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

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.

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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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Mob of 1,000 Buddhists burns down Muslim homes and shops in Myanmar

Conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar creates concern that interreligious violence will overtake the fledgling democracy.
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Myanmar security force personnel stand guard while a mob (background) look on following unrest at an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp for Muslim Rohingyas on the outskirts of Sittwe town in Rakhine State on August 9, 2013. The United Nations has called for dialogue after another violent clash in a camp for dispossessed Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, as its human rights envoy toured the strife-torn area. (STR/AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images)

A mob of 1,000 Buddhists in Myanmar torched several homes and shops, mostly Muslim-owned, in a riot on Saturday.

The mob descended upon the village Htan Gone, located in the Sagaing region, in an act of retaliation after rumors spread that a Muslim man tried to sexually assault a young woman, Al Jazeera reported.

According to state television, about 42 houses and 15 shops were destroyed, but no injuries were reported.

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Malaysian government to Shia Muslims: Keep your beliefs to yourself

A recent declaration by the Malaysian government tells the minority Shia population it is welcome to practice but cannot attempt to spread its brand of Islam.
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About 60 percent of Malaysia's 30 million people are Muslim, most of them Sunni. (MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images)

Followers of the Shia sect of Islam are allowed to practice their religion, but may not spread their beliefs to others, according to the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Jamil Khir Baharom. 

“We never harass Shia followers!” Baharom said, “but it’s just that they are banned from spreading the ideology.”

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India pilgrimage disaster recalls other mass-casualty religious events

Despite the many deadly disasters associated with mass pilgrimages, including stampedes, fires and military clashes, each year people continue to journey to holy sites all over the world.
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Muslim pilgrims arrive to throw pebbles at pillars during the "Jamarat" ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, on October 28, 2012. Pilgrims pelt pillars symbolizing the devil with pebbles to show their defiance on the third day of the hajj. (FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

An express train traveling through the eastern Bihar State of India plowed through a group of pilgrims Monday on their way to a holy site, killing dozens and injuring many more. Officials said the driver had been given clearance to pass through the remote station, but hundreds of people were crossing the tracks on a pilgrimage to a nearby temple to offer holy water to the Hindu god Shiva.

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