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"There's only one saving grace to this book: it might be right."

Has David Birnbaum solved the mystery of existence?
David Birnbaum made his fortune selling jewellery to movie stars. Now he has published a 'remarkable and profound' investigation into the origins of the universe. Is there any reason to take it seriously?
posted by andoatnp on Oct 20, 2013 - 120 comments

Points for creativity?

"In a bizarre case involving threats of kidnapping, beatings and physical torture — including the use of an electric cattle prod— two rabbis were charged in New Jersey on Wednesday in a scheme to force men to grant their wives religious divorces." [more inside]
posted by showbiz_liz on Oct 10, 2013 - 131 comments

Malala Yousafzai leaves Jon Stewart speechless

“I’ll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well. And I would tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’” - Malala Yousafzai (previously), shot by the Taliban a year ago, talks to the Daily Show's Jon Stewart about what she would do if a gunman came to shoot her again, as they have promised.
posted by Artw on Oct 9, 2013 - 64 comments

Gotta keep the devil way down in the hole

"Here’s what was off-limits, according to many of the people I grew up with: books about witchcraft, the writings of Anton LaVey, Ouija boards, New Age crystals, pentagrams, albums with backward masking, and the music of most heavy-metal bands. ... Yet here’s what was okay to enjoy, according to those same chums and acquaintances: The Omen. The Amityville Horror. Rosemary’s Baby. The Exorcist. These movies passed muster because they didn’t encourage people to dabble in the dark arts; they warned people." The Exorcist And The South's Love Of Devil Movies.
posted by shiu mai baby on Oct 8, 2013 - 57 comments

"I have never been custodian of my legacy."

In Conversation: Antonin Scalia "On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy ("I don’t")." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 6, 2013 - 89 comments

The Story of the Jews

The critically-acclaimed BBC production The Story of the Jews, written and presented by historian (and foodie) Simon Schama, can be viewed online by people with access to BBC iPlayer TV programs. It will be shown in the USA on PBS later this year. [more inside]
posted by Joe in Australia on Sep 30, 2013 - 25 comments

"Stopping bad things is a significant public service."

"Ted Cruz: The Distinguished Wacko Bird from Texas"
posted by zarq on Sep 23, 2013 - 348 comments

Herein lies the peace of God.

It was Ben who introduced me to A Course In Miracles. He was part of a self-help group that ran workshops based on a couple of popular New Age spiritual philosophies. Ben credited this group with his ongoing recovery from a mysterious undiagnosed chronic pain and illness, and he encouraged me to embrace it as a cure for whatever it was that caused me to spend so many of my days unable to get out of bed.
"Failing a Course in Miracles," Anne Ouellette, The Toast
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Sep 17, 2013 - 17 comments

The Bible as fanwank and flamewars

Confused about who wrote the Bible we have, and why? Jim MacDonald has the answers. How was the Canon of the Christian Bible selected? There really isn't a better, or funnier, short account than this. After all, if fandom is a religion, then religions must work like fandom, right? And the epistolatory disputes of late antiquity were just Usenet to the Greeks. So if you want to know how the Doctrine of the Trinity became important, this will explain it: [more inside]
posted by alloneword on Sep 13, 2013 - 151 comments

Charter of Quebec values to ban religious symbols for public workers

Today the government of the Canadian province of Quebec released its proposed charter of Quebec values. “The minister in charge of the charter, Bernard Drainville, announced … that if the charter were adopted by the legislature, the wearing of kippas, turbans, burkas, hijabs and "large" crosses would be banned for civil servants while they are on the job.” (Images of acceptable and unacceptable religious symbols) The Canadian federal government indicated that it would “challenge any law that [it] deem[s] unconstitutional.”
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear on Sep 10, 2013 - 176 comments

Grace is this incredible power in the world

""Pastrix" is a demeaning term used to refer to female ministers by certain Christians who believe in male-only pastoral ministry. But Denver-based Lutheran Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a tattooed yet traditional liturgist, has reclaimed it as a title for her brand of faith. “It was an insult, and anytime you can reclaim an insult as a good thing, you win,” says Bolz-Weber." [more inside]
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Sep 8, 2013 - 23 comments

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here

Inspired by her father's struggle against fundamentalism in Algeria in the 1990s, Karima Bennoune interviewed hundreds of people of Muslim heritage from dozens of countries who also work for social reform. She hopes their stories will counterbalance oversimplified narratives about majority Muslim nations. Bennoune's website provides an excerpt from the book, and she is interviewed on Open Democracy (transcript).
posted by audi alteram partem on Sep 6, 2013 - 3 comments

Reason is larger than science.

[Pinker] conflates scientific knowledge with knowledge as such. In his view, anybody who has studied any phenomena that are studied by science has been a scientist...If they were interested in the mind, then they were early versions of brain scientists. If they investigated human nature, then they were social psychologists or behavioral economists avant la lettre. Leon Wieseltier pens a response to Steven Pinker's essay on scientism, both in the pages of the New Republic. Others, including some prominent atheists, have taken issue with Pinker as well.
posted by shivohum on Sep 5, 2013 - 79 comments

"Not five years ago, he condemned backers of gay marriage as amoral."

A Conservative Catholic Now Backs Same-Sex Marriage
"Among religious conservatives, opposition to same-sex marriage has remained essentially unquestioned. Which is why “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage,” an essay by Joseph Bottum, published Friday on the Web site of Commonweal magazine, is something new in this debate."
posted by andoatnp on Aug 23, 2013 - 27 comments

Capturing America

In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 8, 2013 - 16 comments

residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women

"The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia: The perpetrators were caught, but the crimes continue."

[Trigger warning: Extended written descriptions of sexual assault and incest.] [more inside]
posted by andoatnp on Aug 7, 2013 - 26 comments

Who gets to speak, where, in front of whom, and about what  

Why the controversial (and somewhat backfired) Lauren Green interview of Reza Aslan is is about more than just Fox News idiocy.  
posted by Artw on Jul 31, 2013 - 162 comments

The rise of the religious left

According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute [PDF], 1 in 5 Americans can now be defined as "religious progressives". These people, who eschew the current Republican agenda of religious social conservatism, have Republican leaders caught in the middle between an aging religious conservative majority and young religious progressives.
posted by reenum on Jul 24, 2013 - 183 comments

“They feel like they were tricked or betrayed.”

Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt
"The church is grappling with a wave of disillusionment among members who encountered information that sabotages what they were taught about their faith."
posted by andoatnp on Jul 21, 2013 - 135 comments

The Silence of Animals

The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths. Simon Critchley gives both an overview of philosopher John Gray's thought and reviews Gray's new book.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks on Jun 13, 2013 - 36 comments

"the whole rational creation formed a single dancing chorus"

The Dancing Saints is "a 3,000 square foot icon wrapping around the entire church rotunda, showing ninety larger-than life saints; four animals; stars, moons, suns and a twelve-foot dancing Christ." Among the icons are traditional saints like Francis of Assisi and Mary Magdalene, but most of them are non-traditional saints, like Florence Nightingale, John Coltrane and Lady Godiva's Horse. The Dancing Saints Icon is inside the St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. You can watch a video tour of the church's architecture, read an interview with iconographer Mark Dukes, and a short essay on the Dancing Saints Icon by Richard Fabian.
posted by Kattullus on May 31, 2013 - 25 comments

Her hair color ....varies from blond to brunet across the collection

"Fabiola has been a beloved subject for countless painters, most of them amateurs. The portrait’s format is almost always the same: Fabiola is seen in profile facing left, her head covered by a rich red veil. Mr. Alÿs, who was born in Belgium in 1959 and moved to Mexico City in 1990, began collecting Fabiola paintings — as the genre is called — about 15 years ago, buying them at thrift shops, flea markets and antiques stores primarily in Mexico and Europe. He has previously shown his collection three times, when it was much smaller; the current presentation includes more than 300 works. Photos of the exhibition
posted by The Whelk on May 30, 2013 - 18 comments

Tonight's show is a little different.

Craig Ferguson seems to have a special liking for conversation with Stephen Fry. Previously. On Wednesday night, Stephen was back on the Late Late Show as the only guest. The naturally wide-ranging discussion includes Arthur Conan Doyle, America, mortality, religion, philosophy, science, homosexuality, Wagner, and more. Enjoy. [more inside]
posted by lazaruslong on May 25, 2013 - 93 comments

Madon­nas of Sci­ence

The Madon­nas of Sci­ence, plus selected other work (possibly nsfw) by Chris Shaw. [more inside]
posted by homunculus on May 23, 2013 - 6 comments

Mennonites in Mexico

If you fancy diversity in cheeses, you might have come across queso Chihuahua, or Chihuahua cheese, a Mexican semi-soft cow milk cheese. But if you're in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, the cheese is called Queso Menonita or Campresino Menonita, for the Mennonites who first made the cheese in this region. The Mennonites in Mexico are a small but growing socio-religious pocket of that has retained much of their traditional Dutch and German heritage, despite a series of moves, from Russia to Canada, and finally Mexico. Mexican photographer Eunice Adorno spent time with Mennonites in Durango, capturing moments in their lives. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on May 16, 2013 - 18 comments

ex voto suscepto

Suspended in Void - a lovely collection of Italian ex votos depicting people who survived falls under the watchful eye of the Virgin Mary. Previously: a larger collection of ex votos from various cultures. (Via Heading East)
posted by madamjujujive on May 14, 2013 - 9 comments

The Old Believers

Alaska is home to two small villages of Russian Orthodox "Old Believers," whose ancestors left the church and their home in Siberia in 1666 in the face of state-issued church reforms. They have traveled more than 20,000 miles over five centuries in the search for the perfect place to protect their traditions from outside influences. Now, assimilation into American culture is slowly overtaking them. (Via) [more inside]
posted by zarq on May 5, 2013 - 49 comments

"You don’t like it? Find another place to live."

"Them and Them." "Rockland County, New York's East Ramapo school district is a taxpayer-funded system fighting financial insolvency. It is also bitterly divided between the mostly black and Hispanic children and families who use the schools and the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish majority who run the Board of Education and send their children to private, religious schools." Also see: A District Divided. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Apr 24, 2013 - 168 comments

“Rituals are the glue that holds social groups together.”

Social Evolution - The Ritual Animal "Praying, fighting, dancing, chanting — human rituals could illuminate the growth of community and the origins of civilization." [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 23, 2013 - 11 comments

The limits of religious belieb

A Norwegian television comedy show recently staged a stunt where a street stall in Oslo offered Justin Bieber tickets to teenagers in return for ostensibly converting to Islam on camera. [more inside]
posted by acb on Apr 18, 2013 - 76 comments

Lawsuit(s) in Washington anti-discrimination case

The state of Washington has filed suit against Arlene's Flowers, whose owner, Barronelle Stutzman, refused to provide flowers for the wedding of regular customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Apr 11, 2013 - 232 comments

So much talk of the god-shaped hole

"Most of us are introduced to God at about the same time as we hear about Santa Claus, but over the years our views of Santa mature and change, while our notion of God often gets stuck at an infantile level."

The NewStatesman asks "After God: What can atheists learn from believers?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Mar 31, 2013 - 228 comments

Bunny Bounced

The true secret of Easter - but are toys replacing candy (or, more awfully, live animals) as the traditional Easter gift? And is that a bad thing?
posted by Artw on Mar 31, 2013 - 31 comments

"There was no return from apostasy."

Leaving the Witness. "In one of the most restrictive, totalitarian countries in the world, for the first time in my life, I had the freedom to think." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 21, 2013 - 26 comments

Nagel on the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature

Andrew Ferguson explains and defends eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel, who has been stirring up outraged refutations (e.g. here or here) with his new book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Also in the defense column is philosopher Edward Feser's extensive series on Nagel's book.
posted by shivohum on Mar 19, 2013 - 163 comments

"Pop Culture Often Mocks My Faith, But Fallout Treated It Right."

Skip Cameron, a Mormon, writes for Kotaku on the respectful treatment of Mormons and Mormonism in Fallout: New Vegas.
posted by Pope Guilty on Mar 6, 2013 - 81 comments

Was Wittgenstein Right?

"I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is 'purely descriptive.'" --Wittgenstein. Apart from a small and ignored clique of hard-core supporters the usual view these days is that his writing is self-indulgently obscure and that behind the catchy slogans there is little of intellectual value. But this dismissal disguises what is pretty clearly the real cause of Wittgenstein’s unpopularity within departments of philosophy: namely, his thoroughgoing rejection of the subject as traditionally and currently practiced; his insistence that it can’t give us the kind of knowledge generally regarded as its raison d’être. [more inside]
posted by Golden Eternity on Mar 5, 2013 - 37 comments

Gay Mormon Records Reactions To His Coming Out

This Gay Mormon Spent 1 Year Recording His Friends Reacting To Him Coming Out. (SLYT). He's rather chipper, considering his church says he can't get married or have sex...
posted by shivohum on Mar 3, 2013 - 93 comments

Pensive Mechanical Bodhisattvas

Meditating Machinery: Mechanical Buddhas and Other Religious Icons by Wang Zi Won.
posted by homunculus on Mar 1, 2013 - 11 comments

Naming: From Fly-fornication (ok) to ChristIsKing (not ok)

Historically the United States (on a state by state basis) has given almost complete freedom to parents to name their children, both first name and surname, with results like "Fly-fornication," "Mahershalalhashbaz," "Encyclopedia Britannia," "States Rights" (who was killed in battle as an officer for the confederacy), "Trailing Arbutus Vines" and many more. (Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights, Carlton F.W. Larson, 2011 [SSRN/PDF]). In October 2012, however, New York courts made two interesting rulings that reflect limitations on renaming, if not naming, rights, for both adults and children. [more inside]
posted by Salamandrous on Feb 27, 2013 - 54 comments

The Shuls with Sandy Floors

There are only five functioning Jewish synagogues with sand floors in the world, and four of them are in the Caribbean. How has the tradition been maintained for hundreds of years? [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 26, 2013 - 5 comments

Sweet Truths with Kristine Holmgren

I told them to take a hike. I can't work where feminism is not celebrated. I'm proud to call myself a feminist. - Pastor and playwright Kristine Holmgren responds to being asked not use the word feminism in the title of her blog on a faith based site.
posted by Artw on Feb 13, 2013 - 49 comments

Galileo and impolitic science

Moon Man: What Galileo saw. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Feb 7, 2013 - 28 comments

‘Wonderful how one loses track of the days up here in the mountains.’

Megan Phelps-Roper, formerly one of the Westboro Baptist Church's most vocal members, has left the church.
posted by sendai sleep master on Feb 6, 2013 - 148 comments

On a path to liberation....

Over a thousand monks and laymen are revered in Tibetan Buddhism as the incarnations of past teachers who convey enlightenment to their followers from one lifetime to the next. Some of the most respected are known by the honorific "rinpoche." For eight centuries, rinpoches were traditionally identified by other monks and then locked inside monasteries ringed by mountains, far from worldly distractions. Their reincarnation lineages were easily tracked across successive lives. Then the Chinese Red Army invaded Tibet in 1950 and drove the religion's adherents into exile. Now, the younger rinpoches of the Tibetan diaspora are being exposed to all of the twenty-first century’s dazzling temptations. So, even as Tibetan Buddhism is gaining more followers around the world, an increasing number of rinpoches are abandoning their monastic vows. Reincarnation in Exile. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 5, 2013 - 16 comments

Not Talking About Pakistan

Part I
Questions about Pakistan are now a fact of living here, no different from damp weather or calls from salespeople. Some I deflect, and others I frame around my own terms.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Feb 5, 2013 - 12 comments

Gospel of Intolerance

Gospel of Intolerance - Excerpts of "God Loves Uganda", a feature documentary directed and produced by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams is having its premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film explains how money donated by American evangelicals directly finances the violent antigay movement in Uganda.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jan 23, 2013 - 50 comments

Viewing the Earth from orbit changes your perspective

The Overview Effect
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jan 12, 2013 - 26 comments

Old Greek Blasphemy Laws Stir Up Modern Drama

"It seems like every time there's a crisis in Greece, there's a search for saviors," Philippos Loizos, a 27-year-old scientist, tells NPR. Loizos set up a Facebook page that criticized a Greek monk as xenophobic and close-minded. Last September, Greek police arrested Loizos and charged him with blasphemy, which carries up to six months in prison.
posted by winecork on Jan 4, 2013 - 28 comments

To remain true to its faith...

Hobby Lobby, a craft store with 525 U.S. locations, has announced that it will defy a federal mandate to provide health coverage for all employees that includes emergency contraceptive coverage, and will pay a fine of $1.3 million every day. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Dec 28, 2012 - 389 comments

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