long as he can remember, every Christmas Eve Majdi Hamid Majid would go to the nearby Clock Church in Mosul with hundreds of other local families where they would light candles and sing carols and then eat sugary biscuits. “It was beautiful,” he said.

This year the former stonemason will sit alone on a makeshift bed of planks in the ruins of his house, sip a Pepsi and smoke a cigarette under the postcard of the Virgin Mary he has stuck on the wall.

Majdi, 43, is the first Christian to move back to the Old City since Isis took it over four years ago, driving out his family and about 10,000 more from one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East.

The Iraqi city was recaptured almost 18 months ago after a massive battle that left its ancient heart on the west bank of the Tigris a nightmarish vision of bombed-out buildings, twisted metal and staircases to nowhere. Last week a few bulldozers were pushing stones back and forth, making little difference to what the UN describes as 10m tons of rubble that will take 10 years to clear.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(FT) Holocaust survivor Charlotte Knobloch on the rise of anti-Semitism and rebuilding Jewish life

[Charlotte] Knobloch is right to worry about time. Even the most cursory examination of her life would require days, not hours. Born in 1932, the year before the Nazis took power, she witnessed the pogroms of November 1938, and went on to survive — miraculously — the regime’s systematic attempt to murder the Jews of Europe, by hiding in a German village and pretending to be Christian.

While initially after the war she was determined to leave the land of the perpetrators, she stayed in Munich, raised a family, joined the board of the local Jewish community, and embarked on a late career of advocacy culminating in a stint as president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. Above all, she became a builder: the cluster of constructions that grace the Jakobsplatz today are to a large extent the fruit of her vision.

“Sometimes I catch myself thinking this cannot be true. Every day, when I arrive here, I draw such happiness from seeing the synagogue, and the museum and the community centre,” she tells me as she spoons up her eggs. “What is amazing is not just that we have this, but that it has become so accepted. When the tourist buses stop here, I often hear the Munich guide say: ‘And here you can see our synagogue.’ I cannot imagine anything more beautiful.”

For Knobloch and many others, the decision to build a new temple in the city where Hitler plotted his rise to power was deeply significant. It was, she tells me, the moment she decided to “unpack her suitcase” — to finally admit to herself she had made Munich her home, despite the past.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-Ed) Ross Douthat–The Return of Paganism: is there actually a genuinely post-Christian future for America?

…lately I’ve become interested in books and arguments that suggest that there actually is, or might be, a genuinely post-Christian future for America — and that the term “paganism” might be reasonably revived to describe the new American religion, currently struggling to be born.

A fascinating version of this argument is put forward by Steven D. Smith, a law professor at the University of San Diego, in his new book, “Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars From the Tiber to the Potomac.” Smith argues that much of what we understand as the march of secularism is something of an illusion, and that behind the scenes what’s actually happening in the modern culture war is the return of a pagan religious conception, which was half-buried (though never fully so) by the rise of Christianity.

What is that conception? Simply this: that divinity is fundamentally inside the world rather than outside it, that God or the gods or Being are ultimately part of nature rather than an external creator, and that meaning and morality and metaphysical experience are to be sought in a fuller communion with the immanent world rather than a leap toward the transcendent.

This paganism is not materialist or atheistic; it allows for belief in spiritual and supernatural realities. It even accepts the possibility of an afterlife. But it is deliberately agnostic about final things, what awaits beyond the shores of this world, and it is skeptical of the idea that there exists some ascetic, world-denying moral standard to which we should aspire. Instead, it sees the purpose of religion and spirituality as more therapeutic, a means of seeking harmony with nature and happiness in the everyday — while unlike atheism, it insists that this everyday is divinely endowed and shaped, meaningful and not random, a place where we can truly hope to be at home.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

(FT) Anti-Semitism prompts 40% of European Jews to consider emigration

Close to 40 per cent of European Jews have considered leaving their home countries over the past five years because of rising anti-Semitism, according to a poll released on Monday. Of those who said they had considered emigration, two-thirds said they had considered moving to Israel. One in 10 had considered the US and another tenth had considered a move to a different EU country. The survey, which was conducted by the EU agency for fundamental rights (FRA), highlights growing concern among Jewish communities in Europe, with almost 90 per cent of respondents saying that anti-Semitism has increased since 2013.  The Jewish community in France — which has suffered a number of high-profile deadly attacks in recent years — appears to have been especially shaken: almost 80 per cent of French Jews told pollsters that anti-Semitism in the country had “increased a lot”, the highest proportion in Europe. But there was also a marked deterioration in Germany, where 44 per cent of Jews said they had thought about emigrating, up from 25 per cent five years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(City Journal) Gerald Russello–Our New Religion: Humanitarianism is displacing Christianity, but without its redeeming effects

Paradoxically, now that humanitarianism has fully cut itself loose from Christianity, its categories and language have inserted themselves back into Christian thought. This infiltration prevents Christians at times from noticing that they’re arguing not in Christian categories but humanitarian ones. Almost every national bishops’ conference in the West, for example, speaks the language of humanitarianism. Mahoney sees this as the problem with much of Pope Francis’s language as well— too often, the language of mercy is emptied of theological content, and condemnations of “rigidity” seem to echo a rights-based view of the person. This trend is problematic because humanitarian language is antithetical to the Christian message, and also because it elides the sharp criticism of humanitarian thinking offered by, among others, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Benedict clearly distinguished between authentic Christian teaching and the “humanitarian moral message” in his Introduction to Christianity and his Regensberg lecture, both of which Mahoney discusses. Mahoney calls for the return of an older way of reasoning about our moral selves, which involves a transcendent dimension through which we can know our obligations to ourselves and one another.

Mahoney acknowledges that many of his co-religionists already accept his message—but why should atheists care that humanitarianism seeks to replace Christianity, when they reject the significance of the West’s moral collapse? Mahoney explains, using the powerful witness of Solzhenitsyn, that without a divine warrant, humanitarianism points to tyranny and the negation of true politics. We may already be seeing what a post-Christian politics might look like. The humanitarian religion of the twenty-first century will not be the same one as that of the twentieth; rather than Soviet Man, it will elevate the “woke” protester or Twitter provocateur. Both the authoritarian and racialist Right and the identity-obsessed Left offer glimpses of a post-Christian politics, and neither is a model for a healthy democracy.

Indeed, as Christianity fades, we don’t see a decline in religious fervor or doctrinal vigilance. Humanitarianism is itself a religion, and as Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule has argued, modern secularism has its own eschatology (the eternal overcoming of “hatred”), its own sacraments and holidays, and various prohibitions and commandments, usually centered around specific groups. Coupled with the rise of various would-be pagan religions and the cult of the self, these movements represent a retreat from rational reflection on politics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Atlantic) Beth Kissileff–Pushing Back the Darkness in Pittsburgh

I was walking somewhere I was afraid to go, even though I had been there many times before. But I had not been to a religious service at the Tree of Life synagogue—where my husband is the rabbi of New Light Congregation—in more than 30 days, since a shooter killed 11 people in that spot.

Though it was not quite 6 o’clock on Sunday evening, the first night of Hanukkah, the winter darkness enveloped my neighborhood. I walked past the shopping district, the dry cleaners, my dentist’s office, and the home of my husband’s college roommate. All was familiar, yet I was scared to be outside in the open air with a group of Jews. If we had been targeted inside, where our Torah scrolls and prayer books were and where we were not being public about our faith, wouldn’t this be a provocation, a taunt to anti-Semites, wherever they lurk, to come and get us? A therapist told me to use my rational mind and remember that this was the only event of its kind, the only synagogue shooting that had happened in the United States. That is true, but when it happens at your own place of worship, statistics and rationality take a back seat to raw fear.

As I walked down Shady Avenue, approaching the corner of Wilkins, I saw the police barricades at Northumberland Street, a block before the synagogue. I told a police officer that I was glad to see him, and that I was scared to be here. He told me I did not need to be afraid.

That has been the message I have gotten in so many ways over the past few weeks….

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NPR) A Grieving Pittsburgh Focuses On Community And Light In Hanukkah Celebrations

The 9th annual “Latkepalooza” at Congregation Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh is open to families across the Jewish community.

There’s plenty of fried food, face painting and carnival-style games.

Seventeen-year-old Ariel Holstein runs the putt-putt game. For him, the past five weeks have been intense. He says there was a lot to take in after police say a shooter killed 11 people at the nearby Tree of Life Synagogue in October.

“I went to all the vigils and I helped out, I helped set up,” he said. “It was very heartbreaking and I thought we had to come together as a community.”

Since the shooting, there have been youth-led events like rallies and prayer services. Young people have also been engaging in ongoing conversations with each other and in their classrooms about rising anti-Semitism.

Holstein said the dialogue has helped with the healing. But now, it’s Hanukkah, the first major Jewish holiday since the shooting, and it’s nice to take a break.

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Bari Weiss–Europe’s Jew Hatred, and Ours

On Tuesday, a CNN poll about the state of anti-Semitism in Europe startled many Americans — and confirmed what Jews who have been paying attention already knew about the Continent.

Not 74 years since the Holocaust ended, a third of respondents said they knew only a little or nothing at all about it.

The poll, which surveyed more than 7,000 people across Austria, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, didn’t only discover ignorance. It exposed bigotry.

Nearly a quarter of the respondents said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars. More than a quarter believe that Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in five believe that most anti-Semitism is a response to the behavior of Jews. Roughly a third say Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own goals. Just 54 percent say Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Lancashire Telegraph) Blackburn Cathedral promises no repeat of Islamic call to prayer

The controversial incident, involving a white-robed Muslim cleric or Imam, took place during a pre-Armistice Day concert by the town’s music society.

It came during a performance to 400 people of Karl Jenkins’ work The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace) which included the often-omitted second movement containing the call to prayer.

This was given by a local Imam and contains the phrase ‘there is no other God but Allah’.

Following a film of the event in the nave on Saturday, November 10, being posted on the internet, the Cathedral authorities came under criticism from Christian traditionalists. The Rev Kevin Logan, former vicar of Christchurch in Accrington, said: “It was inappropriate. It was wrong but we are all fallible and make mistakes. It should not happen again.”

The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Rev Peter Howell-Jones, said: “I only found about the inclusion of the Islamic call to prayer minutes before the performance.

“It was inappropriate and should not have happened in the Cathedral.

“I am sorry it took place and I am sorry if anyone was offended by it.

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Posted in Church of England, England / UK, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) British Jews apply for foreign passports as ‘insurance policy’

Thousands of British Jews have applied for foreign passports since 2016, driven mainly by a desire to retain EU citizenship after Brexit but also by fears over rising antisemitism and the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn coming to power.

New figures obtained by The Times show that more than 3,600 Britons have applied for German nationality under a 2015 scheme inviting the descendants of those driven out on religious, racial or political grounds by the Nazis to reclaim citizenship, with most applications from Jewish people.

Michael Newman, of the Association of Jewish Refugees, said those who fled the Third Reich for Britain might find it “emotionally or psychologically difficult” to reclaim German citizenship, but their children and grandchildren wanted to enjoy freedom of movement after Brexit. Some had also raised fears of rising antisemitism.

More than 180 British Jews of Sephardic heritage have applied for Portuguese passports and more than 50 have been granted Spanish passports under 2015 schemes to restore citizenship to descendants of Jews persecuted in the 15th century. The Jewish Community of Oporto said it received “thousands” of inquiries from British Jews.

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Posted in England / UK, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(OCR) Fired Muslim awarded $3.2 million in discrimination suit against Loma Linda University Medical Center

The complaint contends Strode and Gonzalez harassed Lizarraga through 2015 because of his Islamic beliefs, at times referring to him as a terrorist and calling him other derogatory names, and complained he was “too slow” due to his medical condition..

“Mr Strode and/or Mr. Gonzalez often told the plaintiff, ‘Why don’t you quit?’ or ‘You are going to get fired anyway,’ ” the lawsuit alleges.

After Lizarraga’s work restrictions were lifted, Strode and Gonzalez increased his workload and assigned him tasks that should have been undertaken by other workers, says the complaint.

“Despite this unreasonable and unfair workload, plaintiff still completed it, ” according to the suit. “Still, Mr. Strode and Mr. Gonzalez would unjustly complain to the plaintiff that he was too slow and continued to tell him he should quit.”

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Posted in Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Economist) Anti-Semitism in the West Jew-hatred keeps mutating to survive

Michal Bilewicz of the University of Warsaw outlines three categories of anti-Semitism. The “traditional” kind is based on Catholic teaching (since abandoned) that Jews killed Christ, and on medieval blood-libels (accusations that Jews killed children to mix their blood with Passover flatbread). The second, “modern”, sort is based on a belief in conspiracies by powerful Jews. The last kind, “secondary” anti-Semitism, holds that Jews abuse the history of the Holocaust. Others seek to categorise the miasma differently: eg, as racist, economic, cultural and religious; or explicit and coded; or soft and violent.

Many see a “new anti-Semitism” that developed after Israel’s victory in the six-day war of 1967. The Soviet Union and its vassals purged Jews on the grounds that they were Zionists and thus agents of America. This overlaps with Muslim Jew-hatred, which not only denounces Israel but also presents Jews as the enemies of Muslims since the time of the Prophet Muhammad. This form has proven the most murderous in recent decades. Global jihadists say they are fighting against “Jews and Crusaders”. In the West anti-Semitic acts by Muslim migrants tend to spike with rises in Israeli-Palestinian violence. Speaking at a protest against the war in Gaza in 2014, Appa, a Dutch-Moroccan rapper, blurred the line between politics and religion: “Fuck the Zionists! Fuck the Talmud!”

A wave of jihadist attacks against Jewish targets in Europe in 2012-15 resulted in 13 deaths in France, Belgium and Denmark. Increased security, and caution by many about revealing their Jewish identity, led to a drop in attacks on Jews. Attention shifted to anti-Semitism on the radical left. Britain’s Labour Party, the main opposition and political home of many Jews, has torn itself apart this year over which kind of criticism of Israel should be regarded as an attack on Jews. Jeremy Corbyn, its left-wing leader, agreed only grudgingly to accept that utterances repudiating Israel’s right to exist, or accusing it of behaving like the Nazis, were anti-Semitic.

Yet it is odd that right-wing anti-Semitism, obsessed with Jews at home, and the left-wing variety, focused on Jews in Israel, survive at all. The number of Jews in the world is quite small—about 6m apiece in Israel and America, and another 2.5m scattered elsewhere. Indeed, some talk of “anti-Semitism without Jews”.

The Pittsburgh murders were a stark reminder of the threat lurking on the far right, particularly among white supremacists who lump Jews in with blacks, Muslims and other minorities as objects of hatred. American far-right groups benefit from a greater degree of free speech than do European ones—and easy access to guns.

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Posted in Globalization, Judaism, Religion & Culture