The Willard Memorial Chapel is all that remains of the original Auburn Theological Seminary. [more inside]
"I was praying one day, and the Lord said, 'If you build me a treehouse, I'll see you never run out of material.'" So Horace Burgess built a treehouse. [more inside]
The rise of a new generation of Mormons [non-gated] - Many of the most successful US professionals are also members of the world's youngest major religion, which is being embraced by the elite in spite of its reputation. (via mr)
A Moroccan man whose wife wears a veil has been denied citizenship on the basis that he has failed to assimilate into French society. [more inside]
Animals as spiritual, and the role of animals in spirituality. "Some religious leaders welcome pets to worship services, memorialize them at death and discuss them as spiritual beings without distinction from humanity" ... "Factory farming, green living among topics sparking discussion." [more inside]
Pope Benedict XVI has announced the establishment of a new Vatican department dedicated to tackling what he called 'a grave crisis in the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the Church." The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation will (per Archbishop Vincent Nichols,) focus on countries "in which, even though the Christian Gospel has shaped an entire culture," secularism now reigns, in what the Pope termed an "eclipse of a sense of God." [more inside]
Given it is Sunday, feel free to get your Jesus on with The Mighty Clouds of Joy. Somebody say Amen.
Jarretta Hamilton, a teacher at a Christian school in Orlando, was fired after it was discovered that her baby was conceived before she was married.
A fresh perspective on the hijab, different from the more common apologist/sexist arguments, the carefully academic expositions, appearances in controversial news, and especially the crassly commercial.
Science vs. Religion: a new book, Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, discusses the results of her detailed study of 1,646 scientists at top American research universities. Among her findings: ~36% of those surveyed not only believe in God but also practice a form of closeted, often non-traditional faith. They worry about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. Interview with the author from the Center for Inquiry's Point of Inquiry podcast. Also, here's a webcast from an author discussion forum held at Rice University on April 7th. [more inside]
New Scientist Special Report: Living in Denial. Includes articles by Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine [more inside]
In the late 1950s, psychologist Milton Rokeach was gripped by an eccentric plan. He gathered three psychiatric patients, each with the delusion that they were Jesus Christ, to live together for two years in Ypsilanti State Hospital to see if their beliefs would change. Vaughan Bell tells the story of one of the weirdest experiments in the history of psychology. (via)
The man who made philosophy safe for theists again is retiring. The conference in celebration of his impressive academic career is in progress on the campus of Notre Dame University and has brought together many important figures in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion. Many of Plantinga's seminal works are available in their entirety online.
The Inglehart Values Map, based on the World Values Survey, visualizes the strong correlation of values in different cultures. Countries are clustered in a remarkably predictable way, with great cultural continuity across the English-speaking world.
Potential Conservative MP Philippa Stroud founded an evangelical church that tried to 'cure' homosexuals by driving out their 'demons'. Stroud is head of the Conservative thinktank The Centre for Social Justice, lauded as the most influential thinktank in Britain who have heavily influenced David Cameron's views and policies on the family. [more inside]
A Saint for Lost Souls. "The barrio of Tepito, where it's said that everything is for sale except dignity, has been one of Mexico City's roughest neighborhoods since Aztec times. Famous for its black market and its boxing champions, Tepito is a place where residents learn to fight early and fight hard. These days it has also become the epicenter of Mexico's fastest-growing faith: Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, a hybrid religion that merges Catholic symbolism with pre-Hispanic worship of the skeletal Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancihuatl, Lord and Lady of the Dead."
The Havasupai Tribe of Grand Canyon won a $700,000 settlement from Arizona State University, plus the return of remaining blood samples, regarding the use of members' blood and DNA for research. The Havasupai had originally contacted researchers at ASU concerning the Type II diabetes that has ravaged that tribe and others, particularly in the Southwest. [more inside]
The new focus on the Liberal Democrats sees the Daily Telegraph's Cristina Odone profiling Dr Evan Harris. That's "profiling" in the sense that the FBI might profile a criminal. A criminal the papers are calling Dr Death. [more inside]
In 2009, four Buddhist nuns (Bhikkunis) were secretly ordained in Australia - the first ever ordination of Bhikkunis in Australia, and a first for the Thai Forest tradition anywhere. London-born Ajahn Brahm, a long-time supporter of women's equality in Buddhism, facilitated the ordination. For this he was expelled from his community, the Wat Pa Phong Sangha, and his monastery's status was revoked. This video summarizes the conflict, and is possibly the first use of the Downfall meme related to Buddhism. This March, more nuns were ordained in the UK for the first time since the Australia controversy, but they're still not equal to male monks. This blog post discusses sexism, fundamentalism, and the conflict between East and West. The modern opposition to bhikkhuni ordination is no ancient Buddhist tradition. It can be traced no earlier, so far as I am aware, than the abhorrent 1928 ruling against bhikkhuni in Thailand, made by monks who thought it reasonable to arrest nuns and throw them in jail for ordaining. [more inside]
Threats of right wing violence have doubled in the past year. What is behind the latest upsurge in the movement to create a Christian theocratic state? [more inside]
Recent troubles with Muslim women's clothes have lead to the Quebec Government to begin proposing legislation on the issue of face covering and access to public services. The niqab has become a central symbol in the anti-muslim rhetoric of nationalist parties in Europe (political poster examples: France, Switzerland, and Britain) about the threat Islam poses to tolerant secular societies. [more inside]
Affirmed evolution (and anti-intelligent design) biologist Francisco Ayala has won the 2010 Templeton Prize. In 1981, Ayala was a pivotal expert in overturning an Arkansas law that required the side-by-side teaching of creationism and evolution. Besides his nationally recognized work in evolution and genetics, the former Catholic priest has sought to reconcile evolution with religious belief, noting that science and religion are not mutually exclusive. [more inside]
Is Facebook chametz? An interview with two rabbis about their Facebook group, encouraging Jews to consider giving up Facebook for Passover next week. While the word "chametz" strictly refers only to leavened bread, which is prohibited during Passover, the group is inspired by a Chassidic interpretation that connects the leavening of bread to an "over-inflated sense of self."
Women were not allowed to speak at a meeting held to determine the fate of suspended principal John Hartwig of St. John’s Lutheran School in Baraboo, WI. While women are normally not allowed to vote at such meetings, this is the first time in recent history that the St. John’s Council President exercised his authority to keep females from even speaking. Women who wanted to ask questions were told to write them on a piece of paper and have a man read them aloud. Hartwig was suspended for distributing a document questioning Lutheran doctrine that says that women should not hold authority over men.
A new study suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion in human history, as well as more complex economies. (Via). [more inside]
[pdf] Clergymen in the closet -- not because they are gay; because they don't believe in God. Here's a followup.
“You’re going to hell, and it bothers me,” Grisham responds. “What bothers me is you’re going to hell.”
Over the last few days, a fair bit of attention on the web has been focused on Repent Amarillo MySpace YouTube, an organization dedicated to converting Amarillo, TX to the organization's particular brand of Christianity. Their tactics include "Spiritual Warfare" and witnessing, but also appear to involve harassing people who they believe to be sinners. They've even got a map of sinful places in Amarillo, including gay bars, Masonic lodges, rival churches, and other religions' places of worship. But not everybody is all that amused; blogs and websites have started springing up in response.
I am writing to you to inform you of an important change to our group health care benefit plan that will take effect on March 2, 2010 due to a change in the law of the District of Columbia. [more inside]
Laying bare the gratuitous assumptions of the patriarchal historical narrative. A weblog entry from the Aristasian Empire, of which a history and some kinnies [NSFW]. • Gobekli Tepe [previously] • Aristasia [previously]
A new view of Christian belief that views the acceptance, environmentalism, social justice and world peace as the embodiment of the Kingdom of God. [more inside]
Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser have a new paper in the journal "Trends in Cognitive Sciences". The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product? (via) [more inside]
Daily life of the jihadis: rants, the usual aggressive posturing, murderous threats, and dreams of paradise. Also, problems with frying eggs.
Stewart Lee's Special Parable, The Story of The Prodigal Son, and more irreligious fun from the Sunday Heroes: Woman of sinful life, Ian, The Last Supper, Judas, Thomas.
An excellent response to Pat Robertson. "This Vodou priest is not speaking about divine retribution, as has Pat Robertson. God is not punishing us for disobedience. Erol is speaking about a giant natural rebalancing act, a reaction against human dealings with the ecosystem."
The Interfaith Youth Core was started in 1998 by a group led by Rhodes Scholar Eboo Patel. Propelled by his experience growing up as a Muslim in the United States, and encouraged by the Dalai Lama, Patel seeded an organization dedicated promoting global pluralism. His story is detailed in his acclaimed autobiography, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation. He keeps a blog at the Washington Post, and is a fellow at the Ashoka Foundation.
“We got a bit excited because we realized that people have collected lots of dybbuk stories, but our fragment describes a real event, where you see how they come together and pray in order to exorcise the ghost from a widow,” [more inside]
A major survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith. A strong majority of those who are affiliated with a religion, including majorities of nearly every religious tradition, do not believe their religion is the only way to salvation. And almost the same number believes that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their religion. The survey finds that constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents. (.pdf of full report (268 pages) or watch the video of Pew Forum Director Luis Lugo giving an overview of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and talking about some of its key findings.) [more inside]
Dr Kent Hovind (seen here previously) claims to hold a doctorate, but both he and its awarding institution (Patriot Bible University) have refused to publish his dissertation in any form. The WikiLeaks site has obtained a scanned copy; highlights include "the truth about cave men", the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs, and a null reference list.
In Montana, a rabbi is an unusual sight. So when a Hasidic one walked into the State Capitol last December, with his long beard, black hat and long black coat, a police officer grabbed his bomb-sniffing German shepherd and went to ask the exotic visitor a few questions. [more inside]
A women's prayer group was expelled from the area of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Wednesday for wearing tallitot and reading from the Torah, in violation of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that restricts these activities to men in the area directly in front of the wall. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the majority of non-Orthodox rabbinical students are female, with the Reform movement being the most female-dominated, leaving some communities struggling to revitalize men's participation in the religion.
On Thursday, the 12th of November, Karen Armstrong (previously & previously) unveiled her Charter for Compassion. The charter is the product of her Feb 2008 TED prize wish to “restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.” The project began with a “unique web-based decision making platform”, allowing “thousands of people from over 100 countries added their voice to the writing of the Charter.” These contributions were then given to the Council of Conscience for the construction of the final charter. Previous attempts at the promotion of a "global ethic" grounded in the Golden Rule have been largely, globally, ignored. Some people dislike the idea of blurring the differences between religions, some have problems with the Golden Rule itself. [more inside]
Does John of God really heal the sick? Or is it just carnival tricks? John of God aka João Teixeira de Faria is a farmer who has been healing people close to his ranch in Brazil for close to 50 years by chanelling the energy of medical spirits. Sometimes he uses visible surgery and sometimes he uses invisible surgery.
Tim Nicholson, a UK former executive, believes he was fired for his environmental views. He has sued his former employer for discrimination on grounds of the Employment Equality act, which states that employees may not be discriminated against for religious or philosophical beliefs. His former employers argue that his views were political, and thus do not fall under the act. [more inside]