Jesuit Professor is Peeved That, Per Pope Francis, Atheists Can Go to Heaven Without ‘Putting In Sunday-Time’

What was the biggest atheist event of 2013?

I’d argue that it was the election of Pope Francis (I was seriously tempted to title this blog post “All I Want For Christmas Is Pope Frank”).

More on the popular pontiff in a minute. First, I’d like to introduce you to Joe Simmons.

A Jesuit philosophy professor in Omaha, Nebraska, Simmons likes the concepts of inclusiveness and divine beneficence, but his gut reaction when Pope Francis (kind of) declared atheists fit for heaven earlier this year was still one of shock and envy. He wrote back in June:

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The Sunday Assembly Isn’t An Atheist Megachurch, No Matter What the Media Says

Over the weekend, Gillian Flaccus wrote an article for the Associated Press about the rise of atheist megachurches — a phrase that’s been used before — that it’s worth taking a second to step back and discuss what that actually means.

Flaccus wrote:

Nearly three dozen gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the U.S. and Australia — with more to come — after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

According to Christianity Today, a megachurch is defined as “a church with an average weekly attendance of 2,000 or greater.”

I know of only one atheist gathering in the past decade that’s been attended by that many people: The Reason Rally. Everything else pales in comparison.

What you have now are local atheist gatherings that bring together anywhere from a few dozen people to a few hundred people — many of them, I suspect, will be one-time events — and that’s enough for the media to dub them “megachurches”? It makes absolutely no sense.

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Iowa Imam in Sex Assault Case Says His Religious Freedom is Being Violated

A curious case is winding its way through the Iowa court system. It involves an imam named Nermin Spahic, 40, who’s been charged with one count of third-degree sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist.

The Des Moines Register reports that Spahic

… was arrested in August after a 42-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter told police that Spahic sexually assaulted them during a religious ceremony. … The woman on Aug. 12 called Spahic to her house in Johnston for help with her daughter, who reportedly suffered personal issues, including depression and drug use, police and court papers said. Spahic allegedly performed an Islamic ceremony that involved “chanting and rubbing the body with oil,” court papers said.

Spahic’s lawyer has now filed motion to drop two of the charges, arguing that the defendant performed a religious service, and didn’t engage in counseling or therapy.

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Kansas City Homeless Shelter Tells Atheist Group They Can’t Volunteer on Thanksgiving

What’s with religious charities turning away atheist volunteers lately? It happened in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago and it’s happening in Kansas now.

For a couple of years now, the Kansas City Atheist Coalition has volunteered with the Kansas City Rescue Mission to deliver meals to the hungry on Thanksgiving.

This year, the atheists have been told their services won’t be needed:

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Catholic Church Yanks $60,000 of Funding from YMCA for Working with Group That Supports LGBT Rights

The University YMCA serves a lot of the student organizations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has an excellent reputation on campus. It’s non-partisan and the people there help whomever they can.

As you can imagine, the Catholic Church isn’t happy about that.

The YMCA has a partnership with a group called the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights that they say “allows them to help hundreds in the community each year.” As it turns out, the ICIRR also supports LGBT rights.

So the Catholic Church is now giving the YMCA an ultimatum: Cut ties with the ICIRR or lose $60,000 in funding:

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