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Experts once predicted that as the world grew more modern, religion would decline. Precisely the opposite has proven true; religious movements are surging and driving “alternative globalizations” across the world. Two leading thinkers offer a penetrating view of how and why religion of all kinds is shaping the global economy and political order.

Dramatic headlines convey a predominantly violent picture of global Islam. But, during the past five years, Muslim guests on SOF have conveyed a thoughtful, questing, diverse, and compelling faith. Step back with us and hear these voices from the traditional and evolving center of Islam. And, Krista speaks with Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an esteemed Muslim scholar who brings a broad religious and historical perspective to hard questions about Islam and the West that have lingered uncomfortably in American life since 9/11.

Our culture’s acrimonious debate on the morality of gay marriage has been framed in religious — largely conservative Christian — terms. We go behind the rhetoric to explore the human confusion, hopes, and fears this subject arouses. We’ll name hard questions that these religious people on both sides of the issue are asking themselves, and that they would like to ask of others.

We explore the spiritual aspect of addiction and recovery from two illuminating perspectives. Susan Cheever has written a biography of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson. She knows addiction in her own life and that of her father, the fiction writer John Cheever. Also, Lakota teacher and healer Basil Brave Heart of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He describes how the 12 Steps find powerful resonance in indigenous spiritual practices.

The wildly popular novel turned movie reimagines the New Testament, in part, as a cover-up. What really happened in the fluid early years of Christianity? What is the truth about Mary Magdalene? We separate fact from fiction in the story’s plot with two New Testament scholars who say that the story is simpler and much more interesting than conspiracy theories suggest.

As Israel prepares for a critical election and Hamas forms a Palestinian cabinet, we explore the difficulty of reaching resolution in a land that its inhabitants, on both sides of the conflict, consider holy. Our guests in this two-part series, Israeli and Palestinian, identify deeply with the story and suffering of their own people. They are also individuals who from across tumultuous recent history have reached out to the other side. They find themselves embittered at the failure of the Oslo peace process, reeling from recent events, and uncertain about the future. We explore their unresolved questions and despair, and probe the deep longing for peace that remains within each of them and how they are imagining a future within new political realities.

As Israel prepares for a critical election and Hamas forms a Palestinian cabinet, we explore the difficulty of reaching resolution in a land that its inhabitants, on both sides of the conflict, consider holy. Our guests in this two-part series, Israeli and Palestinian, identify deeply with the story and suffering of their own people. They are also individuals who from across tumultuous recent history have reached out to the other side. They find themselves embittered at the failure of the Oslo peace process, reeling from recent events, and uncertain about the future. We explore their unresolved questions and despair, and probe the deep longing for peace that remains within each of them and how they are imagining a future within new political realities.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose life spanned the rise and fall of Hitler’s Germany, offers us a model of personal morality and conscience in the most troubled and immoral of times. His resistance of Nazi ideology, while much of the German church succumbed, is a testament to his moral vision and faith. Krista speaks with producer Martin Doblmeier, whose 2003 documentary chronicled Bonhoeffer’s life and thought, about the legacy of this unusual theologian.

The Terri Schiavo case earlier this year raised ethical and medical issues that remain with us today. But missing in that debate was a real attention to the quality and the meaning of death. Joan Halifax tells us what she’s learned and how she lives differently after three decades accompanying others to the final boundary of human life.

Two people with unique perspectives both discovered ecumenism — the movement to reconcile Christian churches — during the Civil Rights era. They’ll describe what they’ve learned about grappling with vexing clashes of difference, and why reconciliation among different Christians still matters in a multi-religious, post-Katrina world.