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How Much Religious Liberty Is Too Much?

sasse[1]For the Republican Senate candidate from Nebraska, Ben Sasse, the answer is clear: there’s no such thing as too much religious freedom. And you might be inclined to agree. Isn’t religious liberty America’s “first freedom,” the right listed first in the First Amendment? Wasn’t freedom of conscience one of the driving forces behind the colonists’ desire to quit England for the New World in the first place? Yes, of course. [Read more]

This Is Why You Have No Business Challenging Scientific Experts

Jenny McCarthy Book SigningRemember “Climategate“? It was the 2009 nonscandal scandal in which a trove of climate scientists’ emails, pilfered from the University of East Anglia in the UK, were used to call all of modern climate research into question. Why? Largely because a cursory reading of those emails—showing, for example, climate scientists frankly discussing how to respond to burdensome data requests and attacks on their work—revealed a side of researchers that most people aren’t really used to seeing. [Read more]

Conservative United Methodists Say Divide Over Sexuality is `Irreconcilable’

GpUEB.Em.138[1]Will the United Methodist Church soon have to drop the “United” part of its name? A group of 80 pastors, including at least two from North Carolina, says the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination faces a split because of an inability to resolve long-standing theological disputes about homosexuality and church doctrine. But more than lamenting the divisions, the pastors indicated there is little reason to think reconciliation – or even coexistence – could be found. Like a couple heading to divorce court, the pastors cited irreconcilable differences that can’t be mended. [Read more]

I Advocated for Women’s Equality in Pakistan. Then I Was Attacked.

ismail-300x164[1]Along with my sister, Saba, I co-founded Aware Girls, an organization dedicated to women’s empowerment, gender equality, and peace in Pakistan. For our work toward strengthening women in leadership, I received the 2013 Democracy Award presented by the National Endowment for Democracy in a ceremony at the U.S. Congress, and I was named one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine, among other distinctions. [Read more]

The Big Bang’s Identity Crisis

firework_620[1]Think of the Big Bang, and you probably imagine a moment in time when matter, energy and space itself all burst into existence at once. Yet many astrophysicists now believe that the “Big Bang” was actually two distinct events: first the inaugural instant of space and time, and second the generation of most of the “stuff” that populates that space. So, which really deserves to be called the Big Bang? [Read more]

Africa’s Islamic Extremist Groups Are on the Rise

RNS-ISLAMISTS-AFRICAIn the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, al-Qaida became a household name. But today, other extremist Islamist groups, many in Africa, are vying for headlines. Recently, the group Boko Haram gained international infamy after it abducted more than 250 schoolgirls. Since 2009, Christians in northern Nigeria have borne the brunt of Boko Haram violence, which has included attacks on churches, schools and government installations. Now Libyan Christian leaders fear Boko Haram could spread its influence into their country as a result of a renegade former general’s campaign to purge the chaotic country of Islamist militants. [Read more]

Shooting Of Sikh Army Veteran Divides Community

sikh-shergill-c55f393cc93d42d83f30690445538ce9d3202455-s3-c85[1]In late January, a mentally ill man was shot and killed by two police officers in Lodi, Calif., south of Sacramento. Tragedy often follows a confrontation between the police and a mentally ill person, but the facts of this case are in dispute. The victim was a Sikh Army veteran, and his death has roiled the Sikh community and the city. On a recent Saturday evening, more than 100 people gathered at the Sikh temple in the largely agricultural community of Lodi, to remember Parminder Shergill. [Read more]

House Tries to Add Religious Plaque to War Memorial

ww2memorial-830x460[1]This week the Public Lands and Environmental Regulation subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on H.R. 2175, also known as the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, which would install a plaque at the World War II monument in Washington D.C. “with the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the United States on June 6, 1944, the morning of D-Day.” [Read more]

Southern Baptist Pastor Accepts His Gay Son, Changes His Church

drew1[1]“I wanted to introduce myself to you. My name is Danny Cortez and I pastor a small Southern Baptist Church in La Mirada, CA. We’re about a mile from Biola University in a very conservative neighborhood. Anyway, I recently became gay affirming after a 15-year journey of having multiple people in my congregation come out to me every year. I scoured through your whole website and read everything I could. And it was especially the testimony of my gay friends that helped me to see how they have been marginalized that my eyes became open to the injustice that the church has wrought.” [Read more]

Bowe Bergdahl, American Soldier, Freed by Taliban in Prisoner Trade

SWAP-tmagSF-v2[1]The lone American prisoner of war from the Afghan conflict, captured by insurgents nearly five years ago, has been released to American forces in exchange for five Taliban detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Obama administration officials said Saturday. The soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was handed over to American Special Operations troops inside Afghanistan near the Pakistan border about 10:30 a.m. Saturday in a tense but uneventful exchange with 18 Taliban officials, American officials said. [Read more]

Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death to be Freed

504143[1]A Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy will be “freed within days”, a foreign ministry official told AFP Saturday, after her case triggered an international outcry. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag was condemned to death on May 15 under the Islamic Sharia law that has been in place in Sudan since 1983 and which outlaws conversions under pain of death. “The lady will be freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice,” Abdullah al-Azraq, a foreign ministry undersecretary, told AFP. [Read more]

Southern Baptist Membership Declines for 7th Year

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination saw membership decline for the seventh straight year in 2013, according to an annual report released Wednesday. The report by the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm, Lifeway Christian Resources, puts total membership in the Nashville-based SBC at 15.7 million. [Read more]

Israeli and Palestinian Presidents to Meet at Vatican on June 8

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet at the Vatican and pray for peace together at an unprecedented gathering on June 8, the Vatican said on Thursday. [Read more]

Rev. David Rives: Astronomy is “Bad Science”

This isn’t one of the rev’s usual videos, with majestic music at the start and a commercial at the end. Instead it’s part of an interview he gave. We don’t know when or where, and we don’t know who the two guys are that are interviewing him. It doesn’t matter. What the rev says is what’s important.

[Read more]

More Religious Groups to Join Suit Against Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Additional plaintiffs – including two national clergy groups – are expected to join a lawsuit next week that claims North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage is a violation of religious freedom. The Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Alliance of Baptists are going to become part of the lawsuit, along with additional individual pastors and rabbis, said Luke Largess, co-lead counsel for the legal challenge. [Read more]

Can Narcissists be Moved to Show Empathy?

Researchers at the University of Surrey and the University of Southampton have investigated whether narcissists can elicit empathy for another person’s suffering. It has been well documented that narcissists lack empathy, but why is that the case, and do they have the capacity to change that behavior? The research is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. [Read more]

Religious Liberty in the Air Force Under Dire Threat: An Open Letter to USAF Chief of Staff

General Welsh, Sir, I write you this day on behalf of the over 37,500 sailor, soldier, marine, airmen, coast guard, service academy, ROTC, OTS/OCS cadet/midshipmen, national guard, reservist and veteran clients of the civil rights organization I lead, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Approximately 96% of our MRFF clients identify themselves as practicing, non-fundamentalist Protestants or Roman Catholics. [Read more]

Youths Pillage Mosque in Central African Republic Protest Over Church Attack

Youths in the Central African Republic plundered a mosque in the capital and barricaded streets with burning tyres on Thursday in protest at an attack by Muslim gunmen on a church that killed about 15 people dead, witnesses said. [Read more]

Lebanon, Missouri School Board Member Responds to my First-Amendment Concerns with Snark and Defiance

Yesterday I posted a video of Kevin Lowery, the principal of Lebanon High School in Lebanon, Missouri, offering a prayer and a defense of our country’s religious foundations at his school’s graduation. That was clearly open defiance of our government’s ban on public schools endorsing religion. I also posted a list of publicly available email addresses for principal Lowery, the school board members for Lebanon, and the school superintendent, as well as an email I wrote all of them protesting the intrusion of religious beliefs into the public-school ceremony. [Read more]

For Jewish Groups, a Stand-Off Between Open Debate and Support of Israel

The D.C. Jewish Community Center runs a popular music festival featuring klezmer, a cappella, Broadway, liturgical and classical sounds. This year, they invited a Brooklyn feminist punk rock band called The Shondes — Yiddish for “disgrace” — to join the lineup. [Read more]

Inconsistency: Was God Pleased or Displeased with Creation?

Genesis has inconsistent depictions of how God feels about his creation — the earth and its inhabitants. Immediately after creation, Genesis says that God was pleased with his work. Later on, though, Genesis says that God displeased — so displeased, in fact, that God regrets creating at all and attempts to kill everyone. So was God pleased or displeased with his handiwork? [Read more]

Why Does Religion Exist?

According to Karl Marx, religion is like other social institutions in that it is dependent upon the material and economic realities in a given society. It has no independent history; instead it is the creature of productive forces. As Marx wrote, “The religious world is but the reflex of the real world.” [Read more]

Does Strong Atheism Imply / Require Certainty?

Question: Does Strong Atheism Imply / Require Certainty? Answer: It is not true that strong atheism in any way implies or depends upon certainty. A strong atheist who asserts that no gods exist is not simultaneously asserting that they are certain that no gods exist. No other existential or empirical claims imply absolute certainty, so why should anyone think that the claim of strong atheism implies absolute certainty? This is not to say that a strong atheist couldn’t also claim to be certain; merely that it’s not inherent. [Read more]