Religion News Roundup, Friday August 12, 2011

    Religion News

  • Judge rules Little Rock bus line wrong to deny atheist ads: Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled that the Central Arkansas Transit Authority and its advertising agency should not have denied the group the right to place the ads on 18 publicly-funded city buses during Memorial Day weekend. Washington-based United Coalition of Reason filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Arkansas group in June after the transit authority and its advertising agency rejected an ad that would have read, “Are you good without God? Millions are.”
  • Judge rules inmate has no right to matzoh: Christopher Henry, who was convicted of first-degree sodomy, claimed permanent trauma and malnourishment and requested nearly $10 billion in damages for what he called a violation of his First Amendment right to religious freedom. Henry didn’t request matzoh for Passover, the Jewish holiday during which it is traditionally eaten. Instead, Henry claimed he had a right to have the unleavened bread served daily and grape juice every Friday. But on August 2, U.S. Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin held that the Rikers Island jail could deny Henry his request in the interests of maintaining order and keeping costs reasonable.
  • Scientology Sees Fundraising Gold in the UK Riots: Scientology has a history of pouncing on human disaster which even its own leaders, on leaked videotape, have admitted is a recruitment tool for the church. But even we’re somewhat taken aback to see what the UK Scientologists have put out in a message to the flock following the destruction there: now, they say, is the time to cash in! Our view: Scientology is known for its ambulance chasing
  • Settlement Reached In Christian Legal Society’s Suit Against Montana Law School: A settlement agreement was reached in Christian Legal Society v. Eck, a case challenging the University of Montana Law School’s denial of recognition as a student group to Christian Legal Society because the group’s membership policies violate the Student Bar Association’s policy that recognized student groups must be open to all law students.
  • Dozens of girls may have been trafficked to U.S. to marry: Mounties are investigating allegations that more than 30 underage girls from B.C. were trafficked to the U.S. to enter polygamous marriages. In an investigation that began in February, police are looking into evidence that girls between the ages of 12 and 17 were taken from the community of Bountiful to marry American men belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
  • Controversial Polish priest to build spa and aquapark: Tadeusz Rydzyk wants to build a church with adjoining leisure facilities in the city of Torun. Jewish groups condemned Rydzyk in June for saying that Poland has not been ruled by Poles since the outbreak of World War II – a statement they interpreted as meaning Jews were in charge of the country. He also told a black missionary during a pilgrimage in July 2009 that ‘he hasn’t washed at all.’
    Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

  • Bill Hybels on CEO Howard Schultz’s Withdrawal: ‘Buy a Starbucks and Show Some Christian Goodwill’: At the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit this afternoon, senior pastor Bill Hybels confirmed that Howard Schultz withdrew over an online petition calling the Illinois megachurch anti-gay and threatening a boycott. Hybels said the association let the Starbucks CEO out of his contract and he encouraged the summit’s attendees (an estimated 165,000, between the main South Barrington campus and 450 other locations) to write encouraging notes to the company and to buy Starbucks coffee and Schultz’s new book on leadership. Hybels said he is also trying to meet with the creators of the petition. Watch Hybels’ statement on YouTube
  • American Christianity: constantly reimagined, manipulated and exploited: While countless Christians shelter undocumented immigrants in their churches and otherwise work to advance the rights of the poor and dispossessed, money and power can catapult a “Christian” to the foreground of popular culture. The politicised church, which has submerged religion under politics but claims to be the only real keeper of the flame, feeds off attention from vote-hungry politicians. Their pastors become players on the national stage, even while subject to criticism from their orthodox brethren and secularists alike.
  • Believers wonder: Where is the old Obama?: The man who won the biggest bully pulpit on Earth by wielding an expansive and nuanced version of American values seems – in the midst of political war, economic disaster and a rising military death toll – to have forgotten what he stands for. Or at least, how to summon his principles in public.
  • Bishop: Rioting raises religious concerns
  • The C of E’s response to the riots has cemented its role in society: Yes, there were soundbites, but the Church of England is demonstrating its value as a social body
  • Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve: According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam’s rib. Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It’s a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church. But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. [Regarding this story, see GetReligion’s item, Imitation flattery €¦ or journalistic ripoff?]

  • Loyalty to Your Soul — A Critical Analysis (Book Review) A review of “Loyalty to Your Soul: The Heart of Spiritual Psychology,” written by H. Ronald Hulnick, Ph.D. and Mary R. Hulnick, Ph.D. The book is reviewed by David Christopher Lane, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College and Lecturer in Religious Studies, CSULB. This review is part of a new Apologetics Index entry on the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA), whose New Age teachings are raising eyebrows.
  • fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Scienceoffsite by Lucia Greenhouse. Reviews include:
    “A riveting and heart-rending memoir, fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science exposes the monstrous feats of neglect fostered by this strange American manifestation of religious fanaticism. Tracing her mother’s decline and its lacerating consequences, Lucia Greenhouse knows the truth about Christian Science, and she tells it with passionate, righteous indignation.”
    —Caroline Fraser, author of God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

    “Lucia Greenhouse’s book is a heart-breaking reminder of how nefarious religious zealotry can be. Her story drew me in and blew me away. This is an important addition to the genre of memoirs by children who escaped religious hucksterism and are now bravely exposing it.”
    —Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land

  • Note: Books mentioned for research purposes. Unless noted, no endorsements intended.

    Also Noted

  • Bible Detectives: Jerusalem Scholars Trace Bible’s Evolution: Scholars in this out-of-the-way corner of the Hebrew University campus have been quietly at work for 53 years on one of the most ambitious projects attempted in biblical studies — publishing the authoritative edition of the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible, and tracking every single evolution of the text over centuries and millennia. And it has evolved, despite deeply held beliefs to the contrary. For many Jews and Christians, religion dictates that the words of the Bible in the original Hebrew are divine, unaltered and unalterable. For Orthodox Jews, the accuracy is considered so inviolable that if a synagogue’s Torah scroll is found to have a minute error in a single letter, the entire scroll is unusable. But the ongoing work of the academic detectives of the Bible Project, as their undertaking is known, shows that this text at the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was somewhat fluid for long periods of its history, and that its transmission through the ages was messier and more human than most of us imagine.
  • Ramadan in Germany has an international flavour: More than half the Muslims living in Germany are of Turkish origin. Most of the rest come from Arab or African countries, but there are also several thousand Germans who have converted to Islam. Freedom of worship is guaranteed under the German constitution, but many Muslims feel that it isn’t as easy to celebrate Ramadan in Germany as in the Muslim world.
  • Religion Dominates Facebook Page Engagement: Music, sports, and politics create quite a noisy racket on the social network, but it is clearly religion that once again gets users to interact with pages the most.
  • Billionaire Builds an Evangelical Christian Empire from Hobby Store Fortune: Over the past nearly forty years, David Green has turned Hobby Lobby, the privately held arts and crafts supply business he founded, from a small retail shop located in North Oklahoma City to more than 475 stores operating in 40 states that employ nearly 20,000 people. Founder David Green, and his son Mart, are major donors to, stakeholders in, and benefactors of a number of Christian evangelical organizations and institutions. When the Green family rides in to the rescue – as it has done frequently over the past two decades – it often comes with strings attached.
  • Cult expert Steve Hassan interviews Dr. Robert Jay Lifton Hassan: “For me, on a personal note, it was a very special, personal encounter with the man who was so pivotal to my life decision to go into psychology and ultimately into my work to help people who have been victimized by deceptive mind controllers of every orientation. It was fall of 1976, and Dr. Lifton agreed to meet with me and hear about how his book, Thought Reform and the psychology of Totalism was so instrumental in my realization that indeed, I had experienced a form of extreme influence which mirrored, in very fundamental ways, brainwashing in Communist China. It was Dr. Lifton who did the huge “therapeutic reframe” of my identity- from college drop-out, ashamed and embarrassed ex-moonie into a person who have invaluable experience and insights into the process of cult recruitment and indoctrination processes, as well as strong ideas about how to help people to step and reevaluate their commitments.”
  • Study: More educated tend to be more religious, by some measures: After analyzing data from a large national survey, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Philip Schwadel found that people actually tend to become more religious – by some definitions, at least – as they further their education.
  • Does Secularism Make People More Ethical?: Non-believers are often more educated, more tolerant and know more about God than the pious. A new wave of research is trying to figure out what goes on in the minds of an ever-growing group of people known as the “Nones“.
  • Billy Graham’s life lessons: The legacy of ‘America’s pastor’: The Rev. Billy Graham is nearly 93 but still manages to meet with major public figures on occasion and releases periodic reflections on his life and faith. Indeed, though Graham is infirm and in virtual seclusion in his mountaintop home in North Carolina, his stature and legacy seem to grow as he ages.

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