It’s Ramadan, and man, it’s hot. Muslims fasting from food and drink know the drill. Keep physical activity to a minimum. That and air-conditioning, reports Peggy Fletcher Stack from Utah.

Diplomats and others are hoping Ramadan can serve as a ‘cooling off’ period in the tumultuous Middle East. In Syria, rebels from the Free Syrian Army offered President Bashar Al-Assad an offer of a ceasefire truce in Homs for the duration of Ramadan.

Maybe Egyptians will catch the drift? Security officials say suspected militants killed a Christian merchant in the northern Sinai Peninsula. The merchant is the second Christian to be killed in northern Sinai in less than a week. It’s all part of a backlash against Christians by Islamist militants for their activism against former President Mohammed Morsi.

And more signs there may not be a Ramadan cooling, after all: A motorcycle packed with explosives went off outside a mosque frequented by both Sunni and Shi’ite worshippers in Pakistan’s volatile northwest.

And gunmen overran an Iraqi army checkpoint and opened fire on a trailer packed with policemen breaking their Ramadan fast, killing 14.

On a hopeful note: The first feature-length movie filmed in Saudi Arabia by a woman is out and getting good reviews. Wadjda is the story of a 10-year-old girl living in Riyadh, who decides to compete in a Koran memorization competition at her school to win money to buy a bicycle.

Some Republican lawmakers and conservative activists are concerned that religious expression in the military is “under attack.” They want an amendment to a military spending bill to expand protections. Not surprisingly, atheists are fighting it.

Same atheists. Different country. In England, secularists are calling on nonreligious parents to fight a government effort that would allow the Church of England to run thousands of state schools.

More on atheists: the Tacoma-based radio show “Ask An Atheist” is going on a roadshow tour across America.  Broadcast personalities will be stopping in eight cities over the span of a month.

Nineteen former students of a high school run by Yeshiva University, the flagship school of Orthodox Judaism, have filed a $380 million federal lawsuit over what they claim are hundreds of acts of abuse by two rabbis in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ball State University in Indiana is facing scrutiny for hiring a science professor who wrote a book on intelligent design; a move that comes after another professor at the state college was accused of teaching creationism.

A newspaper column lampooning Southern Baptists, calling the group “the crazy old paranoid uncle of evangelical Christians,” may put a pastor’s job in jeopardy. The column was written by Angela Thomas, the wife of Bill Thomas, an assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church in Madisonville.

And finally: Three interesting studies of note:

Cohabitation seems to be a bad bargain for women. A new study reveals that that 52 percent of cohabiting men between ages 18 and 26 are not certain their relationship is permanent, compared to 39 percent of women in the same age group.

Does belief in God affect therapy? Yes, indeed. A study shows participants who reported some belief in God appeared to be less depressed after treatment than those with little or no belief. They also appeared less likely to engage in self-harming behaviors.

Going to choir practice tonight? Turns out, choir music has calming effects on the heart — especially when sung in unison. But this is even more amazing: The Swedish study found it took almost no time for the singers’ heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors, which scientists attached to singers’ ears, starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks.

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  1. “Not surprisingly, atheists are fighting it.”

    The linked story does not mention atheists, though it states the White House is in opposition. Is it your belief that anyone who has reservations about this law is automatically an atheist. Reporting? Editorializing? Bearing false witness?

    • Yonat Shimron

      Yonat Shimron

      Article author

      Check out the comments by Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He is an atheist and an outspoken critic of proselytism in the military. He called the amendment “egregious” and “vile.”

  2. I consider Weinstein a defender of freedom. Any bill or law mandating that religious instutions control anything is wrong and infringes on the seperation of church from state. No, whatever belief’s I have should NOT be forced on others.

  1. [...] Thursday's Religion News Roundup: Ramadan heat * Military religious freedom … It's Ramadan, and man, it's hot. Muslims fasting from food and drink know the drill. Keep physical activity to a minimum. That and air-conditioning, reports Peggy Fletcher Stack from Utah. Diplomats and others are hoping Ramadan can serve as a 'cooling … Read more on Religion News Service [...]

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