Editor's note

Today many Jews will celebrate “Shabbat Shirah,” the “Sabbath of Song,” a commemoration of the songs sung by Moses and his sister Miriam to celebrate the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea.

Music is an intrinsic part of religious experience. So why do people sing psalms, chant bhajans or even go into a trance? Michigan State’s David W. Stowe explains that music can work in multiple ways in the sacred space.  Its power lies in how it  brings people together  -- whether “in expressing gratitude, praise, sorrow and even protest against injustice.”

The 59th Grammy Awards will air Sunday evening. But does the annual event actually celebrate good, quality music? Or is it more about popularity and album sales? University of Minnesota music professor Alex Lubet explores a voting process and awards ceremony that pits commercial interests against artistic ones.

Kalpana Jain

Senior Editor, Religion & Ethics

Top story

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. George Frey/Reuters

Songs of worship: Why we sing to the Lord

David W. Stowe, Michigan State University

Sacred music joins people in a collective expression - whether of joy, sorrow or protest.

Politics + Society

Science + Technology

  • Should scientists engage in activism?

    Ivan Oransky, New York University; Adam Marcus, Johns Hopkins University

    In the wake of the Flint water crisis and with a new notably anti-science president, U.S. scientists are reevaluating how to navigate the tension between speaking out and a fear of losing research funding.

  • What do gorilla suits and blowfish fallacies have to do with climate change?

    John Cook, George Mason University

    Laser-like focus on a tiny, unimportant detail can mean you miss the gorilla in the room – a tactic climate change deniers use to cast doubt on the science.

  • What Facebook Live means for journalism

    Seth Lewis, University of Oregon; Nicole Smith Dahmen, University of Oregon

    Facebook Live – and other live-video streaming services – change how we bear witness to events, and challenge how we think about visual information.

Health + Medicine

Arts + Culture


  • Who is Betsy DeVos?

    Dustin Hornbeck, Miami University

    Confirmed in a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Pence, Betsy DeVos will be the next secretary of education. Here's what you need to know about her past legislative actions and proposals.

Environment + Energy

  • What Trump misses about regulations: They produce benefits as well as costs

    Joseph Aldy, Harvard University

    President Trump has ordered federal agencies to cut two regulations for every new one they enact – ignoring the fact that many regulations produce large social benefits.

  • Detroit's recovery: The glass is half-full at most

    Laura A. Reese, Michigan State University; Gary Sands, Wayne State University

    Less than four years after Detroit filed for bankruptcy, boosters say a revival is underway in the Motor City. But two scholars say new growth has not spread yet to neighborhoods that need it.

  • When birds go roaming: The mystery of avian irruptions

    Archer Larned, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Sarah Luttrell, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    During bird irruptions, hundreds or thousands of a single species show up outside their normal territory. Most of what we know about irruptions comes from data collected by citizen scientists.

Economy + Business

Ethics + Religion

  • What is the true meaning of mercy?

    Mathew Schmalz, College of the Holy Cross

    A scholar explains how mercy could be a simple act of opening oneself to those with opposing views.