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John Paul’s Legacy Stained by Sex Abuse Scandal

460x[1]Pope John Paul II is rightly credited with having helped bring down communism, of inspiring a new generation of Catholics with a globe-trotting papacy and of explaining church teaching on a range of hot-button issues as Christianity entered its third millennium. But the sexual abuse scandal that festered under his watch remains a stain on his legacy. John Paul and his top advisers failed to grasp the severity of the abuse problem until very late in his 26-year papacy, even though U.S. bishops had been petitioning the Holy See since the late-1980s for a faster way to defrock pedophile priests. [Read more]

‘Heaven Is For Real’ Spurs Conversations And Controversy On Near-Death Experiences

Film Review Heaven Is For RealIs it possible to die, take a quick look around, and come back to life to describe what you found? Seekers have asked the question for millennia, with the answers elusive and inconclusive at best. A new film purports to give a glimpse into what people of all faiths — and those of none — frequently debate about heaven’s defining features: angels, fields of green, tunnels of light and other common descriptors of life after death. It’s reviving a conversation among not only the religious, but also the small and growing community of Americans who research and say they know first-hand about the near-death experience. [Read more]

Cosmopolitanism & Humanism

Centner-300x234[1]I felt at home wandering the Taj Lifestyle Center (commonly called the Taj Mall) in Amman, Jordan. It housed international retailers like H&M and Victoria’s Secret and offered an exotic seasoning of high-end Jordanian brands. Even without speaking Arabic I could stumble through a purchase of tea and clothes, wander among the young locals dressed in the latest fashions, see families enjoying a late iftar meal at Buffalo Wings & Rings, and hear an oud player serenading mall visitors with local tunes. Had I entered one side of the mall in Jordan and exited on another side in Maryland it would not have seemed too surprising. [Read more]

New Jersey Lawsuit Seeks to Ban Pledge of Allegiance

shutterstock_4328368-246x369[1]The American Humanist Association is suing a New Jersey school district for its recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public classrooms. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of a local family in central New Jersey, asserts the mandatory recitation of the pledge is discriminatory against nonbelievers because it includes the phrase “under God.” The lawsuit, filed against Monmouth County’s Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, is the second case that reflects a change in strategy against the pledge. It contends the pledge violates a state constitution’s protection against religious discrimination; previous cases held the pledge violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on the establishment of religion. [Read more]

Lawmaker Pulls Bill to Make Holy Bible Louisiana’s Official State Book

14751005-mmmain[1]Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, scrapped his proposal to make the Holy Bible the official state book before it could go to a full vote of the state House of Representatives Monday evening. The bill had become a distraction, he said. In introducing the legislation, Carmody always maintained he was not taking steps to establish a state religion, but rather to educate people. Critics have accused him of foisting faith inappropriately into the government sphere. Others thought such a designation would trivialize the Bible and its importance. [Read more]

Is This Unlikely Nation Poised to Become the ‘Largest Christian Country in the World’?

cross1[1]When pondering countries with overtly Christian inclinations, China likely isn’t one of the first to come to mind. But one expert believes that the East Asian nation is poised to see major growth in the faith arena. Fenggang Yang, professor of sociology and director of Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, recently said that the estimated 58 million Christians in China will exponentially increase to around 160 million by the year 2025, according to the Telegraph. And he believes the growth won’t end there. By 2030, the total Christian population could exceed 247 million, he posits. The current population of China is over 1.3 billion. [Read more]

Cuba Makes Good Friday an Official Holiday

good-friday-cuba[1]Cuba is to adhere to a request made by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the country in 2012 to make Good Friday a permanent official holiday. The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that although the norm will not be in force until June, the Cuban Ministry Work and Social Security issued a special ruling allowing Cubans to observe Good Friday in 2014. However, it said those who work in services such as sugar cane harvesting, shipping and receiving, transportation, health care, tourism and other services, would not be granted the holiday. [Read more]

Papal Economics:
Why Pope Francis is Making “Cafeteria Catholics” out of the Catholic Right

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Since its release on November 24, 2013, Pope Francis’ first official document, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), has been the subject of controversy among many self-described “orthodox Catholics,” not for any questionable theological content, but because of several sections that condemn the negative effects of trickle-down economics on the poor. R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, an influential conservative Catholic magazine, dismissed Pope Francis’ call to end structural poverty as misplaced populism while admiring the pontiff’s call for believers to re-evangelize secular culture. [Read more]

Atheists Win Prayer Battle: Calif. City to Cut Invocations and Volunteer Chaplain

mother-prayer2-620x389[1]A small California city has decided to strike both prayer and a volunteer chaplain from public meetings following a lawsuit filed by atheist activists late last year. The decision to cut invocations from Pismo Beach City Council meetings comes after a complaint was waged in November by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Atheists United San Luis Obispo. The secular activist groups alleged that an unpaid city chaplain and sectarian prayers both posed violations to the California Constitution as well as the state’s civil rights laws. [Read more]

Southern Baptist Summit Has Frank Talk on Sex

1398110643000-BaptistSex[1]The nation’s culture war is over when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Southern Baptist leaders said Monday, but now it’s up to the church to stand firm on its principles despite what the majority believes. That goes for fighting off pastoral adultery and the urge to look at porn, counseling folks who live together without marriage and speaking out against divorce, too. [Read more]

Pat Robertson Says Doomsday Asteroid Could Hit Next Week

Former NASA astronauts are expected to warn today that the Earth has been slammed by far more asteroids than previously thought — including 26 impacts since 2001 that caused explosions on the scale of an atomic bomb. Now, televangelist Pat Robertson says one of those rocks could bring about the prophesied “end times” — just as he predicted in a 1995 novel.

[Read more]

Southern Baptist Policy Panel on Homosexuality Creates Stir on Social Media

A panel discussing homosexuality at the Southern-Baptist affiliated Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission created a stir on social media Monday night, after pastor J.D. Greear compared resisting gay marriage in the church to resisting slavery in the South in the 1860s. [Read more]

Teacher Questioned After Putting Religious Message On Public School Marquee

An elementary school in Northridge is at the center of controversy after a religious message was erected on its marquee over Easter weekend. “READ, REST, GO TO CHURCH HE IS RISEN!” were the words apparently put up by a teacher in charge of the marquee at Darby Elementary. [Read more]

On Mind-Controlling Cults, Fred Phelps, and Ockham Awards

I spent the weekend before last at QEDCon, a convention for people who like science and don’t like pseudoscience. While I was mainly there to speak on a panel, I also ended up winning an award after you, the readers of Leaving Fundamentalism, had managed to get this blog shortlisted. This was the Ockham Award for Best Blog, sponsored by The Skeptic. [Read more]

Most Voters Favor Prayer, Minus Jesus, at Public Meetings

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of prayer at public meetings. But a new survey finds U.S. voters clearly favor prayer — as long as the public prayer is generic and not specifically Christian. Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind survey asked about attitudes on high-profile cases before the court, including Greece v. Galloway. [Read more]