In the News: The Crusades, Anti-Vaxxers, Chocolate Gods, and more!


Cover image for "Oh God Oh God Oh God: Essays on Sex and Religion: A Killing the Buddha E-Book"

Cover image for “Oh God Oh God Oh God: Essays on Sex and Religion: A Killing the Buddha E-Book”

Brook Wilensky-Lanford and Gordon Haber co-edited a fantastic collection of stories about religion and sex called Oh God Oh God Oh God: Essays on Sex and Religion available now an e-book from Killing the Buddha.

Religion and sex, sex and religion — what happens when you put them together? In this case, you get 19 engaging essays on topics like:
• Sex ed in Catholic school!
• Soft-core Buddhism!
• Taoist foreplay!
• The neurotic erotics of Evangelicals!
• Shiksappeal!
• Scoping in church!
• And more!

Simran Jeet Singh offers a view of “The Future of the Sikh Tradition” in the Huffington Post.

Like every religious community, Sikhs have their fair share of challenges. Yet the future of the tradition appears bright. Sikhs continue to establish an equal footing in the global landscape, and the community remains devoted to fighting for equal rights and opportunities on behalf of all people. The future of Sikhism also seems bright because of the vast contributions it has to offer the world.

Peter Manseau has an excellent new book out, One Nation Under Gods. You can get a sense of the important work he does there in his recent New York Times op-ed on “The Muslims of Early America.” You can read an excerpt from his book, in Religion Dispatches, A Church With a Hole in Its Heart.”

No matter how anxious people may be about Islam, the notion of a Muslim invasion of this majority Christian country has no basis in fact. Moreover, there is an inconvenient footnote to the assertion that Islam is anti-American: Muslims arrived here before the founding of the United States — not just a few, but thousands.

Colin Dickey asks “how do we live with our dead” in “Necropolis” for  Lapham’s Quarterly.

This attitude toward death changed sharply with the introduction of Christianity, which had far-reaching consequences for the topography of the city. Most cultures have venerated their dead heroes, but what made Christianity different was its veneration not just of saints but of their physical bodies. Romans found this aspect of Christianity particularly repugnant and complained of how Christians “collected the bones and skulls of criminals…made them out to be gods, and thought that they became better by defiling themselves at their graves.” 

And Mary Valle brings us “Vatican’s Conference on Women: Torso Tales.”

The Vatican’s  conference on women has yielded an embarrassment of embarrassments. Winning the Worst-Of Award, trouncing strong contenders such as the bizarre blond-lady video, the “burqa made of flesh,” the “statistics” which prove women don’t want ordination and the #lifeofwomen tag, is this image of a Man Ray sculpture, found on the Outline page for the Women’s Cultures Plenary Assembly.


Islam in France

Do Muslims Belong in the West? Hasan Azad interviews one of our very favorite religion scholars, Talal Asad for Jadaliyya.

I do not think there is such a thing as a “clash of civilizations.” When I said that Muslims as Muslims cannot be represented in the West, I was being ironic, and also referring to the fact that ninety percent of the time when people talk about “the problem of Muslims” in the West, it is to complain about the fact that Muslims have not “integrated.” There is very little serious discussion about what it means to be “European,” what it means to be French, or British, or whatever, and what exactly “secularism” in Europe means for religion in general and Islam in particular. The problem is always seen as, either: We must try harder to integrate them, or: It is their fault they do not integrate, and it is because they are attached to an illiberal religion, and so to values that conflict profoundly with our secular, egalitarian society.

In “Values and Violence: Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo” the editors of the The Immanent Frame have convened an auspicious round-table of religious studies thinkers on the subject of religion, violence, and freedom.

The violence, and responses to it, have raised a slew of questions. Is it helpful, or even accurate, to characterize these killings as religiously motivated? How have the attack and responses to it helped to construct or entrench the identities said to be in conflict? Should the events be understood in the context of France’s history of satire or its history of colonialism? Can the two be separated in this case? What is the significance of the willingness of many not only to affirm free expression, but also to identify themselves with the magazine? Are there limits to the freedom of expression?

Mark Lilla, grapples further in “France on Fire” for the New York Review of Books.

On the questions of toleration and laicity, however, France is anything but united. For the past quarter-century a political and intellectual culture war over the place of Islam in French society has been bubbling along, and every few years some event—a student wears a burka to school, riots erupt in a poor neighborhood, a mosque is attacked, the National Front wins a local election—renews hostilities. Now, though, nearly one thousand French citizens are believed to have traveled to Syria to join other Islamist militants there, and heavily armed jihadists pledging allegiance to ISIS and al-Qaeda in Yemen have massacred seventeen people in Paris. Given the enormity of the crimes, it is hard to escape the feeling that a major battle is beginning and that it will overshadow economic and other issues here for months and years to come. And the battleground, as is typical in France, will be the schools.

And The Paris Review has an excellent interview of Michel Houellebecq by Sylvain Bourmeau, “Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Book.

Q: That hypothesis is central to the book, but we know that it has been discredited for many years by numerous researchers, who have shown that we are actually witnessing a progressive secularization of Islam, and that violence and radicalism should be understood as the death throes of Islamism. That is the argument made by Olivier Roy, and many other people who have worked on this question for more than twenty years.

A: This is not what I have observed, although in North and South America, Islam has benefited less than the evangelicals. This is not a French phenomenon, it’s almost global. I don’t know about Asia, but the case of Africa is interesting because there you have the two great religious powers on the rise—evangelical Christianity and Islam. I remain in many ways a Comtean, and I don’t believe that a society can survive without religion.


James Estrin‘s story for The New York Times, French Muslims, Never Fully at Home” gives us a look at the work of photographer Bharat Choudhary, whose work documents the lives of Muslims around the world, this time, in Marseille.

“In this moment of mourning and outpouring of emotions an important narrative is being sidelined; the narrative that reveals the innumerable challenges that the Muslim community itself faces in its attempts to settle, integrate and progress in the French society,” said Mr. Choudhary, who is Hindu. “I believe without knowing who the French Muslim community is and what are the issues that they face every day, the whole discussion or debate about rights and wrongs is incomplete.”

Paul Harvey questions Karen Armstrong‘s ability to deconstruct the concept of “religion” while also defending it in “Is Religion to Blame for Violence?” in Religion Dispatches. 

Sympathetic though I am to Armstrong’s project, and admiring though I am of the tremendous erudition on display in her survey of five thousand or more years of human history, there is a flaw in the argument that makes the book less than fully satisfying (even if I would consider assigning it for a “World History” survey course in college). On the one hand, as she rightly points out in the introduction, “religion” as we understand it usually comes loaded with a heavily Protestant connotation of assent to a particular set of beliefs which are held internally. But that is a form of “religion” uncommon in human history. And anyway, there is no such thing as “religion” per se, but only the varied, humanly constructed, and historically context-specific forms that come under that name.

Lastly, over at The Washington PostIshaan Tharoor lets us know about this new French political artifact: “Chart: Are you a Jihadist? The French government made this checklist.”

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Islam in the United States

Dan Falcone interviews Richard Falk in Guernica, “Murder in North Carolina.”

I think there is every reason to believe that the identity of the perpetrator influences the media response and approach taken by the public. If the actors are Muslim, whether linked or not to a political network, there is an aura of suspicion surrounding the crimes committed. In contrast, if the perpetrator is white, and Christian, he will be considered a lone actor suffering a severe mental disorder even if he is shown to have links to wider extremist communities as was the case with Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik who engaged in terrorist acts in Oklahoma City (1995) and Norway (2011).

 German Lopez reports in Vox that “Chapel Hill shooting forces uncomfortable conversations among Reddit atheists.

Yet there’s a very real tension between the community’s typical discussions, which often imply or state outright that Islam itself is to blame for the acts of individual Muslim extremists, and its discussion today articulating (correctly) that, even if the Chapel Hill shooter was motivated by an extreme hatred of religion, that does not mean all atheists are culpable.

For more depressing news about Muslims in North Carolina, read, “For Whom the Muezzin Calls,” by David A. Graham in The Atlantic. 
Duke University announced it would broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from its iconic chapel, then backed down after threats of violence.

We get a more uplifting story from Brie Leskota at Religion Dispatches who shares the news that “Muslim Women Create a Mosque of Their Own in Los Angeles.”

It was the policing of women’s bodies and limiting of their spaces within mosques that gave Maznavi the final push to transform what she called “her life-long desire to build a mosque” into a specialized religious congregation that made women feel comfortable. After a positive, welcoming experience growing up in the Garden Grove mosque in California, her childhood mosque was renovated and the women’s prayer space was moved upstairs. Maznavi was told not to pray downstairs.

Alas, there’s still Texas. “Rep to Staff: Ask Muslim Visitors to Pledge Allegiance” report Reeve Hamilton and Alexa Ura.

I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws,” she posted on Facebook. “We will see how long they stay in my office.”


Graeme Wood‘s “What ISIS Really Wants” in The Atlantic was probably the most talked about article in the religio-media sphere this month.

Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Wood’s article prompted a lot of discussion, a well-deserved backlash. Here are a few of our favorite rebuttals:

Daniel Haqiqatjou and Dr. Yasir Oadhi ask “What is ‘Islamic’? A Muslim Response to ISIS and The Atlantic” on Muslim Matters.

By characterizing ISIS as Islamic, Wood and Haykel in effect, if not intent, attribute cruel beheadings, wanton massacre, and all other manner of savagery to Islam. In their minds, such an attribution is neither factually incorrect nor particularly damaging to “nearly all” Muslims who reject ISIS. But are Wood and Haykel too naïve to understand that by making such attributions to Islam, they ipso facto implicate and foment suspicion about all those who subscribe to Islam?

Jack Jenkins talks back in “What the Atlantic Gets Dangerously Wrong About ISIS and Islam” in Thing Progress

Wood’s article has encountered staunch criticism and derision from many Muslims and academics who study Islam. After the article was posted online, Islamic studies Facebook pages and listserves were reportedly awash with comments from intellectuals blasting the article as, among other things, “quite shocking.” The core issue, they say, is that Wood appears to have fallen prey to an inaccurate trope all too common in many Western circles: that ISIS is an inevitable product of Islam, mainly because the Qur’an and other Islamic texts contain passages that support its horrific acts.

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig rightly scolds, “Is ISIS Authentically Islamic? Ask Better Questions” in The New Republic.

Judging by the gurgling over the genuineness of ISIS’ Muslim identity currently issuing from media, you’d think American journalism is replete with scholars of Islam. But the U.S. commentariat is not especially proficient in the study of Islam, and the American public sphere is exactly the wrong place to try to hold a conversation on the authenticity of a group’s religious bona fides.

Beyond the Wood/Atlantic debate, it’s also worth checking out Steve Niva‘s “The ISIS Schock Doctrine” on Immanent Frame. 

…when one considers what ISIS is actually doing in practice—waging a protracted and violent insurgency in various locations and phases that aims to undermine existing authorities and establish zones of control—it becomes clear that the ambitions and behavior of ISIS have less to do with doctrines derived from the Qur’an or the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad than with the strategic doctrines of Mao Zedong, Che Guevara and the tradition of revolutionary insurgent warfare in the twentieth century, dressed up for the information age. While ISIS may have a Salafist orientation, they are also a revolutionary insurgent organization.

As well as, Scott Shane‘s piece in The New York Times, “Faulted for Avoiding ‘Islamic’ Labels to Describe Terrorism, White House cites a Strategic Logic.”

Obama aides say there is a strategic logic to his vocabulary: Labeling noxious beliefs and mass murder as “Islamic” would play right into the hands of terrorists who claim that the United States is at war with Islam itself. The last thing the president should do, they say, is imply that the United States lumps the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims with vicious terrorist groups.

Max Fisher has “9 questions about the ‘Holy War’ that Bill O’Reilly just declared” over at Vox.

9) It sort of sounds like O’Reilly is endorsing ISIS’s narrative

It sure does!

Lastly, horrifying as the ISIS’ killing of a Jordanian fighter pilot no doubt was, Glenn Greenwald reminds us that, “Burning Victims to Death: Still a Common Practice.”

One could plausibly maintain that there is a different moral calculus involved in (a) burning a helpless captive to death as opposed to (b) recklessly or even deliberately burning civilians to death in areas that one is bombing with weapons purposely designed to incinerate human beings, often with the maximum possible pain. That’s the moral principle that makes torture specially heinous: sadistically inflicting pain and suffering on a helpless detainee is a unique form of barbarity.

But there is nonetheless something quite obfuscating about this beloved ritual of denouncing the unique barbarism of ISIS. It is true that ISIS seems to have embraced a goal – a strategy – of being incomparably savage, inhumane and morally repugnant. That the group is indescribably nihilistic and morally grotesque is beyond debate.


Rollo Romig writes “In Search of the Great American Bible,” about scripture as a literary genre and, specifically, Avi Steinberg‘s new book, The Lost Book of Mormon, in The New Yorker. 

Steinberg nominates the Mormon scripture as a Great American Novel, or, failing that, as a priceless artifact from the Old, Weird America—a uniquely American product, like jazz music and superhero comics, that deserves our attention.

Carrie Johnson reports for NPR that “Supporters Say Imprisoned Nun is Being Held in ‘Unfair’ Conditions.”

Megan Rice celebrated her 85th birthday last week — in a high-rise detention center in Brooklyn. The Catholic nun is serving nearly three years in prison for evading security and painting peace slogans on the walls of a nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

For more on prison and religion, check out “Throw the Book at Them” by Leon Neyfakh in Slate.

At a moment when criminal justice reform seems to be attracting allies from across the ideological spectrum—the likes of Rand Paul, Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, and the Koch brothers have come out in support of measures that would make the American prison system less punitive—Cardinal Dolan’s endorsement of so-called postsecondary correctional education could be the beginning of a shift in how politicians on the right think about the potential for correctional facilities to actually rehabilitate inmates.

Richard Fausset reminds us that “For Alabama Chief Justice, Soldiering in Name of God is Nothing New.”

The pockmarks and scratches are still visible in the rotunda floor of the Alabama Judicial System building — the permanent scars of Chief Justice Roy S. Moore’s last epic battle over God and the proper role of the federal government.

Among young Christians, moral discomfort with birth control grows” according to Ruth Graham at Al Jazeera America. 

Among conservative Protestants, these are sprouts of doubt around a topic that hasn’t been debated seriously for decades. “Contraception has been an ingrained, unquestioned, binding reality on young evangelicals,” said Andrew Walker, director of policy studies at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Growing up in the evangelical community, “there was just the assumption that you get married, you use contraception, no doubt about it.”

Speaking of young Christians, “Hipster churches in Silicon Valley: evanglicalism’s unlikely new home.” Annie Guas of The Guardian writes,

How does one even start a church in the land of $3,000 studio apartments, transient tech workers and rationalist tendencies? The answer lies in a mix of organized efforts by large religious bodies, coupled with messaging that speaks to the tastes, needs and neuroses of ambitious young Bay Area residents.

Roy Scranton‘s “The Trauma Hero: From Wilfred Owen to ‘Redeployment’ and ‘American Sniper in The Los Angeles Review of Books takes a deep and wide-ranging look at how we read and write our wars. In one stand out passage, he analyzes the religious imagery in “American Sniper.”

In this scene, Kyle draws on his years of training and warrior wisdom to make an “impossible” shot, killing the sniper “Mustafa.” As a gibbering horde of Iraqi insurgents descends upon our American heroes, Kyle calls his wife by satellite phone and tells her he’s ready to come home. A dust storm envelops the battle and the Americans fight their way out, barely escaping, in a visually striking chaos that serves as a symbolic baptism: Kyle is sucked into the whirlwind and only barely makes it out, leaving his weapon and his lucky Bible behind him. He has been reborn.

“‘Man can’t change climate,’ only God can, says Senate chair of Environment & Public Works.” Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing invites you to watch the video.

For some very depressing reasons, this video clip from a recent U.S. Senate hearing is going viral. Senator James Inhofe believes the climate may be changing but that it has absolutely nothing to do with human activity like burning fossil fuels, because The Lord.

Florida police used mugshots of black men for target practice. Clergy responded: #UseMeInstead” reports Elahe Izadih

The idea originated on a closed Facebook group for Lutheran clergy, where pastors were discussing how North Miami Beach’s police department had been caught using mugshots of actual people for target practice. Let’s send in our own photos for target practice, the pastors decided.

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The Prayer Breakfast

Ta-Nehisi Coates gets it just right in his piece for The Atlantic, The Foolish, Historically Illiterate, Incredible Response to Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech.”

Now, Christianity did not “cause” slavery, anymore than Christianity “caused” the civil-rights movement. The interest in power is almost always accompanied by the need to sanctify that power. That is what the Muslim terrorists in ISIS are seeking to do today, and that is what Christian enslavers and Christian terrorists did for the lion’s share of American history.

Elizabeth Bruenig smartly adds, “Conservatives Have Stooped to Defending the Horrific Crusades” in The New Republic.

When the Crusades are represented in American culture now, they are a symbol of Christian gusto, whether positive or negative. They resonate with the idea of a robust, aggressive Christianity, a faith with the masculine energy to face Islam head-on. This is why the Crusades occupy a special place in the conservative id, and it is why conservatives appear willing to defend them on general principle, with little regard for historicity. It is also why criticizing the Crusades is presented by some conservatives as an alternative to fighting ISIS, as though if Obama had simply omitted that remark from his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, the Islamic terror group would now be vanquished.

Religion & Vaccines

Over on The New Republic, Peter Manseau writes about “The Puritanical Were America’s First Anti-Vaxxers.”

Though best known for lighting the fuse of the Salem Witch Trials, Mather faced his greatest challenge not in the imagined spiritual malady of a few girls claiming to be hexed, but in the very real epidemic of small pox. His efforts to fight it, and his willingness to skirt theological orthodoxy in doing so, might stand today as a model for religious leaders to speak out against an anti-vaccine movement that represents a dangerous intersection of medical ignorance and misplaced spiritual confidence that Mather knew well.

Paula A. Offit asks in The New York Times, What Would Jesus Do About Measles?

Parents shouldn’t be allowed to martyr their children — or in this case, those with whom their children have come in contact. Religious exemptions to vaccination are a contradiction in terms. In the good name of all religions, they should be eliminated.

Wheras Bethany Mandel over at The Forward wants to know, “Is Anti-Vaxxer Mayim Bialik a Model Jewish Mom?

What makes Bialik’s activism that much more dangerous than that of, say, Jenny McCarthy is with her strong background in science she is seen as an authoritative voice. She also likes to dress the part, on and off the air.

Also at The Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis explains, “How Jack Wolfson Became Face of Anti-Vaxxer Movement.”

“I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure,” the cardiologist said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. And I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.”

Lastly, Kara Loewentheil argues that “Anti-Vaxxers Illustrate Danger of Overly Broad Religious Freedom Laws.”


Eamon Duffy asks, “Who is the Pope?” in The New York Review of Books.

And yet in doctrinal matters Francis is no radical, no reformer. On the central issues often taken as the litmus test of Catholic orthodoxy his views are entirely conventional. He is strongly “pro-life” and an ardent supporter of traditional family values. As archbishop of Buenos Aires he opposed the Argentinian government’s 2010 bill to legalize same-sex marriages, while supporting civil unions for gay couples, a moderate pragmatism that was rejected by the rest of the Argentinian bishops, who favored a more confrontational stance. 

Carol Pogash, writes that, “To Some in California, Founder of Church Missions is Far From Saint,” in the New York Times. 

Prominent Native Americans see Father Serra as far from saintly. Their reaction is as visceral as a dispute over occupied territory in the Middle East. Indian historians and authors blame Father Serra for the suppression of their culture and the premature deaths at the missions of thousands of their ancestors.

Kaya Oakes contemplates “The Pope and Selfishness: Contradictions and Fictions” over at Killing the Buddha. 

It was a record-scratching, “hold up, wait a minute” moment a few days ago when Pope Francis, who had just a couple of weeks back told Catholics that they don’t need to “breed like rabbits,” followed that up by stating that “the choice not to have children is selfish.”

In “Stories of Catholic Marriage and Divorce” Diantha Parker shares the stories of of New York Times readers own relationships.

A synod of Roman Catholic bishops met in Rome this fall to begin a broad discussion of the church’s teachings on the family, including those governing divorce. The New York Times asked readers if, and how, the church’s rules on divorce had affected them. Here is a selection of their stories.

Andrew Sullivan is retiring from blogging.  Eric Bugyis comments on “Sullivan’s Catholicism” in Commonweal.

A commitment to rational debate, a desire to experience the truth revealed in relationship, and a faith in the transformative power of charity extended in hope. These are the things that I see in Sullivan’s “passionate, tortured relationship with the Catholic Church” that resonate with my own as it has unfolded these past few years.

Pope Francis


Batya Ungar-Sargon writes about Orthodox Jewish “Undercover Atheists” for Aeon.

Solomon is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men and women whose encounters with evolution, science, new atheism and biblical criticism have led them to the conclusion that there is no God, and yet whose social, economic and familial connections to the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities prevent them from giving up the rituals of faith.

Michael Kaimner‘s interviews the director of “Félix and Meira,” Maxime Giroux in, “An Outsider Among Montreal’s Hasidim” for The Forward.

At first, in the script, that was a typical movie love scene where they’re probably making love for the first time. We realized it would be more sensual to remove the wig — it would probably be the first time someone had touched her hair. It was a really sensual thing to shoot. We realized it was probably the most interesting scene in film. Something happened with the actors, too. And I know people in the audience like the scene a lot.

Also in The ForwardPaul Berger asks “Is Controversial Circumcision Ritual Dangerous?

For years, New York City health officials have cited scientific evidence that metzitzah b’peh, in which a mohel uses his mouth to suction blood from the circumcision wound, infects babies with the potentially fatal herpes virus. Now, the ultra-Orthodox community claims to have scientific evidence that mohels are not always the source of infection.

Nathan Shields takes a thoughtful look at “Wagner and the Jews” in Mosaic.

Approached this way, the Wagner question would seem to be one instance, if the most extreme and dramatic instance, of a more fundamental question: the question of the morality of art, and more specifically the morality of music, the most abstract of the arts. Is music pure, inhabiting a realm of transcendent form beyond the corruption of politics? Or does the taint of guilt—the guilt of the everyday world, with its struggles for power, its cruelty and barbarism—fall on music as well?


Asako Hanafusa reports that a “Pro-diversity monk in Kyoto offers temple for gays to say ‘I do’” in The Asahi Shimbun.

Wedding ceremonies for gays at Shunkoin are no different from those for heterosexual couples in that the pair exchange cups of sake and wedding rings.

Kawakami tells newly married couples the same message: “Everything in this world is transitory, including a person’s life. In order to achieve a lasting engagement to each other, each side must accept changes in the other as they are.”

Kate Baklitskaya reports in The Siberian Times (Editor’s Note: The Siberian Times wins the prize for my new favorite RSS feed of the year so far) that “Mummified monk is ‘not dead’ and in rare meditative state, says expert.”

A mummified monk found in the lotus position in Mongolia is ‘not dead’ and is instead one stage away from becoming a real-life Buddha, it has been claimed.
A 'meditating mummy' found on 27th of January in Mongolia. Picture: 'Өглөөний сонин'

A ‘meditating mummy’ found on 27th of January in Mongolia.
Picture: ‘Өглөөний сонин’


Andy Newman tells the story of a how “A Diety Made of Chocolate Spurs a Religious Debate in the New York Times.

As religious questions go, it is a relatively small one.

But, inevitably, it must be asked: Is it O.K. to eat a chocolate statuette of your favorite holy figure?

For more on The Chocolate Question, we go back to the inimitable Mary Valle at Killing the Buddha with “Chocolate Deities: Sacrilegious?

Opinions vary as to whether eating chocolate immortals is proper. I think that having a chocolate self is a rare honor; indeed, having a chocolate self is a long-cherished dream of mine.


51gthWs8UELOver at The Immanent Frame Jason Anthony has a thought provoking piece on “Religion: The Game.”

The future of religion is caught up in the future of stories. “Mediatization” is the new academic buzzword, but the idea that the medium very much affects a messiah’s message is an old one. We can watch the Greek gods shift shapes over five centuries as they romp through Homeric epic, the advent of cast-bronze sculpture, the rise of Attic pottery, and the birth of theater. The printing press impacted not only the practice of Christianity, but how its stories were popularly understood.

Bob Marley is one of the most misunderstood voices in this discussion. For many Americans the mention of Marley conjures the image of flashing dreadlocks, ganja smoke, and reggae’s hypnotic beat—all of which are pleasant enough. And yet, the politics of consumer capitalism and muckraking media have tainted the remembrance of a potent religious and social activist (as it has also threatened, albeit to a far lesser degree, the memory of MLK). Black Americans of Caribbean lineage, however, recognize this other Bob Marley who, through the Rastafari faith represented in reggae, led Jamaicans in their long postcolonial struggles—“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our mind.”

Scientists pledge to increase interference with the church” reports Dean Burnett in The Guardian.

“I’ve already produced a new version of the Bible that leaves out anything that can’t be 100% confirmed by science. It’s much more streamlined now, which is handy as you can fit it all on a postcard and mail it to people, rather than going door-to-door”.

An Amish romance Fifty Shades spin-off? Yes, please! The Amish Painter – 50 Shades of Amish Love by Rebecca Byler.

Mary has a secret from her family. On top of that she has fallen in Love with an Englisher. When her family discovers her secrets she runs away and by doing so she almost gets herself killed. Will Mary be able to follow all the desires of her heart or will she choose to turn her back to everything she loves just to obey the rules?


Yes, that’s right, Mallory Ortberg gets her own category this month. Her series of “Two Monks” dialogues on The Toast is always an Internet highlight, but the most recent installment reached a whole new level of amazing. “Two Medieveal Monks Invent Dinner Parties.”

MONK #1: should we have a cup of horror do you think
MONK #2: yes definitely

-Kali Handelman, Editor, The Revealer

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