RNB Roundup: Wicca, Religion Stylebook, Scientology, David Attenborough and more…

RNB Religion Shorts: a compendium of blurbs and links to, for the most part, religion-related stories you may have missed.


Survey Reveals Americans’ Feelings about Wicca

(Ventura, California)- As Americans make lifestyle transitions needed to restore the nation to stability, the nation’s adults are demonstrating their willingness to accept religious perspectives and groups that conflict with some of their core beliefs and lifestyle practices. A new national survey conducted by The Barna Group shows that while many adults are not familiar with Wicca, nearly half of the adult population has reserved having an opinion on that religious group even though its best-known practices directly contradict the religious faith that they personally embrace.

– Source: Survey Reveals Americans’ Feelings about Wicca, The Barna Group, Jan. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Wicca has significant opportunities for growth, according to researcher George Barna, listing several conditions that would facilitate an increase in the number of Wiccans in America. However, Barna also noted that Wicca faces significant growth challenges in the years to come.

The article also links to a Teens and the Supernatural, a report — available for a fee — that provides more insights into the views of teenagers on Wicca, Satan and the supernatural.


Scientology = Quackery

Actress Bijou Phillips lets loose with a Scientology blast against prescription drugs. The actress drops the F-bomb, ripping on prescription drugs in in the February issue of Paper. “Just buck up and get over it. Stop being such a (f-bomb) pansy.” Yikes, how about a little better PR. Talk like that will certainly make people want to run far, far away.

– Source: Bijou Phillips Scientology Blast on Drugs, Leslie Warren, The National Ledger, Jan. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Yeah well, in our opinion Scientology = Quackery. See the links to research resources on the topic as posted alongside the article, Scientologist: We Do, Too Treat Illnesses


ReligionLink is a resource to help print and broadcast journalists when they encounter religion in stories about government, politics, education, social services, science and other areas of public life.”

ReligionLink — a very helpful resource indeed — is produced by the Religion Newswriters Foundation, the educational arm of the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA).

Religion Stylebook. Another excellent resource produced by RNA is Reporting on Religion 2: A Stylebook on Journalism’s Best Beat — an easy-to-use, authoritative guide created for journalists who report on religion in the mainstream media. You can view the stylebook online.


From ReligionLink (see above):

Muslims on Obama: hope, but also caution

How is the Muslim community in your coverage area reacting to Obama? Check in with local Muslim Students Associations on college campuses. Last week, they were likely protesting Israel’s incursion into Gaza. What do they feel are the best methods to convey their anger and disillusionment over the conflagration?

How are interfaith relations between Muslims and Jews faring following more than three weeks of conflict in Gaza? Go beyond the news releases issued by the local Jewish federation and Muslim American Society and check in to see how people are really feeling. Has the military campaign soured ongoing dialogue between local Jews and Muslims? See whether individual Jews or Muslims made overtures to one another during the past few weeks to say, in effect, “I’m thinking of you. I know this is a difficult time.”

As you look for stories to localize, keep in mind: Israel will hold national elections Feb. 10. Benjamin Netanyahu, the conservative leader of the Likud party, is leading in the polls. How might his election be viewed among local Muslims and particularly Palestinian-Americans, and what would they expect of the peace process?

ReligionLink offers a number of source guides and resources on Islam, including:

• “Covering Islam and politics
• “Covering Islam 101
• “Islam: a guide to U.S. experts and organizations

– Source: Muslims on Obama: hope, but also caution, ReligionLink, Jan. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

What’s the point of a pointless fatwah?

Indonesia’s top council of religious scholars has sparked a heated debate by passing fatwahs against the practices of yoga, smoking and voting. The binding religious edicts themselves are regarded as moderate.

Yoga is banned for Indonesian Muslims only if it incorporates Hindu rituals.

Smoking is forbidden only in public places and by children and pregnant women.

But the Indonesian Ulema Council is being lashed by critics who question why it bothers to issue such edicts when no-one really obeys them.

– Source: What’s the point of a pointless fatwah?, Geoff Thompson, Radio Australia, Jan. 27, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Fatuous fatwa

The MUI’s fatwa reflects a creeping conservatism influenced by an increasingly vocal extremist fringe, in a country where most observe a moderate brand of Islam. It is a situation mirrored in Malaysia. Yet the Indonesian decision is as much about the MUI’s quest for greater political influence less than three months ahead of the slated general election. The MUI, set up by the dictator Suharto as a bridge between the religious elements and the secular government, hopes to burnish its conservative credentials with the fatwa.

Its edict speaks to ordinary Indonesians, who for the most part do not practise yoga. But among the middle classes, where yoga has become an increasingly popular part of their fitness regimen, the fatwa will be ignored as another piece of the MUI’s irrelevant lunacy. It is not the first time the council as Indonesia’s religious advisor has embarked on a course out of step with its Islamic flock and found itself ignored. Advice to Indonesians to abandon conventional banks in favour of Islamic banks flopped. With the yoga edict the MUI credibility will be damaged further, reflected in the tenor of the rash of negative headlines.

– Source: Religion News Blog

The Church Around The Corner

The Church Around The Corner is where we keep folks involved in faith-based bad behavior and other nonsense. Such as folks who write hate mail:

Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God

Sir David Attenborough has revealed that he receives hate mail from viewers for failing to credit God in his documentaries. In an interview with this week’s Radio Times about his latest documentary, on Charles Darwin and natural selection, the broadcaster said: “They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance.”

Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give “credit” to God, Attenborough added: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

– Source: Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God, Riazat Butt, The Guardian (UK), Jan. 27, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Saudi man jailed for hosting mixed concert: report

A Sauidi businessman was sentenced to four months in prison and 200 lashes for hosting a mixed concert at his fun park in the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

The man was arrested after an argument with agents from the powerful religious police who ordered him to end the concert, the daily Okaz said.

A court found the man guilty of hindering the work of the agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, known as Muttawa, and involvement in “organising a concert where men and women mix.”

– Source: Saudi man jailed for hosting mixed concert: report, AFP (France) via The Courier-Mail (Australia), Jan. 28, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Any questions as to why people are opposed to seeing Sharia — Islamic law — introduced to civilized countries like Canada and England?


Crystals versus Christ

While church numbers have been falling for years, these days the trend is for spirituality with no links to organised religion. Now the Church is on a mission to convert the so-called spiritual-but-not-religious, reports Jolyon Jenkins.

At the Mind Body Spirit Fair, held in Telford last autumn, you could consult a clairvoyant, purchase psychic healing, or stock up on healing crystals. You could also, if you wanted, talk to Mark Berry.

Mark is a Christian missionary – although he doesn’t like the word much – to Telford, sent there by the Church of England and the Church Mission Society, because Telford has one of the lowest church-going populations in Britain. He’s set up a small church, with about a dozen members, which meets in his small house on a modern estate.

He points to a survey that shows “there are about three million people in this country who would consider going to church if only someone invited them.”

That’s encouraged people like him to think churches just need to be a bit more welcoming, a little more inclusive to the spiritual-but-not religious brigade, and the decline could be reversed.

But however welcoming churches are, the conventional Sunday service won’t appeal to everyone, and so the CofE, in association with the Methodists, also has a programme called Fresh Expressions aimed at finding new forms of church for those reluctant to set foot in a traditional building.

This can be a social event – meeting at someone’s home to share a meal and to talk – or it can mean social work, getting out in the community to make connections.

“We think of it as our R&D department”, says Archdeacon Jackson. “We want church to be a verb not a noun,” is a favourite phrase from Fresh Expressions enthusiasts, who often talk of “emerging churches.”

– Source: Crystals versus Christ , BBC Magazine, Jan. 27, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

‘Emerging churches’ are controversial. While some such churches attempt to address today’s people in today’s language, other emerging (or emergent) churches have in so doing let go of essential doctrines of the Christian faith. More on this in: Postmodernism and the Emerging Church Movement

About RNB’s Religion News Roundup

RNB Religion Shorts: a compendium of blurbs and links to, for the most part, religion-related stories you may have missed.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday January 27, 2009.
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