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In a culturally diverse India, its New Year all year round

Five days into 2014 already, folks. If you’re one of those who’ve missed out on wishing ‘Happy New Year’ to somebody, worry not. Chances are, you can do so later this month, in March, April, in fact right up till December this year! After all, isn’t the New Year just another calibration on the calendar for Indians all over? In case you miss the Gregorian New Year on January 1, the next New Year may just be around the corner.

Premarital sex ‘immoral’, no religion permits it: Court
Premarital sex is “immoral” and against the “tenets of every religion”, a Delhi court has said while holding that every act of sexual intercourse between two adults on the promise of marriage does not become rape.
The Times of India

Family values & religion: India Inc reluctant to cash in on opportunities in non-veg market?
The headline was waiting to happen: ‘Reliance Retail Chickens out, turns Vegetarian’. For decades, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has kept investors in good spirits by creating shareholder value through multi-billion dollar investments in core assets like refineries and petrochemical plants.
The Economic Times

Religion and Its Role in Human Life
Religion (din) is an all-round movement in the light of faith in Allah and a sense of responsibility for the formation of thought and belief, for the promotion of high principles of human morality for the establishment of good relations among members of the society and the elimination of every sort of undue discrimination. Keeping in view this definition, our need for religion and religious teachings is absolutely clear. To be a little more elaborate, it may be said that we require religion for the following reasons:
AhlulBayt Islamic Mission

African Americans and Religion
It baffles me to no end how blacks can practice a religion introduced to us by slave masters and used to justfiy slavery. I am so passionate about it that I cannot have any respect for black Christians. I think they are so stupid that it has caused me to not have any connection with the black community because church is such a central part of it.  How are atheists who are more open minded manage to keep the peace?
Secular News Daily

After a schism, a question: Can atheist churches last?
The Sunday Assembly was riding high. The world’s most voguish — though not its only — atheist church opened last year in London, to global attention and abundant acclaim. So popular was the premise, so bright the promise, that soon the Sunday Assembly was ready to franchise, branching out into cities such as New York, Dublin and Melbourne. “It’s a way to scale goodness,” declared Sanderson Jones, a standup comic and co-founder of The Sunday Assembly, which calls itself a “godless congregation.”

Is Judaism Past or Future?
I think that what is so unique and meaningful about the Jewish religion is that while we keep creation and revelation burning brightly and strong, we are focused primarily on redemption. Theologically, we are focused on cultivating and taking the light of Or Bereishit and Or Sinai. We then utilize these lights to ultimately move us toward Or Mashiach – a redeemed soul, a redeemed Torah, a redeemed society, and a redeemed G-d, so to speak.
The Jewish Press

Sikhs to observe their 10th Guru’s birth anniversary
People from the community will start the celebrations from Sunday. The Sikh community in Belapur will organise a ‘parbhat pheri’ (early morning processions observed right before gurpurab) on Sunday. The companions, or the sangat who are part of the parbhat pheri, will recite Gurbani kirtan (religious songs).
The Times of India

Why is Mulayam Singh Yadav hacking his own support base?
The assumption behind the question is fairly straightforward. With the decline of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, the state’s substantial Muslim population turned to Mulayam as its Messiah. Then why is he alienating his vote bank in Muzaffarnagar with such diligence? To begin with, how did he become a leader of Muslims?
India Today

Fear of insecurity haunts Hindu voters
Hindu voters in different places including Patgram in Lalmonirhat district and Kalaroa upazila in Satkhira district have expressed doubts whether they can go to polling centres and cast votes peacefully today as fear of insecurity still haunts them against the backdrop of Jamaat-Shibir men’s recent attacks on the community.
The Daily Star

Samajwadi Party government conspiring to take over the land of Muslims: MBMC
Millat Bedari Muhim Committee (MBMC) of Aligarh Muslim University has lambasted the Akhilesh Yadav government of conspiring to take over lands of Muslims displaced in the Muzaffarnagar riots. MBMC secretary Jasim Mohammad said that the state government was forcing the displaced Muslims to submit affidavits for not returning to their homes. Mohammad said this was a conspiracy of the Samajwadi Party to take possession of their homes and lands.
The Times of India

Despite harsh rule over Tibet, Tibetans’ spirit only grows stronger
“We have quite a number of Tibetans from Tibet here and we’re meeting in a free country. People in Tibet continue to hope that those in exile will not forget them. It’s been 54 years since we came into exile and 64 years since 1949. And yet, the Tibetan spirit has not been subdued,” His Holiness said after completing his ten-day teachings in South India.
The Tibet Post

Converging faiths
Last month, a research grant provided by the Saarc Cultural Centre led us to a far away village in the Eastern hills  of Nepal, popularly known as Halesi, located in Khotang district. The field visit was aimed at learning the significance of the Halesi Mahadev, which is a religious centre and draws a large number people from different ethno-cultural backgrounds. Halesi is considered an abode of deities of three major religious faiths—Hinduism, Buddhism and Kirat dharma—along with several local cults and traditions.

Muslims shower petals on RSS march at Jabalpur
On September 15, scores of burqa-clad women showered rose petals at chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s Jan Ashirvad Rath as it swept past Raddi Chowki – a predominantly Muslim-dominated pocket in old city. On Saturday, Muslims at Damoh Naka, barely a stones throw away from the Chowki did it again.
The Times of India

When religion conflicts with football
On Saturdays, Jews celebrate their Sabbath. For Christians, their holy day is Sunday. On the first two weekends in January, the National Football League have their playoff games on both days. What is a person to do when religion and football collide?
The Washington Times

Faith is Something That You Become
Faith is something which is within you. It is your quality. It is something that you become, not something that you believe in. Faith is just a deep falling back into the Existence. You as a person have fallen apart, you have just become like a simple little wave with the Existence. You understand and you experience that you are just a brief happening here. This moment the wave is up, the next moment it will be down. It is not an intellectual understanding, it is a living experience that you just see yourself as a small outcrop of this earth. When you are like this as a living experience, then you are faith. Until then there is no point talking about faith.
The New Indian Express



Religion Does Not Require God

Last week, the UK Supreme Court sided with the couple. The 1970 opinion was wrong, the court held. Scientology is indeed a religion. For one thing, Lord Toulson’s opinion explained, Scientology does hold a belief in a supreme deity, albeit an impersonal and abstract deity. Anyway, belief in a deity is not necessary.
Center for Law and Religion

10 Things You Need to Know Myanmar’s Persecuted Muslim Minority
Burma has a Buddhist majority. Less than 9 percent of the population is Muslim but we are more than a million people. We are an ethnic people who practice Islam and speak the Rohingya language. Most of us live in the state of Rakhine, where my great grandparents and their great grandparents were born. In the last 18 months, Buddhist mobs have terrorized Muslims throughout Burma.
Huffington Post

The Arrogance of Atheism?
A few weeks ago I found myself engaged in an all-too-familiar debate. She was frustrated that I was not subscribing to her idea that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ and that even tragedies are ‘meant to teach us something.’
Big Think

On “Religious Symbols” and the Politics of Perception
On September 10, 2013, the government of Québec made international headlines with a controversial proposal, Bill 60, more commonly referred to as the “Charter of Values.” The Bill would see restrictions on the wearing of “religious symbols,” requiring the removal of hijabs, yarmulkes and turbans for those in positions of public authority (police, judges, etc.), as well as for most employees who work for and do business with the provincial government. Despite the relatively small percentage of people potentially affected by the Bill, its polemical nature has turned it into a lightening rod for broader debates over the perceived influence of “political Islam” in Euro-Western societies, as with similar cases in countries like Germany and France.
Religion Bulletin

LSE apologises to students asked to cover Jesus and Muhammad T-shirts
The London School of Economics (LSE) has apologised to two students who were forced to cover up T-shirts depicting a cartoon of Jesus and the prophet Muhammad. Christian Moos and Abhishek Phadnis were representing the students’ union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) at the university’s freshers fair in October, when they were told that displaying a depiction of Muhammad, prohibited under Islamic law, may constitute harassment of a religious group.
The Guardian

Just a Thought: On women and Judaism
The difficulty of writing an article on the subject of women and Judaism is inherent in the title. Why would anyone ever conceive of writing such an article, as if women are in anyway distinct from Judaism? No one would ever write an article about men and Judaism, as men are obviously part of the package known as Judaism. Women, it would seem, are not. We find this distinction in the Torah itself. The Tenth Commandment is clearly addressing men alone with “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” In covenant ceremonies Israelite men are addressed by God while the women are included under the rubric of “You, your women.” The women are not “you,” they are “yours”; a big difference! (Shaye J.D. Cohen)
The Jerusalem Post

Three ways we can live out our faith publicly
Sometimes we read things in the Bible that don’t jive with our experience, or seem to be confusing. We see the seeming tension between God’s sovereign will and our moral culpability or that the gospel call is to go to all, and yet not all will receive it (nor, it seems, can they). These are but two popular examples. But one place where the Bible shows no tension whatsoever is this: Being public about your faith.
Blogging Theologically

A Baptist Joins Satanists & Hindus in 10 Commandments Challenge
The internet has been abuzz for over a week over the Church of Satan’s plan to build a monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol building in response to the 7-foot tall granite Ten Commandments monument that’s stood there since 2012. But as Joseph Laycock noted last week, the Satanists’ prank stands very little chance of success. A Hindu effort to erect a statue of Lord Hanuman — what some are referring to as the “monkey god” — may stand a better chance as it would be perceived by a court as representative of a legitimate religion.
Religion Dispatches

Section 377: Don’t blame ancient India for prudish excesses of the British

Reading ancient texts is an arduous task, no doubt. But if an opinion is to be let loose in a sea of chaos, more so if the objective is to influence public debate, that reading has to be done. Unfortunately, in the quest to reform archaic laws, notably Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that makes same-sex relations illegal, facts have been set aside. In their place, a generalised sense of a liberal ancient India has been carved out on one side and a selectively picked notion of ‘Indian culture’ on the other. As in most passionate debates, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
To the extent that sexual liberality was embedded into India’s laws, morality and society, the reading that our values instead of evolving have taken a U-turn is correct. This is best illustrated by the gentle indulgence of Vatsyayana towards lesbians and gays in Kama Sutra, approximately between 400 BCE and 200 CE. Three forms of what the law today terms as ‘unnatural sexual offences’ — sex between men, sex between women and oral sex — have been explored with compassion. You can read the full text in your own time, but here are select excerpts:
First Post

Kishtwar violence: Hindus living in shadow of fear
The frightening memories of the atrocities committed by radical Islamists on the minority Hindu community on August 9 (Eid Day) in the sensitive Muslim-majority Kishtwar district of Jammu province are too fresh too be forgotten. The indifferent attitude of the Jammu & Kashmir Government and barbarities perpetrated by the protagonists of Kashmir’s separation from India and ardent believers in two-nation concept still lingers in the mind of several unprotected Hindus. The ‘communal assault’ on the Hindu minority community had resulted in three deaths and destruction of the Hindus’ properties on an unprecedented scale, besides causing migration of a few Hindu families to safer places.
Niti Central

Pope Francis brings religion to the newsstand
To paraphrase Shakespeare’s musing on a name, “What’s in a cover?” In the past week, we’ve seen Pope Francis on the cover of Time as the magazine’s “2013 Person of the Year,” followed by The New Yorker’s whimsical cover of the pope as a snow angel. Now, most improbably, he’s on the cover of The Advocate, the magazine for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, that put the message “NO H8&‥8243; (No hate) on his cheek. What’s next? Sports illustrated? Jack and Jill?
The Washington Post

New bill to act against those who insult Islam, monarchy
The Home Ministry is drafting a bill to replace current laws governing defamatory content as well as speech insulting Islam and the monarchy. Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the new laws would help curb the spread of lies, rumours, or speech that can affect public order, without restricting the freedoms afforded by the Internet.
The New Straits Times

Buddhism and management? Gimme a break…
It had to happen and it has. After the Gita and management and lessons in leadership from Gandhi, Buddhism and management could not have been far off. Schumpeter reports that the Buddhist focus on “mindfulness” is gaining adherents in the management fraternity.
The Big Picture

Israeli Woman Appeals Order to Circumcise Son
An Israeli woman appealed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday against a rabbinical ruling that ordered her to circumcise her one-year-old son, the Justice Ministry said, in the first case of its kind. There is no law in Israel making circumcision obligatory for Jews, but a rabbinical court that was presiding over the woman’s divorce case ruled last month that she must fulfil her husband’s wish in the matter. Circumcision is one of Judaism’s most fundamental decrees. It symbolizes the covenant between God and the Jewish people and nearly all Jews in Israel abide by it, performing the ritual when their son is eight days old.
The Jewish Daily Forward

Christianity vs Islam: what future awaits Europe?
The standoff between Christianity and Islam in European countries is becoming more and more dangerous each year. According to some experts, today the European community is facing a harsh choice: if the islamization of Europe continues, one might soon have to say good-bye to Christianity in the countries of the Old World.
The Voice of Russia

Science vs religion in the Princeton Guide to Evolution
The Princeton Guide to Evolution is a collection of 107 articles on various aspect of evolution. The editors felt they should address the obvious conflict between evolution/science and religion. There are at least five different approaches they could have taken.

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