Ethics + Religion

Trump tapped into white victimhood – leaving fertile ground for white supremacists
2021 Jan 06
A sense – or fear – of victimhood pervades contemporary white supremacy from the extreme to the mainstream.
In Mike Pence, US evangelicals had their '24-karat-gold' man in the White House. Loyalty may tarnish that legacy
2021 Jan 06
As Mike Pence prepares for life after the vice presidency, a scholar of religion looks back at the political and religious conversions that informed the politician's worldview.
Ready to try an old approach to a New Year’s resolution? The story of Saint Ignatius may provide some guidance
2021 Jan 04
For many, New Year's resolutions do not last more than a few days or weeks. A theologian writes how we can learn from the challenges and reflections of Saint Ignatius.
The icy backstory to that 'clink clink' you'll hear when raising a toast to the end of 2020
2020 Dec 23
The history of ice in drinks goes back to antiquity. But it only really got going when a Bostonian started exporting ice to the British in colonial India.
The psychology of fairness: Why some Americans don't believe the election results
2020 Dec 21
When a decision is made and people don't get the outcome they want, they often tend to see it as unfair. Here's why.
The morality of feeling equal empathy for strangers and family alike
2020 Dec 22
Feelings of empathy for others may be plentiful in a year of suffering. But is feeling more empathy to loved ones than strangers morally right? A research team sought to find out.
Secular 'values voters' are becoming an electoral force in the US – just look closely at 2020's results
2020 Dec 21
Nonreligious voters overwhelmingly backed Biden in the November presidential race. They also may have been key in several down-ballot state measures, says a scholar of US secularism.
When families of murder victims speak at death penalty trials, their anguish may make sentencing less fair
2020 Dec 18
Victim impact statements give survivors a voice in the criminal justice process. But research shows their wrenching personal testimonies may not bring closure and can add racial bias into sentencing.
Here's why Christmas movies are so appealing this holiday season
2020 Dec 18
Holiday movies have been an essential part of the American winter celebrations. They offer a glimpse into how the world is could be, often in sharp contrast to reality.
As heavenly bodies converge, many ask: Is the Star of Bethlehem making a comeback?
2020 Dec 17
A conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is giving rise to speculations that it is the same astronomical event as the biblical Star of Bethlehem. An expert explains why it is not.
COVID-19 further exposes inequalities in the global financial system
2020 Dec 15
Global economic policy excludes low-income countries from the spending options that developed nations use to buffer their economies in times of crisis, and the pandemic has inflamed that inequality.
Ancient Greek desire to resolve civil strife resonates today – but Athenian justice would be a 'bitter pill' in modern America
2020 Dec 15
Homer and Aeschylus turned to the divine to write their happy endings. But no gods are conspiring above the US, ready to swoop down and save humankind from itself.
Armenians displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh fear their medieval churches will be destroyed
2020 Dec 15
A peace deal brokered by Russia ended the war on Nov. 9, but the rich architectural heritage of the region is still at risk.
Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Why the Gospels disagree over the circumstances of Christ's birth
2020 Dec 15
The differences in the Gospels are hard to reconcile. That's because, says a scholar, they offer an important insight into the Greco-Roman views of ethnic identity.
On the first day of Christmas...teachers got a legal headache over blurring the line between church and state
2020 Dec 14
Educators walk an fine line when it comes to marking religious holidays. But in so doing, are they missing an opportunity for teachable moments on faith issues?
Pardon me? An ethicist's guide to what is proper when it comes to presidential pardons
2020 Dec 14
Speculation has swirled over whom President Trump may pardon before leaving office. But why do presidents have the right to pardon, and how should it be used?
Only the richest ancient Athenians paid taxes – and they bragged about it
2020 Nov 03
In ancient Athens, the richest people paid taxes to support what the residents considered the salvation of the city. These taxes earned them social and political clout more valuable than money.
Who are patron saints and why do Catholics venerate them?
2020 Nov 10
Many saints are venerated for specific reasons, professions or even nations. There are saints who are believed to provide assistance in selling a property.
Is democracy sacred?
2020 Nov 06
A theologian argues, based on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, that a political institution has its limits when it comes to being called 'sacred.'
How Reagan's notions of a 'good society' resonate with Trump supporters today
2020 Nov 06
A religion scholar explains how Ronald Reagan invoked religion and shifted the American notion of a good society – a vision that might resonate with the politics of today.
The many stories of Diwali share a common theme of triumph of justice
2020 Nov 12
Many Indian Americans will be celebrating the festival of Diwali this week. A scholar explains what this festival of lights means – especially in chaotic times.
60 years after JFK, Biden as second Catholic president offers a refresh in church's political role
2020 Nov 12
The US Catholic Church is more diverse and more divided than it was in JFK's time. Biden could offer an opportunity for the church to move beyond so-called "culture war" issues.
When a child chooses a donor to sponsor them, it's a new twist on a surprisingly old model of international charity
2020 Nov 12
No matter who chooses whom, many sponsors of children in need see God as the real driving force when they enter this arrangement with far-away strangers.
In appealing to 'give each other a chance,' Biden recalls the democratic charity of Abraham Lincoln
2020 Nov 11
On Nov. 7, when President-elect Joe Biden urged in his address that we “give each other a chance,” his words summoned Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address of 1865.
Pro-mask or anti-mask? Your moral beliefs probably predict your stance
2020 Nov 16
Here's how governments can get more people to follow COVID-19 guidelines.
What's next for American evangelicals after Trump leaves office?
2020 Nov 13
When Trump leaves the White House in January, many American evangelicals will feel that they've lost their protector in chief.
Amy Coney Barrett sizes up 30-year-old precedent balancing religious freedom with rule of law
2020 Nov 13
The case Fulton v. Philadelphia is about foster care. But questions over a decades-old Supreme Court ruling may have wider implications.
3 reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it
2020 Nov 18
A philosopher writes about why many of us are feeling tired with the constant onslaught of information coming at us.
Progressive prosecutors scored big wins in 2020 elections, boosting a nationwide trend
2020 Nov 18
Reform-minded prosecutors across the US notched victories against traditional law-and-order candidates by running on progressive platforms to reduce mass incarceration and tackle police misconduct.
How Taiwan uses Buddhist literature for environmental education
2020 Nov 30
Taiwan has made significant efforts in protecting its environment. A scholar writes about how the country educates its children on protecting the environment through Buddhist stories.
Poland's anti-abortion push highlights pandemic risks to democracy
2020 Nov 25
Tens of thousands of people have defied bans on gatherings to protest abortion restrictions. A scholar of democracy says the policy push during a pandemic has echoes elsewhere.
Muslims have visualized Prophet Muhammad in words and calligraphic art for centuries
2020 Nov 24
Visual depiction of Prophet Muhammad is a sensitive issue for many Muslims. Islamic literature shows how Muslims used textual imagery to give a vivid picture of the prophet.
Muslim schools are allies in France's fight against radicalization – not the cause
2020 Nov 24
School reforms pushed by French President Emmanuel Macron are aimed at pushing Muslim students into public schools. An expert explains why this may be the wrong approach.
In a year of Black Lives Matter protests, Dutch wrestle (again) with the tradition of Black Pete
2020 Dec 03
The annual Dec. 5 tradition sees performers don blackface and afro wigs. But a growing number of Dutch citizens believe it's time to wave goodbye to Black Pete.
The morality of canceling student debt
2020 Dec 02
President-elect Joe Biden promised to forgive some part of student debt. An ethicist considers what's fair.
Reckoning with slavery: What a revolt's archives tell us about who owns the past
2020 Dec 01
The slave revolt in Berbice, modern-day Guyana, was unusual for its length and near success. So why are so few of the revolt's documents in the Caribbean nation's archives?
Why the Virgin of Guadalupe is more than a religious icon to Catholics in Mexico
2020 Dec 10
The annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City will instead be held online due to the pandemic. A scholar explains its history and its connection to Mexican people.
How Hanukkah came to be an annual White House celebration
2020 Dec 04
For much of American history, the only December holiday to be recognized in the White House was Christmas, but menorah lightings are now an annual tradition.
Trump plan to revive the gallows, electric chair, gas chamber and firing squad recalls a troubled history
2020 Dec 03
The Justice Department has approved alternatives to lethal injections for federal executions. But no method of capital punishment has been without gruesome stories of what went wrong.
Biden's chance to revive US tradition of inserting ethics in foreign policy
2020 Dec 11
Four years of 'America First' has seen the US retreat from the world. But as a scholar of international relations explains, Biden could return Washington to the role of a more moral global leader.
From the White House to ancient Athens: Hypocrisy is no match for partisanship
2020 Dec 11
Though hypocrites seemingly relinquish their moral authority, the trial against Socrates shows us that our favoritism for public figures is stronger than our judgments of their hypocrisy.
Gay rights dispute is pulling apart the United Methodist Church, after decades of argument
2020 Jan 27
After half a century of ambiguous policy regarding LGBTQ inclusion, the United Methodist Church may well split up in May.
Puerto Rico earthquakes imperil island's indigenous heritage
2020 Jan 28
Puerto Rico was once home to about 110,000 Taínos, an indigenous people decimated by the Spanish conquest. Their ancient homeland was located in the area hit hard by recent earthquakes.
Islamophobia in the US did not start with Trump, but his tweets perpetuate a long history of equating Muslims with terrorism
2020 Jan 29
In retweeting a doctored image of Nancy Pelosi standing in a hijab in front of an Iranian flag, Trump is playing into fears that Iran and Islam are evil and anti-American.
Preventing genocide in Myanmar: Court order tries to protect Rohingya Muslims where politics has failed
2020 Jan 29
The International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar to protect its Rohingya minority and preserve any evidence relevant to the genocide charges against it. But compliance is not guaranteed.
As Democratic primaries near, educators can teach hope to a polarized citizenry
2020 Jan 31
Schools and colleges can teach political hope that can help citizens make better choices.
Why we knock on wood for luck
2020 Jan 30
The curious history of a ritual meant to ward off bad luck.
Catholic investigations are still shrouded in secrecy
2020 Feb 03
Early Christians were urged to 'supervise' one another. In the present times, that theology is often used by the Vatican for a religious investigation a known as the apostolic visitation.
What's a church? That can depend on the eye of the beholder or paperwork filed with the IRS
2020 Feb 06
A growing number of groups you probably wouldn't think are churches are opting to be treated like churches. And the government isn't stopping them.
National Prayer Breakfast was a moment for leaders to show humility – Trump changed it
2020 Feb 07
The National Prayer Breakfast has been a time to forge friendships. But, as a scholar says, Trump used it to praise his accomplishments, malign his enemies, and thank God for being on his side.
Lynching preachers: How black pastors resisted Jim Crow and white pastors incited racial violence
2020 Feb 10
Religion was no barrier for Southern lynch mobs intent on terror. White pastors joined the KKK, incited racial violence and took part in lynchings. Sometimes, the victim was a preacher.
How a Native American coming-of-age ritual is making a comeback
2020 Feb 10
Historically, indigenous people celebrated a girl's transition to womanhood with a year-long ritual. Many such ritual practices were made 'illegal' by the US and Canadian governments.
Women in Arab countries find themselves torn between opportunity and tradition
2020 Feb 11
In countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, it's now official policy that women should go to college and work outside the home. But cultural pressure to marry and have kids remains strong.
The power of a song in a strange land
2020 Feb 13
Spirituals were created out of the experience of enslaved people in the US. They weren't songs of anger – but of an abiding belief in the victory of good over evil.
How China does Valentine's Day
2020 Feb 11
China's Qixi Festival is a celebration of love based on the legend of a mortal who married a goddess, causing his furious mother-in-law to create a Milky Way to divide these two twinkling stars.
Conservative Islamic views are gaining ground in secular Bangladesh and curbing freedom of expression
2020 Feb 18
In recent years Bangladesh has seen an increase in attacks on religious minorities. A scholar explains how certain extreme views on how Islam is to be followed are taking center stage in the country.
Fringe religious party gains power in crisis-stricken Peru
2020 Feb 18
After a bribery scandal that took down four presidents and led Congress to dissolve, some Peruvians are putting their faith in an austere religion called the Israelites of the New Universal Pact.
Why Trump's post-impeachment actions are about vengeance, not retribution
2020 Feb 20
Trump's firing of witnesses who testified during his impeachment trial has been described as 'retribution.' But these actions are actually revenge, a political scientist says.
Execution for a Facebook post? Why blasphemy is a capital offense in some Muslim countries
2020 Feb 20
Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia all punish blasphemy harshly – even with death. Such laws have political as well as religious motives, says a scholar on Islamism: They're a tool for crushing dissent.
After US and Taliban sign accord, Afghanistan must prepare for peace
2020 Feb 21
A peace deal with the Taliban has been signed. But rebuilding Afghanistan after three decades of conflict will take much more than an accord, says a scholar of peacebuilding.
Indian women protest new citizenship laws, joining a global 'fourth wave' feminist movement
2020 Feb 24
A round-the-clock strike of Muslim women in a working-class neighborhood of Delhi is India's most enduring pocket of resistance to religious discrimination, inequality and gender violence.
100,000 Indians say 'Namaste Trump' and the president ignores some key human rights concerns
2020 Feb 25
A shared commitment to democracy was always key to the India-US relationship – until Trump. A foreign policy expert explains what's on the agenda for Trump's trip to India and what's missing.
How civil rights leader Wyatt Tee Walker revived hope after MLK's death
2020 Feb 25
In a sermon two weeks after MLK's funeral, civil rights leader, Wyatt Tee Walker, urged young seminarians to be hopeful and take action for making change happen. His sermon has valuable lessons today.
Emotional support animals can endanger the public and make life harder for people like me who rely on service dogs
2020 Mar 02
Trained service dogs are fundamentally different from emotional support animals – and certification could make sure the public understands the difference.
How India came to love cricket, favored sport of its colonial British rulers
2020 Feb 26
During a recent visit to India, Trump spoke at the world's largest cricket stadium. Cricket came to India in the 18th century through British sailors and is a revered cultural institution in India.
Evangelicals downplay religious expression when working with secular groups
2020 Mar 03
Many Americans imagine evangelicals as a monolithic group that supports conservative policies and always talks about their faith. Three experts found in a study that the picture is far more complex.
The Bible says to welcome refugees
2019 Jul 19
Scripture strongly and unequivocally affirms the obligation to treat strangers with dignity and hospitality, says a Christian scholar who turns to the Bible for guidance on Trump's immigration policy.
How the Dalai Lama is chosen and why China wants to appoint its own
2019 Jul 19
Winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize and one of the most recognizable faces of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama has turned 84 and the question of a successor is pressing – and controversial.
Al-Qaida is stronger today than it was on 9/11
2019 Jul 19
Bin Laden's extremist group had less than a hundred members in September 2001. Today it's a transnational terror organization with 40,000 fighters across the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
I went on a Voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti
2019 Jul 19
A scholar went on a Voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti and learned how an oppressive slave past has shaped its religious present.
Should Southern Baptist women be preachers? A centuries old controversy finds new life
2019 Jul 19
A controversy has erupted yet again among Southern Baptists over women's preaching. An expert explains how despite this 300-year-old controversy, Baptist women have shown remarkable leadership.
Not all Americans have a fair path to a good death – racial disparities are real
2019 Jul 19
There are many conversations these days around 'successful dying.' Two African American scholars argue why these conversations need to include race and how it impacts life span.
Maryland 'Peace Cross' ruling: The Supreme Court rules that a cross stands for more than Christianity
2019 Jul 19
An expert explains why war memorials with religious symbols can have different meanings in a diverse society.
So, what really is jihad?
2019 Jul 19
Violent radicals are often described as jihadists. A scholar explains what the word means and why those using the word to justify terrorism are often misrepresenting their sources.
What Orwell's '1984' tells us about today's world, 70 years after it was published
2019 Jul 19
In the year 1984, there was self-congratulatory coverage that the dystopia of the novel had not been realized. However, an expert argues that the technologies described in the novel are here and watching us.
The struggle to find silence in the ancient monastic world – and now
2019 Jul 19
Monasticism developed in part because people were seeking the solace of quiet places But finding solitude was a struggle. And many realized that true silence could be found only within.
Women have been the heart of the Christian right for decades
2019 Jul 19
Conservative Christian women have played key roles in the anti-abortion movement for decades, but their contributions are often overlooked in language that focuses on men.
What is Eid and how do Muslims celebrate it? 6 questions answered
2019 Jul 19
Muslims throughout the world will celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a celebration at the end of Ramadan. Here's an introduction to this important feast and its partner, Eid al-Adha.
Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have a long history in America's past
2019 Jul 19
Crime related to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have shown an increase in recent years. An expert explains that American antagonism toward Islamic and Jewish traditions goes back nearly 500 years
What Israel's new election reveals about the struggle over Jewishness
2019 Jul 19
Young Haredim men, who are strictly observant Jews, have long been exempted from Israel's compulsory military service. A disagreement over stopped Netanyahu from forming a government.
India's Prime Minister Modi pursues politics of Hindu nationalism – what does that mean?
2019 Jul 19
Modi and the political party he represents are adherents of Hindutva, an ideology. It is fundamentally different from the faith, Hinduism.
Trump and the problem with pardons
2019 Jul 19
Letting bad behavior go unpunished can undermine respect for the law of war.
The history of China's Muslims and what's behind their persecution
2019 Jul 19
Muslims came to China in the 13th century and played an influential role. Tensions have escalated since 9/11, and the global community is largely silent.
The Catholic Church is tightening rules on reporting sexual abuse – but not swearing off its legal privilege to keep secrets
2019 May 22
Pope Francis is trying to address gaps in the regulatory processes of the Catholic Church. But clergy can still decide whether, and to what degree, to share information.
There is more than one religious view on abortion - here's what Jewish texts say
2019 May 22
An expert explains that many of the foundational Jewish texts assert that a fetus does not attain the status of personhood until birth.
What's behind the belief in a soulmate?
2019 May 22
Many of us go through life in the hope of finding the ideal soulmate -- our missing half. The reason may be deeply embedded in religious beliefs.
Why parents should think twice about tracking apps for their kids
2019 May 22
Apps these days allow parents to track their children. An expert explains, why these technologies should be a reason for worry if you are a parent,
The black Muslim female fashion trailblazers who came before model Halima Aden
2019 May 22
Hijab-wearing model Halima Aden will be featured in Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit edition. Here's why her success needs to be viewed in context of a long history of black Muslim women's fashions.
Harsh punishments under Sharia are modern interpretations of an ancient tradition
2019 May 22
Some Islamic nations, including Brunei, have harsh punishments under Sharia. In pre-modern times, Sharia was rarely used as criminal law, and standard of proof for any prosecution was very high.
What Ramadan means to Muslims: 4 essential reads
2019 May 22
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – acts that denote the obligations of living a good Muslim life.
Gays cheered at Brigham Young University – millennial Mormons are increasingly tolerant of same-sex attraction
2019 May 22
A valedictorian at Brigham Young University came out in his address as a 'gay son of God.' And his admission met with loud applause. An expert explains how big a change this is for the Mormon Church.
3 moral reasons why parents need to get their children vaccinated against measles and other diseases
2019 May 22
Measles cases in the US have reached their highest in 25 years. A bioethicist argues why parents opposed to vaccination are not just wrong about the science, but about the morals.
From Paris to Boston, the crucial role of fire chaplains
2019 May 22
A chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade helped save several items during the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. Rarely seen, fire chaplains often take enormous risks to provide support during disasters.
How a music genre known as black metal came to be related to church burnings
2019 May 22
When three African American churches were burned down in southern Louisiana, the man accused was said to be linked to black metal, a subgenre of heavy metal with a history of violence.
Notre Dame has shaped the intellectual life of Paris for eight centuries
2019 May 22
The influence of Notre Dame Cathedral extended into every part of the life of Paris. The cathedral school was the training ground for medieval thinkers and the place of birth of the first university.
What Leonardo's depiction of Virgin Mary and Jesus tells us about his religious beliefs
2019 May 22
Leonardo da Vinci emphasized the naturalness of the relationship of Jesus and Mary in his art, while also inviting viewers into a religious message.
Who are Sri Lanka's Christians?
2019 May 22
Suicide bombers struck Sri Lanka's churches and hotels on Easter Sunday, killing and injuring hundreds of people. Seven percent of Sri Lanka's population is Christian – most of them Roman Catholics.
Notre Dame's history is 9 centuries of change, renovation and renewal
2019 May 22
The Notre Dame Cathedral was long a powerful symbol of church authority - but it wasn't static. The design kept changing to keep up with the changing times.
Why Pete Buttigieg may be reviving progressive ideals of the Social Gospel Movement
2019 May 22
Pete Buttigieg's recent comments on Christian values, have drawn much attention. They might be quite similar to the ideals espoused by the Midwestern progressive Social Gospel Movement.
Why Good Friday was dangerous for Jews in the Middle Ages and how that changed
2019 May 22
On Good Friday, Christians give thanks for their salvation, which they believe was made possible by the suffering of Jesus. But for Jews, it was common in the Middle Ages to be attacked with stones.
The Mormon Church still doesn't accept same-sex couples – even if it no longer bars their children
2019 May 22
In 2015, the Mormon Church barred children from same-sex marriage from the church. An expert explains why this policy was tied to a larger conservative battle against gay rights.
Muslims arrived in America 400 years ago as part of the slave trade and today are vastly diverse
2019 May 22
Muslims are not new to America. The first Muslims came as slaves and left a deep influence on a host of music genres, such as the blues and jazz.
A thousand years ago, the Catholic Church paid little attention to homosexuality
2019 May 22
Pope Francis has discouraged homosexual men from entering priesthood. Prior to the 12th century, even celebrated priests could write about same-sex desires and the church paid little attention.
Catholic missionaries are evangelizing on college campuses and trying to bring back the 'nones'
2019 May 22
Many young Catholics are moving away from their faith and joining the growing number of the religiously unaffiliated. The missionary group FOCUS is evangelizing on campuses, though there are concerns.
Don't blame Sharia for Islamic extremism -- blame colonialism
2019 May 22
There is no inherent tension between Islam and democratic values. Like any use of religion in politics, the application of Sharia as law depends on who is using it – and why.
What causes greed and how can we deal with it?
2019 May 22
Some parents were recently charged with paying bribes for their children's admission to top colleges. Religious thought can help us understand what drives such greed and also provide ethical guidance.
Atheism has been part of many Asian traditions for millennia
2019 May 22
It might appear to many that atheism is a modern idea. However, in parts of Asia, particularly in India, atheism has been part of beliefs for thousands of years.
Do you have a moral duty to pay taxes?
2019 May 22
Many Americans are fretting over paying their taxes. A philosopher says the moral question isn't as much about a duty toward the government, but being fair to fellow tax-paying citizens.