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News about religion and spirituality pervades the headlines, both nationally and internationally, yet media accounts often fail to capture the diversity of viewpoints that exists in regard to almost any belief or practice. Nuances and depth are easily overlooked by those unfamiliar with the fuller conversation taking place within the community.

In order to better understand the issues that major faith groups are currently wrestling with, the Patheos Public Square presents the 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Each week, we will highlight a topic or question of particular relevance to one faith community. Patheos writers and guest contributors will address various angles and concerns that the issue raises. How have American Evangelicals responded to the global AIDS crisis? How are Progressive Christians reconfiguring their understanding of the role of scripture? Why are many American Muslims practicing their faith outside the mosque? Have Pagans given up on environmental causes? What political barriers do Atheists face and why?

These are just some of the questions you will encounter this summer. The series will conclude with a final week on general religious trends that cut across community boundaries. Join us each week for a new topic and the chance to participate in the conversation.



Rediscovering Scripture for the Twenty-First Century<br/><em>June 18, 2014</em>

Rediscovering Scripture for the Twenty-First Century
June 18, 2014

Progressive Christianity is moving into the 21st century with a freedom to challenge and question tradition and scripture in ways that simultaneously respect the past and look for fresh ways to live into the future. Traditional Christian interpretations of scriptures on a wide variety of issues—hell, gender, sexuality, marriage, community, atonement, social justice, and leadership—are giving way to more nuanced understandings of authorial intent, deeper explorations of the linguistic and cultural realities of the biblical world, and broader definitions of Christian identity. What is the role of Scripture for progressives? How do we define its authority? To what extent is it prescriptive for 21st-century Christians?

Evangelicals and the AIDS Crisis<br/><em>June 25, 2014</em>

Evangelicals and the AIDS Crisis
June 25, 2014

When the HIV/AIDS crisis first developed, some American evangelicals viewed the virus as a kind of intrinsic biological judgment against those who indulged in sexual promiscuity and drug abuse. Have evangelical attitudes toward AIDS changed, and is eliminating the spread of the disease one of the "great objects" for evangelicals today?

Francis, Family, and the Future: What the Coming Synod May Mean<br/><em>July 2, 2014</em>

Francis, Family, and the Future: What the Coming Synod May Mean
July 2, 2014

In light of October's upcoming Extraordinary Bishop's Synod on the Family and the 2015 Celebration of the Family to be held in Philadelphia, the Catholic Channel at Patheos will be helping readers understand what defines a Bishop's synod, and why this one is extraordinary; what the church actually teaches on issues relevant to the modern family; what arguments are likely to be made and what conclusions may reasonably be expected to come down to us via dialogue and prayer, within the next 18 months.

Mormon Women Seek Equality: New Perspectives on Gender, Priesthood, and Church Leadership<br/><em>July 9, 2014</em>

Mormon Women Seek Equality: New Perspectives on Gender, Priesthood, and Church Leadership
July 9, 2014

The LDS Church finds itself again in the media spotlight, following news reports that disciplinary hearings would be held for two outspoken Mormon activists—one of whom, Kate Kelly, has been excommunicated for her role in the Ordain Women movement. The media attention has triggered new conversations about gender roles, priesthood, and church leadership. Some are concerned that the church is doing too little to expand opportunities for women. Those in favor of more rapid and more extensive change find hope in the Mormon concept of "continuing revelation." Others are dismayed by the rise of public advocacy, on the grounds that it undermines the church's leadership and contradicts core teachings about the roles of modern-day prophets and apostles.

Where does the conversation go from here? How can women's voices find greater inclusion in church councils and curriculum? Which doctrines about gender are eternal and indisputable, and which are the products of history and culture?

Atheism and American Politics: Gaining Traction?<br/><em>July 16, 2014</em>

Atheism and American Politics: Gaining Traction?
July 16, 2014

The "nones" are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the country, and the atheist community is growing faster than many major faiths. But, at least in the United States, it's nearly impossible to be elected to political office as a self-identified atheist. At what point will this change? When will we see an atheist President, and what will it take to make that happen? When will politicians start seeking favor with the atheist community in the same way they do, for example, with evangelicals? Will atheists ever take a unified stance on particular political issues (if so, which issues)? Or will atheists remain a diverse group with diverse political interests? What's the equivalent of atheists aligning their religious beliefs with their political agenda, as many Christians do?

Has Pagan Environmentalism Failed? Responses to Climate Change<br/><em>July 23, 2014</em>

Has Pagan Environmentalism Failed? Responses to Climate Change
July 23, 2014

With the recent release of several large-scale studies showing that climate change may now be inevitable, many Pagans are re-evaluating their approach to environmentalism. Particularly in the United States, the Pagan movement of the 1960s and 1970s embraced ecotheology and Gaia theory in the belief that the damage human beings were causing to the environment could be slowed or stopped. Today, the possibility that human beings will change their ways before our fossil fuels run out seems much less likely, and the hopes of earlier Pagans may appear wildly unrealistic.

Is the Veil Thinning? Time, Consciousness, and Spiritual Evolution<br/><em>July 30, 2014</em>

Is the Veil Thinning? Time, Consciousness, and Spiritual Evolution
July 30, 2014

Many of those deeply interested in the spiritual life apart from particular religious traditions believe that the evolution of religion itself has been leading to a new age of god-awareness, an age of cosmic harmonizing between human consciousness and divine reality. Anticipated as a time of convergence, when the sharp divisions between human philosophical, ethical, and religious systems and divine movements begin to fade, many believe that the time is now; the veil is thinning and human consciousness is now ready to receive the divine in new ways. How well attuned are we to this spiritual transition? What is emerging and how will it transform and transcend both religious and scientific claims? Whose are the voices that best articulate this great awakening and what vision are they giving us? How can we best cooperate with and enter into this new age of human/divine confluence?

What Does the Election of Indian PM Narendra Modi Mean for American Hindus?<br/><em>August 6, 2014</em>

What Does the Election of Indian PM Narendra Modi Mean for American Hindus?
August 6, 2014

The election of Narendra Modi as the 15th Prime Minister of India has raised the international profile of the country’s controversial Bharata Janata Party. While Mr. Modi's victory is largely seen as positive for the Indian economy, there are widespread concerns about the future of the complex religious and cultural tapestry of the subcontinent. Are such concerns justified? Will the defeat of the Congress Party and the rise of the BJP lead to a rise in sectarianism and the marginalization of non-Hindus? What does this new political atmosphere mean for the Hindu American community?

Expanding Leadership Opportunities for Buddhist Women: Which Way Forward?<br/><em>August 13, 2014</em>

Expanding Leadership Opportunities for Buddhist Women: Which Way Forward?
August 13, 2014

While immigrant Buddhist communities often retain their traditions of male leadership—as priests, monks, and dharma instructors—many contemporary Buddhist centers are exploring new ways to integrate women into leadership roles. At the same time, a disturbing rise in abuse and inappropriate conduct has highlighted a need for greater attention to teacher-student relations and physical and emotional well-being.

Given the long centuries of Buddhist history and the entrenched traditions that create obstacles for women who seek leadership roles, what are the risks and benefits of opening Buddhist leadership to women? What are the philosophical, theological, and ethical resources upon which such efforts at greater inclusivity can draw? How can different streams of Buddhist tradition each contribute to conversations about gender equality?

Continuing the Tradition: Assimilation vs. Continuity Among American Jews<br/><em>August 20, 2014</em>

Continuing the Tradition: Assimilation vs. Continuity Among American Jews
August 20, 2014

According to a 2013 Pew study, millennial Jews are moving away from the religious core of Judaism, evidenced by lower rates of adherence to traditional practices and by rising rates of intermarriage. Nonetheless, participants in the study overwhelmingly retained a sense of identity as Jews. What makes a Jew a Jew? How much of Jewish identity is a matter of history and culture? Or of biology? Or Politics?

The long-term consequences of this secularizing trend in the Jewish community involve the issue of “Jewish continuity.” Will future generations find any meaning in Jewish identity if a significant percentage of Jewish adults raise their children without any religious instruction? What kind of Jewish community might exist in fifty years if these trends continue?

The UnMosqued Movement and the Future of American Islam<br/><em>August 27, 2014</em>

The UnMosqued Movement and the Future of American Islam
August 27, 2014

Why has "Unmosqued" become a trending topic among American Muslims? The recent documentary, "Unmosqued," and the growth of "third spaces" (alongside home and mosque), point to a growing phenomenon in the American Muslim community: many young adults increasingly feel left out of their local mosques. Many feel that mosques are oriented more toward the immigrant communities who founded them, rather than toward today’s young adults looking for a place to worship. Common concerns include lack of worship space for women and children, khutbas (sermons) that don't address current issues, and a focus on traditions and ideas that may seem out-dated to younger members of the community.

How should we respond to this challenge: Do we focus on rethinking the mosque experience? How do we do so while respecting the elders who got us this far? How do women, children, and those with special needs fit into the picture? How do we go from Mosqued to UnMosqued to Remosqued? Or does the future of the American Muslim community hold space for both mosques and alternative third spaces?