Spirituality: For Some, or For All?

On 10-9-19 I I spoke on Spirituality to a student group at the New Jersey Institute of Technology

I examined whether spirituality is optional or necessary for human life?

This is a link to pictures from the meeting: https://photos.app.goo.gl/NJ8T8zZTkVjcfA6JA

Here is link to the pdf of the ppt of the presentation  https://www.scribd.com/document/429694410/Campus-Talk-on-Spirituality-NJIT-10-9-19

Here’s the pdf itself:

Here is a link to the the slides from the presentation:

Here are the slides themselves:


Repairing a Denominational Divide

The ancient Holy Sepulchre has long been a source of tension between the Christian churches sharing it. Now, preserving the building is forging new cooperation.

Ottoman Turkish sultan’s 1852 declaration about which Christian denominations control which parts of the sprawling church – originally made to calm tensions between the world’s powers in the Holy Land – is still essential today to preserve peace between the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syrian Orthodox churches, all which have convents and chapels and conduct myriad daily liturgies here.

Francesco Patton (left) custos of Franciscan friars, Theophilos III (center) Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and Nourhan Manoughian (right) Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem toast after signing an agreement to initiate a project for the restoration and rehabilitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, on May 27, 2019.(THOMAS COEX/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

This so-called status quo declaration essentially froze the church in time. The times and places of the dozens of daily religious services haven’t changed in more than a century, and seemingly mundane objects – such as that ladder – have also remained in place, especially in areas shared by denominations.

Perceived violations of the status quo over the years have resulted in verbal arguments, fistfights and strained relations between the churches. In fact, the fighting among the various churches has become part of the Holy Sepulchre’s story, along with the events of the crucifixion and burial and resurrection of Jesus that many Christians believe happened here. The delicate relations have also meant that much of the building has fallen into disrepair, as agreeing to fix or upgrade shared spaces has proven difficult.

But now this appears to be changing. In May, the local leaders of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches – the denominations given primary control in the status-quo declaration – signed an agreement to renovate the floor, foundations and sewage system of the church. It is the latest sign of growing cooperation among the denominations in the face of the urgent need to preserve their ancient properties, a growing influx of pilgrims and tourists and an increased need for self-preservation as local communities shrink and there is no resolution in sight for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Read the entire article here

A church, a synagogue and a mosque to share interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi

The Abrahamic Family House to be built in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (PRNewsfoto/The Higher Committee for Human Fraternity)

The United Arab Emirates unveiled plans this weekend for an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi that will unite a church, a synagogue and a mosque.

The announcement of the three houses of worship, collectively known as the “Abrahamic Family House,” follows Pope Francis’ February visit to the UAE, the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula. During the visit, Pope Francis and the grand imam of al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a declaration to form an interfaith council called The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.

The Abrahamic Family House, set to be completed on 2022, is the first initiative by the new committee, according to media reports.

The complex, whose name alludes to the Abrahamic religions, will bring the first public Jewish house of worship to the UAE, Jerusalem Post reports.

“This is an important opportunity for all who believe in the power of faith and humanity,” Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior Rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation and a Higher Committee member, said in a statement. “It will help build bridges between religious leaders and communities as well as foster peace and harmony in an era that is too often defined by difference.”

Read the full article here.

Community of Faith: Let’s talk about religion

This brief article provides simple guidelines and ideas, not only that it is good to converse openly about religion, but also, simple ways to do so in healthy and constructive ways

photo credit: share.america.gov

Christopher Anderson writes the following:

First, I identify and build on common beliefs. Truth is, when we compare our beliefs with those of others, we often find more similarities than we do differences. If we can discover and focus on common belief, our chances of having a successful conversation about religion increase.

Next, I listen to learn. I approach religious conversations with the intent to learn something new. I try hard to set aside preconceived ideas or notions about other faith traditions. Unfortunately, religious beliefs and practices are often misrepresented by the media who often has just part of the story. Thoughtful questions often result in new insights, knowledge and understanding.

Finally, and most importantly, I strive to be respectful. Our beliefs develop over time and are shaped by personal experiences. I appreciate when I can openly share a point of view or belief that others may not agree with. That respect goes both ways. We all come from different backgrounds and have learned truths in different ways.

Read the entire article here

New Study: How Faith is Indispensable in Preventing and Recovering from Substance Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 5, 2019 — A new study authored by father-daughter research duo, Brian & Melissa Grim, and published in the Journal of Religion and Health looks at the role of religious and spiritual faith in preventing and recovering from substance use disorder.

At any given time, there are 20 million Americans afflicted with a substance use disorder (SUD). And tragically, each year, about 158,000 die from alcohol or drug-related deaths.  However, as we head further into National Recovery Month, one of the most effective tools to prevent and/or recover from addiction is often overlooked— faith. And when it comes to long-term recovery, faith-based programs are a driving force.

Read the entire article here

Rare 2,000-Year-Old Text of Early Buddhism Now Online

Portion of the Gandhara scroll. https://www.loc.gov/item/2018305008/

The Library of Congress has restored and made available online the Gandhara Scroll, a manuscript dating back to around the first century B.C., that offers insight into early Buddhist history. The scroll is one of the world’s oldest Buddhist manuscripts.

The scroll originates from Gandhara, an ancient Buddhist region located in what is now the northern border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The scroll tells the story of buddhas who came before and after Siddhartha Gautama, the sage who reached enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in eastern India around the fifth century B.C. and the religious leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.

The scroll is available for viewing at loc.gov/item/2018305008.

Read the entire article here

Vatican Library makes 15,000 manuscripts available online for free

public domain

Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, Prefect of the Vatican Library, announced on Wednesday the opening of the DigiVatLib, a shortening of digital Vatican Library. The Archbishop explained that over the last five years the Vatican Library has become involved in a vast undertaking to digitize the manuscripts belonging to its catalogue. Now, the fruits of their labors can be enjoyed by anyone with internet access, at no charge.Once the tedious process of scanning all the individual pages of each manuscript is complete, the works are compiled and uploaded to their dedicated DigiVatLib website, where they can be viewed by the public. Currently they have about 15,000 of their collection uploaded and ready to view. If they keep pace at 3,000 uploads per year, they should have the whole library of 80,000 manuscripts scanned by 2041.

Read the entire article here


Young activists push interfaith gathering to act on climate change, justice

Opening ceremony participants of the Religions for Peace 10th World Assembly on Aug. 20, 2019, in Lindau, Germany. Photo by Christian Thiel/Religions for Peace

LINDAU, Germany (RNS) — On the eve of the 10th — and the largest and most cosmopolitan yet — Religions for Peace World Assembly, young participants in the forum said they are pushing more senior representatives to be more active in addressing issues such as global warming and terrorism.

The young activists are among  the 1,000 attendees, including representatives from religious groups, governments, multilateral organizations and nongovernmental groups, hailing from more than 100 countries, gathered for an international, interfaith event this week.

“We are the ones who will live with the consequences of the decision the world will make,” said Meera Santosh, a 25-year-old activist from Myanmar.

Santosh said that while the desire to help foster positive change is common, it is difficult to know how to do it.

“That is what makes a forum like this so valuable,” she said. “I really only know what is happening in my country, in Myanmar. But here I can share experiences and learn and grow and make new contacts. We all come out ahead.”

Santosh said it was helpful that participants from her generation come into the process with “fresh eyes” that can help them see challenging problems in a new way.

Read the full article here.

Gaskill cites Holy Envy to mean the desire to learn from other’s religions

BYU Church history and doctrine professor Alonzo Gaskill said every religion has worthwhile practices and is worthy of study. Gaskill spoke on the topic of “holy envy” at an Education Week presentation Monday.

BYU professor Alonzo Gaskill speaks at Education Week about the importance of making room for holy envy. (Addie Blacker)Holy envy is the ability to recognize goodness in other religions — even to the point of wishing your own religion incorporated similar practices, beliefs or methods of worship. Gaskill said this admiration of, and even longing for, other religions does not and should not destroy faith in one’s own religion.

“We don’t have to give anything up in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to have holy envy, except personal prejudices that we struggle with,” Gaskill said.

read the entire article here