Category : Other Faiths

(NPR) Debate On Role Of Islam Divides German Government

Germany’s new minister of interior, Horst Seehofer, has stirred up debate about the role of Islam in Germany.

In an interview with the German newspaper BILD Seehofer said: “Islam is not a part of Germany. Germany has been influenced by Christianity. This includes free Sundays, church holidays and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. However, the Muslims living in Germany obviously do belong to Germany.”

This statement conflicted with the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel said, even though Germany has been influenced mainly by Christianity and Judaism, there are more than four million Muslims in the country, they “belong to Germany and so does their religion.”

Konstantin von Notz, member of the opposition Green party, protests, “The statement of Interior Minister Seehoher is complete nonsense. Germany cannot afford such behavior in the important questions of integration.”

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Economist) The number of ex-Muslims in America is rising

As soon as he stepped off the plane on a family holiday to Kenya, Mahad Olad knew something was wrong. His mother, a “very devout, very conservative, very Wahhabi” woman, was acting strangely—furtively taking phone calls when she thought he was out of earshot. His suspicions would soon be proved correct. Mr Olad’s family, Somali immigrants to America and devout Muslims, had discovered that he had not only renounced Islam but was also gay. The holiday was a ruse, an intervention to save his soul.

Mr Olad was told he would leave college and be turned over the next day to the care of Muslim clerics who would restore his faith. “I was aware of the horrors of these camps,” Mr Olad says. “They operate them in the middle of nowhere, where you cannot escape. They subject you to beatings, starvation and trampling.” He tried to contact the American embassy, but it could not send help because of recent terrorist attacks nearby. Luckily, he also managed to reach a Kenyan atheist group. In the dead of night he sneaked into his mother’s room, stole his passport and was whisked away by taxi to the embassy, which eventually returned him safely to America. He has not spoken to his family since.

Though few have such harrowing stories, hundreds of thousands of American Muslims might recognise something like their own experience in Mr Olad’s tale. As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims. According to the Pew Research Centre, 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most of them are young second-generation immigrants who have come to reject the religion of their parents. Some, however, are older when their crisis of faith arrives, already married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran at weekends.

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

(WSJ) Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: Learning to Pray When Words Fail–Disorders like aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths

Julie Shulman decided to study linguistics because she wanted to help people with speaking disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. After graduating from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University in 2000, the Maine native headed to Massachusetts for a master’s degree and job in speech therapy. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline. They returned to Israel in 2009—with promising careers and three young children.

Two weeks after their return, Mr. Shulman, then 37, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Despite the initially grim prognosis, his cognitive function is intact. But his speech is limited to sentences of three or four words, and his reading and writing abilities are limited.

Along with Mr. Shulman, at least two million people in the U.S. live with aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association. Some 180,000 acquire the disorder every year. The condition, which produces a disconnect between what the brain wants to convey and what is actually expressed, often strikes survivors of strokes or head trauma without affecting their intelligence. The incidence is growing because medical advancements enable people with such maladies to survive at higher rates. Yet cures for the ensuing handicaps remain elusive.

Ms. Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation.


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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(AP) 3 rural Illinois men charged with Minnesota mosque bombing

Federal authorities on Tuesday charged three men from rural central Illinois with the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last year and said one of the suspects told an investigator the goal of the attack was to “scare” Muslims out of the United States.

A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield, Illinois, says the men also are suspected in the attempted bombing of an abortion clinic. The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, was bombed just before morning prayers on Aug. 5, causing a fire and extensive damage although no one was injured or killed. And there was an attempted bombing of the Champaign, Illinois, Women’s Health Practice on Nov. 7.

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

(Spectator) Tim Wyatt–Archbishop Justin Welby’s stance on sharia law is a welcome relief

In firmly rejecting [Rowan] Williams’s proposals, Welby has identified the problems with integrating sharia law. But he’s also done more than that, by giving an insight into the vital role the Church of England can play in community cohesion. Unlike criticism from politicians or the press, Welby can speak to Muslim communities – who often feel excluded, misunderstood and hated – from a position of sympathy not antagonism. As a fellow person of faith, he has a voice in these knotty questions of law, God and ethics that no government minister or newspaper editorial could offer. When he calmly but clearly explains why sharia cannot be incorporated into British law he has a chance of actually being heard by British Muslims. He and his fellow Anglicans, with their long track record of standing up for minority faith groups, can and must act as critical friends to other believers, challenging and protecting in equal measure. In doing so they will build greater cross-cultural harmony than any Home Office strategy ever could.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture

(Economist Erasmus Blog) For Dutch Jews, an overdue reassurance and an ancient dilemma

Amsterdam’s’S city hall, built in the 1980s, sits amid what were once the dense slums of the city’s old Jewish neighbourhood, just off the Jodenbreestraat (“Jew Broad Street”) and across from the stately Portuguese synagogue (pictured). Jews began moving to Amsterdam in the 16th and 17th centuries, fleeing persecution in Iberia and Poland, and they played a crucial role in developing the city’s culture of religious tolerance and political liberalism.

By 1941 they numbered 79,000, a bit under 10% of the population. The city’s Jewish heritage is still heard in its Yiddish-influenced slang, its nickname (Mokum, from the Hebrew “makom”, or place), and the chants of its football fans: the local team, Ajax, is popularly known as “the Jews”. But when Amsterdam holds its city-council election on March 21st, the Jewish vote will be a negligible factor. Three-quarters of the city’s Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and by 2013 the community had shrunk to under 6,000, less than 1% of the population.

Nevertheless, on March 6th Amsterdam’s Jews scored a big political gain. In a ceremony at the city’s Jewish Cultural Centre, candidates representing all ten significant parties running in the local elections signed an accord promising to honour the concerns of the Jewish community. The parties pledged to respond decisively to anti-Semitic incidents, provide security to Jewish residents and institutions, and ensure that every student in the city is taught the evils of anti-Semitism and the history of the Holocaust. “Nothing like this agreement has been done anywhere else in Europe,” said Ruben Vis, secretary of the NIK, the Dutch umbrella organisation of Jewish communities, which negotiated the accord.

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, The Netherlands

(NR) David French: Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith

America has struggled with university censorship before. Litigators have battled campus speech codes for a full generation. Intolerance in the name of tolerance has been a fact of campus life for a long time. But there’s something different about intersectionality. The virus has jumped from patient zero and is spreading like wildfire in blue culture. And it’s spreading in part because it is filling that religion-shaped hole in the human heart.

I’m hardly the first person to make this argument. Andrew Sullivan has noted intersectionality’s religious elements, and John Sexton has been on this beat for a year. Smart people know religious zeal when they see it.

While there’s not yet an Apostle’s Creed of intersectionality, it can roughly be defined as the belief that oppression operates in complicated, “interlocking” ways. So the experience of, say, a white trans woman is different in important ways from the experience of a black lesbian. A white trans woman will experience the privilege of her skin but also oppression due to her gender identity. A black lesbian may experience the privilege of “cis” gender identity but also oppression due to race and sexuality. It’s identity politics on steroids, where virtually every issue in American life can and must be filtered through the prisms of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Intersectionality privileges experiential authority, with each distinct identity group able to speak conclusively and decisively only about their own experience. So when an issue impacts trans rights, the trans community takes the lead. The responsibility of the rest of the community is to act, then, as their “allies.” If a racial issue comes to the fore — for example, in the context of protests over police shootings — then African Americans take the lead, and LGBT or women’s groups come alongside in support.

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Posted in Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

A Glimpse of Life at Harvard these days–Secularism and Its Discontents by Henry Brooks

In the past month, student group Harvard College Faith in Action endured two serious public relations debacles, both regarding the group’s relation to the BGLTQ community. The first incident arose when HCFA invited renowned ex-lesbian Jackie Hill-Perry, who became famous for claiming that her rebirth into faith saved her from a “lifestyle of homosexual sin,” to speak at its weekly Doxa meeting. Then, in the wake of a public outcryand several opinion pieces, news broke that HCFA had dismissed one of its Bible study group leaders after she dated someone of the same gender—though group leaders citedreasons of “theological disagreement.” After the latter incident, the College put the group on “probation,” reportedly marking the first instance of such disciplinary action in the history of the College.

Much of the response among community members and the wider public has echoed a familiar array of sentiments. One student interviewed by The Crimson chastised the non-denominational Christian group for exemplifying “institutional backlash against queer people.” An op-ed judged HCFA “complicit in promoting dangerous homophobic rhetoric” and threatening “the emotional and physical safety of LGBT people here on campus.” One commenter following the story on a BGLTQ news site staked out a more extreme position: “Virginal births, talking snakes, boats with two of every species on board… Enough judging people through the prism of fairy tales.”

It seems to this author that these reactions, some more respectfully than others, leave unexamined the purchase that faith still holds in people’s lives—and the lives of BGLTQ people no less. To identify “dangerous homophobic rhetoric” as the object of our frustration means leaving the underlying problem—the way faith is often framed as contending with our secular sensibilities—unaddressed. Attributing homophobia to a belief in “virginal births [and] talking snakes” only exacerbates that problem, affirming categories like “religious-and-straight” and “secular-and-queer” that constrain nonconforming expressions of identity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

(Wash Post) Anti-Semitic incidents soared in 2017, marking nation’s largest single-year increase, report finds

Anti-Semitic activities in the United States shot up an unprecedented 57 percent last year, marked by hate crimes in schools and bomb threats against Jewish institutions, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL’s 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents identified 1,986 examples of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assault in 2017, the largest single-year increase and the second-highest number since it started tracking the data in the 1970s.

Vandalism was up by 86 percent, and incidents targeting Jewish schools, community centers, museums and synagogues had surged by 101 percent since 2016, the report found. The number of anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools has roughly doubled each year for the past two years, the report said.

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Chaim Jachter–Why is Megillat Ester Written in Such a Secular Style?

The twentieth-century philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, an outspoken atheist, was once asked what would happen if, after his death, he would unexpectedly find himself before God, who would be ready to punish him for his heresy. He replied that he would say that God did not supply sufficient evidence for His existence. I believe that Megillat Ester provides a response to such superficial thinking. The Megillah teaches that there is abundant evidence of Hashem’s existence and mastery of the world for those who make the correct choice to discern Hashem’s hand operating behind the superficial, secular mask.

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Posted in Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(Telegraph) Tim Stanley–Acts of faith – such as circumcision –are no business of those with none

Mr [Stephen] Evans is chief executive of the National Secular Society, the church militant of atheism. Like all extremist organisations, it’s a coalition of the ignorant and the spiteful. Let me address the ignorant first. I get it: male circumcision sounds weird, even offensive. In the Jewish case, a Mohel removes the foreskin of a baby on the eighth day after his birth, a decision taken by adults that the boy has to carry for the rest of his life whether he believes in the Almighty or not.

It sounds like it contradicts some of the basic tenets of a liberal society: children’s rights, bodily autonomy and choice.

But choice is a complicated thing. As Claire Fox argued on the Maze, parents do stuff to their kids all the time – pierce their ears, feed them McDonald’s –that we don’t ban because we don’t want the state to take on the role of parent. Why?

Because that would subvert another very important kind of choice: the right of mums and dads to raise their children how they wish. Across the world, they make the free choice of male circumcision without controversy. The World Health Organisation estimates that about a third of men aged 15 or over have gone under the knife; it’s probably the vast majority of that demographic in the United States, where it became popular post-war.

Read it all (registration now required).

Posted in Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Iceland, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–May we never forget the Real Power of Personal Interaction

This week, research was published showing that spending as little as ten minutes a day talking to someone with dementia can make a real difference to their quality of life, alleviating their anxiety and sense of isolation in a strange and fearful world.

Increased levels of dementia have been the price we pay for the rise in life expectancy in recent decades. And it’s tough: for the sufferers themselves, their carers, and for members of their family. It can be almost unbearable to find that your parent can’t recognise you, their child. And people can become fatalistic about it, thinking that there’s nothing you can do to make things better. But that’s beginning to change.

Three weeks ago, my wife Elaine and I visited, in his home in Philadelphia, Aaron Beck, co-founder of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy practised today. 96 years old and physically frail, he was still wonderfully young in mind and spirit. He told us that he’d always believed that his methods could help many people but not those with dementia, but now – though the research is still in its early days – people were beginning to find that it could help them too.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) David Bentley Hart–The Precious Stephen Pinker

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about “progress” or “Enlightenment”—or about the past, the present, or the future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, but spare us the mythology.

And yet, oddly enough, I like Pinker’s book. On one level, perhaps, it is all terrific nonsense: historically superficial, philosophically platitudinous, occasionally threatening to degenerate into the dulcet bleating of a contented bourgeois. But there is also something exhilarating about this fideist who thinks he is a rationalist. Over the past few decades, so much of secularist discourse has been drearily clouded by irony, realist disenchantment, spiritual fatigue, self-lacerating sophistication: a postmodern sense of failure, an appetite for caustic cultural genealogies, a meek surrender of all “metanarrative” ambitions.

Pinker’s is an older, more buoyant, more hopeful commitment to the “Enlightenment”—and I would not wake him from his dogmatic slumber for all the tea in China. In his book, one encounters the ecstatic innocence of a faith unsullied by prudent doubt. For me, it reaffirms the human spirit’s lunatic and heroic capacity to believe a beautiful falsehood, not only in excess of the facts, but in resolute defiance of them.

Read it all (from 2012).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Secularism, Theology, Violence

(CT) Matthew Arbo reviews Matthew Kaemingk’s new book–A Wall of Security or a Table of Fellowship?

[Abraham] Kuyper’s brand of pluralism, however, is refreshingly Christocentric. Jesus Christ alone is the true and ultimate sovereign. His jurisdiction is all-encompassing. As Kuyper affirms, “Sin alone has necessitated the institution of government.” As such, governance is a delicate affair and should in principle remain limited, especially where religious communities are involved. (There are two exceptions: first, when one community intrudes upon another, and second, when a “weak one” within a community is vulnerable to exploitation.) In a truly pluralistic culture, government exists not to define and enforce a particular vision of ultimate truth but to protect and nurture vital social institutions that pursue their own, doubtless very different, moral and religious commitments. If they are rightly structured, according to Kaemingk, “institutions can equip Christians to go out into public life to embody a different way of living between Mecca and Amsterdam.” Or, as he puts it later, “to pursue moments of commonness, connection, and cooperation.” Kuyper’s theological vision offers a Christian politics of solidarity that prevails over a politics of suspicion.

The third and fourth parts of Kaemingk’s book are perhaps the strongest and most illuminating. If, as he argues, Christians embrace the Kuyperian vision of pluralism, then they should feel a corresponding obligation to show hospitality toward Muslim immigrants, perhaps even becoming vocal advocates and activists on their behalf. Kaemingk also emphasizes the importance of treating hospitality as “a way of life.” Hospitality involves ordinary people willing to do ordinary things faithfully. It describes how we live with others in the world as it is given.

Kaemingk gives several splendid examples of ordinary hospitality that, as they develop into consistent practice, make an extraordinary impact: Christian and Muslim women gathering weekly to sew together, universities welcoming instructors and students of diverse religious backgrounds, civil institutions fostering (rather than forcing) inter-religious dialogue, eating ethnic foods in minority neighborhoods, and extending free or subsidized medical care to underprivileged migrant communities. Hospitality involves more than speaking up for the oppressed or disenfranchised—it also requires humble, hopeful, persevering action for another’s flourishing. Through hospitality, Christians demonstrate that Muslims have a place to belong.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) Mary Eberstadt–The Zealous Faith of Secularism: How the Sexual Revolution became a dogma

If the so-called right to choose were truly an exercise of choice—if the rhetoric of the people who defend it matched the reality of what they actually believe—one would expect its defenders to honor choosing against it here or there. But this does not happen: No “pro-choice” group holds up as an example any woman who chooses not to abort.

That this doesn’t happen tells us something noteworthy. For secularist believers, abortion is not in fact a mere “choice,” as their value-free, consumerist rhetoric frames it. No, abortion is sacrosanct. It is a communal rite—one through which many enter their new religion in the first place. The popular, Internet-driven rage for “telling one’s own abortion story”—the phenomenon known as #shoutyourabortion—illustrates this point. Each individual story is a secularist pilgrim’s progress into a new faith whose community is united by this bloody rite of passage. Add the suggestively popular term “woke”—today’s gnostic version of “awakened”—and there’s more evidence that secularist progressivism has erected a church.

So the fury directed at Christianity can be pressed into a single word, sex. Christianity today, like Christianity past and Christianity to come, contends with many enemies. But the adversary now inflicting maximal damage on the Church is not dreamed of in Horatio’s philosophy. It is instead the absolutist defense of the sexual revolution by its faithful.

Christians and other dissidents aren’t being heckled from Hollywood to Capitol Hill for feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, or defending the commandments against lying and stealing. Bakers aren’t landing in court because of trying to follow what’s said in the Song of Songs. All of the expressions of animosity now aimed against Christianity by this new secularist faith share a common denominator. They are rooted in secularist dogma about the sexual revolution, according to which that revolution is an unequivocal and fundamental boon.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism, Sexuality