This Week in Religion 2017–09–17

by | September 17, 2017

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

“Late in the NDP leadership race, fault lines are emerging in the NDP caucus over what Quebecers are looking for in their federal leader.

Heading into a caucus meeting Sunday morning in Hamilton, NDP MPs were quick to distance themselves from comments made by Quebec MP Pierre Nantel Saturday about perceived frontrunner Jagmeet Singh. Nantel told a Radio-Canada reporter that Singh’s leadership bid doesn’t align with what Quebecers want to see in their political leaders, and that “ostentatious religious symbols” are “not compatible with power, with authority.” Singh, who is Sikh, wears a turban and a kirpan.

“I feel that Mr. Nantel’s expressing something I don’t believe New Democrats agree with, whether they’re from Quebec or elsewhere,” Quebec MP Matthew Dubé told reporters Sunday. “I would qualify (his support) as tepid. It seemed kind of out of the blue.””


“Much has been written over the last week or so about the interview with Jacob Rees-Mogg on Good Morning Britainin which he defended his position on same sex marriage and abortion. The coverage and subsequent media backlash have certainly brought pro-life issues to the fore and allowed debate to take place. For this we should be extremely grateful. However, one concern that I have is that the interview and all the associated coverage has implied that opposition to abortion is only a matter of faith.

There is a sense that there are those who wish to portray pro-life views as purely religious because such views become much easier to disregard and dismiss. This is something which we need to be keenly aware of when debating in public or sharing our views with others.

Appealing to the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life can actually be counterproductive when trying to make a pro-life case to someone who doesn’t believe in God. In such situations, we can inadvertently weaken our pro-life arguments by giving discussions a religious framework. This is something that Phyllis Bowman, the great pro-life pioneer, was aware of during her many years of tireless campaigning within the anti-abortion movement in Britain. Her love for the unborn child and for her Catholic beliefs reinforced one another and she was a person of great faith. Despite this, she was well aware of the importance of a secular evidence based approach to pro-life campaigning.”


“in 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: “Belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge.” Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularization as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

Not only has secularism failed to continue its steady global march but countries as varied as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria, and Turkey have either had their secular governments replaced by religious ones, or have seen the rise of influential religious nationalist movements. Secularization, as predicted by the social sciences, has failed.”


“The number of Scots who say they are not religious has risen to almost three quarters, according to new research.

Just under a quarter (23.6%) said they were religious, while 72.4% said they were not, figures released by Humanist Society Scotland showed.

This was up from a similar poll in 2011 when 56% said they were not religious while 35% said they were.

The Humanist Society said the findings raised concerns about official statistics on religion in Scotland.

It suggested that the way in which census data and other studies of religion were being carried out gave higher figures of religiosity due to the way the question was framed.”


“More than a quarter of England’s secondary schools do not offer religious education, despite the law saying they must, suggests research given to BBC local radio.

The National Association for RE teachers obtained unpublished official data under Freedom of Information law.

It says that missing the subject leaves pupils unprepared for modern life.

But the main union for secondary head teachers said many schools covered religious issues in other lessons.

“They might be teaching through conferences, they might be using citizenship lessons, they might be using assemblies,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.”


“Last Friday, friends and admirers of Michael Cromartie gathered in Virginia for his memorial service. Cromartie was a devout Christian, a vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and in one of his many gregarious exploits, a one-time mascot for the Philadelphia 76ers. Reporters knew him as the founder and organizer of the Faith Angle Forum, which brought together journalists and scholars twice a year to talk about religion, politics, and society.

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Cromartie was an ambassador from religion to journalism. Those of us who attended the Forum were supposed to communicate, in turn, with the wider world. I could have taken the opportunity, as a representative from Slate, to build a dialogue between faith communities and the secular left. I didn’t. But as believers say, there’s always time to repent, and the truest repentance is action. So here’s what I learned from my years with Michael Cromartie: In a world full of religious hatred, religious violence, religious oppression, and religious stupidity, there’s a better kind of faith. It’s rich, sane, and healthy. It can teach us to think critically, not just about society at large, but about religion itself.”


Any exemptions for ministers of religion and religious bodies in a same-sex marriage law will not be sufficient to protect freedom of religious belief and practice unless they extend to all members of religious bodies and organisations — not just to ministers of religion but to all adherents of those religions.

It is inconsistent and illogical to create exemptions for ministers of religion but not extend them to individual religious adherents.

In respect of beliefs about who can contract marriage, there is no distinction between ministers and those to whom they minister; the beliefs of a religious body normally define members of that body or organisation, not simply the ministers.”


“(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia’s school religious studies curriculum contains hateful and incendiary language toward religions and Islamic traditions that do not adhere to its interpretation of Sunni Islam, Human Rights Watch said today. The texts disparage Sufi and Shia religious practices and label Jews and Christians “unbelievers” with whom Muslims should not associate.

A comprehensive Human Rights Watch review of the Education Ministry-produced school religion books for the 2016-17 school year found that some of the content that first provoked widespread controversy for violent and intolerant teachings in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks remains in the texts today, despite Saudi officials’ promises to eliminate the intolerant language.

“As early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The lessons in hate are reinforced with each following year.””


PARIS — Religion and ethnicity have been the major focus in local and international news coverage of the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Such persecution is part of a long and cruel history suffered by the Rohingya people.

But there are limitations to this explanation for the current phase of that long-standing violence. Two recent developments make me question whether religion gives us the full picture of what is happening now.

The first is the Myanmar government’s 2016 decision to include a relatively significant 3 million acres of Rakhine rural land in the national list of land allocations for “economic development.” Before this, according to government documents, Rakhine was only in the list for a mere 17,000 acres allocated in 2012. In Myanmar, the government’s language of “economic development” describes allocations of land that the military has de facto control over and have been selling to Burmese and foreign firms for the past 20 years. But Rakhine, a forgotten poor area at the margins of the country, had not really been part of such allocations. To some extent, the international, almost exclusive focus on religion has overshadowed the vast land grabs that have affected millions of people in Myanmar over the years, and now also the Rohingya.”


“Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders is deeply concerned about Muslim integration. In our series Islam in the Netherlands he is warning about the “perishing”of our culture. “It is not five to twelve or two to twelve, it is almost morning!” The leader of the second party in the country is pondering about very far-reaching measures.

Geert Wilders (54) is not surprised at the shocking poll results released by daily newspaper De Telegraaf. The fact that only thirteen percent of the Dutch population feel that the problem of integration will solve itself is a writing on the wall, according to him. And that only eleven percent of the Dutch see Islam as an enrichment proves in his opinion that what he has been calling for years. “If I had said that three years ago, I would have had tens of thousands of police reports thrown at me. But people are completely fed up with it.””


“The religious community has told government to back off from trying to regulate the sector.

Parliament is expected to debate a report by the CRL Rights Commission looking at the commercialisation of religion in South Africa.

Professor Pieter Coertzen, of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Stellenbosch says government has no jurisdiction over the religious sector.

“The regulation that we are asking for must come from inside the religions themselves. Our big problem with this report is that it’s bringing in regulation, but it’s regulation coming from the side of the State.””


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