Category : Other Faiths

(WEF) The world’s most atheistic places, mapped

China is the world’s least religious country, according to a survey by WIN/Gallup International. Only 9% of the country considers itself religious, while 67% claims to be atheist – more than twice the amount of any other country.

The data, which is based on a survey of more than 66,000 people in 68 countries, suggests a further 23% of Chinese people are non-religious. The results reflect attitudes towards religion in the country, as education rules introduced in China last year said parents should not promote hardline religious beliefs in children or make them dress in specific clothing. The new regulations also banned any form of religious activity in schools.

Sweden, the Czech Republic and the UK are the next least religious countries. In Sweden, 18% of people define themselves as atheist and 55% as non-religious, while the Czech Republic is 25% atheist and 47% non-religious. In the UK, 11% of people claim to be atheist and 58% non-religious.

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Posted in Atheism, Globalization, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Chilling but Important Reading–In Charlottesville, the Local Jewish Community Presses On

On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).

Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time.

For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.

Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill.

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

(WSJ) Tunku Varadarajan–Holy Cows That Weren’t: Hindu radicals’ beef with India’s bovine butchers is woefully undercooked.

In the past year India has been witness to numerous gruesome public murders of men suspected of eating beef or transporting ostensibly sacred cows for slaughter. A band of radicals calling themselves gau-rakshak, or cow-protectors, may lay claim to being the world’s first terrorists in a bovine cause. Yet this intolerant movement’s appeal to religion is greatly at odds with the facts.

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Posted in Animals, Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(PRC) U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream


The early days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been an anxious time for many Muslim Americans, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Overall, Muslims in the United States perceive a lot of discrimination against their religious group, are leery of Trump and think their fellow Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream U.S. society.

At the same time, however, Muslim Americans express a persistent streak of optimism and positive feelings. Overwhelmingly, they say they are proud to be Americans, believe that hard work generally brings success in this country and are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives – even if they are not satisfied with the direction of the country as a whole.

Indeed, nearly two-thirds of Muslim Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. today. And about three-quarters say Donald Trump is unfriendly toward Muslims in America. On both of these counts, Muslim opinion has undergone a stark reversal since 2011, when Barack Obama was president, at which point most Muslims thought the country was headed in the right direction and viewed the president as friendly toward them.

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

(AJ) Anglican church in Ontario rents space to Muslim worshippers

A Leamington, Ont., church is renting out space in its basement to local Muslims for use as a mosque.

Since this spring, Muslim worship has been held in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, diocese of Huron, says the church’s rector, the Rev. Andrew Wilson.

The arrangement serves the church because it provides income to fund its ministry, he says; but it also an important part of the church’s outreach to Leamington’s growing refugee population.

“To one degree, it’s as basic as a rental, but it is creating wonderful community for them—they feel safe, they feel welcome,” he says.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(60 Minutes) A young American who grew up in the heartland tells Scott Pelley what made him try to join ISIS in Syria

Abdirizak Warsame learned the theology of murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota…

Scott Pelley: YouTube became more real to you than your neighborhood in Minnesota?

Abdirizak Warsame: Yes.

Scott Pelley: How could that be?

Abdirizak Warsame: It kind of takes control of you. And you think you’re doing something for a greater cause. And you think you’re doing it for good.

Scott Pelley: And what was that?

Abdirizak Warsame: Most of the videos would talk about how if you would engage in jihad you would be doing your family a favor. And that you would be saving their lives from eternal hell fire.

Scott Pelley:That if you died as a martyr you would not only go to paradise your whole family would go with you?

Abdirizak Warsame: Whole family would go to paradise.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Syria, Violence

(NPR) Thomas Hegghammer: Aesthetics, Culture Key To Understanding Jihadists

MCEVERS: Just describe this what you call rich aesthetic culture that these jihadis have. Besides the weeping during prayer, what else are we talking about here?

HEGGHAMMER: Yeah, so it’s basically a very sensitive aesthetic universe we’re dealing with, with poetry, singing, art, graphic art, visual art and a whole lot of religious rituals – a lot of things that seem to have no purpose, no kind of military function. And this is what got me interested in this to begin with. It was that you had these hunted men – because terrorists are hunted men. They’re short on time and resources. And you should expect them to spend all their time on useful things like building bombs or writing propaganda or raising funds. But here they are doing all these seemingly useless things. And that I thought was really, really fascinating.

MCEVERS: I mean, I think one reason this might be surprising to people is we think of jihadis as people who forbid culture, right? No pictures. No music. No – I mean, music in the sense that we understand it, right?

HEGGHAMMER: That is right. And there are some kind of boundaries to the creative expression here. For example, they don’t use instruments in their music because instruments are believed to have the potential of arousing sexual desires. So they stay clear of instruments. But they use a cappella voices very creatively so it really sounds like music with instruments.

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Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Wichita Eagle) Getting married? Chances are it won’t be in a church

Only 26 percent of couples had their wedding ceremony in a religious institution in 2016, according to data from The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. That’s down from 41 percent in 2009.

The Knot surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms, finding that weddings in farms, barns and ranches had gone up, along with weddings in historic buildings and homes. Other popular venues are beach houses, public gardens, wineries and museums.

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

(CBC) Leamington, Ontario, Anglican church opens doors to Muslim worshippers

Muhammad Asghar kneeled on the floor alongside a couple of dozen fellow Muslims last week silently praying. When he looked up and turned his head, he smiled at the Anglican priest kneeling behind him.

“To my amazement, he came and joined me in the prayer,” Asghar said.

A Christian clergyman kneeling inside a mosque would normally be an unusual occurrence, but in Leamington — the small farming community in southwestern Ontario — it’s become a common sight.

Asghar and many others regularly pray at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, where the Muslim community has set up a mosque, thanks to a deal worked out between the two religious communities.

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Posted in Canada, Canada, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Provinces Other Than TEC, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Muslim same-sex marriage is thriving, says drag queen Asifa Lahore

There have been “countless” same-sex marriages between gay and lesbian Muslims, Britain’s first Muslim drag queen says.

According to Asifa Lahore, 34, the country has a “thriving” Muslim LGBT community.

Ms Lahore was brought up in west London by a devout Muslim family with a Pakistani background. She was born Asif Quraishi and married another gay man of Pakistani heritage in July 2014, months after same-sex marriages were permitted in March that year.

Ms Lahore appeared on Channel 4’s Muslim Drag Queens in 2015, billed as Britain’s first Muslim drag performer. She began the process of gender transition to become a woman this year.

She spoke to The Times about her same-sex wedding after Jahed Choudhury, 24, claimed last week that his wedding to Sean Rogan, 19, at a register office in Walsall last month was the first same-sex marriage in the UK involving a Muslim. “There are countless,” Ms Lahore said. “In the last three years I’ve been to dozens of gay Muslim, same-sex marriages. I attended one last Thursday, of two gay British Bangladeshi guys.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, England / UK, History, Islam, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(WGBH) Boston Posters Produced to Fight Against abuse of Islamic citizens generates Discussion

The cartoon guide recommends that the bystander engage in non-confrontational behavior to diffuse a potentially unsafe situation for the person being harassed. It shows the bystander choosing to sit next to a woman in a hijab who initially appeared uncomfortable around a man leaning toward her on the bus.

The cartoon’s author, Maeril, encouraged onlookers to use the guide not only for diffusing Islamophobic harassment, but for any other type of harassment as well. Suzan El-Rayess, the civic engagement director at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, agreed.

“We encourage all of our fellow Bostonians to apply the approach in these posters to anyone targeted — whether Muslim, Latino or otherwise,” El-Rayess told the AP.

Elise Whitney, 28, thought that the poster may have the opposite intended effect and attract more unwanted attention toward hijab wearers.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Globe+Mail) Quebec City Muslim community vows to continue fighting for rejected cemetery

In the aftermath of the bloody mosque shooting that took the lives of six Muslim men in Quebec City this year, Mohamed Kesri said he was struck by the outpouring of support and solidarity from fellow Quebeckers.

“The cards, the flowers, the visits to our mosque, the hugs. It was incredible,” he said. “We started to build closer relations. We felt encouraged about living side-by-side.”

On Monday, Mr. Kesri said he wondered where the spirit of kinship had gone, and how to repair it. A project to create a cemetery for Quebec City Muslims had been defeated by three votes in a referendum. Mr. Kesri, who spearheaded the project on behalf of the Centre culturel islamique de Québec, said he was disheartened but adamant about pursuing the fight.

“We will not give up,” he said on Monday. “It’s insane. Three votes. We speak for thousands of Muslims in Quebec City.”

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

(Economist) 2 documentaries probe Myanmar’s religious strife between the Rohingya and Buddhists

Though these films neatly complement each other, they are being received rather differently. “The Venerable W.” was shown with pomp at Cannes, while “Sittwe” was banned from the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon. This year’s edition was dedicated to Miss Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, with censors deeming the movie “religiously and culturally inappropriate”. Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, brands the decision as “ludicrous”. The ban, he explains, reveals the government’s authorities persistent bias against the Rohingya and the reluctance to present them as victims in any capacity. “The Rohingya have been put in a separate, untouchable category by the government, and any real discussion of their situation gets tarred with the same brush.”

“Sittwe” found an audience in Thailand instead. For Lia Sciortino Sumaryono, the director of Southeast Asia Junction, a non-profit organisation which hosted the screenings in Bangkok, the issue is relevant to the whole region. “Extremists movements are increasingly regionalised,” she says, pointing at the several contacts between extremist Buddhist networks in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and those of Islamist groups in the Philippines and Malaysia.

“The Venerable W.” and “Sittwe” offer some insight into a social and religious quagmire. Were the country open to talking meaningfully about relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the films could form part of the discussion. As it is not, acts of violence are likely to continue.

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Posted in Buddhism, History, Movies & Television, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) Michael Ledeen–After 500 Years, an Italian Jewish Rebirth

Italian historians, archaeologists and anthropologists are hard at work to document the presence of Jews from ancient times into the early modern period. There is no lack of evidence, some of which dates back to the first century, following the Roman conquest of ancient Israel. Yet many museums are not aware of the considerable quantity of evidence they have in their archives and deposits. In recent years, Sicilian cities have begun to publish catalogs of this material, and I recently attended a public meeting in southeastern Sicily that featured professors and government officials intent on creating a tourist guide to Jewish Sicily, from Taormina to Siracusa and Noto.

It is hard to overstate the enthusiasm for the Jewish revival. Cooperative ventures between Italian and Israeli universities are under way. These efforts should produce new experts and new historical finds in the coming years. Such activities will be reinforced as other communities emulate the Catania model and new centers of Jewish life are created.

There is a lot of work to be done before the Italian Jewish revival is fully realized. Anti-Semites are particularly active in northern cities like Milan and Turin. The country is also a landing point for many Islamic immigrants, many of whom are openly anti-Semitic. Possible descendants of the old communities will want to formalize their faith by converting, and there is a shortage of rabbis qualified to do that. But in an era when European Jews are under siege, that’s not a bad problem to have.

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Posted in Italy, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) How to Be a Buddhist in Today’s World

Modern science, up until now, has confined itself to studying phenomena that are material in nature. Scientists largely examine only what can be measured with scientific instruments, limiting the scope of their investigations and their understanding of the universe. Phenomena such as rebirth and the existence of the mind as separate from the brain are beyond the scope of scientific investigation. Some scientists, although they have no proof that these phenomena do not exist, consider them unworthy of consideration. But there is reason for optimism. In recent years, I have met with many open-minded scientists, and we have had mutually beneficial discussions that have highlighted our common points as well as our diverging ideas—expanding the world views of scientists and Buddhists in the process.

Then there is materialism and consumerism. Religion values ethical conduct, which may involve delayed gratification, whereas consumerism directs us toward immediate happiness. Faith traditions stress inner satisfaction and a peaceful mind, while materialism says that happiness comes from external objects. Religious values such as kindness, generosity and honesty get lost in the rush to make more money and have more and “better” possessions. Many people’s minds are confused about what happiness is and how to create its causes.

If you study the Buddha’s teachings, you may find that some of them are in harmony with your views on societal values, science and consumerism—and some of them are not. That is fine. Continue to investigate and reflect on what you discover. In this way, whatever conclusion you reach will be based on reason, not simply on tradition, peer pressure or blind faith.

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Posted in Buddhism, Religion & Culture