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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.
Outlook

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.
WacoTrib

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Religion, Poverty and the Indices of Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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