Entries Tagged 'Religion' ↓

When DAM Breaks, the Sound of Palestinian Freedom Gets Unleashed.

Palestinian hip-hop trio DAM, above, wield the power of hip-hop as a force against the Israeli occupation of their homeland—the world’s longest—and their minds as well.

Formed in 1998 by brothers Suhell and Tamer Nafar, center and right (friend Mahmoud Jreri, left, was added later), they initially sought to make party records that would earn them cool points with peers and the ladies. Then it was still “just for fun,” says Tamer. They completed a six-track EP titled Stop Selling Drugs, the first time any Palestinian had ever recorded rap music.

What politicized them, however, was the Second Intifada of 2000…and the music of 2Pac. As Tamer poignantly told me, for my March 2008 piece in VIBE, “Straight Outta Palestine,”

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“No Hell Below Us, Above Us, Only Sky.”


Reportedly, John Lennon was actually not an atheist, as many think, but instead a person strongly against organized religion. However, the opening lyrics to his 1971 classic, “Imagine,” above, have often been cited as a straightforward summary of the nontheistic conceit. The lyrics urge human beings to conceive a world in which our species ha rid itself of the divisiveness faith often seems to drive, coming together in peace, instead, through mutually shared need, common destiny, and brotherhood.

34367Is such a reality possible, however, without the deference that a belief in God, arguably, compels? In his new book, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Harvard humanist chaplain Greg M. Epstein, right, takes the position that such an atheistic vision can be a reality.

With a focus on the positive, he highlights humanity’s potential for goodness and the ways in which Humanists lead lives of purpose and compassion. Humanism can offer the sense of community we want and often need in good times and bad, as we celebrate marriages and the birth of our children, and as we care for those who are elderly or sick. In short, Humanism teaches us that we can lead good and moral lives without supernaturalism, without higher powers…without God.

Greg M. Epstein the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, March 26, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear his ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

The House of the Rising Sun.


I’m endlessly fascinated by how even the most theologically moderate religious sects often confirm their beliefs through truly stark, often freaky, architecture.

screen9This structure, in Ontario, Canada, the Sharon Temple, was build by a Quaker offshoot in the 19th century. Made 60 x 60 feet square, its three levels are affixed with twelve “tabernacles,” or lanterns, on each corner. Inside, right, columns support the roofs and let in sunbeams from the highest level, feathering it with an ethereal glow, symbolic of the Quaker faith’s concept of “Inner Light.”

Though services have not been held at the site in over 120 years, it is open to visitors, and looks like just the place to spend some quiet time, getting closer to the Creator…and the light inside.

[via The Wall Street Journal]

Reevaluating the Remnant.


An announcement: My paper, “Who Really Is the Remnant Church?,” has been published in the Winter 2010 edition of Adventist Today, above, a quarterly journal of progressive Seventh-day Adventist thought.

It’s one of the most gratifying bylines I’ve ever received. Admittedly, I’m not sure how compelling this news, or the document, will be to people who are not Adventists, nor interested in exegetical critiques of SDA theology.

For those who are, though—one, the other, or both—it should prove provocative reading.

Some background information:

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The Sweetest Sound: John Rutter’s Cambridge Singers Breathe New Life Into Christmas’s Traditional Carols.

la-ghirlandata-1873La Ghirlandata (1873) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

John RutterAs a composer and arranger of Christmas carols, London-born John Rutter, right, works within what is arguably one of the most beloved, and oldest, forms of Western music, with a template laid down during the European Middle Ages.

It’s to his credit, then, that, whether re-interpreting long-cherished classics, or creating new ones, his works all shine with a lively and audacious sparkle. As sung by his much-beloved Cambridge Singers, favorites such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” or “Deck the Halls” unfold as though they were spirited, new, open-sea sailing anthems. Meanwhile, his own signature works are burnished with the passionate soulfulness of deeply reflected Christian faith and tradition.

I discovered Rutter’s portfolio when I came upon his own masterpiece, “What Sweeter Music,” wafting from a Volvo commercial, of all places. It is, without question, one of the most profoundly gorgeous pieces of hymnody I have ever heard.

John Rutter is the guest on the last edition, this year, of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, airing this Christmas afternoon, Friday, December 25th, at 2 pm ET. Today’s is a special, holiday edition of the broadcast that we’ve aired once a year for about seven years now.

On this show, John will talk about, among other topics, his upbringing; spirituality in music; why he started his own label, Collegium; and the reasons that writing a carol is harder than writing a symphony, all between selections from his 2002 release, The John Rutter Christmas Album.

You can hear this thoughtful artist’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm ET. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

The Girl’s Got It.


The over 400,000 women, ages 18-24, in the U.S. and Canada who practice Islam have been dutifully represented, bimonthly since 2007, by Muslim Girl magazine, the only beauty and lifestyle publication that targets young females of the faith.

Unfortunately, the mag has not published an issue since this one, above, in the spring of 2008. As Ausma Khan, editor-in-chief, noted in a letter to readers on the Girl‘s web site, the causes are “the current state of the economy and the overall decline in the print industry,” but, also, uniquely, “an advertising industry that is risk-averse to our name and audience.”

I’m personally hoping that Muslim Girl will revive and thrive. Though neither a Muslim nor a girl, I found it an exciting, thought-provoking, and colorful read. Normally, this is the part where most would also probably say something about hoping we can one day live in a country where all people are respected, no matter what their religion, skin color, etc. However, I’m Black.

Magazine or no magazine, Ausma Khan is a smart and analytical thinker on many issues, and especially on ones muslim girls face. That’s why she’s a guest today on this repeat edition of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, June 19, 2 pm ET.

janna_levin05As well, I’ll be speaking with astrophysicist Dr. Janna Levin, right. (You may recall me mentioning her, last week, in my post on whether or not the universe is conscious and alive.)

She’s giving a lecture here in New York, next week, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 8:00 PM, at Columbia University’s Lerner Hall, as part of the 8th Edoardo Amaldi Conference on Gravitational Waves. Janna’s talk, Songs from Space: Black Holes and the Big Bang in Audio, will show how physicists are using audio, animation, and other aids to make the wonders of the cosmos more real to regular people. (Check out her cool poster.) Plus, we’ll be playing one or two weird-sounding samples from her talk, in advance, during the broadcast!

You can hear Ausma Khan’s and Janna Levin’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state area, you can check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, fly over to our archives for up to 90 days after the broadcast.

I Know You Got Seoul.

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Living in Harlem, I’ve been seeing Asian tourists coming uptown for years, and that would little suprise most people. What might get their attention, though, is that many of these sojourners don’t come here just to eat at Sylvia’s, or merely to sit in the back of Abyssinian Baptist Church and hear its choir’s masterful singing.

Instead, they want to be part of the show. That’s why, for some time, a number of Japanese tourists have been rolling up above 110th St to learn how to sing gospel. As The New York Times reported in 2000,

Over the last two years, hundreds of Japanese, primarily women, have trekked to Memorial Baptist for the Saturday workshop where veteran black gospel music instructors like Mr. [Terrance] Kennedy lead them in a crash course of clapping, stomping, singing and swaying. Tommy Tomita, who is Japanese and a longtime Harlem resident, started the workshop in 1998 to give friends a look at one of the oldest forms of black music. When the friends demanded more, he persuaded the church to teach them how to sing. Now the workshop is advertised in Japanese stores and community centers in New York, as well as throughout Japan.

Well, it looks like Japanese nationals weren’t the only ones taking the classes. Check out the Kirk Franklin-esque strains Korea’s Heritage Mass Choir bring, singing “My Desire,” above. Wow: Folk weren’t lying when they said that 125th St. is the crossroads of the world. I believe it! Now, stop gentrifying our neighborhood, white people.

St. Amy the Democratic?

Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, February 5, 2009

I’m not clear on the cause of this optical effect, but talk about subliminal messaging.

That is, was it just me, or, when you look at this completely unretouched video still of Amy Goodman, above, host of news show Democracy Now, from yesterday’s broadcast, does she have a halo encircling her head?

Baring All.

Alanis Morissette Gives Thanks

Seeing the video for Alanis Morrissette’s “Thank U,” above, released ten years ago today, is probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to a religious experience while considering a piece of popular art.

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Blame the Jews.

“Off to Florida!”

That’s what humorist Sarah Silverman, above, says she’s going to do if Barack Obama doesn’t become the next president of the United States. It’s all caught on tape in the racially prickly, mildly NSFW political promo, The Great Schlep. Schlep is an effort by JewsVote.org, itself a project of the Jewish Council for Education & Research (JCER).

Its noble ends? “The Great Schlep aims to have Jewish grandchildren visit their grandparents in Florida, educate them about Obama, and therefore swing the crucial Florida vote in his favor.”

“Come to Grandma.”(Schlep, for non-Yiddish speakers, means to carry, or drag. So, the idea, as the stylish logo, right, may indicate, is that young Jews from across the nation—moving by plane, train, and automobile—congregate en masse in Florida, between now and Election Day, and persuade their oldest living ancestors to vote for Obama.)


This is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard.

I mean, first of all, why Florida, as opposed to any other state, and why does the geriatric Sephardic demographic require a special effort, of this unique kind: one made by, of all people, their own grandkids?

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