TIME faith

The Death Penalty’s Underlying Problem

The death penalty illustrates our tendency to separate people into two groups: monsters who commit heinous crimes and everyone else.

Does the state have the right to execute its citizens? My answer is yes. Did the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma – 43 minutes between the beginning of the lethal injection and his death by heart attack – constitute cruel and unusual punishment? Again, my answer is yes. Does Texas, which persists in proving itself to be our nation’s most efficient capital killing field, execute citizens in a way that isn’t cruel and unusual? My answer is probably. Should Texas and other states exercise this right? Here, my answer is no.

I say that not only because the death penalty has been disproportionately imposed upon blacks and Hispanics, who make up more than half of our nation’s death row population (and more than two-thirds in Oklahoma and Texas.) Nor solely because the death penalty is sometimes wrongly imposed, most recently documented in a study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences that concludes 4% of current death row inmates are most likely innocent. The Innocence Project reports that 18 death row inmates have been exonerated by DNA evidence alone.

The underlying problem is that the death penalty illustrates our tendency to separate people into two groups: monsters who commit heinous crimes and everyone else. As our justice system demonstrates in the variety of sentences it imposes, moral culpability spans a wide range, perhaps wider than we think.

If Clayton Lockett deserved to die for shooting Stephanie Neiman and supervising her burial while she was still alive, for example, what about the two guys who dug her grave and listened to her cries for help? Why not sentence them to death as well, rather than merely life in prison?

But let’s go further. What if one of the perpetrators had videotaped this horrific crime – as some criminals do – and posted it on a violent porn site? If a man pays to watch this video, should he be held accountable? A recent Supreme Court decision upheld a federal law that says people who watch child pornography can be held financially liable for the losses of the victim. What about Internet providers who serve as conduits for these videos? And if my cell phone service happens to be serviced by one of these providers, should I be held accountable in some way?

If we take our place in the world seriously and assess our moral agency correctly, we’ll recognize that we’re innocent bystanders less often than we think. We each bear some responsibility, even if small, for the world we inhabit. The curve of moral culpability descends from those who commit crimes, to those who actively enable them, to those who passively allow them, and finally to those who remain willfully ignorant.

Does this mean that I’m responsible for the actions of Clayton Lockett? The answer is no, which is why Lockett was convicted of the crime and I wasn’t. But what if Lockett had had the advantages I had growing up, or I had struggled against the disadvantages Lockett faced? Would our lives have turned out differently? The answer is probably yes.

Advantages and disadvantages are distributed unevenly in our society. My culpability extends at least to recognizing that some of the violence in the world today is structural: it builds in the tendency toward certain violent outcomes. My culpability also extends to recognizing that, under the duress of bad circumstances, I have the capacity to act badly as well.

Out of one hundred people, the Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska asks in her poem “A Contribution to Statistics,” how many are harmless singly, but savage in crowds? “Half at least,” she says. And how many could be cruel when forced by circumstances? “Better not to know even ballpark figures.”

Even if we’re not forced by circumstances to act badly, sometimes we’re tempted to respond in kind to the evil around us. If this happens, evil has won its hardest battle, which is control of the human heart.

Tom Meagher is an Australian whose wife Jill was raped and murdered 18 months ago by a man named Adrian Bayley. Prior to Bayley’s trial, Meagher says in a post on the White Ribbon Campaign blog, “I had formed an image that this man was not human, that he existed as a singular force of pure evil who somehow emerged from the ether.” By dismissing violent men as psychotic or sociopathic aberrations, Meagher says, we avoid the even more terrifying realization that violent men are socialized by the entrenched sexism and hyper-masculinity that permeates everything, from our daily interactions all the way up to our highest institutions.

In the aftermath of Jill’s murder, Meagher received many online comments that “expressed a wish for Bayley to be raped in prison, presumably at the arbitrary whim of other incarcerated men.” Meagher says, “Putting aside the fact that wishing rape on somebody is the perhaps last thing we do before exiting civilization entirely, there is a point that these avengers may have missed – somebody has to do the raping.”

With justice by vengeance, the punishment being exacted is also the crime being punished. It requires an eye for an eye, or a rape for a rape, or a life for a life. It’s an infinite feedback loop of repaying evil with evil. For this reason, justice by vengeance represents the ultimate triumph of evil, because it succeeds in co-opting the good.

We should uphold our laws justly, punish humanely, and try to ensure that bad behavior isn’t merely the outcome of bad circumstances. In addition, we should continue tearing down the scaffolding of structural violence in our society. Along the way, we can safeguard our own moral character by not being co-opted into repaying evil in kind.

Near the end of her poem, Szymborska says that out of one hundred people, ninety-nine are worthy of compassion, suggesting that some human beings don’t deserve it. Perhaps they deserve to live out their days in prison – either a prison with bars or the prison of their own wickedness.

But they do not deserve to make us like them.

Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich is senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age (2013).

TIME Religion

The Bible Calls for Moral Action on Climate Change

To ignore climate change is to abuse the moral call to care for the environment, and generations to come will suffer

Some of the most inspiring words in the entire Bible are found in the opening pages of Genesis. Here we are told that humans were created in God’s image and given a divine mandate to care for Creation (Gen. 1:26-31). Our vocation—our calling—is to partner with God in preserving and sustaining the earth with all the creatures and species that God has made. The word used in most translations is “dominion,” and the true meaning is what we would today call “stewardship.”

Unfortunately these passages have often been used and abused to advance countless agendas, often to the great detriment of the Earth and its inhabitants. The deep sense of stewardship implied by and inherent in these verses is ignored and the word “dominion” has been interpreted as domination—and a license to destroy. Such thinking is not just unfaithful to God; it is dangerous to all God’s creation and creatures.

The most recent example of this unfortunate mindset can be seen in the recent comments made by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) denying that human activity contributes to climate change. He claimed proposals attempting to address the troubling climate trends were problematic because they might hamper economic growth and lacked international buy-in. We certainly wouldn’t want something as insignificant as the sustainability of our planet to impinge on next quarter’s GDP, or worse yet, a potential candidate’s presidential campaign.

Much attention has been given to Rubio’s denial of climate science. After all, there is overwhelming evidence that climate change is real and humans are contributing to it in significant ways. But what’s potentially more harmful than his devaluing of the widespread scientific consensus is the utter lack of discussion about moral implications. This was in fact a political denial of the facts, for the sake of a voting base he desperately wants to cultivate; but worse, a cover up of both moral and theological imperatives.

And there are serious moral costs to our willful ignorance and political inaction on climate change.

It is time to acknowledge this as the sin of short-termism. By prioritizing the present—and at worst, current political calculations—at the expense of the future we are risking the health and prosperity of future generations. Our nation has long prided itself on leaving the next generation better off, but what sort of example are we now setting and what inheritance are we passing on? It is hard to answer these questions honestly because we are unwilling to admit the truth. Scientific denial is psychologically easier. For some of our elected leaders it is also politically convenient.

While its secular usage is increasing, the word “repentance” remains a deeply theological term. Biblically, it demands both an acknowledgment of the wrong that has been done and a commitment to act differently in the future. You cannot repent if you are unwilling to change. When it comes to climate change, we cannot just lament what has gone wrong. And we must do more than just point to the already alarming consequences of climate change and the catastrophic potentials which lie ahead. Instead, we must repent of the harm we’ve caused and commit ourselves to a new course of action.

In a recent speech, President Obama outlined an agenda for addressing climate change. He clearly named the goals which must be sought: first, a transformative investment in clean energy; second, a significant reduction of dirty energy; and third, a collective commitment in every part of our society to save energy. It’s really as simple as that. So why can’t we agree to the moral narrative that underlies these outlined solutions? The tremendous gains that can be achieved—for both the public and private sector—from increased energy efficiency and a renewed commitment to conservation is something good for our planet, our lifestyles, and our souls.

Here is the moral narrative. What will your grandchildren’s grandchildren ask about why we, and why you, did not do what was necessary for them? Why were we so selfish and short-sighted? Why didn’t we care enough about the future of our world and theirs, to take care of our descendants? And here is the biblical and spiritual narrative: does care for God’s creation really allow us to exploit the earth and its resources for short term economic self-interest? Is that good stewardship and the humble worship of God?

There is much to be commended in the President’s plan and what many scientists are pleading for, but unless we confront the underlying narratives that inhibit faithful progress even the most obvious policy solutions will remain out of reach because of our nation’s dysfunctional politics and short-term economics. The irony is that the moral course of action would bring new economic opportunities. There are more potential good jobs in the retrofitting of the nation to conserve energy, and the re-wiring of our energy grid for a cleaner future; but that would not be in the self-interest of the oil and gas companies that now control the country and its politics.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so often quoted, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Of this I have no doubt. My only question is whether we’ll have the moral courage on climate change to bend it fast enough before catastrophe becomes unavoidable. For the sake of my grandchildren—for the sake of my grandchildren’s grandchildren—I hope we start taking our calling as stewards of God’s Creation a lot more seriously.

It’s time to stop denying science, denying our created instructions, and denying the sovereignty of God. Instead, let’s start acknowledging our moral responsibilities.

Jim Wallisis president of Sojourners. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

TIME Religion

Debunking the Extremist Myth That Islam is Anti-Jewish

New bus ads in DC say the Qu'ran promotes Jew-hatred. It's a meritless, dangerous accusation.

The fiasco continues.

Islamophobes are fabricating the myth that Islam promotes Jew-hatred by taking out ads on D.C. buses. Take a look at the ad, linked above—does anyone else find it insane that these ignorant people are spending money promoting pictures of Adolf Hitler?

Now, certainly some Muslims are anti-Jewish, as are some Christians, agnostics, atheists—you get the idea. However, nothing in the Qur’an or in Prophet Muhammad’s example supports the myth of “Islamic Jew hatred.”

As I detail in my upcoming book, EXTREMIST, an objective study of Islam demonstrates that the myth of Islamic Jew hatred crumbles like a house of cards.

So let’s dig in.

Those who proclaim Islamic Jew-hatred deliberately misrepresent the Qur’an 7:167—among several more verses. My analysis of 7:167 below—which is equally applicable to any allegedly “anti-Jew” verse—demonstrates without question that nothing here is “anti-Jewish.” But to remain objective, I reference Dr. Philip Jenkins—a prolific non-Muslim academic—who, on the question of Islamic Jew-hatred writes in his book Laying Down the Sword:

“In order to make such texts look vicious, anti-Islamic critics systematically exaggerate the Jewish element in the passage… The Qur’an offers nothing vaguely as explicit as the New Testament passages in which Jesus himself, who is for Christians the incarnation of the Divine, speaks so furiously against “the Jews.” It is the Jesus of the New Testament who calls his enemies the children not of Abraham but of the Devil, the Father of Lies. [But Jesus] was not condemning all Jews in any racial sense, but was rather attacking rival factions and leaders in his day. And that is the model we find in the Qur’an. In reality, the Qur’an has nothing that need be taken as a condemnation of Jews, or of any ethnic group.”

The Qur’an instead condemns unjust behavior while lauding just behavior—regardless of the person or people committing the act. Simply reading 7:166 and 7:167 together illustrates this point:

“And when [the Jews] forgot all that with which they had been admonished, We saved those who forbade evil, and We seized the transgressors with a severe punishment because they were rebellious. And when they insolently rebelled against that which they had been forbidden, We said to them, “Be ye apes, despised!”

Here the Qur’an speaks of Jews and the Sabbath. God “seized the transgressors” because “they were rebellious.” Just as important, God “saved those [Jews] who forbade evil.” The distinction is not Jew or non-Jew; the distinction is Jews who observed the Sabbath verses Jews who profaned the Sabbath. And for perspective, while the Qur’an metaphorically refers to as “apes” only those Jews who profaned the Sabbath, the biblical condemnation of Jews who profaned the Sabbath in Exodus 31:15 is quite violent: “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.”

Far from “Jew hatred,” the Qur’an 2:63 repeatedly declares that the Jews shall attain eternal paradise. The Qur’an mentions Prophet Moses by name more than any other prophet—over 150 times— and Islam recognizes the Divine origin of the Torah and the Psalms of David. Prophet Muhammad’s benevolent treatment of Jews attracted their love for him. Safwaan bin Assal relates, “some people among the Jews kissed the hands and feet of the Prophetsa.” It is impossible to consider that a man could garner such love from his citizens with force or violence. Following this example, throughout Islamic history the Jews flourished under Muslim rule in parts of North Africa, Jerusalem, Persia, and Spain.

As Jenkins notes, it is the Gospel of John that incites fear of the dangers Jews posed to Christ, names Jews as dogs, swine, and snakes in Matthew, and declares the Jews’ father is the devil again in John. Martin Luther thus wrote, “What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews? …their synagogues should be set on fire…their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed…rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more… [let us] be free of this insufferable devilish burden—the Jews. Pope Clement VIII added, “All the world suffers from the usury of the Jews, their monopolies and deceit.”

Thousands of Jews were murdered during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and at various times in Europe and Russia. The word ghetto owes its origin to the slums of Venice where Jews lived. Father Charles Coughlin commanded a weekly radio audience of more than thirty million Americans in the 1930s and openly supported anti-Semitism, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini. And lest we forget, Hitler identified as Christian.

Thus, blindly blaming Islam—which is responsible for none of the above atrocities—ignores that anti-Semitism is a worldwide epidemic. The Anti-Defamation League, in its 2012 report on anti-Semitism in ten European countries concluded, “As with previous surveys, data from this latest 2012 European tracking poll indicates that significant percentages of European respondents continue to believe in some of the most pernicious anti-Semitic stereotypes.” A 2011 ADL poll found that about 15 percent of the US population—forty-five million Americans—“fall into the most anti-Semitic co-hort.”

This allegation of Islamic Jew-hatred is dangerous because it is meritless, creates an irrational fear of Islam and of Muslims, and ignores the factually proven growing anti-Semitism in Europe and America. Per Islamic teaching, Prophet Muhammad treated Jews as equals and with compassion. So enough of these ridiculous bus ads—find something productive to spend your money on. Let’s stop blindly blaming Islam for anti-Semitism and instead work together to root out anti-Semitism wherever it exists.

Qasim Rashid is an attorney, author, and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. His upcoming book, EXTREMIST: A Response to Geert Wilders & Terrorists Everywhere, is due out May 28.


TIME faith

Americans Frequently Lie About Church Attendance, Study Says

A Bible Open On A Wooden Bench
Getty Images

Americans are prone to exaggerate how often they sit in the pews on Sundays, a new study shows, depending on the setting in which they’re asked. When asked on the phone, survey respondents were more likely to exaggerate than when they were asked online

A new study suggests Americans are prone to fibbing when asked how regularly they go to church.

A report by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that Americans inflate reports of their church attendance depending on the setting in which they’re asked. When asked on the phone, survey respondents were more likely to exaggerate their Sunday diligence than when they were asked online.

In a telephone survey, 36 percent of Americans report attending religious services weekly or more, compared to 31 percent on the online survey.

The phone and online surveys of American adults were conducted in 2013, with 2,002 people interviewed by cell and landline and a demographically comparable group of 2,317 answering questions online.

White mainline Protestants have the hardest time admitting they “seldom or never” attend church, with 28 percent saying they rarely go on the telephone, but 45 percent admitting to playing hooky in an online questionnaire.

Black Protestants seem to inflate church attendance the most, with 54 percent claiming they go weekly when asked on the phone, and just 40 percent saying they attend weekly in an online survey.

Isn’t there some commandment about this? Well, maybe you have to go to Church to find out.

TIME faith

Sudan’s Real Crisis Is the Disregard for Female Life

The death sentence for a pregnant Sudanese woman who refuses to renounce her Christian faith shows that the government's depravity extends far beyond religion and deep into the heart of humanity.

The world was shaken by the news Thursday that a pregnant woman was sentenced to death for apostasy. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is eight months pregnant, and because she will not renounce her Christian faith, she will be hanged soon after she gives birth. In Sudan, children must be raised the religion of their father. The government claims that because Ibrahim’s father was a Muslim, she must remain so and her marriage to a Christian man is invalid.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim’s story resonates with everything I’ve experienced in my 10 years of working in Sudan and South Sudan. Ibrahim’s story reminds me of a dear friend of mine, Mary Achai, whose Muslim slave master set her on fire, along with three of her children, because she ran away when she learned that he planned to sell her 10-year-old daughter as a virgin bride. Although Mary is permanently marred inside and out, she survived the fire. Her 10-year-old daughter, toddler and nursing baby did not.

Rightly so, much emphasis is being given to the fact that Ibrahim’s sentence of death is in retaliation of her choice to be Christian. However, fundamentally, the crisis in Sudan is not one of religion but rather a complete disregard for the dignity of life, especially female life.

I know Muslim women in South Sudan who the Islamic Janjaweed raped with sticks as they mocked, “This is so you cannot make black babies.” I know men who’ve been beaten, had their teeth knocked out and forced to swallow them and had limbs hacked off as they watched their wives and children dragged behind the tail of a horse into slavery because their skin was black instead of the beautiful bronze color of their Arab-descendant fellow countrymen. I know a beautiful young schoolteacher whose father forced her to leave her job to marry a man who already had four wives so that he could garner a few more cows. I’ve sat through bomb blitzes targeted at the indigenous people of the Nuba Mountains, which is largely Islamic, simply because they are black and yet dare to proclaim their right to life, liberty and the use of their homeland’s natural resources.

The depravity of the Sudanese government extends far beyond religion and deep into the heart of humanity. A people will not truly have freedom of religion unless it is built upon a foundation of the sanctity of life.

I find myself cheering for Ibrahim as a thundercloud of hope, proclaiming “Life is worth dying for.” Mohamed Jar Elnabi, her attorney, echoes the sonorous claps of Ibrahim’s life as he endures death threats, social castigation, and financial hardship for defending her.

From half a world away, it is tempting to turn our faces away from Ibrahim and Elnabi, but in so doing we would be turning our backs upon our own human dignity. There may be no financial incentive to pursue the arrest of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president who sets the pace for this human debasement and who the International Criminal Court has indicted for war crimes against the indigenous people of Sudan; in fact, it would cost us something. But I find myself wondering what cost we pay by not demanding the pursuit of justice beyond our political or personal gain.

To date, the embassies of Britain, the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have called on Sudan to respect Ibrahim’s right to change her faith. Isn’t this woman’s life, and the principle for which she is willing to lay it down, worth more than a “call”?

Kimberly L. Smith is the president and co-founder of Make Way Partners, the only indigenously operated relief organization providing orphan care and anti-trafficking efforts in the Sudan and South Sudan. Smith has been serving alongside the Sudanese people for 10 years. Make Way Partners currently provides complete care to 1,100 orphans and employs 300 Sudanese, many of whom are former victims of sex trafficking. Smith is also the author of the award-winning book Passport through Darkness, which chronicles much of her experience in the Sudans. For more information on Kimberly L. Smith and Make Way Partners, please visit www.makewaypartners.org.

TIME faith

Rabbi, Muslim Leader to Join Pope Francis on Holy Land Trip

For the first time, pope's delegation will include leaders of other faiths

Pope Francis will be joined by a rabbi and a Muslim leader on his upcoming trip to the Holy Land, marking the first time an official papal delegation included members of other faiths.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, a leader from Argentina’s Islamic community, are friends of the Pope from his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The three leaders will visit Jordan, the West Bank and Israel on a May 24-26 trip, the Associated Press reports.

The historic trip will be an “absolute novelty,” intended to show the “normality” of having friends of other religions, said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Francis hopes the trip will honor the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s visit to Jerusalem, which was the first foreign trip by a pope.


TIME faith

For Pope Francis, It’s About More than Martians

Vatican Pope
Pope Francis blesses faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of the weekly general audience, at the Vatican on May 14, 2014. Gregorio Borgia—AP

On Monday morning, Pope Francis preached that he would baptize Martians. He caused, yet again, quite a stir. But to think he was talking just about aliens is to miss his main point. Pope Francis was using Martians to illustrate that the church must be open to whatever, or whoever, may seem socially foreign and unaccepted.

Pope Francis brought up Martians as he was preaching about a specific New Testament story: early Christians were wondering if Jews and Gentiles could associate, and God gave the Apostle Peter a vision that salvation extended beyond the deepest cultural divides. It was a moment of internal crisis for the early church. “That was unthinkable,” Francis explained. And, to show just how unthinkable it was, he added: “If—for example—tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here…Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them…And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?”

The church today should learn from the early church, Francis explained, that it cannot close its doors to anyone. That which God has purified, as the Scripture says, no one can call profane. “It was never the ministry of the closed door, never,” Francis explained.

It is a poignant message about not withholding baptism, especially given the Pope’s previous comments that churches should not refuse baptism to children of unmarried parents. Francis is even thought to have called an unwed mother himself and told her that he would baptize her child himself if she could not find a priest to do it.

It is also a pointed reference to the church’s efforts to welcome immigrants. ‘Alien,’ ‘stranger,’ and ‘immigrant’ are often translated interchangeably in Biblical texts. One passage from the book Deuteronomy has become the crux of Catholic teaching on welcoming the immigrant: “Show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” While Francis did not reference immigration as specifically as baptism in his sermon, the connection cannot be not far from his mind. Pope Francis urged compassion for the immigrant in his first papal trip to the island of Lampedusa, where hundreds of people have died trying to immigrate from Africa to Europe. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also often uses the alien language in its push for immigration reform on Capitol Hill and in its refugee programs.

Did Francis have a message about actual beings from other planets? Possibly. The idea of baptizing aliens is actually nothing new for the Vatican. The Vatican’s chief astronomer, Argentine Jesuit father José Funes, explained the possibility of extraterrestrial life in 2008, when he too said that God’s mercy could be offered to aliens if it were needed. He even cited Pope Francis’ namesake to make his point. “This is not in contrast with the faith, because we cannot place limits on the creative freedom of God,” Funes said. “To use St. Francis’ words, if we consider earthly creatures as ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ why can’t we also speak of an ‘extraterrestrial brother?’”

The Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences held its first major conference on astrobiology in 2009. For five days, thirty scientists gave presentations to Catholic bishops on everything from microbes to planetary detection to life beyond Earth. Rome has come a long way from 16th century, when Dominican friar and astronomer Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake during the Inquisition for heresy, including his openness to multiple worlds.

Pope Francis, like any good preacher, knows how to keep his audience interested—nothing like a Martian reference to catch people’s attention. Whether or not they will remember it for the right reasons is another question.

TIME Religion

‘Black Mass’ at Harvard Canceled Amid Outcry

The planned re-enactment of a satanic ritual intended to mock the traditional Catholic mass had been widely denounced by school administrators and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley

Harvard’s reputation for elite students and world class education generally doesn’t include satanic worship.

Harvard Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club wanted to perform a black mass reenactment on the school’s campus until an uproar forced it to change plans. The club’s planned re-enactment of a satanic ritual was canceled, amid backlash from students, alumni and the Archdiocese of Boston.

However, a scaled-down version of the event was apparently held at the last minute late Monday by members of the New York-based Satanic Temple off campus at a local lounge, according to the Boston Globe. That event was not sponsored by the Harvard club.

Watch the video above for more on the ritual that was historically performed to mock the Roman Catholic Church.

TIME Religion

One in Four People Harbor Anti-Semitic Beliefs, Study Says

The leader of "Debout Les Belges!," far-right lawmaker Laurent Louis (C) perform the 'quenelle' gesture ahead of the anti-Semitic congress, "First European Conference of Dissidence", organised by Chamber member Laurent Louis in Anderlecht, outside Brussels, on May 4, 2014. NICOLAS MAETERLINCK—AFP/Getty Images

The Anti-Defamation League's first global survey of sentiment towards Jews finds that anti-Semitism is "pervasive and persistent" worldwide, the group's national director says

The Anti-Defamation League’s first ever global survey of anti-Semitic attitudes has found that one-quarter of its survey’s respondents, representing 4.1 billion adults around the world, harbor negative stereotypes about Jews.

The ADL surveyed 53,100 adults in 102 countries, presenting them with a list of 11 Jewish stereotypes, ranging from fear of Jewish control over banks, media and world affairs to theories of group psychology. One in four adults responded “probably true” to at least 6 of the 11 stereotypes.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said of the findings, “For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world.”

The survey found widespread regional variations, with 74% of respondents in Middle East and North African countries agreeing with a majority of the stereotypes, compared with 19% of respondents in the Americas, and 14% in the islands of the Pacific Ocean (Oceania).

Respondents often proved to be ignorant about Jewish culture and history. Nearly half had never heard of the Holocaust, and the trend was rising among young adults.

But the surveyors highlighted one bright spot among the findings: more than a quarter of respondents did not assent to a single one of the stereotypical statements, slightly outnumbering those who had embraced them.


TIME World

Pope Francis Says He Would Baptize Martians If They Asked

Andreas Solaro / AFP / Getty Images

And then he'd probably take a selfie with them afterwards

In a homily delivered Monday, Pope Francis said he’d totally baptize Martians if they showed up at the Vatican demanding to be baptized.

He was trying to illustrate the point that everyone has the right to receive the Holy Spirit — even aliens from faraway planets.

If tomorrow, for example, an expedition of Martians arrives and some of them come to us … and if one of them says: ‘Me, I want to be baptized!’, what would happen?” the pontiff said, according to AFP.

He defined these hypothetical beings as “green men, with a long nose and big ears, like children draw.” For extra emphasis, he added, “Who are we to close doors?”

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