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Religion, Lately: Doing Halloween Biblically, Ghosts v. Religion,  and Cannabis for Shiva

Religion, Lately: Doing Halloween Biblically, Ghosts v. Religion, and Cannabis for Shiva

By Kenny Smith…This year’s Halloween’s top-ten Biblically themed costumes? Pharaoh, Naughty Nun, Priest with Enormous Erection (cleverly packaged as “Keeping Up The Faith”), and of course Zombie Nuns (said to be marked down 20%!). What do practicing witches actually think about Halloween? Some hate it. Some love it. In Mumbai, Wiccans used the holiday Samhain (also on October 31) as an occasion for casting protective spells for the benefit of women in India. And while many continue to lump Wiccans. Pagans, and Satanists together, Real Housewives of Beverley Hills’ Carlton Gebbia stakes out a religious identity not reducible to any of these exactly: “I’m Celtic, which is my ancestry. And I practice witchcraft. My grandmother was a Pagan… There’s no one defined answer.”

Constructing the Religious Worlds of Others

Constructing the Religious Worlds of Others

By Kenny Smith…As the noted scholar of American religious history, R. Laurence Moore, once wrote, “if you do not commodify your own religion” – that is, if you do not transform its teachings, practices, and material culture, into products to be bought and sold in the marketplace of culture – “don’t worry, someone will do it for you.” Examples abound, most especially when it comes to the religious goods of indigenous peoples, such as dream-catchers or the mystical self-help teachings of shaman. Such religious wares are commonly re-packaged and re-imagined in a strikingly generic form, nicely compatible with the varied preferences of shoppers in the spiritual marketplace.

Religion, Lately: Pagan Prides, Occupy Judaism, Atheist Missionaries, and Evangelical Apathy

Religion, Lately: Pagan Prides, Occupy Judaism, Atheist Missionaries, and Evangelical Apathy

By Kenny Smith

With the Autumn equinox behind us, Wiccan and Pagan communities look to Pagan Pride.In Pennsylvania, a distinctive approach features crystals, pre-Christian deities, and “a cauldron in which to boil children,” poking fun at popular misconceptions. Similar efforts, sans cauldrons, are ongoing in communities across the U.S.“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” newest cast-member, Carlton Gebbia, comes out of the broom closet, discussing publicly her practice of Wicca.

Bieber, Beliebers and Anne Frank

Bieber, Beliebers and Anne Frank

By Gary Laderman, Huff Post Religion…..Imaging Anne Frank as a “Belieber,” taking her out of her horrific and incomprehensible historical circumstances and placing her in the pop world of contemporary entertainment, especially in the fandom surrounding a mediocre teenybopper-cum-serious young adult performer, is a profanation of the worst kind to many critics. She is an icon, a heroic figure who figures so prominently and nobly in the histories and popular imagination associated with the rise of Nazis and the extermination of Jews. For Bieber to “belieb” this about Frank, to even think the thought, is both outrageous and offensive.

The “Business” of Being Christian: The Ethics of Usury

The “Business” of Being Christian: The Ethics of Usury

By Kate Daley-Bailey….
For thousands of years, the Christian Church has identified “usury” as a sin… however various theologians and scholars living within these thousands of years disagreed over exactly what “usury” was and was not. A brief exploration of the term “usury” (and its multiple manifestations) may lead us to a better understanding of what was actually being prohibited by various religious communities, especially Christian ones.

Freethinking in the words of CJ Werleman

Freethinking in the words of CJ Werleman

By Michel-Camille Bordeau….
CJ: Absolutely the Bible is a dangerous book if you do what God commands you to do. For example, if my daughter says, “God damn it!” I’m to take her to the edge of the town and bash her brains out with large rocks. If I wish to sell my daughter into sexual slavery, not only does the Bible not say there’s anything wrong with that, it gives commercial terms and conditions for doing such a thing. When we look at places like tribal Pakistan, for example, there they routinely execute people for blasphemy, a victimless crime. Now, are they barbaric, evil people? No they’re not. In fact, according to biblical law, of which the Koran is based, they’re more pious and pleasing to God than those who ignore that command. When people become cognizant of these kinds of issues, people realize this ancient book has no relevancy in today’s times.

Terry Jones and Free Speech

Terry Jones and Free Speech

Terry Jones has a right to free speech, regardless of how repugnant. Just as I lauded the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Snyder vs. Phelps, I will stand beside Terry Jones (way far away!) to protect his right to free speech. Any limitation on his free speech is a limit on my free speech. The government has no business telling anyone what to say or not to say. The First Amendment to the Constitution explicitly states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” How difficult is that to understand?

Averting Your Eyes: The Devastating Consequences of Ignoring Women’s Rights

Averting Your Eyes: The Devastating Consequences of Ignoring Women’s Rights

Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio, State of Formation….
Jerusalem’s Old City when a bearded man with narrow eyes reached out his hand and tried to grab my breast. I did not know him. I had not made eye contact. I was not acting provocatively—in fact, despite a heat wave that added insult to the already injurious desert summer, I was burning up in the long-sleeved shirt and ankle-length skirt that’s customary for the region. In response, the man with whom I was traveling reached out and struck the stranger’s hand, causing him to trip sideways into the crowd.

A Wiccan Perspective on Satan, Evil, and all that Biblical Stuff

A Wiccan Perspective on Satan, Evil, and all that Biblical Stuff

By Lady Arsinoe…..
The Wiccan idea of evil is vastly different from that of the Abrahamic religions. Wicca is a nature-oriented spiritual path that tends to focus inside ourselves and then outward to our relationship with the Universe. We do not see evil as being something outside or “other”. As a result, Wiccans have no convenient excuse for ill behavior; there is no “the Devil made me do it!” in Wicca. Evil exists only because mankind has evil tendencies. Wiccans understand that we, as human beings, are responsible for our own actions. No outside Deity of Good or Evil makes us do anything. We see humans acting out of Good or Evil because humans want to, and we reap the benefits or consequences of our actions accordingly. We see everything we do as coming back to us according to the Threefold Law: whatever energies we put out into the world comes back to us threefold, be it for good or ill.

The Presbyterian-Jewish Divide that Need Never Be

The Presbyterian-Jewish Divide that Need Never Be

By Joshua Stanton, Huffington Post….
I still profoundly admire Wiesenthal and the Wiesenthal Center. But I worry that a recent op-ed written by two of its leaders, Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, goes against the very pursuit of justice that the center so firmly embraces. Entitled “Presbyterians Against Israel: Liberal Protestants are engaging in historical revisionism concerning Jews and the Holy Land,” its strong suit is certainly not understatement. But by labeling an entire Christian denomination “anti-Israel,” it may prove far more damaging.

Seeing the Lord’s Prayer in a New Light

Seeing the Lord’s Prayer in a New Light

By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times
Crossan calls the Lord’s Prayer “a prayer from the heart of Judaism on the lips of Christianity for the conscience of the world.” To understand it, he said, it is necessary to comprehend the culture in which it was written, that of 1st century Judaism. The prayer appears in the New Testament twice, in slightly different forms: In Matthew 6:9-13, and in Luke, 11:2-4. In both cases, it is delivered by Jesus, which helps explain the revered status it holds.

The Burning Bush They’ll Buy, but Not ESP or Alien Abduction

The Burning Bush They’ll Buy, but Not ESP or Alien Abduction

By Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times
Practically anything goes at the American Academy of Religion’s annual conference, where scholars of dozens of religions convene annually to debate, relate and on occasion mate. Conversation ranges from the Talmud to tantra, from Platonism to Satanism. This year, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 in Atlanta, nearly 5,000 people attended panels including “Seeking New Meanings of God and Dao” and “Madness, Smallpox, and Death in Tibet.”

The Good News of Star Visitors, Part I

The Good News of Star Visitors, Part I

By Kenny Smith….
The Star Visitor races who have commented on the concept of God… uniformly affirm that they, too accept the reality of what Earthlings call God. However, the God they affirm is not the anthropomorphic or patriarchal figure of many Earth religions, but more of a Supreme Source – a transcendent matrix of Consciousness, which underlies everything, and is that which gives essence and specificity to everything, which in turn is a partial manifestation of the Supreme Source. In more experiential terms, the Star Visitors have taken experiencers [those with have had first-hand contact with ETs] and shown them God. The experiencers typically described being in the presence of intense, overwhelmingly brilliant light from which emanates incredibly intense love, such that the experiencer feels lost in the infinite love.

The Role of Happiness in the World Religions

The Role of Happiness in the World Religions

By April L. Bogle, Huffington Post
It’s hard to deny that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and the world’s most famous Buddhist, is the also world’s foremost expert on happiness. He clearly states in writings that seeking happiness is the very purpose of life, and he’s dedicated his life to learning how to be happy and sharing this knowledge with others. But what about other major religious traditions? Is happiness a good thing, or bad? To be sought in this life, or the next?