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]
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.
Megan Phelps-Roper, formerly one of the Westboro Baptist Church's most vocal members, has left the church.
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]
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]
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.
"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.
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]
To say that Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant-Jesus (Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus) is a masterpiece is a gross understatement. Over sixty years after its composition, it has rightfully earned the recognition of being one of the most important piano works of the 20th century. ... [It] is one of the most personal and intimate pieces Messiaen ever wrote, and it gives the listener a close look at Messiaen the person. Messiaen was a deeply religious person, and although his faith influenced every single piece he wrote, the Vingt Regards is almost like his own personal spiritual diary. - Keith Kerchoff [more inside]
Six Famous Thought Experiments, Animated in 60 Seconds Each; One-Minute Animated Primers on Major Theories of Religion
The findings for England and Wales from the 2011 British Census have now been released. The BBC provides a handy guide to changes by area while The Guardian has a neat infographic and a set of Top 10 Charts. [more inside]
'Homeland,' Obama’s Show. The award winning TV show does little to alleviate the myths and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims, writes Joseph Massad, a scholar at Columbia University. "The racist representation of Arabs is so exponential, even for American television [..] that one does not know where to begin." [more inside]
Gay marriage: Religious 'opt-in' offered, but not to CofE - "The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced. Other religious organisations will be able to "opt in" to holding ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said. But she added that the Church of England and Church in Wales had "explicitly" stated strong opposition and would not be included." Included in the legisation is "Amending the 2010 Equality Act to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple."
Angus Jones, better known as Jake on the show Two and a Half Men, has joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The young star has released a pair of videos urging people to stop watching the show.
A woman wanting a mans-style hair-cut was denied one by a Toronto barber because his religion forbids him from touching a woman he is not related to. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is expected to hear the issue if mediation fails, as a competing rights issue where there is a conflict between two individuals exercising their rights. The OBA (warning, cheesy music autoplay) defends some Barbershops as a men's-only space tradition dating back to Ancient Greece, while others point to womens-only spaces like spas that are allowed to continue to operate while discriminating against men.
The Case of the Mormon Historian: What happened when Michael Quinn challenged the history of the church he loved.
Bishop Gene Robinson speaks at First Presbyterian Church in NYC in 2009 on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, and offers (and challenges church goers to offer) water to Gay Pride parade participants as part of his ministry. [5m19s] [more inside]
Maurice Sendak's (probable) inspiration. Campbell's blog is the antidote for anyone bored with religion: Barbarella and Xenu, evolution from the simple to... the simple, how God evolved (possibly backwards), and more. [more inside]
The dispute comes down to a single question: Were the cheerleaders representing the school when they held the banners? Their lawyers and Mr. Abbott said it was clear that they were acting as individuals. The squad came up with the idea, they say, bought the supplies for the banners with their own money and made them off campus. [more inside]
Heaven is Real: A Doctor's Experience of the Afterlife. As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences...In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
Balpreet Kaur is a (female) sophomore at Ohio State who follows the Sikh tenet of kesh (uncut hair). Choosing to leave her facial hair in its natural state, however, led to her candid picture drawing negative attention in Reddit's "funny" section. Her clear, friendly and smart response has now gone viral, changing the opinion of at least one european douchebag.
In 1913, a man named Noble Drew Ali, (born Timothy Drew) Formed a religious organization called The Moorish Science Temple, based on a supposed lost section of the Koran. Drew's teachings were heavily influenced by Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, which was written by Levi Dowling in 1908, and flourished again in the late 60's and was an influential precursor to the New Age Movement. [more inside]
In 2008, the National Journal released The Hidden History of the American Electorate, an analysis of exit poll demographics conducted by multiple news organizations from US presidential elections between 1988 and 2004. The study looked for "pressure points in the electorate": trends which were likely to decide the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. They've released an update for 2012, by adding exit poll results from the 1980, 1984, and 2008 presidential elections. It gives a more comprehensive look at voting trends over a 32 year period of the groups whom they believe are likely to influence the outcome in November. Charts: Voting Preferences of the American Electorate, 1980-2008
"Parting with treasure easier said than done: Churchgoers give far less than they think" is the latest feature article from the Association of Religion Data Archives, which "strives to democratize access to the best data on religion." The site includes a browsable archive of religious survey data, a quick statistical roundup, international religious profiles, feature articles on topics like the rise of Mormons, Muslims and nondenominational churches in the USA ("nondenominational and independent churches may now be considered the third largest religious group in the country...Only the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are larger"), links to sources like the 2010 U.S. Religious Census, a Religion Research Hub (with tutorials and helpful advice on best practices when theorizing, conceptualizing and measuring religious behavior) and lots more.
From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader. Jerry DeWitt is a former Pentecostal pastor in the evangelical parish of DeRidder, Louisiana who slowly lost his religious faith. Last Fall, he went public with his atheism, committing what he calls "identity suicide," and instantly becoming "the most disliked person in town." Since then, Mr. DeWitt's lost his job, his wife, his community and may be losing his house, but is still persevering and working to help others who find themselves in similar circumstances. [more inside]
Late last month, after vocally anti-gay evangelical author and blogger Jonathan Merritt's essay defending Chick-Fil-A appeared in The Atlantic, Azariah Southworth outed Merritt on his blog. An interview with Merritt about his sexual orientation. Follow-up column from Southworth: Why I outed a Christian star. [more inside]
Propaganda - A film alledged to be from North Korea about the excess of Western decadance and public relations propaganda - hits Youtube (1:35:52)
Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious persons or a convinced atheist? [.pdf of survey results] The WIN-Gallup International ‘Religion and Atheism Index’ measures global self-perceptions on beliefs, based on interviews with more than 50,000 men and women selected from 57 countries across the globe in five continents. The survey also provides trend data for shifts in attitudes since 2005.
The history of the Sikh Diaspora in USA and Canada goes back to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897. Emerging as a casteless alternative to the ongoing Hindu Muslim wars in India, the Sikhs have always been known as a martial tribe, their prowess and courage respected by the British and others alike. Colloquially addressed respectfully as Sardarji, the men take Singh (lion) as their middle name while the women bear the name Kaur (princess). This custom further confirmed the equality of both genders as was the tradition set by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. The first Sikh Organization was The Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society organized in the spring of 1912. [more inside]
The Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem houses the Aleppo Codex, considered the oldest and most authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible. Written in the 10th century AD and annotated by Maimonides himself, it was safeguarded by the Jewish diaspora and revered for its linguistic precision and its beauty. "The story of how some 200 pages of the codex went missing — and to this day remain the object of searches carried out around the globe by biblical scholars, private investigators, shadowy businessmen and the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency — is one of the great mysteries in Jewish history." [more inside]
How Humankind's Theory of Mind Could Have Produced God "As a direct consequence of the evolution of the human social brain, and owing to the importance of our theory-of-mind skills in that process, we sometimes can't help but see intentions, desires, and beliefs in things that haven't even a smidgeon of a neural system... More than a few of us have kicked our broken-down vehicles in the sides and verbally abused our incompetent computers.... So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people's behaviors that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains. As a result, today we overshoot our mental-state attributions to things that are, in reality, completely mindless. And all of this leads us, rather inevitably, to a very important question: What if I were to tell you that God's mental states, too, were all in your mind?" [more inside]
The most recent issue of Businessweek contains an article about How The Mormon Church Makes Its Billions. There has been a backlash, mostly over the cover.
"Confessions of an Ex-Mormon: A personal history of America’s most misunderstood religion." by Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air and Lost in the Meritocracy. (Via)
"It is while running or thinking of running, Hall said, that he feels most conversant with and dependent on God."
A Runner’s Belief: God Is His Coach. [NYTimes.com] "As he prepares for the London Olympics, the marathoner Ryan Hall has embraced an evangelical Christian faith and has found biblical reinforcement for his training."
"At PSFK Conference NYC, Vikram Gandhi spoke about his latest movie Kumaré - The True Story of A False Prophet. While he was born in New Jersey, the film director spoke about how he had been noticing how the Indian-heritage culture he had experienced as he grew up, was being used by Americans and other Westerners to help solve their emotional and spiritual issues. To explore this idea further he dressed up as a guru, created a backstory with YouTube video and website, spoke like his grandmother and recruited followers in Arizona. What's unique is that throughout the film is that he tells everyone he was an illusion and asks his followers to look in a mirror to solve their own problems." [more inside]
A German court has ruled that male circumcision is "bodily harm" and that a child's right to "physical integrity" trumps parental or religious rights. Jews and Muslims have reacted strongly to the decision, with some going as far to allege anti-Semitism. Intactivists are generally pleased.
"I think my father is a hateful person first. The religious beliefs gave him a forum and permission to be cruel to the world." Nate Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, answers questions about growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church, and his life after leaving it. (Warning: descriptions of domestic violence.) [more inside]
19-year-old Kelly Hofer grew up in a Hutterite colony in Manitoba, and his photography captures his life as a Hutterite. Recently, Kelly left the community to start a new life in Calgary.
Gillian James charts the connections in the Stephen King universe* Meanwhile The Guardian is rereading King begining with Carrie and Salems Lot, CNN has discovered The Gospel of Stephen King, and in further Castle Rock news a new movie version of It is being made.
* Not including The Dark Tower
* Not including The Dark Tower