Archive for the ‘Publications and Reports’ Category
From The Washington Post
Is knowledge of religion important? Why?
The Pew poll of religious knowledge, in which atheists/agnostics scored ever-so-slightly higher than Jews and Mormons demonstrates at least four significant facts about what we know and why we know it. Appreciating these facts would go a long way toward ending the ugly fighting between theists and atheists. Of course they would need to want to stop their mutual mistreatment and disrespect for that to happen, but that is a different matter altogether.
First, Knowing God is different than Knowing about God and knowing about religion should not be confused with following a particular faith. That atheists and agnostics (why they are lumped together is a question for another time) scored highest is actually not that surprising. In fact, one might assume that knowing about religion plays a similar role in the lives of atheists/agnostics as does having religious experience does in the lives of believers – each is a source of personal identity.
Turning Park51 Into a Teachable Moment: Curriculum Guide and Fact Sheets
The controversy surrounding the Park51 Cultural Center in lower Manhattan has been at the forefront of the media and the nation’s consciousness recently. Chances are, your students have encountered this issue and are thinking about it. And chances are this issue is going to reach your classroom this fall – especially around 9/11.
Washington, D.C.—Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for different levels of education.
On questions about Christianity (including the Bible), Mormons and white evangelical Protestants show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews, atheists and agnostics stand out for their knowledge of world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Jews, atheists and agnostics also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own. Many people also think that the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.
These are among the key findings of the “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey,” a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 adults.
From Pew Forum
Over the past two decades, the number of Muslims living in Western Europe has steadily grown, rising from less than 10 million in 1990 to approximately 17 million in 2010.1 The continuing growth in Europe’s Muslim population is raising a host of political and social questions. Tensions have arisen over such issues as the place of religion in European societies, the role of women, the obligations and rights of immigrants, and support for terrorism. These controversies are complicated by the ties that some European Muslims have to religious networks and movements outside of Europe. Fairly or unfairly, these groups are often accused of dissuading Muslims from integrating into European society and, in some cases, of supporting radicalism.
To help provide a better understanding of how such movements and networks seek to influence the views and daily lives of Muslims in Western Europe, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has produced profiles of some of the oldest, largest and most influential groups – from the Muslim Brotherhood to mystical Sufi orders and networks of religious scholars. The selected groups represent the diverse histories, missions and organizational structures found among Muslim organizations in Western Europe. Certain groups are more visible in some European countries than in others, but all of the organizations profiled in the report have global followings and influence across Europe.
The profiles provide a basic history of the groups’ origins and purposes. They examine the groups’ religious and political agendas, as well as their views on topics such as religious law, religious education and the assimilation of Muslims into European society. The profiles also look at how European governments are interacting with these groups and at the relationships between the groups themselves. Finally, the report discusses how the movements and networks may fare in the future, paying special attention to generational shifts in the groups’ leadership and membership ranks as well as their use of the Web and other new media platforms in communicating their messages.
It is important to note that the report does not attempt to cover the full spectrum of Muslim groups in Western Europe. For instance, it does not include profiles of the many Muslim organizations that have been founded in Western Europe in recent decades, including local social service providers, or the governing councils of major European mosques. Rather, the primary focus of the report is on transnational networks and movements whose origins lie in the Muslim world but that now have an established presence in Europe. Influential Islamic schools of thought, such as Salafism or Deobandism, are discussed in terms of their influence on various Muslim groups and movements rather than in separate profiles.2
We hope this finds you well. We are excited to announce that we are now accepting nominations and self-nominations for Contributing Scholars for our new blog, State of Formation, and we’d like to give you the opportunity to weigh in.
The current American discourse on religion and ethics is primarily defined by established leaders – ministers, rabbis, academics and journalists.
There is an entire population of important stakeholders without a platform: the up-and-comers.
To remedy this, the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, in partnership with the Parliament of the World’s Religions, is set to launch State of Formation, a forum for up-and-coming religious and philosophical thinkers to draw upon the learning that is occurring in their academic and community work. Articles will frequently reflect on the pressing questions of a religiously pluralistic society and challenge existing religious and philosophical definitions.
State of Formation is a community conversation between young leaders in formation. Together, a cohort of seminarians, rabbinical students, graduate students and the like – the future religious and moral leaders of tomorrow – will work to redefine the ethical discourse today, particularly as it is used to refract current events and personal experiences.
Nominees should be currently enrolled in a seminary, rabbinical school, graduate program, or another institution for theological or philosophical formation. We are looking for exceptional and visionary young leaders who are currently learning about and reflecting on religious and moral issues. Does this describe you or a young leader you know? Please take a moment to fill out our brief online nomination form here or e-mail us your one-page nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nominations are due October 15, 2010.
Alarmed by the rising tide of Islamophobia and resulting backlash against the Muslim community that we have seen taking place across the United States as well as in other parts of the world, we here at the URI office in San Francisco were compelled to take action.
We are happy to share with you the URI Toolkit – Responses to Hostility Against Faith Communities. We invite our Cooperation Circles, particularly those in North America and Europe, to consider how you might integrate some of these ideas and resources into your ongoing work. Because Eid, the holy day that ends Ramadan, falls on or near September 11th this year, this is an opportune moment to reach out to Muslim communities and Muslim members of your community, and make an effort to transform the ignorance and fear into understanding and respect.
We were inspired by a toolkit we received earlier from the Council on American-Islamic Relations called their Teachable Moment Community Response Guide and wished to create a toolkit of our own, specifically designed for interfaith audiences. We have adapted portions of CAIR’s toolkit with their permission, and have also included some exceptional opinion-editorials by fellow interfaith organizers Eboo Patel from the Interfaith Youth Core and William Lesher from the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The toolkit includes a number of useful media resources, ideas for individuals, and ideas for how faith communities, interfaith councils and interfaith CCs can respond.
This month, on newsstands and in bookstores, you’ll find a terrific new book, which I highly recommend. To coincide with the centennial of the birth of Mother Teresa, Time has published Mother Teresa at 100: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint.
It’s a fantastic introduction to her life, written by the veteran religion reporter David Van Biema, and includes an unlikely but moving introduction from the mega-pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren. Filled with gorgeous full-color photographs spanning her life, the book is that rare combination of a great read and a beautiful look. It’s perhaps the best short introduction to the life of the “Saint of the Gutters” around.
There’s just one tiny problem. In the middle of an essay called “Teresa of Jesus,” about her entrance into a religious order, her life as a Catholic sister, and her amazing spiritual experiences, you’ll stumble upon a surprising sentence:
For the vast majority of sisters, brothers, and priests, a “call” manifests itself as a simple heartfelt desire, much as someone else might be attracted to the life of a physician or a lawyer. Yet a call to become a Catholic sister does imply a somewhat higher level of commitment.
That means that being a Catholic sister is a “higher calling” than being a physician or a lawyer. And that’s something that I categorically reject.
Ironically, that sentence comes in an essay authored by “Father James Martin, S.J.” I could say, “Reader, I wrote that,” but that would be false.
Apparently, an overzealous soul, after reading my comment about the “call” being similar in many lives, added the notion of the “somewhat higher level of commitment.” By the time I spied what was probably thought to be a benign addition, it was too late. The hardcover edition had already winged its way to the printer.
The irony is that this is not only something that I don’t believe (and have written about at great length in several books); it’s also something the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in. Since at least the Second Vatican Council, which convened in the 1960s and stressed the “universal call to holiness,” Catholics have been reminded that everyone has a vocation. Everyone’s call is to be holy — no matter who you are.
To be blunt, that means that the work of a Catholic sister is no holier than the work of your sister — who might be a mother, a lawyer or a physician. (Or all three.) That doesn’t mean that your sister is necessarily a saint, but that she could certainly become one!
That’s not to detract from the manifest holiness of Mother Teresa, who I consider to be one of the greatest saints ever. (She vaults into that category because of her unshakeable fidelity to her call even in the midst of her “dark night” of prayer, when God felt absent to her for years and years.) Rather, it’s to remind people that the young mother who wakes up in the wee hours of the night to care for her child is every bit as saintly as the Catholic nun who spends hours and hours teaching children in an inner-city school.
Your own mother might be just as holy as Mother Teresa.
Does evangelicalism have a future?
That the question has been asked in such a way suggests that all is not well in our little movement. There are, however, reasons to hope. The recovery and influence of the Puritan spiritual tradition and the rise of the social justice movement suggest that evangelicals are beginning to connect their doctrine with the rest of their lives in ways that previous generations had forgotten.
But if these renewal efforts are to be more than passion’s fashions, we evangelicals need to cease dating (or “courting,” as evangelicals prefer to say) the broader Christian tradition. We need to marry it outright.
There are signs that we might be willing to do precisely that, not least of which is the publication and widespread praise of Jim Belcher’s Deep Church, which is a call for evangelicals to ground themselves within church history. Contrary to claims among some proponents of the emerging church, many among the younger generation of evangelicals are increasingly disinterested in the passing faddishness of progressive theology and are returning to a historically centered, creedally expressed Christian orthodoxy. We cannot claim to be progressive until we know not only what we are progressing toward, but what we are progressing from — and a single generation of data is simply not enough.
But there are other green shoots. The next generation of Christian worldview teaching, like Wheatstone Academy, has begun to morph away from the didactic instruction given in textbooks and lectures toward seeing and discussing ideas through the texts, cultural artifacts, and events that have shaped history. And the ongoing popularity of authors like G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis has begun to move the younger generation ad fontes toward the thinkers from whom they learned. The explosion of the classical education movement and the corresponding rise of homeschoolers are creating a new generation of evangelicals who are more aware of the particular vices of our own age because they have engaged with texts from outside of it.
In addition to the renewed appreciation for the depths of church history, the shift toward liturgy that Robert Webber first identified in Ancient-Future Faith continues to exercise a strong appeal. The Acts 29 movement has been one of the most prominent bearers of this mantle, as it has brought back the practice of weekly communion into evangelicalism. While some evangelicals continue to be wary of institutions, as the bearers of tradition, institutions are the only means by which the vitality that our generation so desperately seeks will be passed on to the next. The formalization of these practices within the institution of the church makes me hopeful that evangelicalism will prove more resilient than commonly expected.
In a tribute to the memory of former Indonesian Prime Minister Abdurrahman Wahid, a founding member of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, members of the EBWRL signed a statement against terrorism, composed originally for a summit meeting between President Wahid and Chief Rabbi Bakshi Doron (See Wisdom, January 2010). The statement and its signatories are copied below. We ask for your help in further disseminating this statement.
We the undersigned, religious leaders who believe in a creator God, guide of the universe, firmly express our conviction that our religious traditions categorically oppose the use of terrorism. Terrorism is an abomination in the eyes of God and opposed to a proper understanding of our respective scriptures. It is also opposed to every principle of humanitarian concern. In all our religions God is affirmed as merciful and compassionate and calls on us to be compassionate and merciful accordingly. Causing suffering in God’s name is opposed to the will of God. We affirm the highest religious value to be the sanctity of human life. We condemn those expressions of our religions that speak in the name of our religions and that endorse the use of terrorist means, such as suicide homicides, to achieve political or other goals. While we recognize the value of deep belief in our faiths, to the point of offering our lives for them, this must never be confused with harming innocents in the name of a cause. We also believe that one of the consequences of terrorism is the creation of immense suffering not only for the victims of terror, but also for those who seek to benefit from it, or through it. We encourage religious leaders of all traditions to firmly express their religious conviction against terrorism, thereby helping to purify our religions from a contemporary cancerous growth that threatens to destroy our human face.
Dr. Abdurrahman Wahid, Rector of Darul Ulum Univeristy in East Java, President of the Non Violence Peace Movement, Indonesia
Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, President of the Israeli Sephardic Community Committee, Israel
New Statement Signatories:
Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Abbess Emerita, San Francisco Zen Center
Ven. Bhikkuni Kusuma, Ayya Khema International Buddhist Mandir, Sri Lanka
Ven. Jinwol Lee, President of United Religions Initiative of Korea
Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena, Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, India
Dharma Master Hsin Tao, Museum of World Religions, Taiwan
Bishop Frank Griswold, Episcopal Church, USA
Bishop Lennart Koskinen, Church of Sweden
Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias, Orthodox Church, USA
Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, Former Secretary of the College of Cardinals and Vatican Chief Librarian and Archivist
Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, Catholic Bishop Emeritus, Haifa and Galilee, Israel
Abbot Primate Notker Wolf O.S.B., Titular head and first representative of the Benedictine Order
Religions of India Leaders
Swami Agnivesh, India
Swami Amarananda, Centre Védantique, Switzerland
Swami Atmapriyananda, Ramakrishna Mission, India
H.H. Chandra Swami, India
Guruji Sri Rishi Prabhakar, India
Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairperson of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, UK
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living Foundation, India
Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel
Chief Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, Romania
Rabbi Richard Marker, USA
Rabbi Michael Melchior, Chief Rabbi Emeritus Norway, Former MK, Israel
Rabbi David Rosen, Chief Rabbi Emeritus Ireland, President, International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC)
Rabbi René-Samuel Sirat, Chief Rabbi Emeritus France
His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Jordan
Dr. Wahiduddin Khan, Center for Peace and Spirituality, India
Imam Plemon T. El-Amin, Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, USA
Dr. Yihya Mossa Basha, Chairman of the Muslim American Coalition, USA
Sayyed Jawad Al-Khoei, Assistant Secretary-General of the Al-Khoei Foundation, UK
Dr. Adamou Ndam Njoya, President of the Cameroon Democratic Union (CDU), Cameroon
Chief Kadi Ahmed Natour, President of Israel’s High Shari’a Court of Appeal (Chief Kadi), Israel
Moulana Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, President of the All-India Association of Imams and Mosques, India