Religion News Roundup: Tori Amos talks about erotic spirituality, buddhism 3rd largest religion in Netherlands, Sons of Muslim hate preacher face jail

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Buddhism has expanded in the Netherlands into the third religion after Christianity and Islam. The growth is so strong that as well as Islamisation, it is possible to speak of Buddhisation of the Netherlands, argue researchers Marcel Poorthuis and Theo Salemink in De Volkskrant.

The Netherlands now has an estimated 250,000 Buddhists or people who feel strongly attracted by this religion, largely white Dutch. In 1998, there were only 16,000 including just 4,000 Dutch natives and 12,000 Buddhist immigrants from Asia.

But, says researcher Marcel Poorthuis, a lecturer in inter-religious dialogue, Dutch people call themselves Buddhist without knowing exactly what the religion consists of.

Tori Amos

• Tori Amos, daughter of a Methodist preacher, has a new album out: Abnormally Attracted to Sin:

[H]er 10th studio album cuts to the core of what happens when sexuality and religion intersect as something she calls “erotic spiritualism”.

The daughter of a minister, Amos has long railed against the repression of many organised religions and says her concept of sin is different to that of the church.

Sex, she says, has been for too long associated with shame and the profane while at the same time being precluded from having any spiritual element. It has taken a long journey for her to be able to combine the two extremes, even within her marriage to sound engineer Mark Hawley.

“The idea of eroticism usually doesn’t carry spirituality with it on a top-shelf porno mag but what I am saying is that there is erotic spirituality,” she says.

“It has taken me a while to be able to step into that place where I am a mother, but within the word `mother’ is the word `other’.

“And the other is the woman. So many women don’t know how to integrate feelings of being really hot and turned on by a respectful, spiritual relationship. A lot of women don’t know how to pull those two together.”


This is probably not the kind of erotic spirituality Tori Amos is referring to:

• A woman accused of running several brothels in Seattle, Washington, says her “work is spiritual in nature and that’s what the men are seeking,” according to the statement of probable cause.

Rainbow Love, who was formerly known as Vivian W. Ellis, was arrested at her Marysville home during a police raid on Thursday. She is being held under investigation of promoting prostitution and money laundering. […]

Investigators said a tip from a former employee of one of Love’s alleged brothels triggered a 10-month investigation into the woman’s three businesses — Sacred Temple in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood, Moon Temple in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood and Moon Temple in Kirkland.

Sacred Temple’s Web site described the business as a Tantric type of massage parlor where the men reviewing the girls say they had been sexually satisfied during their sessions, the document said.

Tantra is both a religious, philosophical and magical movement in Hinduism, and a ritualistic form of Buddhism.

In the West, however, the erotic aspects of Tantra receive most of the attention.


• In England three sons of the jailed Islamic hate preacher Abu Hamza could be locked up today after masterminding a “sophisticated” £1million luxury car scam.

The brothers and others targeted expensive makes including Mercedes, BMW and Range Rover in long-stay car parks. Pretending the vehicles were theirs, they tricked the DVLA into transferring ownership to an alias and sending new log books to front addresses. Keys were then obtained from dealers and the cars stolen, London’s Southwark Crown Court heard.

The final stage involved selling them to unsuspecting buyers or using them as collateral to take out loans which they never repaid.

Hamza, 50, who preached at a London mosque, was jailed for seven years in 2004 for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. He now faces extradition to the US for allegedly setting up an al Qaida training camp.

Last year another of his seven sons, Yasser Mostafa Kamel, 18, narrowly escaped jail after admitting burglary.

The west has to “show greater respect” for Muslims if it wants to rebuild relations with the Islamic world, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, said tonight.

In a speech delivered in Oxford, Miliband listed the Iraq war alongside the medieval Crusades and colonial-era division and subjugation of the Middle East as drivers of “bitterness, distrust and resentment” in the region.

He also said relations had been damaged by the use of “lazy stereotypes” by western officials, and conceded that his own use of the labels “moderate” and “extremist” showed a lack of understanding that risked “undermining the force of our own argument”, according to an early text of the remarks released by the Foreign Office.

The speech, at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, was intended to build on an address delivered in Mumbai in January in which the foreign secretary conceded that the idea of a “war on terror” had done more harm than good by uniting otherwise disparate groups in common antipathy to the west.

You can watch the speech here.

Mr. Miliband should notice that the Crusades were quite a long time ago. Muslims should get over it already — and they may want to show greater respect to others if they want to build or rebuild relationships. Violent demononstration against cartoons, in which Muslims call for the death of those who disagree with — or ‘insult’ Islam — and attemps to subjugate Western society (or any society, for that matter) to Islamic principles is behavior that does not do much to foster respect.

Christopher Caldwell has written a dense and important book about whether Europe’s identity (itself an uncertain issue) can absorb or survive a fast growing Muslim population, in part deeply engaged in Islam. It is called “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe” and is published in London by Allen Lane and by Doubleday in New York.

Its most cutting insights, rather than on Muslim immigrants’ capacity or motivations to assimilate — I’d say they turn on Europe’s will to establish more demanding standards for their integration — deal with the Europeans themselves.

Mr. Caldwell, who is an editor at The Weekly Standard in Washington and writes a weekend column for The London Financial Times, says Europe’s “writers, academics and politicians act as if it is only some quirk or accident or epiphenomenon (and never immigration itself) that has left their country with intractable problems.”

All European countries, he writes, pursue the same strategy: “elevating Muslim pressure groups to pseudo-governmental status and declaring that doing so will produce an Islam that reflects the values of Europe than vice versa.”

But because Europe was unsure of what those values are, and accepted a “neutrality of cultures,” Mr. Caldwell finds “declaring immigration a success and an enrichment became the only acceptable opinion to hold.”

As a result, he concludes, “Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers. For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest.” – New York Times

Saying it’s not going to take sides in someone else’s feud, the Seattle Police Department is going ahead with a racial-awareness training program that has raised concerns among some local Muslims.

They are troubled not by the content of the training program but by the organization that produced it: the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a 32-year-old Los Angeles-based Jewish human-rights organization perhaps best known for its Holocaust education work.

They accuse the Wiesenthal Center of spreading fear toward Islam by producing or promoting films about extremism within Islam. And they, like many other Muslims elsewhere, are also angry at the center for building a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem partially on top of what once was an ancient Muslim cemetery.

Religion and Science

• In a report on The Science Of Spirituality, NPR wonders, “Is This Your Brain On God?” : More than half of adult Americans report they have had a spiritual experience that changed their lives. Now, scientists from universities like Harvard, Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins are using new technologies to analyze the brains of people who claim they have touched the spiritual — from Christians who speak in tongues to Buddhist monks to people who claim to have had near-death experiences. Hear what they have discovered in this controversial field, as the science of spirituality continues to evolve.

Double-Take Headlines

Madonna is ‘only my friend,’ Jesus says

Dan Brown

“If you want to understand the state of American religion, you need to understand why so many people love Dan Brown,” writes columnist Ross Douthat in the New York Times.

It isn’t just that he knows how to keep the pages turning. That’s what it takes to sell a million novels. But if you want to sell a 100 million, you need to preach as well as entertain — to present a fiction that can be read as fact, and that promises to unlock the secrets of history, the universe and God along the way.

Brown is explicit about this mission. He isn’t a serious novelist, but he’s a deadly serious writer: His thrilling plots, he’s said, are there to make the books’ didacticism go down easy, so that readers don’t realize till the end “how much they are learning along the way.”

And what is is Brown wants his readers to learn?

In the Brownian worldview, all religions — even Roman Catholicism — have the potential to be wonderful, so long as we can get over the idea that any one of them might be particularly true. It’s a message perfectly tailored for 21st-century America, where the most important religious trend is neither swelling unbelief nor rising fundamentalism, but the emergence of a generalized “religiousness” detached from the claims of any specific faith tradition.

The polls that show more Americans abandoning organized religion don’t suggest a dramatic uptick in atheism: They reveal the growth of do-it-yourself spirituality, with traditional religion’s dogmas and moral requirements shorn away. The same trend is at work within organized faiths as well, where both liberal and conservative believers often encounter a God who’s too busy validating their particular version of the American Dream to raise a peep about, say, how much money they’re making or how many times they’ve been married.

These are Dan Brown’s kind of readers. Piggybacking on the fascination with lost gospels and alternative Christianities, he serves up a Jesus who’s a thoroughly modern sort of messiah — sexy, worldly, and Goddess-worshiping, with a wife and kids, a house in the Galilean suburbs, and no delusions about his own divinity.

In the end Brown hopes (prays?) that his readers are not very clever. Indeed, his success shows that lots of people do not mind buying fiction presented as facts.


• While definitions vary, Baptist seminary joins new trend with Spirituality doctorate:

• Saudi newspapers enter in war with feared religious police over latter’s ‘abuse’ of citizens:

• Growing TV ministry spurs profits, questions: How the scam works:

• Gay issues may splinter churches:

• What do you get when you combine a Buddhist meditation master and a warrior code?

• Nine held after killing of Catholic in Northern Ireland:

• Sikh sermon seen as setting off deadly attack:

• The sexualisation of heresy: gay rights now trump religious freedom:

• Muslims criticize producers of police training program because sponsor is Simon Wiesenthal Center:

• Dalai Lama to donate $100,000 to FIU religion department:

• World Agenda: Israel’s war effort gains religious imperative:

• Northern Ireland Protestant football mob beat Catholic man to death:

• Senior Dagestani Muslim cleric assassinated in south Russia:

• A holy mission to reveal the truth about Nazi death squads:

• Japan’s ‘Happy Science’ sect launches political party:

• Church of Scientology on trial in France: What is Scientology:

• ‘Church’ of Scientology could be banned in France:

• Church of Scientology on trial in France accused of defrauding the vulnerable:

• Dalai Lama to donate $100,000 to FIU religion department:

• World Agenda: Israel’s war effort gains religious imperative:

• Northern Ireland Protestant football mob beat Catholic man to death:

• Senior Dagestani Muslim cleric assassinated in south Russia:

• A holy mission to reveal the truth about Nazi death squads:

• Japan’s ‘Happy Science’ sect launches political party:
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 27, 2009.
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