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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




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



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

Sikhs want justice, not apology from Rahul Gandhi: SAD

Attacking Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s comment, he made in an interview to a private TV news channel, defending Congress Government during 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, the Shiromani Akali Dal called it a ‘hogwash’. “Rahul Gandhi says that Narendra Modi was responsible for the 2002 violence in Gujarat because he was the Chief Minister. Then what about his father who was the Prime Minister when the carnage against Sikhs took place in Delhi,” SAD leader Naresh Gujral said in New Delhi.
Niti Central

Pope, Hollande discuss positive role of religion in society
During Pope Francis’ meeting with French president Francois Hollande on Friday, the two discussed an array of topics concerning human dignity, centering the meeting on the role of religion in society. In a Jan. 24 statement released regarding the meeting earlier that morning, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi revealed that the “cordial” discussion primarily focused on “the contribution that religion makes to the common good.”
Catholic News Agency

Hindus want to see pogromists punished
Teachers and students of different universities yesterday demanded passage of a special law with the provision of the capital punishment to try the perpetrators of violence against Hindus. Joining a human chain in front of the capital’s Jatiya Press Club to protest the post-election atrocities, they said Hindus were living like “aliens” in their own homeland.
The Daily Star

‘Yeezianity’ Religion Founder Revealed; Says Kanye West Is ‘a Stepping Stone to Jesus’
The founder of “Yeezianity,” a religion inspired by Kanye West, revealed his identity after anonymously beginning the cult movement through social media last month. Brian Liebman, 23, of Westchester, N.Y., recently sat with U.K.-based The Daily Mail and described the motivation behind founding the religion, whose members believe West is a “divine being sent by God to usher in a new age of humanity.
The Christian Post

The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ Restrictions on Religious Freedom
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is the first line of the first amendment in the United States Constitution; religious freedom was clearly a legal priority of the men who drafted the Bill of Rights. Yet, 225 years later, the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project has said the United States places a “moderate” level of restrictions on religious practice compared to the other countries in the world. According to Pew, the U.S. saw a marked increase in hostility toward religion starting in 2009, and this level remained consistent in the following years.
The Atlantic

Brains, Spirituality, and Depression
Recently a number of heavy-hitting psychiatry journals have published articles about a lower risk of depression in people who are religious or spiritual. The studies have not been without controversy, with an editorial asking: “How does one conceive of measuring such a nebulous topic as religion or spirituality?” And: “Should studies that explore the association of religion or spirituality with health even be fielded and reported in the empirical scientific literature?”
Psychology Today



Tribals in Jharkhand: Religion and Identity Politics

Divisive and fragmented politics of identity, even if not new, has led to the disintegration of social norms governing behaviour, thought, and social relationships. Not just that, they also have long term implications such as religious disputes, and even demand for separate state on the basis of language, religion, and political interests. The recent controversy and divide among Christian and non-Christian tribals over the portrayal of Mother Mary (statue) in Singpur village in Dhurwa near Ranchi, if not addressed properly religiously and politically, is going to have far reaching consequences on the peace and harmony of the State in future. The statue shows a dark complexioned Mother Mary carrying infant Jesus Christ in a sling, just as tribal women do in a white Sari with a red border, on which the followers of Sarna (animist) Dharm have a reservation. Historically, tribes in Jharkhand follow Sarna Dharm (religion) and worship nature, particularly trees. However, with the advent of Christianity in the nineteenth century, a good number of tribals adopted or were converted to Christianity. The Christian population in Jharkhand is about 4.1 percent (Census, 2001), of which majority is tribals. Thus, the majority of tribals who later adopted or converted to Christianity also follow many traditions of tribal culture such as celebration of Sarhul, Karma and other festivities.
Economic and Political Weekly

Extremist religion will be the defining battle of the 21st Century
Religious extremism has become biggest source of conflict around the world and could be the defining battle of the 21st century, Tony Blair has said. Referring to conflicts in the Arab world from Syria to Egypt as well as those in Nigeria and the Philippines Mr Blair said: “There is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. Is is a perversion of faith.
The Telegraph

Of Womanhood, Culture, Religion and Hypocrisy
A people’s norms and values are contained in their cultural expectations. Religion has a regulatory effect on society as it moulds the national consciousness. However, culture and religion seem to be oppressive to the individual as his/her aspirations may be thwarted due to societal expectations. Women especially find themselves at the receiving end of such expectations as embraced in culture and religion. Although men may also be at the brunt of societal expectations, they are not always victims as they take advantage of cultural norms and values outlined in culture and religion to oppress women.
All Africa

Why We Must Protect Freedom of Religion in the US
There are a lot of good things about America today. Unfortunately, there are also great political and social forces attempting to destroy the very things which created our free society. The people pushing these forces ignore the foundations of our country in order to usurp power over the people, instead of upholding the one document that protects the rights of all the individuals in our country, the Constitution with its Bill of Rights.
Self Evident Truths

Is religion a mental illness?
The religious make all kinds of wild claims without a shred of evidence. It is solely based on wishful thinking. Religion makes the most absurd and arbitrary demands of its followers. Religion threatens eternal punishment or death if those demands are not followed. Last but not least it’s followers show utter contempt for rational thinking and a never ending urge to impose itself not only on believers, but also onto nonbelievers.
Democratic Progress

If God exists, why doesn’t he prove it?
One of our professors liked to tell the story of how his atheist friend would gather people around him and ask them why, if God exists, he does not simply show himself? Then he would look up to heaven and call out: “God, if you exist, prove it by striking me dead!” When nothing happened, he would ask his audience, “So if God really exists, why didn’t he strike me dead?” My professor was witness to these little performances on more than one occasion. Once, when his friend asked the group, “So if God really exists, why didn’t he strike me dead?” he leaned in and whispered, “Just give him time.”
The Lake News

China official seeks tougher rules on religion after Xinjiang blasts
A senior Chinese official called for stricter management of religious activities, state media said on Monday, following explosions in China’s western region of Xinjiang which authorities say were masterminded by a religious extremist. Police shot dead six people and six more died when explosives they were carrying detonated in Xinhe county, according to weekend media reports. Blasts struck a beauty salon and a vegetable market.
The Times of India



Govt grants minority status to Jain community

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Jain community was on Monday accorded minority status by the Central government which will enable them to avail of benefits in government schemes and programmes. The decision to grant minority status to the community of about 50 lakh was taken at a meeting of Union cabinet, a day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took up this issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

United by Dharma, divided by law
On January 20, the government of India met a long-standing demand of the Jain community and officially declared them as India’s sixth religious minority community after Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. As a minority, Jains would get a share in central funds earmarked for welfare programmes and scholarships for religious minorities. They can also manage and administer their own educational institutions.
Business Standard

After Jains, many Hindu sects will seek to be minorities, too
Just days after the Congress dynast charged his principal rival with trying to divide while his own party seeks to unite, the Union cabinet has chosen to contradict his words with action instigated by him. A cabinet that kowtows to Rahul Gandhi has decided that the country’s five million Jains deserve to be cleaved from the so-called majority Hindus and be accorded the status of a national minority. This means India now has six national minorities – Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists, and now Jains. To the best of anybody’s knowledge, no Jain has ever been discriminated against in independent India because he was a Jain. The average socio-economic status of the Jain community – which has many adherents from the business class – is also well above that of most other communities in India, including Hindus, in terms of literacy levels (94 percent for Jains), incomes, share of GDP, etc.
First Post

Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Committee chief spews venom against India
A controversial video has appeared on social networking site Facebook showing Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) president Sham Singh patting the back of Kashmiri separatists and stating that PSGPC has always been extending warm welcome to Kashmiri Sikhs. “Muslims of Kashmir may or may not vote for Pakistan but Kashmiri Sikhs will first vote for Pakistan, we have worked hard for past 11 years , ever since the formation of PSGPC,” said Sham Singh in the video that has gone viral on the net. Sham Singh whose credentials of being a Sikh have always been questioned has been shown addressing a meeting.
The Times of India

10 ways praying actually benefits your health
If you are a religious or a spiritual person and pray every day, there is now proof that you might be doing your brain and body a huge favour. According to a new study spiritual or religious practice may fight off depression – particularly in people who are predisposed to the disease – by thickening the brain cortex. The study conducted by Lisa Miller, professor and director of Clinical Psychology and director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, included 103 people who were at a high risk of depression. Their level of risk was based on their family history.
The Health Site


You cannot separate art from life or spirituality: Nick Bantock, artist and author

Bantock recommends that with creativity we set out on a journey and allow ourselves to be overwhelmed, then to be informed by what occurs and all the while maintaining balance as well we can.  This process will allow us to go in the right way without knowing what it is at the outset.  He believes that this method is more likely to lead to somewhere we have not been before and therefore somewhere growth can happen saying, ‘It is critically important not to predetermine what is being created so that you can be taught by it; if you create something that is preconceived and it will be half dead’.
Times Colonist

Godliness in the Known and the Unknowable: Alan Lightman on Science and Spirituality
If science is the religion of the twenty-first century, why do we still seriously discuss heaven and hell, life after death, and the manifestations of God? Physicist Alan Guth, another member of our salon, pioneered the inflation version of the Big Bang theory and has helped extend the scientific understanding of the infant universe back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after t = 0. A former member, biologist Nancy Hopkins, manipulates the DNA of organisms to study how genes control the development and growth of living creatures. Hasn’t modern science now pushed God into such a tiny corner that He or She or It no longer has any room to operate—or perhaps has been rendered irrelevant altogether? Not according to surveys showing that more than three-quarters of Americans believe in miracles, eternal souls, and God. Despite the recent spate of books and pronouncements by prominent atheists, religion remains, along with science, one of the dominant forces that shape our civilization. Our little group of scientists and artists finds itself fascinated with these contrasting beliefs, fascinated with different ways of understanding the world. And fascinated by how science and religion can coexist in our minds.
Brain Pickings

The Spirit of Now
Just sixty years ago, Tibetan Buddhism was the most secretive religious tradition in the world. It reserved its initiations exclusively for monastics, who had to prove themselves worthy of higher teachings with decades of intensive practice locked way behind the world’s highest mountains. Now you can sign up in any small Western city for a weekend workshop that will offer you those same practices for the price of admission. And you may combine those Tibetan practices with your yoga, with your faith in Christ, with a little Zen, or with some personal combination of everything.
Huffington Post

Muslim OBCs turn against Congress
In what may queer the pitch for the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, organisations of Muslim OBCs have alleged that the party has been unable to ensure welfare of the community despite being in power for decades and, hence, have called on Muslims to vote against it.

Greece, religion and politics: A pinker shade of black
Nikos, a young man from the northern Greek town of Xanthi, spends his life holding a difficult balance. Like many other Hellenes in their twenties, he is horrified by the social cost of the austerity which the country has had to endure as part of a rescue programme negotiated with its creditors. His political ideas hew towards the leftist opposition party, Syriza, which wants to renounce the memorandum on which the package is based. In his other life, he is an active and articulate member of the national church, who participates in theological debates and helps out at services with his accomplished chanting.
The Economist

Cultivating calmness
Today, many organizations in Nepal are starting to accept that stress among employees is a serious issue that cannot be ignored any more. As such, a number of organizations are now starting to embrace workplace spirituality as an effective approach to tackle human relations issues like stress, conflict, teamwork, job satisfaction, motivation and productivity. There is a growing need to explore unconventional methods to motivate people who often work under stressful conditions. This is the reason many organizations have been conducting wellness programs that take a holistic approach of body-mind-spirit.
My Republica

An End to Arrogant Atheism
As an atheist who is also a humanist, I find that in our efforts to point out the dangers and failings inherent in religion, we sometimes fall into the language of arrogance. I read a recent quote from famed evolutionary biologist and past Humanist of the Year awardee, Richard Dawkins, which, upon reflection, showed that even he can fall prey to this tendency. He stated that “religion is an organized license to be acceptably stupid.” While Dawkins certainly has a valid point regarding mainstream religion’s frequent opposition to critical thinking and empiricism, he makes his point in such a way that is likely to leave religious people offended by, instead of interested in atheism and rational thinking.
Huffington Post

Turning to Spirituality for Guidance on Sex
For people of countless faith traditions, sex has become inextricably linked with religious practice. Trying to discern God’s will in regard to sex can be daunting, and efforts to reconcile faith and life can cause confusion or guilt. Looking at Christian sexual ethics, Catholics differ wildly from Protestants, who in turn vary wildly from each other. For someone watching this conflict from outside the Christian community, it can be just as amusing as it is terrifying. Christians have struggled to create spiritually based constraints for such a framework capable of transcending modern realities. Extremely conservative, middle-of-the-road and liberalized Christians have thus divided more or less into three groups. While each group approaches sex with religion in mind, each reaches wildly varying conclusions.
The Hoya



Muslim community not yet convinced about AAP

The popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party has skyrocketed after the party’s stunning debut in Delhi assembly elections in December 2013. National parties like BJP and Congress are now concerned about AAP’s rising popularity while regional parties look clueless in the face of the new political development. The aura around Narendra Modi has diminished a bit after AAP came to power in Delhi. Now all the parties have to factor in the AAP effect in their electoral strategy. Till now every thing has gone in favour of AAP. But the only concern for the party could be the Muslim factor. The Muslim leaders as well as the voters have demanded party’s clarification on the issues related to the community before extending their support. There seems to be not much support for AAP among the Muslims.
IBN Live

Religion can’t determine guilt, Modi writes to PM
Dubbing as a “brazen attempt” to woo the minority community home minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s remarks on minority youths in jails on terror charges, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said it marked a “new low” for the country. He also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advise his cabinet colleague not to focus his attention on minorities alone as “principles at stake” could not be sacrificed “at the altar of political expediency”.
The Times of India

Mastermind Of The Sept. 11 Attacks Wants To Convert His Captors
The mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks now says that the use of violence to spread Islam is forbidden by the Quran, a major shift away from the more militaristic view he had put forward previously. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s thinking is detailed in a first-of-its-kind 36-page manifesto obtained by The Huffington Post. In a departure from his previous stance, which led the Guantanamo Bay prisoner to tell a military commission, “it would have been the greatest religious duty to fight you over your infidelity,” KSM, as he’s known in intelligence circles, instead seeks to convert the court to Islam through persuasion and theological reflection, going so far as to argue that “The Holy Quran forbids us to use force as a means of converting” and that reaching “truth and reality never comes by muscles and force but by using the mind and wisdom.”
Huffington Post

The Irish and Asian Buddhism is a  story that goes back 14 centuries
In pre-independence Ireland, Buddhism was a symbol of human difference, a religion older than Christianity and now coming very close to home – in racehorse names and advertising quotes, movies and novels, exhibitions and university courses. Molly Bloom’s soliloquy immortalises a Burmese Buddha statue that once stood in the National Museum entrance; but by the time Ulysses was written, Irish writers and artists had been playing with Buddhist culture for a century.
The Irish Times

Religious groups face increased hostility worldwide – report
Violence and discrimination against religious groups by governments and rival faiths have reached new highs in all regions of the world except the Americas, according to a new Pew Research Centre report. Social hostility such as attacks on minority faiths or pressure to conform to certain norms was strong in one-third of the 198 countries and territories surveyed in 2012, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, it said on Tuesday. The report found the highest social hostility concerning religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Somalia and Israel.

Come on, atheists: we must show some faith in ourselves
Atheists are very often lumped in with secularists, although these concepts are nothing like the same. But perhaps most vexingly, while the fine distinctions among the religious are pored over in every survey (are you this kind of Christian or that; are you practising, or do you simply tell people you have a spiritual side?), the most important and exhaustive survey we have on British belief doesn’t even ask the question “Are you an atheist?”. In last year’s British Social Attitudes survey 48% of respondents said they had no religious affiliation. A category that accounted for a third of people in 1983 is now nearly half the population. And nobody thought to ask: “Why not? Did you fall out with organised worship and decide to just ad lib at home? Or do you profoundly believe that you can wring more meaning and beauty from the world accepting it as it is, rather than concocting deities?”
The Guardian


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



Do not be afraid: Pope Francis’s Christmas midnight mass message

On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen.

As Christmas dawns
A Christmas editorial that has appeared annually since 1988.
Chicago Tribune

‘Muslims must focus on education to benefit from India’s progress’
The 125th anniversary of well known academic institution Anjuman Hami-e-Islam was celebrated at its sprawling campus in Sadar on Monday morning. The function’s chief guest MSA Siddiqui, who is also the chairman of National Commission of Minority Educational Institutions said, “Muslims need to get out of the minority mindset and focus on educating themselves to reap the benefits of India’s march towards development.”
The Times of India

Sardar Patel was not anti-Muslim, says LK Advani
In his blog, Advani expressed surprise at a “perverse” article in a national magazine which quoted records to brand Patel as a man “rabidly communal in outlook” and Jawaharlal Nehru as a symbol “of secular nationalism”.
IBN Live

VHP, heads of Maths warn govt against Anti-Superstition Bill
Addressing the meeting, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Gopalji said, “Dharma is the soul of Bharath, Hindus see god in each particle in cosmology, and therefore tree, cow, nature, and stone are worshipped. This is a basic belief of man. We taught about the importance of nature to the world, and today various thinkers agree that the Indian notion of protecting the nature is the best way to achieve world peace.
Daiji World

The year’s 10 most intriguing religion books
Jesus, Paul, food, charity, and prayer were just some of the areas examined in this year’s crop of books under the broad heading of religion. Some of these titles rank at the top of the year’s best books, period. Others barely registered in the mainstream press, but are lavishly praised in their own fields. Here’s Religion News Service’s list of the year’s most interesting religion books, numbered but not ranked.
The Washington Post

Can you be too religious?
Actually, I seriously dislike the words religion and religious. First, there is no such thing as generic religiosity. There are Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus. No one practises religion, as such. And second, precisely because the word “religion” describes the common outward format through which these very different belief systems express themselves, it cannot describe each in its specificity. This is particularly tricky when it comes to Christianity, because at its heart is a figure who was thoroughly suspicious and condemnatory of religion. “Jesus came to abolish religion,” says the Washington-based poet and evangelist Jefferson Bethke. His YouTube poem Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus received 16 million views within two weeks of it being released. He’s right: the New Testament must be one of the most thoroughly anti-religious books ever written. It makes Richard Dawkins look very tame fare indeed.
The Guardian

Christians feel pressure to keep silent about their faith, Lord Carey warns
Christians in Britain feel under pressure to keep silent about their faith in public, a former Archbishop of Canterbury has warned, as he accuses the government of being “full of denial” and failing to speak up over human rights abuses across the globe.
The Telegraph

Religion is always in a state of flux
For the many millions of Christians around the world, we remember that while Christmas was previously a pagan festival, the nativity story in the words of the gospel writer Luke was about the miraculous birth of the special child ‘Christ Jesus’ the Messiah. The gospel writer Luke (2:52) writes of Jesus as a man ‘who grew in wisdom, stature and in favour with God and with men’.
The Sentinel

Sociology of religion: A Canadian perspective
Dawson and Thiessen write about the difficulties of defining religion, but they nonetheless make the common distinction between functional and substantive definitions. Despite their earlier tendency towards functionalist definitions, the authors claim to prefer a more substantive approach. Before getting to their definition, they discuss the postmodern critique of religion as a category, e.g., religion, as a concept, is relatively new and coloured by European history.

Religion: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
I’ve been in the study of religion for about 30 years and throughout all that time it has been relatively easy to avoid answering the inevitable personal questions that come up when people hear I work in a department of religion: Do you believe in God? Is American culture morally corrupt without religion? Isn’t religion bad for society?
Huffington Post

Atheist maintains there’s lots to be thankful for in the secular world
Almost every year around this time, I am accosted by at least one or two religious friends, acquaintances or coworkers (but not usually family — they tend to pointedly avoid the subject while in my presence), who seem to think that, as an atheist, I have nothing for which to be thankful. As a result, every year, I am consistently dumbfounded by their utter lack of awareness, intentionally or not, of all the secular reasons for which I (and they) should be thankful, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of our lives.

Whither political Islam?
The downfall of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has put political Islam at a crossroads. Not only has it shown that ideology per se is not a guarantor of political success, but also that Islamists need to rethink their strategy and tactics in order to deal with the new environment following the Arab Spring. However, the debate over the end of political Islam in the Middle East is not only premature but also irrelevant and certainly misleading. Instead it would be more effective to discuss the ideological and political changes that might occur within Islamist movements during crisis time.

PTI to enforce true Islam, claims Imran
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan claimed on Monday that his party would enforce the true Islamic system in the country like the Muslim state founded in Madina by the Holy Prophet (SAW).
The News International

Carlos Santana – Music heals and charisma screams
In a recent PBS NewsHour interview, Santana was asked, “You talk about spirituality. Is it your sense that music is a kind of spirituality?” Santana responded, “It’s not kind. It’s 150 percent. Music was given to tame the beast, as they say in the Bible. You know, … fear and anger.”
Houston Chronicle



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