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One and a half billion Muslims can't be wrong. Nor can 350 million Buddhists. Nor 15 million Jews.

Magazine publishers like markets, and religious "niche" publishing has never been healthier. Spurred by last year's Y2K fears and fervor, publishers have found their calling. Of course, many magazines had strong base circulations already: Christianity Today reaches 200,000 households; Tricycle: The Buddhist Review distributes 65,000 issues per quarter. But the big push was on the newsstands, where religious magazines spread from the general lifestyle/consumer interest racks to sections of their own.

Tikkun: A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture, and Society, usually literate and literary (what else would you expect with Carolyn Forche and Francine Prose as two of the editors?) includes a remarkably diverse selection of articles leading off 2001. Paul Krassner muses about taking LSD with Abbie Hoffman while a few pages later, Shelley Burt tackles bio-ethics and the dilemmas of genetic testing. In "Literary Sikkum," Adam Berlin's Headlock, published by Algonquin Books, gets good notice.

Flashed above the masthead of the latest Christianity Today, my favorite article title among the religious mags is "Hope for Hip-Hop." Leading off with quotes from DMX and Eminem, the lively piece notes that Christian ministries are in the DJ mixes, too. They visit Club X, a Tampa teen hangout, observing, "These kids aren't rhyming about money, misogyny and mayhem but the perils of life without Christ." While the magazine was founded by Billy Graham, its story selection is definitely not old-school. Next month, it leads off with "The Simpsons' Ned Flanders: The Evangelical Next Door," an excerpt from a forthcoming book written by former Durham resident Mark Pinsky.

The editors of Hinduism Today saw something that worked on the newsstand. They use the same fonts and design layouts as Newsweek. The look is accessible, bright and very familiar--a smart move because content becomes more user-friendly. With columns like "Digital Dharma," "Interfaith" (featuring a piece called "Catholicism's Two Faces"), "Women of Vision," and "Quotes and Quips" (the Bizarro/Dan Piraro cartoon is a don't miss!) Hinduism Today is as engaging as a moonlit float down the Ganges.

More by John Valentine


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