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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




Religion is a sure route to true happiness

Catherine Sanderson, a psychology professor at Amherst College, recently gave a talk, “Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness,” in which she described things that we think will make us happy but don’t and things that really do. It turns out that a private plane would not make me happier. (I’m still not convinced.) It also turns out that people who have religious or spiritual beliefs are happier than those who don’t, no matter what their beliefs.
Washington Post

Teach less religion and more reading says education minister
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has said that primary schools should use time allocated for religion to focus on improving pupils’ reading and maths. The minister’s controversial comment was a response to complaints from principals who say they have difficulties covering an “overloaded curriculum”.

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad urges public unity to resist anti-Hindu pogrom
Ten Hindu idols in a Narsingdi temple were desecrated by some 10-12 unidentified miscreants yesterday. Meanwhile, speakers at a human chain demanded that the Rajapur upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) in Jhalakathi be punished for allegedly aiding two local brothers in an attempt to grab a 55-year-old Hindu widow’s land by labelling it as vested property.
The Daily Star

Beyond communal attacks in Bangladesh
Recent attacks on Hindus and their property demonstrate the immensely sad but blunt reality that even after forty two years of democratic pluralistic existence, the religious minority of Bangladesh have not been able to save themselves from the deadly embrace of communal fire. When the battered Hindu citizens propose to disenfranchise the entire community by publicly asking to strike Hindus off the voters list so that they can escape the wrath of politically motivated obscurantist elements, one can gauge the depth and severity of the wound.
The Daily Star

In the Name of Religion or Politics?
More than a few people got upset with what I had to say regarding the alleged “Jihad” in Syria and my description of the different groups using Islam for their political ends as criminals. It’s amazing how fast people will turn on you when they discover that you’re not exactly falling in line with their political ideologies. It’s the same person, with the same writing style who was on your good graces just last week. But all of a sudden he’s on your naughty list because he voices a different stance than you on some political matter that you happen to feel very strongly about. More amazing still are the fervour and zealotry political difference comes with. It definitely puts the whole “religion is the cause of all conflict” business into perspective.
Mohamed Ghilan

Christianity enters ‘Age of the Spirit’
“I’m spiritual but not really religious.” This is the new mantra of our age. I hear it all the time. I’m sure you’ve heard it. For some reason, people don’t seem to have a problem with spirituality, but there are many stereotypes and preconceived notions about organized religion and church. Some of them are accurate and some of them are not, but these stereotypes are certainly present.
The Tennessean

Pursuing God Through Science
According to David Larson, MD, President of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, in the past ten years research focused on the effectiveness of prayer has nearly doubled. Dr. Mitchell Krucoff, who has been studying prayer and spirituality since 1996, commented, “…we’re seeing systematic investigations – clinical research – as well as position statements from professional societies supporting this research, …funding from Congress, …all of these studies, all the reports, are remarkably consistent in suggesting the potential measurable health benefit associated with prayer or spiritual interventions.”
Aliso Laguna News

Atheist Becomes a Christian after Hearing the Gospel from a Muslim
Zach was an atheist, until he talked to his Muslim friend about God. Zach’s friend Wessam explained what Christians believe, in an attempt to show Zach that Christianity is false and Islam is true. But Zach became a Christian, not a Muslim.
Answering Muslims

Incorrect Conception
Many seekers of Living Gurus long for closeness with their Masters for transcendental attainment. The presumption that spiritual progression requires physical proximity has little relevance because spirituality cannot be “taught” but is “caught” through meditative concentration as preached, rather than external affiliation.
The Economic Times

Religion and Politics in South Asia
The dilemma posed by religion’s role in contemporary politics can be generally brought under the rubric of the problem of pluralism in the modern world. Pluralism- or the respect for diversity- along with caste, class and gender remains a major fault line of South Asia- the politics of which threatens to tear apart South Asian societies.
Ground Views



Faith gives perspective on financial problems, Pope tells world economic leaders

In a message to the international leaders gathering in Davos, Switzerland, for the 44th World Economic Forum, Pope Francis has urged that economic policy decisions should be made “taking into account the dignity of every human person and the common good.” The Pope’s message expresses the hope that the Davos meeting will allow for “deeper reflection on the causes of the economic crisis” that still grips he world. Pope Francis writes that the world has seen enormous economic gains, and a substantial reduction of poverty, but these positive results have been marred by “widespread social exclusion,” and most of the world’s people still live with insecurity.
Catholic Culture

Spiritual Things To Do In Morning
When you see the elders doing Puja early in the morning, you tend to question why they are doing it after getting up. What you do after you get up every morning is very critical. Doing good things will help have a good day ahead. Most of the people get up angry over the loud alarm, shouting at the spouse or dreading over the horrifying dream. We can’t prevent the bad days, but can set our mood in the morning so as to make up for it. Here are a few spiritual things that you must do very morning.
Bold Sky

The Religious Counterculture: An Open Letter to Religious Liberals
A high school teacher of mine used to entertain his classes by rattling off lists of oxymorons: pretty ugly, jumbo shrimp, constant variable. Sometimes he would take the opportunity to editorialize a little: military intelligence, airplane food, liberal religion. Everybody would smirk and the class would go on. The joke, of course, was that liberal religion couldn’t really exist because liberals are not religious and religious people are definitely not liberal. As if everybody knows there’s an inverse correlation between religiosity and liberalism: the more liberal you are, the less religious you are… to the vanishing point. I was told recently (not as a joke) about a synagogue here in New York that’s so liberal that no one ever goes.
Huffington Post

My Story – My journey with faith
I don’t consider myself to be a very scholarly person who has read hundreds of books or is an authority on religion in anyway. But I would like to share with you the story of my faith and my battle between a conscious reality and a common inherited belief. The transformation of my beliefs was not something that took place within a day, or through a single event, but through a few years of soul searching and a multitude of events.  I find, that faith is not something that can just be acquired or gained, but developed through one’s experiences, through the passion to seek and question, and most of all through prayers.
Ahmadiyya Times

Program to integrate psychiatry and spirituality
A client is severely depressed, and her despair quickly incapacitates her. A therapist discovers she had an abortion when she was young and because of her faith, feels rejected and abandoned by God. Another patient has strong faith and lives with bi-polar disorder. He stops taking his medication when a friend points out that he wouldn’t need it if he was more devout.
Herald Tribune

Mystics and Manics
Again and again the various athletes said that they were willing to get injured or even die in the pursuit of their dreams of experiencing something breathtaking and boundary breaking. The logic of these sports is to do things that have never been done before.
Fort McMurray Today

My Religion Is Better Than Yours
It is seemingly time for religious bigotry, hatred and violence once again. Referring to this odious tendency in human behaviour, Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, Hindu Chaplain, Columbia University and New York University said recently in the Huffington Post: ” I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely tired of encountering this attitude. Most people who make such statements don’t have deep knowledge or set of experiences within their own tradition, what to speak of other people’s traditions. I am confident that if we made even a little bit of an endeavour to understand another’s faith, it could make all the difference in the world”.
Sri Lanka Guardian



Music and Spirituality

If you sweep the floor, you can become spiritual. If you breathe, you can become spiritual. In that context, you can play music and also become spiritual. A whole lot of people have identified spiritual process and music, not because these two things are connected. If you play proper music, without involvement, you cannot do it. If you are absolutely involved, only then you can produce some worthwhile music. In that involvement, doors have to open for you. There is no other way. I am telling you, if you sweep the floor with absolute involvement, it will happen. You do not have to learn any musical instrument.
Huffington Post

Lenin and religion
With each twist and turn, Lenin’s position has become ever more complex. No longer do we have a Lenin who dismisses religion as fiction and curse. Instead, we find arguments for the duality of religion as response to and cause of suffering, multi-layered metaphors of opium and booze, the dilemma of what happens after the revolution when religion persists, the tension between the party’s opposition to religion and the refusal to stipulate atheism as a requirement for party membership, and even an awareness of the revolutionary potential of religion. However, I close with a regret: the moments when Lenin saw the potential of the religious Left were relatively few compared to his attacks on religion. That is, I regret the fact that he was not as clearly aware of such possibilities. Perhaps the Russian Revolution may have found matters a little easier if he had.
Philosophers for Change

The Religion With No Name: An Interview With Thomas Moore
For most of us, the days of growing up within a fixed religious tradition is long past. Seeking a lifeline to what really matters, many are either bewildered by the array of spiritual choices, or dulled by the materialism of Western culture. In his latest book, A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, former monk and bestselling author and psychotherapist Thomas Moore explores this modern-day dilemma. Drawing from the well of his own inner sources, he offers a new vision of how seekers can fashion their own connection to the sacred out of the materials of ancient faiths and everyday life. This is the first in a three-part interview.
Huffington Post

The centrality of the Prophet Muhammad to Islamic Spirituality
Most  people,  including  many  Muslims, view Islam in an exoteric sense. That is, they see Islam as simply a set of beliefs and  ritual  observances  by  which  Muslims hope to gain salvation after death.But they know very little about Islam as an esoteric or spiritual path. Although   modern   western   societies might  be  more  alienated  from  religion than  most,  they  tend  to  regard  with greater  reverence  the  mystical  paths  of religion. Buddhism for example, came to be known to the West through the oriental martial arts, Zen poetry, and even through fiction. Hinduism is also sympathetically looked at because of Ayurveda, Yoga,  and  meditation.  Outwardly,  these two  religions  are  far  more  alien  to  the Western psyche in terms of spiritual traditions, and the socio/cultural environment that  supports  their  beliefs;  nevertheless they are seen in a more sympathetic manner than Islam.
AhlulBayt Islamic Mission

Time to unite religion with conservation
Religion and science are the two most powerful forces in the world today. If we could be united on the common ground of biological conservation, the problem would soon be solved. By their definition, religions inherently aim to pursue moral good and, have for centuries, guided people with respect to what is right and what is wrong. Though I never tried to talk to a religious leader, I realised that the negative report on the issue would never support the cause alone. We have to think in a broader perspective and make them a partner in saving the last of what we have left. The world without these species will be an incomplete creation of god and it’s time we understand and work towards this.
Financial Chronicle

Religion rules in Russia
Two issues preoccupying post- Soviet society are a wish to oppose outside influences (mainly from the West), and to resist aggressive behaviour in matters of religion. It is not difficult to point out inconsistencies and contradictions in these approaches, but more germane is the fact that both have survived, if in modified form, to the present day. When the possibility of further restrictions on freedom of conscience are being discussed, a key topic is invariably the need to protect society from the “expansionism” of new religious movements and radical Islam.
Index on Censorship

Values, ethics, spirituality vital to education system
It is important for values, ethics and spirituality to be part of an education system to ensure and nurture the development of well-rounded individuals. Stressing the importance of values based education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told participants at the Education World Forum 2014 here yesterday that ignoring values, ethics and spirituality is no longer acceptable as about five billion of the world’s population was involved in the major religions.
New Strait Times


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


How Spirituality Protects the Brain Against Depression

Engaging in regular meditation or another spiritual practice is linked to a thickening of the brain cortex, according to new research published in JAMA Psychiatry. This discovery could lead to new insights as to why these activities help guard against depression, particularly in those who are genetically predisposed to the mental health disorder.

Punishment for anti-Hindu pogromists demanded
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury yesterday said the people responsible for attacking Hindus around the country should be punished regardless of their political stripes. Such attacks were a shame for the nation, she told the BBC Bangladesh Sanglap, a debate on contemporary affairs, in the capital’s Biam auditorium.
The Daily Star

I know better than to take religion too seriously, says religious scholar Reza Aslan
Aslan is Muslim but he converted to Christianity when he was young, only to convert back to Islam later. Even though he considers himself Muslim, he doesn’t believe in religion. “As a religious scholar, I know better than to take religion all that seriously. I am a Muslim but my faith is in God and I use the symbols and metaphors of Islam to help define what that means,” he says.

Muslims, SC, ST have voted for BJP in Assembly polls: Advani
To shed its image of being a Hindutva and upper caste party, BJP today said it had got support of Muslims, SC and ST communities in the recent Assembly elections even as it noted that it did not believe in vote bank politics and minority appeasement.
Business Standard

Faith and families: the name game continues
I was born in a liberal Muslim family in 1950. There was nothing liberal about my name, though: Mohammed Nadeemullah Khan. The mixed neighbourhood where I grew up never found it worthy of notice. But some children in school found its association with a religious community a source of entertainment – at my expense. Digs on beards, lungis, skull-caps, Friday baths, and – the perennial favourite – circumcision.
The Hindu

UConn prof delves into spirituality in daily life
University of Connecticut Professor Bradley Wright has all types of questions for his research: Did you pray in the last 24 hours? To what extent are you feeling nurtured or angry with God? Do you feel a sense of purpose right now? And he’d like the answers in real time, launching a website that sends texts to smartphones that it’s time for participants to take the twice-daily survey. It’s part of an ambitious look by Wright and other researchers into the role of spirituality in the daily lives of Americans and its links to well-being.
Washington Post

The heart of Islam
The truth, as dangerous as it might be to articulate, is that Islam, in current day Pakistan, has been hijacked by a brand of mullahs who hold the dogmatic practice of rituals to be the end-goal of religion. We live in the shadow in a religious ideology, which argues that killing in the name of God, is higher than living to uphold His majesty.  We are told that slight differences in the way that another bows before Allah, or calls His name, is reason enough to hate such individuals.  Even to kill them.  We are told that black is the color of Shias, and green the color of Sunnis.  We are told that Arabic is good, and English is bad.  We have been taught that convictions for rape cannot take place based on scientific evidence because only ocular proof is Islam.  We are told that a beard, without a mustache, is a service to the Prophet (PBUH).  We are told that Allah deals in plus and minuses – ten pluses for each time you drink water while sitting down, and ten minuses if you eat from your left hand.  That the relationship between God and man is one of barter – if you say some Quranic verse seven times, yours will be Jannah.  Otherwise, the tormet of hell awaits you.  We are told that simply the act of prostrating in the director of Kaaba is the highest of ibadaat… irrespective of the darkness that might fill the heart of such supplicator.
The Nation

Spirituality drives Brampton woman to write book
Brampton accountant Jodie Lobana’s book is proof that irrespective of their origins, lessons of spirituality are timeless and universal. In the book, Songs for the Soul featuring 100 beautiful poems of Saint Kabir, Lobana deciphers the works of Saint Kabir and demysifies his philosophy.


Does religion turn weak groups violent?

New research by a team of Arizona State University faculty has uncovered one factor that increases the likelihood that weak groups will engage in conflict with stronger groups, despite the likelihood of defeat. That factor is religious infusion, or the extent to which religion permeates a group’s public and private life. “Under normal circumstances, weak folks don’t try to beat up on stronger folks,” says Steven Neuberg, a psychology professor at ASU and the lead researcher on the project. “But there’s something about a group being religiously infused that seems to make it feel somewhat invulnerable to the potential costs imposed by stronger groups, and makes it more likely to engage in costly conflict.”

Bohras plunge into grief with Dr Syedna Mohamed Burhanuddin’s passing away
The serene Qutbi mazar’s pristine surroundings in Saraspur were abruptly broken on Friday when the shocking news of the passing away of Dr Syedna Mohamed Burhanuddin, spiritual leader of Dawoodi Bohra community, reached the community in the city. Thereafter all roads led to the dargah where grief-stricken mourners lined up to pray for the 102-year-old spiritual leader’s eternal peace. Dr Syedna died of a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai. Hundreds of Dawoodi Bohras in the city downed shutters to gather outside the dargah and recite Quraan-e-Sharif.

Mumbai stampede before funeral of Burhanuddin kills at least 18, injures over 50
At least 18 people were killed and over 50 others were injured in a stampede that broke out early Saturday at Saifee Mahal in Malabar Hills, the residence of Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin who passed away on Friday morning, officials said. Several injured have been taken to Saifi hospital. “There were queues for women and men for deedar (glimpse) of the Maula in Saifee Mahal when all of a sudden the queues got mixed and confusion followed. One of my relatives from Pune passed away in the stampede,” said Qaid Najmi, a member from the community.
The Nation

Bangladesh to root out communal forces
Protesting attacks on Hindus allegedly by BNP-Jamaat-Shibir men just after the 10th parliamentary polls on January 5, Gonojagoron Mancha Spokesperson Imran H Sarker yesterday said Bangladesh would start a new journey after eradicating communal forces. “None can escape after carrying out communal attacks on the minority communities and the Jamaat-Shibir, not the minorities, will have to leave this country,” he said.
The Daily Star

Muslims must not wear AAP cap, says cleric
A fatwa (religious decree) has been issued by clerics asking the Muslims not to put on the trademark Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cap as it was against the shariat (Islamic law). The fatwa was issued in Varanasi by a mufti (a person, who is authorised to interpret the Islamic laws) in response to the queries by the members of the community.
Deccan Herald

Muslims will not be used as a vote bank, says AAP
For new entrant Aam Aadmi Party, reaching out to Muslim voters is crucial in the upcoming elections. The party has carefully distanced itself from communal politics but has made provisions for minorities in its manifesto. Shazia Ilmi, the party’s spokesperson says: “We don’t want Muslims to be used as vote banks, which is what they have been used as. Muslims are gearing around the Aam Aadmi Party. They feel this party means what it says.”
Khaleej Times

Pope says Christians must work together to challenge secularism
The Pope made his remarks at a meeting with representatives of the Lutheran Church in Finland, who were making their annual ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome on the feast of Finland’s patron, St Henry. The meeting occurred one day before the start of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Catholic Herald

India should stop forced evictions of Muzaffarnagar riot victims: HRW
Indian authorities in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh should immediately stop evicting people from camps who fled communal violence in September 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. State authorities should conclude their investigations into riot-related crimes, including alleged sexual violence, and initiate appropriate prosecutions.
Business Standard

Modi, Muslims and appeasement
Change has come to India. The great democracy is undergoing an unprecedented churning and a new political narrative is emerging. Pundits agree that the emergence of the ‘common man’ has shaken the old, ossified power structures to the core and cynical, old politics and politicians are being forced to embrace the new grammar of change. Yes, change. Change is the buzzword. For some though, the more things change the more they remain the same.
The News

Review: 50 Great Myths About Atheism
I am a member of the least trusted group in America. No, not because I’m a book reviewer — or, worse, a novelist (novelists are known liars, you know) — but because I am an atheist. According to a series of studies conducted by Will Gervais at the University of British Columbia, the religious distrust atheists more than members of other religious groups, more than gays, and more than feminists. The only group they distrust as much as atheists are rapists. Rapists — not Wall Street Bankers or late-night TV pitchmen, but rapists! Forty-five percent of them also wouldn’t vote for an otherwise qualified presidential candidate if he or she happened to be an atheist. And, for God’s sake (if I may be so bold), don’t ask them to welcome an atheist into the family via marriage. Lock up your sons and daughters, the heathens are a comin’!
Huffington Post


Indian Muslims do not need special treatment

Change has come to India. The great democracy is undergoing an unprecedented churning and a new political narrative is emerging. Pundits agree that the emergence of “common man” has shaken the old, ossified power structures to the core and cynical, old politics and politicians are being forced to embrace the new grammar of change. Yes, change. Change is the buzzword. For some though, the more things change the more they remain the same. For once, I agree with Narendra Modi. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s concern over the victimization of Muslims and his warning to state governments against the targeting of Muslim youths is nothing but a “brazen and callous attempt to woo the minority community.”
Arab News

Officials In Laos Tell Christians To Renounce Faith In Jesus Christ Or Be Deported
Imagine being told that if you did not give up your faith in Jesus Christ that you would be forced out of your town and lose all of your property. That is precisely what a group of Christian families in three villages in the nation of Laos were told by their government officials after it was discovered that they were meeting regularly for home Bible study and worship.
Beginning and End

What is Paganism? Part I: The Basics: Religion, Spirituality, and Stories
I was recently involved in an intense discussion arising over an article linked from The Wild Hunt. The article complained about a friend’s statement describing Paganism to an interfaith audience, and I responded by defending him. After that the discussion took off in the direction of “Who is a Pagan and how do we know?” I continued until, in my judgment, we were getting too testy. Best to stop.

The Spirituality of Writing
My spirituality as I define it is intimately connected with my writing–even more so now that I’ve been exploring my writing purpose more intently–and drives it in a way that makes it more meaningful and satisfying. And I’ve seen the spirituality/essence/core of other writers too. At Saturday’s goal setting workshop, Shari Caudron connected writing and spirituality without hesitation and without apology. I could see it and feel it from her and it enriched my workshop experience even more.
Denise Vega

Religion Destroying Alliance
One religion demands to manage the Dining hall. Sausages and bacon cannot be served. Utensils should only be used for food approved by that religion. Meals must be prepared in the prescribed manner, by approved staff and served in accordance to the religious calendar. Another religion wants to control the routine of the school. To determine days and times learning, exams and sports can be held; when the day starts, what can or cannot be done and when and how the school should worship. Another desires to determine the running of the chapel by deciding who can lead, preach, or pray. Women should not be allowed near the front or even to stand in chapel. The traditionalists even claim that circumcised boys should not be instructed by women.
All Africa

Nigeria’s religious leaders welcome controversial anti-gay law
Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria welcomed a controversial law that bans same-sex marriages and imposes a 14-year jail term for homosexual relations. On Monday (Jan. 13), President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which parliament passed in May. The law follows a similar one passed in Uganda in December, which imposes life imprisonment for some types of homosexual acts.
The Washington Post

The Church of ‘Yeezianity’ Is a New Religion That Worships Kanye West
“Yeezianity” is either an actual new religion that considers rapper Kanye West to be its “savior” or a hilarious and elaborate art project that almost approaches the brilliance of West’s work. Either way, the “Church of Yeezus” has a very comprehensive website, which presents the religion as an “anonymous group who believes that the one who calls himself Yeezus is a divine being who has been sent by God to usher in a New Age of humanity.”


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


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