Faith Bytes

Obama: Religious freedom a U.S. diplomatic priority

President Obama tells a non-denominational gathering of political leaders that freedom of religion across the world is important to national security and is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy. Obama says that message is not always easy to deliver. He says he has told leaders in China, Burma and Nigeria that they must do more to respect human rights, particularly religious freedom.
The Blade

Science, Religion, and Compartmentalisation
People compartmentalise their beliefs all the time. That’s particularly true of religious beliefs in modern society. Over the centuries, science has steamrolled religion. Faith has fervor, but science has evidence, technical power, and progress on its side. So religion has retreated to the margins. Today, if you’re a serious scientist, you can still believe in God. But you have to consign Him to the spaces unclaimed by science. You have to compartmentalise.

My Experience With a “Leap of Faith”
In a conversation with a friend with whom I correspond via the internet, I wrote him a while ago that I am trying to figure out who was the man that Christianity calls Jesus Christ. I told him that after the hundredth proof found in a book ‘The Magdalene Legacy by Laurence Gardner’ I could finally put together all the facts concerning who this man was. What this author wrote in his book is confirmed by various other sources such as those Qumran scrolls which were not in the hands of the Vatican translators as well as the Nag Hammadi scrolls and of course some gnostic works that I’ve read.
Humans Are Free

‘Religion has to grow beyond language, caste’
Adichunchanagiri mutt seer Nirmalanandanath regretted that India has lost a lot of its geographical locations and strength of awareness due to forgetting our culture and tradition. Referring to Combodia, he said though the country is small in size, it has a number of Hindu temples. But none of sanctum sanatoriums of the temple has the Hindu idols. The country is now filled with Buddhists and Hinduism no more exists in that country, he said.
Deccan Herald

Sikhs want Cameron to apologise for plotting Golden Temple attack
Revelations that Margaret Thatcher’s Government was actively consulted ahead of the Indian Army’s June 1984 assault on Sikhism’s holiest shrine has predictably provoked vehement indignation in Punjab. Several leaders including Punjab’s chief minister and the Jathedar or chief priest of the Akal Takht, the highest religious and temporal seat of the Sikh Community, demanded an unconditional and befitting gesture of apology from the incumbent British Government.
India Today




These Two Stanford Professors Have A Fascinating Theory Of Why Businesses Succeed

According to the management professors, the seemingly baffling occurrence boils down to a simple business principle: knowing when to replicate best practices, versus when to adapt them to different cultures and situations. They refer to this idea as Buddhism vs. Catholicism. To be clear, Sutton and Rao’s argument is not a spiritual one. They simply call upon the two religions to illustrate a cultural dichotomy.
Business Insider

“Religion and consumerism co-exist happily”: Ambi Parameswaran
Are Muslims more open-minded shoppers? How did Akshaya Trithiya become such a big deal? Why has the bindi disappeared from advertisements? These are some of the questions printed on the jacket of Ambi Parameswaran’s latest book ‘For God’s Sake’. The author, who works as advisor at Draftfcb Ulka Advertising, has written several books on brand building, consumer behaviour and strategic brand management in the past. But this one, he says, is the lightest of them all. And we’re inclined to agree; the language is chatty and the pages are full of anecdotes, real brand stories and examples.

Muslims in Liberal Democracies
Harvard professor and Islam expert Jocelyne Cesari looks into the mechanisms of the West’s fear of Islam, and ponders on how the dominant narrative that tends to present Islam as an alien religion can be countered. The integration of Muslim immigrants has been on the political agenda of European democracies for several decades. However, only in the last ten years has it specifically evolved into a question of civic integration closely related to religious identity. In the 1960s and 1970s, the socio-economic integration of immigrants with a Muslim background was the primary focus of academic literature, but with the emergence of the second and third generations, the interest has shifted to political mobilization. Beginning with the Rushdie affair in the United Kingdom and the hijab affair in France from 1989 to present, the spotlight has moved to the legitimacy of Islamic signs in public space, such as dress code, minarets, and halal foods.
Eutopia Institute

Water Seeks Its Own Level
Water seeks its own level simply means quality people of integrity find other quality people of integrity and vice versa. It also means high quality finds high quality and low quality finds low quality. This is true in business and in life. It is a scientific fact: water does indeed reach its own level. It’s also a scientific fact that our bodies are made of 90 percent water. And the Bible says the same thing but like this:“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. Genesis 1:9
The Washington Informer

Being muslim in UP: Narrow lanes, effervescence and a girlfriend
The best-kept secret in the Alam family is Tanzeer has a girlfriend. He doesn’t mention it at home due to circumspection from being the youngest in a family of six. The oldest brother, 25, wants to marry but says “Pehle behno se nipat jayen (let me marry off the sisters first)”. Tanzeer Alam, officially 18 but less certain of his age otherwise, smiles with the rest of the family when his oldest sibling mentions the sisters. It is not clear if he shares this sense of responsibility.
Business Standard

Atheist, Humanist, Secular: Why Fight Over Labels?
No matter how you look at it, the nontheist movement in the U.S. is experiencing momentous growth. According to a Harris poll, those who profess no belief in a god is at the highest percentage ever recorded. Atheism as an identity is also becoming more mainstream and even politically acceptable, as seen by the fact that most Americans would now vote for an atheist running for president (something that would not have been possible even a few years ago).
Huffington Post



Faith and fish: Castaway recounts how he survived 13 months adrift in Pacific

How did a man survive such an ordeal — as Alvarenga describes — in a boat about the length of three people and the width of one person? He pointed upward and said, “God. … My faith in God.”

Where Faith Meets Justice: Jobs That Will Change You and Your World
When I graduated from college, ad agencies and consulting groups were the big draw. If you wanted to do service, the Peace Corps was pretty much the only option, unless you had a friend who knew someone who ran some kind of non-profit somewhere. Today it’s different. The most competitive job to get right after college is with Teach for America. AmeriCorps is also a popular option, but with more than 500,000 applicants for less than 80,000 positions, it is not a slam-dunk to get in. So what do you do if you are someone who wants to change the world, find meaningful work, commit to an issue and delve deeper and further into life’s journey?
Huffington Post

Indian politics: religion versus elections
Starting April 16, the people of India will determine the government of the country for the next five years. The elections will end on May 13 and the previous government will cease to exist on May 31. The election will be fought between the two most powerful parties in Parliament: the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meaning Indian People’s Party. The BJP has already nominated Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. Many expected Rahul Gandhi to be the INC candidate, however on January 17th the INC announced Gandhi would not be its PM nominee. This is a sure sign the INC are willing to surrender the elections to the BJP, who are already ahead in national polls.
Huffington Post

New book: The Romance of Religion
The Romance of Religion deals with the question of the great adventure of faith. So many abandon religion because they have come to believe that it is no more than a list of rules, regulations and rubrics combined with a list of doctrines, dogmas and disciplines to be observed. They’ve missed the fact that these things–while necessary–are not the core of religion. They are the map for the journey, the rulebook of the game, but they are not the journey or the game. The journey is far more than the map even if you need the map for the journey. The book then expands and considers how we use stories to tell about the faith, the relationship of myth and fairy tale to the re-telling of the old, old, story of fallen humanity and a forgiving God.

Religion and Culture: Mixed-faith Hindu weddings are on the rise
The incense was there. So was the tikka powder and the ceremonial grains of rice. So were the turbans, the saris, and the kurta pajamas. The wedding had all of the makings of a Hindu shaadi, but in one major way, it was far from traditional. When Neil Bajpayee, a Pennsylvania-born Indian-American, made his vows in Sanskrit to Stephanie Young, a Californian raised in a non-religious family, he became the first member of his family to marry a non-Indian, non-Hindu.
Southern California Public Radio

Miles Davis, Buddhism, and Jazz featured in Hancock’s First Lecture as Norton Professor
Hancock, the 2014 Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, the first African-American to hold the prestigious position, gave the first in a series of six lectures entitled “The Ethics of Jazz,” presented by the Mahindra Humanities Center. The first lecture, entitled, “The Wisdom of Miles Davis” tied Hancock’s personal memories of the legendary trumpet player and bandleader to broader lessons about racism, ethics, and Buddhism.
The Harvard Crimson



Riot-hit Muslims find solace in Hindu village

Mehndi Hasan, Roshan Ali and Mohammed Rasheed call Palda a “terrain of peace”. Theirs are among 450 riot-hit Muslim families that have each bought a small plot in this predominantly Hindu village, looking to settle down among its “kind and generous” people. Hasan, 45, had fled his home in Qutba, just 3km away, with his wife, five children and parents after rioters ran amok, killing and burning, in the Muslim village on September 7. But the Hindus of Jat-dominated Palda provided shelter to them and another 100-odd Muslim refugees for weeks and months.
The Telegraph

1984: Giani Zail Singh’s daughter says PM, govt ignored his pleas for help
“The year 1984 was the most painful year for my father,” says Dr Gurdeep Kaur, daughter of former president Dr Giani Zail Singh. In an interview with PTC News here yesterday, Dr Gurdeep Kaur who now lives here with her engineer husband Surinder Singh Virdi, maintained that her father was deeply hurt both by Operation Bluestar and the anti-sikh riots. The agony of Giani Ji, she says, was that despite being the supreme commander of Indian defense forces, he was neither consulted before Operation Bluestar nor could he, in spite of his best efforts, stop the riots against innocent Sikhs.
India Today

Contextualising yoga: modern practices in a western world
For many people across the world yoga is a way of ensuring a healthy life away from sedentary habits, a way of decreasing stress and increasing general wellbeing. However, the religious or spiritual element present in the practice of yoga may scare people who are concerned about religious purity or the integrity of their beliefs. Some might believe that yoga contradicts their religion, others might think of it as devil’s work. But is modern yoga a form of spiritual or religious practice?
The Critical Religion Association

Essay: Are women devalued by religion?
This scriptural exaltation of women’s equality only makes the actual condition of women in our society more questionable—and the attitudes of many male religious leaders on the subject more suspect. After all, at its best, religion frames our values and invites each and all us—not just men—to reach for the heights of the human spirit. Religion, we also know, is a compelling arbiter of personal ethics and public actions. Human behavior is based on assumptions, and where women are concerned, religion has helped define the human community’s assumptions about the place and role of women in society. Religion tells us that women are valuable, of course, but also that women are secondary to men.
Shifting Paradigms

Religious extremism growing at a rapid pace: Marmur
Religious converts are often said to feel that they haven’t been converted enough and compensate by denigrating the religion in which they were reared. That’s perhaps also why some adopt extreme views within their new faith. The unnamed Muslim or Jewish York University student who recently refused to attend a class because women would be present could have been of that ilk.
The Star

Is this what religion has become in Kenya?
Freedom of worship has led to the proliferation of cults and religious sects in Kenya. This has been worsened by the fact that starting a church in this country is as easy as starting a self-help group. Actually, all you need is a duly completed application form, a constitution and a registration fee of Sh2,000. Submit these, wait for three months, and you will be in ‘business’.
Standard Media



Is seeking votes on religious grounds a corrupt practice?

Later this month, a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court will pass a ruling on the interpretation of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, deciding on whether an appeal for vote in the name of religion will come within the ambit of ‘corrupt practice’. A five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Justices R.M. Lodha, A.K. Patnaik, S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and Ibrahim Kalilfulla, posted the issue for consideration by a seven-judge Bench, along with a reference of seven-judges of an appeal already made as early as in August 2002, pending adjudication.
The Hindu

Rajoana urges Akal Takht to issue edict for boycott of Congress
As the controversy around 1984 anti-Sikh riots is brewing again, death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana has said that the Akal Takht should issue a “hukmnama” (edict) directing the entire Sikh community to severe ties with Congress, alleging that the party was responsible for the carnage. Stating that Akal Takht had issued an edict asking Sikhs to snap social ties with followers of a popular dera when its head had allegedly imitated 10th master of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, around seven years ago, Rajoana questioned why a similar decree was not be made regarding Congress party, which “conspired” to kill Sikhs in Delhi in 1984.
The Times of India

Yoga, imported from India, attracts 20 million Americans
The origin of Yoga is blurred, but may go back before recorded history, even prior to the emergence of Hinduism. An early text is attributed to a scholar known as Patanjali, who gave step-by-step instructions. From his writings Ashtanga Yoga emerged, also referred to as Classical Yoga. Most adherents in this country practice some variation of Patanjali. Thousands of classes are held across the co untry at yoga studios, Ys, colleges, churches, and elsewhere. A major 300-acre Yoga center known as Kripalu is located in Stockbridge, Mass. Yoga has its critics in America, mainly because of its historic ties to Hinduism. Various evangelical clergy have spoken out sharply against it. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said that Yoga is “at odds with the Christian understanding….Believers are called to meditate on the Word of God.” The televangelist Pat Robertson has charged that Yoga “gets real spooky.” (Actually, Robertson can get real spooky.)
My Record Journal

First Purusha, Then Prakriti Manifested: Sadhguru
Shiva is referred to as the ultimate man, he is the symbolism of ultimate masculinity, and even he is half a woman. I think that is compliment enough. You don’t have to say Shiva came and became half of Parvati because that is not how nature happened. First was Purusha, and then Prakriti manifested. First there was the source of creation, then creation happened. If you were to say, “I delivered my mother,” that would be inappropriate. If you say, “Ardhanari means Shiva became a part of Parvati,” that is what you are saying.
The New Indian Express

Dalai Lama for promotion of secular ethics among youths
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama today urged spiritual leaders of all religions to remind the younger generation the importance of India’s tradition of secular ethics. “Modern India has become a little bit materialistic and the younger generation talks more about money than spirituality, but spiritual leaders must remind them material development provides only physical comfort and not mental comfort,” he said while addressing an Interfaith Conclave on Peace and Religious Harmony here.
Business Standard

The Islamic Republic at 35: A matter of interests
As Iran celebrates the 35th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution, British Prime Minister Palmerston’s apt phrase rings truer than ever: Iran has no permanent friends, only permanent interests.The main question facing the leadership is how, at three and a half decades, can its revolution remain relevant? As always with Iran, its international relations and domestic politics intricately overlap, and its interests impact each other. Towering above the others, its primary interest is to reduce the draconian weight of international sanctions, which are squeezing its economy and threatening the legitimacy of its clerical regime. Second, Iran needs to patch up relations with Saudi Arabia to stem the dangerous politics of sectarianism that is ratcheting up conflict within the Islamic world. Third, Iran’s support of Syria needs to lead it to the international negotiating table, since its aim, much like Russia’s, is to ease Assad out so conflict declines, while retaining a dominant position inside a post-Assad Syria.
—  Aljazeera



An elegy for the Narmada and the civilisation that grew along its banks

The notion of a parikrama as a small journey that may encompass larger truths lies at the heart of Hartosh Singh Bal’s book Waters Close Over Us. Bal travels along the Narmada, tracing the river’s sacred geography through history, reflecting on the streams of thought that have grown along its banks. His musings dwell on Advaita philosophy (Sankara’s legendary debate with the Mimamsa school is believed to have taken place at Mahishmati in the Narmada valley 1200 years ago), 19th century Quaker missionary debates in Hoshangabad, as well as contemporary controversies over large dams and development. Bal is as much a time traveller as a man driving along the river in a car.
The Hindu

A Non-Violent, Vegetarian Atheism
The name on my passport is Madhu Sethi Jain. I chose not to let go of my maiden name (quite an anachronism that word, maiden) when I got married. Inevitably—well, almost always—the immigration official looks perplexed when he sees my name each time I fly in or out of Delhi. Many of the officials can’t resist asking how a Sethi married a Jain.

7 Signs Spiritual Materialism is Ruining Everything
Overuse of the phrases “I’m spiritual but not religious” and/or “I’m an atheist, but I’m spiritual” have become so dogmatic that you can almost pinpoint who’s going to say it, usually right after someone rolls their eyes about your expensive yoga studio membership.

Buddhists, Catholics join hands
A Buddhist group has provided cash and shelter materials to badly damaged Catholic churches in this province and grateful parishioners see Buddhist characters on the tents when they hear mass, church officials said. Msgr. Alex Opiniano of the Santo Nino Church said Tzu Chi, a Taiwan-based Buddhist group, provided prefabricated tents in the courtyard for churchgoers while the church underwent construction work, and the mass appear like an inter-faith service.
Manila Standard Today

Spirituality and Surfing
Twelve years after he left Walden Pond in the spring of 1859 Henry David Thoreau wrote, “launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Last week giant, long-period Pacific Ocean swells and wave riders from around the world converged on Northern California for the Mavericks Invitational big wave surf contest. South African Grant “Twiggy” Baker mastered his fears of these dangerously large waves and won the contest for a second time. Eternity is not too far from any of the competitors’ minds. Two of the world’s best surfers lost their lives at this surf break.
Huffington Post

Atheist Author Sam Harris to Publish Guide to ‘Spirituality Without Religion’
The religious critic, who is famous for his previous books, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, refers to the growing number of people in America who do not identify with a religious faith, though the exact number is up for debate.
Christian Post



The Shramana Tradition Predates The Vedas

Rahul Gandhi’s demand and the cabinet’s decision to declare Jains a national minority is a welcome but overdue decision. It rectifies an inexplicable omission since a community based on a unique faith comprising less than 0.5 per cent of the population was nationally not recognised as a religious minority! Apart from the general apathy of successive governments and the absence of a persistent demand by the Jain community, the main reason was the 2005 decision of the apex court in Bal Patil vs Union of India.

1984: A reckoning awaits
Arvind Kejriwal has demanded a Special Investigation Team (SIT) be set up to probe the genocide of Sikhs in 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Rahul Gandhi in his interview to Arnab Goswami on TimesNow said “some Congressmen may have been involved” in the genocide. Clearly, the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom deserves far more media, public and legal scrutiny than it has received.
The Economic Times

Freed from the shackles of guilt
In its best moments, guilt can protect and guide us, much like the pain that teaches us to avoid a hot stove or sharp objects. When we respond to guilt with confession and repentance, we can move forward to live a better life on a higher plane. But guilt can be destructive and debilitating.

UK schools replace secular philosophy courses with religious ones
As Saffrey notes, this is going to make it harder for secular philosophy to disentangle itself from religious philosophy—a struggle that’s been going on for years.  And I think it will certainly devalue philosophy degrees in the UK.  Imagine having to study Alvin Plantinga or Richard Swinburne rather than Plato, Mill, Rawls, or Singer!  Instead of pondering what makes a good life, or how can one construct a good ethical system, students will be reading justifications of the nonexistent.
Why Evolution is True

Tony Blair, conflict and religion: a case of Huntington redux
In 1993, the American political scientists Samuel Huntington wrote an article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Clash of Civilizations?” Three years later he wrote his argument up in a book form – The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Despite the cautious question mark in the title, the article was unreservedly bold: wars and international politics used to be driven by ideology, now by nationalism, and next by differences of cultural identity at the broadest level – civilisational differences. He mapped out the great civilisations – Western, Orthodox, Islamic, Confucian, Hindu, Buddhist, Japanese, Latin American, “possibly African” – and argued they would be pitted against each other, sometimes in alliances such as the Confucian-Islamic alliance he saw emerging.
Dan Smith’s Blog



Salman Rushide on the Role of Religion in Literature and the Literary Imagination

Well, the first thing to say is that all literature began as sacred literature. That is to say, the beginnings of writings are religious, that the oldest written material that we have is all the product of one or another religious experience. It’s a long time, if you look at the history of literature, before literature separates itself from that articulation of religion. So there is something profound in the origins that link them.
Columbia University Press

Philosophy is not religion. It must not be taught that way
For A-level students in the UK, there is only one exam board that runs a real philosophy course. And that’s about to be changed into yet another religious education course. For the last nine years, I have taught the AQA’s A-level philosophy course. It’s a good course, and the only one to represent the breadth of philosophy as a discipline in its own right. So I was somewhat surprised to learn that the AQA have this week, without warning or consultation, published a completely new draft syllabus, which is now just waiting to be rubber-stamped by Ofqual.
The Guardian

Sikhs stand up to bullying as they try to build understanding
Throughout elementary, middle and high school, Prabhdeep Suri has been the only Sikh in his class, and it’s been obvious. Like all Sikh boys, he wore a patka, a head covering for his uncut hair that’s worn out of respect for his gurus. To his classmates, the patka was a license to stare, taunt, isolate, punch and kick him. It was a target to knock off his head. It was the reason they called him “Osama bin Laden” and “terrorist.”
The Washington Post

Strength In Spirit Affects Overall Well-Being
A new year often comes with questions. January is a time to take stock, reflect on past accomplishments and lost opportunities, and determine the way forward. Creating more happiness, achieving a longed-for goal, and making changes that lead to better health and more resilience can be part of the new you in the new year. While improving physical, mental and emotional well-being can involve much different considerations, there is one aspect of the human condition that ties each of these together — spirituality.
Army MWR

Was Joan of Arc a saint or a crazy person?
This question was put to me by a local graduate student and it is actually a problematic one on several levels. Many people know the story of St. Joan, the female warrior of France who was said to be called by God to liberate her nation from English oppression. Viewed from the perspective of secular history, we have a story of a person who claimed to hear the voice of God and had visions of saints. That would make anyone in any age appear at least a little bit eccentric. Yet that said, she won stunning military victories against incredible odds as a teenage girl when the best military commanders of her day were utterly unable to do so.
Redlands Daily Facts

Atheism is not a system of values
Atheism doesn’t tell you what you “ought” to do. It is simply a lack of belief. Naturalism on the other hand is an epistemological position, i.e. “I don’t see evidence for the supernatural, which includes gods”. One can be an atheist and be a great humanitarian or a mass murderer. Atheism is not a system of values. My lack of belief does not inform my values in any way.
Atheist Nexus



Religion, Poverty and the Indices of Happiness

Politicians across the globe have been toying for a few years now with the idea of using ‘happiness indices’ to better gauge the well being of their citizens. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index leads the pack, having surveyed its citizens in 2010. China, perturbed by the increasing alienation its billion+ residents have begun to act out, is contemplating a similar index. The upstart Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tries to provide some statistical credibility to this emerging measure of our discontent. Shigehiro Oishi and Ed Diener, in their paper titled Residents of Poor Nations Have a Greater Sense of Meaning in Life Than Residents of Wealthy Nations, posit that residents of poorer nations placed a greater value on the meaning of life than those in wealthier countries. They write: “Although life satisfaction was substantially higher in wealthy nations than in poor nations, meaning in life was higher in poor nations than in wealthy nations.” The researchers attribute this seeming contradiction to the “mediating role of religiosity”. They believe that the meaning in life is higher in poorer countries such as Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Niger, “even under objectively dire living conditions” because people in those countries are more religious.
Forbes India

Kejriwal gives written assurance to resolve Sikh issues
Finally, Delhi’s ruling Aam Admi Party (AAP) has taken notice of hunger strike by France based human right organization Aurore-Dawn president Iqbal Singh Bhatti and have assured to deliver justice with respect to his demands in a sympathetic and time bound manner. AAP’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in a letter written to Bhatti informed that his government was sympathetic to the issues raised by him and would take necessary steps to ensure full justice.
The Times of India

Sikhs should boycott Congress, says Sukhbir Badal
Just a day after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi admitted that some party leaders could be involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal Tuesday called upon the Sikh community to boycott the Congress. Condemning Gandhi for “not bothering to tender an apology” for the killing of hundreds of Sikhs in the 1984 riots, Badal said his “self-admission of the barbaric crimes of Congressmen in anti-Sikh genocide” should be suo moto taken notice of by the courts to take action against Congress leaders.
Business Standard

An atheist’s love letter to religion
“The Book of Mormon” manages to satirize, offend, evoke laughter, make powerful statements on religion and be heartwarming and irreverent simultaneously. The show brings in an average of $19.5 million every month, making it the most successful musical in four decades. The show also recently swept through last year’s Tony awards, winning virtually every major award including: Best Musical, Best Actress and Outstanding Music.
The Miami Student

David Brooks: Religion is truly personal
There is a strong vein of hostility against orthodox religious believers in the United States today, especially among the young. When secular or mostly secular people are asked by researchers to give their impression of the devoutly faithful, whether Jewish, Christian or other, the words that come up commonly include “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “old-fashioned” and “out of touch.”
Times Union

Sisi calls for “modern, comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam”
The latest Muslim Martin Luther, taking up the tattered crown from the cynical, deceptive Tariq Ramadan, is Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has called for a reformation within Islam. Such a reformation is certainly urgently needed, and even in calling for it, Sisi has gone much farther than the Muslim Brotherhood scion Ramadan ever did. Sisi, however, is a general, not a member of the Egyptian ulama; his words are unlikely to spark a mass movement for general reformation of the elements of Islam that give impetus to violence and supremacism. And the existence of those elements, and people who believe in them, is likely to menace Sisi for simply making this call — as others have been menaced for calling for reform in Islam in the past. Just last year, the Moroccan cleric Ahmed Assid condemned violence in Islam’s name, and was promptly declared an apostate and an enemy of Allah by other clerics, and threatened with death. The Iraqi Shi’ite scholar Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji called for reason in Islamic discourse and jurisprudence, and was immediately arrested.
Jihad Watch

Einstein And Buddha: Convergence Of Science And Eastern Philosophy
Albert Einstein is possibly the greatest scientist mankind has ever produced. His general theory of relatively created a revolutionary change on how scientists have viewed the world. He discovered that time and space is always related to the observer. His famous equation E=MC2 revealed that matter and energy are interchangeable forms of same substance. Einstein being a genius did not confine his interest only on science. The views he has expressed on Religion, philosophy and politics indicates that he was a great thinker who tried to bridge the gap between science and philosophy or religion. Buddha gave us a great teaching which would lead to tap the maximum potential of the mind which will eventually lead to the understanding of everything happening around us and finally to liberate from the cycle of Sansara (Cycle of Birth and death). The difference between Einstein and Buddha is that while former was keen in finding answers to the phenomenon of outside world, Buddha used his own powers of observation within his mind (introspection), intellect and reasoning, grounded in reality, to guide him to his enlightenment. Both Buddha and Einstein did their research on a scientific basis. Buddha advised his followers NOT to accept what he was teaching them at face value or to take his beliefs “on faith.” Rather, he counseled them to test his theories for themselves, and if they didn’t prove true, then reject them. (Kalama Sutra) Buddha found what he was looking for. Einstein after all his discoveries has to admit mankind does not have the wisdom to understand the all the mysteries of the nature. The purpose of this article is to examine the relevancy of some of Einstein’s statement to Buddhist teachings and also to present Einstein’s view about the religion.
Sri Lanka Guardian

Millennials Invent New Religion: No Hell, No Priests, No Punishment
“Isn’t it blasphemy to invent a religion?” my student asked with concern. Every semester, in the comparative religion class I teach at a local community college, I ask my students to divide into groups and create a religion from whole cloth. “All religions were invented at some point,” I offered, reminding him that while Jesus may have assigned Peter to be the rock upon which the church would be built, it was up to everyone else to determine the details.
Religion Dispatches

A balanced society: Religion and nationalism go hand in hand, say scholars
A liberal and plural version of nationalism – one that accommodates both language and religious beliefs – is the need of the hour. “Nationalism can be both good and bad. It can unify or divide, oppose or liberate. In short, it has two extremes,” said Dr Salim Cevik, a lecturer at Ankara’s Ipek University. He was speaking at a seminar, titled ‘Change and Continuity: Religion and National Identity’, organised by the Szabist Social Sciences Department at its campus on Wednesday.
The Express Tribune

Pope Francis in Rolling Stone: The Times They Are A-Changin’

Up close, Pope Francis, the 266th vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth, a man whose obvious humility, empathy and, above all, devotion to the economically disenfranchised has come to feel perfectly suited to our times, looks stouter than on television. Having famously dispensed with the more flamboyant pontifical accessories, he’s also surprisingly stylish, today wearing a double-breasted white overcoat, white scarf and slightly creamier cassock, all impeccably tailored.
Rolling Stone

A Year Without God? Affirming Atheism, Praying Anyway
In the three months since my coming out as a gay transgender man caused an unwanted public breach with my Christian employer, many around me ask why I am still a Christian, and some closest to me have lost their own faith. How or why can anyone believe in a loving God, a sentient Creator with intention and purpose, when people suffer as they do? This is no abstract debate but a life-and-death question for me as a survivor of repeated sexual assault and multiple forms of violence. Far worse, I live with decades of memories of helplessly witnessing loved ones closest to me suffer egregious acts of domestic violence. But in my own life, human brutality turned me to, rather than away from, God.
Huffington Post

If Muslims are divided Modi will form next govt: Azam Khan
Asking the Muslim community to remain united to prevent Narendra Modi from becoming Prime Minister, Uttar Pradesh Minister Mohd Azam Khan today said a big conspiracy was going on to divide Muslims. “There is a big conspiracy going on to divide Muslims… If you are divided, Narndra Modi will form the next government (at the Centre). We all have to remain united,” Khan said while addressing a conference of madarsa managers and principals here.
First Post

Some parties are projecting Modi as ‘anti-Muslim’, says Ramdev
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev on Monday attacked the political parties for projecting Narendra Modi as an “enemy” of Muslims and claimed that under his leadership both majority and minority communities will progress. “Some political parties, which have been using Muslims as a vote-bank, are trying to confuse the community by projecting him (Modi) as their enemy. These parties are spreading the word that Muslims will face injustice (if Modi becomes the Prime Minister),” Ramdev said.
IBN Live

Faith Swap: Christian and atheist exchange lives for one month
Ever wondered how the other half live? Premier Christian Radio has organised a unique experiment that allows two friends to find out just that; an atheist and a Christian have swapped their religious daily commitments for a month. This January, comedians Simon Capes and Bentley Browning have given up their respective belief systems in favour of the other’s, in the hopes of coming to understand one another’s views more fully. Browning, a committed Christian, has abstained from prayer and stopped going to church, while Capes, a self-confessed single-minded atheist, has been taking part in what he calls “the rituals of Christianity”
Christian Today

Spirituality at Work: expressing our beliefs without stepping over boundaries
Three years ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Soul Shift, a show on radio station Joy 94.9.   I was asked to share my views on how we can express ourselves spirituality in the workplace without stepping over boundaries or inappropriately preaching to our colleagues.  Preparing for a recent interview on the ABC about an altogether different topic – having fun at the work Christmas party without damaging your career, I came across the notes I had prepared for the Soul Shift interview.  Given how often I am asked similar questions I thought I would share the notes with you here.
Karen Gately


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