Category : Other Faiths

(Sightings) Martin Marty–Are traditional holy days still something more than just any other day?

“Sunday Is Not the New Monday” shouted the headline of the “Success” section in a recent edition of our Chicago Tribune (Monday, December 30, 2019). Having many reasons—cultural, theological, traditional, personal, etc.—to care about Sunday (or analogues to it in Judaism, Adventism, Islam, and more) I took the bait and read on. Author John Boitnott opens the article with a description of what Sunday used to mean—or what he thinks it used to mean—and how it served: “Sunday used to be for relaxing, spending time with family and friends and catching up on personal tasks.” Boitnott says that he associates with “entrepreneurs” and authors of advice columns who encourage their readers to “stay available for work outside traditional business hours.”

Boitnott offers four clusters of advice in settings where “work” casts its shadow on Sundays: “Stop the guilt,” “Remove yourself from the work environment,” “Set limits and retrain those around you,” and “Plan for Monday on Friday.” So far, so good, if “workism” or “workaholism” is your problem. But is that all that is at stake and all that is to be offered to face the problem? We Sightings columnists are charged to notice those overlookable stories wherein religion or the religious may in fact be significant. Reread the Boitnott sentence again, the one about how “Sunday used to be for relaxing, spending time with family and friends and catching up on personal tasks.” Yes, but for tens of millions of North Americans, among others, Sundays (for Christians; Fridays for Muslims; Shabbat for Jews; etc.) were also for helping people tend to general and specific matters of the spirit and the soulful flourishing of life….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Media, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(CC) China’s attack on the Uighurs and their Muslim faith

To coerce behavior in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has employed thousands of security agents along with high-tech forms of surveillance, in­cluding security cameras and facial recognition software. Because the Chinese press is censored by the government, news of these abuses has filtered out of the region largely through foreign journalists and independent researchers. China denied the existence of the internment camps until classified government documents were leaked last year; since then, government officials have described the camps as “vocational centers.”

China’s role as scheduled host of the 2022 Winter Olympics offers the world a chance to speak up for the Uighurs and apply pressure on the government to relent. So far, China’s economic clout on the world stage has rendered many nations hesitant to respond. The US shows no signs of making religious freedom for the Uighurs a key issue in trade negotiations.

The US Congress is, however, considering a bill that would direct the Trump administration to identify Chinese officials involved in the abuses and to deny them entry to the US and freeze their financial assets. The bill would also impose sanctions on tech firms that supply China with equipment used in repression and surveillance. The bill passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate. As modest as it is, such a law would be one of the more significant international efforts to hold Chinese leaders accountable for their brutal and systematic assault on a religious community.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WBUR) Can Spirituality Exist Without God? A Growing Number Of Americans Say Yes

Tippett also talks about those who use nature to experience the spiritual. One of those she interviewed was former priest John O’Donohue, who spoke about the abstract aesthetics of the landscape he grew up in, which he said were “all laid down by some wild surrealistic kind of deity like a wild invitation to extend your imagination.”

She says that this plays into the notion of “awe” and the work of Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

“And not only is an awe a real thing,” Tippett says, “awe is a life-giving, health-giving thing.”

While “awe” has been historically connected to religion and belief in God, she says Keltner’s research shows humans can experience awe through the natural world.

To her, part of the key is that mind, body and spirit are not separate — she says the spiritually she pursues is about connecting your inner and outer self, making space for discernment and authenticity. It’s about “constantly coming back, looking inward, getting re-centered, looking beyond ourselves,” she says.

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

Stephen Freeman–Hidden from the Eyes of Modernity

The modern world is dominated by the cult of politics. There is no better way to describe how we imagine things to work. Regardless of our protests to the contrary, contemporary people believe in a secular world – a world that operates according to its own laws and principles (cause and effect) – and where those with power are those who are able to “make things happen.” Power is understood to be identical with coercion (or the “authority” to coerce) and wealth (the ability to pay people to do your bidding). The apex of this power is identified with governments. As such, we understand “politics” to be the primary means of controlling and shaping the world. This is life as cult. We are told (and agree) that the thing we call “government” controls and shapes the world, and that it is its legitimate role. Every protest to the contrary is met either with perhaps two verses of Scripture (if you’re a Christian) or dismissal as some sort of nut (perhaps an Amish nut of sorts).

Much of this cult has been created in the crucible of modernity itself. At its heart, modernity (and all of its political forms) teaches that the shaping and control of history is the proper role of government. It is the agent of change. If anyone resists this claim or refuses to participate, then they are charged with failing to take up their responsibilities. It is a cult that demands our participation (the very nature of a cult).

Malick’s film concludes with a quote from George Elliot’s Middlemarch:

“..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I would go further than Elliot. The hidden life is the only true life, and what is deemed “historic” is little more than propaganda. The propaganda does not serve the moment-by-moment reality that each of us necessarily inhabits. Rather, it serves to empower those who most want to do violence without the distraction of a conscience.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(AJ) ‘Coming to God without freedom is not coming to God’: Philosopher Charles Taylor on seeing God in church decline

Why are fewer people going to church?

It’s very hard to put your finger on this, but this is what I’m trying to work out: that there’s another kind of spiritual life, spiritual searching, going on to a great extent in our contemporary West—sometimes it’s in totally different religions, or totally non-religious—and that this somehow is taking off at the expense of an earlier way of expressing one’s spirituality, which involves being members of national churches or in the case of a very diverse country like Canada, at least a church which you know is very big and solid in some parts of the country.

It’s not that religion is disappearing, or spirituality is disappearing; it’s taking different forms. If you put yourself in the mindset of people, in particular of younger people, who are concerned about the meaning of life, concerned about becoming better people, more loving, more open, etc., and are seeking in some way some discipline—it could be meditation, it could be various things—if you put yourself in the mindset of these people, when they go to the pews the least bad thing is that they don’t feel it’s very relevant! The worst thing is they feel that their whole way of approaching this is not really appreciated and it may be seen as threatening the people in the pews. Now of course this is perhaps more the case—I’m a Catholic—in the case of the Catholic church [laughs], where you have these very backward-looking people who are screaming abuse at [Pope] Francis and so on [laughs]!

That’s the extreme case, where you actually feel, “I’d better rush out of this place [laughs]! Or I’m going to be badly treated.” But the least worrying or problematic [for those outside the church] is just that this is not a concern that people [in the pews] recognize, this searching concern. “Everything is all settled, and we’re all together in these pews affirming it.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Books, Canada, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(WSJ) Marina Gerner–Simon Wiesenthal’s story is example of how Jews can find hope in dark times

In an obituary, the British-Austrian journalist Hella Pick wrote that Wiesenthal always liked to be addressed as “Mr. Engineer.” But when he was asked why he didn’t return to architecture after the Holocaust, he said his belief in God and the afterlife prevented him. The millions who died in the camps, reunited in the afterlife, would ask their fellow Jews what they had done: “You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Still another will say, ‘I built houses,’ but I will say, ‘I didn’t forget you.’ ”

For those horrified by the recent attacks against Jewish communities, Wiesenthal’s story raises important questions: Who will stand up for their Jewish neighbors? How will legal justice be served? And how can we maintain spirituality amid persecution? There are many ways of being resilient, but forgetting is not an option.

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Posted in Eschatology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Intruder in Monsey Screamed ‘I’ll Get You’ in Machete Attack on Jews

When he was caught, the intruder was still covered in the blood of his victims — five Hasidic Jews he had stabbed wildly with a machete at a rabbi’s home while candles on the Hanukkah menorah still burned.

He had concealed his face with a scarf when he burst into the home in this Hasidic community in the New York suburbs at about 10 p.m. on Saturday, the police and witnesses said.

“At the beginning, he started wielding his machete back and forth, trying to hit everyone around,” said Josef Gluck, 32, who was at the home of the Hasidic rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, for the celebration of the seventh night of Hanukkah.

Mr. Gluck said the assailant screamed at him, “Hey you, I’ll get you” during the attack.

In terror, people fled the living room. Mr. Gluck recalled dashing into the kitchen, picking up a small child and then going down a back porch. Mr. Gluck returned, saw an older victim bleeding heavily and then tried to confront the attacker.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Terrorism, Violence

(NZ Herald) ‘This is mass rape’: China slammed over programme that ‘appoints’ men to sleep with Uighur women

In November, various Western media outlets reported that Han Chinese men had been assigned to monitor the homes of Uighur women whose husbands had been detained in prison camps.

The reports came out after an anonymous Chinese official gave an interview with Radio Free Asia, confirming the program but denying there was anything sinister about it.

As part of the “Pair Up and Become Family” programme, Han Chinese men stay with and sleep in the same beds as Uighur women.

According to the Chinese Government, the programme is designed to “promote ethnic unity”.

But to Rushan Abbas, a Uighur activist whose family members have been detained in the Xinjiang camps for more than a year, it’s nothing more than systemised rape – part of the Government’s brutal ongoing crackdown against the country’s ethnic minority.

“This is mass rape,” she told news.com.au. “The Government is offering money, housing and jobs to Han people to come and marry Uighur people.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Sexuality, Violence

(WSJ) Ari Lamm–The Christian Hanukkah Tradition

Christians focused almost exclusively on the theme of martyrdom. In particular, they were fascinated by a narrative found in 2 Maccabees about an anonymous Jewish woman and her seven sons who allowed themselves to be tortured and killed by Antiochus rather than violate their faith. Early Christian writers understood the Jewish martyrs as role models, who achieved the ultimate goal of escaping this world for a better one. According to Ambrose, the fourth-century bishop of Milan, the mother could have encouraged her sons to avoid death, “but she considered that her maternal love lay in [urging] her sons to a life that is everlasting rather than an earthly one.”

The authoritative story of the Maccabean era in Jewish tradition is quite different. Jewish rabbinical literature in antiquity didn’t focus at all on the Maccabean martyrs in the context of Hanukkah. Instead it emphasized the role of the Jewish fighters and what happened after their victory. Like the Christian retellings, Jewish tradition focused on the partnership between man and God. But rather than locating that partnership in heaven, it identified it here on earth.

Jewish tradition’s emphasis on the Hanukkah miracle of the oil reinforces this point. In a story popularized in American culture by Jewish celebrities like Adam Sandler, rabbinical literature records that when the Jewish fighters finally recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, they sought to rekindle its seven-branched oil lamp, best known by its Hebrew name, menorah. Although they only had enough oil for one night, it lasted miraculously for eight nights until the Jews were able to procure a new supply. This tradition focuses on temporal existence. The miracle of the menorah allows the Jews to work at resuming their regular lives here on Earth.

While Christian tradition connected the story of the Maccabean era to the Temple’s menorah, it did so in a different way. In praising the Maccabean martyrs, the Syriac Christian writer Severus of Antioch wrote: “Not so [truly] did the candlestick of seven lights which made glorious the temporal Temple give light, as did this woman with the seven human lights, her sons, give light to the Church.” Severus played down the significance of the Temple’s menorah by comparing its seven branches with the seven martyrs who left this world behind.

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Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Michael Gotlieb–A Rabbi Walks Into a Presbyterian Church

As a Jew, I have a deep love for and admiration of Christianity. I identify with Jesus’ protests against mechanized, nascent rabbinic practice, and the well-established priestly cult of his day. Jesus knew what many committed Jews have long known: Rabbinic law runs the risk of becoming an end unto itself. Halacha, the Hebrew term for Jewish law, doesn’t directly translate to “law.” It means “way” or “path.”

Unfortunately for too many Jews, Halacha became a veil—an intermediary—between the individual and God. Rulings on Jewish law are frequently engulfed in a labyrinth of casuistic hairsplitting debate. Great rabbinic minds often have been diverted away from timeless moral issues only to rule on the superficial, like whether aluminum foil or bottled water is kosher.

My time at Brentwood Presbyterian also has made me reflect on the decline of Christian affiliation in the U.S. Christianity has become increasingly marginalized alongside Judaism.

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Posted in Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Other Churches, Presbyterian

(WSJ) How China Persuaded One Muslim Nation (Indonesia) to Keep Silent on Xinjiang Camps

A year ago, clerics here in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country expressed alarm over China’s treatment of ethnic-minority Muslims—around a million of whom have been detained in re-education camps, according to human-rights groups.

Leaders of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, issued an open letter in December 2018 noting reports of violence against the “weak and innocent” community of Uighurs, who are mostly Muslims, and appealing to Beijing to explain.

Soon after, Beijing sprang into action with a concerted campaign to convince Indonesia’s religious authorities and journalists that the re-education camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are a well-meaning effort to provide job training and combat extremism.

More than a dozen top Indonesian religious leaders were taken to Xinjiang and visited re-education facilities. Tours for journalists and academics followed. Chinese authorities gave presentations on terrorist attacks by Uighurs and invited visitors to pray at local mosques. In the camps they visited classrooms where they were told students received training in everything from hotel management to animal husbandry.

Views in Indonesia changed. A senior Muhammadiyah religious scholar who went on the tour was quoted in the group’s official magazine as saying a camp he visited was excellent, had comfortable classrooms and wasn’t like a prison.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Indonesia, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Economist) Short Creek starts to move beyond its past as a very very conservative Mormon Community

Judging by its shops, Short Creek seems more like a trendy suburb of somewhere like Portland than a small town on the Utah-Arizona border with just shy of 8,000 people. There are two health-food stores, a bakery and a vape shop. The occasional sight of women in prairie dresses and the huge houses with thick walls are the only conspicuous evidence Short Creek was once home to an American theocracy.

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (lds), better known as the Mormon church, abandoned several controversial doctrines in 1890, there were dissenters. Some, seeking to preserve abandoned institutions such as “plural marriage” (polygamy) and communal ownership, formed communities practising “Old-Fashioned Mormonism”. By the early 1930s Short Creek was such a place….

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

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to the Chief Rabbi’s Statement

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Labour antisemitism: Corbyn not fit for high office, says Chief Rabbi Mirvis

Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism allegations makes him “unfit for high office”, the Chief Rabbi has said while warning that the “very soul of our nation is at stake” in next month’s general election.

In an unprecedented intervention into politics, which he describes as “amongst the most painful moments” of his career, Ephraim Mirvis says that “a new poison” has taken hold in Labour “sanctioned from the very top”.

In an article for The Times today, the Chief Rabbi says that the Labour leader’s claim to have dealt with all allegations of antisemitism is “a mendacious fiction” and the way that the party has handled the claims is “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud”.

Read it all (subscription).

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

(Guardian) ‘Allow no escapes’: leak exposes reality of China’s vast prison camp network

The internal workings of a vast chain of Chinese internment camps used to detain at least a million people from the nation’s Muslim minorities are laid out in leaked Communist Party documents published on Sunday.

The China Cables, a cache of classified government papers, appear to provide the first official glimpse into the structure, daily life and ideological framework behind centres in north-western Xinjiang region that have provoked international condemnation.

Obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with the Guardian, the BBC and 15 other media partners, the documents have been independently assessed by experts who have concluded they are authentic. China said they had been “fabricated”.

However, the documents are consistent with mounting evidence that the country runs detention camps that are secret, involuntary and used for ideological “education transformation”.

When reports surfaced of mass internments without trial, authorities in Beijing initially denied the existence of the detention centres, whose inmates are mostly Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) Tunku Varadarajan–A Hindu-Muslim Clash, a Jury-Rigged Fix

Anyone who has visited India for longer than a few days is likely familiar with jugaad, a Hindi word that describes a workaround solution to a problem, often a clumsy fix that cuts corners or bends rules. The closest English equivalents are “hack” and “kludge,” methods employed when conventional solutions are costly, arduous or impossible.

Indians usually encounter jugaadin the more humdrum spheres of life—getting a seat on a train, for example, or a low-cost repair to a car. Yet the concept has now moved to a more elevated perch—the Supreme Court of India, which, in a judgment that seeks to resolve the country’s most incendiary religious dispute, has engaged in what can only be described as jugaad jurisprudence.

First, in brief, the story, which brings together religion and title to property, two notions that have caused more strife in human affairs than almost anything else….

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Islam, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Civil partnership changes to become law next month

MPs were told that there are over three million opposite-sex couples that cohabit but choose not to marry for personal reasons. While these couples support a million children, they do not have the security or legal protection that married couples or civil partners enjoy.

The instrument extends civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples in England and Wales, by amending the definition of civil partnerships and the eligibility criteria for registering as civil partners in the 2004 Act, to remove the same-sex requirement.

It also amends Part 5 of the 2004 Act so that certain opposite-sex relationships formed in other countries, which are not marriages, can be recognised as civil partnerships in England and Wales.

The instrument also provides specific protections for religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf. The religious protections recognise the potential for diversity of religious views in this area, particularly whilst some religious organisations may choose not to be involved in any civil partnerships, others may be content to host only civil partnerships between same-sex couples, and others may prefer only to be involved in civil partnerships between opposite-sex couples, the paper explains.

The instrument also introduces a new ‘non-compulsion’ clause so that religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf cannot be compelled to do specified acts (such as allowing religious premises to be used for civil partnerships, or participating in civil partnerships on religious premises), where either the organisation, or the person, does not wish to do so.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology, Women

(BBC) Burford school agrees to provide alternative to Christian assembly

A couple who threatened to take a school to the High Court over its religious assemblies have won their fight for alternative activities for their children.

Lee and Lizianne Harris withdrew their two children from assemblies at Burford Primary School in Oxfordshire over fears they were being “indoctrinated”.

The legal bid said the school breached their right to freedom of belief.

Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust said the case had diverted valuable funds.

The couple, who are non-religious, enrolled their children at the town’s only state school in 2015, before the trust took over.

But the children were unhappy watching Bible stories, including the crucifixion, during the Wednesday assemblies.

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths

Church of England teaching document calls for repentance over role of Christians in centuries of antisemitism

Christian theology played a part in the stereotyping and persecution of Jewish people which ultimately led to the Holocaust, a new reflection on Christian-Jewish relations issued by the Church of England acknowledges.

The teaching document, entitled God’s Unfailing Word, is the first authoritative statement on the subject from the Church of England. It speaks of attitudes towards Judaism over many centuries as providing a “fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism”.

It urges Anglicans and other Christians not only to repent of the “sins of the past” towards their Jewish neighbours but to be alert to and actively challenge such attitudes or stereotypes.

The document, published by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, encourages Christians to rediscover the relationship of “unique significance” between the two faiths, worshipping one God, with scriptures shared in common.

The Christian-Jewish relationship should be viewed as a “gift of God to the Church” to be received with care, respect and gratitude, it makes clear.

Read it all and make sure to follow to the link at the bottom to the full document.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism

(Dawn) In Pakistan, an Anglican Archbishop stresses tolerance

Anglican Archbishop of North America Reverend Foley Beach on Tuesday emphasised the importance of love and tolerance to overcome the challenges of extremism and discrimination that plague the world.

He was speaking at a reception hosted in his honour by National Council of Churches President Azad Marshall here. At the start of the event, moderator Pastor Emmanuel Khokhar welcomed the archbishop to Pakistan and hoped that his stay would be a pleasant one and full of love.

The event was attended by Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, Badshahi Masjid Khateeb Dr Abdul Khabeer Azad, Jamia Naeemia patron Dr Ragheb Naeemi, Pir Ziaul Haq Naqshbandi Qadri, Maulana Asim Makhdoom and Bishop of Multan Leo Roderick Paul among others.

Addressing the gathering, Bishop Dr Azad called for peaceful coexistence of all religious and ethnic groups living in Pakistan. He said both Christianity and Islam preached peace and brotherhood and called for promoting tolerance in Pakistani society.

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Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

(SF Chronicle) Leader of Fremont, California, Muslim organization out after allegations of misconduct

A Muslim organization based in Fremont has severed ties with its founder after an internal investigation corroborated allegations of “professional misconduct” and other offenses, officials of the Ta’leef Collective said this week in a statement.

The nonprofit organization serves as a community for Muslims, offering a range of services that includes prayer circles, support for formerly incarcerated people and outreach to new converts to Islam. Founder Usama Canon is known for working with youth and adult inmates and former inmates in California and Illinois.

It’s unclear how many people Ta’leef Collective serves, and the group did not respond to a call and email requesting comment. The collective operates a second location in Chicago.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Channel 7 Denver) Pueblo white supremacist arrested in ‘domestic terrorism’ case after plans to bomb synagogue

A white supremacist from Pueblo was arrested Friday when he met up with three undercover FBI agents in an attempt to bomb the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo as part of what he called a “racial holy war” and to wipe the synagogue “off the map” in what the FBI says amounts to “domestic terrorism.”

Richard Holzer, 27, made his first court appearance at 2 p.m. Monday at the U.S. District Court of Colorado. Court records show he faces one count of attempting to obstruct religious exercise by force using explosives and fire.

According to a criminal complaint , undercover FBI agents had been talking with Holzer since September and had been tracking multiple Facebook accounts of his in which he talked to other white supremacists through private messages about attacking Jewish people and other minority groups.

Among the messages he wrote was one in which he said, “I wish the Holocaust really did happen,” and another in which he said he was getting ready to shoot people while showing pictures of him holding guns and white supremacist regalia.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

([London] Times) Hugo Rifkind reviews Richard Dawkins Latest book ‘outgrowing God’

Here, alas, probably because religion makes him so very cross, he often sounds more like Owl hectoring Winnie-the-Pooh. “This really is the sort of thing theologians spend their time thinking about,” he’ll tell us peevishly, or “the Roman Catholic Church was very silly” to have authenticated a supposed miracle in Portugal. Throughout a long, excruciating passage about Noah’s Ark he refers to “Mr and Mrs Wombat” and “Mr and Mrs Kangaroo”.

From the get-go we’re into his favourite argument, made many times before, which is that there’s no more reason to believe in the Christian god than any other. “Like you I expect, I don’t believe in Jupiter or Poseidon or Thor or Venus or Cupid or Snotra or Mars or Odin or Apollo,” he writes. “I don’t believe in Anyanwu, Mawu, Ngai . . .” Yes, we get it. Please stop.

A rolling, extensive list of everything else he doesn’t believe dominates part one. Quite a lot of it is about how bits of the Bible are contradicted by other bits, or inspired by previous works, or just not very nice. He’s very angry, for example, about the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. “Is it possible to imagine a worse trick to play on someone?” he thunders. Likewise, about God’s instructions in the Old Testament about what ought to be done with the Canaanites. “Nowadays,” he writes, “we’d call it ethnic cleansing and child abuse.”

Is it wrong to find all this a bit low-rent? Only very occasionally do you get an insight that stands out, such as the one about Hell needing to be so horrid precisely because the idea of going there is so implausible; otherwise it would be harder to inspire the necessary dread. Also, sometimes, thank God (or whoever) the attempts at wit actually land. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s husband,” he suggests as an antidote to the sexism embedded in the Ten Commandments. “Nor her Jaguar. Nor her doctoral degree.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Atheism, Books, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Devon Live) Yoga teacher barred from using church hall because classes are ‘not compatible with Christian beliefs’

A Devon yoga teacher says she was “very surprised” to be told she could not use a local church hall for classes due to religious reasons.

Yoga teacher Atsuko Kato, 54, said she was told that yoga was “not compatible with Christian beliefs”.

Atsuko, who has been teaching yoga for 25 years – including one class attended by a local vicar – says she doesn’t understand why it is an issue.

But the church at the centre of the row says yoga cannot be allowed because it does not acknowledge that “there is only one God and that…Jesus Christ is God himself”.

Yoga originated in Northern India and has connections to both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(DMN) Joshua J. Whitfield–Are we are no longer bound together by religion, but by vacuous consumption addictions?

If religion is that which holds our attention and which binds us together, then it’s not Christianity. Christianity today is mostly just sentimentality, escapist devotion, mere identity politics and mere posture. It’s no longer religion in any genuine sense. Because what holds our attention today, what binds us together, are no longer dogma and precepts, but instead all those decadent diversions, customs and conventions of our rich but interiorly vacuous society. This is our religion today: binge-watching Netflix, consumption addictions to various social media, pornography, and the litanies of endless news, fake or otherwise. This is what we relegit, what we re-read, what holds our attention, not God or the good, the true, or the beautiful. This is the new religion, homogenizing imagination and sedating moral impulse, rendering us more pliable to the free movement of capital. This is the economic spirituality of “influence.” This is the theology of advertising.

Likewise, we also see our new religion in what schedules us. No longer rhythmed by the worship of our gods or by the earth’s seasons, now our lives are paced by the quarters of our fiscal year, by our Black Fridays, for instance, and no longer our Thanksgivings. Add to this, especially among the middle classes, the religion of sports, that countless meaningless practices and games now set the schedules for innumerable families, no longer Sabbaths or Sundays or family ties. That is truly religare. This is what binds us, not holy days, rituals or quaint moralities. More than any persecutions, these have displaced the old religions: these new screened, advertised, unstable rites and less any incarnate, old, fickle gods.

And it’s why the question for me is not how we’ll live in some new non-religious world, but about what piety and devotion looks like in this new emerging religion. But of course, this, I admit, I can’t begin to imagine, tied, as I prefer to be, to my ancient God. I just wonder if it will be a religion of charity, a religion that will either cherish or kill the poor. I wonder if it will restore or ruin the earth, if it’s a religion of equality or elites. These are the questions that haunt me as I wonder what the “nones” with their “nothing in particular” will become.

Because they must become something. I’m just frightened by what that may be.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Vatican News) Abrahamic religions: no to euthanasia, assisted suicide, yes to palliative care

“We oppose any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician-assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions.”

Representatives of the Abrahamic religions made the statement in a position paper that they signed and released in the Vatican on Monday regarding end-of-life issues, such as euthanasia, assisted suicide and palliative care.

The term, Abrahamic monotheistic religions, derives from the Old Testament biblical figure Abraham who is recognized by Jews, Christians, Muslims and others.

They categorically condemned any pressure upon dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NPR) An Advocate For Kazakhs Persecuted In China Is Banned From Activism In Kazakhstan

One afternoon last month, Serikjan Bilash went to the watchdog organization he co-founded in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to celebrate the opening of its new office.

Since its founding in 2017, the organization, Atajurt Eriktileri, has publicized thousands of accounts of ethnic Kazakhs who are among the primarily Muslim minorities rounded up in detention centers in Xinjiang, China.

But instead of entering the office that day, Bilash hovered outside the door, reaching only his hand in to greet well-wishers. The Kazakh government barred him from political activism for seven years for the charge of “inciting ethnic tensions.”

“I can work as a taxi driver. I can work as a cleaner or a barman. But I cannot work as a political person,” says Bilash, a Kazakh citizen born in China. “I can’t stand up, and I can’t speak openly to my nation. They closed my mouth.”

The punishment against Bilash has bolstered suspicions among Kazakh rights advocates that Kazakhstan’s government is working to silence a prominent critic of China in order to please its powerful neighbor and investment partner. That has sent chills through Kazakhstan’s Chinese-born community.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Post-Gazette) ‘We are still here’: Jewish community, city come together to remember and repair one year after attack

Wounded, but still healing. Still here.

Still praying, studying Torah, volunteering on behalf of immigrants and others who are needy, still honoring their beloved martyrs, still doing acts of mercy and devotion.

At every turn Sunday, the Jewish and wider Pittsburgh community defied a gunman’s contempt as they honored the memory of 11 martyrs a year to the date of the deadly attack on three congregations meeting at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

Participants began the day with numerous volunteer activities throughout the Pittsburgh area. Several gathered in the afternoon for a series of Torah study sessions. Throughout the day, a steady stream of people stopped to pay respects at the scene of the synagogue at the intersection of Shady and Wilkins avenues.

Read it all and take a look atthis piece also.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) Silicon Valley Goes to Therapy

“In Silicon Valley,” Mr. Seibel added, “we did not talk this much about mental health even three years ago.” He estimates that more than 50 related start-ups are coming onto the scene. His firm just funded three: Stoic; Quirk, an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to treat people with anxiety and depression; and Mindset Health, which creates hypnotherapy apps that it says can treat anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Mindset Health was founded by two brothers, Alex and Chris Naoumidis, who previously created a peer-to-peer dress-sharing app for women. When that app failed, the brothers felt overcome with anxiety.

“We fell into this period of mental health problems,” said Alex Naoumidis, 24.

The brothers tried some of the existing wellness apps — meditation products, mindfulness tools — but remained unmoored. Their father suggested in-person hypnotherapy. It gave them the idea for Mindset.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Secularism

(UnHerd in 2018) Losing their religion: the priests who turned from God

Over the course of less than two decades, [Richard] Holloway moved from doubts over the uses to which religion can be put to a complete rejection of its divine origins. That path is one that many others have made and many more doubtless fear making. But what makes Holloway different is not merely that he made this journey whilst himself being a member of the clergy or that he wrote about it whilst doing so. What is different and significant about Holloway is that while he became disenchanted with traditional religion and while he became surer of its man-made nature he nevertheless saw that there remained something in religion, and the Christian story in particular, that deserved and needed to be saved.

In his 2012 memoir, Leaving Alexandria, he described with frankness not only the fundamentalism that had pushed him away from the church, but those few hopes he had still had left for it. His religion is now, he says, “pared away to almost nothing” 7, and he asks what he is left believing. ‘Was religion a lie? Not necessarily, but it was a mistake. Lies are just lies, but mistakes can be corrected and lessons can be learned from them. “The mistake’” he says,”‘was to think religion was more than human.”

Though he concludes that religion was a work of the human imagination he reiterates that that itself is not nothing. If it could be appreciated as other works of the human imagination are appreciated – so long as people did not fall over again into thinking it was more than that – if it could be appreciated like Shakespeare, and Proust, Elgar, Tolstoy, Gaugin or Nietzsche (to use Holloway’s list) and seen to have no more authority than them, then the uses of religion might still be for the good.

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Posted in Atheism, Books, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church