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Christian, Secular or Something Else Entirely

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Here's a tip: If you want to know before your friends do what may well be one of the major questions of the 21st century, keep your eye on two new documents. The first is the Berlin Declaration to be released by E.U. President Angela Merkel within the month. The second is the Brussels Declaration, a statement by prominent European academicians, community leaders, and national and European politicians, which disagrees with the tenets included in the Berlin Declaration and which has already been released in response to it.

Morality: Is it a many-splendored thing?

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A series of rotating dinner parties is an institution in rural Ireland. With nowhere much to go, people go regularly to one another's houses "for a grand chat" over a good long meal and a couple bottles of wine. They come at seven o'clock and leave at 1 a.m. Then they drive back through the tiny mountain roads in deep dark night to rest up to do it again. Regularly.

Gumbleton: Nothing but the truth

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There are moments in life when the details of an event become largely irrelevant. What particular incident started World War II is hardly as important anymore as the millions of people who were killed in it. Whether or not cigarette smoking is a "benign" addiction -- one of the kind easily handled by "just saying no" -- is a meaningless conversation. The fact is that more than 400,000 people die every year from the effects of cigarettes.

Freedom of religion has its own demands

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I found myself staring at a picture on a friend's mantlepiece this week. There they were, seated on a low ridge along an outside wall of a cobblestone street. They looked casual enough.


There were two women, three teenage girls, one child, all of them huddled together, no man in sight. Their bodies were swathed in heavy black abayas, their faces circled in hijabs, veils that covered everything but their eyes, nose and mouth. Underneath each of the long black skirts, in a kind of playful, mocking way, their toes snuck out through the straps of their sandals.

Justice is done: Why doesn't it feel like it?

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As the world prepared to celebrate World Peace Day, Saddam Hussein walked to the gallows in Baghdad. "The Americans," commentators pronounced solemnly, "had handed him over to the Iraqis."


The phrase carried with it eerie echoes of another moment in time when another ruler also maneuvered to avoid responsibility for the death of another prisoner. And just as surely as Pilate is remembered for the death of Jesus, so will the United States be remembered for the death of Hussein, however intently we argue that the execution was "the work of the young democracy" in Iraq.

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July 4-17, 2014

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