There are still Samaritans

Did you know that there are still Samaritans, that despised off-shoot of Judaism that Jesus reached out to?  There are only around 800 left–they call themselves the world’s smallest religion–and they still have their hopes on Mt. Gerazim.  Details after the jump. [Read more…]

Mercury is in retrograde!

Until October 9, an optical illusion due to the rotation of the Earth will make it look like the planet Mercury is moving backwards.  That’s, literally, a bad sign in the world of astrology.  Mercury is said to govern communications, and it’s happening in the constellation Libra, which has to do with relationships, partnerships, and diplomacy.

So lots of people are worried about this.  And using it as an explanation for cellphone crashes, relationship breakdowns, and bad contracts.

After the jump, a link to two articles in the New York Post by one journalist who ridicules some of his “smart friends” who believe in this and another journalist who defends his belief.

Question:  Why DO smart people actually believe in astrology? [Read more…]

The Mormon apocalypse may have started this week

Many Mormons think September 13 was the beginning of the apocalypse, which may really break out on September 28.  Not the coming of Christ and the end of the world, but the beginning of the Tribulation.  This is based on the writing and speaking of a woman who had a near death experience, an interpretation of the Hebrew calendar, bad economic and political news, plus the coming “Blood Moon.” [Read more…]

Government speech, individual speech, & public religion

A came across an unusually lucid discussion of the legal issues that loom behind some of the religion-in-the-public square cases.  As Noah Feldman explains, the courts have made a distinction between individual speech, in which pretty much anything goes, and government speech.  The government also can say pretty much what it wants to, which explains why it can choose to forbid confederate flags on license plates, or to permit pro-life slogans on license plates while forbidding pro-abortion slogans.

The main restriction on what a government can say is anything that could be construed as establishing a religion.  A government can choose to accept a Ten Commandments monument on public property.  But if it does, it has to accept similar monuments from other religions, so as to prove it is showing no favoritism.  This is why atheist and secularist groups are no longer trying so much to get religious symbols removed.  Rather, they are trying to get other monuments–Satanic, atheist, pagan–added so as to stand side-by-side with the Christian symbols.  That could work for a polytheistic society, as in St. Paul’s Athens or the Pantheon in Rome, but Christians specifically reject that, as in the “no other gods before me” part of the Ten Commandments on those monuments.

Feldman concludes that the choice must be either displays of religious diversity or no religious symbols at all on the part of the government.   Isn’t the latter alternative more faithful to the first table of the Ten Commandments?  Wouldn’t the religious diversity displays promote a syncretism that flies in the face of Christianity?  Do you see any weaknesses in Feldman’s argument, excerpted after the jump?  [Read more…]

Half of atheists’ children fall away into belief

Christians often worry about their children falling away from the church.  Atheists have the same problem.  According to the Pew research, half of the children raised by atheists end up as believers.

A column on this phenomenon, excerpted and linked after the jump, includes another interesting observation:  “It’s mostly interpersonal relationships that sway beliefs.” [Read more…]

How a contemporary sees contemporary worship

Robert Burns prayed for the power “To see ourselves as others see us!” (To a  Louse). So I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings here.  But it is surely helpful for a church trying to be contemporary to see how actual contemporaries are responding to their efforts.

Matt Walsh, a young guy of the sort that churches are trying to reach, speculates that the reason Christianity is allegedly in decline, according to that Pew study, is that it has become so boring.  But, in his telling, the boredom comes from the proliferation of contemporary worship, which, he says, in the course of making fun of it, drains Christianity of its transcendence, substance, and seriousness. [Read more…]