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Reporting and analysis of the religious forces that drive and influence global news. 

Atheist Ireland: Oxymoron, or growing movement?

In a country where the Catholic Church and the state are joined at the hip, Ireland would seem barren ground for an atheist movement. But Atheist Ireland is building momentum.
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A man walks past the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, in Dublin, Ireland. (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — Is there a less likely name for a political action group than Atheist Ireland

One of the most Roman Catholic countries on earth, a nation where the Catholic Church and the state are joined at the hip, Ireland would seem barren ground for an atheist movement. Slowly but surely, though, Atheist Ireland is building momentum.

That the first steps are being taken to add atheism to the religious studies curriculum in Irish schools is proof of that. And the fact that no one has been threatened with excommunication over it further demonstrates how much the country is changing.

Atheism Ireland's founder, Michael Nugent, said outsiders shouldn't be surprised about the increasing tolerance for a non-believing viewpoint in Ireland.

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Pakistan: As third bomb hits Peshawar, Christians caught in the middle

One week after 84 churchgoers were killed in the northern city of Peshawar, militants struck with two additional bombings on other targets. Pakistani Christians remember how vulnerable they are.
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A Pakistani Christian woman mourn the death of relative, who was killed in suicide bombing, near damage at the All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 24, 2013. A devastating double suicide attack on a church in northwest Pakistan has triggered fears among the country's beleaguered Christian community that they will be targeted in a fresh wave of Islamist violence. (A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — There is little sign now of the blood and human remains that were strewn across the courtyard of the All Saints Church when two suicide bombers detonated their vests after Sunday mass last week.

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US citizen sentenced to prison in Bahrain after anti-government protest

Unusual prison sentence draws international attention to the tiny Middle Eastern kingdom on the same day that Obama makes controversial remarks about its human rights issues.
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Bahraini protesters wave their national flags as they take part in an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama, on September 27, 2013. Thousands took to the streets in Bahrain to condemn the arrest of ex-MP Marzooq, hours after clashes between protesters and police, officials and witnesses said. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)

US citizen Tagi al-Maidan received on Tuesday a 10-year prison sentence in Bahrain for attempted murder charges.

Maidan, who is of Bahraini and Saudi descent, was detained in the tiny Middle Eastern kingdom last October in connection to his involvement in the anti-government protests that have been occurring there almost daily since February of 2011.

His sister, who attended the sentencing and said that US consular officials were present, said, "After the sentence was read, Tagi was calm and he looked down towards the ground. He was in a state of shock."

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Is rationalism a form of belief?

GlobalPost religion correspondent Michael Goldfarb travels to Miletus, Turkey, to look at the original intersection of faith and reason.
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The remains of the ancient theater in Miletus, Turkey. (Ken and Nyetta/Wikimedia commons)

MILETUS, Turkey — Is rationalism a form of belief? In a time when religious fundamentalism across all faiths has provoked an aggressive reaction from thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens, and with atheist or non-religious "congregations" forming, it's a question worth exploring.

If reason is a kind of faith, then Miletus, on Turkey's Aegean coast, is its Bethlehem. This is where the very first Greek philosophers, including Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes — lived.

And just a few miles off the coast is the island of Samos, where Pythagoras lived around the same time.

"This was the center of the world," Dr. Philipp Niewoehner, an archeologist, said as we stood in the ruins of an Ottoman fort, atop the ruins of a Roman theatre, atop a cave sanctuary.

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Pope Francis grants far-ranging interview, opens up about a church in crisis

Francis seeks to heal the Catholic Church by playing down social issues like abortion, homosexuality and contraception.
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Pope Francis waves after his general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on September 18, 2013. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

In a remarkable, wide-ranging interview posted by America, the Jesuit magazine in New York, Pope Francis has sketched new details for a change of course in the Roman Catholic Church. The pope has made a striking departure from key positions of Benedict XVI and John Paul II.   

“I see the church as a field hospital after a battle,” the pope told Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit newspaper in Rome and official publication of the Vatican.    

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How an anti-Semitic epithet became the nickname of this English soccer club

Tottenham Hotspur fans say they affectionately call themselves "Yids" but critics want to banish the term from the league.
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Tottenham Hotspur's Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson (C) celebrates scoring his second goal with Spanish striker Roberto Soldado (L) during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City at White Hart Lane in north London on September 14, 2013. (Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — A controversy is brewing in English soccer over the use of a very nasty word: Yid.

Tottenham Hotspur has long been considered a "Jewish" team. Now its fans are facing sanctions for using this term of anti-Semitic abuse in their chants.

The Football Association, the sport's governing body in England, issued a statement last week calling the chants "offensive” and “inappropriate."

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Forty years after the Yom Kippur War, Israel still finding itself

Part Two: Though officially a Jewish state, Israel's religious identity is not so simple.
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Israelis stand next to sales promotion sign after a corner stone laying ceremony for a new Jewish neighborhood on August 11, 2013 in East Jerusalem, Israel. Israel's Housing Ministry announced Sunday the marketing of land for the immediate construction of nearly 1,200 new units in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement blocs. (Lior Mizrahi/AFP/Getty Images)

The Jewish High Holidays begin Wednesday at sundown. This year's "Days of Awe" bring a somber anniversary. It is 40 years since Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. It was as close as the Jewish state would ever come to defeat and remains a trauma for the country.

Much has changed in the last four decades, though the intractable problem of Israel's relationship to the Palestinians remains unsolved. But the biggest change of all is within the global Jewish community.

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For American Jews, an identity crisis

Part One: Is the American Jewish community fraying amid the rise of Orthodoxy and greater polarization over the future of Israel?
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Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather before entering Citi Field for a meeting to discuss the risks of using the Internet on May 20, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York City. More than 40,000 were expected to attend the rally at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, which organizers said would promote religiously responsible ways to use the Internet. (Mario Tama/AFP/Getty Images)

The Jewish High Holidays begin Wednesday at sundown. This year's "Days of Awe" bring a somber anniversary. It is 40 years since Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. It was as close as the Jewish state would ever come to defeat and remains a  trauma for the country.

Much has changed in the last four decades, though the intractable problem of Israel's relationship to the Palestinians remains unsolved. But the biggest change of all is within the global Jewish community.

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Being Jewish in Europe: Beyond the land of ghosts

Part Three: The Jewish population remains small in most of post-Holocaust Europe, but times have changed.
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A couple dances during the theatrical performance 'Jewish Wedding in Galicia' as part of the International Festival of Jewish music 'LvivKlezFest 2013' in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on September 1, 2013. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

The Jewish High Holidays begin Wednesday at sundown. This year's "Days of Awe" bring a somber anniversary. It is 40 years since Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. It was as close as the Jewish state would ever come to defeat and remains a trauma for the country.

Much has changed in the last four decades, though the intractable problem of Israel's relationship to the Palestinians remains unsolved. But the biggest change of all is within the global Jewish community.

More

Britain's Muslims hold mixed opinions on Syria intervention

After British Parliament withheld support for joining a military intervention against Assad, many Muslims are skeptical too.
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Protesters gather on Whitehall outside Downing Street to campaign for no international military intervention in the ongoing conflict in Syria on August 28, 2013 in London, England. Prime Minister David Cameron is due to Chair a meeting of the National Security Council today before Parliament's recall tomorrow to debate the UK's response to a suspected chemical weapon attack in Syria. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

LONDON — Britain's Parliament on Thursday rejected taking part in any military action against Syria's Assad regime following last month's poison gas attack on civilians. But given the viciousness of the conflict, the matter will probably come up again.

The vote was a setback for Prime Minister David Cameron, who argued forcefully for action.

If you believe that the conflicting thinking about Syria is a dilemma affecting just presidents and prime ministers trying to deal with the Assad regime, you could be missing an important perspective.

Britain's Muslim community is facing the same struggle and having trouble reaching a collective view of the Syrian civil war.

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