By Kenny Smith…In California, a holiday ad featuring a Sikh gentleman with his shirt partially unbuttoned in close proximity to a (seemingly amorous) female model has drawn mixed reactions from Sikh communities worldwide. Some see it as a “breakthrough” for American Sikhs, who have frequently been mistaken for Muslims in acts of religious violence and discrimination. Others have complained that, because the “Gap shamelessly decided to run this lusty ad for one of its front-line posters… [p]eople are going to think Sikhs are playboys. We were taught by our Sikh gurus that we were to be married, and the sexy model isn’t married to him.”
In Washington, evangelicals are appealing to the divine for help on immigration reform. As CNN explains, “the group that has been behind immigration reform on Capitol Hill… asks people to pray for Boehner and House Republican leadership on immigration reform and urge those leaders to listen to their prayers.”
In Papua New Guinea, and in ways reminiscent of the Taliban’s destruction of Buddhist statues on the grounds that they were un-Islamic, evangelical Christians “are believed to behind the destruction of Papua New Guinea parliament’s cultural artefacts, labelling them ‘satanic.’ Totem poles and carved heads on the lintel of PNG’s parliament representing the country’s different cultures” were, apparently, carved into bits with a chainsaw.
In England, the nation’s Supreme Court has overturned a legal definition of “religion” that has been in place for nearly 160 years. Rather than linking the term to ‘belief in and worship of a divine being,’ the court now understands “religion” as a “spiritual or non-secular belief system which claims to explain mankind’s place in the universe and relationship with the infinite and give people guidance on life.” No doubt that will clearly things up just fine. The new definition comes in the larger context of a Supreme Court decision which classifies Scientology as a “religion,” at least insofar as the conducting of weddings is concerned (tax breaks may turn out to be another matter entirely).
A forthcoming documentary film, Dreadlock Story, explores the cultural similarities between Rastafari in Jamaica and Hindus in India.
In Vancouver, Canada, a local billboard company refused an atheist advertisement reading, “Praying won’t help. Doing will,” and “Without God. We’re all good.” Elsewhere, in some thirteen countries (though not Canada), a recent study shows, atheism is punishable by the death penalty. Might Americans someday elect an atheist President? One writer thinks so.
And at the always intriguing e-zine, Patheos, another writer dreams wistfully of a Pagan or Druid College in contemporary America which, it is concluded, will be a long time coming.