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Faith and fish: Castaway recounts how he survived 13 months adrift in Pacific

How did a man survive such an ordeal — as Alvarenga describes — in a boat about the length of three people and the width of one person? He pointed upward and said, “God. … My faith in God.”

Where Faith Meets Justice: Jobs That Will Change You and Your World
When I graduated from college, ad agencies and consulting groups were the big draw. If you wanted to do service, the Peace Corps was pretty much the only option, unless you had a friend who knew someone who ran some kind of non-profit somewhere. Today it’s different. The most competitive job to get right after college is with Teach for America. AmeriCorps is also a popular option, but with more than 500,000 applicants for less than 80,000 positions, it is not a slam-dunk to get in. So what do you do if you are someone who wants to change the world, find meaningful work, commit to an issue and delve deeper and further into life’s journey?
Huffington Post

Indian politics: religion versus elections
Starting April 16, the people of India will determine the government of the country for the next five years. The elections will end on May 13 and the previous government will cease to exist on May 31. The election will be fought between the two most powerful parties in Parliament: the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meaning Indian People’s Party. The BJP has already nominated Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. Many expected Rahul Gandhi to be the INC candidate, however on January 17th the INC announced Gandhi would not be its PM nominee. This is a sure sign the INC are willing to surrender the elections to the BJP, who are already ahead in national polls.
Huffington Post

New book: The Romance of Religion
The Romance of Religion deals with the question of the great adventure of faith. So many abandon religion because they have come to believe that it is no more than a list of rules, regulations and rubrics combined with a list of doctrines, dogmas and disciplines to be observed. They’ve missed the fact that these things–while necessary–are not the core of religion. They are the map for the journey, the rulebook of the game, but they are not the journey or the game. The journey is far more than the map even if you need the map for the journey. The book then expands and considers how we use stories to tell about the faith, the relationship of myth and fairy tale to the re-telling of the old, old, story of fallen humanity and a forgiving God.

Religion and Culture: Mixed-faith Hindu weddings are on the rise
The incense was there. So was the tikka powder and the ceremonial grains of rice. So were the turbans, the saris, and the kurta pajamas. The wedding had all of the makings of a Hindu shaadi, but in one major way, it was far from traditional. When Neil Bajpayee, a Pennsylvania-born Indian-American, made his vows in Sanskrit to Stephanie Young, a Californian raised in a non-religious family, he became the first member of his family to marry a non-Indian, non-Hindu.
Southern California Public Radio

Miles Davis, Buddhism, and Jazz featured in Hancock’s First Lecture as Norton Professor
Hancock, the 2014 Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, the first African-American to hold the prestigious position, gave the first in a series of six lectures entitled “The Ethics of Jazz,” presented by the Mahindra Humanities Center. The first lecture, entitled, “The Wisdom of Miles Davis” tied Hancock’s personal memories of the legendary trumpet player and bandleader to broader lessons about racism, ethics, and Buddhism.
The Harvard Crimson




Will act against those attacking minorities: Sheikh Hasina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Islam compatible with democracy?

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

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

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


Why Faith Belongs in Your Workplace

Faith is not beating someone over the head with your beliefs and trying to get them to convert to your way of thinking. Faith is believing in the unseen and calling those things that are not, as though they are. I believe that faith works in the workplace. Taking the uncommon path to profits and changing people’s lives simultaneously has been my business plan for many years. Faith works.

Censorship and Repression in the Name of Religion
There are far too many countries where news and content providers constantly face a very special and formidable form of censorship, one exercised in the name of religion or even God. And with increasing frequency, this desire to thwart freedom of information invokes the hard-to-define and very subjective concept of the “feelings of believers.”
Sampsonia Way

Sonia Gandhi to seek dismissal of lawsuit in 1984 riots case
Congress President Sonia Gandhi will move a US court here seeking dismissal of a human rights violation lawsuit filed against her by a Sikh advocacy group and will urge the court to prevent it from filing further cases on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in America. Gandhi’s attorney Ravi Batra, who also represents the Congress party in the US courts, yesterday filed an 85-page memorandum in the District Court Eastern District of New York in support of Gandhi’s motion for dismissal of the amended complaint filed against her by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ).
First Post

Religion versus spirituality in the war zone
Recently, I was moved when I got to know one of the people who I see on the flight line on a regular basis whenever we load remains or wounded on aircraft. This man is a civilian. His son was a Marine who died during the invasion of Iraq. When his son died, he and his wife decided that his death would not be the end to the story. They chose to honor their son, by continuing the dream that their son died for. This wife and husband quit their jobs and took jobs with the contractor who hires people to do the jobs they are both currently doing here. This husband-and-wife team do the exact same thing — he is here and she is in Kuwait. When we send remains back home to the states, they are processed from here through Kuwait and placed on aircraft where they will directly return to America. He ensures they make it on the plane on this end, and she is in Kuwait receiving those remains and ensuring that each one of them is taken care of until they are loaded on aircraft back to the states. What a better way to honor your son’s memory than to take his place in the battle. What a special couple. Please pray for them that they will find peace with their son’s death, and for all those who have lost someone in this war.

UPA has done quite a lot for Sikh victims of 1984 riots: Manmohan Singh
UPA has done “quite a lot” for the Sikhs who suffered in 1984 riots but no compensation could be “adequate” to compensate for the loss of valuable lives, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today.
The Economic Times

The wonderful world of religion: Stories from 2013
Religion continued to wield undue influence in world culture and politics, with a number of seismic shifts felt throughout 2013. Here are some of the notable stories of 2013 as collated by Atheist Alliance International:
Atheism UK

Politics and religion a tinderbox of tension
Malaysia would be better off separating religion from politics, rather than using matters of the faith as a tool to crackdown on political dissent, said former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin. Weighing in on Harussani Zakaria’s statement that those who protested at the New Year’s Eve anti-hike rally were bughah (traitors), Mohd Asri said he was disgusted at the blatant misuse of religion by “so-called scholars”.
Malaysia Today

No Form, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations, Consciousness: A Buddhist Perspective on AI
It seems as though every day we grow closer to creating fully conscious and emergent artificial intelligences. As I’ve written about before, this poses a problem for many religions, especially those that ascribe a special place for humanity and for human consciousness in the cosmos. Buddhism stands out as an exception. Buddhism may be the one system of religious thought that not only accepts but will actively embrace any AIs that we produce as a species.

Review, Ten Sacred Cows in Christianity that Need to be Tipped
When I reviewed the Harry Potter Bible Study on the Intermountain Christian News, I didn’t give it a favorable review. The Bible Study written by Second Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jared Moore, was (at least in my opinion) a contrived attempt at eisegeting Gospel themes where they weren’t present. I also thought that the book pandered unnecessarily to secular culture and bordered on sacrilegious, using a wizard as a type or shadow of Christ. When I had Moore on my radio program, he obviously disagreed. Moore has written another book, “Ten Sacred Cows in Christianity that Need to be Tipped.” Unlike the aforementioned book, I would recommend both the premise and the content of “Ten Sacred Cows…”
Pulpit and Pen

Rich Kerala Christians praise Narendra Modi as he gets Orthodox Seminary support
For a second time in the last two weeks, two smaller Christian denominations, dominated by businessmen and professionals, have made statements in support of Narendra Modi and his work in Gujarat.
The Economic Times

Do Christians Threaten Religious Liberty?
Jews ought to back away from any alliance with Christians when it comes to the contraceptive mandate, argues Yishai Schwartz in Tablet. His main reason: Catholics and Evangelicals and legal advocates like the Becket Fund are undermining religious liberty, not promoting it. “Although the rhetoric of religious freedom is seductive, using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to strike down the contraceptive mandate would not serve that cause, but discredit it.”
First Things

Is conversion the only path to Judaism?
As someone who is married to a convert, who has spent the better part of his professional life as a Jewish communal leader and counseled a wide range of sincere people in intermarriages who seek entry into the Jewish people, I find such a proposal shallow, impractical and offensive.
J Weekly

No one is a born terrorist: Karmapa
“They are the creations of living environment and it is the responsibility of the religious leaders to create a healthy situation and guide people in such a way that terrorism becomes a thing of the past and people live in peace and harmony,” the Karmapa said. He made the observation during a formal interaction with mediapersons in his Tregar monastery. He was responding to questions regarding the terrorist attack on the world famous Mahabodhi temple in July, 2013.
The Times of India

China’s Kaifeng Jews Rediscover Their Heritage
“Are you Jewish?” my Israeli boyfriend likes to ask me every time I do something like mumble oy va voy when I spill a bag of oranges outside of the grocery store. It’s a running joke, albeit not a very good one, since I’m ethnically Chinese. But the premise of our joke—that the notion of a Chinese Jew is oxymoronic— is not technically true. Lately, Chinese Jews have been coming out of the woodwork, and, because of the obvious novelty factor, are getting a decent amount of media attention.
The Daily Beast

Jews for Jihad
Stockholm Syndrome reared its head last Friday, when an academic who identifies herself as Jewish published op-ed in the Los Angeles Times explaining why she voted for the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli universities, about which I wrote recently in the Jerusalem Post. The Times piece said that the writer had just returned from a trip to Israel and “Palestine” sponsored by Interfaith Peace-Builders, a group that subtly propagandizes for the Palestinian jihad. She was easily taken in. “Palestinian students of all ages,” she claimed, “endure harassment at military checkpoints, frequent school closures, unprovoked arrests, imprisonment and sometimes death at the hands of trigger-happy soldiers.”
The Jerusalem Post

Uttar Pradesh to asses Muslims’ condition through survey
The survey by the minority welfare department, under the multi-sectoral development programme (MSDP), would be conducted in villages and towns followed by a developmental package to pep up infrastructure, an official told IANS. The survey would cover 144 minority-dominated blocks.
Business Standard

8 Reasons to Develop Your Spiritual Connection
Through the years of trying to create my personal spirituality, I finally discovered that keeping my heart open to learning about loving myself and others is the key to maintaining a consistent spiritual connection. I also discovered the enormous benefits of staying connected with my spiritual guidance — benefits that I don’t think my religious grandmother or my atheist parents ever experienced.
Huffington Post

US-based Muslim body writes to  Akhilesh on riots
An organisation of US-based Indian Muslims — Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) — has criticised the UP government for its mishandling of the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, saying its “insensitivity” was “shockingly close” to that of the perpetrators of the violence.
The Indian Express

Best of 2013: Faith in the community
Religious freedom — what it means, who it’s for, how it’s protected — has been a source of debate and news for centuries. And 2013 was no exception. What sets apart today’s debate from the past? As I interviewed scholars, lawyers and those with a personal stake in a religious freedom claim, it became clear to me that as America becomes more diverse, recognizing and protecting individual conscience rights takes on added importance.
Desert News



The tussle between Science and Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Faith in the family: How belief passes from one generation to the next

For more than three decades Bengtson had strayed far from his Christian upbringing in rural central California, where his father was pastor of a small Evangelical Covenant Church. A sociology professor at the University of Southern California and noted scholar on the dynamics of aging, Bengtson had compartmentalized his faith from his academic work until he began delving into how and why religion is passed down from one generation to the next.
Desert News

Why non-believers need rituals too
One of the problems I have with the New Atheism is that it fixates on ethics, ignoring aesthetics at its peril. It tends also towards atomisation, relying on abstracts such as “civic law” to conjure a collective experience. But I love ritual, because it is through ritual that we remake and strengthen our social bonds. As I write, down the road there is a memorial being held for Lou Reed, hosted by the local Unitarian church. Most people there will have no belief in God but will feel glad to be part of a shared appreciation of a man whose god was rock’n’roll.
The Guardian

Buddhism and biology: a not-so-odd couple
Buddhism’s appeal in the West has thus far mostly involved its promise of increased inner serenity, derived primarily from mindful meditation, to which can be added a developing strain of “socially engaged Buddhism,” as reflected in the political activism of the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma/Myanmar, and the beloved Vietnamese scholar/monk Thich Nhat Hanh, along with numerous Western activists such as Joanna Macy and the late Robert Aitken. It turns out that in addition, Buddhism and biology have much to say to each other. In part, this might be because Buddhism can be considered as much a philosophy and intellectual perspective as a traditional religion. That is certainly the nature of my own Buddhist “practice,” which has little patience for those aspects of Buddhism that resemble standard religions: belief in various supernatural deities, worship of relics or statues, taking fairy tales as literal truth. But wipe away the mystical nonsense and abracadabra, and we find that many of the foundational ideas of Buddhism converge with newly revealed, empirically-based insights of biology, especially the disciplines of ecology, evolution, genetics, and development.
OUP Blog

Religious without religion
To be a religious believer we have to follow certain strict rules which cannot be violated. For instance as Muslims we believe that Allah is the only God and the Prophet Muhammad is His messenger; we must regularly observe the five daily prayers (shalat), pay zakat (alms), fast (saum) during the month of Ramadhan, and perform the haj (pilgrimage) at least once in a lifetime — all these are the five pillars of Islam. As Muslims we cannot evade those five pillars except for some specific exceptions.
The Jakarta Post

Bruce Langtry on “What is Philosophy of Religion?”
Philosophical discussions of ‘bare’ theism (the proposition that God exists) which completely ignore theistic religion are rarer than one might at first think. For example, although there is little discussion of any theistic religions in Graham Oppy’s Arguing about Gods, Oppy says that the book is specifically about ‘the kinds of arguments that contemporary Christian philosophers of religion typically give when they give arguments on behalf of the claim that the orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god in which they happen to believe exists.’ (Graham Oppy, Arguing about Gods, Cambridge University Press 2006, p.xv). Similarly, John Mackie, in his 1955 article on the problem of evil, makes it clear that his main concern is to argue that ‘religious beliefs are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another …’ (J.L. Mackie, ‘Evil and Omnipotence,’ Mind 64 (1955), p.200.)
Philosophy of Religion

A guide to the gods and enlightened beings: Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s West Wing
Aside from the purely visual pleasures they provide, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s new Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian galleries constitute an invitation to learn about Hinduism and Buddhism, the predominant religions represented in the new displays. This admittedly incomplete guide is intended as a rudimentary introduction to some of the religious ideas and holy figures represented in the galleries and to encourage deeper looking, learning and appreciation.

Top 5 Atheist Books of 2013
2013 was a very good year for books and though narrowing them down to five is no easy task, it seemed only right to provide some must read material to start your new year off right.
Digital Journal

‘Bid to Alienate Tribals from Hindu Religion’
Delivering the key-note address at the cultural meeting organised as part of the birth centenary of Balasaheb Deshpande, the founder of Akhila Bharatheeya Vanavasi  Kalyan Ashram, Seema Surakha all-India joint organising secretary A Gopalakrishnan said  here on Thursday that it was from the days of East India Company that the Western Christian missionaries had started the efforts to  convert the tribals on a massive scale.
The New Indian Express

Indian Muslims and Aam Aadmi Party
Now as we see the upsurge of the Aam Aadmi party, Muslim community leadership once again is lagging behind in connecting themselves with the masses through popular movement and failed to create an electoral arithmetic where a vote can be easily transferred to Muslim leaders based on the development issues and this movements can create a mass leaders those are acceptable in the majority community.




Is it possible to reach where we have without divine support, asks Arvind Kejriwal

Question: You were once an atheist. Now there’s Ganapathy in your room as well as a picture of Shirdi Sai Baba. What made you a believer once again?
Arvind Kejriwal: Yes, I was once an atheist. But look at our movement in the last three years. Is it possible to go from where we were to where we have reached today without divine support?

Question: With people’s support…
Arvind Kejriwal: Of course, with people’s support. But that wouldn’t have come unless there is also a divine role.

The Times of India

How Santa Hurts Christmas
Yes, it’s true, but Mr. Claus is just about the worst thing to happen to Christianity. We make kids believe in a fat man who hands out gifts unfairly and makes out with mom, and then ask them to believe in Jesus. Right.
The Daily Beast

Patriarch Twal: Jesus tells us “Peace is possible”
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, celebrated Christmas Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, at the Basilica of the Nativity. In his homily, Patriarch Twal recalled the many crises and conflicts around the world. But, he said, “But we must never give in to despair, because Jesus, our Saviour has told us that peace is possible, that the flame of hope remains alive, that justice and reconciliation will come.”

‘Holiday’ trees offend the religious and the secular
The religious should be offended because it is an attempt to secularize a Christian symbol of Christmas. For Jews, it would be like calling a menorah a holiday candelabra. It would be misportraying a symbol of the holiday because the menorah represents the Jewish religious holiday of Hanukkah. Secular people should be offended because it’s an attempt to deceptively rename an inherently religious symbol, in an effort to universalize it so more people adopt it. This is like calling creationism intelligent design in an effort to pass religion off as science.
Mansfield News Journal

A grim outlook for Christianity
RESEARCH showing Christianity is now the most widely persecuted religious group in the world should be an urgent wake-up call to all who value the principles of religious freedom and tolerance enshrined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 65 years ago this month. Indeed, Christianity could, after 2000 years, be facing the threat of extinction in its birthplace in the Middle East.
The Australian

Why Christianity Will Never Be at Peace with Free Markets
As many others have ably controverted the Pope’s assertions, I will not reiterate the point that the free market is the best friend of the poor.  Instead, I’m going to briefly explore why Christianity has traditionally been in tension with the market economy — even if, correctly understood, Christianity has no political or economic doctrine and therefore leaves its votaries free to adopt whatever modes of production best fulfill their worldly needs. Christian opposition to free markets ultimately flows from three facets of that religion’s beliefs and history:
Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada

New Paper: William James and Jesus Christ in Late Capitalism
Contemporary discourses on “religion” frequently use a distinction between “religious experience” and “institutional religion,” which we have inherited in part as a result of the popularity of William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience. This paper offers a discourse analysis of this distinction—including how it has been taken up by people who say they are “spiritual, but not religious”—and demonstrates that the distinction often seems designed to sanction anything “religious” that might conflict with or upset the status quo in late capitalism. In addition, this paper considers how the distinction has been appropriated by writers who incorporate it into portrayals of Jesus that similarly legitimate a consumerist life under late capitalism.
Studies in Religion

As a Man of God, I See the Value in Atheism
As a member of a faith whose history is filled with the persecution of its members by dominant, other faiths, I have to recognize that my personal freedom, in the modern age, is absolutely dependent on the advancement of this principle. If I relish this liberty and, even more so, find it morally correct, it is clearly mandatory upon me to also advance this principle as others face persecution, especially death, when a dominant faith wishes to impose its beliefs upon a minority. Freedom of religion must be a basic principle of any civilized society.
Huffington Post

Religion and Science
Much of the contention is due to religious philosophy being passed off as science. Intelligent Design “Theory” is used as a counter argument against evolution. With the recent gains religious conservatives have made in government over the past few elections, news of school boards trying to get intelligent design into the classroom has increased. Their argument is that evolution shouldn’t be the only thing taught and that students should be thinking critically and considering alternatives. As a scientist, I agree and welcome that line of thinking, but the alternatives have to be scientifically based alternatives, not theological. If we are going to consider that the Earth was created by god in six days, what’s to stop us from saying Zeus hurls thunderbolts down from mount Olympus and Poseidon is responsible for Hurricane Sandy as alternatives to earth science?
The Typewriter

90% Sikh heritage sites are in Pakistan

A United Kingdom-born researcher, writer, historian and award-winning filmmaker, Bobby Singh Bansal, has said 90 per cent of the Sikh heritage sites are located in Pakistan, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The writer, who is considered an authority on the Sikh history and heritage in Pakistan, visited Peshawar and other parts of KP for a week to explore the community heritage sites for his upcoming book, “Sikh Monuments of Pakistan and India.”
The News International

How to Explain Hinduism
It’s a good idea to have a one or two sentence explanation ready for when someone is curious but doesn’t want an hours-long theological discussion! I would say something like this: As a Hindu, I believe that we are all part of one Divinity and it is expressed in thousands of different ways.  God is present within our own hearts and so any way that we listen and connect with God is good and helps us progress towards Moksha, which is the realization that we are God. In Moksha we will merge with that divinity and no longer need a body or to live out various lives to learn lessons and grow as a soul.

Citizens first: Muslims, Modi and brutal rapes of Muzzaffarnagar
While media pundits are entranced by the “politics” of this scion v scion spat, no one seems to have noted the grim absurdity of a Chief Minister soliciting “suggestions” to address an ongoing human tragedy in his state. Well, one small step in the right direction would be to stop lying. As India Today notes, “SP government… has repeatedly made claims of adequate help to the riot victims. To the extent that even after a snub from Supreme Court on relief work, the government has insisted that it has provided suitable relief, compensation and rehabilitation to all the riot victims.”
First Post

In Pakistan discussing religion is a punishable offense for Ahmadis
Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims but in 1984, the government promulgated an ordinance, declaring them non-Muslims. According to Pakistan’s constitution, this community cannot call themselves Muslims; are banned from referring to their places of worship as mosques and cannot recite the Kalima, which is the first tenet of Islam, whereby a Muslim proclaims that he is a Muslim. The Ahmadis are banned from even singing hymns in praise of Prophet Muhammad. Of late there have been incidents where they have been harassed for keeping Muslim names.
Index on Censorship

Nepalis must decide on becoming Hindu state: BJP leader
Nepal, which embraced secularism in 2008, will only be declared a Hindu state if the people of Nepal want it and not just because the BJP thinks so, party leader Bhagat Singh Koshiyari said here Monday.
Business Standard

‘BJP hurts Hindu sentiments by equating Modi with Lord Shiva’
Never shy of taking potshots at the Saffron Party, [Rajya Sabha MP and former Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Pramod] Tiwari said, “It has committed an unforgivable sin of equating their poster boy and prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi with Lord Vishwanath. It has deeply hurt the sentiments of millions of Hindus across the globe who would teach a lesson to the party in 2014 polls if it fails to tender unconditional apology.”
The Times of India

Al-Qaeda Apologizes for Killing Muslims
Al Qaeda, slowly realizing that its indiscriminate murder of civilians is counterproductive if the victims happen to be Muslims, apologized in a video for a hospital attack in Sanaa, Yemen that killed dozens of people on December 5. Qassim Al-Raimi, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, released a video on Sunday in which he admitted that the attack was not meant to kill people in the hospital or the mosque that are part of the Yemeni Ministry of Defense compound. He asserted the cause was one al Qaeda fighter gone astray, saying, “We confess to this mistake and fault. We offer our apologies and condolences to the families of the victims. We did not want your lost ones; we did not target them on purpose. This is not of our religion or our morals.” The apology video was released after surveillance video of the attack was released by the Yemeni government.
Hot News International

Beni Prasad Verma says SP failed to stand by Muslims of Muzaffarnagar
“There are about 20 crore Muslims in the country. You can’t make them insecure, antagonise or kill them for votes,” said Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma shortly before he went on to say that 90 per cent of Muslims will vote for the Congress this time. Verma blamed the minority community in Uttar Pradesh for voting the Samajawadi Party to power which he alleged was responsible for their plight in the wake of the recent Muzaffanagar riots. “Muslims voted for SP en bloc in UP. But what did the SP do? They betrayed Muslims in Muzaffarnagar.”
India Today

Burdened by inflation, Muslims want a change in Maharashtra government for a better life
Standing outside a glass and chrome building in the central business district of Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), just a stone’s throw where the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi’s held his rally, Muhammed Imran Shaikh looks despondent. “Inflation and corruption are going through the roof,” said Shaikh, a resident of Cheeta Camp, who attended the Modi’s rally. “We can’t afford running a household with prices skyrocketing,” said Shaikh, a hand-embroidery worker, who was among the 900-odd minority community residents of the area located in the armpits of the city in the eastern suburbs, who attended the rally.

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