Mark Sanford elected to Congress

Ex-South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who left in disgrace after a sex scandal, has been elected to Congress.  He defeated Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of TV satirist Stephen Colbert.  Blatant adultery is no longer a disqualifier for public office, even for Republicans, the old South, and the Bible belt.  Maybe Buddhism helped Sanford to overcome his shame and grab back his power. [Read more…]

Court martial for evangelism?

How persecution begins:

The Pentagon has released a statement confirming that soldiers could be prosecuted for promoting their faith: “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense…Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis…”. [Read more…]

Atheists want to participate in interfaith services

Atheists in Boston are complaining that they haven’t been invited to participate in the interfaith services held in connection to the Boston Marathon bombings.  See No Room for Non-Theists at Boston Interfaith Service | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches. [Read more…]

Religious, but not spiritual

Francis Cardinal George reverses the commonplace saying in a column entitled “I’m Religious, but Not Spiritual”:

It’s somewhat fashionable these days to describe oneself as “spiritual but not religious.” This is supposed to mean that one is open to an experience beyond the commercial or the political but not tied to “institutional” religion. One claims an experience of transcendence that is bound by no one else’s rules.

People can always make claims to any kind of experience. The question is always: Who cares? Why should anyone care where someone else gets a spiritual high? Because no one really cares, the claim to be spiritual but not religious is always safe. It’s never a threat and can be dismissed quite easily. The claim to be religious is different. It is a claim that God himself has taken the initiative to reveal himself to us and tell us who he is and who we are. Religion binds us to God according to his will, not ours, in a community of faith that he has brought into existence. Being religious can therefore be threatening. [Read more…]

Whether a criminal converts to Islam or Christianity

James Holmes, who dressed up like the Joker and killed 12 people at the Batman movie (and who faces the death penalty if he is convicted), has converted to Islam.  Robert Spencer explores what that means as opposed to a conversion to Christianity:

The debate over James Holmes’s sanity has raged hotly ever since he murdered twelve people and wounded 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012. But now the controversy can be laid to rest: Holmes is sane. The clearest indication of his sanity came last week, when the Daily Mail reported that he had converted to Islam.

The Mail reported that Holmes is apparently quite devout: he has grown a lavish beard, eats only halal food, prays the obligatory five daily prayers, and studies the Qur’an for hours every day.

Holmes’s conversion reveals that instead of being unaware of what he did, or utterly remorseless, as one might expect of a psychotic or a sociopath, the murders must trouble him a great deal. For it is souls that are troubled — intellectually, morally, spiritually, psychologically — who cast about for some solution to what troubles them, and often find it in religious conversion.

But it is what Holmes converted to that is significant. [Read more…]

Unorganized religion

Michael Gerson discusses the 20% of Americans who describe their religion as “none.”  It isn’t that the “Nones” (not to be confused with “nuns”) don’t believe in God, necessarily.  64% of them do.  They just don’t want to affiliate with any “organized religion.”

The statistics about “Nones” probably don’t include the number of self-described Christians who feel the same way.  I know of some who haven’t found a church they can agree with or that is up to their high standards.  So they don’t go to church at all.  After all, with their “me-and-Jesus” theology, why do they need a church?  But they do.

The good news is that 40% of those raised as “Nones” drop out of their non-religion to join an actual religious institution.  Hey, isn’t that about the same drop out rate, according to one measure, for young people raised in churches? [Read more…]