Posted by Kendall Harmon

This week, as Jews celebrate the Passover holiday, they are commemorating the Bible's Exodus story describing a series of plagues inflicted on ancient Egypt that freed the Israelites, allowing them to make their way to the Holy Land. But over the past century, another exodus, driven by a plague of persecution, has swept across the Middle East and is emptying the region of its Christian population. The persecution is especially virulent today.

The Middle East may be the birthplace of three monotheistic religions, but some Arab nations appear bent on making it the burial ground for one of them. For 2,000 years, Christian communities dotted the region, enriching the Arab world with literature, culture and commerce. At the turn of the 20th century, Christians made up 26% of the Middle East's population. Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 10%. Intolerant and extremist governments are driving away the Christian communities that have lived in the Middle East since their faith was born.

In the rubble of Syrian cities like Aleppo and Damascus, Christians who refused to convert to Islam have been kidnapped, shot and beheaded by Islamist opposition fighters. In Egypt, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood members burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way they once obliterated Jewish synagogues. And in Iraq, terrorists deliberately target Christian worshippers. This past Christmas, 26 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a crowd of worshipers leaving a church in Baghdad's southern Dora neighborhood.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relationsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This coming Aug. 3 will mark the golden anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s “Passover,” to adopt the biblical image John Paul II used to describe the Christian journey through death to eternal life. In the 50 years since lupus erythematosus claimed her at age 39, O’Connor’s literary genius has been widely celebrated. Then, with the 1979 publication of The Habit of Being, her collected letters, another facet of Miss O’Connor’s genius came into focus: Mary Flannery O’Connor was an exceptionally gifted apologist, an explicator of Catholic faith who combined remarkable insight into the mysteries of the Creed with deep and unsentimental piety, unblinking realism about the Church in its human aspect, puckish humor—and a mordant appreciation of the soul-withering acids of modern secularism.

Miss O’Connor’s sense that ours is an age of nihilism—an age suffering from by a crabbed sourness about the mystery of being itself—makes her an especially apt apologist for today...

[She believed the world's]...darkness is rendered darker still by late modernity’s refusal to recognize its own deepest need. For as Miss O’Connor put it in a 1957 lecture, “Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* Culture-WatchPoetry & LiteratureReligion & CultureWomen* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyApologetics

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Posted April 16, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As priests chanted and smeared vermilion on Narendra Modi’s forehead, the opposition leader prayed that India would make him its next prime minister.

Modi came to this Hindu holy city late last year to worship at a site that has been contested by Hindus and Muslims for centuries. Just yards from where he stood, a two-story wall of metal bars separated the historic temple from a mosque.

Modi has been a polarizing figure in India for years. Now his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has surged in the polls as a discontented electorate has embraced his message of economic growth and corruption-free government. Voters have begun to cast their ballots in national elections, which will continue in stages until May 12.

Read it all from the Washington Post.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsHinduismIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A group of nonbelievers held its first secular Sunday service here earlier this month. These meetings fill a need that area atheists say wasn’t being met: Weekly get-togethers for like-minded people in a family-friendly environment.

he group is called Kansas City Oasis, and it’s modeled after Houston Oasis in Texas. But don’t call it an “atheist church” — they prefer “secular community,” or “humanist community.”

These Oasis communities aren’t the only Sunday meetup. Another secular Sunday meeting model, Sunday Assembly, has spread throughout England, the U.S. and Australia.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

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Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One hundred and thirty five civilians have reportedly been killed in North East Nigeria since Wednesday. The killings, which took place in the State of Borno, were carried out in at least three separate attacks.
The attackers are suspected to be from the Islamist Boko Haram movement. Human rights organizations say that at least 1,500 people, half of them civilian, have been killed in the region this year.
Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos in Plateau State which is also in the North Eastern region of Nigeria. Archbishop Kaigama appeals for help and support in tracing the roots of the Boko Haram group in what could prove a necessary attempt to reveal who is behind the group, who provides its militants with arms, what is its scope beyond wreaking fear, death and destruction…

Read and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In February, the 20 or so Christian families still living in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa were given the same choice. The cost of protection is now the equivalent of $650 in Syrian pounds, a large amount for people struggling to make ends meet in a war zone. The other two options remain unchanged. This time the offer came from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), an extremist antigovernment group that seized Raqqa in May 2013 from more-moderate rebel brigades and declared the town the capital of its own Islamic state.

Most of Raqqa’s 3,000 Christians had already fled the fighting, leaving just a few families in a place suddenly run by a group known for its violent tactics in both Iraq and Syria, including beheadings and floggings–tactics so ruthless that even al-Qaeda has disowned the group. The number had fallen even further by the time ISIS commanders promised the Christians that as long as they paid the levy, the one church that had not already been destroyed in the fighting would be left untouched and the Christians would not be physically harmed. They would have the right to practice their religion as long as they didn’t ring bells, evangelize or pray within earshot of a Muslim.

Church leaders urged Raqqa’s Christians to pay the militants. “[ISIS] told me that all I need to do is pay the taxes, and they will protect me,” says George, a 17-year-old Christian music student still living in Raqqa. “I know that under the Caliphate, Christians got a lot of things in return for paying taxes. The Christian community was left in peace.” That hasn’t been the case so far in Syria’s new Caliphate. When ISIS arrived in town, it warned Christians to stay out of sight and hide their crucifixes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOrthodox ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Social scientists have learned you can't always believe what people tell you. An analysis of 3 places in the Muslim world examines whether peoples' reports of religious behavior match what they do.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & CultureSociology* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gunmen have killed 135 civilians in north east Nigeria since Wednesday, a senior official from the region has told the BBC.

Borno state senator Ahmed Zannah said the killings took place in at least three separate attacks in the state.

The attackers are suspected to be from the Islamist Boko Haram movement.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 12, 2014 at 7:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Beginning at sundown on April 14, many Jews will be observing Passover at a Seder, the special meal that commemorates their ancestors’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. The book that guides the ritual is the haggadah. The Sarajevo Haggadah, named for the Bosnian city where it is kept, is a rare, beautifully illustrated manuscript created more than 600 years ago in Spain, and many see its own story as a compelling symbol of the Exodus. “It went through so many different cultures,” observes composer Merima Kljuco, “and so many different people took care of the book and helped it survive.”

Read or watch and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEurope--Bosnia and Herzegovina* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted April 12, 2014 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Traditionally, the weeklong Passover holiday has not exactly been known for its culinary attractions. That was by design: The matzo that Jews eat to remember their deliverance from slavery is a flat bread, unleavened because when the ancient Israelites fled Egypt they didn't have time to wait for dough to rise. Matzo is known as the bread of freedom. But because the holiday also commemorates the Israelites' 40-year stint wandering the desert, matzo is sometimes called the bread of affliction—a description that takes on another meaning by about Day Six, when you realize that the matzo you had thought at first tasted delightfully nostalgic is actually about as tasty as a year-old Saltine.

Any food made from grains that are chametz, or leavened, meaning allowed to ferment and rise—that includes wheat, oats, rye and barley—are banned for the holiday. It can put a crimp in menu-planning, but that has always been part of the point of Passover.

Lately, though, a movement has developed that offers deliverance for Jews who might feel that they are gastronomically suffering. The five-star Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem created a stir this month when it announced that it planned to add bagels to its Passover menus when the holiday begins on Monday. The bagels are made with boiled matzo meal, and thus are kosher for Passover, and they come complete with lox and cream cheese.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted April 11, 2014 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As we celebrate Passover, it is important to remember that as great as the miracle of the Exodus was, freedom was only the beginning. I know this from reading the Torah, but I also know from personal experience.

I was born in Uganda to Jewish parents at a time when it was illegal to be a Jew in my country. Uganda’s dictator, Idi Amin, was a modern-day Pharaoh, outlawing everything Jewish from prayer to practice. Many of our Jewish elders, including my father, the community rabbi, were beaten and imprisoned. Our synagogue was destroyed. Under these dangerous conditions, most of the 3,000 Jews in Uganda abandoned their faith.

Nearly a decade later, on April 11, 1979, corresponding to 14 Nisan, 5739, Amin was deposed. It was the first night of Passover when the government declared freedom of worship. For us, it was a true Passover miracle.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaUganda* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted April 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Would you ever explore the idea that this other that you’ve experienced could be God?

I would not explore monotheistic religions. The religions that impress me are those which involve ecstatic communion with a deity or spirit–like voodoo. I like that much better than belief. I have respect for that. But as I said, I’m not looking for anything, and I’m not going to church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted April 10, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Travis Wiseman and Andrew Young, the two economists who wrote this study, found that the more Christians there are in a state, the lower the level of entrepreneurship for that state.

For some, this may come as a surprise. Yet many of us have come to the realization that the Protestant work ethic has all but disappeared.
- See more at: http://blog.tifwe.org/the-atheist-work-ethic/#sthash.QilmokYV.dpuf

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Barbara Ehrenreich is known for her books and essays about politics, social welfare, class, women's health and other women's issues. Her best-seller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, explored the difficulties faced by low-wage workers. So fans of Ehrenreich's writing may be surprised at the subject of her new memoir — the mystical visions she had as a teenager.

To make her new book an even more unlikely subject, Ehrenreich describes herself as a rationalist, a scientist by training, and an atheist who is the daughter of atheists. Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything draws on her journals from 1956-'66, and on the extensive reading she's done in the past decade about the history of religion. She never discussed these mystical experiences before writing the book — and she suspects she's not the only one keeping such things to herself.

"People have these unaccountable mystic experiences," Ehrenreich tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Generally they say nothing or they label it as 'God' and get on with their lives. I'm saying, 'Hey, no, let's figure out what's going on here.' "

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureTeens / Youth* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Concern is being expressed for the people of Kessab, an ancient Armenian christian village in Syria. Reports in recent days have claimed that Islamist rebels captured Kassab from government forces, causing residents to leave. Today's Zubeida Malik has been talking to one of the residents of Kessab, an Armenian christian who we are calling ''Panos''.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted April 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Dr. Shashidhar Pai moved to Charleston in 1979, the Holy City had no Hindu priest, not even a temple for prayer and celebrations. He and his family relied on a home shrine instead.

When out and about, he would approach fellow India natives he encountered and invite them to get together, working to build a small but close-knit community.

Today, there are too many for him to approach anymore.

Pai, who arrived in the U.S. in 1972, came to Charleston to join MUSC's genetics faculty. Since then, he has seen the local Indian community blossom and, with it, the ranks of Hindu faithful, given that most Indians are born into the world's third-largest religion.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsHinduism* South Carolina

1 Comments
Posted April 7, 2014 at 12:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The American Funeral Industry is changing. In recent years, stores like Costco have begun selling caskets, jewelry made from cremation remains, even burials at sea. And now in Southern California, one of the biggest names in the funeral business, Forest Lawn Cemetery, is trying to reach people in a place where they live and breathe - the shopping mall. More from Gloria Hillard.

GLORIA HILLARD, BYLINE: Navigating the kiosk at the Glendale Galleria, shoppers are offered everything from beauty tips to hot neck wraps to vapor cigarettes before arriving at a more tranquil place located between LensCrafters and Footlocker, Forest Lawn....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyAnthropologyEschatologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“We came to accept and to understand that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.”

Six men who admit they are “powerless over alcohol” recited these words from Step 2 of a Canadian-created, secular Twelve Step program at the beginning of a recent meeting in West Vancouver.

Alcohol has devastated their lives; the impact extending to their partners and children. Yet over many years these men of various ages have got back on their feet — with the help of fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Not, they believe, with the help of God.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAlcoholismReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

3 Comments
Posted April 6, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Do you want “limitless power, limitless good karma, and limitless wisdom”? Alex and Ani’s promotional material tells you to buy the Buddha Charm Bangle, available for $28. Do you want “divine direction and soulful enlightenment”? They recommend the Saint Anthony Charm Bangle, for the same price. For the union of masculine and feminine energy, Alex and Ani offers the Star of David Charm Bangle, at $24.

Last year, Alex and Ani, founded in 2004 by Carolyn Rafaelian and named for her two eldest daughters, sold $230 million worth of these amulets. Its bangles, necklaces, earrings and rings are available in 40 Alex and Ani stores in the United States, and in 1,500 other retail outlets around the world. According to a company spokesperson, the company moved over 18 million units “between 2012 and 2013.”

The growth of Alex and Ani poses a question: Is the company a capitalist success story, run by a single mom in the same midsize New England town where she grew up? Or is it a worldwide church, whose tokens of membership, worn on the wrist or around the neck, happen to generate booming sales?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

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Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is the themes of faithfulness and optimism that give the biblical Noah story coherence. Without them you have—as with Mr. [Darren] Aronofsky's two-and-a-half-hour movie—a vast and dreary expanse of time, space and meaning to fill. The director strives his frenetic best. He gives us giant fantasy creatures that look like Transformers, except that they're made of rocks. He gives us, as a substitute for religion, the creeds of animal rights and environmentalism, in which the gravest sins are eating meat and mining. He gives us knifings, arsons and impressive computer-generated battles.

But as a determined secularist in a determinedly secular world, he can't give us the one thing that the Noah story once stood for: hope.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMovies & TelevisionReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 4, 2014 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On a crowded dance floor, a group of 50 women are swaying, stomping, lunging, and gyrating to singer Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty," Pitbull's "Don't Stop The Party," and other popular numbers blasting over loudspeakers.

It could be any trendy New York club, except here the dirty words and sexually explicit lyrics are missing from the raps, and no men are allowed.

Ever.

The occasion is a weekly all-female Zumba class geared to a distinctive clientele: Orthodox Jewish women from nearby religious communities. With lives guided by Do's and Don'ts, few of these women are Livin' La Vida Loca—though in class they do at least get to dance to it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMusicReligion & CultureWomen* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* Theology

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Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican- Jewish Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury is meeting in Dublin this week for the first time since its foundation in 2006.

This evening members of the Commission will attend a reception at Áras an Uachtaráin, hosted by President Michael D Higgins. Other guests will include the Church of Ireland primate Rev Richard Clarke, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Most Rev Diarmuid Martin, the papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown, Rabbi Zalman Lent of the Dublin Hebrew congregation and Rabbi David Singer of Belfast Jewish community.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury * International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Ireland* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted April 3, 2014 at 5:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The theism-atheism-agnosticism trio presumes that the real question is whether God exists. I’m suggesting that the real question is otherwise and that I don’t see my outlook in terms of that trio.

G.G.: So what is the real question?

H.W.: The real question is one’s relation to God, the role God plays in one’s life, the character of one’s spiritual life.

Let me explain. Religious life, at least as it is for me, does not involve anything like a well-defined, or even something on the way to becoming a well-defined, concept of God, a concept of the kind that a philosopher could live with. What is fundamental is no such thing, but rather the experience of God, for example in prayer or in life’s stunning moments. Prayer, when it works, yields an awe-infused sense of having made contact, or almost having done so. Having made contact, that is, concerning the things that matter most, whether the health and well-being of others, or of the community, or even my own; concerning justice and its frequent absence in our world; concerning my gratefulness to, or praise of, God. The experience of sharing commitments with a cosmic senior partner, sharing in the sense both of communicating and literally sharing, “dreaming in league with God,” as A.J. Heschel puts it, is both heady and heartening. Even when that partner remains undefined and untheorized.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPhilosophyPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyAnthropology

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Posted April 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A true story: This chimney, planted like a limbless live oak on a residential street, was built by imprisoned German soldiers during the final year of World War II.

City officials and preservationists want to protect the chimney as a piece of a forgotten America. But the property’s owners, members of a prominent Charleston family, see it as more than just an obstacle to their development plans.

They are Jewish, and they want it gone.

“Every time I see the structure, it makes me think about the ovens,” says Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, 79, who co-owns the land. “I don’t see any reason to make a shrine to Nazis.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 2, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Will Ross reports on the challenge of fighting Boko Haram, and watches rare footage filmed by the group of a recent attack.

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 31, 2014 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With the row over the use of the word Allah still simmering, Anglican Christians in Sarawak said they will go all out to defend their right to use the word in worship.

Datuk Bolly Lapok, Anglican Archbishop for Southeast Asia, said they were willing to abandon their calling to be peacemakers and reconcilers, if “turning the other cheek to the provocateurs and extremists in political Islam that are relentlessly stoking the fire of hatred and bigotry is tantamount to sending a wrong message to them”.

He said this in a statement after a mass gathering of its Iban speaking congregation in Sri Aman today.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaMalaysia* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 29, 2014 at 2:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Pakistani Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, in a case which sparked fierce rioting in the eastern city of Lahore last March.

Sawan Masih was convicted of using derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in a row with a Muslim friend.

Hundreds of Muslims attacked the city's Christian Joseph colony, torching homes, when the allegations surfaced.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

4 Comments
Posted March 28, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Did stepping into the world of "Noah" make you consider your own take on religion?

I already had the sense that I was someone who was more spiritual than specifically religious. ... I’m really interested in those things that are more far-reaching than culture, nationality, race, religion.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchMovies & TelevisionReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* Theology

8 Comments
Posted March 27, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Nicholas Orogodo Okoh, believes strongly that the on-going National Conference must not fail, saying it is a great opportunity to resolve the challenges faced by Nigeria. He also speaks on the Boko Haram insurgency which has claimed many lives and affected the Church in the North-east and the controversial anti-gay law.

Excerpts from interview:
There are allegations lately that corruption has crept into Christianity with some men of God accused of sharp practices. How do you react to this?
I think you used an omnibus word ‘sharp practices’. I don’t know what it means because it could mean so many things. Can you be more specific?
Corruption has one definition, unethical practice. That is exactly what I am talking about.

Read it all (from the long queue of should-have-already-been-posted material).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/Fire* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 26, 2014 at 7:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From here:
You’re both Scientologists. Does anything that has been written about Scientology shake your faith?

It’s like anything in our culture. There are so many opinions. Public opinion is breathing and growing and changing all the time. Your own experience is ultimately what’s going to tell you what you think
.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyAnthropology

0 Comments
Posted March 26, 2014 at 5:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

No amount of investigation about the weather or the mechanical condition of the Malaysian Airlines plane will yield the truth if that is not the problem. From where I sit, it seems to me that there was a hijacking, either by passengers on the plane or a choice by the pilot(s) to fly somewhere else. Now that possibility is finally being examined, lots of information is surfacing. It may be that investigating a pilot with radical politics will yield answers. Perhaps examination of lax security will yield answers, but it appears that radicalism is at the heart of the situation either way. Now as that is investigated, there are all kinds of tidbits of information surfacing. I suspect that not just radicalism, but probably Islamic radicalism, will emerge as the cause. At least it is now being examined.

In Northern Nigeria, no amount of inquiry into “ethnic conflict” will produce answers. It is not an “ethnic conflict.” It is jihad by radical Muslims against Christians. It is Christians who are being attacked and killed. It is the homes and businesses of Christians that are being burned. It is Christians who are having to flee to preserve their lives. It is not tribal, it is not ethnic, it is not economic, it is a spiritual war. It has to be addressed for what it is if there is going to be any answer.

So…what are we to do?

We need to remember that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:10) We need to cultivate our relationship with the Lord through worship and time in the Word of God. We also need to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit by being obedient to what the Lord requires and commands us to do.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistrySpirituality/Prayer* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 24, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The wedding was a modest affair, held in a reception hall overlooking an artificial lake tucked behind a suburban strip. But just minutes after it ended, the bride and groom hurriedly scurried past dozens of protesters here who were chanting “Bigamist!” and “Shame on you!”

One of the wedding guests on Thursday evening glared at the demonstrators, repeatedly hissing: “Mazel tov. Mazel tov. Mazel tov.” The bride, in a lace and sequin floor-length gown, grasped the hand of her husband and looked at the crowd in silence.

Meir Kin, the new husband, has been divorced for more than seven years, under California’s civil law. But he has refused to give his previous wife the document known as a “get,” as required by Orthodox Jewish law to end a marriage. In the eyes of religious authorities, the woman he married in 2000 is what is called an agunah — Hebrew for chained wife. Without the get, the woman, Lonna Kin, is forbidden under Jewish law to remarry.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 23, 2014 at 3:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...Pew Research has conducted a pair of our own surveys of Muslim Americans, most recently in 2011.

That study found that Muslims in the United States account for just under 1% of the population, according to 2011 data. The share of Muslims in the country is expected to grow in the coming decades. By 2020, we’ve projected that there will be more than 4 million Muslim Americans (1.2% of the population), and by 2030, more than 6 million (1.7%).

The relatively small group is diverse in several ways. For example, no single racial or ethnic identity applies to more than 30% of the Muslim American population. And as of 2011, a majority of Muslim American adults (63%) were born outside the United States — coming from at least 77 different countries.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSociology* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted March 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[My friend] Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I'd happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.

By Valentine's Day, I began to believe in God. There was no intellectual shame in being a deist, after all, as I joined the respectable ranks of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.

I wouldn't stay a deist for long. A Catholic friend gave me J. Budziszewski's book Ask Me Anything, which included the Christian teaching that "love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person." This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyApologetics

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Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia next week, he will have an opportunity to follow through on his inspiring words at the Feb. 6. National Prayer Breakfast. There, he told thousands of Christian leaders that "the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose" is central to "human dignity," and so "promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy."

The freedom so central to human dignity is denied by the Kingdom. The State Department has long ranked Saudi Arabia among the world's most religiously repressive governments, designating it a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act. Yet the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has not pressed Riyadh to respect religious freedom.

Saudi Arabia is the only state in the world to ban all churches and any other non-Muslim houses of worship. While Saudi nationals are all "officially" Muslim, some two to three million foreign Christians live in the kingdom, many for decades. They have no rights to practice their faith.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSaudi Arabia* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

No-fault divorce changed the American culture of marriage. So did the sexual revolution. Now proponents of gay rights are redefining marriage at an even more fundamental level. What’s to be done? As a post-biblical vision of sex, gender, and marriage gains the upper hand in our society, should our religious institutions get out of marriage? Should priests, pastors, and rabbis renounce their roles as deputies of state authority in marriage? Or should we sustain the close links between religious and civil marriage?

To help us think more clearly about these issues, we asked eight writers to respond to the following question: With the legal affirmation of same-sex marriage in some states, should churches, synagogues, and mosques stop performing civil marriages?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The American Unitarian Association, peopled and powered by this city’s Brahmin elite, announced its presence here in 1886 with a grand and stately headquarters at the very top of Beacon Hill, right next door to the Statehouse.

If anyone doubted the denomination’s might, its next move made it clear: In 1927, strapped for space, the Unitarians finished building a new home next to the capitol on the other side, even persuading the legislature to change the street’s numbering so they could take their address with them.

But the Unitarian Universalist Association, as the denomination is now known, is selling its headquarters building, as well as two grand homes and an office building it owns in the same neighborhood. It is leaving behind the red brick sidewalks, gas streetlamps and superrich neighbors for a section of South Boston the city has designated an “innovation district,” home to up-and-coming technology and arts businesses.

The move — expected to bring tens of millions of dollars to the denomination — puts the Unitarians in increasingly familiar company.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate Market* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The groundbreaking agreement to work closely together across the different faith communities was signed by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo on behalf of Pope Francis. The Argentinian bishop is chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences which brought together a broad coalition of anti-trafficking experts for a workshop last November. He was joined by New Zealand Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican Centre here in Rome and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See. Also on hand to sign the founding declaration was Dr Mahmoud Azab, representing the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, one of the most important centres of Sunni Islam located in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

The other key figure who put his signature to the document was Australian businessman Andrew Forrest, founder of a philanthropic organisation called the Walk Free Foundation. Set up after Forrest’s daughter travelled to Nepal where children were being caught up in a trafficking for prostitution ring, its aim is to stamp out this modern form of slavery by galvanizing and supporting action at local, national and international level. Planned actions include urging governments to publicly endorse the establishment of the Global Fund to End Slavery and persuading multi-national businesses to commit to eradicating slavery from their supply chains. By mobilizing the world’s major faith communities, this new Network hopes to bring an end by 2020 to what Pope Francis has dared to call a crime against humanity.

Read and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireSexualityViolence* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis Other FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 18, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Monday, 105 lawmakers from both parties sent to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, urging him to change a relatively obscure uniform requirement for the U.S. armed forces that some argue infringes on religious beliefs.

People who observe religions that require specific hair or dress traditions have to seek an accommodation from a superior to break the Defense Department's uniform requirements.

Dr. Kamal Kalsi was the first observant Sikh to apply for the accommodation since the rule took effect in the 1980s. As a devout Sikh, Kalsi doesn't cut his hair. He wraps his hair up in a turban and doesn't shave his beard. Keeping his hair long is an obligatory article of his Sikh faith.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed ForcesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

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Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After years of heated public debate and political wrangling, Israel’s Parliament on Wednesday approved landmark legislation that will eventually eliminate exemptions from compulsory military service for many ultra-Orthodox students enrolled in seminaries.

The issue has become a social and political lightning rod in a country where most Jewish 18-year-olds are subjected to compulsory military service for up to three years. Many Israelis, who see conscription as part of a deeper culture war between the secular and modern Orthodox Jews and the ultra-Orthodox, have been demanding a more equitable sharing of the responsibilities of citizenship and voted in last year’s elections on that basis.

Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, one of the parties that promoted the new legislation in the governing coalition, wrote on his Facebook page soon after the vote, “To the 543,458 citizens of Israel who elected Yesh Atid: Today you have passed the equal sharing of the burden.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The atheist writer S. T. Joshi, 55, born in India, raised in Indiana and now living in Seattle, has written or edited more than 200 books, including a novel of detective fiction, a bibliography of writings about Gore Vidal and numerous works about H. L. Mencken.

He edits four periodicals, including Lovecraft Annual, the major review of scholarship about the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft; The American Rationalist, a journal for unbelievers; and The Weird Fiction Review, which is what it sounds like. He once spent years scanning into his computer — and typing what could not be scanned — every word ever written by Ambrose Bierce, about six million total.

And this month Mr. Joshi got a call from a friend who works for Barnes & Noble, asking if he could edit a new edition of “The King in Yellow,” the 1895 collection of supernatural stories by Robert W. Chambers. It seems that the book was a major inspiration for “True Detective,” the popular HBO series. “I am one of maybe three people in the world who knows anything about Robert W. Chambers,” Mr. Joshi said, by way of explanation. His new edition will be out in April.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted March 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When the women's militia of an Al Qaeda splinter group recently raided a high school in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah, it found a range of violations of its strict interpretation of Islam.

Ten young women were deemed guilty of donning a face veil that was too transparent, having visible eyebrows or wearing a hair clip under her hijab, or head covering. Each student was whipped 30 times, said one opposition activist, who asked to remain unidentified because he is wanted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the militant group that until recently was affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Even as it is pushed out of many northern Syrian towns by other opposition forces fed up with its aggression and extremist tactics, the group, also known as ISIS, has created a stronghold in Raqqah province and is seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate ruled by harsh religion-inspired edicts.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Imam-Priest exchange initiative for 2014 opened at Al Azhar al Shereef, at the invitation of the Grand Imam. The 30 imams and 30 priests who participated in the initiative in 2013 shared what they learnt and were presented with certificates.

This initiative aims at reducing religious tension through practical dialogue. The need for dialogue has become
more critical after the 25 January 2011 Revolution because of the inter-religious strife leading to incidents of tragic sectarian violence. It is clear that religion will play a significant role in shaping Egypt’s future. Muslim Imams and Christian leaders need to address religious harmony and the importance of unity, because it is known how fragile the inter-religious relationships are and the dangerous consequences of the alternative for Egypt’s future.

‘Together for a New Egypt: the Imam-Priest Exchange,’ is an interfaith initiative which brought together 30 priests (from different denominations) and 30 imams (selected by Al-Azhar) for four weekends in 2013. As a result of these meetings, the participating imams and priests built friendships and engaged together.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted March 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A somewhat unusual document landed on my desk a few days ago, in page proofs, sent by Eerdmans, the major Evangelical publisher. It is a book about to be published, written by James K.A. Smith, a decidedly Protestant philosopher on the faculty of Calvin College—How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Taylor is the much celebrated Catholic philosopher, retired from McGill University, author of the massive book A Secular Age (2007). Smith is of a younger generation; I have read one of his books before—Thinking in Tongues (2010)—a feisty book billed as a Pentecostal contribution to Christian philosophy, in which Smith criticizes Christian philosophers for cutting the ground from under their own feet by accepting the naturalistic premises of secular philosophy—and then trying to find space for the supernatural that their faith must affirm. Smith (whose Pentecostal allegiance is apparently relatively new) instead suggests that Christian philosophy should from the first “think in tongues”—that is, base itself on the assumption that the world is indeed suffused with Spirit, is precisely what Christianity says that it is. I’m not interested in arguing whether that is a good philosophical method, but it is probably good pedagogy: “I won’t try to dissuade you from your view that we are in France; let me rather show you that we are in America”. (Whatever “tongues” Smith thinks in now, he is still listed as a professor of Reformed theology. So I was reminded of Karl Barth in his feistiest days. Barth once observed that he was completely uninterested in dialogue with Hindus or any people from other religions. He was asked, how then did he know that they were wrong. He replied: “I know it a priori”. This is not my style of thinking, but I must admit to a certain admiration for its Calvinist chutzpah! In the book mentioned here, Smith continues in the same vein, except that he now undergirds his argument with Taylor’s phenomenology of our supposedly secular age.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyPsychologyReligion & CultureScience & TechnologySociology* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* Theology

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Posted March 12, 2014 at 3:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Franck Darmon is only 35, but he already knows where his bones will lie. Not in his native France, but in Israel.

“When you compare a cemetery in Israel — with the blue sky, the sun and all the white tombstones — to a cemetery in France with the gray surroundings, it’s very distressing,” Darmon said. “The soul doesn’t have the same type of rest.”

Darmon is not the only French Jew reaching this conclusion, and not just because of the weather. France may have Europe’s largest Jewish population, but many don’t want to stay here for eternity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeFranceMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEschatologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Punters who attended the Oxford Tavern before it was retrofitted told the Telegraph that the pub had a real “community spirit”. Tamara, one of the strippers, said “it’s like the loss of my second home”. Two demolition workers would come from across Sydney to have lunch there every Thursday. “There goes my social life,” a third bloke joked of the takeover. This was in some sense a religious place, and now it’s gone, without even having been paid the complement of a bit of violent iconoclasm. No, the sketchy places, the sacred places, are slowly being ground out of the world by a force that sees them as neither holy nor profane, but as novelties to spice up the next round of drinks or the next sing-along.

“I don’t expect much objection from religious communities. They are happy for us to use their church model”, Jones told Salon magazine in 2013. Only someone who already feels entitled to the Christian “model”, and who doesn’t understand why it might be a sacrilege to appropriate those forms and gestures, would assume as much. The churches should think very carefully about how they will relate to the growth of organised atheism. At the very least, they should not collaborate in their own desacralisation.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 12, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Growing up, was it harder to be really tall or to be a practicing Mormon?

I think just tall, because in Chicago, people really don’t know what Mormons are. And being a basketball player, I didn’t really have to face a lot of struggles, because a lot of people around me respected me. I really didn’t get heckled or looked down upon. But being tall was a mixed blessing. Off the court, I felt kind of shy because I wasn’t average. I wasn’t able to be a part of being normal in my classroom.

What music do you listen to before games? Would hip-hop be too explicit for Mormons?

I’m a really big fan of hip-hop, and I can listen to it before the game, but I’m not that into a lot of profane music. Sometimes you can’t get the clean things, so I just make sure that it’s as conservative as possible and make sure the message is there if profanity is present.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSportsUrban/City Life and IssuesYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted March 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

America’s vaunted Protestant work ethic is getting a makeover: Now it might be more of an atheist work ethic.

A new study has found an inverse relationship between the religiosity of a state’s population and its “productive entrepreneurship.” That’s professor-speak for “entrepreneurial investment responsible for real economic growth.”

In other words, the less religious a state’s population, the more likely it is to have a healthy economy.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 9, 2014 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The religious slaughter of animals should be banned if Muslims and Jews refuse to adopt more humane methods of killing, the new leader of Britain’s vets has said.

John Blackwell, president-elect of the British Veterinary Association, said that the traditional practice of slitting animals’ throats and allowing them to bleed to death for halal and kosher meat caused unnecessary suffering.

He urged Jews and Muslims to allow poultry, sheep and cattle to be stunned unconscious before they are killed. If the two faiths refuse, Mr Blackwell wants ministers to consider following the example of Denmark by banning the slaughter of animals that are not stunned first.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* General InterestAnimals* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The REALITY at All Saints’ Church, Peshawar, on Sunday, 22 September 2013

This cataclysmic act committed by two suicide bombers shook the very foundations of our people and changed the very course of not only their lives but of the whole Christian community in Pakistan. It happened after the morning worship of Holy Communion while they were sharing an agape fellowship in the small compound of this historic church. The church was built in 1883 as the first church building of its kind, being designed like a mosque and especially for the use of the native Christians of the local area. Even at that time its foundations were filled with the blood of nine local Christian martyrs. It is located in the heart of the ancient historic city of Peshawar and in the neighbourhood of the famous Qissa Khawani (story tellers) bazaar, which was the hub of the travellers of ancient times when entering from Khyber Pass onto the Silk Route.

My relationship with this ‘gharana’ (family) goes back almost quarter of a century. I have shared their joys and sorrows during these years. I have been their friend and father-figure. Many of them I had Baptized, Confirmed and Married. It has been one of the two largest parishes in the Diocese of Peshawar and a bastion of indigenous Christianity in this famous border area of Pakistan/Afghanistan. Most of the families can claim their lineage in this area for well over a century. One of the most celebrated aspects of their Christian witness has always been their Easter procession, very often numbering up to five thousand young and old, women and children, singing and praying through the winding and narrow streets of the neighbourhood. Almost all of them speak and communicate in the local Pakhtun language and are also well versed in Pakhtun culture. So they have never felt themselves to be either outsiders or unfamiliar with the local customs and traditions. For this reason they were always open and at ease with their Muslim neighbours.

This horrendous tragedy claimed nearly 300 victims of all ages, with 117 passing away and 162 receiving very serious and other injuries...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther Faiths* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

His co-workers may have not seen past his beard, but the jury did.

A Muslim American man from Ypsilanti, Mich., has won a nearly $1.2-million jury award after successfully arguing he was harassed, taunted and discriminated against at work because of his religion, race and appearance - most notably, his long scruffy beard.

Ali Aboubaker, 56, a U.S. citizen and Tunisia native with four advanced degrees, was awarded the judgment on Thursday following a two-week jury trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

"We were stunned," said Aboubaker's lawyer, Shereef Akeel, who stressed to the jury that his client had several strikes against him.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted March 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I do not come to bury our culture (for it may well bury itself). Rather, I write to understand it. And there are few topics that we need to understand more than how our culture is viewing sex. Some of what I say may be familiar. I’m not striving to be creative, really, so much as I am seeking to speak a true word so as to be able to engage folks around me.

Nowhere are modern sexual mores more evident than in pop music. Pop music today is not singularly occupied by sex, but nearly so. And not just sex generally, but increasingly sexual acts. I think it’s important for Christians who want to engage the culture well to know that this development is not merely owing to an aberrant way of life, but to a different worldview. I commend Peter Jones’s The God of Sex, a prescient and underappreciated work from a few years back. Jones helped me to see that many people today have, wittingly or unwittingly, adopted a pagan outlook on life. In our modern neo-pagan world, the body is paramount, sex is cathartic and even gives meaning to life, and there is no telos or purpose for sex and relationships.

I cannot help but think of these matters when I listen, as I infrequently do, to secular rap and R&B.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenMovies & TelevisionMusicPsychologyReligion & CultureSexualityWomen* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsWicca / paganism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 1, 2014 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Radical Islamist rebels running the northern Syrian city of Raqqa have made the Christians living in the area an offer they can’t refuse: pay for protection, convert to Islam, or “face the sword.”

In a statement posted to Jihadi websites and signed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-designated emir of the future Islamic caliphate of Raqqa, as well as the founder of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] rebel brigade, Christians are urged to pay a tax in order to continue living under ISIS’s protection. The terms are simple: twice a year wealthy Christians must pay the equivalent of half an ounce of gold — about $664 by today’s market value. Middle-class Christians have to come up with half that sum, and poor Christians can get away with paying a quarter, or about $166.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

1 Comments
Posted March 1, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Central Asians, America’s interest does not extend beyond gas and oil. Washington’s decision to pull back from Afghanistan in 2014 will likely erode American influence at the very moment when it could do the most good — especially as rising prosperity increases pressure for governments to loosen their grip. Greater freedom presents great dangers, as the disillusions of the Arab Spring have so sadly demonstrated.

Yet it may be in Central Asia, rather than the Middle East, Pakistan or Indonesia, where the ideals that both Presidents Bush and Obama have espoused will be most actively pursued in coming years. This is not to suggest that Washington pay less attention to the Arab world, but perhaps it is time for us to listen to our own lectures on the possibilities of a peaceful and intellectually open version of Islam, and to back those societies that are trying most successfully to advance it today.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Brunei's all-powerful sultan, stung by rare criticism, has ordered social media users to stop attacking his plans to introduce harsh Islamic criminal punishments in the placid oil-rich kingdom.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah -- one of the world's wealthiest men -- announced last October that Brunei would phase in sharia law punishments such as flogging, severing limbs and death by stoning beginning April 1.

The move has sparked a growing outcry on social media, the only outlet for public criticism of authorities in the Muslim country where questioning the 67-year-old sultan is taboo.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaBrunei* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 26, 2014 at 4:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three floors above a Manhattan street of loading docks and coffee shops, in a functional room of folding chairs and linoleum tile, a man who introduced himself as Vic began to speak. “Today is my 35th anniversary,” he said. The dozen people seated around him applauded, and several even whooped in support.

By most overt measures, this gathering two weeks ago was just another meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of its multitude of meetings worldwide. At the session’s end an hour later, however, as the participants clasped hands, instead of reciting the Lord’s Prayer in usual A.A. fashion, they said together, “Live and let live.”

This meeting, as the parting phrase suggests, is one of a growing number within A.A. that appeal to nonreligious people in recovery, who might variously describe themselves as agnostics, atheists, humanists or freethinkers. While such groups were rare even a decade ago, now they number about 150 nationally. A first-ever convention will be held in November in Santa Monica, Calif.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAlcoholismReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism

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Posted February 26, 2014 at 4:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the boys’ classroom at Lamplighters Yeshivah in the Hasidic Jewish stronghold of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Montessori number-counting boards and decimal beads share space with Hebrew-learning materials. A colorful timeline on the wall shows two strands of world history in parallel: secular on the left, Jewish on the right. A photo of the grand rabbi of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement hangs above a list of tasks that children perform individually: make a fractions poster, practice cursive, learn about the moon’s phases.

Into the classroom on a recent morning came Rivkah Schack, one of the school’s principals, holding a tool whose form, if not its content, would be familiar to any Montessori teacher: a small nomenclature booklet in which the students were to write words from the Bible by hand and illustrate them. In secular Montessori, the booklets might be used to teach botanical terms; here, they were for Hebrew.

“Not to mix our metaphors, but that’s our holy grail,” said Ami Petter-Lipstein, the director of the Jewish Montessori Society, based in Highland Park, N.J., as Ms. Schack gathered a few pupils around her on the rug for a group Hebrew lesson.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted February 24, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

KATE OLSON, correspondent: Since its founding by the Methodist Church in 1836, Emory University has had a commitment to “educate the heart as well as the mind.” This is just what educational institutions need to be doing, echoes a visiting professor—His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA (speaking at podium): You made me an honorary professor of this university. But I always describe hopeless professor. Mainly I’m a very lazy person. I never do homework.

OLSON: But the Dalai Lama has a serious message: how to address the urgent problems in society and the moral crisis he says the world is facing.

Read or watch and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Churches in Central African Republic are caring for thousands of Muslims who have been trapped in a cycle of revenge attacks, perpetrated by a pro-Christian militia.

Since December, Anti-Balaka militias have been emptying Muslim quarters and avenging earlier attacks by the Seleka, an Islamist militia. The Seleka rampaged through the country in early 2013, terrorizing Christians and ransacking churches, hospitals and shops.

Now that the Muslim president Michel Djotodia has stepped down, Seleka is being forced to withdraw from its strongholds, as the center of power shifts, amid a mass exodus and displacement of Muslims.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaCentral African Republic* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted February 21, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Episcopal Church in Egypt has joined the growing number of groups who have condemned Christian attacks on Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR).

In a Tuesday statement, The Reverend Mouneer Anis, Bishop of the Episcopal and Anglican Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and the President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, said he hoped the international community would respond to “stop this humanitarian disaster”.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaCentral African Republic* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted February 19, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I expected to be pained by Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker essay on atheism and belief, but I didn’t expect to be quite so … puzzled by his depiction of contemporary belief. Gopnik clearly has sympathy for the religious side of the argument he’s describing — or at the very least he’s straining to be sympathetic. But given the premises he’s working from, that sympathy manifests itself in a peculiar and telling misreading of what theists actually believe.

That misreading follows from the fairly stark distinction that Gopnik tries to establish between the God of popular belief — the God of miracles and commandments, signs and wonders, heaven and hell — and the God of more intellectually-minded modern believers. The former sort of almighty, he writes, is simply impossible for serious minds to believe in any more...

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

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Posted February 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Damon Stang, whom Mr. English affectionately calls the “shop witch,” is the resident tarot card reader. Mr. Stang, a 30-year-old South African, is the founder of Kings County Coven No. 1, and he leads the Witches’ Compass series with Katelan Foisy on each full moon.

“There’s been a magical revival happening in New York City for two to three years,” Mr. Stang said. “I think it’s a nostalgia that people have for a sense of enchantment with the world.”

Athena Dugan, 51, who came from Lincoln Square to play the drums during the ceremony, said the long trip was worth it. “The connection I get when I’m here, and the trueness and honesty that it creates to being pagan, Wiccan, is here,” she said. “The minute I walk in, it’s like I’m stepping into a different world.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and Issues* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsWicca / paganism

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Posted February 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Not many Orthodox rabbis, especially not ones immersed in Jewish hubs of the Northeast, raise their hands to serve small communities such as the Lowcountry, where a kosher deli is harder to find than a snowball or skyscraper.

But Rabbi Michael Davies did.

At 31, he was installed last week as the first rabbi of Dor Tikvah, a new modern Orthodox synagogue in West Ashley.

His installation brings to five the number of rabbis in town leading Jewish entities, remarkable given the area's Jewish population barely numbers 7,000, most of whom aren't even affiliated with a synagogue.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* South Carolina

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Posted February 16, 2014 at 4:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Alum Rock, a neighborhood of Birmingham, looks the way Pakistan might, if Pakistan were under gray northern skies and British rule.

The streets are lively but orderly, with shops that provide the largely South Asian population with most of its needs. The huge Pak Supermarket, with its 10-kilogram bags of spices and rices, is matched by the nearby Pak Pharmacy. Nearly every face is South Asian, and people wear a vibrant mixture of clothing, from Western styles to head scarves, knitted caps and full-face veils, or niqabs.

But the Muslims of Alum Rock, Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, who make up most of the more than 21 percent of Birmingham’s population who declare Islam as their religion, are newly uneasy, they say. The backlash from the killing of a white soldier, Lee Rigby, in London in May by two fanatical young British Muslims, combined with anxieties about the flow of jihadis between Britain and Syria and the sometimes harshly anti-immigrant tone of leading British politicians have combined to create a new wariness among British Muslims.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What if, though, the whole battle of ayes and nays had never been subject to anything, really, except a simple rule of economic development? Perhaps the small waves of ideas and even moods are just bubbles on the one great big wave of increasing prosperity. It may be that the materialist explanation of the triumph of materialism is the one that counts. Just last year, the Princeton economist Angus Deaton, in his book “The Great Escape,” demonstrated that the enlargement of well-being in at least the northern half of the planet during the past couple of centuries is discontinuous with all previous times. The daily miseries of the Age of Faith scarcely exist in our Western Age of Fatuity. The horrors of normal life in times past, enumerated, are now almost inconceivable: women died in agony in childbirth, and their babies died, too; operations were performed without anesthesia. (The novelist Fanny Burney, recounting her surgery for a breast tumor: “I began a scream that lasted unremittingly during the whole time of the incision. . . . I felt the knife rackling against the breast bone, scraping it while I remained in torture.”) If God became the opiate of the many, it was because so many were in need of a drug.

As incomes go up, steeples come down. Matisse’s “Red Studio” may represent the room the artist retreats to after the churches close—but it is also a pleasant place to pass the time, with an Oriental carpet and central heating and space to work. Happiness arrives and God gets gone. “Happiness!” the Super-Naturalist cries. “Surely not just the animal happiness of more stuff!” But by happiness we need mean only less of pain. You don’t really have to pursue happiness; it is a subtractive quality. Anyone who has had a bad headache or a kidney stone or a toothache, and then hasn’t had it, knows what happiness is. The world had a toothache and a headache and a kidney stone for millennia. Not having them any longer is a very nice feeling. On much of the planet, we need no longer hold an invisible hand or bite an invisible bullet to get by.

Yet the wondering never quite comes to an end. Relatively peaceful and prosperous societies, we can establish, tend to have a declining belief in a deity. But did we first give up on God and so become calm and rich? Or did we become calm and rich, and so give up on God? Of such questions, such causes, no one can be certain. It would take an all-seeing eye in the sky to be sure.Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism

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Posted February 12, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Virginia Tech group contains a broad spectrum, from life-long atheists who grew up in sceptical families to home-schooled Baptists, evangelical Catholics and even a young man who was brought up in a Dominionist cult dedicated to establishing a Theocracy in America.

Caroline - not her real name - is a graduate research chemist who is about to hit the job market and is afraid that her atheism will be held against her.

“I’m more concerned about getting a job than losing one,” she said. “I know they Google you and while I can’t hide my atheism, I don’t really want to advertise it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted February 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

New York City is moving to close school for two Muslim holidays and the Lunar New Year — but Mayor de Blasio isn’t so sure about the Hindu festival Diwali.

Appearing on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” on Monday, the mayor said he hadn’t taken a position on whether Diwali, the festival of lights celebrated in India and other South Asian countries, should be a day off from school.

But he said he’d move forward with closing schools for Lunar New Year and for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Muslim holy days.

“It is complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget. But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame,” he said.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:58 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Christian family in Algeria has been refused permission to bury their son in the local public cemetery because he was not a Muslim.

“The leaders of the mosque demanded that I would have to follow Islamic burial rites if I was to bury my son in the cemetery,” said the father of 24-year-old Lahlou Naraoui, a University student.

Naraoui’s family, who live in Chemini in the Kabylie region of northern Algeria, said they could not follow the Muslim leaders’ demands and instead chose to bury their son on private land.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryAfricaAlgeria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted February 5, 2014 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From cowboys in the pew to a convoy of cranes accompanying the coffin, funerals are no longer necessarily the black-clad sombre affairs of the past.

People are becoming more creative with their final plans, according to the National Association of Funeral Directors, which reports a growing number of bizarre requests. Unusual planned ceremonies include Morris dancers, a Wild West themed funeral and a company director wanting to be buried next to his beloved golf course.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism

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Posted February 4, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Harvard Law School, one of the most prestigious institutions of its kind in the world, has posted a verse of the Holy Quraan at the entrance of its faculty library, describing the verse as one of the greatest expressions of justice in history.

Verse 135 of Surah Al Nisa (The Women) has been posted at a wall facing the faculty’s main entrance, dedicated to the best phrases articulating justice:

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationLaw & Legal Issues* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The remarkable thing about this confession is, it's true. It's not a moment of great self-esteem, or at which the lost son remembers how inherently worthy he is. By rights, he has no rights. And yet, what does he discover? Well, it is true that he receives no joy from his elder brother. But that is because the Father is irritatingly insistent on showering his tender mercy upon the returning son.

Many Christian churches open their services by inviting the congregation to confess its sins. It might seem as if this a dour reminder of our inadequacies and failings, and a rather grim thing to be doing on a Sunday, when you could be enjoying a late breakfast. But the Christian can confess with confidence - not simply because he or she will find in God a righteous judge, but because "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." To confess your sin is to express confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the one in whom God displayed both his justice and his mercy. And it is a gloriously counter-cultural testimony to the "admit nothing" world.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychologyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mosques across Egypt have witnessed the first Friday sermon on a set theme chosen by the government as part of newly introduced controls on Muslim places of worship.

The policy is controversial in a country that is deeply polarised after the army overthrew President Mohammad Morsi last year after mass protests, amid deep resentment against his single year in power.

The Ministry of Religious Endowments is the official Egyptian body which will decide what imams or preachers should tell the millions who attend the weekly prayers, known in Arabic as salat al-jummah. Attendance is obligatory within Islam for Muslims without a valid excuse such as sickness.

Starting from Friday 31 January, all Egyptian mosques are to abide by the weekly topic posted on the ministry's website.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 1, 2014 at 8:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A controversial billboard paid for by atheists near the site of Super Bowl 48 takes jabs at organized religion just as a recent survey showed more than half of football fans believe supernatural forces influence the big game.

The 14 feet by 48 feet billboard paid for by American Atheists is on one of the major highways around MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It shows a priest with a football and says ‘A ‘Hail Mary’ only works in football. Enjoy the game!’

This isn’t the first religion-based advertisement linked to the Super Bowl. A now-infamous anti-abortion television ad during Super Bowl 45, in 2010, featured then-college football star Tim Tebow and his mother.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & CultureSports* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted January 31, 2014 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More than 2,000 Christians gathered in Colombo on Sunday (January 26) to protest against a perceived lack of religious freedom in Sri Lanka, following recent attacks on Christian places of worship by Buddhist extremists.

Two churches and a Christian prayer centre were attacked on Jan. 12 by Buddhist mobs claiming they were illegal and aiming to take Buddhists away from their religion.

The prayer centre, belonging to the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Pitipana, near Colombo, was set alight on the same day as attacks on the Assemblies of God Church and Calvary Free Church in the southern coastal town of Hikkaduwa.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaSri Lanka* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsBuddhism

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Posted January 29, 2014 at 4:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We encourage Anglican Christians everywhere to understand the faith of Muslims, to love them, befriend them, and witness to them, building upon what Muslims already know of Jesus Christ in order to lead to what they do not yet know: that is the fullness of the Christian Gospel.

Gathered as we are in Kenya, we rejoice that Muslims are free to worship and to practice their faith in countries like Kenya, and lament that this is not so for Christians and others in the Islamic world.

We commit ourselves to pray and support the persecuted churches throughout the world.

Our churches need both to campaign for greater freedom of belief and expression in Islamic lands, as well as for material, spiritual and social support for converts and others who suffer because of their beliefs.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalGlobal South Churches & Primates* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted January 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Late in the evening of November 28 last year, Habila Adamu was at home with his wife and kids in the Yobe state of Northern Nigeria when visitors stopped by. He opened the door, shocked to find gunmen wearing robes and masks.

They demanded he step outside and they peppered him with questions. What was his name? Habila Adamu. Was he a member of the Nigerian police? No. Was he a soldier? No. Was he a member of the state security service? No. He told them he was a businessman.

OK, are you a Christian?” they asked.

“I am a Christian,” Habila said.

Initially fearful, Habila came to terms with the realization that it was the day of his death. He began praying for strength, forgiveness and salvation.


Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeriaAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 28, 2014 at 6:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Through US Africa Command (AFRICOM), US Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA), and the Office of Security Cooperation in the US Embassy in Abuja, the United States will be helping stand up the NASOC by providing training and a limited amount of equipment.

From the information I have, it sounds like NASOC will have a force up North to deal with Boko Haram, a force in the South to deal with security in the Niger Delta, a headquarters force to focus on hostage rescue, and an expeditionary force for external use – perhaps to contribute specialized capabilities for peacekeeping operations.

Unfortunately, I don’t know the precise size of NASOC or of its component forces.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed ForcesViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeriaAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Twenty years ago, in 1994, democracy finally came to South Africa, the wealthiest and most powerful nation of sub-Saharan Africa. Most South Africans would agree that the subsequent years have been difficult, and levels of violence and poverty remain intolerably high. But the turn to majority rule was a massive political and moral achievement, to which Christian churches contributed mightily.

Beginning in the 1960s the antiapartheid cause featured centrally in Christian debates worldwide over political activism and the legitimacy of armed resistance to tyranny. Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu became perhaps the best-known face of the antiapartheid movement.

Obviously, the churches that struggled against apartheid did so from a sense of religious obligation and not with any thought of advancing their own power or influence. But with 20 years of political freedom behind us, what can we say about the religious consequences of the revolution? Who were the winners and losers? And has religious radicalism faded from political life?

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryRace/Race RelationsReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaSouth Africa* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism

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Posted January 24, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Leslie Zukor was a 19-year-old student at Reed College studying prison rehabilitation programs when something jumped out at her.

While there were programs tackling drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, technical training and more, all of them were offered by faith-based organizations. Where were the options for those behind bars who are atheists, like her?

“Not all prisoners are religious, and I wanted them to know that to turn your life around and be a good and productive member of society does not require a belief in God,” she said. “I just thought, wow, it is time to see about getting other perspectives in there.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted January 23, 2014 at 11:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby welcomed the presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews to Lambeth Palace yesterday, for their first meeting since Archbishop Justin and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis took office last year.

The presidents, including Archbishop Justin, the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, pledged to take a more upfront role in the CCJ activities at local and national level.

Among the topics discussed were the importance of encouraging local CCJ branches, the need to confront a worrying increase in anti-Semitism, and the role of CCJ in enabling churches and Jewish communities to discuss the situation in the Holy Land in a spirit of mutual respect and generosity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted January 22, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last summer, as unrest raged in Cairo, Egypt’s small Anglican community started looking for a way out. One family made for Canada, another went to Australia, and several emigrated to the United States.

As exoduses go, Anglican emigration has been small compared to the torrent of fleeing Coptic Orthodox migrants, but with approximately 3000-4000 congregants, the Anglican Church’s problems over the past few years have mirrored those of the wider Christian population.

When modern Egypt’s worst bout of sectarian violence erupted in August, few Anglicans were left untouched by the fallout. Two of the Anglican community’s 15 churches were attacked, while only the timely arrival of the army spared a third, and those inside it, from an irate mob intent on setting it alight.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted January 21, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Who is a Jew? This question is becoming ever more pressing for Jews around the world. It looks like a religious issue, but is bound up with history, Israeli politics and the rhythms of the diaspora. Addressing it means deciding whether assimilation is a mortal threat, as many Jews think, or a phenomenon to be accommodated. The struggle over the answer will shape Israel’s society, its relations with Jews elsewhere, and the size and complexion of the global Jewish community.

For Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Tubul, the solution is simple and ancient: you are a Jew if your mother is Jewish, or if your conversion to Judaism accorded with the Halacha, Jewish religious law. Gentiles might be surprised that for Jews by birth this traditional test makes no reference to faith or behaviour. Jews may be atheist (many are: apostasy is a venerable Jewish tradition) and still Jews. Joel Roth, a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, likens this nativist criterion to that for American citizenship: Americans retain it regardless of their views on democracy or the constitution. Some strict rabbis even think that a child is not Jewish if born to a devout mother but from a donated gentile egg....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Is the Central African Republic the world's next Rwanda? That's the question some are beginning to ask about a crisis that has been going on for most of this year but has only just burst through into the mainstream international mass media.

Warlords ruling the countryside by terror, a government that is almost toothless and the collapse of institutions have forced 0.4 million people to flee their homes and left a million dependent on aid.

And now reports of Muslim and Christian communities engaged in inter-communal violence have sparked concern about a slide into religious conflict. The "G-word" -- genocide -- has even been floated as a real risk by some observers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaCentral African Republic* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim, a breakdown of census figures shows.

The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives is almost twice as high as in the general population. In an indication of the extent to which birthrate is changing the UK’s religious demographic, fewer than one in 200 over-85s are Muslim.

One expert said it was foreseeable that Muslims who worshipped would outnumber practising Christians. “It’s not inconceivable,” said David Voas, Professor of Population Studies at the University of Essex.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

ITV News has found evidence that children are being targeted in one of Africa's bloodiest civil wars.

Many have suffered horrific injuries, as violence in the Central African Republic sinks to what the United Nations calls a "vicious new low".

Read it all and note the many video links available.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaCentral African Republic* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted January 9, 2014 at 7:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life.

It faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam, another Pew survey has reported.

Michel Varton, head of Open Doors France, told journalists in Strasbourg that failing states with civil wars or persistent internal tensions were often the most dangerous for Christians.

"In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war -- the war against the church," he said while presenting the Open Doors report there.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEschatology

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Posted January 9, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the first time, German public schools are offering classes in Islam to primary school students using state-trained teachers and specially written textbooks, as officials try to better integrate the nation’s large Muslim minority and counter the growing influence of radical religious thinking.

The classes offered in Hesse State are part of a growing consensus that Germany, after decades of neglect, should do more to acknowledge and serve its Muslim population if it is to foster social harmony, overcome its aging demographics and head off a potential domestic security threat.

The need, many here say, is ever more urgent. According to German security officials and widespread reports in the German news media, this past semester at least two young Germans in Hesse — one thought to be just 16 — were killed in Syria after heeding the call for jihad and apparently being recruited by hard-line Salafist preachers in Frankfurt.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In response, the founders of Sunday Assembly [for nonbelievers] — Ms [Pippa] Evans and fellow comedian Sanderson Jones — have travelled across the US seeking to implant new “assemblies” in coastal cities, in Chicago and even in Nashville, deep in America’s Bible Belt. Jonathan Tobert, 67, a semi-retired research physician, was appointed to serve as a sort of archbishop for this vast new diocese.

Like the Pilgrim Fathers, they have met with controversy and schism. There was even a solitary protester who stood outside one meeting declaring Mr Jones — who has a luxuriant red beard — to be an agent of the devil.

The New York congregation endured what Mr Tobert called “a healthy split”. “One group wanted a more edgy thing, in bars. We called them the hawks. We, the doves, wanted to have it more churchy. Sanderson agreed that was more his vision.” The hawks split off into a separate movement called “The Godless Revival” which meets in a bar near Times Square. “This has always been a problem for secular people,” said Mr Tobert. “They are by definition free thinkers. It can be like herding cats.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

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Posted January 3, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that twelve Christians were brutally murdered by suspected Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria over the weekend. According to reports, these Christians were killed in two attacks on separate Christian villages in Nigeria's Muslim majority state of Borno.

The first attack took place on Saturday, December 28, in the Christian village of Tashan-Alede where eight people attending a wedding celebration were killed when militants connected with Boko Haram opened fire on the Christians gathered. According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, "One attack took place at a pre-wedding bachelor party. Suspected fighters from Boko Haram opened fire on the group, killing eight people."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted January 2, 2014 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As many participate in religious celebrations at this time of the year, our country, the Central African Republic, remains on the brink of religious warfare. In a place that most of the world struggles to find on a map, more than 2 million people, nearly half of the nation’s population, are in desperate need of aid. As we write, approximately 40,000 people without shelter or toilets are crammed into the airport compound in the capital, Bangui. In just the past week in Bangui, hundreds have been killed, including patients dragged out of hospitals and executed. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that he is “gravely concerned about the imminent danger of mass atrocities.” We fear that without a wider international response, our country will succumb to darkness .

As the most senior faith leaders of our country’s Christian and Muslim communities, respectively, we recognize our responsibility to help define a path away from violence. Our colleagues, priests and imams alike, have paid the ultimate price for taking on their own part of this responsibility, and we fear the worst is yet to come.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationPovertyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaCentral African Republic* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As Christmas neared, an 85-foot-high tree presided over the little square in front of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Kindergarten children with Santa Claus hats entered the church and listened to their teacher explain in Arabic the Greek inscriptions on the walls, while a group of Russian pilgrims knelt on their knees and whispered in prayer. In Nazareth's old city, merchants sold the usual array of Christmas wares.

This year, however, the familiar rhythms of Christmas season in the Holy Land have been disturbed by a new development: the rise of an independent voice for Israel's Christian community, which is increasingly trying to assert its separate identity. For decades, Arab Christians were considered part of Israel's sizable Palestinian minority, which comprises both Muslims and Christians and makes up about a fifth of the country's citizens, according to the Israeli government.

But now, an informal grass-roots movement, prompted in part by the persecution of Christians elsewhere in the region since the Arab Spring, wants to cooperate more closely with Israeli Jewish society—which could mean a historic change in attitude toward the Jewish state. "Israel is my country, and I want to defend it," says Henry Zaher, an 18-year-old Christian from the village of Reineh who was visiting Nazareth. "The Jewish state is good for us."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted December 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rahma and Ugbad Sadiq packed their school bags as they did every morning, and left the family home in Kolsås, Norway, where their parents immigrated in 1996 to escape war in their native Somalia.

But by 5 p.m. that day, Oct. 17, the teenage sisters hadn't returned to help prepare dinner. An email was waiting for the parents in their inbox.

"Papa, we're on our way to Syria. It isn't enough to stay in Norway while Muslim people are in huge trouble. We have to deal with them in their daily life to help them," it said.

Their mother fainted, hitting the floor, her husband, Juma Sadiq, recounted....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted December 26, 2013 at 8:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Prince of Wales’s powerful intervention last week on the persecution of Christians is a reminder that ancient Christian communities, pre-dating Islam, are on the verge of disappearing from their homelands in the Middle East.

After years of bringing together Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in dialogue, Prince Charles admitted that in spite of many such efforts, “fundamentalist Islamist militants” were “deliberately” targeting Christians.

This is something that Western governments have been strangely and inexplicably reluctant to confront. In a recent House of Commons debate on the issue, the Government response was full of denial that this was a problem uniquely affecting Christian communities. But, then, successive governments have done little to speak up for Christians facing human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 24, 2013 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More people than ever are identifying themselves as having 'no religion' according to new research.

Two surveys conducted by YouGov reveal that out of 8,455 British adults polled, 38 per cent - 3,199 in total - said they have 'no religion'.

This is most notable in younger generations, with almost half (48 per cent) of those under 30 identifying themselves as having no religion, while only 27 per cent of over 60s said the same.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism

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Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A handful of employees--now ex-employees--of a Miami chiropractic office say they got more than a paycheck for their labors.

The workers say they were force-fed an indoctrination in the rituals of Scientology, the controversial religion that counts such celebrities as Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its members. Those rituals, the workers complained, included occasionally having to sit perfectly still in a spare room at the office, facing one another for an eight-hour stare-down--as well as yelling at ash trays and talking to the walls.

They also had to devour the books of the late L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder, including his seminal work, "Dianetics," the complaint alleged.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

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Posted December 23, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“We now have a cultural Christmas and a Christian Christmas,” [Professor of religious studies at Morningside College in Iowa] Mr. Bruce Forbes said.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsAdventChristmasParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

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Posted December 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In one sense, the decision was almost inevitable, given the trajectory of both the culture and the federal courts. On the other hand, the sheer shock of the decision serves as an alarm: marriage is being utterly redefined before our eyes, and in the span of a single generation.

Judge Waddoups ruled that Utah’s law against consensual adult cohabitation among multiple partners violated the Constitution’s free exercise clause, but a main point was that opposition to polygamy did not advance a compelling state interest. In the background to that judgment was the argument asserted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to the effect that the only real opposition to any form of consensual sexual arrangement among adults would be religiously based, and thus unconstitutional.

Kennedy made that assertion in his majority opinion in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas that struck down all state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior—and the Lawrence decision looms large over Judge Waddoups’s entire decision.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 19, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For myself, I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East. It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ. Their church communities link us straight back to the early Church, as I was reminded by hearing Aramaic, Our Lord's own language, spoken and sung a few hours ago.

Yet, today, the Middle East and North Africa has the lowest concentration of Christians in the world – just four per cent of the population and it is clear that the Christian population of the Middle East has dropped dramatically over the last century and is falling still further.

This has an effect on all of us, although, of course, primarily on those Christians who can no longer continue to live in the Middle East: we all lose something immensely and irreplaceably precious when such a rich tradition dating back two thousand years begins to disappear. It is, therefore, especially delightful to see such a rich panoply of church life here to-day, including the Antiochian, Greek, Coptic, Syrian, and Armenian Orthodox Churches, the Melkite, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Chaldean, and Roman Catholic Churches, as well as the Church of the East, and Churches established, dare I say it, somewhat more recently, including the Anglican Church!

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

3 Comments
Posted December 19, 2013 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For all of my cockiness about non-belief when I was young, I had a sneaking suspicion that as I grew older and the prospect of Crossing the Rainbow Bridge grew ever closer, I would start moving back to belief. Better take out an insurance ticket just in case God exists, although if He exists and turns out to be a Jehovah’s Witness then all bets are off. At least I will have the compensation of seeing the Pope trying to dig himself out of an even deeper hole than mine. The funny thing, however, is that as I grow older (I am now in my seventies), if anything my feeling that non-belief is right for me grows ever stronger. I am sure that at least in part it is psychological. Having had one headmaster in this life, I don’t want another one in the next. But I think my feeling is also bound up with what my work on the books on atheism have taught me, together with the insights of Clifford about the morality of belief. I truly don’t know if there is anything more, but that is okay. What would not be okay, morally, would be pretending that there was something more even though I didn’t really think there was adequate evidence, or conversely pretending that there is nothing more, perhaps rather pathetically trying to win the approval of today’s very public atheists.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* Theology

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Posted December 18, 2013 at 11:19 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The UN says more than 1,200 people have been killed in Islamist-related violence in north-east Nigeria since a state of emergency was declared in May.

The UN said the figure related to killings of civilians and the military by the Islamist group Boko Haram in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

It also includes insurgents killed by security forces repelling attacks.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 16, 2013 at 11:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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