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Fight Church: Who Would Jesus Punch?

Fighting language is nothing new in the Bible. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” Paul wrote to Timothy. To the church at Corinth, he wrote that like an athlete, “I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.”

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The Force of Law: Prisoner Claims Persecution for Star Wars Faith

A Jedi knights demonstration in 2012A British prisoner who claims to be a practicing Jedi says he faces persecution from authorities unwilling to recognise the Star Wars religion. The unnamed prisoner has written to prison newspaper Inside Time, asking editors not to publish his name or other details “as I fear retaliation from the dark side”. In a letter published on the newspaper’s website, he writes: “I recently put in an application asking that I be allowed to practise my religion freely – I am a Jedi. The written reply said, ‘…whilst Jedi is a recognised religion according to the UK census, it is not recognised by the National Offender Management Service, and we cannot change your religious record because of this.'” [Read more]

Religious Schools Are the Problem, Not the Answer

350x[1]One could almost be tempted to say “Hallelujah” to the news that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has at last recognised that there is a problem with dangerous religious proselytising in schools – particularly, but certainly not only, in Muslim-dominated schools. The latest news is that he has sent “teams of inspectors” into various community schools in Birmingham and Manchester to find out the extent to which they have been hijacked by Islamist extremists who are intent on using the schools as religious recruiting grounds rather than places of general education. [Read more]

Government Funding to Creationist Nurseries Has to Stop

350x[1]The Government has a clear policy on teaching creationism as science; schools receiving public funds can’t do it. This is a wholly sensible approach. Whatever else it may be, creationism is not science, and it’s dishonest to tell children otherwise. It is concerning, then, that current policy enables children below compulsory school age to receive public funds to attend creationist institutions. The Government’s “free early education” scheme gives all children aged three and four, and some two-year-olds, 15 hours per week of nursery education. Previously known as the nursery voucher scheme, local authorities can make this funding available to private institutions as long as they have acceptable inspection reports. [Read more]

Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Put Faith In Unorthodox Dating Service

mizrachi_custom-7535f92df171b3f48ff2be9392b4cccd0fba7f36-s3-c85[1]Yael Mizrachi, a 33-year-old Israeli woman, has been to many matchmakers. “Too many,” she says, rolling her wide dark eyes and tossing her shoulder-length hair. Matchmakers are the traditional way to find a mate in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to which Mizrachi belongs. But she is not entirely traditional. “I identify myself as a modern ultra-Orthodox,” Mizrachi says.Mizrachi is part of a growing number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel who are seeking job skills, getting higher education or joining the military. And those changes are shaking up the community’s established customs for finding a spouse. [Download MP3 Story]

Bill Nye Says He Underestimated Debate’s Impact

460x[1]TV’s “Science Guy” Bill Nye said he underestimated the impact of a February debate in Kentucky on evolution and creationism that drew a massive online audience. When Nye agreed to the debate at The Creation Museum with its founder Ken Ham, he said he believed it would draw about as much attention as presentations he makes on college campuses. But the Feb. 4 event was widely promoted by the museum, “and soon it seemed like everyone I met was talking about it,” Nye wrote in a 3,000-word letter published in the May/June issue of Skeptical Inquirer. “I slowly realized that this was a high-pressure situation,” he said. [Read more]

Religion as a Human Rights Liability

350x[1]It is no secret that many human rights have an inherently religious dimension, as Larry Cox recently argued on Open Global Rights. But do religion and human rights really need each other, as he suggests? While many of history’s greatest human rights movements have been inspired by religious ideals of justice and equality, the explicit linking of religion and human rights can be highly problematic for particular people groups, especially women and sexual and religious minorities. [Read more]

My Physiology of Faith

Man-Leonardo-da-Vinci-300x297[1]I claim, with a tip of the hat to Erasmus, a physiology of faith. My brain is Buddhist, my heart is Christian, and my stomach is Humanist. It all comes together and makes me a Unitarian Universalist. I am convinced in large part of the Buddha’s basic analysis of the human heart, that we are profoundly wounded by our delusion that we and those we love are permanent and our grasping at what is constantly changing as if it were permanent, like someone trying to hold onto flowing water. And like any wounded animal, this makes us dangerous. Beyond this I have for decades been informed by the stories of the Chinese meditation masters. These bare words only hint at the passion those stories inspire in me. [Read more]

Former Lesbian Turned Christian to Advise Hispanic Pastors on LGBT Issues at First Una Voz (One Voice) Conference

janet-boynes[1]Janet Boynes, a former lesbian turned Christian author and public speaker is set to address a crowd of Hispanic evangelical pastors at the Una Voz (One Voice) convention in San Diego later this month where she will discuss the church’s response to LGBT issues. After living as a lesbian for 14 years, Boynes knows how potentially encouraging the process of leaving the homosexual lifestyle can be with the help of a supportive church. It has been over a decade since Boynes began to walk in faith, leaving behind her former habits and sexual preference. Now, she leads Called Out Ministries where she helps minister to LGBT individuals seeking to leave homosexuality. [Read more]

I Grew Up in an Apocalyptic Christian Cult

shutterstock_51045340[1]“Miss Edwards, do you have another shirt in your locker?” my second period Spanish teacher, Mrs. Buck, asked me on my first day of high school, making sure the whole class could clearly hear my dilemma. I looked down at my breasts, their little white mounds pushing up and slightly out of a shirt that was low-cut and tight-fitting, but not too provocative, at least I thought. Mrs. Buck’s orders to return to class the next day only if I had appropriate clothing came as a shock for two reasons. [Read more]

Woman Claims Discrimination Against Atheists in NJ License-Plate Lawsuit

4601490383_d4ddca4257_o.si[1]A New Jersey woman is suing the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission for denying her attempt to keep God off her vanity license plate by proclaiming her atheism. The defendant in the case, Shannon Morgan, attempted to purchase a vanity plate from the MVC website in November 2013, entering “8THEIST” as her desired personalization, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday. But the website denied her request, stating, “Requested plate text is considered objectionable.” The complaint says that Morgan then decided to experiment with other, more religious requests. [Read more]

Christians in Australia Nearing Minority Status as Religious Affiliation Declines Sharply Since 2011

5541%20Custom[1]In late 2011, Christians outnumbered the non-religious by over two to one: 60.9% of Australians 14+ (11.4 million) said they belonged to a Christian denomination compared with 29.2% (5.5 million) who said they had no religious affiliation—each near their respective proportional averages since 2009. But in the latest quarter October to December 2013, 52.6% of Australians (10.2 million) are Christian, while 37.6% (7.3 million) have no religion—halving the gap to 15% points. [Read more]

Pope Francis Takes Aim At Ideologically Obsessed Christians, Says They Have Illness

Pope-Francis[1]Pope Francis has been very clear about how he feels about ideological purity in religion. He’s been particularly critical of right-wing Christian fundamentalism. Pope Francis has shifted the focus of the Catholic Church to issues facing the poor and the sick. He has railed against economic inequality and has criticized the anti-gay and anti-abortion strains that have come to dominate the Christian Right here in America. Such ideological extremism is dangerous, not only to Christianity, but to the world. And Pope Francis said as much last Thursday. [Read more]

Singing Nun Belts Out ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun:’ Sister Cristina Scuccia Soars To Next Level On The Voice Italy

Sister Cristina Scuccia is back on The Voice Italy with a rocking performance of Cyndi Lauper’s classic “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” The sister battled it out with fellow competitor Luna Palumbo and scored yet another win from the judges after another passionate show of her vocal talent with her nun pals cheering her on from the sidelines.

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David Cameron Acclaims His and Britain’s Christian Faith in Secular Age

Britain should be “confident” and “evangelical” about its status as a Christian country, even in an increasingly secular age, David Cameron has said. In an article for the Church Times, the Prime Minister said Christians “make a difference to people’s lives” and said that churches were “vital partners”. [Read more]

Activists Call on British Government to Deport African Exorcist

A Pentecostal preacher who claims to deliver people from witchcraft is a danger to children and should be deported from England, activists say. Helen Ukpabio, a woman who wears colorful West African clothes and hats and who calls herself a “Lady Apostle,” is the founder of the controversial Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries in Nigeria. It has 150 branches in Africa and Europe. [Read more]

Warren Turns Down Request for Anti-Religion Display at City Hall

A request to put up a display table touting reason over religion in the atrium of city hall next to a long-established prayer station was denied Wednesday. Douglas Marshall said he filed the request April 9 as a resident of the city, but Mayor James Fouts rejected it, saying Marshall is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has objected to a nativity scene, the city’s observance of the annual National Day of Prayer and the prayer station. [Read more]