Religion

Charles L. Howard 02-24-2017

We do not believe the same thing. We are Abrahamic siblings, yes, and deeply connected in important ways, but our faiths, theology, practice, histories, views on God are different. 

But love.

After sessions on gravitational waves, nuclear forensics, and artificial intelligence, one of the world’s largest general science conferences invited attendees to hear from an Episcopal priest.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper preached on climate change, and how to get a vast segment of the world’s population to pay better attention to what scientists know but many others doubt: that the problem is worsening and portends disaster.

“My entreaty for scientists is to be able to speak publicly about why you care,” said Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, an interfaith nonprofit that aims to galvanize religious people to safeguard the environment.

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“We stand in a long tradition of radical hospitality. From the underground railroad to this very day, we have welcomed the stranger, sheltered the refugee, offered safe home, resisted racism, fear, and exclusion. We will not be silent if families are torn apart, children terrified, parents detained. We are not accomplices to hate or reactionary fear. Our calling is to love and justice and faithful resistance. We will open our hearts, we will open our doors, to those who face the threat of deportation. All are welcome, period.” – The Rev. Victoria Safford, lead minister, White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Mahtomedi, Minn.

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While the Iraqi conflict is far from over — a battle is now raging in the strategic city of Mosul, although government forces have gained ground against Islamic State militants — Mirkis focused many of his remarks on how to heal his deeply divided country.

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Curtis thought there would be a few still shots taken of their meeting in an otherwise empty City Council chamber. But a video was made instead, showing the two men stretching, twisting, and wrapping a scarlet cloth on the mayor’s head. 

At the end, Pandher breaks into Bhangra — a traditional folk dance from the Punjab region — and Curtis gamely follows, despite his portly figure and business suit. 

The video ricocheted around Canada and then overseas via BBC News. It has been viewed more than 4.5 million times. 

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Religion is increasingly viewed as highly politicized, not least due to the way that it is frequently covered in the newsNumerous studies have shown that news stories with emotional cues tend to both gain audience attention and prolong audience engagement.

It may therefore come as no surprise that online debates about religion are packed with emotional cues that evoke strong reactions from those who participate in them. This sets the stage for passionate online debates.

Image via Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Since coming to power in 2012, the government has made abortion completely free as part of the National Health Service, scrapped a requirement that a woman must be “in distress” to obtain permission to abort, and dropped a weeklong “reflection period” between applying for and carrying out an abortion. It decided to act again in part because several anti-abortion sites were found to be ranked higher on search engines than the government’s own abortion information site. Although their home pages appear to be neutral, the sites and their advice hotlines — run mostly by Catholic anti-abortion activists — are on closer inspection clearly against abortion and stress the physical and psychological damage they say the procedure can cause. 

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When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act on Dec. 16, the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.

But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.

Alexandra Markovich 11-03-2016

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A population exchange with Turkey after World War I brought in over a million ethnic Greeks as refugees. When the new migration crisis began last year, there was empathy for the new arrivals, with many Greeks recalling what their grandparents went through.

But even given that proud history, academics and volunteers fear that the warm welcome of the last year could wear thin, when the refugees start to integrate in a nation that has long resisted a multifaith identity.

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Pope Francis leaves on Monday, Oct. 31 for an overnight trip to Sweden, a historically Protestant country that today is one of the most secular in the world.

The visit is to mark the start of observances of next year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which traditionally dates from Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a German cathedral.

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Now, Donoghue, 47, has written The Wonder, a story based on “fasting girls” — a crop of pre-adolescent Victorians, some of them religiously motivated, who seemed to survive for months or years on no food and little water. Some were revealed as frauds, some gave up their fast, while others wasted away while family, friends, doctors, and clergy watched.

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Amazigh was one of 125 queer Muslim activists and allies who came together for The Inner Circle’s seven-day Annual International Retreat, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21, in South Africa. The gathering focused on “building a movement towards an all-inclusive and compassion-centered Islam,” a mammoth task for attendees like Amazigh who live in countries where homosexuality and transgender expression are often taboo and criminalized.

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Scholars of Dylan — and they are legion, with many offering entire courses on the singer’s record catalog — have long highlighted the religious imagery of his work. From Old Testament references in “All Along the Watchtower” (1967) and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (1976) to the New Testament basis of “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979) and the spiritual yearning of “Thunder on the Mountain” (2006), Dylan’s lyrics and music have long reflected his own restless, seeking soul.

09-30-2016

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The members had no idea that word of their efforts to start the Islamic Center of Nashville had reached Yusuf Islam, the famous British musician and Muslim convert also known as Cat Stevens, until his check arrived in the mail.

“I was thinking, ‘What a miracle,’” said Elberry, who was a Vanderbilt University graduate student from Egypt at the time.

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The study comes in the same year that Larycia Hawkins — Wheaton College’s first black, female professor to receive tenure — parted ways with the evangelical flagship school after she posted on Facebook that both Christians and Muslims worship the “same God.” The controversy stirred fresh debate among evangelicals about whether all religions worship the same God, and whether God accepts the worship of all religions.

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Summer’s gone, and with it the breezier reading of the beach and the hammock. In its place comes a more serious reading list — more literary, less lightweight. Here are seven books where religion plays a role — though not a proselytizing or a self-help one — to read between the falling leaves.

 

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A quarter of U.S. adults do not affiliate with any religion, a new study shows — an all-time high in a nation where large swaths of Americans are losing faith.

But while these so-called “nones” outnumber any religious denomination, they are not voting as a bloc, and may have little collective influence on the upcoming presidential election.

The rapid growth of the religiously unaffiliated, charted in a survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute on Sept. 22, is raising eyebrows even among those who follow trends in American religiosity.

Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock

Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock

IN 2000, sophomore Onaje X.O. Woodbine was Yale basketball’s leading scorer and one of the top 10 players in the Ivy League. From the outside it must have seemed like a dream come true for a young man who grew up playing street ball in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.

But Woodbine felt isolated and excluded by the white players on the team, troubled by what he’s described as “a locker-room culture that encouraged misogyny,” and hungry to focus on his studies and wrestle with deeper philosophical and theological questions. So he quit basketball.

Woodbine eventually returned to the courts of his youth as a researcher, studying the practice and culture of street basketball for his doctoral studies in religion at Boston University. Woodbine is the author of Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball (Columbia University Press) and a teacher of philosophy and religious studies at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. He spoke with Sojourners senior associate editor Julie Polter in May.

Julie Polter: What led you to study street basketball from a religion scholarship angle?

Onaje X.O. Woodbine: When I was 12 years old, I lost my coach. He was my father figure; I didn’t have my father for most of my early childhood. It was just devastating.

I went to the court the next day to look for him. I felt his presence in that space. It was really the only place, looking back, where I felt safe, I felt whole, where I felt like my inner life was valuable, where there was a whole community whose interest was in my growth as a human being.

Paul Wallace 05-04-2016
Seth Ryan

Seth Ryan / Shutterstock

[Editor's note: This article is excerpted from Stars Beneath Us: Finding God in the Evolving Cosmos by Paul Wallace copyright (c) 2016 Fortress Press. Reproduced by permission of Augsburg Fortress. No further reproduction allowed without the written permission of Augsburg Fortress.] 

WHAT ARE WE to do with an obsolete God?

We have options. We could, as I did for a while, put God aside. ... We can try, but I’m pretty sure that God is the question that won’t go away. Silence it here and it will pop up over there. It may show up as worship of science, or the economy, or a political cause, or ego, or an addiction, or sex, or a fellow human being—or whatever, but show up it will. Some humanists and atheists have expressed contempt for religious believers’ worship of God. They ask, Why worship anything at all? One online interlocutor once asked me, “How can you put the word ‘worship’ on your signs? Isn’t that demeaning?” I replied, “No, it is truth in advertising. We all worship something.” I am convinced that not all worship is true worship, but I am equally convinced that religious believers at least acknowledge that worship is simply what all people, religious and otherwise, do. There’s nothing for it but to accept it and make the best of it.

We could also try to build a new God out of the raw materials of science itself. It’s hard to disagree with Ralph Waldo Emerson when he writes, “Nothing is great but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only some surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep.” Isn’t the cosmos astounding, and isn’t the wonder it stirs in us something akin to a religious feeling? Yes and yes. Without such feelings there would be no religion at all. But are such feelings enough? Is the mind-blowing order and complexity and diversity and beauty of the cosmos sufficient to slake our religious thirst? For some it may be and I can nearly, but not quite, imagine how it could be enough for me.

Image via Keith Bernstein/HBO/RNS

Game of Thrones, the engrossing, sometimes disturbing, always exciting TV series returns for a sixth season Sunday night on HBO. The network is not releasing screeners, so it’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen. But one thing you can bet on — the television show, like the books by George R.R. Martin they are based on, involve storylines with religious elements. Considering where some of those stories left off, religion may come further to the fore in the new season. Here’s a primer on a few of the religions of Westeros, the imagined, medieval-inflected world of Game of Thrones.

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