Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire." [more inside]
Frank Schaeffer: "You can’t understand why the GOP was so successful in winning back both houses of Congress in 2014, and wrecking most of what Obama has tried to do, unless you understand what we did back then." [more inside]
“A bomb with a long fuse has been lit,” said Sylvie Guillaume, a French MEP supportive of abortion rights and LGBT rights, who recently stepped down as vice chair of the largest center-left bloc in the European Union’s parliament. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.” [more inside]
Today the High Court of Australia ruled (Williams v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 23) for the second time that Commonwealth funding of school chaplains was unconstitutional. This is in direct contradiction of the Abbott government's recent budget moves to totally defund secular counsellors in favour of a $244M school chaplaincy program[me]. [more inside]
"America is in the midst of two major changes to its population: We are becoming majority non-white at the same time a record share is going gray. Explore these shifts in our new interactive data essay."
Step inside this surreal world where religious piety meets psychedelic softcore porn, led by the world’s foremost Islamic creationist. "Followers of Harun Yahya (1, 2, 3) wear drag make-up and practice a “sexed-up, Disney version of Islam” that helps promote conservative Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vision of a modern, Muslim Turkey."
This morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, two cases where private corporations have challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage mandate. Previously, and previously [more inside]
The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths. Simon Critchley gives both an overview of philosopher John Gray's thought and reviews Gray's new book.
"Them and Them." "Rockland County, New York's East Ramapo school district is a taxpayer-funded system fighting financial insolvency. It is also bitterly divided between the mostly black and Hispanic children and families who use the schools and the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish majority who run the Board of Education and send their children to private, religious schools." Also see: A District Divided. [more inside]
In 2008, the National Journal released The Hidden History of the American Electorate, an analysis of exit poll demographics conducted by multiple news organizations from US presidential elections between 1988 and 2004. The study looked for "pressure points in the electorate": trends which were likely to decide the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. They've released an update for 2012, by adding exit poll results from the 1980, 1984, and 2008 presidential elections. It gives a more comprehensive look at voting trends over a 32 year period of the groups whom they believe are likely to influence the outcome in November. Charts: Voting Preferences of the American Electorate, 1980-2008
"Confessions of an Ex-Mormon: A personal history of America’s most misunderstood religion." by Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air and Lost in the Meritocracy. (Via)
Religion and Presidential Elections: (video from the C-SPAN Video Library) On March 13, 2012, panelists at Boston College discussed Mormonism and the role of religion in the context of the 2012 Republican primaries and American politics generally. The video is about an hour long. Kristine Haglund comments about the discussion on By Common Consent.
Historian Michael Kazin says that we are witnessing the end of the Religious Right's influence in American politics. Peter Montgomery of Alternet says not to declare the Christian Right dead quite yet.
Well, to put it simply, The Big plan is the same as the immediate plan: they want you dead. It’s not that they want to kill opposition; they want to kill the opposition, literally. This country ain’t big enough for the both of you, and they have everything to lose. And they have guns. And the media. And all the keys of power. And you want to overthrow them. How do you think they will react to that? Give you cookies? - an on the ground report of what's going on in Egypt now from a blogger turned parliamentary candidate.
Some lives are exemplary, others not; and of exemplary lives, there are those which invite us to imitate them, and those which we regard from a distance with a mixture of revulsion, pity, and reverence. It is, roughly, the difference between the hero and the saint (if one may use the latter term in an aesthetic, rather than a religious sense). Such a life, absurd in its exaggerations and degree of self-mutilation — like Kleist’s, like Kierkegaard’s — was Simone Weil’s. - Susan Sontag [more inside]
An awkward moment in politics. (YouTube) While campaigning in a New Hampshire diner, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spotted local Bob Garon, a regular to the diner, eating his breakfast while wearing a Vietnam veteran's cap. “Vietnam veteran!” Romney greeted Bob, as he slid down onto the diner seat for a little chat. Unfortunately for Mitt, Bob was dining there that morning with his husband, and had to explain to Bob that his husband didn't deserve any of the benefits he fought for, and that the makers of the Constitution held marriage to be between a man and a woman. (Which doesn't really explain Mitt's great-grandfather Miles and his wives Hanna, Caroline, Catherine, Alice, and Emily, but stilll...)
Penn Jillette: An Atheist's Guide to the 2012 Election. [SLYT] Via BigThink, "A knowledge forum featuring the ideas, lessons, stories and advice of leading experts from around the world."
The Netanyahu government has paid for US TV ads saying US Israelis will never understand what it means to be Israeli, and American Jews will lose their religion
How the religious right censored the UK media – Christian Mothers’ Union head appointed as ‘expert’ by David Cameron
How the religious right censored the UK media – Christian Mothers’ Union head appointed as ‘expert’ by David Cameron
Why A Heterosexual, Married, North Carolinian Father Of Three Cares About LGBT Equality. Married father of three boys writes eloquently about the reasons why he opposes the proposed constitutional amendment banning any legal relationship recognition for same-sex couples. The amendment goes before voters in May primary election, when heavy Republican turnout is expected. Meanwhile Senator Goolsby says that it is all about "empowering voters" "so no activist judge is able to decide on his or her own what marriage is." [original]
Burl Cain, the warden of Angola, Louisiana's largest prison, uses religion to control and subdue the prison population.
"If they simply professed unusual beliefs, movement leaders wouldn’t be remarkable. But what makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government. The new prophets and apostles believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take 'dominion' over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the 'Seven Mountains' of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world. They believe they’re intended to lord over it all. As a first step, they’re leading an 'army of God' to commandeer civilian government. In Rick Perry, they may have found their vessel. And the interest appears to be mutual." Previously. Via.
Ahmadinejad allies charged with sorcery. Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits). Increasingly, there is a rift between the President and his Supreme Leader.
'These children don’t recognize the flags of their home countries, but they can all sing "Jesus Loves Me."'
The Douglass Blvd. Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky has voted to stop signing marriage licenses until gay marriage is legalized by the state.
A released FAA investigation describes how in October last year, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) deliberately landed his plane on a closed runway, and then caused the plane to "hop" over terrified construction workers and their vehicles. More recently, Senator Inhofe has taken to the Senate floor in praise of his friend (and friend of C Street), deposed Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo. [Previously, previously]
Jon Stewart hosts a three part debate with Mike Huckabee about religion, society, and policy. [more inside]
A 2nd day of riots in Afghanistan over Rev. Terry Jones's trial and execution-by-burning of a Quran leaves a total death total of 20, with at least 80 injuries, including 7 UN aid workers. Thousands participated in the riots across the country. "I don't think we should be blaming any Afghan. We should be blaming the person who produced the news — the one who burned the Quran," stated the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura. Others defend Jones's right to free speech. (previously)
Barely into the new year on Khalil Hamda street in Alexandria Egypt: "A devastating New Year’s Day terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt that killed 21 people was the latest in a spate of violent assaults against the Middle East’s vulnerable Christian communities. The car bomb explosion also injured 79 people just after midnight Saturday as worshipers were leaving a New Year’s Mass at the Saints Church in east Alexandria, Egyptian officials said." The Egyptian people responded. [more inside]
"We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong."
The Christian left is a term originating in the United States, used to describe a spectrum of left-wing Christian political and social movements which largely embraces social justice. "We will not be profiled or pigeonholed and we will not ‘Be Quiet.’ We’re Christians. We’re Liberals. Please get used to it. Thank you."
In a five part series he wrote a few years ago, blogger J. Brad Hicks breaks down how, in the mid-1960s, the Republican party made a conscious decision to rebrand themselves as the party of Christians, and in doing so, how they had to shift the ideology of the churches to what he calls a "false gospel". [more inside]
With the passing of Executive Order 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells, in 2009 President Obama expanded federal funding and rescinded George W. Bush's policies that eliminated most federal funding and restricted human embryonic stem cell research to the use of existing, contaminated cell lines. On Monday, federal judge Royce C. Lamberth blocked this new order after protestations from James L. Sherley, a former scientist with the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, who operates the Ave Maria Biotechnology Company, which aims to do "pro-life" therapeutic research without the "taint of embryonic or electively aborted fetal materials". [more inside]
Pope Benedict XVI has announced the establishment of a new Vatican department dedicated to tackling what he called 'a grave crisis in the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the Church." The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation will (per Archbishop Vincent Nichols,) focus on countries "in which, even though the Christian Gospel has shaped an entire culture," secularism now reigns, in what the Pope termed an "eclipse of a sense of God." [more inside]
The new focus on the Liberal Democrats sees the Daily Telegraph's Cristina Odone profiling Dr Evan Harris. That's "profiling" in the sense that the FBI might profile a criminal. A criminal the papers are calling Dr Death. [more inside]
Threats of right wing violence have doubled in the past year. What is behind the latest upsurge in the movement to create a Christian theocratic state? [more inside]
"This may truly be the most important new painting of the twenty first century." The McNaughton Fine Art Company presents "One Nation Under God" [cache], an... interesting take on American history in a nifty zoom interface. Artist John McNaughton, who calls himself "the only living artist in the world today" to practice the Barbizon School of French Impressionism, has an extensive body of less opinionated work for you to admire. Interview. Character list.
The Conservative Bible Project. Rod Dreher of Belief.net offers further analysis of a budding new Wiki project to rewrite the Holy Bible to eliminate what some young conservatives apparently now view as liberal bias in the scriptures (via Harpers).
“They are brands that may not be considered cool by the often elitist and self-absorbed standards of New York media,” she said. She had taken a car from Manhattan that morning, and wore a pink wool shirt-dress, patent leather Manolo Blahnik heels, and diamond hoop earrings.
Reader's Digest jumps the shark. (NYT)
Reader's Digest jumps the shark. (NYT)
Keynes & Marx thought "that productivity would grow sufficiently to allow our needs to be met with very little labour," and that humankind's biggest preoccupation in the future would be leading lives of comfortable (or comparative) leisure. Obviously, that has not yet come to pass. But why?** Yochai Benkler (previously), for one, is working on it... [more inside]
Is the west thwarting Arab plans for reform? Few Muslims now invest much hope in the democratic western powers (essentially the US, Britain and France) that back the rulers who oppress them, even if, against the odds, they still admire “western” values, science and culture. There is no endemic or intrinsic conflict between Christians and Muslims. Rather, the root of the problem is that a majority of Muslims is convinced that the west – interested only in a stability based on regional strongmen, the security of Israel and cheap oil – is engaged in a war against Islam and is bent on denying them the freedoms it claims for itself. That is why it is so self-defeating to collude in tyranny as ostensibly a lesser evil than political Islam. [more inside]
Smoke and Mirrors: The Subversion of the EPA. "This four-part series details how the Bush administration weakened the EPA. It installed a pliant agency chief, Stephen L. Johnson. Under him, the EPA created pro-industry regulations later thrown out by the courts. It promoted a flawed voluntary program to fight climate change. It bypassed air pollution recommendations from its own scientists to satisfy the White House." [Via Reality Base]
Thomas Muthee, the witch-hunting prayer warrior who anointed Sarah Palin, is part of a much larger movement called the New Apostolic Reformation. Researchers at religious watchdog site Talk2Action have released a 36 page report on the NAR (part 1, part 2, part 3 & PDF). Learn about Palin confidant Mary Glazier, the Queen of Heaven, the Christian Emergency Network and much, much more.
Prophets and politics. "The Mormon Church works to ban gay marriage in California, even as gay people in places like Rexburg, Idaho, come out of the LDS closet."
Fire, brimstone & pee. (SLYT)
In these final days the campaign,with the promise of more mudslinging looming large on the horizon, tempers flaring, political threads raging out of control, it's important to remember that religion and politics often make some people give way to ranting and raving and carrying on like emotional children... [more inside]