We’ve said it before and will probably say it again, there just isn’t anything that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes that we shouldn’t all be reading. This week, “Letter to My Son” an excerpt from his upcoming (even sooner than expected!) book, Between the World and Me. You can hear him read from more of the book here.

My only Mecca was, is, and shall always be Howard University. This Mecca, My Mecca—The Mecca—is a machine, crafted to capture and concentrate the dark energy of all African peoples and inject it directly into the student body. The Mecca derives its power from the heritage of Howard University, which in Jim Crow days enjoyed a near-monopoly on black talent. And whereas most other historically black schools were scattered like forts in the great wilderness of the old Confederacy, Howard was in Washington, D.C.—Chocolate City—and thus in proximity to both federal power and black power. I first witnessed this power out on the Yard, that communal green space in the center of the campus where the students gathered and I saw everything I knew of my black self multiplied out into seemingly endless variations. There were the scions of Nigerian aristocrats in their business suits giving dap to bald-headed Qs in purple windbreakers and tan Timbs. There were the high-yellow progeny of A.M.E. preachers debating the clerics of Ausar-Set. There were California girls turned Muslim, born anew, in hijab and long skirt. There were Ponzi schemers and Christian cultists, Tabernacle fanatics and mathematical geniuses. It was like listening to a hundred different renditions of “Redemption Song,” each in a different color and key. And overlaying all of this was the history of Howard itself. I knew that I was literally walking in the footsteps of all the Toni Morrisons and Zora Neale Hurstons, of all the Sterling Browns and Kenneth Clarks, who’d come before.

And we know we’re biased, but it really is a good idea to keep up with anything (The Revealer’s founding editor) Jeff Sharlet is doing. Case in point: “The Invisible Man: The End of a Black Life That Mattered” from this month’s issue of GQ.

Now it is a month later. April 4, 2015. The long Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In the Christian time in which Line lives it is the day after the killing, the day the dead don’t rise. Her brother came back from the dead once, but there will be no more resurrections. She keels forward. Her voice goes hollow and high like I’ve not heard it in hours of talking, not even through other bouts of tears. “I put my hand on my head!” And she does, now. “She’s sick!” she says. She’s talking about her mother, who’s now sobbing. And then Heleine, a regal woman in a magnificent Cameroonian yellow dress, reaches over and grips her daughter’s knee.

And now, for this week’s news

(Don’t have much time? You can skip to your favorite subject here: CHRISTIANITY, SATANISM, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, JUDAISM, BUDDHISM, ISLAM, HINDUISM, SCIENTOLOGY, THE END):


We can’t think of anyone better to read after a Jeff Sharlet article than his Killing the Buddha co-author Peter Manseau. Here’s his latest,”Amazing Grace: Obama Hist A Blue Note in Charleston,” write written for Religion Dispatches.

The unexpected use of song within a spoken sermon is not unlike an ambitious solo that threatens the musical structure around it, but then brings it to a resolution that did not seem possible. Preachers who could pull off such feats from the pulpit, Davis once said, were regarded as the “word magicians” of the community.

Some kind of magic certainly seemed to be required to end a week of mourning with a moment of celebration. It was a moment that depended not only on “Amazing Grace,” but on knowing how to use it.

Another rockstar religion writer, Ann Neumann, guides us into the world of Amish romance novels in “More Titillated Than Thou” for the print version of The Baffler.

And Abby Ohlheiser holds down the religion reporting fort with some comical papal coverage: “The Wind won’t stop messing with Pope Francis’s look.”

Gusts of wind are not your friend when your work outfit involves a flappy cape and a loosely secured hat, as Pope Francis has demonstrated time and time again. Most recently, the pontiff fought the wind (and the wind won) in Ecuador, as he arrived in Latin America for a three-country tour.

(Rodrigo Buendiarodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

When you’re done laughing at his holiness’ wardrobe malfunctions, do read Samira K. Mehta interview with Sara Moslener about her new book “Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence” for Religion in American History.

The gender roles that many evangelical Christians claim are biblical, are based on 19th century constructions of gender. One of the most valued feminine virtues for Victorians was sexual purity, a trait, which they believed, was naturally bestowed upon white women. The work of first-wave feminists wasn’t to deny this God-given attribute, but to use it to assert their moral authority in an effort to expand their political influence.  And they weren’t just being opportunistic, Victorian women reformers, like Frances Willard, believed that women were morally superior to men because they were less controlled by their sexual desire. The 19th century purity movement sought to end prostitution and hold men to the same standard of sexual purity as women.

And if you want another interview, we recommend Hillary Kaell‘s conversation with Gil Anidjar about his most recent book, “Blood: A Critique of Christianity” for The New Books Network.

Blood. It is more than a thing and more than a metaphor. It is an effective concept, an element, with which, and through which, Christianity becomes what it is. Western Christianity – if there is such a thing as “Christianity” singular – embodies a deep hemophilia (a love of blood) and even a hematology (a theology of blood) that divides Christianity from itself: theology from medicine, finance from politics, religion from race, among many other permutations. This is the claim of Gil Anidjar, Professor in the Departments of Religion and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. His recent book, Blood: A Critique of Christianity (Columbia University Press, 2014) is a wide-ranging, challenging monograph that is both searing and poetic, taking the reader on a journey through biblical texts, medieval controversies, and contemporary critical theory. It asks what Anidjar calls “the Christian Question” in order to destabilize taken for granted assumptions about the naturalness of certain categories related to blood and contextualize them instead within the particular history of post-Medieval Christianity.

Oh, and “Jimmy Carter Says Jesus Would Approve of Gay Marriage” reports Ryan Buxton for Huffington Post.

“I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in scripture. … I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else,” he said.

Vice, of course, takes it all further and has Jules Suzdaltsev asking, “Was Jesus Gay?”

VICE: Was Jesus Christ gay?
Bob Shore-Goss: I would hope he is. I would project that he is. For my own spirituality, I would love to jump into bed with Jesus. At the very least, Jesus was queer. That is to say: He broke the rules of his culture, of heteronormativity. He subverted masculinities and gender codes in his culture. Queer doesn’t necessarily mean sexual orientation, but it can include that. St. Paul, I would say, would probably be described as a closeted homosexual today, but they didn’t have those words at the time.

Modified image via Flickr user Waiting for the World

Mitch Kellaway invites us to “Meet the First Trans Pastor Officially Ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church.”

Colorado pastor Asher O’Callaghan, the first out trans person ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s standard ordination process, says members of the church have been living examples of Christlike love and acceptance.

And from J. Bryan Lowder at Slate, “Here Are Some Catholics Who Feel Oppressed by Same-Sex Marriage.”

A group called Catholic Vote has made a video. It is a PSA video about marriage and how the Catholics in the video know what marriage is. They know it is not gay. They know they are sad because other people, important people, have now said it can be gay.

They think that pretending this is a video about “coming out” before revealing their true purpose is clever and profound. They are wrong. It is offensive and stupid. They think that saying they have gay friends will protect them from criticism. They are wrong. I will criticize them, at the very least, for being bad friends. They think that they are being persecuted. They are not. In fact, they have no idea what actual persecution feels like. But sure, let’s “break down all these barriers”—maudlin sanctimony is best treated with fresh air and a dose of perspective.

Speaking of oppression:”Captive virgins, polygamy and sex slaves: What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible” from Valerie Tarico at Alternet.

Feeling scandalized? Never fear. “‘Sin free Facebook’ attracts thousands” reports Zoe Kleinman for BBC News.

There are 600 words which are forbidden on the site and an “Amen” button for expressing appreciation for a post.

Now, for some Mormon news: “Elder: A Mormon Love Story” is an op-doc made by Genéa Gaudet for The New York Times.

Who doesn’t remember a first love? Particularly when it’s forbidden. That moment is captured in this Op-Doc video about Tom Clark, who chronicles his love affair as a young, gay Mormon missionary in 1974.

And The Marginalia Review of Books has released their first episode of a new podcast about religion and politics called “Impolite Conversation” hosted by Tim Hill and Dan Clanton. This week, “Impolite Conversation #1: US Mormons and Secularizing America.”

In this episode, we talk with Quin Monson, co-author of Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons in American Politics, and we chat about a new Pew Religious Landscape Survey that suggests Christianity is losing ground in America to other faiths and to those with no faith at all.

Also from Marginalia, “The Scandal of Silence: on Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Silence: A Christian History.”

Silence is golden. Or is it? In this intriguing survey of the theme of silence in Christian tradition, originally given as Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh in 2012, Diarmaid MacCulloch attempts a characteristic tour de force: he aims to delineate a “pattern behind apparent chaos” in the multiple meanings of silence that the history of Christianity has delivered up over the centuries. The result is a fascinating narrative of events and developments, spiced with theoretic asides and woven together into a thematic tour of the whole spread of Christian tradition. Only someone who writes as stylishly and knowledgeably as MacCulloch could deliver such a tale in the alluring and highly readable way that he does. The book is beautifully constructed and delivered, a pleasure to read throughout.

Lastly, “North Carolina church to fly Christian flag over Old Glory” according to Fox News.

Oh man, you know what Fox News really wouldn’t like?


(Courtesy of Doug Mesner/The Satanic Temple)

Anyone have some spare alter space? Abby Ohlheiser is back, this time, reporting that “The Satanic Temple’s giant statue of a goat-headed god is looking for a home” in The Washington Post.

The Baphomet monument — which, the Temple says, weighs about a ton and is a “sculptural masterpiece” — was originally constructed to sit alongside the Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state capitol’s grounds. But on Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments must come down, meaning that the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet will need a new home.

Callie Beusman explains “Why Satanists Are Fighting America’s Restrictive Abortion Laws” in Vice.

The concept of “pro-abortion Satanists” sounds like the deranged fantasy of a particularly unimaginative conservative politician. They do exist, though, and they have a political agenda: Two weeks ago members of the Satanic Temple filed a federal suit against Missouri’s harsh abortion restrictions, claiming such laws violate their First Amendment right to religious expression.

Which leads us to the perennially relevant topic of:


Emily Bazelon asks: “What Are the Limits of Religious Liberty” for the New York Times Magazine.

Making exceptions to the law for people of faith has become part of the American definition of religious tolerance, part of our ethos of live and let live. It has also helped keep the peace in a polyglot nation. In France, it’s illegal for a Muslim woman to wear a head scarf at a public school. In the United States, it’s illegal for a clothing store to refuse to hire a Muslim woman because she wore a head scarf to her job interview. When the Supreme Court issued that ruling last month, eight of nine justices agreed that Samantha Elauf, who lost out on a job at Abercrombie Kids because of a companywide policy banning head coverings, was asking for ‘‘favored treatment’’ — to which she was entitled by federal employment law. ‘‘This is really easy,’’ Justice Antonin Scalia said, announcing the decision from the bench.

And yet we’ve arrived at an unfortunate impasse over the meaning of religious liberty. Unlike in earlier eras, when religious objections let the faithful separate themselves from institutions they felt they could not support, many conservatives now deploy the phrase as a way of excluding other people.

“Sam Brownback (R-KS) Signs Sweeping Anti-LGBT Executive Order” reports Chris Reeves for Daily Kos.

In an effort to stir up hysteria over continued claims of groups forcing churches to recognize gay couples despite their beliefs, Governor Brownback conflates the public sphere — which has long acknowledged remarriage of Catholic spouses without the church required anulment — with the private religious sphere.

“County Clerk in Kentucky Filmed Denying Gay Marriage License” by Rich Juzwiak for Gawker.

“Will Thor join the Army? Believers still in limbo” reports Kimberly Winston for Religion News Service.

Jeremiah McIntyre wants to be called a Heathen.

The 38-year-old Army sergeant follows the old Norse religion Asatru, in which the god Thor swings his hammer in the sky and Odin rules a heavenly place called Valhalla. Should McIntyre die, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would allow a hammer of Thor on his tombstone.

But the Army does not otherwise currently recognize the active-duty soldier’s faith. He can’t organize or attend Heathen services on base without special permission, he can’t receive prayer or counseling from a Heathen chaplain, and if he were to die in the service he would probably end up with a nondenominational Christian burial.


Shabbat shalom! Here are our favorite articles about Judaism from the last week:

“Which Side Were We On? Kentucky Slavery, Mine Wars and Segregation” from Josh Nathan-Kazis at The Forward.

We don’t like to admit to this part of the American Jewish past. Slave mines don’t comport with the story we like to tell, which goes: Once we were slaves on the Lower East Side, then we marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. across a bridge in Selma, now we walk free down Fifth Avenue on the first Sunday in June at the Celebrate Israel Parade. We were oppressed, and now we’re friends of the oppressed, and when blacks march in New York protesting the death of Eric Garner, or in Baltimore protesting the murder of Freddie Gray, it’s the other sort of white people they’re protesting, not us.

“A Religion of the Text: Ben Bush interviews Joshua Cohen” in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

In Book of Numbers, you show the relation of religion to private space — the burkas in Abu Dhabi, a focus on mummies and entombment — and then the internet as this almost aggressive force that pulls everyone’s lives into public view. What did you see as the relationship between the internet as a hyper-public venue and religion as an often privately veiled space?

I was considering religion through the tradition of orthodoxy. All orthodoxies are the same in the sense that to live your life according to an orthodoxy is akin to having a full-time job: laws govern what you eat, what you wear, the people with whom you surround yourself and your conduct with them. Orthodoxy is meant to surround your life, to build a fence around it — “To build a fence around something” being a Talmudic phrasing meaning to protect and to honor it. Historically, in Judaism, the public eye is the disruptive eye. The eye that is always looking for something wrong.

“An Unpopular Man: Norman Finkelstein was a rock star of the pro-Palestinian movement. Then he came out against BDS.” By Jordan Michael Smith for The New Republic.

Norman Finkelstein is an unpopular man. Norman Finkelstein has always been an unpopular man, but for decades he had a cult following among leftists and supporters of the Palestinian cause. Since coming out in 2012 against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, however, he has alienated his core followers. A few years ago, Finkelstein tells me, he made $40,000 in speaking fees from 80 talks to Palestinian Solidarity groups around North America. “This past year when I went to my accountant, he said, ‘I think there’s a mistake, because there’s only $2,000.” He laughs. “I told him there was no error. He said, ‘What happened?’ I thought to myself: Am I going to explain to him BDS?”

Meanwhile,  “Leader of Christian Zionists tapped to head Adelson’s campus anti-BDS group” reports The Forward and Nathan Guttman.

Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, will head the Campus Maccabees, a new multi-million dollar group funded by Adelson and fellow billionaire Haim Saban. The new organization’s mission will be to fight efforts on college campuses to promote the movement to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel. An official announcement is expected next week, but two sources closely informed of the campus group’s decision-making process have confirmed the information to the Forward

Speaking of Maccabees, have you read Don Jolly‘s latest column: “The Last Twentieth Century Book Club: Our Glorious Brothers“?

For a quite different sort of Israel story, Shira Rubin takes us to the “Land of Pork and Honey” on Slate‘s Roads and Kingdoms.

Marmorstein’s newest venture is Israel’s first American-style barbecue truck (actually, a truck parked inside a restaurant), inspired by the haunts of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A stalwart atheist, he views the truck as part of a larger movement within Israel. He realizes that the hefty showing of pork on the menu repels some potential customers, who continue to see the food as taboo, but hopes that that will soon change. He blames Judaism, which forbids the consumption of pork, for the stark division between Tel Aviv, widely known as a secular “bubble,” and the rest of the country. “Religion ruins everything,” he says without much emotion.

And finally, Philip Eli invites you to “Say Hello to the Internet’s Biggest Jewish Stars” at The Forward.

So it’s only natural, then, that the Internet would have a flock of talented, resourceful, sometimes-controversial Jews who have found ways to harness its “series of tubes” (in the immortal words of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens) to achieve fame, acclaim and financial success. And while Internet Week may have ended a while ago (May 24) and we’re still a couple of months away from Internet Day (October 29), there’s never a bad time to meet these Members of the Tribe driving today’s digital conversation.


You know who else is pretty big on the Internet? The Dalai Lama.

“California Birthday Celebrations Reinforce Dalai Lama’s Global Presence” according to Robert Barnett interviewed on NPR.

BARNETT: Yes, we’re definitely seeing signals from him to show that his base is not just India, that as he grows older, he’s spending more time in other parts of the world, just to reinforce that he has a kind of global footprint. But I think he’s being quite careful here not to be in a major city or in the capital. So he’s trying to suggest that this presence is not just a political presence but part of his spiritual mission.

An op-ed by the Dalai Lama in The New York Times on Feb. 3, 1979.Credit John Faber

“From the Archives: Dalai Lama’s Accession to Throne and Flight to India” from Patrick Boehler at the New York Times’ Sinosphere blog.

As the Dalai Lama celebrates his 80th birthday on Monday, here is a look at how The New York Times covered his early years as the spiritual leader of Tibet, a time when rare glimpses into the Himalayan territory’s politics came mostly from radio broadcasts from India and a few travelers and missionaries from war-torn China.

You can “See Rare Photos of the Dalai Lama Growing Up‘” thanks to Time.

And Kathy Gilsinan tells the story of “The Buddhist and the Neuroscientist” in the Atlantic.

The study of Buddhist brains has burgeoned since Davidson first met the Dalai Lama. But it’s still not known precisely how compassion alters the brain to promote better health or better behavior. Gamma waves and lit up insula can only tell you so much about the linkages between the mind and the body, and, in turn, about what it really takes to think your way to a better character.* Davidson’s research suggests, he said, that “we can all take responsibility for our brains.” In which case, cultivating responsibility itself might be the first step.

Lastly, a very different and much more sinister Buddhist project: “Myanmar bill limits women’s right to wed non-Buddhists” from Al Jazeera.

Phil Robertson of New York-based Human Rights Watch said the bill was related to a campaign by Buddhist groups that have incited anti-Muslim hatred, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Religious tensions have led to deadly violence, especially against Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, many of who have felt compelled to flee abroad.

Which leads us to this week’s news about Islam.


Ebrahim Moosa answers Sherali Tareen‘s questions about his new book “What is a Madrasa?” in an interview for The New Books Network.

Recent years have witnessed a spate of journalistic and popular writings on the looming threat to civilization that lurks in traditional Islamic seminaries or madrasas that litter the physical and intellectual landscape of the Muslim world. In his riveting new book What is a Madrasa? (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of History and Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame, challenges such sensationalist stereotypical narratives by providing a nuanced and richly textured account of the place and importance of Madrasas in Islam both historically and in the contemporary moment.

“Man Admits to Plotting to Massacre Muslims, Judge Sets Him Free Anyway” reports Judd Legum for Think Progress.

Doggart’s release has drawn criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group. “It is deeply troubling that an individual who has admitted to planning a religiously-motivated terror attack on American Muslims is now free, while the intended targets of his plot remain unprotected,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement. CAIR had previously criticized the prosecutor’s decision not to treat Doggart’s conduct “as an act of terrorism and to charge the alleged organizer of the attack as a terrorist.”

Al Jazeera shares a documentary look at “Ramadan in Kenya.”

Muslims have lived in Kenya for centuries and today make up about 11 percent of the country’s population. These communities live on the coast in cities like Mombasa – where nearly half of the city’s inhabitants are Muslim – and in the country’s northeast.

Ramadan in Kenya meets Muslims living in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi and captures their lives and culture in their homes, at work and in their places of worship.

They talk about what aspects of Ramadan mean the most to them.

“US Muslim groups launch fundraiser to help rebuild burned black churches” reports Renee Lewis for Al Jazeera America.

“The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African-Americans,” organizer Imam Zaid Shakir wrote on the campaign’s website.

However, Muslims can understand the “climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country,” he wrote, saying the American Muslim community should stand in solidarity with African-Americans.

Reza Aslan and Hasan Minhaj published “An Open Letter to American Muslims on Same-Sex Marriage” in Religion Dispatches.

Bottom line is this: standing up for marginalized communities, even when you disagree with them, is not just the right thing to do, it’s the Muslim thing to do. Remember that whole God is merciful and compassionate thing? That extends to all people, not just those who are straight.

BBC Radio 4 continues their series “In Our Time” with an episode about “Islamic Law and its Origins” with host Melvyn Bragg.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins and early development of Islamic law. The legal code of Islam is known as Sharia, an Arabic word meaning “the way”. Its sources include the Islamic holy book the Qur’an, the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, and the opinions of legal scholars. In the 7th century, Sharia started to replace the tribal laws of pre-Islamic Arabia; over the next three hundred years it underwent considerable evolution as Islam spread. By 900 a body of religious and legal scholarship recognisable as classical Sharia had emerged.With:Hugh KennedyProfessor of Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of LondonRobert GleaveProfessor of Arabic Studies at the University of ExeterMona SiddiquiProfessor of Islamic Studies at the University of GlasgowProducer: Thomas Morris.

Palestinian Sanaa Abu Jaudi (L), 16, from the West Bank city of Jenin, takes a selfie photo with friends in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, during the holy month of Ramadan, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

“Palestinians connect to Jerusalem holy shrine with ‘selfies‘” reports Reuters.

While selfies are hardly new, Palestinians have embraced the phenomenon during the holy month of Ramadan as a way of showing their presence at Islam’s third holiest site.

“We took it as a memory, because maybe we won’t be able to come again next Ramadan,” said Shorouq, a young woman from the occupied West Bank snapping pictures with her friend Shahira, both dressed in brightly colored headscarves in the sunshine.

“We took a selfie with the Dome of the Rock!” said Shahira, referring to the golden-domed, ornately tiled octagon, from where the Prophet Mohammad is said to have ascended to heaven.

And Anna Sauerbrey asks “Will the Burqa Be Banned in Berlin?” in the New York Times.

Ms. Ulusoy refuses to fit Germany’s most cherished immigrant stereotype, the oppressed Muslim woman. In the world according to Germany, it’s either-or: A young Muslim woman either wears a head scarf, meaning she is subject to the cruel rule of a strictly religious Muslim family patriarch, doomed to be married off to a distant cousin and a life of endless flatbread-making; or she has a law degree, a blog, strong political ideas — and no recognizable Muslim identity.

Still, the idea of a postfaith German “Leitkultur,” or common culture, is not dead. Every couple of months a politician from the ranks of the conservative Christian Democratic Union calls for banning the burqa. And Betul Ulusoy’s will certainly not be the last contested head scarf. She still has a lot to do, starting with showing that there is no contradiction between using your head and wrapping it in a scarf.

Next up, Hinduism news.


“When the World Becomes Female: Guises of a South Indian Goddess” Ian Cook interviews Joyce Be. Flueckiger about her new book for The New Books Network.

Joyce B. Flueckiger‘s new book When the World Becomes Female: Guises of a South Indian Goddess (Indiana University Press, 2013) is a rich and colorful analysis of the goddess Gangamma’s festival and her devotees. During the festival men take on female guises, whilst women intensify the rituals that they perform throughout the year. The books explores the excess of the goddess and the lives of those who bear her.

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi holding a mask of his own face.

“Modi’s India: Caste, Inequality, and the Rise of Hindu Nationalism” by Abigail Fradkin  for The Wilson Quarterly.

Hindu nationalism, with its dual focus on cultivating traditional social practices and providing social services afforded neither by the state nor economic growth, would seem to provide the strongest alternative to a modern capitalist society. But Hindu nationalism itself has adapted to India’s increasing wealth. The upper castes, particularly the Brahmins, once prided themselves on simple, even ascetic, living; they now hold up material success as another sign of caste superiority. The traditional Hindu elite is no longer distinguishable from the modern economic elite.

How about something a little more Hollywood?


Read Gawker’s crazy clickbaity headlines! Oh, and also the articles, sure, why not. “Read Laura Prepon’s Insane Interview in Scientology’s Celebrity Magazine” according to Jordan Sargent of Gawker.

Honestly, I’ve become more me. The auditing has stripped away all of this charge, false ideas, decisions and mis-emotions that were affecting me. I recently had one of my biggest cognitions in a New Era Dianetics session. I spotted this decision I made a long time ago that was affecting me to this day. It was a huge realization. At the time of the incident, you make a postulate as a “pro-survival” decision, you know? Then to spot it years and years later, after peeling away these layers and then—boom, there it is—it’s mind blowing! To think of it just hiding there in my bank, affecting me.

And Mary Valle asks, “Is Tom Leaving Scientology for Suri?” in Killing the Buddha.

Can’t you see Tom single-handedly taking down all the evil scientists and then strutting confidently down the aisles of the lab, opening the cages, setting all the Scientologists free? In perfectly tailored jeans, his tiny Athena waiting for him with leis and fireworks and mariachis playing the Mission: Impossible theme? Can’t you?


First, two stories about religion in China:

First, “Religion in China: A Young Person’s Game” explains Felicia Snomez for The Wall Street Journal.

A new survey by a Chinese university shows that the majority of religious believers in China are under 60 years old, in a sign that religion may be gaining appeal among young people.

With a more complex follow-up from Slavoj Zizek in”Sinicisation” for the London Review of Books.

It is only against this background that one can understand the religious politics of the Chinese Party: the fear of belief is effectively the fear of communist ‘belief’, the fear of those who remain faithful to the universal emancipatory message of communism. One looks in vain at the ongoing ideological campaign for any mention of the basic class antagonism made evident in the workers’ protests.

In other news:

“Morgan Freeman Set to Host ‘Story of God’ Series For National Geographic” reports Julia Brucculieri for HuffPost TV.

“The story of God is one of the greatest mysteries and most important ideas in the world. For me, this is a personal and enduring quest to understand the divine, and I am humbled by the opportunity to take viewers along on this incredible journey,” Freeman said in a press release.

“Argentina indigenous chieftain leads fight to reclaim ancestral land” reports Uki Goñi for The Guardian.

“We have many gods,” he says. “The god of nature, the god of water, the god of air, but we no longer have the land we shared with them. They’ve taken our gods and now they’re taking what little is left of our land.”

“The Future of Religion Is… The Dead” according to Gary Laderman at Sacred Matters.

What we are witnessing now is not quite the Second Coming, but the return of the Dead and the cultural celebration of this moment portends a new religious day — for many, it is morning in spiritual America. Ironically, even as the Dead allow us to see this future more clearly, it is also true that the Dead’s initial appearances and flourishing in the 1960s and early ’70s set the stage for what is happening now. Indeed, the countercultures they were associated with at the time and that permeated the popular media of the day planted the cultural seeds bearing fruit today. All the drugs, music, dancing, experimentation, tripping, love, and freedom made a deep, impressive mark on American religious cultures.

“Can You Make A Comedy About UFO Cult Mass Suicide?” asks Joseph Laycock in Religion Dispatches.

Inspired by comedians like Larry David and Ricky Gervais, Jones sees humor in portraying the daily banalities of running a UFO religion. By doing so, he hopes to challenge the distinction between religion and cults. An agnostic, Jones explained, “To me, all organized religious is a cult.” He added that institutions like beauty pageants for toddlers were far more disturbing to him than unusual religious groups like Heaven’s Gate.

Kate Sierzputowski  shows us “A 100 Seat Church Constructed From Living Trees in New Zealand by Barry Cox” for This is Colossal.

Located in the same island country that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed is a structure that, like the hill-secured homes of the hobbits, also seems to hide within its natural environment. The Tree Church is formed almost entirely from living trees with thick leaves covering its shady interior. The New Zealand-based church can seat a hundred people and was first planted by Barry Cox on his property near Cambridge beginning in 2011.

Even more impressive is: “Gaudi’s Great Temple” described by Martin Filler in The New York Review of Books.

This increasingly solitary and fanatically devout monomaniac—a celibate vegetarian who never married and was often mistaken for a vagrant because of his disheveled appearance—was looked upon in his old age as a secular saint, especially after 1910, when he forswore new jobs and devoted himself solely to his great church. And although intimations of mortality weighed heavily on this phenomenally ambitious artist, we can only hope that he believed the words long attributed to him: “My client is in no hurry.”

And who wouldn’t want to “Do It Like a Deity: A Dutch Artist Depicts Gods Gone Wild” asks Susan Stamberg at NPR.

“You know, gods didn’t always behave particularly well,” says curator Arthur Wheelock Jr. “And that was something Wtewael and people from his generation loved to explore.”

Lastly, we link to articles from Vice all of the time. But it’s always a little hard to quiet the voice in the back of our heads saying “Isn’t this still sort of just the magazine you used to pick up for free at places that sold ironic tee shirts?” Fortunately, Chris Ip at the Columbia Journalism Review is here to help us understand, “The cult of Vice.”

And now, it’s time for “F*ck That: A Guided Meditation.” We’re thinking of making this a daily ritual around here.


Past links round-ups can be found here:

#LoveWins, #TakeItDown, #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches (July 2, 2015)

Racism, Ramadan, Romanian Witches, and more! (June 25, 2015)

Emanuel A.M.E., Encyclicals, Etsy, and more! (June 19, 2015)

Satanism, Sacred Music, Shasta Seekers, and more! (June 11, 2015)

Hip Hop, Hijabs, Hasidic Fashion, and more! (June 5, 2015)

TLC, THC, OMG! (May 29, 2015)

Mad Men, Mormons, Monks, and more! (May 22, 2015)

Candles, Kombucha, Crocodiles, and more! (May 15, 2015)

Lindsey Graham, Garland, TX, God’s Plaintiff, and more! (May 8, 2015)

Pamela Geller, Prophesy, PEN, and more! (May 1, 2015)

Talal Asad, Taylor Swift, Turbans, and more! (April 2015)

Passover, Prison, Pop Music, and more! (March 2015)

The Crusades, Anti-Vaxxers, Chocolate Gods, and  more! (February 2015)

Paris, Witches, the CNN Apocalypse, and more! (January 2015)

#black lives matter, #Illridewithyou, TL;DR Bible Stories, and more! (December 2014)

Hasidim, Mormons, Borges and more! (November 2014)

Wicca, Climate Change, Gaza, and more! (August 2014)

Prison Churches, Museums, and, of course, Hobby Lobby (July 2014)


-Kali Handelman, Editor, The Revealer

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