Sounds are also not a cultural universal: music for one person may be noise to another; the sound of thunder may frighten some and be soothing to others; the call of the adhan may be "grating and annoying" to some and "beautiful" to others.
Satire for good purposes from religious sources such as The Wittenburg Door should be protected speech, and satire from secular sources that degrades religion and deities and prophets should be just as protected. Offense is never an excuse for violence.
That religion and theology are important topics is made clear in daily headlines and blogs. While they often deal with desperate and transcendent subjects, publics usually deal with them on micro scales. How, then, do we treat religion and theology when people of many faiths or no faiths or anti-faiths are greeted with a tense topic in the face of others who are not like them?
The thugs who cut down a dozen Charlie Hebdo are the international descendants of those who murder alleged blasphemers and apostates in Muslim nations.
Secularism and pluralism are two of the defining ethos of Western societies. The former decouples religion from governmental institutions whilst the latter seeks to protect the rights of all citizens to freely practice their creed.
To better understand this power of religious passion, or "the Religious Bomb," as Thomas Cahill names it in Heretics and Heroes, we need to unpackage the many dynamics and components of religion and identity.
In this moment of post-attack fog as the world tries to get back to normal, I urge you all, whether leaders in title or in conviction, not to poke the bear. Find a way forward that comes from a quest for understanding, soul-searching and peaceful resolution.
Paris has a way of drawing one's gaze to the past. As we marched southeast yesterday from Place de la République, crowds singing and banners flying, we asserted proud and ancient sentiments against a tragedy that had blown us all back.
Unfortunately, however, those of us who spend our professional lives monitoring religious freedom developments -- and fighting to protect those freedoms -- see the other side of the coin.
Religion today can be characterized by tension and fear, uncertainty and anxiety. As I cringe before the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, I wonder if the question sometimes is not atheism versus religion, but the 21st century versus the dark ages.
To save humanity from tearing itself apart, we must reject the erroneous premise that some human beings have been created as less than others. We must accept as inviolable and "self-evident" the truths that God is indeed compassionate and all-loving, and that all of us have been created equal.
Here are some indisputable facts: the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists and a majority also reject terrorism and violence as a legitimate means of achieving any objective, whether it's religious, political, or otherwise.
Once the dust settles on the military response, we need to collectively learn as citizens of this 21st century that people different from us are not a binary 0 to our 1 or an off to our on switch
Martha Root was to make many trips around the world spreading the Baha'i Faith, which is now the second most widespread religion worldwide after Christianity. To the east of Santiago, Chile, a new spectacular Baha'i Temple is taking shape -- a testament to how far the community has come in the country since its humble beginnings.
Anti-semitism is again showing its violent face. In France, Jewish community leaders and concerned politicians had to work hard to get the reality of anti-semitic violence recognized. But today, the warning signals are on everywhere in Europe. To simply admit the problem is not enough anymore.