In the news this week: researchers working to prove religion the cornerstone of civilization, the top under-reported religion stories of the year, and other news.
For decades, academia has largely ignored religion as irrelevant or at worst, parasitic. But a new — and controversial — theory holds that cities, agriculture and even society as we know it would never have taken hold if humanity had not believed a deity was keeping tabs. And now, with six years, $3-million and a travel schedule that will bring them to the most remote corners of the planet, a team of Vancouver researchers are out to prove once and for all that religion may be humanity’s greatest “cultural technology.”
“There is a view that religion is an ancient superstition that’s going to fall away,” said Edward Slingerland, a professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia and the lead of a massive Canadian project billed as world’s largest academic study of religion.
“If our theory is right it’s actually been the cornerstone to civilizations.” National Post
Around the globe, persecution and discrimination against secularists, atheists, and religious skeptics is widespread and apparently rising according to two new studies, one from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, and the other from a coalition of secularist, atheist, and humanist organizations including the Washington DC-based Center for Inquiry and the London-based International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). Religion Dispatches
Suicide bombers in Afghanistan have shown little restraint: Wedding parties and even mosques and children have witnessed gruesome targeting by the Taliban against civilians.
But as attacks soared in the summer and fall, killing scores of civilians every week – including at least 40 Muslim devotees at a mosque in late October –public revulsion has turned into unprecedented condemnation.
For the first time in late January, Muslim scholars and clerics from around the world will come to Kabul specifically to condemn suicide bombings as un-Islamic. The conference will be the first to focus on suicide bombing, and its framers hope the result will reverberate beyond Afghanistan. Christian Science Monitor
And for our last news roundup story of the year:
Undercover-ed Religion: 13 Stories That Went Missing in 2012 Religion Dispatches
Happy New Year!