Category : Other Faiths

(NYT) Chiune Sugihara: The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting

In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland.

Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. The cable from K. Tanaka at the foreign ministry read: “Concerning transit visas requested previously stop advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan stop no exceptions stop no further inquires expected stop.”

Sugihara talked about the refusal with his wife, Yukiko, and his children and decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.

Mr. Zimbardo calls the capacity to act differently the “heroic imagination,” a focus on one’s duty to help and protect others. This ability is exceptional, but the people who have it are often understated. Years after the war, Sugihara spoke about his actions as natural: “We had thousands of people hanging around the windows of our residence,” he said in a 1977 interview. “There was no other way.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Japan, Judaism, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(CL) Witchcraft Casts an Ever-Widening Spell on Millennials

If you’ve noticed an increase in references to witches and mysticism lately, that’s not just because Halloween is approaching. Surveys, social media sites and product branding indicate an increase in people who practice or are interested in witchcraft. Trend-spotters say millennials—especially young women—are drawn to Wicca, astrology and new-age spirituality.

About 1 to 1.5 million Americans label themselves Wiccan or pagan, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than the membership of some mainstream Christian denominations in the United States.

The rise in witchcraft is likely more than a trend, according to Carolyn Elliott, founder of Witch magazine. “We are in the midst of a beautiful, occult, witch renaissance,” she says. Her comment appears to be in line with the ever-increasing reach of the occult into the general population. In a series of three surveys conducted from 1990 to 2008, Trinity College watched Wicca rise from 8,000 practitioners to 340,000 over the course of those years. Now, as Pew reported in 2014, that number has risen to as many as 1.5 million.

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

(WSJ) Eliora Katz on Ecclesiastes–The Sunshine of the Vanities

Yet Ecclesiastes is far from nihilistic, and a deeper understanding of what Solomon means by “vanity” is the key to making sense of Sukkot. “Vanity” is the common translation of the Hebrew word hevel, which literally means “vapor” or “breath.” Hence, “fleeting” is a more suitable translation.

Solomon emphasizes that life is short but not meaningless. Consider Ecclesiastes 9:9, an exhortation to man, with hevel translated in this way: “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love all the fleeting days of life that have been granted to you under the sun—all your fleeting days, for that is your portion in life and in your toil that you toil under the sun.” A disposition to enjoy life transforms its ephemerality from a source of anxiety to a focus on the healthy pleasures of humanity. Life becomes an end in itself.

The Talmud resolves Ecclesiastes’ contradictory verses on joy by noting that whereas Solomon praises joy that ensues from performing a mitzvah (divine commandment), he derides joy that is not born out of a mitzvah. We can understand this to mean that true joy is joy with purpose—joy in the intentional pursuit of a larger goal.

Life’s transience should enhance, not weaken, our satisfaction.

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Posted in Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(NPR [from 2017]) What The Yom Kippur Fast Means To A Man Who’s Known Hunger

For Rosh Hashana, more than 350 members of Uganda’s Namutumba Synagogue dressed in white, chanted their prayers and feasted on a slaughtered cow to mark the beginning of a new Jewish year last week.

“We are so happy that we entered the new year with such joy and happiness,” said Namutumba’s spiritual leader Shadrach Mugoya Levi by telephone from Uganda.

It hasn’t always been easy for Levi or his community; in fact many years there was almost nothing eat because of drought. But this year the rains have been plentiful. There was ample food for the new year celebration and for dinner on Tuesday, before the 25-hour-long Yom Kippur fast that begins at sundown.

That’s not always been the case. There have been many times that Levi began the fast on an empty stomach. And a day without food didn’t seem that different from any other day….

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Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Judaism, Uganda

(WSJ) Nonbelievers Seek Political Power to Match Their Growing Numbers

As November’s midterm election approaches, nonbelievers in the U.S. are trying to build something that has long eluded them: political power.

The portion of U.S. adults who don’t identify with any religious group rose to 24% of the population in 2016 from 14% in 2000, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. But their political influence has lagged behind: Just 15% of voters in 2016 identified as not belonging to a religious group, according to exit polls.

A coalition of secular organizations is now determined to close that gap. This summer, they kicked off a nationwide voter registration drive, which will culminate with a get-out-the-secular-vote campaign in the fall. Their goal is also to politically galvanize nonbelievers around issues like separation of church and state and access to abortion.

There’s just one catch: How to unite a group of people whose common denominator is what they don’t believe? And even on that point, they are heterogeneous: 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans still describe themselves as a “a religious person,” according to PRRI.

“We don’t meet every week. That’s an issue,” said Ron Millar, PAC coordinator for the Center for Freethought Equality, a nonprofit group dedicated to boosting secularists’ political power.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Atlantic) Alexis Madrigal–Facebook believes too strongly in the goodness of people

In an unusually revealing moment for Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg told Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday that he didn’t support taking down content about Holocaust denial on Facebook. Zuckerberg is Jewish, and he finds such denials “deeply offensive,” he said. But Holocaust deniers were not “intentionally getting it wrong.”

When Swisher followed up that “in the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be,” Zuckerberg retreated to a stance he’s never quite made explicit before. “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said.

In place of “understanding” the intent, this statement makes clear that Facebook takes a default stance of assuming users act in good faith—or without intention, at least. Zuckerberg and Facebook have been repeatedly criticized, and accepted the criticism as largely true, that they have been too willing to ignore the potential negative ways the platform can be used. And yet here, one of the basic principles of how they moderate speech is to be so optimistic as to give Holocaust deniers the benefit of the doubt.

Zuckerberg seems to be imagining a circumstance where somebody watched a YouTube video that makes a case against the (real, documented, horrifying) Holocaust and ignorantly posts it to Facebook. Under the rules the platform has established, there is no penalty for that (in countries where Holocaust denial is not illegal)….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, History, Judaism, Theology, Violence

(PewR FactTank) Populist views in Europe: It’s not just the economy

Ethnocentrism also plays a role in this wave of populist views. About six-in-ten (61%) AfD supporters in Germany, a majority (56%) of National Front backers in France and nearly half (47%) of Party for Freedom (PVV) adherents in the Netherlands say their people’s culture is “superior to others.” This sense of national cultural pre-eminence is far less prevalent among the rest of the publics in their countries.

Another sentiment strongly expressed among those who support right-wing European populist parties is that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with their country’s culture and values: 75% of Germans with a positive view of AfD, 66% of Dutch PVV supporters and 63% of French National Front backers say Islam is “fundamentally incompatible with our culture and values.” About four-in-ten or fewer adults with unfavorable views of populist parties in these nations agree.

Old-fashioned nationalism is still evident in modern European right-wing populism, too.

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Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(LA Times) Avram Mlotek–Google could use a little godliness

Whether they realize it or not, technology leaders are writing a virtual universal constitution. What they’re doing is important to humanity. With a little spiritual guidance, maybe it’ll be easier for them to pause the emoji barrage and hear the human voice.

Just as clergy offer counsel to their congregants, the users, let’s bring chaplains into tech offices, the providers. Sure, it may be hard to envision the Pope giving a talk on sexuality at Tinder, but it’s a new dawn. Anything is possible and this rabbi is ready for the unexplored frontier. Google, you know where to find me.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

In 2009 an Anglican church was expelled from their building in Central NY under TEC Bishop Skip Adams and it became an Islamic Center for 1/3 the price the parish was willing to pay

Former Bishop of South Carolina, C. Fitzsimons Allison, has written about this matter here and described it as follows:

…nothing in the behavior of TEC suggests their goals with departing parishes and Dioceses have changed over time. They continue to litigate in the Diocese of Quincy, Illinois despite having lost at the highest level in the state courts there. In the Diocese of San Joaquin, California, after spending $15 million to recover the parish properties, only 21 have been declared “viable” with the other 25 reported as going up for sale. In Bishop Adams’ former diocese, the people of Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY were denied the purchase of their former church, seeing it sold for 1/3 their offer to become a mosque instead. The pattern of behavior is clear. For TEC, “reconciliation” has meant, “surrender, return the property and we’ll forgive you so you can rejoin us”. That is not a viable way forward.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Stewardship, TEC Bishops

(BBC) Chief rabbi: Labour should toughen up anti-Semitism code

The code does endorse the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes behaviours it lists as likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic – but critics point out that it leaves out four examples from that definition:

Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attacked the omission of these examples and said it was “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified” to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Spectator) Theo Hobson– Coffee House Justin Welby needs to get off the fence

He cheerfully admits that we can’t recreate a Christian-based social order – which was always a flawed thing anyway. But he cannot quite affirm our post-Christian social order, which privatises faith, and ‘leaves a vacuum’:

‘That is not to say at this stage that the answer is to reverse the privatisation of Christian faith (which is anyway not something within human gift) but rather that there is a need for a generous and hospitable meta-narrative within which competing truths can be held. It will be the suggestion of this book that Christian faith…provides the potential for such hospitable and generous holding.’

Is there an alternative to such awkward fence-sitting? As the leader of a Christian church he must say that Christianity is what the nation needs in order to reimagine the common good, but as this is the established Church of a liberal state he must also sound respectful of secular diversity. The problem is that his respect for secular diversity never quite sounds sincere. As I say, it sounds like he is reining in his dislike of it, forcing a cheerful smile.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Gerald McDermott–Attack on the Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi


This was the third time that Muslims have attacked Jos Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi.
The first time they stole his cattle. The second time they came to kill him. He was gone and so they savaged his wife, assaulting her womanhood, and left her half-dead.
[Friday] night all of his cattle were stolen by (Muslim) Fulani tribesmen, and when his dear neighbor Ayuba heard and shined a light on the rustlers, he was shot dead….

Here is what the AB wrote on FB:
…Ayuba Dung..
…Ayuba Dung..
A simple driver of a COCIN (a Nigerian Christian denomination) chairman…
Has a family a wife and children, living in an uncompleted house of his own. The doors and widows waiting to be bought to be fixed. He had hopes of finishing his house and living peacefully with his family.
The story changed last night…
He was shot through the head because he flashed his light when he heard footsteps of cattle being rustled…
The cows were mine…
I was at the Archbishop’s home today. Some of his bishops and priests with their wives were there, along with Gloria his wife and their many adopted orphan children. They were there to consult, and to encourage him. There was no grimness. Many smiled warmly. The general attitude was, “This is what God has called us to–mission amidst persecution. We love one another, and the devil is driving us Christians closer together.”
One of those who called on him to offer condolences was a Fulani tribal leader, a Muslim. He showed that not all the Fulani agree with what these terrorists, their fellow tribesmen, are doing.
At the same time, one of his priests told me that these Muslim Fulani were making a statement: “We know who you are. Be on the alert.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

Gerald McDermott–Religious Cleansing in Jos

Christians here are incensed that the Nigerian president is telling the world that the explanation for this brutality is conflict between Fulani herdsman and farmers. As a Nigerian headline put it, “Bukhari [the president] says 300 Fulani cows were stolen.” In other words, the Fulani herdsmen retaliated because their cows were stolen.

There are several problems with this explanation. The Fulani herdsman, who are Muslims, have lived in peace with their Christian neighbors for decades. Also, they cried out “Allahu akbar [Allah is great]!” as they swooped in upon these villages with death and terror.

The real story, Christians tell me, is that Islamists from other countries (like Niger and possibly Saudi Arabia) have radicalized previously-peaceful Muslim herdsmen. And the government, which is controlled by a Muslim administration, is taking advantage of this to consolidate its hold on this Middle Belt of Nigeria. Right now Jos is majority-Christian. But if the government can use these radicals to drive Christians out, Jos can become a majority-Muslim area.

The world media is reporting this as an “ethnic clash.” Some call it ethnic cleansing. But it is really religious cleansing. As Anglican Archbishop Ben Kwashi (seen here preaching) told us yesterday, a mere “clash” does not murder women and children.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

([London] Times) Act now on civil partnerships, urge mixed-sex couple after court win

The extension of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is one of the planks of The Times’s campaign with the Marriage Foundation to reform family law.

Lord Kerr, announcing the court’s decision, said the government “does not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same-sex and different sex couples. To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified.” He said that the government sought “tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it. That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim.” He added that it was “salutary to recall that a declaration of incompatibility does not oblige the government or parliament to do anything”.

However, there is mounting support for the change. Tim Loughton, MP, who has led a campaign for a change in the law, said that he was seeking an urgent meeting with ministers to amend a private member’s bill that is going through parliament at present, and was confident of support. “We now have a decision; we need to act on it,” he said.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Secularism, Women