By nearly all accounts, higher education has in recent years been lurching towards a period of creative destruction. Presumed job prospects and state budgetary battles pit the STEM disciplines against the humanities in much of our popular and political discourse. On many fronts, the future of the university, at least in its recognizable form as a veritable institution of knowledge, has been cast into doubt.
Pope Francis recently said in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and on several occasions over the last year, that Western nations are exporting an idea that gender is a choice. Pope Francis asserts that this “gender ideology” is the enemy of the family. Here the pope disappoints many in America and Europe, who hoped that he might free Catholics from the heritage of homophobia and repression of women that has been protected and promoted for millennia by the Roman Catholic Church.
All simplistic hypothesis about “what drives terrorists” falter when there is suddenly in front of you human faces and complex life stories. The tragedy of contemporary policies designed to handle or rather crush movements who employ terrorist tactics, are prone to embrace a singular explanation of the terrorist motivation, disregarding the fact that people can be in the very same movement for various reasons.
Salafism, often referred to as ‘Wahhabism’, is widely regarded as a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that fuels Jihadism and subjugates women. Some even lump ISIS and Salafism together—casting suspicion upon the thousands of Muslims who identify as Salafi in the West. After gaining unprecedented access to Salafi women’s groups in London, I discovered the realities behind the myths.
In a candid interview with Stephen Colbert, Vice President Joe Biden gave a moving testimony about his faith amid the pain of recently losing his son to brain cancer. In the past, both Colbert and Biden have been open about their Catholic faith, but in this moment both men found themselves reflecting upon how they have struggled with their faith after losing loved ones very close to them.
Outbursts of popular interest in apparitions and miracles often lead to new devotional movements which can be uncomfortable for the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, contrary to the belief that they encourage them. Visionaries represent alternative sources of authority within the Catholic community; they claim to have encountered supernatural figures and understood divine imperatives in a way that is commonly thought to transcend the theological expertise of the Church magisterium.
When civil religion meets football, you get… Colin Kaepernick. Just in case the rock you live under doesn’t have Wi-Fi, Kaepernick is a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who has drawn widespread attention for his decision to kneel in protest during the national anthem.
The ideology of ‘Raj Karegā Khalsa’ was enunciated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh. It provided the background for political struggle and conquests of the Sikhs after him. The roots of doctrinal developments and institutional practices of the eighteenth-century Sikhs can be traced to the earlier Sikh tradition. The basic Sikh beliefs like the unity of God and the ten Gurus and the doctrines of Guru Panth and Guru Granth continued to figure as the foremost tenets.
We live in world suffused with offended religious sentiments: depictions of Muhammad in newspaper cartoons and hackneyed films spark violent global protests; courthouse officials in the US South refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of the Supreme Court; and in India, authors threatened by thugs on the Hindu Right “die” publicly in order to avoid a less metaphorical demise.
Let us start at the Vatican in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica has a strict dress code: no skirts above the knee, no shorts, no bare shoulders, and you must wear shoes. At the entrance there are signs picturing these instructions. To some visitors this comes somewhat as a surprise. Becky Haskin, age 44, from Fort Worth, Texas, said: “The information we got was that the dress code only applied when the pope was there.”
Christmas is the most widely celebrated festival in the world but in few countries is it valued as deeply as in Germany. The country has given the world a number of important elements of the season, including the Christmas tree, the Advent calendar and wreath, gingerbread cookies, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, “Es ist ein Ros` entsprungen,” or “Vom Himmel Hoch.”
Politicians are more than anxious over negative public opinion on the National Health Service, falling over backwards to say that the NHS is “safe in our hands.” Meanwhile, the Church of England is concerned about losing “market-share,” especially over conducting funerals. One way of linking these two extremely large British institutions is in terms of life-style choices.
Dogs have historically performed many roles for humans, such as herding, protection, assisting police, companionship, and aiding the handicapped. The tale of “man’s best friend” is a lengthy and intimate history that has lasted for thousands of years, and transcends modern cultural boundaries. Canines appear as poignant characters with symbolic meaning in mythological stories, famous works of art, and religious texts.
Government advisers don’t regularly admit to handling doctored evidence. The extent to which the actions of recent governments may have depended on documents which had been ‘sexed up’ have—quite rightly—become matters for close scrutiny in recent decades. But the modern world has no monopoly over the spurious, the doubtful, and the falsified.
There are many aspects of Christmas that, on reflection, make little sense. We are supposed to be secular-minded, rational and grown up in the way we apprehend the world around us. Richard Dawkins speaks for many when he draws a distinction between the ‘truth’ of scientific discourse and the ‘falsehoods’ perpetuated by religion which, as he tells us in The God Delusion, “teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding” (Dawkins 2006).
It’s been said that the Devil has all the best tunes. If this is true, he likes to keep a conspicuously low profile. While songs of praise for Jesus, God, Krishna, Buddha, the Virgin Mary, and a host of other deities, saints, and semi-deities abound, Satan is seldom properly hymned.