On Good & Evil


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Swami Vivekananda’s views,

Good and evil are inextricably combined, and one cannot be had without the other. The sum total of energy in this universe is like a lake, every wave inevitably leads to a corresponding depression. The sum total is absolutely the same; so to make one man happy is to make another unhappy. External happiness is material and the supply is fixed; so that not one grain can be had by one person without taking from another. Only bliss beyond the material world can be had without loss to any. Material happiness is but a transformation of material sorrow.

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The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

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The Millennial Nuns


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Why is there a jump in young women becoming nuns and how are these millennial nuns different?

And the aspiring sisters aren’t like the old ones. They’re more diverse: Ninety percent of American nuns in 2009 identified as white; last year, fewer than 60 percent of new entrants to convents did. They’re also younger: The average age for taking the final step into the religious life a decade ago was 40. Today, it’s 24. They’re disproportionately middle children, often high-flying and high-achieving. Typical discernment stories on blogs or in the Catholic press start with lines like “she played lacrosse and went to Rutgers” or she was “a Harvard graduate with a wonderful boyfriend.”

You’ll find these 20-somethings, like other 20-somethings, all over Instagram and YouTube. Some investigate which religious order to join on a website called VocationMatch.com, basically a dating app for nuns. You get the sense that these young women get a kick out of demonstrating their enduring link to “basic bitch” concerns like food Instagramming, college sports or Benedict Cumberbatch’s facial hair—and then pulling a fast one on the rest of us with flinty tweets like “You die unprepared without the sacraments.”

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Eve Fairbanks — Huffpost

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Digital Islam and the New Sheikhs


Technology and Religion.

Yet, and more significantly for our purposes, the video feud highlights a relationship between technology and religious authority, and indeed how changes in the former can serve to transform the latter. An early 20th Century Dawah Man certainly would not have been able to bypass traditional gatekeepers and speak directly to the masses at the scale enabled by the Internet. There are, of course, many precedents: from the printing presses that produced Martin Luther’s vernacular Bible to the local access channels that nurtured the Moral Majority; there is nothing static about the nature of religious authority. And while we often associate technological innovations with some form of democratization — as individuals gain the ability to access holy texts in an unmediated fashion, to do their own research, and to theoretically reach their own conclusions — this emancipatory narrative does not capture the complexity of these transformations.

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Suzanne Schneider — The Revealer

How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World


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A book review of – THE DARKENING AGE The Christian Destruction of the Classical World By Catherine Nixey

Actions were extreme because paganism was considered not just a psychological but a physical miasma. Christianity appeared on a planet that had been, for at least 70,000 years, animist. (Asking the women and men of antiquity whether they believed in spirits, nymphs, djinns would have been as odd as asking them whether they believed in the sea.) But for Christians, the food that pagans produced, the bathwater they washed in, their very breaths were thought to be infected by demons. Pollution was said to make its way into the lungs of bystanders during animal sacrifice. And once Christianity became championed by Rome, one of the most militaristic civilizations the world has known, philosophical discussions on the nature of good and evil became martial instructions for purges and pugilism.

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Bettany Hughes — The New York Times

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How oppressed are Muslims in India?


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View from the other side.

Additionally, India is still officially a secular state where the rights of religious minorities are enshrined in the constitution, despite Modi government’s best efforts to the contrary. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Pakistan where the Objectives Resolution solidified a second-class constitutional status for non-Muslim Pakistanis and where the definition of ‘Muslim’ itself is continuously shrinking. Rightly or wrongly, for many secular-minded Indians who are concerned about the deteriorating situation of religious minorities in their country, Pakistan stands as a warning of what might be in store for them in the not-too-distant future if they fail to quickly correct their path.

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Nida Kirmani — Herald

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My Jewish Encounter With Hinduism


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My encounter with individuals like Swami Chidananda, in Hinduism and in other faiths – certainly within Judaism as well, has informed my view of what religion is. It has led me to consider how to present what I consider the finest aspects of the religious life, as these come to expression in the lives of great individuals, and how to make these speak to the world at large, even beyond the boundaries of their native tradition. This has led to the thinking expressed in my recently published Religious Genius: Appreciating Exemplary Individuals Across Religious Traditions. Individuals such as Swami Chidananda have the capacity to touch others because they themselves have touched a plane of existence that gives meaning to their religion, while also transcending it and making something of it available to others. It is such individuals who not only represent the spirit of a religion; they also have the capacity to awaken the power of spirit in those who are in contact with them and are exposed to their person and teachings.

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Alon Goshen-Gottstein — Tablet

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Wild Wild Country’s white American provincialism


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The other side of the story.

Yet by framing Rajneeshpuram as a “sex cult” without this historical context, Wild Wild Country elides the fact that plenty of middle-class Indians had the same reaction to the “sex cult” as did citizens of Antelope. Not only that, we also miss out on a crucial irony: that India’s first godless and capitalist guru merely claimed to be a religious teacher for U.S. immigration purposes. Even worse, Wild Wild Countryremoves the capitalist-elitist substrate of the “material spirituality” Rajneesh espoused. Always a smooth operator, Rajneesh tracked his newspaper and magazine coverage, and though his lectures were designed to outrage the Indian masses (in order to ramp up publicity), he often appealed to elite venues such as the Rotary Club and the “cocktail circuit” of Mumbai.

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Noopur Raval & Phalguni Desai — The Baffler

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