Important religious issues in the news this week include militant Buddhists, atheist discrimination (or aggression?) and the all important question: what religion is Amal Alamuddin, George Clooney’s official boo-to-be?
To start with the last and perhaps least: As this is the internet, some people are up in arms that “a Muslim” (and an Arab woman, and a highly educated successful professional woman, and so on) “landed the world’s most eligible bachelor” (I’m not sure being dapper-yet-commitment-phobic really merits such a title, but then I’ve never fully appreciated the Clooney man’s charms, so what can I say). Anyway, the question of whether or not she is Muslim is actually somewhat complicated: as Omid Safi points out, she is Druze:
Probably a decent analogy would be to that of whether the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) are Christians. Today increasingly many Christians (including some evangelicals) have moved in that direction. What remains indisputable is that the Druze had their origin among a distinct Shi’i gnostic movement, and the doctrines and practices of the Druze would be incomprehensible apart from this wider Islamic tradition. It may be even useful to compare the Druze with the Baha’i movement, another much more recent offshoot of Shi’ism.
Now that we have that important question sorta sorted, onto other matters, like the fact that not all Buddhists are nice, jolly, or even meditate. Anuradha Sharma and Vishal Arora discuss the growing Buddhist nationalist and militant movements in majority-Buddhist Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand. This includes the Bodu Bala Sena or the Buddhist Power Force of Sri Lanka, founded in 2012 to “protect the country’s Buddhist culture.” They also “carried out at least 241 attacks against Muslims and 61 attacks against Christians in 2013, according to the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.”
Openly Secular is a project of four secular heavy-hitting organizations: the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the Secular Student Alliance and the Secular Coalition for America. An additional 20 organizations have signed on as supporters.
Stiefel, whose foundation has funded a number of atheist projects, described Openly Secular as “the next step” of the Dawkins Foundation’s “Out Campaign,” an effort to encourage nonbelievers to “come out” that was started in 2007.
“We are broadening and expanding the (Out) campaign to make it easier for people to become open with fewer social consequences,” Stiefel said. “We are also expanding the open strategy beyond atheists by reaching out to agnostics, humanists and even the spiritual but not religious.”
They will also enlist religious and civil rights organizations in the effort, Stiefel said.
However, Gordon Haber at Religion Dispatches asks whether atheist are taking 1st amendment law suits too far
The interesting thing about all three cases is that they reveal the compulsion to sort out the messy business of religion in America once and for all. But the wall of separation between church and state is neither entirely solid nor porous. The better metaphor might be No Exit with a pastor and an atheist damned to each other’s company. These cases have huge implications for American religion, but regardless of which way they go, expect more litigation.