The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

After Death Threats, Bangladeshi Atheist Relocates to U.S.

An internationally renowned atheist activist has relocated from India to the U.S. after receiving death threats from an extremist group that has claimed responsibility for at least one of three machete killings of South Asian atheists this year.

Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi gynecologist, novelist, and poet, arrived in New York state on May 27. The move was orchestrated by the Center for Inquiry, an organization that promotes secularism and has been working with atheist activists in countries where atheism is unprotected by blasphemy laws.

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Could Charlie Hebdo Have Been Prevented if France Allowed Religious Instruction?

The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings has recently moved from the streets of Paris to the classrooms of France, where teachers, students, and policymakers confront religion and free speech.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons and January’s subsequent rally of support for the satirical magazine revealed France’s full support for freedom of expression. This freedom includes satire: portraits mocking Muhammad, sometimes clothed, sometimes nude. But while France shares an enthusiasm for “free speech” found among other nations, it lacks one aspect of culture found in most countries: religious education.

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Music Chief for Pope’s Philly Mass Quits in Dispute with Archbishop Chaput

The head of liturgical music for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who was also to play a key role orchestrating the huge outdoor Mass concluding Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S. in September, is resigning his post over long-standing differences with Archbishop Charles Chaput.

John Romeri, who has headed the archdiocesan liturgical music office for five years, said that he will resign effective June 30 because “there are simply irreconcilable differences” with Chaput over the role and style of music at Mass.

Romeri did not respond to requests for comment, and it was unclear whether he would still play a role in preparations for the papal visit.

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Land of the Free, Home of the Weird

The Wild West as we imagine it is a bit of a sham, of course — constructed in part by people living there even at the time, who would stage train robberies and trick out saloons to thrill adventure-seeking, money-dropping East Coasters.

It’s a cartoonized myth, the kind perfectly suited to the sort of theme park that America today leads the world in delivering. This could cause even greater skepticism about our present surroundings — but really, is there great romantic difference between a bygone West of restaurants and wagon paraphernalia and a tribute West of all that plus a water park? We agree that this is the story we’re telling and we go with it; to delight ourselves and each other, to give ourselves an origin story, a reason for what it’s all for.

I should mention it is Memorial Day weekend. National holidays share a similarly constructed myth in our collective nostalgia, I think, and Memorial Day has come further than most from its original purpose. 

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Buddhism and Christianity: On Grief, Mandalas, and Resurrection

The early Christians had to deal with the loss of their most important mandala — the one they called their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Isn’t Christianity weird? I mean, Christians revere Jesus the Messiah, the King. That’s weird because the one Christians revere as the incarnate word of God was killed. He became a victim of human violence. 

How do you atone for that? How do you reconcile with the fact that the one whom Christians worship became a victim of human violence? 

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Evidence for the Abnormality of Violence

The faces of children show us just how foreign to human nature violence actually is. Children shrink from violence. They withdraw inside of themselves, and the face they turn outward to the world is one stripped of their personalities. They lose their affect, are unable to smile or respond to overtures from others. I suppose if you think that joyless, lifeless, blank stares are “normal,” then violence can be thought of as essential to normal human functioning. But if you think that children like this are abnormal — in other words, if you think that violence has prevented them from developing normally — then it’s fair to conclude that violence is anathema to human life and therefore cannot be part of our DNA. Violent behavior must be contingent, just one possibility among others in the vast repertoire of human behaviors. One we can opt for or opt out of as we choose. A choice that a careful study of mimetic theory forces us to face.

 
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Vatican Defends Australian Cardinal Against Charges He Disregarded Pedophile Priests

The Vatican threw its support behind its financial chief, Cardinal George Pell, on June 1, after he was accused of being “almost sociopathic” in his handling of clergy sex abuse by a leading member of a papal commission dedicated to tackling the issue.

The Vatican spoke out after commission member Peter Saunders, who was abused by a priest as a child, claimed Pell had not done enough to tackle pedophile priests when the cardinal was Australia’s leading cleric.

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British Jews Object to Ultra-Orthodox Sect’s Decree Banning Women from Driving

Two prominent leaders of England’s Jewish community and a representative of the chief rabbi have joined in repudiating rabbis from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in London that have banned women from driving.

Rabbis from the small Belz community have decreed that as of August children would not be allowed to study if their mothers drive them to school.

The decree was motivated out of a desire to keep “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp,” the rabbis said, according to a report in The Jewish Chronicle.

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More Catholics, but Fewer Receiving Sacraments: New Report Maps Changing Church

A new report mapping the Catholic Church’s more than 1.2 billion souls — on track to reach 1.64 billion by 2050 — holds some surprises.

And not all bode well for the church’s future as it faces major demographic and social shifts.

Global Catholicism: Trends & Forecasts,” released June 1 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, looks at seven regions of the world. It wraps the United States, Mexico, and Canada in with Central and South America as simply the Americas.

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At Middlebury College, Muslim Chaplaincy Is a Husband and Wife Affair

Many of the country’s most prestigious universities have hired Muslim chaplains in recent years to offer spiritual support to their Muslim students. Middlebury College, one of America’s oldest liberal arts schools, outmatched them all.

The small rural Vermont school hired Beau Latif Scurich and his wife, Naila Baloch, in the summer of 2014 to share the full-time Muslim chaplaincy position.

The 30-somethings, who were previously chaplains at Tufts and Northeastern universities, are the first married couple to share a full-time Muslim chaplaincy position at a U.S. college.

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