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Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #150 on: April 03, 2017, 07:35:32 AM »
Religion Butt of Workplace Humor as Sexist Jokes have become Taboo in the UK

"Religion has become the butt of workplace jokes as workers who would never make sexist or racist comments mock belief instead, a survey has found.

"A study by ComRes [British Polling Group] found that up to a million workers may have faced harassment, discrimination or bullying because of their religion or belief.

"The report's authors suggested that this tended to be in the form of "lower level exclusion" which people did not bother to report because they did not feel it was serious enough

"Respondents said they had been made to feel uncomfortable  by colleagues making jokes about religious beliefs.

"Katie Harrison, director of ComRes Faith Research Centre, said: "Some people told us they felt uncomfortable about mentioning that they pray.

"Or we heard of people feeling upset that religion was the butt of jokes in a workplace where people have become much more aware about making disparaging comments about gender or disability."

"One survey respondent said: "In our office, everyone is very respectful of minorities and would never be disparaging about women or people with disabilities, but when it comes to religion it’s fair game. "People can be very insulting, especially when they express it through humor."

"Ms Harrison said many religious people felt unable to tell colleagues that they had been to a mosque or church at the weekend and could not talk freely about the religious parts of their lives.

"Employees also said that they did not think their managers knew how to deal with faith-related issues, such as prayer rooms or taking days off for festivals.

"Many HR managers say they make provision for employees to pray at work and observe holy days and religious festivals, but workers say that’s not happening," said Ms Harrison.

"One in three workers also said that people in their workplace never talk about religious beliefs or traditions.
Another respondent said that they had felt singled out and uncomfortable when colleagues laid out a separate halal platter for them and created a separate prayer room.

"He or she said: "I don’t actually eat halal or use prayer rooms and felt uncomfortable that they’d gone to so much unnecessary effort.

"Their well-intentioned efforts to try to include me in fact made me feel excluded and very different to everyone else."

Olivia Rudgard - The Telegraph (UK) - April 3,m 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #151 on: April 04, 2017, 09:09:48 AM »
The Other Billy Graham (Mike Pence) Rules

"During his 20 years as a manager in the Christian music business, Darren Tyler followed a version of what’s known in evangelical circles as the “Billy Graham Rule.”

"He—and members of the bands he managed—would never eat, travel, or otherwise spend time alone with someone of the opposite sex while on the road.

"It’s a boundary that just makes sense, says Tyler. And it’s one he follows while traveling for his current role as pastor of Conduit Church in Franklin, Tennessee. “My wife never has to worry about what I am doing,” he says.

"The Billy Graham Rule has taken a bit of beating recently, after a Washington Postprofile revealed that Vice President Mike Pence follows a version of the rule. It’s set off a fierce debate over whether the rule safeguards marriages from adultery, harms women in the church, or is just plain sexist.

"But most reports have neglected to mention that there’s not just one Billy Graham rule. There are four. They deal with money, sex, power, and lies and were part of something known as the Modesto Manifesto. Set up in the 1940s, the rules were meant to keep Graham and his organization away from the pitfalls that have taken down American celebrity preachers since the days of Henry Ward Beecher and Aimee Semple McPherson."

Billy Graham’s Rules:

1. Operate with financial transparency.

2. Avoid even the appearance of sexual immorality.

3. Avoid criticizing other pastors and churches.

4. Be painstakingly honest in all publicity.

Bob Smietana - Christianity Today - March 31, 2017.

Complete lengthy article:

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #152 on: April 05, 2017, 05:59:16 AM »
African Traditional Religion Keeps Them Poor

"Missionaries are generally disliked by the secular linguistics/anthropology community. Why? Because missionaries do not come to the field as neutral observers, but with a desire to see change. Missionary linguists do not come to merely preserve and describe languages, but to see the Bible translated and then confront the culture. And Dave and I desperately want to see the Bakoum culture confronted and changed.

"Do not get me wrong, there are aspects of Bakoum/Cameroonian culture that I love and miss. I love the brightly colored cloth custom made into form-fitting, eccentric dresses. I love walking down the street and seeing an individual, standing by himself dancing to music that no one else can hear. I love how everyone sits outside in the evenings and talks until the sun goes down while goats, chickens, and babies wander around freely.

Harmful Traditions

"But then there are some aspects of their culture that I cannot accept because they are harming the neighbors I have come to love. So much so, that they are actually ensuring that an already impoverished people remain in poverty. What I see around me in Cameroon is not a tribal religion that supports a rich culture among its people. Instead, I see a commitment to a system that enslaves its followers. The primary damaging belief comes from their perspective on the afterlife. The worldview of the Bakoum is dominated by a belief that when one’s relatives die, their bodies are buried but their spirits stay in the village. And generally speaking these spirits remain to torment the living -- unless they are appeased. They are a force that is behind almost all events in life and the job of the living is to manipulate them to ensure the safety of the individual and the community.

Wasted Food

"The ramifications of this core belief touch on almost every aspect of their lives. For instance, our neighbors will go out to their fields all day to work, and then they haul what they harvested on their backs, sometimes for miles, back to the village. The women then work to prepare the food and then the family sits down to eat. If some of this food falls off of someone’s plate, he assumes that one of his deceased relatives is hungry. So, out of obligation, he sets his plate of food on the ground for the ghost and walks away. The food is wasted and the true hunger is unabated.

Wasted Money

"And then there are funeral celebrations which need to be conducted in a very particular way, because if the deceased feels dishonored, he will torment the family. Therefore, there must be 6 days of weeping, sleeping by the grave, dancing, and so on. And for this to happen, it absolutely cannot rain. So in order to stop the rain, a family member follows the prescription of a local shaman and spends money that he does not have on kerosene. The shaman then tells him to pour out this expensive gift onto the ground. That formula supposedly stops the rain, even if that means their children will not have money to go to school for the year. Precious money that is so hard to come by is not used to start something like a small business, but instead is spilled on the ground to appease a ghost who is not even there.


"And, in Bakoum culture, there is no such thing as an accidental death or a death that comes from natural causes. The reason for death is always due to a curse on the deceased or because a neighbor transformed themselves into an animal in order to kill him. At funeral ceremonies there is a time to determine, through casting lots, the person responsible for the death. As can be expected, this leads to extreme suspicion and strife between the members of the community. I have seen adults stand on either side of our street and scream at one another for hours upon hours, accusing one another of such evils. And then, when the time comes for the community to work together to fix the pump of the local well, there is such division that they refuse to work together and the pump never gets fixed, again leaving people in need."

Stacey Hare - Hare Translation Journey - April 4, 2017.

Complete article:

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #153 on: April 06, 2017, 05:35:08 AM »
Mike Pence’s Marriage Rule - Anti-Women or Pro-Religion ?

"I get Vice President Mike Pence’s devotion to his wife, and the measures he takes in “building a zone around [his] marriage,” as he once described it. But some of those measures haven’t been well-received, especially on the left. Twitter lit up last week when a profile of Pence in The Washington Post included a snippet from a 2002 interview saying he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, nor attends events without her “If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose.”

"Critics accused Pence of objectifying women and wondered how he managed affairs of state if he couldn’t meet alone with, say, a female governor or Angela Merkel. Others just found it weird, as if someone who describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” had dropped in from a previous century.

"The more serious criticism noted that women have a hard enough time advancing in business or public service without powerful men treating them as objects of temptation. The conversation recalled a 2015 survey of female congressional staffers in National Journal, in which several female aides reported that they had been blocked from evening events or one-on-one meetings with their bosses out of fears of creating the wrong impression. National Journal quoted an Office of Compliance official saying that any such policy — “official or unofficial” — could be viewed as discriminatory.

“A practice like this means that women can never become trusted advisers or rise to high positions within an office based solely upon their gender,” the official said.

"Conservatives, mostly, defended Pence as a family man who deeply respected his wife, and they accused liberals of not taking Pence’s faith seriously or acknowledging the realities of the workplace.

“One doesn’t have to approve of Pence’s personal guardrails to recognize that many Americans consider them admirable — and far more so than the examples set by, say, Donald Trump or Bill Clinton,” opined the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"There were also some inevitable comparisons to the Jewish practice of yichud, in which observant men and women can’t be alone together unless they are married, siblings or parent and child. “Our Sages, with their deep understanding of human nature, understood well that should people be left to decide on their own what they could or could not do – especially with regard to the powerful issue of intimate relations – men and women might easily put themselves in very problematic situations and might, without wanting to, commit capital transgressions,” Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski wrote in The Yeshiva World News. “For these reasons our Sages constructed a number of ‘barriers,’ of steps to keep people from falling into such traps.”

"The laws of yichud are detailed; for example, a man and woman can’t share an office unless “there is the realistic expectation that another office worker may enter at any moment” (in other words, there are no locks and plenty of people around). Rabbis are asked whether it is OK for a man and an unrelated woman to work in the same empty building, even if on different floors; whether it is OK to consult alone with a doctor of the opposite gender; whether a young man can be alone in a house with a maid.

"But nearly all of these cases are about seclusion, not about meeting with someone in a public place. If Pence didn’t want to be alone in his office after work hours with a women other than his wife, the rabbis would approve. They also wouldn’t have much of a problem if he dined with a female colleague in a restaurant.

"The discussion about Pence’s marriage “zones” exposed a few societal gaps. Behavior that is considered perfectly reasonable among religious people can seem bizarre to outsiders, even insidious. A little respect is due. But labeling a behavior “religious” doesn’t automatically make it OK either. Our republic has elaborate laws for the workplace meant to ensure that religious people don’t face discrimination — but also to ensure that religion isn’t used as an excuse to discriminate. Respect in this case goes both ways.

"Others see a conservative-liberal gap. Liberals, with their essentially optimistic view of human nature, think individuals should be able to take responsibility for their own behavior and resist temptation. Pence, wrote Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post, “is living life with the assumption that he lacks the modicum of self-control involved in eating dinner with another human being and not committing adultery.”

"Conservatives, on the other hand, who believe in sin and the general fallibility of humankind, think it only realistic to build fences around temptation. That was Damon Linker’s point in a Twitter thread The Weekly Standard contributor wrote on the subject: “One morality-abiding, bodily transcending subject should be able to have dinner w another w/o incident. Right?” he asked, summarizing the liberal position, before providing the conservative response: “Pence’s way of living denies all of this. It denies we’re able to restrain ourselves with any reliability. We need God’s help, and we need to keep ourselves away from situations in which we will be tempted to cheat.”

"That’s one way of invoking God. But there is another. In 1983, in an essay in the seminal collection “On Being a Jewish Feminist,” Cynthia Ozick noted how the Jewish laws that end up suppressing women as scholars and communal leaders are predicated on the idea of male temptation.

“Much of the vast structure of Jewish segregation of the sexes rests on the fear of male temptation, on the so-called weakness of males in the face of ‘distraction,'” she wrote. “Yet all Jewish practice requires restraint, dedication, and concentration. … Is an observant Jew, whose life is nearly defined by the practice of restraint, a more libidinous creature than other males?”

"Pence’s secular critics may lack an appreciation for the religious point of view. But are they wrong to think that a religious person should be able — all the more so, as the rabbis say — to draw on his or her own faith to keep from committing “capital transgressions”? If religion isn’t developing its adherents’ sense of restraint and propriety, then what’s the point exactly?"

Andrew Silow-Carroll - Jewish Telegraphic Agency - April 5, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #154 on: April 07, 2017, 06:16:32 AM »
Pastor says ‘Billy Graham Rule’ Hinders Women in Ministry

"A female Baptist pastor and a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship leader say the “Billy Graham Rule” — in the news since revelations that Vice President Mike Pence never eats alone with a woman other than his wife — has serious implications for women in ministry.

"The buzz over the practice adopted in the 1940s to keep men in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association free from scandal as they traveled across the country began with a single sentence in a March 28 Washington Post profile on Second Lady Karen Pence: “In 2002, Mike Pence told The Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”

"Baptist reactions ranged from “why would anyone have a problem with that?” to ridicule and outright scorn. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said the rule comes down to “a very simple and irrefutable observation.”

“It is virtually impossible to have a sexual affair, to be engaged in infidelity, if one is not with a woman alone,” Mohler said. If the rule were applied to U.S. presidents, he said, Bill Clinton wouldn’t have been impeached. Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University and research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the rule “befits the world of Mad Men more than the modern-day work world where women are to be treated as equals.”

"She wrote for Vox that she remembers feeling slightly embarrassed the first time she realized a male colleague had turned down her offer to give him a ride back to the office after a meeting across campus because of her gender. The offer “wasn’t sexual,” she recalled “until it was,” along with her imaginary retort, “Besides, I’m just not that into you.”

"Merianna Harrelson, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in West Columbia, S.C., said she first encountered the Billy Graham Rule in youth group, when she was encouraged to turn to female interns for counseling or advice instead of her male youth minister.

“I can remember thinking that there was something more going on in the interactions the male youth group members were getting that I wasn’t receiving because they had access to the youth minister,” she said. Harrelson said the idea that professional adults need chaperones “perpetuates false notions of sexuality.”

“Men are not sexual beings who cannot control their sexual desires,” she said. “Females are not sexual temptresses. When we operate in the adult, professional world with these false, negative ideas of sexuality, we only reinforce a culture of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and spiritual abuse.”

"Shauw Chin Capps, moderator-elect of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and CEO of Hopeful Horizons in Beaufort, S.C., said she has never knowingly encountered the Billy Graham Rule, but if a male colleague refused to meet with her because she is a woman she would “probably think that he’s pulling my leg.”

“I do think there are healthy, common-sense boundaries that any minister, male or female, can and should implement,” she said, such as meeting with the door open, having glass in office doors or letting staff know the meeting can be interrupted. The reason may not always be about “temptations,” she said, but the appearance of what is or is not appropriate “often varies depending on the person.”

"Harrelson said it is unrealistic to expect a female pastor to minister to her flock without ever winding up alone with a church member of the opposite sex. “Whether you are doing hospital visitations, counseling or worship preparation, there will always be times when you find yourself alone with a member of another gender,” she said. “Rules like the Billy Graham rule only hinder women from stepping fully into the ministries God has called them to.”

"Capps said Pence’s rules for marriage are between him and his wife, but his personal values should not influence how he selects professionals to work with him or for him in public service. “I can see how that could naturally lead to favoring men over women,” she said. “That would be discrimination.”

Bob Allen - Baptist News Global - April 6, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #155 on: April 08, 2017, 07:11:40 AM »
Russia Continues Proceedings on Jehovah’s Witnesses

"Russia’s news agency is reporting the city court of Birobidzhan’s decision to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses will be upheld. A Justice Ministry suit is working to ban the Jehovah’s Witness religion entirely. Over 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses are located in Russia.

"The Justice Ministry alleges that their religious activities are in violation of Russian law and fighting extremism. The Russian government, under the authority of their extremism law, has harassed the religious group. The extremism law does not require the existence of violence for any activity to banned as extremist.

"The following is a statement from Office of Public Information for Jehovah’s Witnesses:

"In a second day of proceedings, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation continued to consider a claim from the Ministry of Justice to liquidate the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The day concluded with a recess until Friday, April 7, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.

"During the session, the Supreme Court judge and lawyers for Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to question the representative for the Ministry of Justice, asking him to produce proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremist—the basis of the claim. The Ministry of Justice was unable to provide evidence supporting their claims, such as that they fail to take effective measures against extremism. The Ministry of Justice also could not substantiate accusations regarding the Witness’ literature. For example, it was established that the Witnesses’ literature prohibited in Russia had not been distributed in the country for years, and among forensic experts, there was not a consensus that their literature should be considered extremist. The Ministry could not prove that offenses had ever been committed under the influence of the Witness’ literature.

"At one point during the trial, the presiding judge asked the representative for the Ministry of Justice, ‘If you are asking for Jehovah’s Witnesses to be banned, does this mean that the faithful who gather for prayer would be under the threat of criminal prosecution? The Ministry of Justice replied, ‘Yes, if the court finds them guilty of violating Art. 282.2 of the Russian criminal code.’

"David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ world headquarters in New York, explains: “It was clear by today’s proceedings that the Ministry of Justice has no basis for their claims against our organization.” He adds, “But we also note the Ministry of Justice’s admission. We hope that the Supreme Court upholds justice and prevents this violation of our basic human rights.”"

World Religious News - April 6, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #156 on: April 09, 2017, 07:19:19 AM »
Let the religious wars in Florida schools begin

"Devout students, rejoice. The Florida Legislature seems to have forgotten that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled long ago that public school officials cannot impose prayer or religion on students. But that’s not keeping the legislative body from pursuing a measure to bring religion full throttle to public school life.

"If they succeed, Muslim students, for example, would be able to bring to school their prayer rugs, unfurl them, and bow in prayer to Allah. Why not? Any religious practice in public schools would have to be inclusive. No religion could be exempted from being expressed on school grounds. Expand religious rights of one and school officials have to allow space for all. And atheists and agnostics can’t be punished for not engaging in religious activities. They too would have to be given space to express those points of views in equal measure to religious fervor.

"So let the 2017 religious wars in Florida schools begin. There’s no disruption to learning that’s big enough for the state’s ideologue lawmakers, whose aim is not to be inclusive but to expose other people’s children to their brand of evangelization — as if students didn’t have enough learning issues on their plate and enough differences that divide them.

"This terrible idea, however, has widespread support. A bill passed by the House 114-3 this week mandates that religion return to campus life in an official capacity. A Senate bill approved two weeks ago, also with considerable support, requires schools to give students “a limited public forum” to pray and express their beliefs in school at assemblies and other school-sponsored events.

"Students also could wear religious clothing, jewelry, and other accessories — as if some weren’t already doing so. I haven’t heard of anyone being asked to take off the necklace with the virgencita medal or the Star of David. And I’ve visited classrooms where young Muslim women wear hijabs. It’s an organic part of the multicultural lifestyle, but maybe other parts of Florida need the force of law.

"Lawmakers also want prayer groups and religious events to be allowed in school in the same way secular clubs operate. So the new Muslim Student Club and the Christian Evangelical Club would share space with Key Club and Thespians. I can think of endless pairings: How about santería followers hanging with the French Club?

"I’m assuming activities directors will be asked to supervise religion as they do other clubs, so budget them a whopping raise. They’ll need the bigger paycheck to keep them from walking out the door as so many underpaid teachers have done, leaving Florida with a serious teacher shortage. Most incredibly misguided of all is the language that says religious and secular views must be given equal footing in curriculums.
"Religious indoctrination has no place in secular public schools. Religion, as a subject, is taught at the college level under the umbrella of humanities without proselytizing. Science is on another level. They’re not equal. Rights to religious expression are already protected by the U.S. and Florida constitutions. So why devote all this legislative energy to a non-issue now? People who want religious instruction along with the ABCs for their children can send them to a religious school. They’re plentiful throughout this state.

"But conservatives in Florida feel empowered by Donald Trump’s rise and the role evangelicals played in the presidential election. The House bill is the work of rookie Rep. Kim Daniels, a charismatic evangelical from Jacksonville. In her first move as a newly elected member of the Florida House, she filed House Bill 303, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” to mandate that school districts allow religious expression. Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, chimed in with “stand for liberty,” SB 436.

"Both are catering to public confusion. Students can privately pray as long as they’re not coercing others. So the drum major who kneels in prayer before a performance with the school band is perfectly able to do so. He just can’t make the band join him. Before or after school, a student can ask others to meet and pray or discuss religion, the Miami-Dade Public Schools handbook says on page 64. But “school officials cannot encourage or discourage participation in such an event.”

"If religious freedom is already guaranteed in public schools, what’s the point? The Florida Legislature wants to make religious devotion public school policy — and that’s a constitutional no-no.

Fabiola Santiago - Miami Herald - April 7, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #157 on: April 10, 2017, 07:44:00 AM »
Phil Gorski Wonders: Should Religious People Have To Speak Secular Language ?

Question: You contrast civil religion with two other narratives of American democracy: radical secularism and religious nationalism. Describe what those are.

Gorski: The radical-secular interpretation of American history is that American democracy is an Enlightenment project based solely on secular values. The religious-nationalist interpretation is that America was founded as a Christian nation, and our laws and Constitution are all grounded in Christian or Judeo-Christian scripture. One of the points of the book is to show that at the many junctures of our history, those two sources have been intertwined with each other.

One of my favorite examples of this is Benjamin Franklin’s draft seal for the United States. The image is of Moses parting the Red Sea and the Israelites crossing over behind him. Franklin can hardly be suspected of being a particularly orthodox Christian, yet he thought this narrative belied something fundamental about the American project.

Another example is Thomas Paine’s famous tract, Common Sense. Radical secularists often point to Paine when they’re arguing for the Enlightenment character of the American founding. Yet if you look at the first eight or 10 pages of Common Sense, Paine frames it entirely around an interpretation of 1 Samuel 8. The text was the basis of his argument about God preferring republican forms of government.

One can find this argument among arguably the least orthodox Christian figures in the founding generation. How much more influential must it have been among those for whom the Bible was a touchstone?

Question: You describe a tendency among some secular thinkers to cast America’s past leaders as non-religious. What’s up with that?

Gorski: People are trying to cook the books of moral accounting in American history. They want people whom they admire as important civic leaders to have the “right” motivations—which is to say, secular motivations. They want to wave away any inspiration those people might have received from Christianity.

Christopher Hitchens was very dismissive of Barack Obama’s quite public professions of Christian faith, saying this was just a guy with political ambitions putting on a show and telling the audience what it wanted to hear. In God Is Not Great, he says the same thing about Martin Luther King, which to me is even more implausible.

I don’t think he is right, but it doesn’t really matter if he was. The point is that biblical narratives still provide an overarching framework for thinking about who we are, where we came from, and where we want to be going. Many secular people too easily forget that many of their most cherished values are partly our values because they merge with Christianity.

Question: What are the major blind spots of radical secularism—including ones you encounter in the academy?

Gorski: In general, academic analyses of history or contemporary society tend to give very short shrift to religion. I think there is a tendency to think of religion as secondary or epiphenomenal, and not to take it into consideration.

Not that it’s just religion. Another great example of this is sports, which is one of the most important things to many non-academics, yet is one of the least studied subjects in academia.

But I don’t want to paint a picture that’s misleading. There has been increasing recognition over the course of my career of the importance of religion to social and historical development.

Question: You write that radical secularism places unreasonable expectations on people of faith and on democracy because it asks people to translate their beliefs into secular language. Explain what you mean.

Gorski: The language of secular public discourse appeals passively to values like personal autonomy or maximizing utilities or institutional efficiency. The demand that religious people speak that language, on the grounds that it is a putatively neutral language, is incorrect and unfair. I think it would be just as reasonable to ask that secular people become more religiously literate and engage folks who are coming from a position of faith.

Emma Green - The Atlantic - April 9, 2017.

Phil Gorski is a professor of sociology and religious studies at Yale University.

Complete article and interview:

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #158 on: April 11, 2017, 08:45:47 AM »
President Trump & Vice President Pence Attacked as 'Arrogant Christians'

"A professor who specializes in religious studies at University of California, Los Angeles says President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence represent “troubling trends in American Christianity.”

"Professor Carla Pestana of UCLA published “Arrogant Christians In The White House” over the weekend for The Huffington Post, which warns of a future America shaped by the “fundamentalist Christian” views of Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump’s “self-indulgence.”

“Pence adheres to biblical literalism. Put simply, this view asserts that the Bible is a transparent document, one that prescribes specific behavioral guidelines,” Ms. Pestana wrote Saturday. “Its arrogance lies in the hubris of those who believe that only their chosen answers are correct. Its potential to harm others comes when adherents gain political power and force their mandates on nonbelievers. One of the many dangers emanating out of the Trump White House is the power of Pence to impose not his religion but the behaviors his religion dictates onto the rest of us.”

"The professor, who currently teaches History of Religion in U.S., then analyzed Mr. Trump’s faith as something akin to the “prosperity theology” adopted by some Christians.

“Trump’s religion, although very different, is similarly alarming,”  she wrote. “Unsurprisingly Trump accepts a religious viewpoint that tells him he is uniquely awesome. Whatever he has — however he acquired it — God wants him to enjoy to the fullest. Although traditional Christian social practice mandates that believers exercise humility, charity and other virtues that put others before self, Trump’s faith rejects all curbs on self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement.”

Douglas Ernst - Washington Times - April 10, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #159 on: April 12, 2017, 06:45:22 AM »
The Pornification of the World by the Numbers

"Numbers ... based on credible studies carried out in 2016 or 2017 :

4.6 Billion
"In 2016, people watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography at just one website (the biggest porn site in the world) ... people watched 92 billion videos (or an average of 12.5 for every person on earth) ... So many people are using so much porn today that it is really impossible to tabulate.

"At age 11, the average child has already been exposed to explicit pornographic content through the internet. 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet-based pornography during their adolescent years and 22% of the vast quantities of porn consumed by people aged under 18 is consumed by those aged less than 10 ...

"70% of teens and young adults define porn by its function [sexual arousal], not its form [nudity, etc.] ... Young adults do not consider things pornographic if they are not explicitly intended to cause arousal, so sex and nudity in movies or television is not considered pornographic, especially if it is an integral element to a story ...

57% of young adults admit to seeking out porn at least once per month. 46% of men admit to the same ... Porn use is rampant across most age categories, but is particularly pronounced among young adults.

96% of young adults are either encouraging, accepting, or neutral in their view toward pornography. (17% talk about porn in a positive way, 43% in an accepting way as if it’s just a reality of life in this world, while 36% don’t consider the morality of it at all.) ...

"61% of pornography is watched on a mobile phone. In the United States that is as high as 70% ...

Today, 33% of women aged 25 and under go searching for porn at least once per month. 56% of women in that age group have gone looking for it at least one time in the past ...

"62% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image. Meanwhile, 41% have sent one, usually to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Women are more likely to both send and receive these nude images ...

"36% of young adults watch pornography to get tips or ideas that they can apply to their own sexual relationships ... among older people, pornography is more commonly used to “set the mood” for sexual activity with a partner ... 

"80% of porn users feel no sense of guilt when using porn ...

"These numbers prove statistically what we already known anecdotally—that pornography is a significant issue afflicting our society and our church. As Christians we can and must be prepared to help those who are struggling with it and to assure them that they can be forgiven and freed. As parents we can and must take action to protect and equip our children so we can help them overcome and avoid it."

Tim Challies' Blog - challiesdotcom - April 11, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #160 on: April 13, 2017, 06:26:11 AM »
'The Souls Of China' Documents Country's Dramatic Return To Religion

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: When the writer Ian Johnson made his first trip to China in the mid-1980s, he says religious life seemed to be dead. There were few worshippers left in a country that once had a million temples. Now he says the country is experiencing a dramatic return to religion with roughly a quarter of the country embracing Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam and other faiths. Johnson explores this resurgence in a new book called, "The Souls Of China: The Return Of Religion After Mao." I asked him if I would see signs of religious life if I traveled through China today.

IAN JOHNSON: I think you would, especially if you got outside of Beijing. Beijing is where the government's control is the strongest. But when you go out to the countryside or if you go to temples on certain holy days, the number of people are incredibly large. You can see in temples, they have these stone tablets called steles. And if you look at the stele, you can see the amount of money that people donate to these temples. It's amazing.

You can look at a temple and count up quickly a million U.S. dollars in donations. And you can also see churches being built and mosques being built depending on the part of the country that you go to.

SHAPIRO: Some of the people who practice these faiths are quick to tell you that what they are doing is culture. It's not religion. It's not politics. One guy says, as you write, culture - C-U-L-T-U-R-E. Why is this distinction so important to them?

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Well, religion is something that's very tightly controlled by the Communist Party. It has this political feel to it, something that's a little dangerous. So if you just say you're doing culture, then it's a lot easier to do what you want.

I've been to temples where people are praying, and the local officials say, see, this is traditional Chinese culture. And I say, well, it looks like religion to me. They're kowtowing in front of statues. They're lighting incense. And he's like, oh, no, no, no. It's not religion because if it's religion, it's got to be approved by the government et cetera, et cetera. If we just call it culture, then it's sort of something we can do on our own.

SHAPIRO: There is such an interesting relationship between these emerging religious practices or returning religious practices, I guess we should say, and the government. There are several instances where you talk about sort of local government observers sitting in the back of a religious ceremony, and the preacher trying to thread this needle where he can deliver a message that might be a little bit barbed but deliver it not so explicitly that the government agents will shut down the ceremony.

JOHNSON: Yeah, especially with Christianity. There's a suspicion of it from the government side. They see Christianity as foreign-influenced. So in that particular case, yeah, there were plainclothes police at the back of the hall - this was a big Christmas service that I attended - and they were listening in. And I think they were eager to find an excuse to shut it down, but they didn't.

On the other hand, the so-called traditional faiths are often really encouraged by the government. And we can see this under Xi Jinping, that he's given a lot of money and support to traditional religions like Buddhism and Taoism.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. You say that the government has decided to co-opt religious groups, at least the traditional ones, rather than crush them. What's behind that decision?

JOHNSON: Well, I think there's a couple of things. If you want to be cynical, you could say the Communist Party has always viewed religion as the opiate of the masses but now wants to use it for its own purposes to opiate the people to keep them docile and not thinking of politics.

But I think there's also in a more positive sense that the government recognizes that there is a lack of values in society - that people don't believe in anything and there's a great uncertainty in society, a national
malaise. And they also recognize that most people really don't believe in communism anymore. So they look at the traditional faiths as a way of instilling some kind of morality, basic principles for good living and that sort of thing.

SHAPIRO: There's one sermon you describe that, for me, really distilled part of the appeal of this, where the man delivering the sermon at a funeral uses the common phrase, long live so-and-so, which is usually applied to high-ranking Communist Party officials. And in this case, he was applying it to this typical working-class woman who had died.

JOHNSON: Yeah. This pastor, Wang Yi (ph), in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu was probably one of the best pastors I've ever heard. And this sermon was just a great sermon because he said, this woman deserves long life.

SHAPIRO: What is that phrase?

JOHNSON: Wansui. So they often say, you know, the Communist Party wansui, Chairman Mao wansui. And he was saying those people don't have wansui. It's this woman who has eternal life because she was a good person, and she believed in Christianity and so on. And people were sort of shocked when they listened to that. In the congregation, they were sitting there looking at him going, oh, my gosh, what's he talking about? Then they really got it, and the congregation bonded with him. You could see it happening right there.

SHAPIRO: Some of the religious leaders you spoke to seemed almost like social activists. In a society where many forms of civil society are not allowed, it often seemed that these churches and other religious groups kind of took the place of the unions, the civic organizations, the institutions that might hold local government officials to account or otherwise organize the populace. Is that the function that these groups are serving right now in China?

JOHNSON: Yeah. I think this is the double-edged sword of religion. On the one hand, you can say, well, it's something that will keep people in line maybe or keep them happy so they don't think about politics. But all religions have an appeal to higher senses of justice and righteousness, and it inspires people to social action.

SHAPIRO: Do you think that poses a threat to the government structure as it exists now?

JOHNSON: I don't think it's going to be like, say, in the Cold War in Poland where the Catholic Church was a separate force that helped undermine communist rule. It won't go that quickly. But I do think that it does create values that are higher than any government's values - ideas of righteousness and justice that people are inspired by and that will inspire them to action if they feel that they are unjustly treated by the government.

All Things Considered - Nation Public Radio (transcript) - April 12, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #161 on: April 14, 2017, 07:03:26 AM »
Religion in Australia

"In the past 50 years, the nature and shape of religion in Australia has changed dramatically. While secularisation and religious decline was one way of telling this story, it has become increasingly unsatisfactory.

"Religion has not gone away, nor has it retreated into the private sphere as predicted, even though increasing numbers declare they have “no religion”. These changes have major implications for social policy and research.

"Religion is constantly in the news. It seems to fuel global events, frightens politicians, and is claimed to influence the voting on moral issues.

"In the 2011 Census, Australia became at the same time both less religious and more religious. While a rising number declared they have “no religion” (22%), the number declaring a religion also increased significantly. This was partly due to 17% fewer people taking the option of not responding.

"The declaration of “no religion” is becoming particularly evident among young people – the so-called millennials. In the 2011 Census, nearly 30% of Australians between 25 and 34 declared that they had no religion.

"Research in the UK reports many young people are turning their backs on formally organised religious communities that seem incapable of according women full dignity or recognising and celebrating love among LGBTIQ people.

"Increasing proportions of young people have been raised by parents who declare they have no religion. In the UK, the likelihood of children of religious parents being religious themselves is about 50%. But those raised in non-religious households are very unlikely to take up religion. Similar figures are likely for Australia.

"From recent research overseas and in Australia, there appears to be three broad types of orientation to religion, and not just the two predicted by secularisation theory, which is no religion or faith celebrated and practised in private.

"Also, there has been a tendency to essentialise the religious/secular divide and to ignore the diversity of ways in which people are religious.

"First, there are those who associate with formally organised religion because they find it informs their lives and motivates them to do service. They are public about this, and about their efforts to put faith into practice. Religion is important to them and informs the way they seek to shape and reshape society.

"Recent focus groups among millennials reveals some who are religious are exclusivist, believing they have “the truth” and that everyone should have the same religious belief as they do. However, most are confident in practising their own religion while being comfortable to let others be themselves – whether religious or not.

"While probably a smaller percentage of the population than 50 years ago, those taking their religion seriously cannot be ignored in any analysis of what is happening today. A recent National Church Life Survey (NCLS) revealed 14% of Australians said “religion was very important” to them, and 11% attend worship weekly.

"However, this group is highly diverse. It includes many varieties of Christians along with those who are Buddhist, Muslim, Hindus, Sikh, Jewish, and others.

"Second, there are many ways of belonging to a particular faith. As one billboard declares: “there are 1.6 billion ways of being a Muslim”. The internal diversity of religious groups is huge.

"Among the “nones” there are at least two groups. First, there are those who fully reject or simply ignore religion. It is meaningless and pointless to them.

"While a few may be actively anti-religious, most simply do not care about religion, but do not mind if others follow one. The NCLS revealed 36% of Australians said “religion was not important”, and another 25% said “religion was of little importance”. Similarly, 68% said they never (or less than once a year) attend any kind of religious service.

"The second group among those who declare “no religion” includes those who actively engage in spirituality, practise meditation, ask questions about the meaning of life, seek ethical ways to live their lives, and reshape society.

"According to the NCLS, 28% of Australians claim to “have had (and another 25% believe it is possible to have) a mystical or supernatural experience about which they have no doubts about its reality”. Given that 11% claim to attend religious services once a week (and 7% once a month), supernatural experiences are not limited to religious organisations.

"This second group of “nones”, sometimes referred to as SBNRs (spiritual but not religious), needs further research to understand the ways people are engaging with questions of meaning, seeking to promote personal and social wellbeing and improve their world.

"The fact they are not associated with existing organisations does not mean these activities have become privatised. They are simply differently organised and networked.

"The diversity of ways Australians are and aren’t religious or spiritual impacts on social policy, education, and interreligious relations.

"First, the diversity is not among just an increased number of monolithic blocks of identity. No-one speaks for all Christians, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus or Jews. Intrareligious relations are at times more difficult among people claiming the same religious identity. Alliances on issues will form between people from different religious groups, which are internally divided on the issue.

"Responses to census categories indicate one level of increased diversity but do not reveal the huge diversity within the categories. Nor do they reflect the fact that increasing numbers of Australians, given the chance, will claim more than one category.

"Overlooking diversity both within the ways of being religious and the ways of having no religion neglects the many forms of spirituality, wholeness, caring, sacred spaces and meaning found within and alongside formally organised religion."

Gary D. Bouma - The Conversation - April 13, 2017

Gary Bouma is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Monas University

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #162 on: April 15, 2017, 06:58:51 AM »
The 20 Most Religious Countries On Earth

1 - Ethiopia - 99% feel religious

2 - Malawi - 99%

3 - Niger - 99%

4 - Sri Lanka - 99%

5 - Yemen - 99%

6 - Burundi - 98%

7 - Djibouti - 98%

8 - Mauritania - 98%

9 - Somalia - 98%

10 - Afghanistan - 97%

11 - Comoros - 97%

12 - Egypt - 97%

13 - Guinea - 97%

14 - Laos - 97%

15 - Myanmar - 97%

16 - Cambodia - 96%

17 - Cameroon - 96%

18 - Jordan - 96%

19 - Senegal - 96%

20 - Chad, Ghana, Mali, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Zambia - (all) 95%

"The most religious regions are Africa and the Middle East, with south-east Asia and Latin America not far behind. Faith is important to many southern European countries too, with 74 per cent of Italians and 71 per cent of Greek claiming to feel religious."

Oliver Smith - The Telegraph (UK) - April 16, 2017.

Complete Article & World Map of Religious Countries:

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #163 on: April 16, 2017, 04:52:30 AM »
How Easter Got The Egg

"What’s so Christian about an Easter egg anyway? Eggs have histories in many cultures as symbols of fertility and rebirth, but here are a few ways they’ve been linked to Easter and the Christian faith.

"As early as the fifth century, many Christians abstained from eating not only meat during Lent but also dairy products and eggs, according to a 2010 article in Christianity Today. In the days leading up to Easter, eggs were preserved by hard-boiling – and would often be the first thing a person ate to break the Lenten fast on Easter Sunday.

"There are many legends about dyeing eggs, including one where either Mary Magdalene or Mary, the mother of Jesus, places a basket of eggs below the cross, Jesus’ blood turning them red. Today, some Orthodox churches still dye Easter eggs red to represent the blood of Christ.

"An 1879 edition of The Reformed Church Publication Board’s magazine The Guardian compares an Easter egg to Jesus’ tomb. An egg looks dead but has life inside, “and also it is like Christ’s dead body, which was raised to life again,” the article says. “This is the reason we use eggs on Easter.”

Katherine Burgess - The Wichita Eagle - April 14, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #164 on: April 17, 2017, 05:45:51 AM »
Christianity Being Driven Out of the Middle East

"Prospects of Christianity surviving in its birthplace, the Middle East, appear as grim this Holy Week as they have at any time in the last two millennia.

"Persecution of the world’s largest religion has intensified, especially in Muslim-dominated countries. Jihadists appear to have repeatedly carried out one of their oft-stated goals of erasing any trace of Christianity in some regions, while in others persecution against Christians and other religious minorities are being held at bay — for now.

"The prospects facing Christianity in three of its longest-standing strongholds, Syria, Egypt and Iraq, vary significantly:


"Egypt’s Coptic Christians make up around 10 percent of the population and have long been a target not only of Islamic extremists but the majority Muslim population’s resentment.

"Coptic leaders have reported that since February 2011, after the election of a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Morsi, as president, persecution worsened. Since then, at least 200,000 Christians have fled the country.

"When a military coup ousted Morsi, many of his supporters blamed the Copts. As a result, violent incidents against Christians have steadily increased.

"And while current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has made concerted efforts to protect the Coptic community, this year has shown some of the most violent attacks against Christians.

"That is especially so in Egypt’s northern Sinai region, where the Islamic State is taking direct aim against Christians. Before 2011, that community numbered up to 5,000; it has now dwindled to fewer than 1,000.

“The Copts, like most Christians around the region, are victims of religious hatred. But they are also pawns in a larger game to destabilize ‘apostate’ Arab regimes and invite Western intervention,” Robert Nicholson, of the Philos Project, a US-based advocacy group for Christians in the Middle East, tells Fox News.


"In 2003, Iraq’s Christian population was an estimated 1.4 million. Christians enjoyed relatively many civil rights and were able to rise to high levels in private and public life.

"The Nineveh Plain region, also known as the Plain of Mosul, was a centuries-old homeland for the country’s "Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian Christians. Then the United States invaded Iraq, unleashing an orgy of sectarian violence that hammered churches. Christians fled the Nineveh Plain, and as of late last year the number of Christians in Iraq had fallen to an estimated 275,000.

"One reason was ISIS. The terror group launched a pogrom against the church, as well as other minority religions. But today, a US coalition has eliminated the Islamic State’s chokehold on much of northern Iraq, including the city of Mosul.

"Prospects for Christianity surviving in Iraq now turn on whether the Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian believers will be allowed to return to their ancestral homelands. A majority of the Assyrian towns have been decimated.

“Everything is damaged,” Jalal, an Assyrian from the village of Karamles, told Fox News in December. “Houses have been burned by fire. There’s no water, no anything. People will only return if there is some sort of promise of protection.”

"One proposal is to create a safe zone for Christians, an area that could evolve into a semi-autonomous region. Some groups favor a go-slow approach:

“It’s a little early to jump to safe havens,” David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, which monitors incidents
of Christian persecution worldwide, tells Fox News. “They often wind up creating a bigger target.” No matter if or how quickly Christians are able to return home, persecution of believers will remain a fact of life.


"For a majority of the last century, this country has had a relatively sizable Christian presence, comprising at least 10 percent of the population.

"Many of Syria’s Christians, known as Eastern Orthodox, have historically seen their country as an oasis of religious freedom compared to neighboring countries. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has long allowed churches to evangelize, publish religious materials and build sanctuaries.

"The Christian population has also had access to education and employment, and many are more financially well off than their Muslim counterparts.

"However, things may be growing worse. While many Syrian Christians do not want to become refugees, there is an underlying fear among the community that their country could have the same issues seen in Iraq if the regime is toppled.

"Prospects for Syrian Christians will turn on whether the Assad regime survives and, if it does not, whether a successor government maintains the current regime’s protection of the church."

Perry Chiaramonte - New York Post - April 14, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #165 on: April 17, 2017, 03:26:29 PM »
‘Less lethal’ plastic pellets to be used in Kashmir

Home Ministry said on Monday that it would introduce less lethal “plastic bullets” against protesters in Jammu and Kashmir, which has seen unprecedented violence since July 8 last year after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter.

An official said that MHA has revised the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the central police forces deployed in the Kashmir Valley and they have been instructed to use pellet guns sparingly.

The government is facing severe criticism for using pellet guns and several political parties have asked for its complete withdrawal. Due to injuries inflicted by pellet guns, 13 people were killed last year and more than 250 were injured.

During his two-day visit to Kashmir on August 24-25 last year, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said an alternative to pellet guns will be given to security forces in the coming days.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."-the Amendment that ensures nobody is safe..

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #166 on: April 17, 2017, 05:12:58 PM »
Further confirmation that Noah's ark has been found

In 1959, Turkish army captain Llhan Durupinar discovered an unusual shape while examining aerial photographs of his country. The smooth shape, larger than a football field, stood out from the rough and rocky terrain at an altitude of 6,300 feet near the Turkish border with Iran.

apt. Durupinar was familiar with the biblical accounts of the Ark and its association with Mount Ararat in Turkey, but he was reluctant to jump to any conclusions. The region was very remote, yet it was inhabited with small villages. No previous reports of an object this odd had been made before. So he forwarded the photographic negative to a famous aerial photography expert named Dr. Brandenburger, at Ohio State University.

Brandenburger was responsible for discovering the Cuban missile bases during the Kennedy era from reconnaissance photos, and after carefully studying the photo, he concluded: “I have no doubt at all, that this object is a ship. In my entire career, I have never seen an object like this on a stereo photo.”

In 1960 a group of Americans accompanied Capt. Durupinar to the site for a day and a half. They were expecting to find artifacts on the surface or something that would be unquestionably related to a ship of some kind. They did some digging in the area but found nothing conclusive and announced to the anxiously waiting world that it appeared to be a natural formation.

Most of the global media turned away from the find and it became a non-story.

In 1977 Ron Wyatt visited the site. Obtaining official permission, Ron and others conducted more thorough research over a period of several years. They used metal detection surveys, subsurface radar scans, and chemical analysis — real science — and their findings were startling. The evidence was undeniable. This was the Ark of Noah.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."-the Amendment that ensures nobody is safe..

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #167 on: April 18, 2017, 07:53:10 AM »
Nones, Dones and Religionless Christianity

"Religious nones and dones are some of the fastest growing groups in America. For those unfamiliar with the terms, “nones” are those who self identify as having no religion, including atheists, agnostics, and those who believe in God but reject particular religious traditions. “Dones” are formerly religious individuals, often people who were highly involved but became disillusioned and burned out.

"Articles and conversations about the nones and dones from a religious perspective often have an undercurrent of panic as people try to understand why so many are leaving organized religion. Anxiety is a normal human response to change (especially when those changes expose our own hidden doubts). But there’s a better way to think about the future of religion. It’s found in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison.

"Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran theologian, one of just a handful who took a stand against the Third Reich and spoke up for the Jewish people. Although he was offered sanctuary in the U.S., Bonhoeffer believed that he needed to be present in Germany during the war to have any role in healing and rebuilding the nation when it was over. He was eventually imprisoned by the Nazi regime for avoiding military service ​(his interpretation of the gospels led him to being a pacifist) and executed. His writing while in prison has been collected into book form. Put it on your reading list.

"In April, 1944, Bonhoeffer wrote:

We are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious’.
Letters and Papers from Prison
, page 279

"Bonhoeffer was writing about the German Christians who failed to speak up against Hitler, but his words apply equally to Christians today who are more concerned with a political or religious agenda than they are with imitating Jesus in his radical stand with the marginalized and oppressed.His letter continues:

Our whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the ‘religious a priori‘ of mankind. ‘Christianity’ has always been a form — perhaps the true form — of ‘religion’. But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form of human self-expression, and if therefore man becomes radically religionless — and I think that that is already more or less the case (else how is it, for example, that this war, in contrast to all previous ones, is not calling forth any ‘religious’ reaction?) — what does that mean for ‘Christianity’? It means that the foundation is taken away from the whole of what has up to now been our ‘Christianity’, and that there remain only a few ‘last survivors of the age of chivalry’, or a few intellectually dishonest people, on whom we can descend as ‘religious’. Are they to be the chosen few? Is it on this dubious group of people that we are to pounce in fervor, pique, or indignation, in order to sell them goods? Are we to fall upon a few unfortunate people in their hour of need and exercise a sort of religious compulsion on them? If we don’t want to do all that, if our final judgment must be that the western form of Christianity, too, was only a preliminary stage to a complete absence of religion, what kind of situation emerges for us, for the church? How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity — and even this garment has looked very different at different times — then what is a religionless Christianity?
Letters and Papers from Prison,
page 280

“It’s a relationship, not a religion” wasn’t a slogan yet when Bonhoeffer wrote these letters. If it had been, I’m sure he would have protested against it as adding to the problem. What Bonhoeffer was referring to, and what many nones and dones experience, is a Christianity that carries so much emotional and psychological baggage that it has become meaningless as a frame of reference. The world has been disenchanted, and it turns out religious language is unnecessary, like a shaman’s explanation of why aspirin works. Although language plays a role in shaping our understanding, what’s more important than the language used is the reality underneath the terminology. For Bonhoeffer, this religionless world is not something to be lamented, but an opportunity to be explored:

How do we speak of God — without religion, i.e. without the temporally conditioned presuppositions of metaphysics, inwardness, and so on? How do we speak (or perhaps we cannot now even ‘speak’ as we used to) in a ‘secular’ way about ‘God’? In what way are we ‘religionless-secular’ Christians, in what way are we the ἐκ-κλησία, those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point of view as specially favoured, but rather as belonging wholly to the world? In that case Christ is no longer an object of religion, but something quite different, really the Lord of the world. But what does that mean? What is the place of worship and prayer in a religionless situation?
Letters and Papers from Prison,
pages 280-281

"Is Bonhoeffer writing about the absurd, or is he on to something? How do you experience religion/religionlessness? What is the way forward?"

Russ Shumaker - Patheos - April 17, 2017.

Russ Shumaker has a MA in Theology and he is a writer / producer in Los Angeles, California.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #168 on: April 19, 2017, 06:53:56 AM »
Atheists should embrace the science of religion

"It is just over a decade since Richard Dawkins lit the blue touchpaper with his book The God Delusion. It introduced much of the world to the so-called new atheism – a forceful rejection of religion based on the premise that scientific materialism offers a superior explanation of the universe, while religion is a corrosive influence on society: a pathological meme planted in the minds of defenceless children.

"Though a great read and a liberating influence for many closet atheists, The God Delusion largely omitted a new strand of scientific enquiry emerging around the time it was published. Those working on the “science of religion” – a motley crew of psychologists, anthropologists and neuroscientists – explained it as a by-product of normal cognition. Thanks to evolution, they argued, our explanation-seeking minds find religious ideas intuitively appealing, gobbling them up as a hungry trout swallows a fishing fly.

"To many disciples of the new atheism, this was little more than, well, heresy. They decried it as “accommodationism” – an illogical and often harmful attempt to pretend religion can still serve a purpose now that science rules the roost. Never mind that the cognitive by-product theory does not imply that religious beliefs are true – far from it. Nor does it claim religion and scientific materialism are compatible. It merely attempts to explore religious belief and disbelief using the tools of science, rather than rhetoric.

"The new atheists attacked it anyway. In terms of public debate around the appropriate role of religion in society, this was a mistake. It alienated as many people as it won over, leaving the new atheists preaching to the converted, polarising the debate and dissuading moderates of both secular and religious persuasions from getting involved at all.

"Perhaps most damagingly, it fostered an idea already doing the rounds: that atheism is a belief system whose adherents can be as blindly dogmatic as any other. In other words, that it is “just another religion”. At first glance this has all the sophistication of a playground taunting match: you smell. No, you smell. But as a rhetorical device it is highly effective. Tarring militant atheists with their own brush undermines their claims to the intellectual high ground, and when it came to some of the new atheists, it had the ring of truth to it. But is it really true of all the godless?

"Once again, those practising actual science offer answers. The science of atheism, brought to you by the people who brought you the science of religion, says that atheism really isn’t just another religion but something altogether different – although not for the reasons you may think (see “Faith of the faithless: Is atheism just another religion?“). No doubt militant atheists will say “we knew it all along”; but perhaps they will also find some common ground with those they had dismissed as apologists.

"Or perhaps not. The science of religion challenges core elements of the new atheism: for example, the belief that religion leads on the whole to misery and suffering. Belief-ologists say religion was the “social glue” that held early societies together. That doesn’t mean religion is required to play that role today. But simply ignoring or high-handedly dismissing its power will not abolish its sway or further the secularist cause. And given the rise of religiosity in global affairs, there is much more than a rhetorical joust at stake."

The New Scientist - Issue 3121 - April 15, 2017.

« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 07:01:00 AM by eyeshaveit »

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #169 on: April 19, 2017, 03:33:08 PM »
Shinto trying to stay relevant in global, green era

The seminar, the first of its kind, was organized by the Association of Shinto Shrines, the umbrella organization for the 80,000 or so shrines scattered across Japan.

The seminar was one of several unrelated initiatives intended to promote the understanding of Shinto outside Japan and use it as a means of cultural exchange in an era of globalization.

In the ancient capital of Kyoto, Mitsutaka Inui, a priest at Kamigamo Shrine, a World Heritage site, is trying to get foreign tourists to become familiar with the religion.

“The thinking that we must not pollute water because a god resides in it helps to keep water and nature in pristine condition,” he said.

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."-the Amendment that ensures nobody is safe..

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #170 on: April 20, 2017, 06:38:38 AM »
Pope Francis: Christianity is not an Ideology or Philosophical Belief

"Pope Francis on Wednesday offered a reflection on Christ’s Resurrection and the start of Christianity, saying it’s not about us and what we do, but what the Lord has done for us. In his weekly “General Audience” before thousands of pilgrims Wednesday, the Pope underscored the interpersonal aspect of Christianity as faith in the person of Jesus Christ as savior and revealer of the Father. He emphasized that Christianity is not so much our search for God, but rather God's search for us.

"In his recent sermon Pope Francis has refuted the idea of Christianity as a philosophy or political ideology, proposing rather that it is a journey of faith with its roots in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The words directly confront any Easter season criticism suggesting that Christianity is anything else but real. Reflecting on the witness of Saint Paul, Francis noted that Christian faith is not the outcome of a reflection of some wise person, but a simple fact that intervened in the lives of some people.

“Paul sums it up this way: Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day he rose again and appeared to Peter and to the Twelve,” the Pope said. “This is the fact: he died, was buried, is risen and has appeared. That is, Jesus is alive!”

“This is the core of the Christian message,” Francis said. The Pope insisted that Christ’s resurrection was central to the preaching of the early Christian community, because it highlighted the sense that death did not have the final word. If everything were over with Christ’s death, Francis reasoned, he would have given an example of supreme dedication, but he would not move us to faith in Him. He would have been one more hero to admire.

“No!” Francis said. “He died but rose again.” To those calling themselves Christians but do not believe in the Jesus' resurrection,  Faith, he said, “is born from the resurrection. To accept that Christ died on the cross is not an act of faith; it is a historical fact. Believing that he rose, on the other hand, is an act of faith.” The Christian faith “was born on Easter morning,” Francis asserted."

Catholic News Agency - April 19, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #171 on: April 21, 2017, 08:46:08 AM »
'John 3:16' Found Written on Aaron Hernandez’s Forehead

"Aaron J. Hernandez, who had the phrase “God forgives” tattooed onto his arm, marked his forehead with a reference to a biblical passage before apparently taking his own life in his cell at the state’s maximum security prison Wednesday, according to records and a law enforcement official.

"The former New England Patriots star was found hanging from a bedsheet by a corrections officer around 3:05 a.m. in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, where the 27-year-old Hernandez was serving a life sentence for murder, officials said.

"Hernandez, who was convicted of shooting Odin L. Lloyd to death in North Attleborough in 2013, was rushed to UMass Memorial-HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster Wednesday, where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m., officials said.

"The state medical examiner’s office is conducting an autopsy as part of the ongoing investigation into his death that is being overseen by Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office and the Department of Correction, part of the state Executive Office of Public Safety.

"Spokesmen for both Early and EOPS said the investigation is active, but they declined comment because the inquiry is not yet complete. Hernandez’s apparent suicide came five days after he was acquitted for the murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, who were shot to death on a South End street in 2012.

"During that trial, Suffolk prosecutors said Hernandez tattooed a confession to the crime on his right arm by adding an image of the murder weapon next to the phrase “God Forgives.’’ “God Forgives” was written backward so it could be read in a mirror, according to testimony during the Suffolk Superior Court murder trial.

"As part of his apparent suicide, Hernandez marked his forehead with a reference to a passage in the Bible. He wrote “John 3:16” onto his forehead with red ink, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said Thursday.

"According to the King James version of the Bible, the notation refers to the following phrase, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’

"The death of the convicted killer came the same day that many of his former teammates were honored at the White House for winning Super Bowl 51. At one time, Hernandez was a key piece of the team’s offense. He had been a football prodigy, selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 National Football League draft.

"Correction Department spokesman Christopher Fallon said Wednesday there was no suicide note found during the initial search of the two-man cell Hernandez occupied alone. He was not on a suicide watch because he had not signaled he was at risk, Fallon said.

"Hernandez is the 27th recorded suicide in Massachusetts state prisons since 2010 and the second this year, according to state records. Under state law, Hernandez’s conviction for the Lloyd murder could ultimately be voided because his trial was not reviewed by the Supreme Judicial Court prior to his death. His appellate attorney said he will file the required paperwork when a death certificate is issued.

"That legal technicality may, in turn, require the Patriots to make a multi-million dollar payment to his estate, a payment the Patriots refused to make following his arrest for the Lloyd killing in 2013, according to lawyers representing relatives of the three murder victims."

John Ellement - Boston Globe - April 20, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #172 on: April 22, 2017, 04:34:57 AM »
Hipster Church

"C3 isn’t your typical church. Its pastor wears skinny jeans, it has billboards that say “For God so loved the 6,” and there’s a noticeable lack of white hair in its congregation. Its fashion-savvy millennial followers have earned C3—part of a global Pentecostal movement called Christian City Church—a reputation as Toronto’s “hipster church.” We stopped by its Easter mass, held at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, to ask these 20- and 30-somethings why they flock to its services:

Mark Bone
30, documentary filmmaker, Bloordale [Canada]
“I think I came to C3 as a really selfish person. The church pushed me and challenged me, in a good way. I’ve learned what it means to serve others and live selflessly. That’s been such a freeing thing. It’s made life so much lighter.”

Colin Weidelich
33, construction manager, Moore Park
“I’ve been to other churches in the city, and as soon as I walked into C3, I felt that God was alive. It’s a welcoming community of like-minded people. This past Christmas, we had a Distillery District–style market, and I built some huts with another member who owns a millwork shop. It was pretty cool.”

Alyssa Yuhas
33, graphic designer, Bloorcourt
“I’m here for the awesome community. C3 is super open and inclusive, and they don’t let you stay in the crap that you’re in. You’re always pushed to be better—a better leader, better mom, better employee. The church just launched an initiative to buy a house for refugees in the city.”

Erica Weidelich
26, executive assistant, Moore Park
“A lot of my friends have been attending C3 for a while, and they convinced me to come. The second I walked through the doors, I felt such a positive welcoming and warm community of people who really care about you.”

Greg Fry
29, construction engineer, St. Clair West
“My wife and I moved to Toronto from Calgary four and a half years ago to help get the church started. We believe in empowering people. Our community involves everybody and anybody, but it seems like it’s just the best people. Everyone who comes starts to realize it’s a group full of awesome people, and that they want to be a part of it.”

Naomi Cowan
29, singer, Queen West
“I was born and raised in Jamaica and grew up going to church, but when I saw C3 on Instagram and Facebook, it just looked a lot cooler and friendlier. There are a lot of creatives, which is cool. As a Christian, working in the creative industry is difficult, because there’s not a lot of faith in entertainment. Also, at other churches, people seem go to church, then go home and go back to their lives. When I started coming here, I noticed that people were really integrated with each other and legitimately liked each other. Everyone feels like family.”

Jimmy Devries
28, photographer, King West
“For people who come from broken homes or who don’t really understand family, it’s so obvious that people at C3 want to build family. That’s what brought me here. People come from all facets of life. It doesn’t really matter whether your opinions on sex, religion and politics differ.”

Roxy Kirshenbaum - Toronto Life - April 19, 2017

Complete article -

"Our movement is committed to healthy relationships and connection between ministers and churches. As an international family our members are able to walk into any of our C3 Churches around the world and know they're home. We are united with Christ in His vision, and therefore our mission, to save the lost, make disciples and build His church." - C3 Church -

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #173 on: April 23, 2017, 06:16:39 AM »
Study shows link between religion and health

"Johannah Williams tries to read her bible often. She relies on her faith to help to get through her health issues. Photo Illustration Photo credit: Alliciyia George

"For black women looking for ways to improve their mental health, some researchers say religion and spirituality bring health benefits such as a longer life and a decreased risk for heart disease.

"According to the Black Women’s Health Study, which was further analyzed in the April 2017 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, black women who said they were very involved in their church, mosque or another place of worship tended to report excellent or very good mental health.

"According to a 2011 nationwide survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, black women are one of the most religious demographics in America, with 74 percent of black women and 70 percent of black men saying that “living a religious life” is very important, compared to 57 percent of white women and 43 percent of white men.

"Johannah Williams, political science junior, grew up Christian, and her parents are pastors. She has suffered from chronic migraines, pelvic and knee pain for several years, but she said she has a very positive outlook on life.

“There are several different kinds of illnesses that I have to overcome on a daily basis, and my faith definitely helps me get through hard times, especially dealing with chronic illnesses,” Williams said. “It’s really important to me that I have this foundation that I can fall back on, whether it’s, you know, attending a church service or reading a particular passage of scripture or just knowing that somebody out there is praying for me.”

"The researchers behind the 2017 report said that it can be tricky to research health and spirituality.

“I think it is very well known that black women, compared to other people groups, are more religious. The question is if being religious is affecting their health,” Lynn Rosenberg, senior epidemologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University and a member of the research team that compiled the report, said.

"Although Rosenberg’s team limited their research to black women for this report, other studies looking at white women had similar findings, Rosenberg said.

"Rosenberg’s team’s research suggests that attending a place of worship weekly and praying at least two or three times a week is related to lower mortality rates.

"Women who prayed the most had the lowest mortality rate. Attending religious services was linked to lower mortality. Of course, you have to be healthy enough to attend church, but we did take that into account,” Rosenberg said.

"Rosenberg’s team is continuing its research on the impact of religion on health and will focus on specific issues like heart disease.

“Our study on religion began in 2005. Our grant from the National Health Institute is for five years, and we have to reapply after that. We were just approved for another five years. We hope to continue this study for a very long time,” Rosenberg said.

"Rosenberg believes the research done in this area could help religious and nonreligious black women alike.

“I think if we find out why participating in religious services is beneficial to health — say, if having a support system is the biggest factor — that could be helpful for people to know. If they don’t have one, they can find one,” Rosenberg said.

"Williams said she believes that praying contributes to better health.

“Whenever I need help with things like that, it’s important for me to pray so that I’m communicating and strengthening my relationship with God,” Williams said."

Alliciyia George - Loyola Maroon - April 22, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #174 on: April 24, 2017, 04:59:01 AM »
The Green Religion

"This religion is Environmentalism, or what some are calling “Greenism.” Its practitioners are sometimes referred to as “Greens.” It is a “stealth” religion in the sense that many Greens would not consider themselves religious. But they are.

"Fundamentals of the Faith

"God: Religions need a god or some object of worship. For Environmentalists, the Earth, or Nature, functions as that god. The Earth, sometimes referred to by her Greek goddess name “Gaia,” is regarded as a living organism that should be, if not worshipped outright, at least highly revered and cherished. This goes beyond, say, a Judeo-Christian concept of the Earth as a part of creation, something that was made by the God who should be worshipped, and thus should be respected and cared for, but never seen as somehow “divine.”

"Eden: The concept of “Eden,” an unspoiled paradise where sinless humanity lived in harmony with God, is also present in Environmentalism. Since Nature, or Gaia, takes the place of “god” for Greens, Eden would be a state of paradise in which humans lived in harmony with Nature. Just imagine a planet with no man-made CO2 emissions because there is no industry. Imagine, also, a world where there is no overpopulation, deforestation, overhunting, overfishing, air pollution, water pollution, desertification, habitat destruction, etc. To Greens, this represents a perfect idyllic world, a paradise, an Eden. The concept of “Eden” for Greens is a pre-industrial Earth, where humans tread lightly on the face of Gaia.

"Sin: Sin is a concept found in many religions. Sin for Greens is anything that supposedly offends or harms Gaia. This could include industrial carbon emissions, overuse of resources, overpopulation, or owning private property. The whole idea of free-market capitalism, based as it is on a Judeo-Christian worldview, is considered sinful to environmentalists, with its belief that man has dominion over the Earth, and that, while man should be a good steward of God’s creation, the Earth’s resources are for man’s use.

"Salvation/Heaven: Traditionally, salvation was seen as a way to escape sin and damnation and achieve heaven or some form of paradise. For environmentalists, this means creating (or, perhaps, re-creating) an earthly paradise or Eden with humanity living in harmony with Nature (whatever that means) and no pollution, and no ugly industry ruining Gaia’s complexion. Sustainability is the new salvation.

"Atonement/Indulgences: So how can humanity make atonement for such sins as polluting the environment and using up too many resources? Paying a carbon tax or purchasing “carbon offsets” is a good way to cleanse a guilty Green conscience. Donating time and money to environmental causes is another way Greens can make atonement for their sins against Gaia. Of course, doing personal penance by lowering one’s living standards and consumption is always a great thing to do, according to Environmentalists. And since the world is overpopulated and their aren’t enough resources to go around, having fewer (or no) children is smart. While how much one consumes is important, it is equally important to pay attention to exactly what one is consuming. High preference is given to locally raised, organic food. Certain foods should be avoided if they were not raised, harvested, processed, or shipped sustainably.

"Church: Religions typically have some form of gathering spot, be it a temple, church, mosque, etc. This can refer to the building where religious adherents gather to worship, receive instruction, and fellowship with like-minded individuals, but it often has more significance. In Christianity, for example, “the Church” is often referred to as an official authority of the religion, one that sets doctrine and dogma for Christians. For Environmentalists, the United Nations would fit the bill as a sort of “church” that serves as a seat of authority for the religion of Environmentalism, providing guidance on a global scale regarding environmental issues. The “church” of the UN has published official doctrine and dogma for Greens to follow and preach throughout the world.

"Holy Days and Hymns: Religions typically have holy days, or days of special significance to that particular religion. Environmentalism is no different. Earth Days certainly function as “holy days” for Greens. In 1969 at a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Conference in San Francisco, “peace activist” John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to be celebrated on the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This was approved by the UN, and the official United Nations Earth Day has been celebrated on the March equinox ever since. Margaret Mead, a cultural anthropologist whose work helped spawn the American “sexual revolution,” added her support for the UN equinox Earth Day, stating in 1978,

"Sacred Writings: Environmentalism, as you might have guessed, has sacred writings of its own: the Earth Charter and the Temenos Books.

"The Earth Charter is an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action.”

"The Temenos Books are a collection of handmade, hand-illustrated books filled with pages of visual prayers/affirmations for global healing, peace, and gratitude. The word temenos, originating from the ancient Greek term for a special parcel of land set aside as a sacred space, refers in modern occult parlance to a circle demarcating a space where one can do spiritual “work,” i.e., witchcraft, spells, etc."

Lenghty article includes: Priests and Prophets; Official Doctrine; Just Another False Religion; Etc.,

John T. Larabell - New American - April 21, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #175 on: April 25, 2017, 05:37:59 AM »
China, India, the Dalai Lama and the Politics of Reincarnation

"The Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh from April 7 to 11 garnered plenty of media attention. One of the most prominently discussed questions centered around the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.
The Chinese side was unequivocal in not only objecting to the visit but also commenting on the reincarnation issue. The Chinese position, as encapsulated in remarks by scholars from important Chinese think tanks, is that the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation has to be approved by the Chinese government and selection has to be based on a combination of not just “historical rules” but also current “Chinese laws.”

"The reference to Chinese laws is with respect to the 2007 State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) regulation delineating procedures for the selection of reincarnated monks, including eligibility conditions, application procedures and the government and religious institutions to be approached for approval. The regulation basically excludes “any foreign organization or individual” from the reincarnation selection process, obviously in an attempt to legitimize China’s authority and exclude the Tibetan Diaspora (and others) in the selection of the next Dalai Lama.

"The Chinese have consistently maintained that any reincarnation must be determined on the basis of the late 18th century procedure instituted by the Manchu Qing rulers of China. Under this “golden urn system” of selecting reincarnations, the names of prospective candidates would be placed in an urn, from which lots would be drawn to pick the real incarnation. Therefore, any other method being suggested by the Dalai Lama is seen as contrary to established rules and illegitimate, for it denies the Chinese government’s authority in the process.

"Much of the recent interest in the issue was sparked by comments made by local officials in Tawang – Deputy Commissioner Sang Phuntsok and Tsering Tashi, a local legislator – who expressed their wish for the next Dalai Lama to be reincarnated in Tawang. Robert J. Barnett from Columbia University too saw the visit as significant in this context. According to Barnett, it may be an attempt by the Dalai Lama to replicate some of his predecessors’ practice of visiting “places where they would later be reincarnated as babies.” He also saw the visit as a way to nudge the Chinese and to tell them that they have no control over the reincarnation process. Jayadeva Ranade, formerly additional secretary in the Indian government’s Cabinet Secretariat, and currently, head of the Center for China Analysis and Strategy, too saw the visit to Tawang as “a way of subtly sending the message on reincarnation.” An article on the topic by Wall Street Journal opines, “Anticipating his own death, he [the Dalai Lama] may wish to signal that he could choose, as Tibetan tradition allows, to be reborn in Tawang.”

"The Dalai Lama himself commented on the subject at the press meeting that was scheduled on April 8, the second day of his stay in Tawang. The meeting lasted about one and half hours and was held following lunch after his religious sermon to about 50,000 devotees.

"Two sets of questions and comments were raised with respect to the issue of reincarnation. One set of questions pertained to the deep desire of the people of Tawang for the Dalai Lama to be reborn there and whether, as many have been conjecturing, the visit’s sole purpose was to decide on this issue. The Dalai Lama’s immediate response was, “It is difficult to say.” Reminiscent of his earlier position according Buddhist Mongolians a role in deciding his rebirth, similarly, on this occasion, he added more stakeholders to the list – Arunachalis, Ladakhis, and Chinese Buddhists as well as some Europeans. Without necessarily stating that they could have a say in his rebirth, he remarked that all of these followers have at various occasions expressed their desire for the Dalai Lama to be reborn in their respective home regions. He characteristically asked, “Just one soul, how can I divide?” So, based on the Dalai Lama’s own comments, the question of where he will be reborn remains open.

"At the same time, he referred to his earlier statement that “at the time of my death, some indication might come” and clarified that at present there have been no indications. In an attempt to put the discussion to rest, he jokingly recalled an previous encounter with the media in Newark, in the United States, when he was asked similar questions. “I took out my glass and looked seriously and asked, ‘Do you think my reincarnation quite urgent or not?’ And they answered ‘no’ and so, I want to repeat it [here].” Belying the sense of urgency prevalent around him, the 81-year-old added that this question could come up in 15 to 20 years, but “at this moment” the reincarnation issue was not “relevant ...”

Tshering Chonzom Bhutia - The Diplomat - April 20, 2017.

Complete lengthy article:

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #176 on: April 26, 2017, 05:27:44 AM »
China Bans Religious Names for Muslim Children

"Many couples fret over choosing the perfect name for their newborn, but for Muslims in western China that decision has now become even more fraught: pick the wrong name and your child will be denied education and government benefits.

"Officials in the western region of Xinjiang, home to roughly half of China’s 23 million Muslims, have released a list of banned baby names amid an ongoing crackdown on religion, according to a report by US-funded Radio Free Asia.

"Names such as Islam, Quran, Saddam and Mecca, as well as references to the star and crescent moon symbol, are all unacceptable to the ruling Communist party and children with those names will be denied household registration, a crucial document that grants access to social services, healthcare and education.

"A full list of names has not yet been published and it is unclear exactly what qualifies as a religious name.

"China blames religious extremists for a slew of violent incidents in recent years that have left hundredsdead. It has launched a series of crackdowns in Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority and one of the most militarised regions in the country.

"Uighur rights groups complain of severe restrictions on religion and freedom of expression, and say the attacks are isolated incidents caused by local grievances, not part of a wider coordinated campaign. Young men are banned from growing beards in Xinjiang and women are forbidden from wearing face veils.

"Rights groups were quick to condemn the name ban, which applies to dozens of names deemed by Communist party officials to carry religious overtones.

“This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of countering ‘religious extremism,’” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “These policies are blatant violations of domestic and international protections on the rights to freedom of belief and expression.

“If the government is serious about bringing stability and harmony to the region as it claims, it should roll back – not double down on – repressive policies.”

"Authorities in Xinjiang passed new legislation last month expanding a host of restrictions, including allowing staff at train stations and airports to deny entry to women wearing face veils and encouraging staff to report them to the police.

"The new law also prohibits “abnormal beards” and “naming of children to exaggerate religious fervour”. Various cities in Xinjiang previously had rules banned women wear face veils and men with long beard from public transportation, but the new law applies to the entire region.

'A Communist party village chief and ethnic Uighur was demoted last month for not having a “resolute political stance” after he refused to smoke in front of Muslim elders. The state-run Global Times newspaper quote another local official as saying cadres should push against religious convention to demonstrate “their commitment to secularisation”.

Benjamin Haas - The Guardian - April 24, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #177 on: Yesterday at 05:20:03 AM »
Ledell Lee's Last Supper

"On April 20, the State of Arkansas executed Ledell Lee for the gruesome 1993 murder of Debra Reese. Although he and others contested it, raising important evidential questions about blood and DNA, Lee was convicted of killing Ms. Reese, during a robbery, by striking her 36 times with a tire tool. Ledell Lee has joined Debra Reese in death. Two are now dead. The justice of the state cannot restore her to life.

"Arkansas didn’t execute Mr. Lee to make anyone else safer, which is probably the sole, and extremely rare, justification for capital punishment: when it’s the only way to insure the safety of others. No, Mr. Lee was executed because the State of Arkansas wanted to use up its toxin of choice, midazolam, before its right to do so had expired. What irony! We eat so that the body does not waste away. Arkansas kills before a poison expires.

"Instead of a last meal, Ledell Lee choose to receive Holy Communion. That is something to ponder. Rather than a final, animal forage, the prisoner chose the most parsimonious of meals. Almost no nourishment for the body about to die, but, like the last meal of Jesus, a great and final sustenance of the spirit. To take Holy Communion in the face of death is to say that it is fellowship, and not food, that matters most. Our fellowship with Christ and with his saints.

"Is it blasphemous to compare Ledell Lee to Christ? One was convicted for murder. The other was murdered. But Christ does not stop being Christ in the face of heinous sin any more than he did in the face of heinous death. Christ is still—Christ is simply—mercy. Mercy, who sets her feast and summons her faithful."

Terrance Klein - America (Jesuit Review) - April 26, 2017.

Complete article :


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