Do Yoga’s Hindu Roots Matter?

I don’t care much for bland spirituality, so at yoga class I generally tune out the prelude, when the teacher reads aloud—as is the custom—an inspirational passage on which to meditate. Recently, though, I was startled to attention when the teacher chose a paragraph on compassion from the Dalai Lama’s bestseller The Art of Happiness. Hold on a minute, I

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How Jews Invented Heaven

Do Jews believe in heaven? I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked this question. Modern people—and especially Jews raised in the Reform tradition—are flummoxed by the notion of heaven, and the rabbis are less than helpful. “Jews believe it is this life that matters, not the next”: You hear this a lot. Judaism’s vagueness on

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Can Science Explain Heaven?

There are those who believe that science will eventually explain everything—including our enduring belief in heaven. The thesis here is very simple: heaven is not a real place, or even a process or a supernatural event. It’s something that happens in your brain as you die. I first encountered this idea as I was researching my new book, Heaven: Our

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Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination With The Afterlife

“Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife” by Lisa Miller (Harper-Collins ISBN 978-0-06-055475-0) “Heaven. The word evokes all kinds of images and feelings in the hearts of people virtually everywhere. In some corners, heaven is seen as a vague sense of euphoria, a state of everlasting bliss. In other corners, heaven is a busy place, where eternal progression is the

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Should Harvard Have A Religion Department?

It doesn’t take a degree from Harvard to see that in today’s world, a person needs to know something about religion. The conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians; between Christians, Muslims, and animists in Africa; between religious conservatives and progressives at home over abortion and gay marriage—all these relate, if indirectly, to what rival groups believe about God and

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Stephanie Saldana’s Memoir Bread of Angels

It is understandable to want to run screaming from a “spiritual memoir”—especially when you discover it’s been written by a 27-year-old. Memoirs are bad enough, with their cringe-making confessions, their sordid tale-telling, and their self-important self-examination. Why, the reader too often wonders, should we care about you? Spiritual memoirs frequently inhabit the lowest tier of this navel-gazing. In a regular

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The 2010 Super Bowl’s Pro-Life Ad

Americans like values, but they don’t know which values they like best. The hype over Tim Tebow’s pro-life ad—sponsored by the conservative faith-and-values group Focus on the Family and scheduled to air during Sunday’s Super Bowl—is a case in point. When a corporation uses a television ad to sell us a product (car, gadget, hamburger) that we don’t want or

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Why God Hates Haiti

Haiti is surely a Job among nations. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere: half its population lives on less than a dollar a day. With 98 percent of its forests felled and burned for firewood, Haiti is uniquely vulnerable to flooding from hurricanes. In 2008 four storms in as many weeks left a million homeless. Haiti has

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