Tibetan Buddhists & Life Liberation

Credit Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

Here's an interesting Buddhist practice reminiscent of the Janist reverence for all life, even small bugs. Tibetan Buddhist monks release tiny river shrimp stuck in a dried river bed. The practice is called "life liberation" or "early release." Four years ago, an earthquake killed over 3000 people in a small Tibetan city called Yushu. According to this fascinating New York Times story,  this practice of life liberation grew after the earthquake. One young Tibetan woman told the New York Times … [Read more...]

No More Christians in Mosul: Convert, Pay or Die

church burning

ISIS, the Islamic state that is taking over much of Iraq and part of Syria, recently issued an ultimatum to Christians in Mosul telling them to either convert, pay a poll tax, or die. Most fled with only the clothes on their back.For the first time in almost 2000 years, Mosul will have no Christians. And, ISIS is destroying churches and religious icons like the tomb of Jonah and the statute of Mary.How did Christians happen to settle in Mosul so long ago? According to Juan Cole, … [Read more...]

Where Heads of State MUST Belong to a Certain Religion


Thirty countries require their leaders to follow a specific religion. More than half, notes the Pew Research Center, require their head of state to be Muslim. Eight countries, mostly in South America, restrict members of clergy from taking the top job.Guess how many countries have a ceremonial monarch like Great Britain. There are nineteen!Thanks to my colleague, Jeff Feinstein, for sending me the link. … [Read more...]

Auschwitz Selfie Goes Viral: Disrespectful?


Here's an interesting debate for a religions class.Is this teen's smiling selfie at the biggest concentration camp grossly disrespectful?The selife went viral with many slamming the teen for being inappropriate and others defending her.BuzzFeed printed some tweets that thought she was inappropriate like the two tweets below.And here's an example that shows support.Craig Detweiler, a professor working in Europe this summer, wrote an interesting defense of the selife … [Read more...]

Gaza-Israel War Explained in 3 Minutes

map after 1967

Vox explains the causes of the war in this short and excellent clip that you might use with students at the beginning of the year. The Vox story also includes a couple of good maps.And here is a second short clip from the Washington Post explaining the conflict. … [Read more...]

World Map of Religions

world religions map

This map comes from the Global Post which writes that it used the CIA fact book to label the countries where, they say, "more than half the population considers themselves religiously affiliated."If you go to the Global Post page, you can see the map above along with colorful regional maps.Students can easily see where the different religions are practiced. Thanks to F.C. Tymrak for tweeting the link. … [Read more...]

Sociology of Islam


What does a sociological reading of Islam tell us?Reza Aslan, the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, and  Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, shows that it explains the essence of Mohammad's message and the nature of Islam's divine truth.Jahanzeb Hussain interviewed Aslan in Vancouver where the writer was participating in the Indian Summer Arts festival.We learn, for example, the significance of the social context in the rise of early I … [Read more...]