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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



Bangla Hindus caught in political crossfire

Activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami were blamed for attacks on the Hindus, who were accused of backing Awami League which won the January 5 polls despite a boycott by the opposition.
The Free Press Journal

Is the Bible’s definition of faith opposed to logic and evidence?
Probably the biggest misconception that I encounter when defending the faith is the mistaken notion of what faith is. Today we are going to get to the bottom of what the Bible says faith is, once and for all. This post will be useful to Christians and atheists, alike.
Wintery Knight

‘Hand on the faith,’ Pope instructs parents at baptism
During his homily at Sunday mass, Pope Francis reminded parents who had brought their infants to be baptized of their duty to pass on the faith to their children. “Today, carry this thought home with you. We must be transmitters of the faith. Think of this, think always of how to hand on the faith to (your) children,” he told the families who were gathered for mass in the Sistine Chapel.

PM: Government to administer country based on Islamic principles
The government is committed to ensure that Malaysia achieves the developed nation status by the year 2020 and will use the Islamic principles and syari’a as the mould for administration as provided for by the constitution, said Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
New Strait Times

Beat illness – Build a healthy body – like Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris pummels his enemies and opponents. When it comes to martial arts and his acting roles in television and films (Walker, Texas Ranger/Delta Force), Norris knows how to take care of business. You may have seen him act and, perhaps, talk about exercise (Total Gym), but did you know that Norris also speaks about spirituality walloping pain and disease?


Will act against those attacking minorities: Sheikh Hasina

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said stern action would be taken against those involved in attacks on Hindu minorities post-election. She urged opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia to “stop attacks” on the minority community else, the government would take “appropriate measures.” Earlier, Ms. Hasina met President Abdul Hamid and briefed him on the steps taken to check post-poll violence.
The Hindu

Til n Gur Ladoo: Sankranti Recipe
Sankranti is a special day in Hinduism and is celebrated in almost all parts of India. Makara Sankranti is perhaps the only Indian festival where the date always falls on the same day every year: 14 January. It is an occasion among Hindus which marks the arrival of spring season in India.
Bold Sky

Space for Hindus is shrinking fast in Pakistan
Faiths which reduce mankind to a flawed species renounce real convictions and the right to choose. Therefore, when Pakistan’s religious minorities believe that the country’s road to democracy has spelt a slow death for them, it is difficult to disagree. It was the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) five-year rule that proved detrimental for the minorities, be it the Shias, Ahmedis, Christians or Hindus.
Mail Online

Muslim majorities open to democracy, but cautious
Women should cover their hair. Government should implement Shariah law. But democracy and separation of church and state may be best for society. Those are among the findings of a new study about public attitudes in seven bellwether Muslim-majority countries, published by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Washington Post

Nigeria – Muslims Pray for the Nation, We’re Not Terrorists: Ahmad
Prominent Muslims bared their minds as they gathered at the Tafawa Balewa Square to offer prayers for the nation. The event which was organized by the Joint Muslim Forum was an assemblage of Muslim organisations in the region with prominent Muslim personalities in attendance.
All Africa

Dysfunctional Religion Versus a Spirituality That Builds Intimacy and Community
We don’t have to look very deeply to recognize the divisiveness generated by religions throughout the world. Apart from those with an interfaith perspective — truth exists in many forms — people often insist that their beliefs and practices are the only ones sanctioned by God. But do their religious convictions open their hearts and deepen their wisdom or disconnect them from life, love and each other?
Huffington Post

No sex please, we’re Indian
While the Indian press may be restrained to report on religion, should the BBC frame the story in a faith-free atmosphere? Were India a fiercely secular society, such an omission might be justified. But it is not — nor are the rates of pre-marital sex comparable to the West. A study by the International Institute for Population Studies estimated that 3 per cent of women had engaged in pre-marital sex.


Hindus on the run, temples destroyed as BNP-Jamaat unleash targetted violence

Activists of main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its key-ally fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami attacked Hindu households in western Jessore and northwestern Dinajpur, local media reports said. The threat of life has forced hundreds of minority Hindus to leave home in panic as post-poll terror strikes have gained momentum in several districts of Bangladesh even as the 48-hour hartal has entered second day on Tuesday.
Niti Central

Seven arrested for attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Hasina vows action
Two Jamaat activists were arrested yesterday while five Bangladesh Nationalist Party supporters were arrested today for attacks on Hindus in Jessore and Dinajpur. A senior police office in Dinajpur said they were arrested after victims named those responsible for the attacks.
Zee News

Uphold 10-point solution, council of five religions tells Malaysian Govt
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism president Sardar Jagir Singh said the only way to resolve the issue was to honour the 10-point solution. “All places of worship should be off-limits to the interference of other (non-related) religions. “There are places to hold demonstrations, it must never be done at a place of worship,” he said yesterday.
The Star Online

Doctors embark on annual journey of faith and spirituality to Shirdi
Every year doctors and support staff from Lakshdeep Hospital in Vashi and Sai Snehdeep Hospital in Koparkhairane undertake a pilgrimage on foot to Shirdi, as a token of thanksgiving. The journey lasts four days, with around 12 hours of brisk walking everyday, and nights being spent in temples, ashrams, villages and sometimes even in open spaces.
The Times of India

Will Faith At Work Be A Good Thing When Your Job Is On The Line?
Picture this:  The economy has given the company you work at a pretty hard hit. Sales are down, competition is fierce, vendors and customers are all struggling and your job is on the line. You have 3 kids to feed, a mortgage, car payment and are still paying off the college debt you accumulated to get this amazing career started. Your boss is doing all they can to keep you employed.
A Real Change

16 Scientifically-Backed Ways To Boost Your Happiness Almost Instantly
An infographic.
Huffington Post

A battle for the soul of Islam
The mess is entirely of Muslims’ own making. It is the “Great Satan” within who is wreaking the damage. Islam is at war with itself, which is raging, simultaneously, at several levels — between moderates and extremists; between Shias and Sunnis; and between pro-West (Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies) and anti-West (Iran, Lebanon, Syria) Muslim powers.
The Hindu

We Must Teach about Religion in High Schools
Despite being such a religiously diverse nation, America has levels of religious literacy that are abysmal. In a 2010 survey, the Pew Forum asked more than 3,000 Americans some simple questions about the world’s religions. Most respondents could answer only half of them correctly. In a 2005 study conducted for the Bible Literacy Project, only 10 percent of American teenagers could even name the five world religions covered in the Hendersonville world religions unit. This does not bode well. Religious literacy is necessary to the health of a democratic, pluralistic society. Religion is not a discrete and ahistorical phenomenon; instead, it is embedded in the very fabric of human history and culture. Without some understanding the world’s religious traditions, students are ill equipped to understand literature, history, art, or the current political landscape.
Religion and Politics

What is the truth about Islam: A religion of Peace or War?
Throughout the world it is commonly asserted that Islam is a religion of violence, misogyny, and a host of other negative attributes. Such attitudes have been held for centuries, but never entered the mainstream until the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. However, the idea that every single Muslim in the entire world promotes or admires violence is false. The idea that most Muslims are in favor of violence or hatred is equally false, and not proven by any measure or statistic ever conducted.
Washington Times

Nineteenth Joint Postgraduate Conference on Religion and Theology
This year I am helping in the organization of the University of Bristol’s postgraduate conference on religion and theology. Please help spread the word and if you are in the UK or can make it here in March, please submit an abstract.

Religion and youth
Father Michael Psaromatis, parish priest at Saint Andrew Noarlunga, in South Australia tells Neos Kosmos that one third of his parish attending services is made up of youths and young families. He says his church is in an area that is predominately resided by young families forming their own community around the church, and this trend is opposed to what he sees occurring in Greek Orthodox churches situated in the CBD of Adelaide.

Books discuss link between religion, violence from varied viewpoints
Like it or not, religion has always taken a central place in the world’s violence. While William Abraham’s “Shaking Hands with the Devil” and John Allen’s “The Global War on Christians” discuss very different issues, the authors share the same aim of reducing the stereotyping about religion and the religious that seems a constant in our secularized world.
Catholic San Francisco


Hindus, Sikhs compelled to bury dead in Pakistan as cremation grounds vanish

Death is the great leveller. But the tragedy following it in the case of grieving Hindus and Sikhs families, certainly, is not experienced by all in Muslim-dominated Pakistan. “In Lahore alone, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence. But not even a single facility exists at present. After Independence, there were 1,200 Hindu families living in Lahore which now has come down to six families,” Amritsar-based Sikh historian Surinder Kochhar said.
India Today

Pope Francis announces plan to visit Holy Land to boost relations with Orthodox Christians
Pope Francis says his upcoming trip to the Holy Land aims to boost relations with Orthodox Christians. But the three-day visit in May also underscores Francis’ close ties to the Jewish community, his outreach to Muslims and the Vatican’s longstanding call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
National Post

Could Buddhism Help Your Business?
It’s not a connection that many people automatically consider — profit-making and spiritual practice, but introducing Buddhist precepts into your business can have positive effects on your employees and on your bottom line.
Huffington Post

Ramdev hits out at Congress, calls Nehru ‘maut ka maha saudagar’
Yoga guru Ramdev on Sunday hit out at the Congress for targeting BJP prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and calling him ‘maut ka saudagar’. Ramdev said if Modi is branded ‘maut ka saudagar’, then Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a bigger mass murderer.
IBN Live

Freedom of Religion vs. Freedom of Worship
The phrase ‘freedom of worship’ was first brandished about by Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton  in prominent speeches, replacing the constitutional guaranteed ‘freedom of religion’  but what are the implications in this seeming change in terminology.
News 24

Are We Hard-Wired for Religion?
When we look at how the brain works it looks like the brain is able to very easily engage in religious and spiritual practices, ideas and experiences.  All the brain scan studies that we’ve done show that there are multiple parts of the brain that seem to get involved.
Big Think

Educate, but don’t convert: Dalai Lama
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday lauded the work of Christian missionaries in the area of education and health in the remotest corners of the world, but advised them to desist from conversion.
The Hindu

Christians Fear Libya’s Islamic Laws
Minority Christians in Libya have begun the New Year with concern after parliament voted to make sharia, or Islamic law, the source of all legislation. Apostasy, or abandoning Islam, potentially carries the death penalty in several countries, though it was not immediately clear if and when this would be imposed in Libya. Sharia law is among several key issues facing Libya. The status of women and minorities, such as Christians, will have to be addressed in Libya’s future constitution, analysts say.

Don’t ditch the devil, he’s done great service to Christianity
The devil has been with us for millennia, serving a vital purpose. Whether you see him (I still think of the anti-Christ as a “him”) as a horned fellow with a pitchfork and goatee, or, Minotaur-like, as half-man half-beast, the devil personifies the intangible and unmentionable wickedness in the world. It may be childish to hanker for a solid figure of fear and loathing, but I suspect it is a good thing for human beings to share a basic, even primitive, sense of evil.
The Telegraph

Is Islam compatible with democracy?

One thing Osama bin Laden succeeded in doing was destroying whatever small progress various Muslim polities had made toward modern popular government. It may have been that all he had to do was stick one in the eye of the dominating western paradigm to give new heart to the suppressed feelings we call salafist, but whatever the mechanism was, the status of Muslim governments has deteriorated steadily in the past dozen years. At the beginning of that period, perhaps 5% of Muslim-majority societies were failed or failing states. Now the proportion is much, much higher.
The Maui News

Buddhist metal band Chock Ma augment their sound with ancient instruments
That’s evident in tracks like No Escape, which has poetic lines like “When the rivers and lakes are  barren and dry/ when the tallest mountains seem lifeless and bare/ when the sky is filled with dust and terror” lines that sound like they are preaching environmentalism. But to the band, it’s actually all about karma. “We have done so much harm to the earth. I am not teaching the audience to do anything. Rather, I hope they realise that whatever we do today will make us suffer in the future,” says the vocalist, who penned the lyrics.
South China Morning Post

Music is my religion: What do One Direction and Jesus Christ have in common?
Religion is characterized as an organized system of beliefs from which the faithful derive moral guidance and self-purpose by adhering to the doctrine of sacred texts and deities. By this definition, I’m going to propose something blasphemous: Music is a religion. Let me tell you why.
The Varsity


Finding God in Maximum Security Prison

It was simple curiosity that guided photographer Serge J-F. Levy to New York’s Green Haven Correctional Facility in 2002. “Without having any personal predisposition to any religious activity but having a fascination with how people can work on their spirituality and healing their souls, I was interested in how this was happening in an environment that seemed to be everything but conducive to that,” Levy said.

Jihad most misunderstood concept of Islam: Historian
Jihad normally evokes images of bearded men shaking their fists, smoke bellowing from two towers and hooded men wielding grenade launchers. “So ingrained is the fear of the word that my lecture in Chennai almost got cancelled after some people raised concerns over jihad being the topic,” historian S Irfan Habib said on Friday.
The Times of India

Hydropower and spirituality cannot co-exist
Narendra Modi has criticised the Congress Government of Uttarakhand for not being able to push hydropower projects. He has said that the people of the state are unemployed, but the UPA Government is not concerned. He has also suggested that Uttarakhand should be named a different type of SEZ—Spiritual Environment Zone. He has thus projected hydropower as a solution to the problem of unemployment and he sees no conflict of this with spiritual life. Modi’s understanding is wholly misplaced.
The Free Press Journal

Homosexuality and Islam – Indian Muslims’ Responses
How could a religious minority be against sexual minority, asks a Muslim journalist,  M. Reyaz, who does not see any conflict with being a “believer” and a part of religious minority while at the same time being an empathizer with sexual minority. ‘Not that I was ever a champion of rights of LGBT, certainly my religious beliefs restrains me. But at the same time, I never suffered with homophobia.’ His suggestion for orthodox Muslims is not to impose one’s moral values on others. ‘No one is forcing Muslims to drink alcohol, no one is forcing us to have extra-marital affairs and no one is forcing Muslims to “turn” homosexual. So why this hue and cry? Simply because we do not believe in something, are we thence going to prevent others from practicing it too?’

BJP takes a jab at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 1984 anti-Sikh riots
Stung by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remark that Narendra Modi will be “disastrous” for the country as PM, BJP hit back suggesting whether Singh should apply the same yardstick to Rajiv Gandhi under whose tenure the 1984 anti-Sikh riots took place.
The Economic Times

Political Islam: A movement in motion
If Maulana Maudoodi, one of two or three people who gave birth to modern political Islam, were to travel through the Muslim world now, he would find some mildly pleasant and very unpleasant surprises. Some 35 years after his death, the political movement he founded, Jamaat-i-Islami, remains an influential force in Pakistan, especially in the area bordering Afghanistan. In Bangladesh, meanwhile, the movement’s leaders look likely to be executed (one has been already) on war-crimes charges relating to the country’s independence struggle in 1971, which they opposed.
The Economist

More Jewish parents question circumcision
When his pregnant wife first challenged circumcising their son, Mike Wallach had a gut reaction: “That’s what we do, we’re Jews!” But doubts about whether the surgery was medically necessary and concern over his wife’s opposition forced Wallach to confront some questions. Can you be Jewish without Judaism’s oldest ritual? he says he asked himself. What does it mean to be Jewish?
The Columbian

Dating, Drugs, Religion & Faith
I am surprised every single day by the world of online dating and fascinated by how dumb men are. Not stupid, although some are, but just dumb. How is it that a man can think using the words sexy, sensual, intimacy, lover, or oral in their profile names will make them attractive? Who told a man that posting a selfie while sitting on the toilet was going to be acceptable? What kind of man thinks pictures of him lying in bed without a shirt on is going to get a woman excited about meeting him? Come on gentlemen.|
Jewish Journal

The Top 11 from ’13: Academic Journals of Sociological Research on Religion
It’s 2014 and time for an annual review of the religion-related articles in the top journals in sociology. As I have done in the past, I use the ISI Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports to create the ranking of all sociology journals ranked by last year’s Impact Factor. Below I include a marker “tie” for those that appear in the same journal in the same year. It’s the journal rank that counts so those articles should be more or less ranked about the same. That said, 7 of the first 19 journals with the highest impact factor contained 11 articles related to religion. As of this writing the December issues of the American Journal of Sociology and Sociological Theory were not available so it’s possible that these rankings will miss important articles here.

The Art of Enjoying Life
In Hinduism, appreciation of life is viewed as an art one learns through maturity of thought and experience. In contrast, in western countries there is an assumption that enjoying life is something we acquire through situations or objects. Yet for almost a decade, western governments have seen that “in wealthy countries a continuing increase in economic growth is not increasing well-being,” as the New Economics Foundation states. A NEF study in 2008 found that “life expectancy, voice and accountability, climate, and natural capital were more important than GDP per capita” when measuring life satisfaction in 79 developing and developed countries.
Huffington Post

This Pope Makes Me Want to be an Atheist
The arguments about the current pope’s interpretations of Jesus’ true teachings is convincing me that an atheist has a better chance of hearing him with clarity. The question is why. Why do I come to this conclusion? I think it’s because when I apply this pope’s words, most of the atheists I know are better Christians than many of the Christians I know.
OpEd News

Shine on: 1,600 years of Irish Christianity
Treasures of Irish Christianity defies easy description. It is at once a book of articles with a strong historical bent and a miscellany of devotional or contemplative essays. Seventy-three authors, many of them well-known scholars, provide pieces on many aspects of Irish Christian tradition and belief. The book shines a light on well-known and on comparatively obscure episodes in the history of Irish Christianity from the Conversion, through all the vicissitudes of medieval times to the present day.
The Irish Times

Christianity Makes No Sense
During a talk I gave this fall on the psalms, I confessed: I am, in fact, just like King David. Though I acknowledged that many major details of our lives (gender, epoch, occupation, sling-shot skills, number of spouses, and current sex partners, for instance) are as different as different can be, the more of David’s psalms I read, the more I realize much of our internal lives are same-same. We’re both walking contradictions.
Christianity Today

What If Operating Systems Were Religions?
There is one true religion in operating systems, and it is UNIX. Or maybe it’s not the one true faith: there’s an earlier, older, more arcane religion with far fewer followers, MULTICS, from which UNIX sprang as a stripped-down rules-deficient heresy in the early days of the epoch. Either way, if MULTICS is Judaism (and the metaphor is questionable at this point, for unlike MULTICS, Judaism is still alive), then UNIX is Christianity.

Pakistan court heightens Christians’ wariness
A Pakistani court’s order for only the death sentence to be levied for insulting Islam’s prophet will further endanger Christians and heighten the powers of the Islamic court that issued it, Morning Star News reported from sources inside the country.|
Baptist Press

Real Story of My Spiritual Journey to Reform Judaism
Over the past two weeks I’ve been both heartened and horrified by the spectrum of response to what, I felt, was a spontaneous and sincere statement of unity and joy — my proclamation of “aliyah” to Reform Judaism, made at the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The Jewish Daily Forward

Savage Harvest: Stories of Partition
Sarna’s characters are mostly common people. Their religious identities — as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs — suddenly become the sole deciders of their fate after the border is drawn. On meeting after Partition, they are distrustful of one another. But as they slowly mingle, they realise that their pasts are similar; they’ve all lost loved ones or been separated from them and, in this similar twisted fate, they find solace in each other as human beings rather than religious beings. This is brought out beautifully in ‘Of one community’ where a Hindu lady, on drinking ‘Muslim water’ instead of ‘Hindu water’, has an urge to throw up when she discovers her ‘mistake’.
The Hindu

Why Do Hindu Beliefs Vary Widely?
Many religions have a clear history that’s easy to trace. Many are founded by one person or inspired by one person. Hinduism is not like that. In ancient times there were simply beliefs and practices. The people in what is now India lived in a certain way and the name for their way of life was simply The Eternal Truth. At that time they had no need to codify or distinguish their beliefs from others. Everyone believed what he believed and there were some common threads and common ideas and worship practices, but people mostly believed and worshiped the way others around them did in their little area.

Govt schemes don’t reach 93% backward caste Muslims: Study
The study was conducted by Razia Patel, head of the Minority Cell, Indian Institute of Education, a semi-government organisation in Pune. Minister of State for Home (urban and rural) and Rural Development Satej Patil released the report at the IIE Friday. “The biggest misconception among the common people and higher officials alike is that Muslims do not have a caste system. There are castes that fall in the category of nomadic tribes and de-notified tribes (NT/DNT) who have issues just like NT/DNT Hindus. These castes are not registered or acknowledged and have had no place in census and socio-economic researches so far,” said Patel.
The Indian Express

Tunisia MPs reject Islam as main source of law
Tunisian lawmakers rejected Islam Saturday as the main source of law for the country that spawned the Arab Spring as they voted for a second day on a new constitution. The voting comes amid concerns that a January 14 deadline for the new  charter’s adoption may not be met because of disruptions and the slow pace of  deliberations.
New Strait Times


The tussle between Science and Religion

The word “religion” is often used, rather effectively, to demonize a category of people who hold a strong conviction about something heavenly or metaphysical and propose to translate that belief into action. Time and again the world has witnessed the conflicts between Science and Religion. Irrespective of the progress we have made in Science, many sections of the society still deem religion to be above all other things. In fact, more than often, scientific ideas have posed a direct challenge to the religious sentiments of many people.
The Indian Economist

Politics of development without Hindus’ safety unacceptable: VHP
The stand was made clear by Pravin Togadia, international working president of the VHP, who is here for a three-day meeting of board of trustees and governing council. He said that the VHP in its meetings with more than 450 MPs from different parties in the last six months has made clear that every political party must give priority to education, health, employment, security and self respect for Hindus including a commitment to build Ram temple at Ayodhya.
The Times of India

50 Great Myths About Atheism
On second thought, maybe 50 sounds like overkill. Surely half a dozen, or 10 at the most, would suffice. Do we really need to challenge the “myth” that the courts recognise atheism as a religion or that atheism is only for an educated elite? I don’t think these are real controversies and that is really the problem with this book – it is preaching, if not to an empty church, then to one filled entirely with fellow theological scofflaws. Vicar Blackford and his excellent organist Mr Schüklenk can lift their fellow spirits to a fine chorus of All Things Godless and Beautiful, but no one is going to be persuaded by any of their 50 carefully constructed mini-debates. Clearly that is not their purpose.
Times Higher Education

7 Ways Christians Should Behave Online
I have had an online ministry for over 15 years. God has humbled me with the way He has chosen to use this influence He has given me. I try not to take it for granted. One thing that has changed since I began ministering online…and it’s changed for all of us…is the rise of social media. Whether you believe it’s a good addition or not, we cannot deny it’s impact on culture or even on the church. Personally, I have chosen to use it for good as much as possible.
Ron Edmondson

2013 Top Fatwas
Religious studies and views, like other areas of people’ lives, have interacted with various events and human concerns. OnIslam Fatwas have drawn very high rates of viewership throughout the year 2013. I’d below highlight 2013 top fatwas and analyze people’s major juristic inquires and concerns so as to encourage further studies and in-depth works on such significant areas:
On Islam

Ian Barbour dies at 90; academic who bridged science-religion divide
For Ian Barbour, the deadly possibilities of the Atomic Age raised questions that science couldn’t answer — a perplexing situation for a young physicist after World War II. He responded to the challenge in an unusual way: After completing his doctorate in physics he enrolled in divinity school and forged a career devoted to bridging the chasm between science and religion.
Los Angeles Times

Meditation, mindfulness and mind-emptiness
Ever been unable to sleep because you can’t switch off that stream of thoughts that seems to flow incessantly, mercilessly through your head? When your mental noise distracts you from the task at hand, makes you forget why you walked into a room, or keeps you awake at night, you’re a victim of what is known in the East as “the monkey mind”. It is this thought stream that, according to Eastern tradition, is the source of much of our modern day stress and mental dysfunction. So, what can you do about it?
The Conversation


Kejriwal’s AAP forms task force to win the trust of Muslims

AAP’s National Executive and Political Advisory Committee member Sanjay Singh said, “We realised that the party did not perform well in the Muslim-dominated areas. I feel that the reason for this was that they did not trust us since we were a new party but now they have seen how we have done and I’m hopeful they will now trust us.”
The Indian Express

Why can’t there be a New Year Puja in a Hindu Temple?
Given the fact that Hinduism has absorbed so much from other religions, I wonder which holy book they referred to incur this conclusion. It is indeed interesting to observe that visiting a temple, early on the January 1 is a custom that probably started in Chennai but it has now grown to all parts of South India. Often temples in Chennai have serpentine queues on January 1.
The Economic Times

For human rights to flourish, religious rights have to come second
We are all human. We are not all of the same religion, or religious at all. One cannot protect religious rights if they are used as a reason to abuse human rights, human equalities, as so often they are. Britain may not be able to export its new-found anti-discriminatory zeal to the rest of the world with much ease. But Britain is in a good position to start working out a framework whereby people with diverse beliefs can live together without conflict, safe in the knowledge that the religious beliefs of all who respect human rights will be respected in turn. People need to answer on Earth to our fellow humans. We can square things with our God, if we have one, when and if that day arrives. Compliments of the season, whatever that means to you.
The Guardian

“Learn what they know, so you know what they need to know”
“A free series of presentations for students to seniors” by Benedictine Father Michael G. Brunner from January four to March one on Saturdays at Saint Anselm Parish Centre in Creve Coeur (Missouri) include Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam. The flyer, created to announce these World Religions series contains the tagline “Learn what they know, so you know what they need to know.” Distinguished religious statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) on Tuesday, said that this “need to know” tagline was highly inappropriate reference to great world religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam.
India Blooms

Christians and Muslims: Is there Any Common Ground?
The single most surprising, and disappointing, thing about the various Christian-Muslim dialogue efforts is that the topic of the need for a re-hellenization of Islam – a restoration of philosophy and critical thinking – is almost never addressed in a major, serious way. Yet it is upon this that the future of real dialogue depends. The year before becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that, “without peace between reason and faith, there cannot be peace at the world level, because without peace between reason and religion, the very sources of morals and the rule of law dry out.”
Intercollegiate Review

First religious freedom chief aims to make Canada ‘world leader’ in the field
Canada’s first religious freedom ambassador says his job advancing and promoting religious liberty around the globe has an equally important role: to support Canadian diplomats as they work abroad. Andrew Bennett’s vote of confidence in the Canadian foreign service comes despite years of tension between diplomats and the very Conservative government that created his job early last year.
CTV News

When Jews and Blacks Got Along Better Than Ever — in Hip-Hop World
Some of the most talked about releases in hip-hop this year were recorded by Jewish artists: Drake, Mac Miller and Action Bronson. But 2013 also saw a slew of Jewish mentions in hip-hop. “I be out tomorrow, my lawyer’s Jewish,” sang A$AP Ferg in January’s “Work.” “He put in work, got these n—-s going bezerk.” By August, a YouTube video compilation went viral, showing rappers Kanye West, Cam’ron, Killer Mike, Gucci Mane and Jay-Z thanking their Jewish lawyers in songs; a huge Star of David bling adorned the cover of Rick Ross’s latest “The Black Bar Mitzvah.”
Jewish Daily Forward



Abode of Lord Shiva has 1,388 sacred sites of minority community: Survey

Banaras, known as cultural capital of India and sacred city of Hindus, records about one-fourth of its total population (1.65 million in 2010) as Muslims. The importance of Muslims in Banaras is noticed by existence of their 1,388 sacred sites. There are over 3,300 shrines and sacred sites of Hindus. A professor of cultural geography and heritage studies, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Rana BP Singh conducted a detailed study and survey of Muslim sacred sites. The study titled ‘Muslim shrines and multi-religious visitations in Hindus’ city of Banaras: Co-existential Scenario’ gives a detailed account of such sites.
The Times of India

Jat couple who fought their own to save Muslims
Torched houses and barren streets stare at you as you enter Fugana – one of the nine villages worst hit by the September 8 communal clashes that shook Western Uttar Pradesh and displaced more than 50,000 Muslims. Step a little deeper into the village, you will spot a rare sight – a Muslim woman going about her daily chores. Noorjehan, 50, did not abandon her house during riots, though she knew she was the only one in the community to stay back.
The Tribune

Govt plans PF-like corpus for Muslim education
In a unique initiative modelled after a Haj fund in Malaysia, the Ministry of Minority Affairs is looking at a Provident Fund-like corpus raised through contributions from the community, for investing in higher education infrastructure for Muslims. It has asked SBI Capital Markets — an investment bank and the project advisor — to conduct a feasibility study and submit a report.
The Indian Express

Hindus urge Scotland’s Muirfield golf course to allow women members
Hindus have asked Scotland’s Muirfield, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, to open membership to women also. Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that women membership was long overdue and it would bring an end to 269-years old gender discrimination. Men only membership policy of Muirfield was highly inappropriate, immoral and archaic, Zed added.
The Jet Newspaper

Regular Event gets Religious Twist
Until mid-December a board put up at the entrance of Azhagankulam, a nondescript village with an equal sprinkling of Muslim and Hindu population in Ramanathapuram district, served as a “warning” to troublemakers. The board read: “Warning: Campaigning using microphones and pasting posters are prohibited. Violators will be severely punished.”
The New Indian Express

Top 10 Forgotten Ancient Religions
The ancient world was home to a huge variety of religions and belief systems. Most have faded away, their temples and statues vanished or half-sunk in the desert sand, their gods barely remembered. The religions on this list were all founded before most of the main religions of today (Christianity, Hinduism, Islam) and most of them have completely died out—although some are being revived by new practitioners.
Humans Are Free

A Brief Note on Christians and Homosexuality
Especially with a certain television show’s antics, there have been recent flare-ups again in the culture wars, with some atheists (and unfortunately, some Christians) saying that Jesus wants His followers to use violence against gay people. Let’s put aside the question of whether Jesus views homosexuality as a sin, not because this is irrelevant to the broader culture war, but because it’s irrelevant to the very specific issue I am discussing.
Free Advice

Spiritual journalism – stirrings of a new awakening in media
Spiritual journalism is not about vague thoughts. It seeks to connect with people, as much as journalism itself. With existence in today’s world becoming increasingly complex, a large number of people, especially the youth, are seeking nirvana or salvation via television or print media. Thus, one finds news organisations devoting increased attention and resources on coverage of spiritual and ethical concerns. A critical change is in the way the field is covered and how much space and airtime are allotted to it. The number of religion reporters — particularly in television, which has largely ignored the topic — is growing as it becomes clear that religion and spirituality are topics that permeate daily life.

Top religion stories of 2013
After the jump, the top religion news stories of 2013, based on a  poll of the Religion Newswriters Association.  Strangely downplayed or omitted:  the persecution of Christians in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; the new assaults on religious liberty; the new prominence of aggressive atheism; the rise of the “nones.”

Does religion affect economic growth and happiness? Evidence from Ramadan
A fascinating paper by Filipe R. Campante and David H. Yanagizawa-Drott of Harvard. They look at economics around Ramadan month celebrated by Muslims. It seems growth comes down during the month but people are happier:
Mostly Economics

Islam to become Ireland’s second religion by 2043
Islam will become Ireland’s second religion within the next 30 years because of dramatic population growth and immigration.

God is the Highest Perfect Term of Our Being
We are to exceed our human stature and become divine; but if we are to do this, we must first get God; for the human ego is the lower imperfect term of our being, God is the higher perfect term. He is the possessor of our supernature and without His permission there can be no effectual rising. The finite cannot become infinite unless it perceives its own secret infinity and is drawn by it or towards it; nor can the symbol-being, unless it glimpses, loves and pursues the Real-being in itself, overcome by its own strength the limits of its apparent nature. It is a particular becoming & is fixed in the nature of the symbol that it has become; only the touch of that which is all becomings and exceeds all becomings, can liberate it from the bondage to its own limited Nature. God is That which is the All and which exceeds the All. It is therefore only the knowledge, love and possession of God that can make us free. He who is transcendent, can alone enable us to transcend ourselves; He who is universal can alone enlarge us from our limited particular existence.
The New Indian Express




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