Religion news and data in bite-sized nuggets.
- Debra Burslem, founder and leader of a religious cult known as the Magnificat Meal Movement (MMM) is accused of fraud by former senior members. Clare Birchley, who was Ms Burslem’s right hand for 20 years, estimates the cult leader pocketed at least $20 million (Australian, $15.5 million US, €13.627).
Burslem — who claims to see and hear Jesus and the virgin Mary — has fled Australia and now continues her lavish lifestyle in the island nation Vanuata. Nine Network’s A Current Affair tracked her down.
- Many African women have been trafficked into sexual slavery with their obedience ensured by magic rituals that threaten them with infertility or death if they reveal what has happened to them. Now Britain’s anti-slavery commissioner is examining radical new plans to prosecute sex traffickers by “reversing” the juju spells that terrorise their victims into staying silent.
- Traveling evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, “is the chief proselytizer at Florida-based Christ for All Nations, a globe-spanning ministry that claims to have saved more than 75 million souls and, in one recent single year, garnered almost $15 million in grants and contributions,” says the Houston Chronicle, describing him as a “conduit for divine miracles in Africa.”
Says one supporter, Reverend Ken Sinclair, “It’s not unusual in his crusades that the Holy Spirit is confirmed through signs and wonders. A lot of Western theologians have a little difficulty with that. They are more rational, more worldly. But in Africa or the Southern Hemisphere, there’s a ‘fear and power’ world view. They are much more aware of the power of God and the power of the enemy. They are aware that God is greater than the enemy.”
The article refers to miracles says as the “Documented True Story of Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu,” who according to the video — and his family, physician and mortician — was “raised from the dead.”
- After beheading Coptic Christians, IS barbarians say they will ‘conquer Rome’ next. We frequently use the hashtag #ReligiousInsanity when posting items about IS to our Twitter feed. But note the next item:
- The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it. Must-read!
- Islamic terrorists have carried out more than 25120 deadly terror attacks since 9/11. The justifiably irreverent website TheReligionOfPeace.com keeps track of the carnage committed in the name of Islam. The list of atrocities is preceded with quotes from the Quran, such as, “Mohammed is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are harsh to the unbelievers but merciful to one another” Quran 48:29
- The Skeptic Annotated Quran is also instructive. See, for instance, the entry on the Surah that quote in the previous item came from. Muslims who cannot handle criticism of their holy book, may want to check out the Skeptic’s treatment of The Bible and The Book of Mormon instead.
- Incidentally, Religion News Blog is a service provided by Apologetics Index. We’ve got the same approach toward providing research resources.
- “Coptic” = “Egyptian.” Here’s more about Coptics.
- Sixteen men and woman from a renegade Amish clan whose hate-crime convictions in a series of violent beard- and hair-cutting attacks were overturned still should receive the same sentences, federal prosecutors told a judge who will re-sentence the group.
Re-sentencing of members of the Bergholz clan, including cult leader Samuel Mullet, will take place on March 2. Their original sentences, which ranged from one to 15 years, were based both on hate-crimes convictions and convictions on other charges but did not differentiate between them.
Aum Shinrikyo — 20th Anniversay of Gas Attack
- Next month marks the 20th anniversary of the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system by the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, the only time chemical weapons have even been used in an indiscriminate public attack in a major international city. The terrorist attack, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000 others, is commemorated every year.
Japan’s Public Security Examination Commission says that two spinoffs of the doomsday cult continue to be dangerous. The cult followers will remain under surveillance for three more years starting Feb. 1. The three-year extension is the fifth since surveillance began in January 2000 and will apply to Aleph, as the cult was renamed, and Hikarinowa, or Circle of Rainbow Light.
The agency says the two cults have grown in both assets and members since the surveillance order was last extended in 2012. Together, the two now have about 1,650 members here and about 160 in Russia, and own 32 facilities spread across 15 prefectures in Japan. Cash and deposits accounted for some ¥690 million of the two groups’ combined assets as of last October.
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Taking a break?
In 2012, cult experts expressed the hope that the trial of Katsuya Takahashi, who was the cult’s last fugitive, would raise awareness of the potential dangers of joining cults. Takahashi’s trial is currently underway.
- “Many pundits declared that 2014 would be Hollywood’s “year of the Bible” due to the number of explicitly religious movies slated for premiere,” Religion Link writes. “Yet when the Academy Awards are presented on Feb. 22, only a few of the contenders in 24 main categories will have religion in their stories or backstories. What happened?“
- Satan’s evil influence used to be everywhere, but now the Church has pensioned him off
- “ [A]mong the major religions there is virtually no canonical basis for vaccine aversion; the Bible, the Quran and the texts of Sanskrit were all obviously written before the creation of vaccines, and most religions privilege the preservation of life.” Common sense, from the New York Times.
- A slight majority of Americans, 53%, are satisfied with the influence of organized religion in the U.S. This level of satisfaction has changed little over the past three years, but remains down from what Gallup has measured previously — including higher levels measured in 2001 to 2004 — suggesting that Americans’ satisfaction with organized religion has settled in at a new baseline.
- Why the Catholic Church is losing Latin America, and how it’s trying to get it back. In recent decades millions of Catholics have abandoned the Church. Nearly one in five Latin Americans now consider themselves Protestant. Catholicism’s most successful strategy in its battle with Pentecostalism has been to copy it. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which orginated in the US, has thrived in Latin America. But major reforms are needed, yet slow in coming, so while the charismatic movement still represents the Catholic church’s best hope of blunting the Pentecostal charge, the church is running out of time.
Bonus: Photographic proof that religion and samba do mix…
- Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday
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