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Who Bombed the Boston Marathon?

Who Bombed the Boston Marathon?

By MARK JUERGENSMEYER, Religion Dispatches…..Most of the suspicions point towards right-wing extremist Christian Patriot groups. They are exactly the kind of movement that might be attracted to make its mark on a liberal anti-gun crowd on what many have noted is Massachusetts’ Patriots’ Day. The 26-mile course of the marathon was meant to honor the 26 victims of the Newtown school shooting, with a different victim recognized at each mile marker.

Spiritual-Not-Religious or Just Lazy?

Spiritual-Not-Religious or Just Lazy?

By KATE BLANCHARD, Religion Dispatches…..One recent scientific study draws a link between mental illness and lazy spirituality—and some atheists scorn others for not having the courage to come out and admit what they really are. “Today’s secularists must do more than mount defensive campaigns proclaiming that we can be ‘good without God,’” writes one author;

Papal Retirement: A Matter of Conscience

Papal Retirement: A Matter of Conscience

The unexpected announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a welcome breath of fresh air. A human being, even a pope, ought to have the option to say enough is enough, I have done what I can do, and now it is time for someone else to take over. I applaud his move and read it as a sign of hope in a dreary ecclesial scene….Conscience, Benedict reminds us today, is still primary for Catholics. Examination of conscience: that is just the formula millions of us use to explain why we use birth control, enjoy our sexuality in a variety of ways, and see enormous good in other religious traditions. Conscience is the ultimate arbiter, and the Pope relied on his. Good on him, and good on the rest of us.

Pledging Virginity to Dad: A New Doc Explores the World of ‘Purity Balls’

Pledging Virginity to Dad: A New Doc Explores the World of ‘Purity Balls’

By Jessica Valenti, Religion Dispatches….
As I watched Virgin Tales, a Swiss documentary about purity balls—dances where young girls pledge their virginities to their dads—I thought of my father often. Because the most compelling focus of the film wasn’t the events themselves, but the way in which one family’s dynamic can reveal so much about American culture and politics.
Filmmaker Mirjam von Arx follows the Colorado Springs-based Wilson family whose patriarch, Randy, invented purity balls. Von Arx focuses on one daughter in particular, Jordyn. (The Wilsons have five daughter and two sons.) Jordyn is college-aged but not in college. “I want to be a wife and a mother,” she says, “I would hate to go off and spend thousands of dollars on an education that I wouldn’t use.”

Commands of the Blood

Commands of the Blood

Often referred to as Hitler’s theoretician or Hitler’s philosopher, Alfred Rosenberg codified much of the anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, and anti-Communist rhetoric which Hitler used to legitimize his political agenda. Rosenberg’s most significant text, The Myth of the 20th Century: An Evaluation of the Spiritual-Intellectual Confrontations of our Age, was revered, at least superficially, by the Reich as second only to Mein Kampf as embodying the mythical and ideological frame for Hitler’s Germany. According to Rosenberg, for races around the world, blood was fate. Physical, intellectual, and spiritual characteristics were the products of blood. According to Rosenberg, there was no redemption for the ‘lesser’ races… their blood made them the natural enemies of the Aryan Volk… their blood had sealed their fate.

What Should the Vatican Say to the (Last Generation of) Nuns?

What Should the Vatican Say to the (Last Generation of) Nuns?

By Peter Manseau, Religion Dispatches….
I grew up around nuns. My mother had left the convent five years before I was born, but all through my childhood our home was often visited by her “convent buddies,” a dozen or so women who had formed enduring friendships as novices or professed sisters of the Roman Catholic religious orders they had joined as teenagers. Daughters of immigrants from Irish and Italian enclaves, many of them had become sisters for reasons not just of faith, but of education and opportunity. The convent to them had been an unlikely part of the American dream.

By the time I met them, some of these women had left religious life, having shed their habits in the late 1960s, as my mother had, as if to feel more of the breeze blowing after Vatican II famously “opened the windows of the Church.”

Coming Out As a Heretic

Coming Out As a Heretic

By Kate Blanchard, Religion Dispatches…..
I could very much relate to the recent NPRstory about a Christian minister losing her faith. Like her, I once counted myself among the über-faithful but then “fell away” in my twenties. Despite marrying a clergyman and spending lots of time in theological school, I never made it back to the one true way. But there is a major difference in my story and this minister’s story, which is that she has embraced the name “atheist,” while I cannot bring myself to do so.

We Are All Nuns

We Are All Nuns

By Mary E. Hunt, Religion Dispatches….
When it comes to the Vatican’s crackdown on women religious, I believe it’s time to declare that for the purpose of this struggle:we are all nuns. If you can spell Catholic, you are probably asking: how dare they go after 57,000 dedicated women whose median age is well over 70 and who work tirelessly for a more just world? How dare the very men who preside over a Church in utter disgrace due to sexual misconduct and cover-ups by bishops try to distract from their own problems by creating new ones for women religious? While this story is focused on nuns, it doesn’t stop there.

Not All Choice is Free: Why demand religious exemption for contraception, but not the death penalty, torture, or unjust war?

Not All Choice is Free: Why demand religious exemption for contraception, but not the death penalty, torture, or unjust war?

By Louis A. Ruprecht, Religion Dispatches….
On November 2, 1984, Velma Barfield became the first woman to be executed in the U.S. since 1962, and the first to be executed in the State of North Carolina after the nationwide moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 1976. She was 52 years old. For those of us who had worked on her clemency petition, it was a devastating blow. Then-Governor Jim Hunt was running for a seat in the US Senate against arch-conservative Jesse Helms. Inexplicably, Barfield’s clemency hearing had been scheduled just six days prior to the election. Helms made it a campaign issue, of course, suggesting that, were the Governor to grant Barfield clemency, then his true liberal stripes would be clear to everyone.

Why Do Southerners Call Mormonism a Cult? A brief history of anti-Mormonism

Why Do Southerners Call Mormonism a Cult? A brief history of anti-Mormonism

By Joanna Brooks, Religion Dispatches….
Patrick Mason is the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University and author of The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South(Oxford University Press, 2011). He is the nation’s leading scholarly expert on anti-Mormonism. I spoke with him this morning about the controversy surrounding Mormonism at last weekend’s Values Voter Summit.

A Further Note on Cronus and Chronos

A Further Note on Cronus and Chronos

By Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr., Georgia State University…..
I recently published a piece at “Religion Dispatches” about the Roman winter festival called Saturnalia. A commentator noted that I had inadvertently confused (or rather, conflated) two very different divinities in that piece: namely, the Greek figures of Cronus and Chronos. I was grateful for the opportunity this provided to say what I should have said then with a bit more care and clarity, and the detail of these reflections seems perfectly suited to the non-at-all nerdy audience at “Religion Nerd.” So here goes. Greek and Roman religions were religions without canonical scriptures; their mythology is notoriously complex and, to modern eyes, often contradictory.

RICK PERRY: THE REPUBLICAN JUDAS?

RICK PERRY: THE REPUBLICAN JUDAS?

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
In an essay I recently published at “Religion Dispatches,” I used Gary Laderman’s fascinating concept of “Republicanicity” as the launch-pad for the suggestion that what separates developments in the Republican Party from anything happening among the Democrats is simply this: the Republican Party is undergoing a battle to define its orthodoxy, a battle that has no direct parallel to arguments and power-struggles taking place on the political left. In short, a plurality of voices, sharing little more than a name in common, is currently in the process of sorting out a platform to which all bearers of the name might reasonably agree.

“Who Was Muhammad, Was He Violent?”: Teaching Islam Ten Years after 9/11

“Who Was Muhammad, Was He Violent?”: Teaching Islam Ten Years after 9/11

By Abbas Barzegar, Religion Dispatches…..
As millions of college students around the country begin the start of another school year most will encounter events, programming, and curriculum built around the tenth year anniversary of 9/11. Content will include paying honored respects to the victims and their families as well as interpreting the impact of the attacks on our nation’s history and identity. The events ten years ago will remain the defining moment of my generation and understanding how those events continue to shape the social and political landscape of our nation will be the responsibility of educators, politicians, and citizens alike. As a professor of Islamic studies I will entertain a related (even if unwarranted) set of issues in the classroom because, whether we like it or not, Islam has become an indelible part of the culture and consciousness of 9/11. Ironically, the questions I regularly encounter have not actually changed much over the last ten years: Who was Muhammad, was he violent? What is Jihad? Why the scarves?

Is Norway’s Suspected Murderer Anders Breivik a Christian Terrorist?

Is Norway’s Suspected Murderer Anders Breivik a Christian Terrorist?

By Mark Juergensmeyer, Religion Dispatches…..
The similarities between suspected mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh are striking. Both were good-looking young Caucasians, self-enlisted soldiers in an imagined cosmic war to save Christendom. Both thought their acts of mass destruction would trigger a great battle to rescue society from the liberal forces of multiculturalism that allowed non-Christians and non-whites positions of acceptability. Both regretted the loss of life but thought their actions were “necessary.” For that they were staunchly unapologetic. And both were Christian terrorists.