Atheist church

An Atheist church has opened in London:

Yesterday [January 6] saw the first ‘service’ of The Sunday Assembly, London’s first atheist church.

Priding itself on its tagline ‘live better, help often, wonder more,’ The Sunday Assembly is the brainchild of Sanderson Jones and musical comedian Pippa Evans, and aims to take the best things about religion and religious ceremonies, but to do it without all the god-talk. Or, as Sanderson himself has put it, it’s “a godless congregation that will meet on the first Sunday of every month to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life.”

The first ‘service’ was held yesterday morning at the deconsecrated church The Nave in north London, and featured a talk by children’s author Andy Stanton and was shaped around the theme ‘Beginnings’.

via Comedian Sanderson Jones opens ‘London’s first atheist church’ – TNT Magazine.

Do atheists believe in “the wonder of life” like religious people do?  I thought atheists are scientific, materialist reductionists who think everything has a rational explanation.  Anyway, it’s touching, though somewhat inexplicable, that some people like church as long as God is left out of it. [Read more…]

New global religion statistics

A new study, entitled The Global Religious Landscape,  from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, has found, among other interesting facts, that Christianity has become fairly evenly distributed around the world.  The Asia and Pacific regions contain most of the other world religions, as well as most of the religiously unaffiliated.

Christians are the world’s largest religious group and are nearly evenly dispersed globally, according to a new Pew study on the size, geographic distribution and median ages of the world’s major religious groups.

Of the world’s 6.9 billion people, 2.2 billion or 32 percent are Christians, Pew reported Dec. 18. While only 12 percent of Christians live in North America, the vast majority of Christians, 99 percent, live outside the Middle East-North Africa region where Christianity began.

Apart from North America, Christians are geographically dispersed, with 26 percent in Europe, 24 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 24 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 13 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, the study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found, based on 2010 data.

Researchers did not study the degree to which people actively practice their faiths, but relied on the subjects’ self-identification of their religious affiliation. . . .

The majority of the world’s other religions lives in the Asia-Pacific region, including nearly all Buddhists and Hindus, and most Muslims and the religiously unaffiliated, researchers found. While 58.8 percent of the world’s population lives in the Asia-Pacific region, it is home to 99 percent of Hindus and Buddhists, 62 percent of Muslims and 76 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

Pew reported that the world’s population includes 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, nearly 500 million Buddhists, 400 million adherents of various folk and traditional religions, 58 million adherents the study confined to the category of “other,” comprised of many religions including Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Wicca.

A plurality of the world’s 14 million Jewish people, 44 percent, live in North America, while 41 percent live in the Middle East and North Africa, nearly all of them in Israel, the study found.

In the U.S., 78 percent, or 243,060,000 of the country’s 310,390,000 people are Christian, the study found. The U.S. also has 50,980,000 religiously unaffiliated, 5,690,000 Jewish people, 3,570,000 Buddhists, 2,770,000 Muslims, 1,790,000 Hindus, 630,000 adherents to folk religions and 1,900,000 affiliated with other religions. . . .

Globally, about half of all Christians are Catholic. An estimated 37 percent of Christians are Protestant, including Anglican, independent and nondenominational churches. The Orthodox Communion, including the Greek and Russian Orthodox, make up 12 percent of Christians.

Researchers categorized Christian Scientists, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as “viewing themselves as Christian,” and computed them as comprising about 1 percent of the global Christian population.

Most of the world’s population, 5.8 billion or 84 percent, affiliates with a particular religion, leaving 1.6 billion, or 16 percent, with no religious affiliation, the study found. But many with no religious affiliation hold religious or spiritual beliefs, such as a belief in God or a universal spirit, while not identifying with a particular religion.

via Baptist Press – Christians most populous, Pew research affirms – News with a Christian Perspective.

Top religion stories of 2012

Religion journalists selected the top religion stories of the year:

1. U.S. Catholic bishops lead opposition to Obamacare requirement that insurance coverage for contraception be provided for employees. The government backs down a bit, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.

2. A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey shows that “nones” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population.

3. The circulation of an anti-Islam film trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” causes unrest in several countries, leading to claims that it inspired the fatal attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. President Obama, at the U.N., calls for toleration. . .  of blasphemy, and respect as a two-way street.

4. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith turns out to be a virtual non-issue for white evangelical voters, who support him more strongly than they did John McCain, in the U.S. presidential race.

5. Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia becomes the first senior Catholic official in the U.S. to be found guilty of covering up priestly child abuse; later Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., becomes the first bishop to be found guilty of it.

6. The Vatican criticizes the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of U.S. nuns, alleging they haven’t supported church teaching on abortion, sexuality or women’s ordination.

7. Voters OK same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, bringing the total approving to nine states and the District of Columbia. Also, Minnesota defeats a ban on same-sex marriage after North Carolina approves one.

8. The Episcopal Church overwhelmingly adopts a trial ritual for blessing same-sex couples. Earlier, the United Methodists fail to vote on approving gay clergy, and the Presbyterians (USA) vote to study, rather than sanction same-sex marriage ceremonies.

9. Six people are killed and three wounded at worship in a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. The shooter, an Army veteran killed by police, is described as a neo-Nazi.

10. Southern Baptist Convention elects without opposition its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans.

via Journalists Vote for Contraception Fight as Top 2012 U.S. Religion Story.

What can you conclude about the state of American religion from this list?  What does it leave out?  What do you think are the most significant religious or spiritual developments of 2012?

The divinized President

It’s the most natural thing in the world, paganism being the natural religion, to turn one’s king or emperor–or now, one’s president– into a god.  From the American Spectator‘s George Neumayr:

Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign inspired a level of euphoria that almost seemed cultish. Obama was going to “usher in a new way of being on the planet,” gushed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford. He is a “Lightworker, a rare kind of attuned being.”

After Obama won, the cult moved from pundits to public schools. At a New Jersey elementary school, second-graders were taught to sing the spiritual “Jesus Loves the Little Children” with Obama’s name substituted for Jesus’s. “He said red, yellow, black, or white,” chanted the kids. “All are equal in his sight: Barack Hussein Obama.” Parents couldn’t believe their ears and expressed outrage to the press. “We don’t want to praise this guy like he is a god,” said one.

Another public school showed students a video that urged them “to be a servant to our President.” Arne Duncan’s Department of Education even organized a day on which all public school children had to listen to a speech by Obama and answer such questions as: “What is President Obama inspiring you to do?” and “How will he inspire us?” . . .

No sooner was he reelected than liberals resumed the gushing. Appearing at the Soul Train Awards in Las Vegas recently, actor Jamie Foxx said, “It’s like church in here. First of all, give an honor to God and our lord and savior, Barack Obama.” . . .

The press reported this week that a painting on display at the Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery in Boston depicts a crucified Obama with a crown of thorns standing before the presidential seal. . . .

When the state replaces God, politicians are the only beings left to worship.

via RealClearReligion – Is the Cult of Obama Back?.

This is the day the world ends?

Not with a bang, but a whimper.  (To adapt T. S. Eliot’s lines from “The Hollow Men.”)

Today we see if the Mayans were right.

I worry that the world will end and that I’ll miss it.

So if you see any signs of a Mayan apocalypse today, please report in the comments.

I’m thinking, maybe it IS the end of the world.  How else to explain these developments?

(1) Grover Norquist is saying it’s all right for Republicans to let taxes go up.  (See today’s post on that subject.)

(2) The NRA is getting conciliatory about gun control.  (Today they are making some big announcement on the subject.  I’m on the road so I may not be able to blog about it.  If any of you hear what they have in mind, please post it in a comment.)

Anything else happening that you never thought you’d see on this plane of existence?

Making a paganism from pop culture

Another level of New Age syncretism:  Going to a Star Wars filming location to await the Mayan apocalypse (scheduled for tomorrow) because “the force is strong here.”

At the center of the rebel base where Luke Skywalker took off to destroy the Death Star and save his people from the clutches of Darth Vader, Guatemala is preparing for another momentous event: the end of an age for the Maya.

Deep inside the Guatemalan rainforest stand the ruins of the Maya temples that George Lucas used to film the planet Yavin 4 in the movie “Star Wars,” from where Skywalker and his sidekick Han Solo launched their attack on the Galactic Empire’s giant space station.

This week, at sunrise on Friday, December 21, an era closes in the Maya Long Count calendar, an event that has been likened by different groups to the end of days, the start of a new, more spiritual age or a good reason to hang out at old Maya temples across Mexico and Central America.

“If it is the end of the world, hopefully Luke will come and blow up that Death Star,” said Alex Markovitz, a 24-year-old consultant and Star Wars fan from Philadelphia, looking out over the site of Skywalker’s rebel base. “I see why they shot here. It doesn’t look real. It looks like an alien planet.”

Once at the heart of a conquering civilization in its own right, the ancient city of Tikal is now a pilgrimage site for both hard-core Star Wars fans and enthusiasts of Maya culture eager to discover what exactly the modern interpretations of old lore portend.

In the 1960s, a leading U.S. scholar said the end of the Maya’s 13th bak’tun – an epoch lasting some 400 years – could signify an “Armageddon,” though many people trekking to the old temples believe it could herald something wonderful.

Discovered in 1848 when locals unearthed human skulls whose teeth were studded with jade jewels, Tikal draws tourists from around the globe. Visitors this week said they felt a powerful presence in the blue skies above them.

“The force is strong here,” said Jimena Teijeiro, 35, an Argentine-born self-help blogger. “The world as we know it is coming to an end. We are being propelled to a new age of light, synchronicity and simple wonderment with life.”

Maya scholars and astronomers have dismissed the idea the world is on the brink of destruction but mystics and spiritual thrill-seekers have flocked to feed off Tikal’s energy. Park guards said they had to throw out 13 naked women who were dancing and chanting around a fire pit near the temples last week.

“Something big is going to happen,” said the president of Guatemala’s Star Wars fan club, entrepreneur Ricardo Alejos. “The Maya were an incredibly precise people. Something big is going to happen and we’ll find out what in a few days.”

via Maya apocalypse and Star Wars collide in Guatemalan temple | Reuters.

The next paganism currently being constructed may well combine mysticism with pop culture, which has become our main medium of  thought and sensibility.


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