Lance Armstrong in Oprah’s confessional

We Lutherans believe in confession and absolution.  That happens in every Divine Service, and, when someone is particularly troubled with a sin, the individual confesses to a pastor, who brings Christ’s forgiveness.  This is an evangelical version of what Roman Catholics do (instead of requiring acts of penance, our pastors forgive sins in terms of the Gospel).  (See John 20:21-23.)  Anglicans and Orthodox also have something similar.

In our culture, though, Oprah Winfrey is our priest, or rather priestess.  She is the one who took charge of all of our religions to organize our national worship service in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. She has her index of books that we are to read. She teaches us our morality. And now she serves as confessor for one of our heroes who has fallen from grace, with champion cyclist Lance Armstrong confessing his sin of doping on her show. [Read more…]

Stranger in a Strange Church

Philip Jenkins cites the prescience of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, whose novel Stranger in a Strange Land, written in 1961, posits a church of the future that sounds strangely prophetic:

“At a time of social chaos, seminary reject Joseph Foster proclaimed a spiritual message uniquely suited for America, a nation that had always combined public puritanism with private libertinism. But why not combine the two instincts, creating a religion that spoke the language of fervent piety, while tolerating virtually any behavior? . . . . [Read more…]

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?.


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