The New York Times‘ Frank Bruni Enters a Secular State of Mind

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni did a facepalm when he saw Senator Mark Pryor‘s preening I-love-the-Bible commercial, and was inspired to write in opposition:

“So help me God.” “Under God.” “In God We Trust.” Perhaps we’re meant to register these ubiquitous phrases as unspecific inspirations, vague recognitions of an undefined higher power, general appeals to generous living. But they’re rooted in a given religious tradition and are arguably the gateways to the Arkansas ridiculousness and to the overwrought accusations of a “war on Christmas” that herald the holiday season as surely as Frosty the Snowman and Black Friday do.



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New Zealand Census Results Show That At Least 39% of the Country Profess ‘No Religion’

According to newly-released census results, New Zealand is becoming even more non-religious that anyone thought:

Overall, the Census figures continue a trend for people turning away from religion, with all major churches shedding followers.

The number of people who said they have no religion increased 26 per cent to 1.6 million.

Want more precise numbers? The number of people who categorized themselves under “No Religion” was 1,635,348. Given that the total number of people surveyed was 4,242,048, that puts the Kiwi Nones at a staggering 39% of the population. (It’s 42% if you only count those who gave answers to the “religion” question.)

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Dueling Superstitions: Mexican Exorcist Says ‘Saint Death’ Keeps Him and His Colleagues Busy

The veneration of the folk saint Santa Muerte, while nominally a Catholic phenomenon, is causing more and more problems for the Catholic Church in Mexico. Santa Muerta is believed to have some eight million followers in Mexico alone, from average poor folks to drug-trafficking criminals to, oddly enough, LGBT people.

Reports BBC News:

“[She] has also been adopted by the drug traffickers who ask her for help to avoid arrest and to make money,” [Francisco] Bautista [an exorcist] says. “In exchange they offer human sacrifices. And this has increased the violence in Mexico.” …

Mexico’s exorcists say there is unprecedented demand for their services. Some are even not taking new cases, as they are having to exorcise demons almost every day.

The way Bautista sees it, the cult around Santa Muerte is only one of two reasons why [cough] demonic possessions are spreading in Mexico.

Can you guess the other one? It’s a doozy.

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Tomorrow, Festivus Pole Goes Up in Florida Capitol Building, Right Alongside the Nativity Scene

This year, the holiday displays inside Florida’s Capitol building are going to be just a little more inclusive than usual:

After hearing about a group installing a manger display in the State Capitol as well as another group intending to add the Three Wise Men, Deerfield Beach resident Chaz Stevens, a self-proclaimed “militant atheist,” felt that his Festivus pole rightfully deserved a place there as well.

So he asked the Governor’s office if he could pretty please erect his ode to Festivus,

an 8-foot-tall tower made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. He received the approval [yesterday] and will be making the trip up to Tallahassee to install the Festivus pole himself this Wednesday.



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This Christian Education Curriculum Has the Worst Multiple Choice Questions You’ve Ever Seen

Jonny Scaramanga got his hands on Packets of Accelerated Christian Education (PACEs) — curriculums used by many Christian educators in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Normally, when you see exam questions from Christian schools, the criticism is that the answers are all about the Bible (and also just plain wrong).

But Scaramanga’s images of multiple choice questions from a broad range of subjects shows that they’re not just bad questions; the answer choices all point to the obvious answer.

Imagine an entire test filled with $100 questions from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

It’s just like that.

Let’s start with the questions for the 10-year-olds:



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