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Iraq's Shiite-Sunni Divide, Shaker Schoolgirls Hailed as Visionists, and More
June 19, 2014
Summary: Even Al-Qaeda thinks ISIS is too extreme. We explore the newly-powerful terrorist group, which is gaining strength from the centuries-old feud between Sunnis and Shiites. Also, religious liberty vs. Obamacare, and a new novel on 19th century Shakers.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Understanding the Rise of ISIS June 19, 2014
For almost the entire 1,400 year history of Islam, the Sunni majority ruled the Arab world. But the tables turned in Iraq in 2003, when American troops invaded. The Sunnis were cast to the bottom of Iraqi society, and the Shiites were launched to the top, making Iraq the perfect breeding ground for a Sunni extremist group: ISIS. Few Sunnis like the group's violent brand of Islam, but many feel they have nowhere else to turn.

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma  
Gregory Gause, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Center in Doha, Qatar
Credit: flickr | Monik Markus
Faith by the Numbers: The Contraception Mandate June 19, 2014
Hobby Lobby has catapulted into the headlines, and it's not because of their great prices on stickers and handicrafts. The Evangelical-owned craft store says it should not have to offer its workers free morning after pills, IUDs and other contraception, as required in Obamacare, since that conflicts with the company’s religious values. We find out what most Americans think, in the days before the Supreme Court ruling on Hobby Lobby, with our latest edition of Faith by the Numbers.

Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute
Credit: Hannah Cohoon | Wikimedia Commons
Shaker Austerity and Ecstasy in 'The Visionist' June 19, 2014
In the early 1800's, young girls in Shaker communities began to spontaneously speak in tongues, sing songs, see visions, or make prophesies. In what became known as the Era of Manifestations, Shakers revered the girls as divinely gifted and named them “Visionists.” A new novel takes this famous Shaker revival as its setting, and delves into a contradiction at the heart of the Shaker religion: balancing a stark and regimented daily life with ecstatic and emotional worship.

Pictured: A Shaker "tree of life" drawn by a Visionist during the Era of Manifestations. No Shakers were allowed to make art except during this period. The drawings were seen as divinely inspired by Shaker founder Mother Ann Lee.

Rachel Urquhart, author of The Visionist