Third temple? * Church for Atheists * LGBT Rights and Religion

Religion News Blog
Find out much religious groups have shifted toward supporting LGBT rights since 2003.

Also: learn about a church where God doesn’t attend. Then there’s a guy who puts the fear of God into many atheists.

And for millions of people around the world, the end came a little closer last week.

Multi-Cultural Church; Cult leader loses properties; Prosperity Church less prosperous

Religion News Blog
Cult leader Tony Alamo, imprisoned for taking girl as young as nine as his ‘brides’ will lose many of his properties in order to satisfy restitution judgments against him.

is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning still Christian America’s most segregated hour? Not at these churches…

Plus: more religion news items

BBC director general admits Christianity gets tougher treatment than Islam, other religions

BBC The BBC director general Mark Thompson has claimed that Christianity is treated with less sensitivity than other religions because it is “pretty broad shoulders”.

He suggested other faiths had “very close identity with ethnic minorities” and as a result were covered in a more careful way by broadcasters.

In recession-hit Hungary, churches take over state schools

Hungary Local government officials in Hungary are handing state-owned schools over to churches, unable to afford their upkeep during the economic recession, according to church sources.

“Churches are entitled to run schools in Hungary as public service providers, receiving the same taxpayers’ money as public sponsors,” said Balazs Odor, ecumenical officer of Hungary’s Reformed Church.

Iran Court Acquits 11 Evangelical Christians

Iran Eleven members of one of Iran’s largest evangelical house church movements, who were charged with ‘action against the order of the country’ and drinking alcohol, have been acquitted by an Iranian court, BosNewsLife learned Friday, May 20.

The charges referred to their involvement in a house church meeting and to taking communion wine, Iranian Christians said earlier.

Fasting for the Poor

fasting “Why We’re Fasting” is the title of columnist Mark Bittman’s essay in Wednesday’s New York Times, the “we” being himself and David Beckmann, here described as a “reverend,” and “this year’s World Food Prize laureate.” The pastor heads “Bread for the World.”

Yes, why fast?

Sightings: Hell’s Bell

Hell Americans may have thought that cracks in the façade and framework of evangelicalism would show up most visibly when serious evangelicals argued whether Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee would be the better presidential candidate.

But now we have a chance to see that other divisive issues among evangelicals beg for attention. The topic? Hell, and a punishing God’s use thereof.

New York Times on the Rob Bell controversy

Rob Bell While sliding close to what critics consider the heresy of “universalism” — that all humans will eventually be saved — Rob Bell never uses the term in his book.

Upcoming book by Rob Bell ignites debate over Universalism

Thee crosses Mars Hill pastor Rob Bell — one of the leaders in the supposedly leaderless Emerging Church movement — has become the subject of a heated online debate regarding his forthcoming book “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”

The discussion erupted on Twitter and many Christian blogs after Justin Taylor, vice president of editorial at Crossway, published a blog post titled “Rob Bell: Universalist?”

Detained Afghanistan Christians Facing Death Penalty

Afghanistan Two Afghan Christians who were arrested for their conversion to Christianity remain behind bars despite diplomatic efforts by the United States to secure their release, a Christian rights group said Wednesday, February 23.

International Christian Concern (ICC) said it had obtained a letter smuggled out of Qasre Shahi prison in Mazar-e-Sharif, in which one Christian wrote that he may receive the death penalty for apostasy.

Threat of Prosecution Remains for Some Christians Freed in Iran

Islam In December and January authorities arrested up to 120 believers after Iranian religious and political figures acknowledged the existence of home fellowships and condemned them as a threat to the state. Sources estimate at least 62 of those arrested during late December and January have been released, some on bail. A typical bail amount in Iran can range between a few thousand dollars and the deed on a house.

Some of the Christians who were released reported they were subjected to solitary confinement and harsh interrogation, according to a statement by Elam Ministries on Feb. 4. The statement said some Christians held at Section 209 of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison suffered up to 34 days in solitary confinement.

Mainline church membership decline continues – but more slowly

Church Growing churches continue to grow and declining churches continue to decline, according to the National Council of Ch urches’ 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

“The direction of membership (growth or decline) remains very stable,” writes the Yearbook’s editor, the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, in the newest edition released this week. “That is, churches which have been increasing in membership in recent years continue to grow and likewise, those churches which have been declining in recent years continue to decline.”

Why Iraqi Christians Are Running Scared — in Sweden

With numerous attacks by Muslims against Iraq’s Christians in recent weeks — including a Halloween day massacre in a Baghdad church, which left 52 dead — the country’s religious minority fears for its survival within the boundaries of the Middle Eastern nation. Yet, a long way from their native land, many Iraqi Christians are also living in terror in a far more serene place: Stockholm.

Swedish immigration officials have been deporting Iraqi refugees to Baghdad on flights about every three weeks, declaring that some of them have no legitimate claim to political asylum in Sweden. That includes Iraqi Christians — a category that does not automatically imply a risk of persecution, according to Swedish guidelines. • See also: Iraq’s Christians Vow to Survive, With Muslim Help

Legal Status Foreseen for Christianity in Buddhist Bhutan

Bhutan The authority that regulates religious organizations will discuss in its next meeting – to be held by the end of December – how a Christian organization can be registered to represent its community.

Thus far only Buddhist and Hindu organizations have been registered by the authority, locally known as Chhoedey Lhentshog. As a result, only these two communities have the right to openly practice their religion and build places of worship.

Study predicts Christianity rising in south, Muslims heading West

Toffler Associates released its predictions for the next 40 years to mark the 40th anniversary of “Future Shock,” in which author Alvin Toffler studied the 1970s to see what would happen in the future.

Among the predictions: Christianity will rise rapidly in the global South, while Muslims will migrate in increasing numbers to the West, where their presence will reshape public attitudes and government policies.

Hitchens Brothers Agree To Disagree Over God

Since Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer in June, he has received thousands of letters and e-mails, some from believers asserting that he’s getting what he deserves, more from people saying they’re praying for his recovery. Hitchens says he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring. But he is annoyed that some writers hope he’ll have a last-minute conversion to Christianity.

Under no persuasion could I be made to believe that a human sacrifice several thousand years ago vicariously redeems me from sin,” he says. “Nothing could persuade me that that was true — or moral, by the way. It’s white noise to me.”

His brother, Peter, is equally blunt: “There is actually no absolute right or wrong if there is no God,” he says.

Peter once shared his older brother’s views; he burned his Bible when he was a teenager in boarding school. But as he chronicled in his book, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith — which he wrote as a response to his brother’s anti-religious book — he felt drawn back to his Anglican faith starting in his late 20s.

He says his work as a journalist in Somalia and the former Soviet Union convinced him that civilization without religious morality devolves into brutality. Moral behavior requires more than higher reasoning, he says; it requires God.

Beijing Blocks Travelers To Christian Conference

China house church A massive global evangelical gathering known as the Lausanne Congress will begin Oct. 16 in Cape Town, South Africa. But it looks likely to take place without the participation of 230 Chinese delegates.

So far, at least 11 people planning to attend have been forbidden to leave China, and many others have come under pressure. Many fear Beijing is moving to exert control over underground Christians.

Muslims will become majority in Europe, senior Vatican official warns

European Christians must have more children or face the prospect of the continent becoming Islamised, a senior Vatican official has said.

Italian Father Piero Gheddo said that the low birth rate among indigenous Europeans combined with an unprecedented wave of Muslim immigrants with large families could see Europe becoming dominated by Islam in the space of a few generations.

The priest blamed Christians for failing to live up to their own beliefs and helping to create a “religious vacuum” which was being filled by Islam.

He predicted that Islam would “sooner rather than later conquer the majority in Europe“.

“The fact is that, as a people, we are becoming ever more pagan and the religious vacuum is inevitably filled by other proposals and religious forces,” he said.

Buddhist Bhutan Proposes ‘Anti-Conversion’ Law

Bhutan The amendment bill would punish “proselytizing” that “uses coercion or other forms of inducement” – vaguely enough worded, Christians fear, that vigilantes could use it to jail them for following the commands of Christ to feed, clothe and otherwise care for the poor.

“There was always a virtual anti-conversion law in place, but now it is on paper too,” said a senior pastor from Thimphu on condition of anonymity. “Seemingly it is aimed at controlling the growth of Christianity.”
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