Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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India’s Supreme Court rules in favor of Ayodhya property claim made by the Hindu god (and ‘legal entity’), Ram

  Al Jazeera reports: There was heightened security in Ayodhya, a town in north India, ahead of the Supreme Court’s verdict on a site claimed by both Muslims and Hindus. Early on Saturday, the town looked deserted as residents stayed inside their homes, waiting for the decision to be announced. Some had even stocked up on food in advance, just in case the decision provoked anger, violence and eventually a

Explaining illness with belief in evil

Live Science reports: Where did the spiritual concept of evil originate? One possible explanation might be people’s attempts to understand and cope with infectious diseases. Linking diseases and their symptoms to mysterious evil forces is a practice that emerged in traditional belief systems prior to the mid-19th century, when germ theory was introduced, scientists wrote in a new study. Germ theory revealed that microscopic pathogens, rather than malevolent spirits, were

Pope Francis, the revolutionary, takes on the traditionalists

Rachel Donadio writes: Pope Francis has helped open the door to allowing married men to become priests, albeit in just one region of the Amazon for now. He has made environmentalism a major focus of his papacy. Yesterday he gave a shout-out to Greta Thunberg and thanked journalists for doing their jobs, rather than calling them enemies of the people. He’s decried income inequality and nationalism and spoken out on

As Amazon fires burn, Pope convenes meeting on the rainforests and moral obligation to protect them

Georgina Gustin reports: Pope Francis convened nearly 200 bishops, climate experts and indigenous people from the Amazon on Sunday for an unprecedented meeting in Rome to discuss the fate of the Amazonian rainforests and the world’s moral obligation to protect them. The meeting, or Synod, is the first of its kind to address an ecosystem, rather than a particular region or theme. It comes as fires continue to consume the

Jerry Falwell’s aides describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at Liberty University

Brandon Ambrosino writes: At Liberty University, all anyone can talk about is Jerry Falwell Jr. Just not in public. “When he does stupid stuff, people will mention it to others they consider confidants and not keep it totally secret,” a trusted adviser to Falwell, the school’s president and chancellor, told me. “But they won’t rat him out.” That’s beginning to change. Over the past year, Falwell, a prominent evangelical leader

Amazon fires are a ‘true apocalypse’, says a Brazilian archbishop

The Guardian reports: The fires in the Amazon are a “true apocalypse”, according to a Brazilian archbishop who expects next month’s papal synod at the Vatican to strongly denounce the destruction of the rainforest. The comments by Erwin Kräutler will put fresh pressure on Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, following criticism from G7 leaders last month over the surge of deforestation in the world’s biggest terrestrial carbon sink. The archbishop’s words

Jewish Americans are not temporarily dislocated Israelis

Talia Lavin writes: The first recorded Jewish resident of North America arrived in 1585. His name was Joachim Gans, and he was a metallurgist from Prague, recruited by Sir Walter Raleigh to accompany would-be colonists to what would become Virginia. But the Roanoke colony was short-lived, and Gans soon departed, leaving behind a few lumps of copper and a goldsmith’s crucible for future archaeologists to discover. For centuries after Gans’s

‘Christian left’ is reviving in America, appalled by treatment of migrants

Citing scripture and church teachings, ever more Christians are pushing progressive policy positions based in their faith. Shutterstock By Laura E. Alexander, University of Nebraska Omaha Holding pictures of migrant children who have died in U.S. custody and forming a cross with their bodies on the floor of the Russell Senate Office Building, 70 Catholics were arrested in July for obstructing a public place, which is considered a misdemeanor. The

Muslims lived in America before Protestantism even existed

Sam Haselby writes: Muslims came to America more than a century before the Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. Muslims were living in America not only before Protestants, but before Protestantism existed. After Catholicism, Islam was the second monotheistic religion in the Americas. The popular misunderstanding, even among educated people, that Islam and Muslims are recent additions to America tells us important things about how American history has

Martin Buber’s vision of Zionism as a cultural rather than political movement

Adam Kirsch writes: In 1917, when the Zionists were celebrating Britain’s endorsement of their aims in the Balfour Declaration, Buber objected that he did not envision the redemption of the Jews as something that could be achieved through political victories. Later, after Buber moved to Jerusalem, in 1938, he opposed a Jewish declaration of statehood, arguing that Palestine should become a binational state shared by Arabs and Jews. And, after

ISIS still has global reach despite the caliphate’s collapse

Robin Wright writes: Exactly a month after losing its final piece of territory, the Islamic State is giving notice that it can still surprise the world—this time in Sri Lanka. On Tuesday, it claimed responsibility for Easter bombings of three churches and three popular hotels which killed more than three hundred innocent civilians, including more than forty children, and injured another five hundred. “The perpetrators of the attack that targeted

Sri Lanka’s pain is going to spread

Mihir Sharma writes: In Sri Lanka, memories of war and terrorism are very much alive. The decades-long civil war between the Sinhala-dominated government in Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was brutal by any standards, and it ended a decade ago with a climactic battle near the Indian Ocean that took thousands of civilian lives. But Sri Lanka, beautiful and multicultural, has never had just the one fault

Steve Bannon ‘told Italy’s populist leader: Pope Francis is the enemy’

The Observer reports: Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon advised Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini to attack the pope over the issue of migration, according to sources close to the Italian far right. During a meeting in Washington in April 2016, Bannon – who would within a few months take up his role as head of Trump’s presidential campaign – suggested the leader of Italy’s anti-immigration League party should

Why giant statues of Hindu gods and leaders are making Muslims in India nervous

By Indulata Prasad, Arizona State University Statues – big statues, the largest in the world – are being built all across India. Like many public monuments, they attempt to convey history in a concrete form. But India’s new statues convey something else, too: the power and vision of one dominant group – and the vulnerability of others. That’s because India’s biggest new public monuments all pay tribute to Hindu gods

China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority

Darren Byler writes: In mid-2017, Alim, a Uighur man in his 20s, returned to China from studying abroad. As soon as he landed back in the country, he was pulled off the plane by police officers. He was told his trip abroad meant that he was now under suspicion of being “unsafe”. The police administered what they call a “health check”, which involved collecting several types of biometric data, including

Bulldozing mosques: The latest tactic in China’s war against Uighur culture

Rachel Harris writes: Ten years ago, I started researching Islam among the Uighurs. I spent my summers travelling around the Xinjiang region in western China. I took long bus journeys through the desert to Kashgar, Yarkand and Kucha, slept on brick beds in family homes in remote villages, stopped off at Sufi shrines, and visited many, many mosques. My husband was working with me, and we dragged our kids along