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Why did they lay their coats at Saul's feet?

The witnesses, laying their coats at the feet of Saul, were the men that would cast the first stones at Stephen in Acts 7. Why did they all lay their coats at Saul’s feet? The Talmud contains a very interesting account of the act of stoning that may provide the answer.
“When the trial was over, they take him [the condemned person] out to be stoned. The place of stoning was at a distance from the court, as it is said, ‘Take out the one who has cursed.’[i] A man stands at the entrance of the court; in his hand is a signaling flag [Hebrewsudarin = sudar, ‘scarf, sweater’]. A horseman was stationed far away but within sight of him. If one [of the judges] says, ‘I have something [more] to say in his favor,’ he [the signaler] waves thesudarin, and the horseman runs and stops them [from stoning him]. Even if [the condemned person] himself says, ‘I have something to say in my favor,’ they bring him back, even four of five times, only provided that there is some substance to what he is saying.…

Madison's Warnings About Creating Political Parties

While doing some research today I came across the "Federalists No. 10" written by James Madison on Thursday, November 22, 1787. Madison warned his readers about the dangers of the formation of political parties and allowing them to become involved in government. 
When the Constitution was written in 1787, the founders thought of political parties as "factions," acting only for their own selfish interests rather than the public good. The founders saw instances in history when factions resorted to assassination and civil war if they failed to get their way. The writers of the Constitution believed that political parties would play no formal role in the new government. The Constitution made no mention of them.

Even in electing the president, the founders assumed the absence of political parties. The Constitution established an Electoral College, which called for a small number of electors—elected or appointed in the states— to meet, deliberate, and choose the best perso…

What does the word “religion” mean?

I just began reading Karen Armstrong’s book Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (Anchor Books; New York, NY). Her introduction provides a tremendous amount of very important historical insights. Below is an excerpt from pages 4-5. I divided it into additional paragraphs and underlined portions because it is packed with so much.
For about fifty years now it has been clear in the academy that there is no universal way to define religion. In the West we see “religion” as a coherent system of obligatory beliefs, institutions, and rituals, centering on a supernatural God, whose          practice is essentially private and hermetically sealed off from all “secular” activities. But words in other languages that we translate as “religion” almost invariably refer to something larger, vaguer, and more encompassing.
The Arabic din signifies an entire way of life. The Sanskrit dharma is also “a ‘total’ concept, untranslatable, which covers law, justice, morals and social life.”