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Obama: Religious freedom a U.S. diplomatic priority

President Obama tells a non-denominational gathering of political leaders that freedom of religion across the world is important to national security and is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy. Obama says that message is not always easy to deliver. He says he has told leaders in China, Burma and Nigeria that they must do more to respect human rights, particularly religious freedom.
The Blade

Science, Religion, and Compartmentalisation
People compartmentalise their beliefs all the time. That’s particularly true of religious beliefs in modern society. Over the centuries, science has steamrolled religion. Faith has fervor, but science has evidence, technical power, and progress on its side. So religion has retreated to the margins. Today, if you’re a serious scientist, you can still believe in God. But you have to consign Him to the spaces unclaimed by science. You have to compartmentalise.

My Experience With a “Leap of Faith”
In a conversation with a friend with whom I correspond via the internet, I wrote him a while ago that I am trying to figure out who was the man that Christianity calls Jesus Christ. I told him that after the hundredth proof found in a book ‘The Magdalene Legacy by Laurence Gardner’ I could finally put together all the facts concerning who this man was. What this author wrote in his book is confirmed by various other sources such as those Qumran scrolls which were not in the hands of the Vatican translators as well as the Nag Hammadi scrolls and of course some gnostic works that I’ve read.
Humans Are Free

‘Religion has to grow beyond language, caste’
Adichunchanagiri mutt seer Nirmalanandanath regretted that India has lost a lot of its geographical locations and strength of awareness due to forgetting our culture and tradition. Referring to Combodia, he said though the country is small in size, it has a number of Hindu temples. But none of sanctum sanatoriums of the temple has the Hindu idols. The country is now filled with Buddhists and Hinduism no more exists in that country, he said.
Deccan Herald

Sikhs want Cameron to apologise for plotting Golden Temple attack
Revelations that Margaret Thatcher’s Government was actively consulted ahead of the Indian Army’s June 1984 assault on Sikhism’s holiest shrine has predictably provoked vehement indignation in Punjab. Several leaders including Punjab’s chief minister and the Jathedar or chief priest of the Akal Takht, the highest religious and temporal seat of the Sikh Community, demanded an unconditional and befitting gesture of apology from the incumbent British Government.
India Today




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

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



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



“Ism means mindlessness”: Sadhguru on spirituality and consumerism

A 6.47- minute video.
ET Now

Pakistan’s Sufis Preach Faith and Ecstasy
In the desert swelter of southern Pakistan, the scent of rose­water mixed with a waft of hashish smoke. Drummers pounded away as celebrants swathed in red pushed a camel bedecked with garlands, tinsel and multihued scarfs through the heaving crowd. A man skirted past, grinning and dancing, his face glistening like the golden dome of a shrine nearby. “Mast Qalandar!” he cried. “The ecstasy of Qalandar!”

Christians in Libya cast anxious eye at religious freedom
Libya has undergone a two-year transition since 2011 when demonstrations toppled Moammar Gadhafi. Before the revolution, Christians were granted religious freedom, but with the change of power, they have been arbitrarily arrested, attacked, killed and forced by the Islamist groups to convert to Islam.
Washington Post

Atheists reject God without exploring the evidence for his existence
An atheist is a person who believes that God doesn’t exist (in contrast to an agnostic, who says he doesn’t know whether or not God exists). But look carefully at that definition: An atheist believes God doesn’t exist. He can’t prove it; he can’t verify it; he can’t demonstrate it. He lives only by faith — faith that he is right and everyone else is wrong.
Kansas City

Comparative religion series will focus on ‘evil’
“The goal is to help people understand different faiths and that we’re not in opposition to each other, but we have different views,” said Gene Meyers, chairman of the Comparative Religion Series committee. “There are a lot of places you can go and learn about the basics of religion.
The Charlotte Observer

Science, religion coexist to help us flourish
When it comes to the two — religion and science — the general sentiment with our group was that they have to coexist to flourish. The foundation of religion is faith and the foundation of science is research. The Lord has created a formula for each element of the universe and it is humanity’s (scientists’) job to research these formulas and apply them to our everyday lives. This is why the world spends so much money on scientific research and development, to help humanity understand and enjoy the wonders of the universe.
Tri-City Herald

New ‘SoulPulse’ app lets users monitor their spirituality in real time
“I discovered I was more tired than I knew that I was. I have begun going to bed earlier and I was tested for sleep apnea. I also realized, as an introvert, I’m more aware of God if I have a bigger chunk of quiet time. I started scheduling more time to be alone with God so when I am with people I can really be with them.”
Washington Post


If You Have Faith, You’ll Stop Arguing Why It’s Important in the Marketplace

Freedom of speech means that you have full permission and a right to say what you want, write what you want and speak what you want. Sadly, some groups believe this means you should be silenced if your beliefs are different than mine, or even given special rights if your faith is threatening mine.

Yoga is the best way to enforce prohibition, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says
Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Tuesday termed people who do not practise yoga as ayogiyan (a term in Sanskrit and Tamil which means unethical person). “If you don’t practise yoga, you are good for nothing. This has been the belief since ancient times,” he said while speaking at the valedictory function of the 20th international yoga festival organized by the tourism department.
The Times of India

Harassed 300 Dalits Embrace Buddhism
The Dalits were banned from entering the temple and were also not allowed to use the local crematorium. They alleged that the district administration had failed to respond to as many as 28 petitions filed by them in the last two years. Around 79 Dalit families live in a colony in the hamlet which houses over 3,000 Caste Hindus. “As we are in the minority, Caste Hindus banned our entry inside their temples,” a Dalit said.
The New Indian Express

What 21st century Buddhists need to do is study: His Holiness
He said that among the three turnings of the wheel of Dharma, the Perfection of Wisdom teachings, the second turning of the wheel is supreme. The Heart Sutra describes both the Buddha and Avalokiteshara as absorbed in concentration. Initially the Buddha taught how we are propelled into cyclic existence, but not who is propelled. The Heart Sutra teaches not only that the person is empty, but that the five aggregates that are its basis are also empty. This indicates that phenomena as well as persons are empty of inherent existence. The Perfection of Wisdom Sutras teach that there is no essence in anything, everything is empty of inherent existence and is merely designated, nominally existent.
The Tibet Post

This is your brain on religion: Uncovering the science of belief
As far as I’m concerned, the most interesting question about religion isn’t whether God exists but why so many people are religious. There are around 10,000 different religions, each of which is convinced that there’s only one Truth and that they alone possess it. Hating people with a different faith seems to be part of belief. Around the year 1500, the church reformer Martin Luther described Jews as a “brood of vipers.” Over the centuries the Christian hatred of the Jews led to pogroms and ultimately made the Holocaust possible. In 1947, over a million people were slaughtered when British India was partitioned into India for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims. Nor has interfaith hatred diminished since then. Since the year 2000, 43 percent of civil wars have been of a religious nature.

Religious NGOs, Civil Society and the United Nations
A new study by the University of Kent’s Department of Religious Studies in the United Kingdom has revealed that more than 70% of the United Nation’s religious non-governmental organisations are Christian. The report, religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for better clarity in how religious NGOs are represented at the UN and for more emphasis to be placed on religious tolerance.
Global Research

The shadow government’s secret religion
The expansion of Washington’s national security state — let’s call it the NSS — to gargantuan proportions has historically met little opposition.  In the wake of the Edward Snowdenrevelations, however, some resistance has arisen, especially when it comes to the “right” of one part of the NSS to turn the world into a listening post and gather, in particular, American communications of every sort.  The debate about this — invariably framed within the boundaries of whether or not we should have more security or more privacy and how exactly to balance the two — has been reasonably vigorous.  The problem is: it doesn’t begin to get at the real nature of the NSS or the problems it poses.

Religious Homophobia Is Still Homophobia
I’m a bisexual Seventh-day Adventist evangelical Christian. I’ve only ever gone to Seventh-day Adventist educational school systems. I grew up in pathfinders, singing for church special music since I was three, and going to Bible camps during my summers. I still go to a Seventh-day Adventist university where I work on creating safe spaces (unofficial GSA’s) nationally within the Seventh-day Adventist church. I get the Gay Christian world — I live in it. Around the entire LGBT conversation, whether it’s marriage or politics, the main contention point is religion. It’s the root of the opposition and it is where homophobia was birthed.
Huffington Post

Spirituality in a secular world — a conversation
Something essential is missing from modern life. Many who’ve turned away from religious institutions — and others who have lived wholly without religion — hunger for more than what contemporary secular life has to offer but are reluctant to follow organized religion’s strict and often inflexible path to spirituality. In A Religion of One’s Own, bestselling author and former monk Thomas Moore explores the myriad possibilities of creating a personal spiritual style, either inside or outside formal religion.

Philosophy and Religion Intermarried in Groundbreaking New Book
Gleason’s book journeys through the depths of passion and prudence, of belief and rationality, of theology and philosophy. Loosely interlinked ordinary people represent moral allegories that attempt to explain whether free will or determinism exists, or whether humanity simply exists in a random set of events. The book’s overall theme is the merging of religious credos with philosophical underpinnings, the thematic crux of this fictional novel.
Digital Journal


Religion and the Brain: Thicker Cortices Linked to Higher Rates of Spirituality

Researchers from Columbia University set out to examine a particularly interesting connection-the brain’s thickness and it’s potential relationship to religious belief. What did they discover? Researchers determined that thicker brains could be tied to higher levels of religious belief.
Science World Report

Secular Arvind Kejriwal thanks god for AAP ‘miracle’
Delhi’s new Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has always been wedded to secular values, on Saturday thanked gods of India’s four major religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism – for the “miracle” that brought him and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to power.
Zee News

Tibetan Monk Karma Tsewang Detained By China Along With 16 Supporters
The writer, Tsering Woeser, said that rights lawyer Tang Tianhao confirmed the detention of Karma Tsewang, a popular monk in Nangqian county in western Qinghai province. Aside from preaching Tibetan Buddhism, the monk is known for his work on disaster relief, environmental protection and teaching youth the Tibetan language. Tsering Woeser said Karma Tsewang was taken away by police Dec. 6 while traveling on business in the city of Chengdu. She said the monk was taken to Chamdo prefecture, where he has been detained since.
Huffington Post

Blogging, Tweeting, and Instagramming in the Image of God
Andrew Byers, a chaplain and PhD student at the University of Durham, is trying to reorient the conversation. “If God creates and uses media,” he writes, “then there is a theological logic instructive for how we produce and use media technology today.” This, the central claim of Byers’s new book TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age (Wipf & Stock), is what makes the book such a valuable contribution to the burgeoning conversation about Christian faith and digital media.
Christianity Today

Eastern religion has its share of abuse too
Midway through 1968, a disillusioned and angry John Lennon could be found inside the Beatles’ London offices channelling his frustration by scratching the lyrics to a new song into a piece of wood. Lennon had recently returned from an ashram in India, where he and the other members of the Fab Four received instruction in transcendental meditation from a giggling Hindu guru named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Lennon had stormed from the ashram in disgust, convinced the Maharishi had morphed from guru to groper in his behaviour towards a number of young Western women, including actor Mia Farrow. The Beatle’s wood-carved words became the basis for the song Sexy Sadie, the title being Lennon’s litigation-proof pseudonym for the allegedly randy rishi of Rishikesh, whose covert lechery had, in his estimation, ”made a fool of everyone”.
Brisbane Times

Is All religion bad? An Ethical Dissection
People disagree on ethics — and for very good reasons. To clear up the disagreement, the wrong move is to try and figure out the “right” ethical theory — arguing endlessly about the truth of your system and the foibles of others. Instead, understanding how our minds work may reveal far more useful information.

Religion as a Product of Psychotropic Drug Use
The notion that hallucinogenic drugs played a significant part in the development of religion has been extensively discussed, particularly since the middle of the twentieth century. Various ideas of this type have been collected into what has become known as the entheogen theory. The word entheogen is a neologism coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists (those that study the relationship between people and plants). The literal meaning of entheogen is “that which causes God to be within an individual” and might be considered as a more accurate and academic term for popular terms such as hallucinogen or psychedelic drug. By the term entheogen we understand the use of psychoactive substances for religious or spiritual reasons rather than for purely recreational purposes.
The Atlantic

Listen to R.E.M.’s isolated vocal track for “Losing My Religion”
As a youngster, I assumed R.E.M.’s 1991 single “Losing My Religion” was about just that: a lapse in faith. Perhaps it was some Freudian obsession based on my parents’ own religious turmoil (Mom’s an excommunicated Irish Catholic, dad’s an atheist Jew), or one too many viewings of the icon-heavy music video. But even after later reading Michael Stipe’s claims of it being just another ”classic obsession pop song” ala The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, I wasn’t entirely sold he hadn’t experienced some spiritual crisis. Now, via a strange twist of fate (or divine being, perhaps?), I understand the song in a totally new light thanks to the isolated vocal track.
Consequence of Sound

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

Muslims will not side with Rahul just because of Modi

The Congress ruse will not longer work on the minorities, and the choice of Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate before the elections, will not register an impact on the voting behaviour of the Muslims. This can be said with considerable certainty for two primary reasons. One, as said earlier the choice of candidate who is as lackluster as Rahul Gandhi will not galvanise the party, any more than it already has. He lacks the qualities of a leader and hence will not be able to make the Congress appear more responsive and more responsible in the few weeks before the general elections. He had ten years that he was unable to turn into gold, clearly lacking the Midas touch that alone would have made a difference. His own incompetence, lack of determination, and naivety (for want of a better word) has failed to infuse new life into the Congress that remains directionless and unable to counter the growing communalism in the country. So a formal declaration will do little on the ground, keeping the electorate as un-enthused as before.
Samay Live

Christianity helps Indian women rise out of poverty, economist finds
A researcher at Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University has found that impoverished women in India are more likely to improve their economic circumstances after converting to Christianity. “Conversion actually helps launch women on a virtuous circle. A woman feels better, she’s part of an active faith community, she works more, she earns more money: the extra money she earns and saves encourages her to earn more and save more and plan and invest in the future,” said Rebecca Samuel Shah, research fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
Catholic News Agency

Plea against Islamic varsity in Tirupati
The campaign against the Heera International Islamic University, established by Shaik Nowhera near Thondavada at the foot of Tirumala hills, has been renewed with a group of Hindu seers demanding its demolition. At an event billed as Hindu Garjana, organised under the banner of the Tirumala Tirupati Pavitratha Samrakshana Vedika, a platform of pontiffs and activists was formed “to protect the sanctity of the Seven Hills.”
The Hindu

Religion Is Changing, So Why Not Science?
At a glance, many will assume that religions are harder to change than science since, by its very nature, science is constantly prone to change. This is generally true. And yet, there are always strong forces in science pushing for no change, for keeping the status quo. Those who resist major changes in accepted thinking probably believe they are protecting science from non-scientific abusers. Yet, what they often do is resist major shifts in the advancement of science. As Kuhn stated, major paradigm shifts in thinking are vital to forward movement. Without it, science stagnates.
Huffington Post

Angels have no wings, says Catholic ‘angelologist’
Angels exist but do not have wings and are more like shards of light, at least according to a top Catholic Church “angelologist” who says the heavenly beings are now back in vogue thanks to New Age religions. “I think there is a re-discovery of angels in Christianity,” Father Renzo Lavatori told AFP on the sidelines of a conference on angels in a lavishly-frescoed Renaissance palace in Rome.
Hurriyet Daily News

Religion is good for business shows Rotman study
Those looking for honest companies to invest in might want to check out businesses based in more religious communities, suggests a new paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The study found that businesses with head offices in places with high levels of “religiosity” were less likely to experience stock price crashes as a result of not disclosing bad financial news. And it didn’t matter whether those at the top were religious or not. Just being in a town where social norms are influenced by religious codes of behavior was enough to rub off on the companies operating there.
e! Science News

Islamic banking attracting people’s attention
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Sirajul Haq has said that Islam is a complete code of life and offers solution to every aspect of human life. “Finance is a vital part of our daily life. We will be more comfortable if spend our lives according to Islamic laws,” he said this while addressing the launching ceremony of The Bank of Khyber (BOK) Raast Islamic Banking.
The Nation

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