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Did Stephen Hawking Become a Christian After a Blessing From Pope Francis?

A disreputable Facebook page engages in a time-honored ritual — the phony deathbed conversion of a prominent unbeliever. https://www.snopes.com

Omnibus Spending Bill’s Silence on 1954 Johnson Amendment an Apparent Victory for Nonprofits, Houses of Worship, and Foundations

Tim Delaney, President and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, which advocates on behalf of charitable nonprofits nationwide, released the following statement in response to learning the omnibus spending bill does not contain either of two policy riders that the House previously passed to dismantle the 1954 tax law protecting charitable, religious, and philanthropic organizations from partisan politicking. https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/

Religious Democrats, Young Republicans: What The Stereotypes Miss About Both Parties

The Pew Research Center this week released a detailed report on party affiliation. Looking at its polls from last year — a data set of interviews with more than 10,000 registered voters — Pew found a lot of trends that are unsurprising if you follow politics closely: Whites without college degrees and whites in the “Silent Generation” (ages 72-90) are strongly identified with the GOP, while whites with college degrees and millennials of all races are aligning with the Democrats. https://fivethirtyeight.com/

Building a Community for Those Entrenched in Black Religiosity

Don’t forget that this week, BN will be tabling at the American Atheists convention in Oklahoma City! Find out all the info here. Have you registered for our Second Annual Black Nonbelievers Convention at Sea yet? We are so excited to be setting sail again this year, and we hope that you are too! We’ve even recently announced new speakers and details. https://blacknonbelievers.wordpress.com

Tennessee Lawmakers Pass Bill Requiring Public Schools to Post ‘In God We Trust’ Motto

A bill requiring Tennessee schools to prominently display the national “In God We Trust” motto is headed to the governor for his signature. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, overwhelmingly passed the state House on Monday with 81 of the 99 members voting in favor of it. Before the vote, the Republican lawmaker spoke from the House floor about the prominence of the phrase. https://www.tennessean.com

MormonLeaks™ Releases Audio of Former Mormon Mission President Admitting to Inappropriate Interactions with Women

MormonLeaks™ releases audio recorded in 2017 of Joseph L. Bishop admitting to inappropriate interactions he had with female missionaries while he was President of the Provo Missionary Training Center. https://mormonleaks.io

Keep Shouting, Don’t Become Anesthetized, Pope Tells Young People

Pope Francis, starting Holy Week services leading to Easter, urged young people on Sunday to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices or anesthetize their idealism. https://www.reuters.com/

Henry Thoreau on Walking as a Spiritual Practice

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. http://www.patheos.com/

Palm Sunday: History and Tradition

In about 30 CE, Jesus traveled about 70 miles south of his native Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This trip is mentioned in Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels, all of which describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the first event of a tumultuous week that ended with Jesus’ crucifixion as an insurrectionist and later with his resurrection from the dead. When scholars interested in studying the historical Jesus look for historical certainties in the gospel writings, they almost unanimously identify this trip to Jerusalem as a matter of history, not just tradition or fiction. Scholars are not of one mind about the details of these three events. https://consortiumnews.com/

Toddler Dies of Pneumonia After Medical Care Refused on Religious Grounds

The parents of a 2-year-old Pennsylvania girl who died of pneumonia have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors said they declined to seek medical care for the child on religious grounds. Jonathan Foster, 35, and Grace Foster, 34, also were convicted Friday in Berks County court of child endangerment in the November 2016 death of daughter Ella Grace in Upper Tulpehocken Township, The Reading Eagle reported. http://abc7.com

Dallas Pastor Jeffress Blames Church-State Separation for School Gun Violence

Following massive marches across the country to protest gun violence in schools and advocate for stricter gun laws, one prominent Baptist pastor is pressing for a different response. Dallas minister Robert Jeffress argues that the real culprit in mass school shootings is….the separation of church and state. http://bjconline.org

The Political Samaritan: The Bible and Public Reason

The British – and, I daresay, the Australians – are less religious, less Christian and undoubtedly far less biblically literate today than at any time in centuries. Elected politicians cannot assume biblical knowledge of their electorates. More pointedly, such politicians are not really supposed – at least, according to the canons of liberal political philosophy – to make reference to comprehensive doctrines of this nature, particularly not religious ones. To do so would be to exclude and disrespect those citizens over whom they wield power. http://www.abc.net.au

Court Allows Prayer at Temple Mount Gates

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Shmuel Herbst rejected a police request to distance three 14-year-old Jewish girls from the Temple Mount area who prayed near the Temple Mount gates. In his decision, Justice Herbst ruled that the right of young Jewish women to pray at the Temple Mount gates was no less than the right of the Arabs and that police should allow the young women’s prayers. https://www.israelnationalnews.com/

Wild Wild Country Is the Sex Cult Documentary You Didn’t Know Netflix Needed

In 1981, the followers of Indian spiritual guru—and alleged “sex cult” leader—Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh purchased a 64,000 acre ranch in the middle of Oregon. Soon, thousands of followers dressed in red were swarming into the state and constructing an entire town with everything from a pizza parlor to an airport, placing sex ads in the local newspaper, and cheering as the Bhagwan was driven around in his literal fleet of Rolls Royces. And then things got weird. https://www.gq.com/

A Look at Hollywood’s History of Cults

California has long been the go-to place for physical and mental rejuvenation. At the turn of the 20th century, doctors prescribed moving to Los Angeles as a cure for people with chronic ailments as varied as arthritis and mental-health issues. Since so many flocked to the West Coast to be saved, both emotionally and physically, it naturally follows that the area also attracted plenty of healers. https://www.refinery29.com/

“Not Knowing” and Failure to Prevent Harassment (A Brief Statement About Lawrence Krauss)

Shortly before the recent exposure of Lawrence Krauss’s apparently habitual sexual harassment behavior, I referred to him on this blog for the first time. Had I not mentioned him, I wouldn’t have written anything about this issue, but I have decided to put a few things on the record. https://spiritualityisnoexcuse.wordpress.com/