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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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My family is, in many ways, emblematic of America in the 21st century: multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious. I am a Muslim from Iran. My wife is a Christian from western Pennsylvania. That may seem an incongruous coupling. But when we first met, we realized almost immediately that we shared the same values and worldview, even though we expressed those things in a different spiritual language.
That’s all religion is, really: a language made up of symbols and metaphors that allow people to communicate, to themselves and to others, the ineffable experience of faith. I already spoke my wife’s spiritual language (Christianity); I taught her mine (Islam). And now we are a spiritually “bilingual” household. Actually, we are multilingual, considering we are committed to teaching our children all the spiritual languages of the world so that they can choose for themselves which ones, if any, they prefer in communicating their own individual faith experience.
But that is also the reason the prayer was tripping us up that first Christmas together. We were having a difficult time understanding one another’s spiritual languages, let alone coming to a consensus on which language to use.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Secularism * Theology
Across the world, people who reject all religious belief or profess secular humanism are facing ever worse discrimination and persecution, but the existence and legitimacy of such ideas is becoming more widely known and accepted. That is the rather subtle conclusion of the latest report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, an umbrella body for secularist groups in 40 countries, which in 2012 began making annual surveys of how freedom of thought and conscience are faring worldwide.
In common with lots of other reports on the subject, it noted that many countries still prescribe draconian penalties for religious dissent, through laws that bar blasphemy against the prevailing religions or "apostasy" from Islam. Some 19 countries punish their citizens for apostasy, and in 12 of those countries it is punishable by death. In Pakistan, the death sentence can be imposed for blasphemy, for which the threshold is very low. In all, 55 countries (including several Western ones) had laws against blasphemy; the perceived offence could lead to prison terms in 39 countries and execution in six.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Atheism Secularism * Theology
Who, in the age of the internet, online gaming, Facebook and 3D televisions would want to move a pointer around on a board in the hope of getting a message from the spirit world?
The astonishing answer is, quite a lot of people! The story turns out to be true. Promoted by an apparently dreadful film (sponsored by Hasbro, the toy firm that holds the rights to Ouija boards), sales of the £20+ boards have gone through the roof. And it’s not just me who is mystified. As Simon Osborne wrote in The Independent: 'What better time to talk to dead people for fun than the festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus?'
Hunger for the supernatural
This is yet another phenomenon reminding us that, for all the bold claims of new atheism that the world is moving into an age of rational thought in which every form of the supernatural is rejected, the 'on the ground' reality is very different. The hunger for the supernatural, the paranormal and the mystical remains intense and almost universal. Indeed, it seems that the more a 'universe without God' is talked up, the more people flock to the supernatural. If atheism is true, it's very odd that no one seems to be following it.
A Ouija board is not, in any way, a game....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths
“Egypt killed Islam in America,” said one Muslim-American of Egyptian origin, who had been involved in Muslim civic activism for years. He was responding to a question I had about Muslim-Americans’ reactions to the various twists and turns of the Egyptian revolution, after the well-known Swiss-Egyptian academic, Tariq Ramadan, had declared that he would boycott a gathering of Muslim activists in Canada, partly due to political differences over Egypt.
The activist’s answer was flamboyant, and likely overestimated the impact of the Egyptian revolutionary uprising and its aftermath on the development of a specifically Muslim-American consciousness. There are a number of different issues in the international arena that mobilise or interest Muslim-Americans, and there have been for many years – Egypt is certainly not the most critical one. But he had a point in noting that Egypt, before and after former president Mohammed Morsi had been ousted, had created two sharply opposing political camps in the Muslim-American community. That point has some currency far beyond the United States, in Canada as well as a number of European nations. In all of them, large numbers of Muslims are discussing the tensions arising from the Arab uprisings that began in 2011—and Egypt is a big part of that discussion.
The stances of those two camps are not only polarising—they are also inconsistent on the issue of speaking truth to power, in the midst of a multifaceted proxy war that remains deeply energised in the Arab world, and against the backdrop of clear positions on the normativity of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamism.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Flagging morale, desertion and factionalism are starting to affect the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, testing the cohesion of the jihadi force as its military momentum slows.
Activists and fighters in parts of eastern Syria controlled by Isis said as military progress slows and focus shifts to governing the area, frustration has grown among militants who had been seen as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the country’s civil war.
The group hurtled across western Iraq and eastern Syria over the summer in a sudden offensive that shocked the world. Isis remains a formidable force: it controls swaths of territory and continues to make progress in western Iraq. But its fighters have reached the limit of discontented Sunni Muslim areas that they can easily capture and US-led coalition air strikes partnered with offensives by local ground forces have begun to halt their progress.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Economy Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
fter the latest of his sermons denouncing the Islamic State, Mohamed Taha Sabri stepped down from an ornate platform at the House of Peace mosque. The 48-year-old chief preacher then moved to greet his congregation, steeling himself for the fallout.
Soon, two young men — they are almost always young, but not always men — were calling him out. Only moments before, Sabri had derided the militants’ tactics, saying “it is not our task to turn women into slaves, to bomb churches, to slaughter people in front of cameras while shouting ‘God is great!’ ”
One young man in a black leather jacket angrily chided him for challenging “Muslim freedom fighters.” His companion in a yellow shirt then chimed in: “What is your problem with the Islamic State? You are on the wrong path!”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence Young Adults * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Europe Germany * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Militants have stormed a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 33 people and kidnapping at least 100, a survivor has told the BBC.
He said that suspected Boko Haram militants had seized young men, women and children from Gumsuri village.
The attack happened on Sunday but news has only just emerged, after survivors reached the city of Maiduguri.
Meanwhile, Cameroon's army says it has killed 116 Nigerian militants who had attacked one of its bases, AFP reports.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
She took the call herself the night the Islamic State came into Mosul. ‘Convert or leave or you’ll be killed,’ she was told. The callers, identifying themselves as Isis members, knew the household was Christian because her husband worked as a priest in the city. They fled that night.
Like many of their Christian neighbours they sought refuge in the monastery of St Matthew. But Isis took that over, tore down the Cross, smashed all Cross-decorated windows, used it for their own prayers and flew their black flag on top of the church. Across what was Nineveh, Iraq’s Christians spent this year fleeing from village to village, hoping to find safety somewhere.
This woman’s husband and son continued their ministry among the scattered congregations of Iraq. But the wife, who took the call, is now in west London. We spoke there one Sunday morning earlier this year. To attend the morning service in a Syriac church and hear the Lord’s Prayer uttered in the original Aramaic in which Jesus taught it is profoundly moving at any time. But this year the prayers of this beleaguered congregation of Iraqi Christians in Acton have taken on a terrible, plaintive urgency.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Yes we grieve, like all decent, democratic and humane societies should, over the tragedy that has visited Peshawar. But our grief also tells a story that cannot but discomfit those who repudiate everything that terrorism and terrorists stand for. It tells us that proximity alerts us to Islamist barbarism that distance tends to dull.
When 200 teenaged girls were abducted by Boko Haram and pressed into sex slavery in Nigeria, we barely took note of that crime. When the Islamic State militia massacred Yezidis, forcing survivors to take shelter in the barren Sinjar mountains where children died like flies, we merely took note of it. Earlier, when terrorists attacked a school in Beslan, Russia, in September 2004, leaving 385 dead, among them 186 children, we wondered what it was all about.
Just as the story of global trans-border terrorism does not begin with the devastatingly spectacular attacks of 9/11, the story of innocents being massacred in the name of jihad does not begin with the ghastly attack on the school in Peshawar. These are stories with prologues and preceding chapters; each day, each week, each month a new chapter is added to these stories.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Asia Pakistan * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In a desperate letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and Senate President David Mark leaked to SaharaReporters this past weekend, a commanding officer stationed in Nigeria's northeast details several troubling issues plaguing troops combatting Islamist terror group Boko Haram in the region.
The officer stated that, corruption, maladministration, lack of resources and troops motivation has militated against a successful campaign to end Boko Haram's deadly reign of terror in the northeast.
The officer's lengthy complaint which he claims would lead to a threat to his life forewarns that if his pleas continue to be ignored by the country's leadership that both the Nigerian Army and the country will crumble under the insurgency.
Read it all from Sahara Reporters.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
As the school year began in Mosul, the largest city controlled by the Islamic State, the extremists sent a message to teachers: Report for work or lose your jobs.
Then, directives bearing the group’s black flag and hung in schools dictated the new order. Males and females were split up. Girls were to swap their gray skirts and blouses for black gowns and veils that covered their faces. Sports were only for boys. Civics classes were scrapped. At the University of Mosul, one of Iraq’s top institutions, the schools of fine arts, political science and law were deemed un-Islamic and shuttered.
The teachers were in a bind. Not showing up meant defying a group that often murdered its foes. But going to work could anger the government in Baghdad, which still paid their salaries. Out of fear, many teachers complied.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Hours after five hostages escaped from the Lindt cafe, one of the remaining women switched off the lights inside.
Premier Mike Baird has asked Sydneysiders to go about their day as usual on Tuesday
There is an exclusion zone near the cafe, bordered by Pitt, Elizabeth, Hunter and King Streets.
NSW Police have activated Task Force Pioneer, which they use in terrorism related incidents.
A coalition of Muslim groups has expressed their shock and horror at the siege. They have urged calm.
Sydneysiders have united under the hashtag #illridewithyou offering company to Muslims wearing religious garments as they travel in the city.
Read it all and there are loads of links to follow.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
By October, it was becoming clear to us and others that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Emirate allies could not afford to continue petro-pricing business as usual with sectarian wars exploding out of control, threatening the entire region.
In particular, they were infuriated that the Shia regime in Syria was being propped up by Iran and Russia. Moreover, Iran seemed to be getting closer to becoming a nuclear power with each month. Amid the chaos, the Islamic State terrorists had suddenly become a formidable challenge to the entire region, and they were getting increasing revenues from oil properties they had seized.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Middle East Iran Saudi Arabia Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
According to the Religious Freedom in the World Report 2014 by the Catholic Church’s Aid to the Church in Need organization, freedom of religion has deteriorated in almost half the countries of the world, and sectarian violence is at a six-year high. Yet freedom of religion is one of the basic human rights, as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More fundamentally, it was the cause for which the modern world established the concept of human rights in the first place. Revulsion at a century of religious wars in Europe helped spur Enlightenment thinking about the social contract, the moral limits of power, and the centrality of human rights.
The world needs a new, enlightened movement: of people of all faiths working together for the freedom of all faiths. The record of religion in the past, and tragically also in the present, has not been good. Throughout history, people have hated in the name of the God of love, practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion, killed in the name of the God of life, and waged war in the name of the God of peace. None of the world’s great religions has been exempt from this at one point or another. The time has come to say—enough.
The challenge is simple and it is posed in the first chapter of the Bible. Can we recognize God’s image in a person who is not in our image; whose color, creed or culture is not our own?
Read it all.
More than a thousand participants carried touches and banners through the Christmas-decorated streets of Vienna, with messages such as “Freedom of Religion is a Human Right”, “100 millions Christians suffer persecution”, “Stop the Genocide against Christians”, and not least the leading banner with the text “Murder — Rapes — Burning churches — Forced Islamization”, a clear protest against Islamist behaviour in many countries. The march was led by a priest holding a large crucifix, while Dr. Elmar Kuhn of CSI gave a speech while walking. The Maltese Church, which is located in the middle of the march, was rang its bells in support.
In addition to the usual flyers with information about the situation, the organizers also distributed buttons with the Arabic letter ‘N’. This is the sign that Islamic State and other Islamists paint on the walls of homes and other property belonging to Christians, marking them as targets of attacks, abductions, killing and destruction — a sign now used extensively in the formerly Christian country of Syria. This practice strongly resembles the methods used by German national socialists during the 1930’s to mark up Jewish property. This is a cause of reflection in times where Christians even in the West frequently need police protection due to their conversion from Islam, or due to being too clear and outspoken in their criticism of Islamic ideology.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Psychology Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Austria * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
Not all lawyers agree that gay rights are being violated in this case. Not all Christians agree a true expression of Christianity is being extended in this case. But at the core of this fight, this is not an argument over what kind of sex students should or shouldn’t be allowed to have.
What we’re really fighting over is the right to diversity. Lost in the fireworks of this case is that Canadian students choose TWU and its Covenant because it reflects their identity. Mr. Ruby’s and the Law Societies fight imply that such identity can’t be trusted in their definitions of public life.
“Within the confines of religion, the most inane nonsense can be believed and practiced and passed on to one’s children. That’s freedom of religion, have a nice time. But when you go to the government and say I want your approval for this, I want tax status for this, then it’s beyond mere freedom of religion, there has to be a primacy for the right to equality,” Mr. Ruby said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Church attendance is down, disaffection with organised religion is high because of sexual scandals, and the influence of religious leaders is waning, even when they speak of secular concerns, such as the rights of the poor and asylum seekers. And yet, are we seeing a rising dismay among secularists? That’s a question being put to a symposium this week at the University of Western Sydney. Dr David Burchell, co-convenor of the symposium, Secularism and its Discontents, explains.
Listen to it all.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, rose before dawn on Oct. 4 to pray with his father and 16-year-old brother at their neighborhood mosque in a Chicago suburb.
When they returned home just before 6 a.m., the father went back to bed and the Khan teens secretly launched a plan they had been hatching for months: to abandon their family and country and travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.
While his parents slept, Khan gathered three newly issued U.S. passports and $2,600 worth of airline tickets to Turkey that he had gotten for himself, his brother and their 17-year-old sister. The three teens slipped out of the house, called a taxi and rode to O’Hare International Airport.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Religion & Culture Teens / Youth * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Everything that makes Thailand infamous is available in Golok: cheap booze, late nights, rented female company.
But these parties just happen to be raging inside territory claimed by jihadis who pull off hundreds of bomb attacks each year.
The jihadis are hell-bent on turning this region into an Islamic breakaway state. Since 2004, their war against the Buddhist nation of Thailand has tallied more than 6,200 dead. That's more conflict deaths in the last 10 years than in the Gaza Strip.
And yet the tourists keep coming. Not from Europe or the United States but from Muslim-majority Malaysia just across the border. They are men escaping provinces where Islamic codes forbid booze and miniskirts.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia Thailand * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Koran should be read at the next Coronation, says Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the retired Bishop of Oxford. Or at least, he said in the House of Lords, such a reading had gone down very well in Bristol cathedral before a service last year for the mayor and high sheriff, who were both Muslims. The bishop thought, the next Coronation should reflect similar “hospitality”.
This seems to me damagingly misconceived. For a start, look at it from the Muslims’ point of view. The Koran is not just another book, not even one that is holy, as the Bible is held to be by Christians. The Koran is the uncreated word of God. That is the universal belief. It wasn’t composed by Mohammed. It cannot be changed....
The central fact to grasp about the Coronation is that it is not a mere jumble of colourful ceremonial but a service of Holy Communion. Inserted into this is the anointing and crowning of the monarch. This is less clear from films of the Coronation, which cut out, for example, the reception of the Sacrament by the Queen.
The reason for the “privileging” of one religion is simple: the Church of England is established. The monarch is the head of state and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. It might not seem that the Queen interferes in the running of the Church, but then how much does she interfere in the running of the country? She is a constitutional monarch, but that does not make the constitution unimportant.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
A bookkeeper named Roy Torcaso, who happened to be an atheist, refused to declare that he believed in God in order to serve as a notary public in Maryland. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1961 the court ruled unanimously for Mr. Torcaso, saying states could not have a “religious test” for public office.
But 53 years later, Maryland and six other states still have articles in their constitutions saying people who do not believe in God are not eligible to hold public office. Maryland’s Constitution still says belief in God is a requirement even for jurors and witnesses.
Now a coalition of nonbelievers says it is time to get rid of the atheist bans because they are discriminatory, offensive and unconstitutional. The bans are unenforceable dead letters, legal experts say, and state and local governments have rarely invoked them in recent years. But for some secular Americans, who are increasingly visible and organized, removing the bans is not only a just cause, but a test of their growing movement’s political clout.
Read it all.
Considering that it took the Mormon Church more than a century to acknowledge what scholars have long known to be true, it may take another hundred years for the elders in Salt Lake City to proclaim that the prophet, seer, revelator and founder of their religion was the kind of guy who would have to register with the police today before moving into a neighborhood.
Still, for all its painful equivocating, the Mormon Church has done a fine thing in opening up about its past. For too long, the Mormons have tried to airbrush an extraordinary chapter in the history of the American West. Here was a sect, though persecuted and ridiculed, determined to institutionalize in the New World something that Islamic patriarchs and Old Testament graybeards practiced in the old.
Sir Richard Burton, the 19th-century sex enthusiast, traveled to the Great Basin to witness this experiment in the Americas. Mark Twain, after visiting the social frontier of the Mormon kingdom, called it “a fairyland to us, for all intents and purposes — a land of enchantment and awful mystery.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Mormons * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Imagine that the bowls of heaven, which are filled with the prayers of the saints (us!), are what God pours out in order to reach those of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” As we pray to extend His Kingdom, I imagine those bowls filling up. When they overflow, it is not hard to imagine the grace of the Kingdom pouring out of the bowls and into the dreams of those whose hearts are ripe. Of course we still do all we can to carry out mission, but in this season, more fruit with M**lims is coming from supernatural means.
Dumped fuel has a tremendous impact on the atmosphere. It is profound and negative. It should only be done when there is no other way to save lives. Joining in prayer for the extension of the Kingdom and the conversion of hearts and souls to Jesus Christ through all manner of means both natural and supernatural has a tremendous impact on the spiritual atmosphere. It is profound and life giving. It does not cost anything but time, and it pays tremendous dividends.
By the way…you might wonder why I chose to spell M**lim or Isl*m with “*” instead of just spelling it out. It’s because of search engines. Radical M**lims can Google for articles that mention both Christ and Isl*m looking for ways to identify those whom they view are committing apostasy. A simple thing like an * in the spelling is just a safety net for our brothers and sisters in Christ who came from a M**lim background.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Psychology Science & Technology Violence * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
What better time to talk to dead people for fun than the festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Ouija boards are flying themselves off shelves and under trees this Christmas, according to trends data released by Google. The company has recorded a 300 per cent increase in searches for the spirit-bothering devices, fuelled by a terrible movie that was effectively a feature-length ad for a board game, an appearance on The Archers, and the Victorian belief that if the dead could speak, they would use a plank of a wood and the alphabet.
Ouija, released in October in time for Halloween, was, by all accounts, a cliché-ridden turkey about a group of teenage girls who experiment with a board and get scared. It has a disastrous 7 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregating site, but became an occult hit, to the delight of its backers. Hasbro, the toy company behind Monopoly, pushed for the revival of the film, which had stalled in development, and partnered with Universal to make it happen. Its Ouija Game, including a glow-in-the-dark version, is – sure enough – the biggest seller online.
Read it all from the Independent. One C of E clergyman is concerned: ‘It’s like opening a shutter in one’s soul and letting in the supernatural,’ says Peter Irwin-Clark, a Church of England vicar who has witnessed the dark side of Ouija. ‘There are spiritual realities out there and they can be very negative.’
Filed under: * Culture-Watch * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths
Iran’s judiciary should vacate the death sentence of a 30-year-old man who faces imminent execution for Facebook posts linked to his account. On November 24, 2014, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld a criminal court ruling sentencing Soheil Arabi to hang. The court transferred his file to the judiciary’s implementation unit, opening the way for his execution.
A Tehran criminal court had convicted him in August of sabb al-nabbi, or “insulting the prophet,” referring to the Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death penalty. Arabi’s legal team has asked the judiciary to suspend the death sentence and review the case.
“It is simply shocking that anyone should face the gallows simply because of Internet postings that are deemed to be crude, offensive, or insulting,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Iran should urgently revise its penal code to eliminate provisions that criminalize peaceful free expression, especially when they punish its exercise with death.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Middle East Iran * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
"Let my people go." Pope Francis could not have been clearer in his message to Isil: the group’s persecution of Christians in the Middle East has claimed thousands of lives and turned the region into a no-go area for a faith rooted in that soil. Martyrdom has become routine in Christ’s birth place.
In echoing Moses’s plea to the Pharaoh, Francis acknowledged that this kind of dark sectarianism has been part of our history for millennia. Trust an MP to use this tragic history to score a political point. Desmond Swayne, Tory MP for New Forest West and minister for international development, has come out with the crass claim that Isil is acting no worse than Christians have done through the ages.
Swayne’s statement is deeply offensive and morally wrong.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
One of Islam’s most senior clerics is due to travel to Britain this week to take part in a debate organised by Ukip on religious extremism.
The Grand Mufti of Egypt is expected to meet Nigel Farage and will join a panel discussion on youth radicalisation, according to the party’s communities spokesman, Amjad Bashir.
Mr Bashir, an MEP and one of the party’s most prominent Muslims, has billed the event as an opportunity to remind young people of “the teachings of their religion and developing strategies for combating religious intolerance”.
Shawqi Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam is Egypt’s leading religious authority. He has become one of the most prominent Muslim critics of Islamic State, denouncing it as “an extremist and bloody group that poses a danger to Islam and Muslims”.
Read it all (requires subscription)
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Two years ago, “Max” was a devout Catholic who loved his faith so much he would sometimes cry as he swallowed the Communion wafer.
Then came the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, where 20 schoolchildren and six adults were murdered by a troubled gunman. At that moment, a bell went off in his head, he said, ringing “there is no God, there is no God.”
Now, Max goes by his online handle “Atheist Max.” A 50-something professional artist from the Northeast, some days he now spends two or more hours online trying to argue people out of their religious beliefs in the comments section of Religion News Service.
Read it all.
An analysis of public records by the Salt Lake Tribune shows about 62-percent of Utah’s overall population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Just over half the population of Salt Lake County is listed on church records. There are three counties – Grand, Summit and San Juan – where Mormons are a minority.
The LDS church doesn’t provide information about how many of its members participate actively. Reverend Lyn Zil Briggs is the vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Centerville. She says many of the people attending her services each week are Mormon. And she says the large Mormon population in Utah makes newcomers more interested in religion generally.
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Adam Garfinkle, the editor of The American Interest, asked me this question. He told me that he had met a Saudi who claimed to be an atheist: What does this mean? We know atheism in its Jewish or Christian context, as a rejection of the Biblical God. What would atheism mean in a Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist context?
My short answer is: Yes, Atheism, as we know it, came out of a Judaeo-Christian context. But I would slightly re-phrase Garfinkle’s question. The dichotomy is not western/non-Western. It is Abrahamic/non-Abrahamic. It is a rebellion against the monotheistic faiths that originated in the Middle East–Judaism, Christianity, Islam. It makes much less sense in a non-monotheistic environment.
The rebellion is triggered by an agonizing problem: How can God, believed to be both all-powerful and morally perfect, permit the suffering and the evil afflicting humanity? This is the problem called theodicy, which literally means the “justice of God”; in the spirit of the rebellion it is also a demand that God has to justify himself. The most eloquent expression of this atheist rebellion in literature is by Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov rejecting God, because he allowed the cruel murder of one child.
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On 2 December 2014 the Global Freedom Network (GFN) will bring together faith leaders forming a historic initiative to eradicate modern slavery by 2020 throughout our world and for all time.
They will sign the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery to underline that modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity, and must be recognised as such by everyone and by all nations. They affirm their common commitment to inspiring spiritual and practical action by all faiths and people of goodwill everywhere to eradicate modern slavery. The signatories will be...
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Havdalah, the set of blessings that ends the Jewish Sabbath, means separation. The text talks about separating light from darkness, the day of rest from the six days of work, the holy from the ordinary, Israel from “the nations.” That last one stems from the controversial biblical concept of Jews as God’s chosen people, and is a reminder of the rough reality now playing out in this holy city.
After a torturous week that included a Palestinian terror attack on a synagogue and the attendant Israeli crackdown, about 200 people gathered Saturday night at Jerusalem’s renovated First Station complex for Havdalah and a pluralistic prayer for peace. Pluralism in this case meant among Jews — the rabbis up front included Reform and Orthodox, women and men, the descendants of Eastern Europe known as Ashkenazim and of those expelled from Spain, Sephardim.
The overwhelmingly Ashkenazi audience delighted when Rabbi David Menachem, whose grandfather came to Israel from Iraq, asked permission to chant Havdalah in “a Sephardi tune — a Jerusalem tune.”
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The former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, has said readings from the Koran should feature in the next Coronation, when Prince Charles succeeds to the Throne.
In a debate on the role of religion in British public life, Lord Harries, now an independent peer, praised what he called "the hospitality" shown in a service last year at Bristol Cathedral.
However, Douglas Murray, author and associate editor of The Spectator, disagreed saying: "A lot of people will think this is an example of Anglican leaders not having faith in their own faith."
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Islamist suicide bombers have killed an estimated 60 people in a crowded market in Nigeria. The attack comes just days after the Islamist group Al Shabab hijacked a bus in Kenya and murdered 28 non-Muslim passengers.
Could Africa go down the path of Iraq and Syria? Dr Leah Farrall, research associate at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and a former terrorism analyst for the Australian Federal Police, explains.
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His views on the Middle East have often put him at odds with the Church. In his 20s, he abandoned a career as a doctor to become a vicar, eventually heading up the Church of England's International Centre for Reconciliation (ICR) where his work took him to the Middle East.
He backed the 2003 invasion in Iraq and afterwards restored St George's, the only Anglican church in the country. He has endured kidnappings, bombings and the recent onslaught of Islamic State, which forced him to leave in the face of grave threats to his life. Now, he is pushing for more war, saying the countries that invaded Iraq must go back in force to stop IS.
When he moves outside his church, White was protected by up to 35 Iraqi guards. But when he meets The Huffington Post UK, he is sitting without protection in a leather arm chair, at his home in Liphook, Hampshire. By White's own estimation, he has spent 70 to 80 days of the year at most in the UK since he went to the Middle East.
A family friend of White's told me he seems to know everyone wherever he is, to which White replies: "The only place I've ever been where I don't know everybody is here." The walls of this room are covered in crucifixes he collects, maps of Iraq and Baghdad and a letter from former US President George W. Bush thanking him for his work there.
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Suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a Nigerian border town in the restive northeast on Monday, setting fire to houses and killing an unknown number of people, witnesses and government sources said.
Hours after the raid started on Damasak, gunmen still roamed the area, with many locals seeking to flee into neighbouring Niger, just to the north of the town.
It was the third major attack over the last week in Nigeria's Borno State, which have already seen close to 100 people die, including more than 25 people, mostly fishermen, shot dead in a remote community over the weekend.
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PROFESSOR MIA BLOOM (Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, University of Massachusetts at Lowell): They really don’t have the ballast to be able to say, “No, I don’t think that’s what the Sura al-Tawba says.” They don’t really have the knowledge-base to be able to fend off that kind of manipulation of the religion that these groups are doing to convince them that this is the way that they can be the best Muslims they can be.
LOTHIAN: But some of the foreign recruits join the fight in Syria and Iraq with their eyes wide open. True believers in radical Islam. Professor Asani says they’re also lured by money, housing, wives, and a sense of belonging.
ASANI: You come and fight with us, and your visions, your ideas—you’re going to be valued. You’re going to be at the center of power.
LOTHIAN: And it’s not just young men. Three teenage girls from Denver, Colorado were detained in Germany after apparently trying to join Islamic militants in Syria. It’s reported dozens of French girls have also run away from home to sign up with ISIS.
Mia Bloom, professor of security studies at the University of Massachussetts, Lowell, has been investigating the recruiting of Western girls.
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[Canon Andrew] White has the optimism of the truly religious but he found this news devastating.“You can’t stop yourself despairing. You can only despair in that situation.”
In parts of the Middle East, Christianity is in danger of extinction. In 1991 there were 1.5m Christians in Iraq. Today there may be as few as 300,000. In Syria and Egypt, in places where there have been churches for almost two millennia, Christians are being persecuted and killed and their places of worship destroyed.
A report by the Pew Research Centre think tank in Washington found Christianity to be the world’s most oppressed religious group. What remains of the Iraqi Christian community has now lost one of its leaders. White, known as “the Vicar of Baghdad”, was recalled last month from St George’s Church by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, because of the danger posed by the terrorist group Isis.
Could the conflict spell the end of centuries of Christian life in Iraq? “If you’d asked me four months ago I would have said no,” says White. “But in the past four months I say yes. What is a Christian life there now? The Bishop of Mosul said recently that for the first time in 2,000 years there was no church in Nineveh [an ancient city that is now part of Mosul]. That’s the reality.”
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Christian and Muslim leaders fear more violence in the coastal city of Mombasa after the government indefinitely closed four mosques over suspected terror activities.
On Friday (Nov. 21), religious and political leaders united to urge the government to reopen the mosques. Muslim leaders accused the government of insensitivity, while Christian leaders feared being targeted in revenge attacks.
“We have always advised the government against adopting these counterproductive and draconian measures. It is unfortunate they ignored the Muslim leaders,” said Sheikh Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.
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A local school's fund drive for a church has caught the attention of the American Humanist Association, a secular group concerned about the separation of church and state. The group is threatening legal action.
The student council of Oakbrook Elementary School in Ladson is raising money and encouraging donations to Old Fort Baptist Church's food pantry. The efforts were publicized on the school's website and in fliers as supporting "Old Fort Baptist Missions."
The Humanist Association, whose slogan is "good without God," said they sent a letter on Thursday by email to Dorchester District 2 Superintendent Joe Pye and Principal Monica O'Dea claiming that it was unconstitutional for a school to raise money for a church.
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Austria’s Muslim community is incensed over the government’s plans to amend the country’s century-old law on Islam.
The new bill, championed by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz, forbids foreign funding of mosque construction or of imams working in the country and requires a unified German-language translation of the Quran.
The government argues the legislation, which Parliament will vote on this month, will help combat Islamic radicalism. Muslim groups and civic activists say it flouts the principle of equality.
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“I’m Nur. I’m 19. I’m an Arab, I’m a Muslim,” says a young man in a hoodie and grey sweats. “I’m a good person living in a bad area,” he pauses and looks up from his script. “Can someone listen while I speak?” Nur asks.
This is a rehearsal for Conflict of Silence, a radio play to be performed — and recorded — in Birmingham on November 17. The three stars, all unemployed, are different ages and of different ethnic backgrounds. What they share is religious faith: Derek, who reads his script straight, then in West Indian patois, is Christian. Nur and Hanna, a tall, leggy girl in a magenta hijab, are Muslim. And they could not be more different. “What I’ve learnt is the strong effect that different cultures have on Islam,” says Derek. Hanna is of Somali origin, Nur’s family are from Yemen. “We had a bit of a disagreement about women staying at home,” says Hanna lightly.
And that is the point. This is a project for InterFaith Week (which runs from tomorrow until next Satuday), and the aim is to air differences and have open debate. The audience will be invited to respond afterwards, ask questions, share thoughts. “The play is a question mark rather than a full stop,” says Steve, the Christian co-ordinating the play for Soul City Arts. The hope is to spark dialogue between polarised faith communities. He explains: “Our [faith] communities aren’t talking because we are afraid to challenge each other.” People remain polite, he adds, but, often in Muslim majority areas, community relations are perceived “as a question of them and us”.
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SPIEGEL: Delivery is one thing. Why is Islamic State's message finding so much traction with young people?
Soufan: There are different motives that drive people to join this kind of organization. Most of today's IS followers were kids when 9/11 happened. You're dealing with a new generation that has a totally different view of global jihad. To them, al-Qaida is an assembly of old guys. I mean, look at Osama bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri. He has no charisma. But IS now is new and modern, they succeeded in being the new guys -- at least relatively speaking. Nevertheless, Osama bin Laden is still their hero. His photo can be found on the websites of numerous IS followers. The ideology is the same, the strategy is different.
SPIEGEL: Are there any means for putting a stop to Islamic State's success?
Soufan: Our problem is that after 9/11 we never had a strategy that included fighting ideology, to counter their narrative. We had tactics designed to keep us safe, to disrupt their plans, to arrest and kill leaders, even to kill bin Laden. But there was no plan to counter their narratives. In 2004, bin Laden had around 400 fighters under oath. IS today has thousands fighters and followers in countries all over the world. This is an unfortunate failure.
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In brief, what students of contemporary Jewry view in narrowly Jewish terms are problems confronting contemporary American religion, period. Recognizing this fact—namely, that America society is mired in a religious recession—points, in turn, to a somewhat different conclusion from the one offered by Wertheimer and Cohen. Theirs is a linear analysis (“if current trends continue . . . ”); but the history of American religion has been decidedly cyclical. Time and again, prophets-of-doom have railed at the disappearance of cherished beliefs and practices, and, time and again, religious revivals have arisen “miraculously” to give the lie to those warnings. Thus, religious decline in the aftermath of the American Revolution was followed by the Second Great Awakening, and the great “religious depression” of the 1920s and 30s was succeeded by the postwar revival of the 1950s.
American Judaism has experienced similar cycles. Young people abandoned Jewish institutions in the 1870s but returned and transformed them a few years later in an “American Jewish Awakening.” In the 1930s, the majority of American Jews received no Jewish education whatsoever, the community was aging, and the birthrate was in free fall. In 1935, the noted sociologist Uriah Zevi Engelman darkly predicted “the total eclipse of the Jewish church in America.” Instead, much to everybody’s surprise, postwar Jews staged a wondrous suburban comeback. By the early 1960s, the American Jewish Year Book was reporting on the “flourishing state of the American Jewish community’s religious bodies,” with “increased congregational memberships,” many “newly established congregations,” “higher enrollments in . . . religious schools,” and a “growing number of adult study groups and student programs.”
There is, of course, no guarantee that history will repeat itself in our day. Wertheimer and Cohen rightly remind us that American Jewry faces urgent challenges, and rightly call for these challenges to be addressed. Still, the rising tide of Orthodoxy, the fact that the malaise of non-Orthodox Judaism is shared by other religions, and generations of experience with the ebbs and flows of religious life should serve to qualify, and to mitigate, their prophecy of gloom. American Jewry remains a great community, and its best years may still lie ahead.
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Two Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue in the quiet West Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof Tuesday morning with axes, knives, and a pistol and killed at least four worshipers in the single deadliest attack on Jews since tensions in this city began escalating this summer.
Three of the dead, all rabbis, were American immigrants to Israel. The fourth was a rabbi born in Britain.
Such an attack poses a challenge not only to Israeli security forces, but also to leaders on both sides as political tensions take on an increasingly religious tinge.
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Check it out and note the speakers included--Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.
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Canon Andrew White is one of the bravest people I know. For nine years this former Middle East envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has played a key role in freeing hostages in the region, has been the vicar of St George’s church in Baghdad.
As such, he has been the emblem and body-armoured defender of Iraq’s Christian community, which has been under murderous assault in the wars that have engulfed Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
A few days ago, at a conference I chaired in Jerusalem, Canon White told me that the Archbishop of Canterbury has now forbidden him to return to his church in its heavily barricaded compound. Given the advance towards Baghdad of Islamic State (Isis) — which has now murdered a fifth hostage, the American Peter Kassig — it is simply too dangerous even for him.
More than 1,200 members of his congregation and several of his staff have been murdered in the past few years. His flock has dwindled from 6,500 to 1,000 today, including the six remaining Jews in Iraq, who have lived under his personal protection.
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Setting aside the fact that Jesus had “connections” with prostitutes, tax collectors, religious zealots and one or two occupying Romans; and that British prime ministers and foreign secretaries have routinely made “connections” with a few murderous autocrats and “extremist groups” in their time; and that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England herself has shaken hands with Martin McGuinness, dined with dictators and bestowed honours upon nihilist thugs like Nicolae Ceausescu and Robert Mugabe inter alia, it is clear that if we are to coexist with Muslims at home and understand the religious inspiration of extremism at home and abroad, we must apprehend and challenge extremist ideology from within. It is not for the Church of England to define the tenets of ‘moderate’ Islam: it is for Muslim scholars to formulate their own 95 Theses and pin them to the principal gateway to Mecca.
Fuad Nahdi is an academic ally in this process of reformation: his mould-breaking Radical Middle Way (RMW) does indeed have “a long history of working with activists and groups tied to the Muslim Brotherhood” (which is, as Westrop observes, “at heart, a terrorist organization”) because “working with” includes notions of historical correction, religious enlightenment and diplomatic struggle. Was Senator George Mitchell “working with” the IRA in the late 1990s? Was the IRA not “at heart, a terrorist organization”? Was this “working with” not morally justifiable in pursuit of the Good Friday Agreement that led to lasting peace?
The problem with a phrase like “working with” in the context of terrorism is that it denotes complicity and conveys a sense of collaboration. That was plainly Westrop’s intention here: to tarnish Fuad Nahdi by association, trawling the internet to bolster a prejudice. Of course, you can list organisations like the Federation of Student Islamic Societies and the Young Muslim Organization – groups “heavily influenced by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group… which is committed to establishing Islamic rule under sharia law”. But Fuad Nahdi has also been working with Toby Howarth, recently appointed Bishop of Bradford.
How troubling is that?
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The Nigerian army says it has recaptured the north-eastern town of Chibok, which was seized by Boko Haram militants on Thursday.
Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the village in April, sparking global outrage.
The group, which says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has repeatedly targeted villages in Borno state in recent months.
There are reports of many Boko Haram members being killed in Sunday's raid.
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How were the teens radicalized? Multiple signs seem to point to social media.
In addition to following online jihadists from around the world, the teens followed the Twitter account "Jihadi News," which is the same account followed by Martin Rouleau. Rouleau, 25, drove his car into two Canadian soldiers in Quebec last month, killing one, and then committed suicide. They also followed the account "Women of Islam," which encourages women to make sacrifices for the sake of jihad, and they followed an account under the name "Sara," where YouTube jihadi lectures would be constantly tweeted.
"The process they underwent-- from use of social media, radicalization, recruitment online, even through the actual travel route to join the Islamic State -- all follow the exact same pattern shared by several hundred Westerners," wrote Katz, who has called the girls' attempted trip a "case study."
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Today, though, the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa are undergoing a seismic shift in precisely the opposite direction. People are de-secularising. They feel betrayed by secular nationalist governments that failed to deliver prosperity and national pride. They consider the national boundaries imposed by colonial powers to be artificial and obsolete. They are uninspired by the secular culture of the West with its maximum of choice and minimum of meaning. And they have come to believe that salvation lies in a return to the Islam that that bestrode the narrow world like a colossus for the better part of a thousand years.
And though their faith is hostile to modernity, they sometimes understand modernity better than its own creators in the West. They know that because of the Internet, YouTube and the social media, communication, indeed politics itself, has gone global, and they also know that the great monotheisms are the most powerful global communities in the world, far broader and deeper in their reach than any nation state. And the religious radicals are offering young people the chance to fight and die for their faith, winning glory on earth and immortality in heaven. They have started recruiting in the West and they have only just begun.
But when ancient theologies are used for modern political ends, they speak a very dangerous language indeed. So for example, Hamas and Hizbollah, both self-defined as religious movements, refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel within any boundaries whatsoever and seek only its complete destruction.
The Islamists also know that the only way they can win the sympathy of the West is by demonising Israel.
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HODA ELSHISHTAWY (Muslim Public Affairs Council): Our biggest problem as Muslims and what we’re facing right now is extremism. We need to nip it in the bud. And that is through creating these healthy communities--and not just here in America but all around the world, so that Muslims can talk about these issues in an open environment and really take back our faith.
[KIM] LAWTON: But it’s been a controversial prospect. Some Muslims fear new projects to combat extremism will imply that the problem is bigger than it really is. And other Muslim voices are pushing for even more internal critique.
ZUHDI JASSER (American Islamic Forum for Democracy): The pathway to get there does involve airing dirty laundry, does involve open public acknowledgement that we have core interpretations, not the scripture, but interpretations of the scripture, that need to be modernized and are used by radicals.
LAWTON: Earlier this year, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, MPAC, released its Safe Spaces Initiative, which the group describes as a toolkit to help mosques and local community centers combat violent extremism. MPAC national policy analyst Hoda Elshishtawy says they recommend a multistep process which starts with holistic projects to help prevent extremism from ever taking hold.
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Dear Brother and Sister Anglicans:
It is a beautiful building, isn’t it? Those white spires reaching into a perfect blue sky! Today, November 14, 2014, that building, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s National Cathedral, will for the first time offer Muslim Friday Prayers (Jumu’ah) within the sanctuary.
The prayers, which the Cathedral will proudly webcast live from their website, will be co-sponsored by the leaders of such Muslim organizations as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), and Masjid Mohammed (The Nation’s Mosque), as well as South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and the Cathedral’s Director of Liturgy, the Rev. Canon Gina Campbell. CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, and ADAMS are all affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan).
I took the photo of the National Cathedral in 2006 while I was with hundreds of Iranian Americans — both Christian and Muslim — protesting the Cathedral’s invitation to former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to speak there. Family members of those who languished and/or died in Iranian prisons held posters with their loved ones’ pictures. Other signs showed women being stoned — during the years of Khatami’s presidency or tenure as Minister of Culture.
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In welcoming comments, The Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell of the National Cathedral noted she has learned the patterns and practices of prayer from Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs and others. Stating that “Openness to those whose prayer differs from our own is one thing” but that preparedness to exercise hospitality is another, Campbell announced that “deep relationships come out of shared prayer.”
No statement was offered noting the use of the Cathedral sanctuary for non-Christian worship, despite the space being consecrated to the worship of Christ. The sanctuary of the National Cathedral has also been used for Tibetan sand painting by monks and for a Native American smudging ceremony, in which a gift of smoking tobacco leaves was offered to welcome spirits from the four cardinal directions.
In his sermon, Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool of South Africa noted appreciation to the church for making the facility available, but explained the group chose not to have prayers in the “main church” (the nave) “lest subsequent generations of Muslims see that as a license to appropriate the church for Islam”
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While not the United States' official church, owing to a constitutional ban on such a delineation, the episcopal National Cathedral is nevertheless deeply symbolic, designated by Congress as America's "National House of Prayer." It is the final resting place of American icons such as Hellen Keller and Woodrow Wilson, and has hosted the presidential inaugural prayer services for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, both Bushes and President Barack Obama. Islam is the third-largest religion in the United States, behind Christianity and Judaism, and with an estimated 2.6 million adherents, constitutes approximately 0.8% of the country's population.
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After a talk I gave in London a woman in the audience approached me: middle-aged, tall, and wearing a designer dress. Although she agreed with me on various issues she could not understand why I was critical of military takeovers. “In the Middle East a coup d’état is the only way forward,” she said. “If it weren’t for [Egypt’s president] General Sisi, modern women like me, like yourself, would end up in a burka. He’s there to protect the likes of us.”
As I listened to her, I recalled scenes from my childhood in Turkey. I remembered my mother saying that we should be grateful to General Kenan Evren, who led the coup d’état in 1980, for protecting women’s rights. After the military seized power, a number of pro-women steps were taken, including the legalisation of abortion. Yet the coup would eventually bring about massive human rights violations and systematic torture in police headquarters and prisons, particularly against the Kurds, maiming Turkey’s civil society and democracy for decades to come.
Female adulation of male autocrats is widespread throughout the Middle East. I have met Syrian women who have tried to convince me that Bashar al-Assad is the best option for modern women. The Syrian regime seems aware of this rhetoric, recruiting hundreds of so-called Lionesses for National Defense , who are said to be fighting against Islamic fundamentalism and defending women’s freedom.
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“It’s not the norm for an 18-year-old, 19-year-old kid to want to take on, especially if you’re playing basketball and going to a school like Harvard,” Bret said. “But Corbin’s a very spiritual person and it’s just something that he wanted to do.”
When he walked the streets of Puebla, Miller understood the perception that might have shadowed him.
“A lot of times, people see Mormon missionaries coming down the street and they think, ‘They’re at it, they’re forcing it, you’ve got to listen to them, they want to convert you, they want to baptize you,’ ” Miller said.
“But the purpose was to invite others to come under Jesus Christ. Inform them about what we believe, and we always invited them to hold true to the truths that they know and then consider what we taught.”
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While international observers fixate on the Sunni-Shia rivalry’s role in shaping geopolitics in the Islamic world, deep fissures within the Sunni arc that stretches from the Maghreb-Sahel region of North Africa to the Afghanistan-Pakistan belt are increasingly apparent. Moreover, it is Sunni communities that produce the transnational jihadists who have become a potent threat to secular, democratic states near and far. What is driving this fragmentation and radicalization within the ranks of Sunni Islam, and how can it be managed?
The importance of addressing that question cannot be overstated. The largest acts of international terror, including the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, DC, and the 2008 Mumbai attack, were carried out by brutal transnational Sunni organizations (Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, respectively).
The Sunni militant group Boko Haram, known internationally for abducting 276 schoolgirls in April and forcing them to marry its members, has been wreaking havoc in Nigeria for years. And the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State, whose dramatic rise has entailed untold horrors to Iraq and Syria, are seeking to establish a caliphate, by whatever means necessary.
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To say, as Jerome Starkey does, (The Times 11 Nov) that insurgency in the North of Nigeria is fueled more by poverty than by Islamic extremism, is to undermine the truth with the same old story we hear again and again from those unwilling to face the connected and organized global jihadist network we face today.
Poverty does not explain the death by suicide bomb of 40 school children- Muslim children- in Potiksum yesterday. It does not explain the abduction, forced conversion, and forced marriage of some 200 girls in Chibok. To say that this is the result of poverty and corruption is to play down the evil of Boko Haram, and their form of Islam- an Islam we do not know from the Quran, or from the Muslims of my generation. Remember that often- as yesterday- those Muslims who do not share their extremist ideology are often their victims too. Boko Haram and their kind delight in massacres, slaughters, rape and murders- this is not the face of poverty, but the face of radical Islamist jihad.
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A federal court of appeals rejected a case brought by an atheist organization that would have made tax-exempt clergy housing allowances – often a large chunk of a pastor’s compensation – illegal.
“This is a great victory for fair treatment of churches,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of pastors from several major denominations.
“When a group of atheists tries to cajole the IRS into raising taxes on churches, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows,” he said. “The court was right to send them packing.”
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Over the past decade or so, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—usually known as the “Mormon” or “LDS” church—has moved toward greater transparency about its earliest era.
Through the publication of “The Joseph Smith Papers” and new historical essays on the official church website, lds.org, interested readers have been able to learn about the fuzzy period of early Mormonism, the roughly fifteen years from its founding to the settlement in Utah.
Now a new essay, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” makes frank admissions about the early days of polygamous relations (called “plural marriage” in LDS terminology) at Mormon settlements in Ohio and Illinois.
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Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.
The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.
“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.
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At least 47 students have been killed by a suicide bomber at a school assembly in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Potiskum, police have said.
The explosion at a boys' science and technical school in the town is believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber dressed as a student.
Militant group Boko Haram is believed to be behind the blast, police said.
The group has targeted schools during a deadly five-year insurgency campaign to establish an Islamic state.
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If you haven’t thought much about intersexuality, you’re not alone. Even though approximately 1 in 2,000 people are born with intersex (roughly the same amount as are born with cystic fibrosis or Down’s syndrome) it’s rarely discussed. One of the reasons for this is that doctors have employed a concealment-centered model focused on normalizing—through surgery and medication—the body and often even concealing intersexuality from the patient.
There is also striking lack of agreement among doctors about the precise definition of intersex....
While intersex activists have done an excellent job of re-educating the medical profession about the perils of across-the-board involuntary gender assignment, our cultural commitment to the male/female binary is about the reinforcement of majority rule, tradition, culture, and power. And a great deal of that tradition is about Christianity. According to Genesis, when God created humanity he created “humankind in his image” and “male and female he created them.” The idea that human beings are created in the image of God and divided into two complementary pairs has left a deep impression in our understanding of the world.
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Even as the Nigerian military stepped up efforts at beating back the extremist Boko Haram sect from the areas it currently occupies, including the commercial border town of Mubi in Adamawa state, the militants are intensifying attacks on remote communities and villages, residents have told PREMIUM TIMES.
Also, there are reports that three retired Generals of the Nigerian Army narrowly escaped death when Boko Haram insurgents stormed their village asking for their whereabouts.
The insurgents did not succeed in their mission as they (the army Generals) were reportedly not around when the Boko Haram terrorists struck their village of Gashala in Hong Local Government, few kilometers away from Mubi town.
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The Myanmar government has given the estimated one million Rohingya people in this coastal region of the country a dispiriting choice: Prove your family has lived here for more than 60 years and qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed in camps and face deportation.
The policy, accompanied by a wave of decrees and legislation, has made life for the Rohingya, a long-persecuted Muslim minority, ever more desperate, spurring the biggest flow of Rohingya refugees since a major exodus two years ago.
In the last three weeks alone, 14,500 Rohingya have sailed from the beaches of Rakhine State to Thailand, with the ultimate goal of reaching Malaysia, according to the Arakan Project, a group that monitors Rohingya refugees.
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Why then did God say to Abraham about Isaac: “Offer him up as a burnt offering”? So as to make clear to all future generations that the reason Jews condemn child sacrifice is not because they lack the courage to do so. Abraham is the proof that they do not lack the courage. The reason they do not do so is because God is the God of life, not death. In Judaism, as the laws of purity and the rite of the Red Heifer show, death is not sacred. Death defiles.
The Torah is revolutionary not only in relation to society but also in relation to the family. To be sure, the Torah’s revolution was not fully completed in the course of the biblical age. Slavery had not yet been abolished. The rights of women had not yet been fully actualised. But the birth of the individual – the integrity of each of us as a moral agent in our own right – was one of the great moral revolutions in history.
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As illustrated, there are a number of substantial factors that impede a wider Sunni armed pushback against the Islamic State within Iraq, but this does not mean no local gains or progress is possible in the campaign against the group. After US airstrikes began targeting Islamic State positions in northern Iraq in early August, it was apparent that the concentration of air power in support of effective ground forces could be successful in forcing the group to withdraw from territory. This was apparent in Iraq most recently with the breaking of the Islamic State's siege of Amerli by Shia militias and the group's loss of the Rabia border crossing in Ninawa province to the Peshmerga (Kurdish security forces).
However, neither the Peshmerga nor Shia militias have either the means or legitimacy to assert authority over the substantial swaths of predominantly Sunni territory that the Islamic State currently controls in conjunction with local Sunni insurgents. What is required for external airstrikes to be effective in these areas is a Sunni force with local legitimacy to be able to restore the presence and authority of the government. However, with a current severe disconnect between the government and the Sunni population of western and northern Iraq, what is required is deep internal change from within on the part of the government, in addition to a sea change in attitude among Sunni insurgents and their local supporters; whether such change is possible in the foreseeable future is in doubt.
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The [Religious Freedom in the World] Report  concludes that in order to begin to establish any form of consensus, responsibility for combatting violence and persecution rests, first and foremost, within religious communities themselves. The necessity for all religious leaders to loudly proclaim their opposition to religiously-inspired violence, and to re-affirm their support for religious tolerance, is becoming ever more urgent.
Although not explicitly phrased, this would appear to be directed toward Muslim leaders who too often have been unwilling or slow to condemn acts of violence carried out in the name of Islam. The Report has identified places where positive inter-religious bridges are being built at a local level, but these are few and far between.
There is certainly a need for this to happen in the UK, too, if the current national tensions surrounding the Islamic faith are to improve. And this an issue that our politicians must do more to address. The Report states that there is a pressing “need for the West to develop a fuller and more sophisticated understanding of religious motivation. The religious illiteracy of Western policy makers is creating a formidable barrier of understanding between the West and other parts of the world”. This is “hampering productive dialogue and effective policy making”.
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Muslim leaders have a duty to warn their own followers about the “indescribable tragedy” of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and around the world, the Prince of Wales has insisted.
He said that faith leaders must ensure their followers respect believers in other faiths “rather than remaining silent”.
His comments came in a special message recorded for the publication of a new report which concludes that Christians are the “most persecuted religious minority” in the world and that Muslim countries dominate the list of places where religious freedom is most under threat.
While emphasising the importance of his own personal Christian faith, he also signalled that he saw his role as to “defend” followers of other faiths including Islam.
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Mass killings by Islamic State militants have seen 322 members of an Iraqi Sunni tribe killed in western Anbar province, Iraq's government says.
The country's ministry of human rights said more than 50 bodies were found in a water well, whilst 65 members of the Al-Bu Nimr tribe have been kidnapped.
The group's latest attack came on Sunday morning when militants shot and killed at least 50 of the tribe.
IS militants - also Sunnis - control large areas of Iraq and Syria.
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Boko Haram has claimed that the 219 schoolgirls it kidnapped more than six months ago have converted to Islam and been "married off", shocking their families and confirming their suspicions about a supposed ceasefire and deal for their release.
The Islamist group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, made the claim in a new video obtained by AFP on Friday in which he also denied government assertions of an agreement to end hostilities and peace talks.
The mention of the girls, who were abducted from the remote northeastern town of Chibok on April 14, is the first by Shekau since May 5, when about 100 of the teenagers were shown on camera.
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‘Muslim communities in the West,” wrote Graham Fuller and Ian Lesser in 1995 (“The Geopolitics of Islam and the West”), “are more likely to exert influence on their countries and cultures of origin rather than receive influences from them; over time they may have a substantive effect on the perceptions of secularization and minority rights in the Middle East.”
This shift—from the American Muslim community being perceived as foreign and an extension of the Middle East and South Asia to American Muslims instead influencing the East—is the direction in which Muslims are heading. Rampant authoritarianism in the Muslim world and the regression of Muslim religious establishments funded by the same autocratic governments currently make Islamic reform unlikely in the region.
American Muslims can significantly contribute to the revival of Islam and restore human dignity as a central principle of the faith. From despotic regimes to religious extremism, authoritarianism in the Middle East and South Asia has devastated modern Islamic thought over the last few centuries. American Muslims have the freedom and the intellectual capacity to create positive change for Islamic reform.
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1. HALLOWEEN CELEBRATES EVIL
Although people celebrate Halloween in different ways it remains, at its core, an event that glorifies the dark, creepy and scary side of life.
Children and adults dress up as figures that are ‘evil’: witches, vampires, ghosts and demons.
If you want to be different you can hire costumes to make you look like a chainsaw killer, a psychopathic butcher or even a shooting victim (‘with authentic-looking bullet holes’).This is hardly harmless.
Whatever view we have about life, we all take it for granted that our society should spend time and energy encouraging children to care for others and to know the difference between right and wrong.
Yet on this one day, we throw all those values away and glorify everything that is evil and unpleasant. Talk about sending out mixed messages!
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Beginning in the 1940s, Isaac Asimov created with his Foundation series an enduring classic of science fiction. He depicted the development of inconceivably vast galactic empires, guided by the predictive powers of a complex social and behavioral science known as Psychohistory. For millennia, the universe unfolds as it should. Then, overnight, all these plans are utterly confounded by the rise of a messianic prophet called the Mule, a mutant who brings all lesser mortals under his sway, and who conquers all rival empires. Instantly, all psychohistorical bets are off.
In this instance, as in so much else, Asimov took the Mule from the pages of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and specifically the account of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632). And although Asimov was explicitly writing fantastic fiction, his account often echoes older historical writing on the rise of Islam. We read of the great Roman and Persian empires that dominated much of the known world, until very suddenly, a charismatic leader who believes he is instructed by God gathers faithful followers around himself. Ultimately, these supremely motivated legions pour out of Arabia into the civilized world, conquering most of it within a century or so. In this prophet-centered version, Muhammad is quite as radical a newcomer to the known universe as is the Mule, and his career is equally at right angles to conventional historical reality. He comes from nowhere, and the incredible rapidity of the rise of Islam seems near-miraculous.
Fortunately, the rise of Islamic empires can be explained without invoking either supernatural powers or genetic mutation, and Robert Hoyland's In God's Path offers a very convincing attempt. Hoyland's subtitle deserves careful reflection, with the distinction he draws between Arab and Islamic forces.
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While no one would argue that the United States has more bombs, bullets and boots, the question is, “Why does the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue to gain territory and to recruit young people to their cause from the western world?”
The Jihadists see themselves in a struggle against evil and we are the face of their evil. We are attempting to win on the battlefield but we are losing the battle for hearts and minds.
Former Senator Birch Bayh referred to the Jihadist ideology as “empty” on Fox New Sunday (October 26th) If only. If only he was correct. We may kill their soldiers but their ideology, while evil, is robust, certain and virulent. The western world in general and the U.S. lack the courage of their convictions because they lack convictions. We have no vision and are lacking in moral authority. Do we honestly think that we could reinstate the draft to compel young men once again to fight this war?
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Basima al-Safar retouches a picture of Jesus on an easel outside her house overlooking the flat Nineveh plains, 30 miles north of Mosul.
The murals she paints tell the story of her people, Christians in Iraq. But with Islamic State militants nearby, she is worried that life in Alqosh and towns like it could soon come to an end.
The Assyrian Christian town of around 6,000 people sits on a hill below the seventh-century Rabban Hormizd Monastery, temporarily closed because of the security situation. Residents of Alqosh fled this summer ahead of Islamic State militants. Around 70 percent of the town’s residents have since returned. Still, a sense of unease hangs in the air.
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As a prerequisite for the job of being a Church of England priest, it would seem not unreasonable to expect a belief in God to be fairly essential.
But this is not the case, according to a poll of Anglican clergy which found that as many as 16 per cent are unclear about God and two per cent think it is no more than a human construct.
It is 30 years since David Jenkins, then the Bishop of Durham, caused controversy by casting doubt on the resurrection, but it appears that such unorthodox views are widespread amongst Britain’s priests.
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They were among the final holdouts. Even as many of their neighbors fled the violence that engulfed Iraq after the American invasion, the three men stayed put, refusing to give up on their country or their centuries-old Christian community.
Maythim Najib, 37, stayed despite being kidnapped and stabbed 12 times in what he believed was a random attack. Radwan Shamra, 35, continued to hope he could survive the sectarian war between his Sunni and Shiite countrymen even after losing two friends shot by an unknown gunman who left their bodies sprawled in a Mosul street. And a 74-year-old too frightened to give his name said he remained despite the trauma of spending three anguished days in 2007 waiting to learn if his kidnapped 17-year-old son was dead or alive.
Now all three men from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and its environs have fled with their families to Jordan, forced out by Islamic State fighters who left them little choice. After capturing the city in June, the Sunni militant group gave Christians a day to make up their minds: convert, pay a tax, or be killed.
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For six months the world has waited for news of the fate of more than 200 girls abducted by Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. As the Nigerian government insists a deal to release the "Chibok girls" is being negotiated, three girls who escaped their captors have told their story to BBC Hausa.
Lami, Maria and Hajara were at school in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, when they were kidnapped in April. Best friends Lami and Maria escaped by jumping from the back of a truck. Hajara was taken to a camp but later fled with another girl.
To protect the girls' identity we have portrayed their story as an animation, and provided an edited transcript of their account below.
The girls' names have been changed for their protection.
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In his new book “Waking Up,” neuroscientist and popular atheist Sam Harris recounts that “a feeling of peace came over me” as he followed in Jesus’ footsteps on a hill by the Sea of Galilee, and it “soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self—an ‘I’ or a ‘me’—vanished.”
Mr. Harris doesn’t use religious terms, but his musings about meditating on a mountaintop have left some fans wondering what happened to the pugilistic author of “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” which declared that “faith is nothing more than the license religious people give to one another to keep believing when reasons fail.”
Mr. Harris isn’t the only one who has changed his tone. The atheist Richard Dawkins recently devoted an entire book, “The Magic of Reality,” to showing how scientific inquiry has made sense of the seemingly miraculous—from rainbows to the origins of the universe. The discoveries of science, Mr. Dawkins writes, offer as much wonder and life satisfaction as religious belief. The evolutionary biologist and atheist Olivia Judson calls “the knowledge that we evolved a source of solace and hope.”
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If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.
How does 38 percent sound?
That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.
He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”
If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.
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Canadian authorities identified the gunman in the deadly shooting Wednesday of a soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, who had a criminal record, recently converted to Islam, senior American law enforcement officials said. He was shot and killed in the attack.
The episode was the second deadly assault on a uniformed member of Canada’s armed forces in three days, and the latest in a growing list of attacks in the West against soldiers, and in some cases civilians, by individuals who have professed their affinity for radical Islam or sympathy to militant ideology.
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Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.
Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized – the same circumstances surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.
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A week after a Washington rabbi was charged with videotaping women disrobing for ritual baths as they converted to Judaism, the national association of modern Orthodox rabbis said Monday that it would require the appointment of ombudswomen to handle any concerns from women about the conversion process.
The association, the Rabbinical Council of America, is eager to contain the damage from the arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel, a prominent modern Orthodox rabbi who served on the council’s executive committee and, from 2006 to 2013, presided over its committee on conversions. Rabbi Freundel had been considered an advocate for women’s rights in Orthodox Judaism. The local United States attorney’s office has charged him with using a camera concealed in a clock radio to film women as they showered or changed for immersion in the ritual bath, called a mikvah.
The council said Monday that it would not only require the appointment of an ombudswoman for each regional tribunal of rabbis overseeing conversions, but would also name a commission, which would include women as members, to recommend ways to prevent conversion abuses.
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Pope Francis will travel to Turkey next month, the Vatican said on Tuesday, his first visit to the predominantly Muslim country which has become a refuge for Christians fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and in Iraq.
During his three-day visit, the pope will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He will also meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the Orthodox churches that make up the second-largest Christian church family after Roman Catholicism.
"The Holy Father will visit Ankara and Istanbul from Nov. 28 to 30," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
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CS: You attended an Assemblies of God college; now you identify as an atheist. How did you get where you are today?
JM: I was homeschooled on a farm by my parents. They were really involved in our local Assemblies of God church. That was my entire upbringing: There was homeschooling and there was church. So church was my social outlet. As a kid, virtually everybody I knew was religious.
I ended up going to an Assemblies of God school—their most notable alumni include Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It wasn’t until the very tail end of my college career that I started actually questioning my faith.
It was actually based on an assignment that I had to do for a Bible class that I was taking. I had to write a paper on 1 Corinthians 11 and I just thought, “Okay, this will be easy.” So I started researching it and found out that nobody really has any idea what that passage means. Whatever the reason, that really bothered me. I thought that the Bible was 100 percent the inerrant word of God.
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Huntington’s sensitivity to religion-and-world-politics ought to have commended his analysis to the Vatican for thoughtful consideration and serious discussion. Instead, Huntington-the-straw-man-who-prophesied-endless-civilizational-war is dragged out whenever it’s deemed necessary for officials of the Holy See to say that “a war between Islam and ‘the rest’ is not inevitable” (true, if the civil war within Islam is resolved in favor of those Muslims who support religious tolerance and pluralism); or that Christian persecution and dislocation in the Middle East must be handled through the United Nations (ridiculous); or that the path to peace lies through dialogue, not confrontation (true, if there is a dialogue partner who is not given to beheading “the other”).
The Huntington proposal is not beyond criticism. But Huntington accurately described the Great Change that would take place in world politics after the wars of late modernity (the two 20th-century world wars and the Cold War); he accurately predicted what was likely to unfold along what he called Islam’s “bloody borders” if Islamists and jihadists went unchecked by their own fellow-Muslims; and he accurately identified the fact that religious conviction (or the lack thereof, as in Europe) would play an important role in shaping the 21st-century world. Thirteen years after 9/11, and in light of today’s headlines, is Huntington’s proposal really so implausible?
There is something very odd about a Holy See whose default positions include a ritualized deprecation of the Huntington thesis married to a will-to-believe about the U.N.’s capacity to be something more than an echo chamber.
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In an age of smartphones, instant messaging and 24/7 availability, it’s increasingly hard to find time to step away and reconnect with one’s self, especially in fast-paced tech hubs like Silicon Valley.
But before you lock your smartphone in a closet for an hour a day, check out some of the apps and websites available for learning and practicing the ancient art of meditation and the more contemporary mindfulness-based stress reduction.
You don’t need a new gadget to meditate — all the equipment necessary comes installed in the product.
But some meditation and mindfulness trainers are using technology in interesting ways. They range from simple meditation timers to complete courses.
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Asia Bibi’s death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Thursday. Bibi, a Roman Catholic mother of five also known as Aasiya Noreen, was sentenced to die in 2010 after she was convicted of blasphemy. Bibi’s Muslim coworkers accused her of drinking the same water as them and verbally challenging their faith.
“I met Asia in prison a month ago. She’s fine and was hoping to hear good news, but, alas, our ordeal is not over yet,” Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Morning Star News after yesterday’s decision.
World Watch Monitor reports that Bibi’s attorney Naeem Shakir challenged the testimony of the women who feuded with Bibi, arguing to the appellate court that their testimony had been hearsay because the complainant in the case had not heards Bibi’s words himself. The judges ignored Sharkir’s critiques, suggesting he should have raised them the trial level.
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This “different spirit” is the key to Welby’s thinking, and it is not one that can be entrusted to our politicians. Whether we choose to accept religious belief or not, it does not alter the reality that religious faith and ideologies hold far more power than guns and bombs. In the first three centuries of the Church it had no armies and pitched no battles, yet it overcame the Roman Empire through love and a gospel of God’s peace. Religious leaders need to be given a place at the top table as much as military commanders. Their insights into the role of religious belief as a driving force in individuals’ lives, along with their status, hold great value and potential to change the stakes.
There is an onus, too, on all of our religious leaders to take the initiative and become more outspoken, addressing those both inside and outside of their respective religions:
Religious leaders must up their game and engage jihadism in religious, philosophical and ethical space. Religious justifications of violence must be robustly refuted. That is, in part, a theological task, as well as being a task that recognises the false stimulation, evil sense of purpose and illusory fulfilment that deceive young men and women into becoming religious warriors. As we have seen recently, many religious leaders have the necessary (and very great) moral and physical courage to see the need for an effective response to something that they have condemned. It is essential that Christians are clear about the aim of peace and the need for joint working and that Muslim leaders continue explicitly to reject extremism, violent and otherwise. Any response must bring together all those capable of responding to the challenge.Justin Welby talks about treasuring and preserving our values, but also of reshaping them. This would appear to be contradictory, but the context suggests that he is referring to both the values that have built peace and progress and also those that we have developed that bear the hallmarks of selfishness and self-preservation.
This is the battle that Justin Welby is calling for.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq Syria * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
This struggle is not simply a religious conflict, but a terrible mix of ethnicity, economics, social unrest, injustice between rich and poor, limited access to resources, historic hatreds, post-colonial conflict and more. It is impossible to simplify accurately. We cannot tolerate the complexities and so we seek to hang the whole confusion on the hook of religious conflict. And because even to do that on a global scale is complicated, we focus on one area, at present Iraq and Syria, while others—Sudan, Nigeria and most recently Israel and Gaza—are forgotten. Or, equally dangerously, we deny it is religious, in the illusion that religion makes it unfixable.
The clear religious and ideological aspects of the conflicts have to be tackled ideologically, including through the leadership of those who see the world in religious terms. Religious leaders must up their game and engage jihadism in religious, philosophical and ethical space. Religious justifications of violence must be robustly refuted. That is, in part, a theological task, as well as being a task that recognises the false stimulation, evil sense of purpose and illusory fulfilment that deceive young men and women into becoming religious warriors. As we have seen recently, many religious leaders have the necessary (and very great) moral and physical courage to see the need for an effective response to something that they have condemned. It is essential that Christians are clear about the aim of peace and the need for joint working and that Muslim leaders continue explicitly to reject extremism, violent and otherwise. Any response must bring together all those capable of responding to the challenge.
It is hard to exaggerate this point, and it is one that was picked up recently by Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff of the British army. We should be quite hesitant about considering this only as a war of self-defence. The justification for our use of military force rests principally in the extreme humanitarian need of the local communities.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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I have a problem with Aaron, number two in the great and glorious epic that recounts the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. He is a man of peace. He succeeds at everything. Everyone admires, even loves him. Whether great or small, they need him, his understanding and his mediation. Whatever he does, he is well regarded.
But is it possible that Aaron is without fault? Like all biblical characters, he must be imperfect. He too has his moments of weakness and his crises. But in those he is forgiven.
His younger brother Moses must overcome obstacles and dangers. More than once, Moses’ life has been threatened and his reputation questioned. But not Aaron, who passes through difficulties unscathed. Moses is often torn between two passions, two obligations: the demands of God and those of his people. But not Aaron....
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In a new publication, ISIS justifies its kidnapping of women as sex slaves citing Islamic theology, an interpretation that is rejected by the Muslim world at large as a perversion of Islam.
"One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar -- the infidels -- and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law," the group says in an online magazine published Sunday.
The title of the article sums up the ISIS point of view: "The revival (of) slavery before the Hour," referring to Judgment Day.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Violence Women * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
There are at least three levels of violence. The first demonstrates mere power and greed, with mobs and soldiers driving people out of their homes and businesses and into the streams of refugees. According to United Nations estimates, at least 1 million Iraqis have been displaced during the past four months.
The second level of everyday violence, she said bluntly, is "just shooting people."
On the third level, people move beyond deadly violence into unbelievable acts of terror. A Muslim who fled the fighting, said Ahmed, told her one story about what happened to some Iraqi men who could not flee fast enough. The Islamic State soldiers "lay them on the ground, after shooting them," and then rolled over the bodies with a tractor in "front of their families, just to devastate them."
[Andrew] White said those who survive are left haunted by what they have seen and, in some cases, what they themselves have done.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Judaism
Las Vegas is such an impossible, unlikely place, a neon metropolis in the middle of the desert. Equally marvelous and unlikely is the technology that allows me to safely retrieve and freeze my eggs for future use, without a single incision. Because egg freezing only recently lost its “experimental” status and the success rates are not as well known as with embryo freezing, I decided to keep my options open and freeze both eggs and embryos. It feels a little bit like I’m living in a science fiction novel.
Now, a few months post-retrieval, I wonder when and how I will decide to use the eggs I’ve just nourished, protected, collected, and frozen. It’s possible I’ll meet someone and have children the traditional way. It’s possible I’ll marry in time for one child, but need to return to my frozen eggs for a second one. It’s possible I’ll decide to be a single mother, the way my mother was for many years. It’s possible I’ll adopt or decide not to have children at all, and be equally happy. But if I do have a daughter or son some day from the eggs I retrieved, I look forward to telling my child about the unexpected summer night in Vegas when it all started.
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I doubt anyone in the Church of England who knows Rev. Stephen Sizer was surprised that he would attend a conference critical of Israel. Sizer, the Vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, is an outspoken critic of what he calls Christian Zionism, that is, Christian support for the nation-state of Israel on theological grounds.
What is surprising is that a vicar of the Church of England would attend a conference in Iran to speak to a group of anti-Semites on the subject of the Zionist lobby in England. Other attendees of the New Horizon conference in Tehran include a long list of Holocaust deniers and 9/11 truthers. The conference included a panel discussion called “Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat” with the subheading “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist ‘Public Myths.’”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Iran * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The self-proclaimed caliphate of Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is fighting across Syria and Iraq, pushing back larger armies and capturing entire cities. It is also waging an increasingly sophisticated media campaign: The militant group has recruited disillusioned youth as it tries to extend its reach across the Muslim world and beyond. How much do you know about the Islamic State? Test your knowledge.
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