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Southern Religion

Christine O’Donnell’s fantasy satanism

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell told Bill Maher, “I dabbled into witchcraft,” and added a couple of details which suggest that her story was made up for its sensationalistic appeal.

Fred Clark writing at slactivist nails it down:

That evidence — her claim to have seen a “Satanic altar” with “a little blood there” — is cribbed entirely from Mike Warnke, the subject of the second book I’m recommending here: Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke Scandal, by Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott. Selling Satan is a remarkably thorough piece of investigative journalism by two devout evangelical Christians whose reluctance to cast judgment on a purported fellow believer lends them to document Warnke’s lies in devastating detail. (The Cornerstone magazine articles summarizing this investigation can be read online here.)

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September 30, 2010 Posted by | Pagan, Politics | , | Comments Off on Christine O’Donnell’s fantasy satanism

Druid Network first pagan group recognized under UK’s 2006 Charities Act

The Druid Network this week became the first pagan religion in the United Kingdom recogized under the 2006 British Charities Act.

Their announcement says:

The Druid Network received notification yesterday (24th September) that our application to be registered as a charity furthering the religion of Druidry has been finally accepted. This has been a long hard struggle taking over five years to complete. Greater detail shortly and a big thank-you to all who helped make this important recognition possible.

Brynneth writes at The Pagan & The Pen

The Druid Network has charity status – not registered yet, but rubber stamped as fulfilling the requirements for registration, so pretty much there. This is very big news. It makes tdn the first recognised Druid charity in the UK and the first pagan group to be registered under the 2006 Act. It’s taken years and a lot of very wonderful people have fought very hard to make this possible – dealing with a system that had been set up to handle religions shaped more like Christianity than not.

The Druid Network having achieved charitable status will bring all kinds of benefits to the organisation, enhancing credibility and creating opportunities to promote and support Druidry. This is all good. It also means that any other pagan charity is going to have a much better chance of getting charitable status. No other Druid group is going to have to prove that Druidry is a valid religion. Other pagan groups will be able to use the tdn case to help express their own. The process that has got tdn charitable status has helped create understanding of nature based religion, modern polytheism, and things that are not remotely like Christianity. As this is a legal definition of tdn as a religious charity, it will have all kinds of wider legal implications too.

Jason Pitzl-Waters, who writes about modern pagan faiths, explains:

The 2006 act that Brynneth mentions is the Charities Act of 2006, which made it easier for smaller charities to become registered, and to appeal decisions of the Charity Commission. In Britain, there’s a marked difference between a charity and a nonprofit. While The Pagan Federation is a nonprofit organization, it is not a charity, and as such doesn’t receive the same tax privileges.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Pagan, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Druid Network first pagan group recognized under UK’s 2006 Charities Act

Does prayer ‘work’ (should it)?

Andrew Brown at the Guardian muses:

When I consider my Christian academic friends – people who are smarter, better read and harder working than I am – it’s clear that Christianity is a very dangerous profession. Three have daughters who died in their 20s; another has a daughter who is a drug addict. Parents and spouses get Alzheimer’s disease when they don’t get cancer. I imagine they all prayed for these things not to happen. I know they all still pray.

So what is going on here? What is the point of all that prayer? This is hardly a new question. It has been around at least since Job. Nor is there any hope of finding an answer that will convince everyone. But it is possible to tease out a couple of questions. The first is whether intercessory prayer works better than chance. There aren’t any reputable studies suggesting that it does, which is, I suppose another example of unanswered prayer, since at least some of these studies must have been commissioned in the hope that they would prove prayer is a worthwhile medical intervention.

. . .

The second question is whether prayer works on the pray-er as a form of pain relief. It obviously sometimes does and I can’t imagine any remotely plausible way to run a controlled trial of these effects. Now, my Christian friends would object at this point that the point of prayer is not “pain relief” and that prayer does not deliver from anguish. I don’t think it does. But it makes life capable of being borne, and that is sometimes the only possible step forward.

. . .

Read the rest here.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Health, Medical Care | | Comments Off on Does prayer ‘work’ (should it)?

Eddie Long accuser Jamal Parris speaks (you decide)

Read the Parris lawsuit [.pdf].

Sex encounters on church grounds

September 29, 2010 Posted by | children, Churches, Crime, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

President Obama talks about his faith

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote of President Obama’s discussion of his Christianity on Tuesday in Albuquerque:

“I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Obama, Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on President Obama talks about his faith

Who’s smarter than an atheist?

Despite their claims to the contrary, neither Jimmy Akin of the National Catholic Register nor the staff of the Christian Science Monitor will help anyone answer that question.

No. Neither makes the mistake of relying on a shorter Pew Forum quiz to arrive at the wrong answer.

Yet both use headlines which mislead readers toward believing that by comparing their scores on the full, 32-question quiz to the aggregate scores for atheists and agnostics who were surveyed, they can determine whether they’re smarter than an atheist.

Not going to happen. No opportunity to disaggregate the Pew data to find you an atheist with whom to compare yourself is offered.

Nor is the full survey an intelligence test.

The measurement tool reveals and was designed to reveal social trends.

The data can be useful to those who analyze and apply it. As opposed to the recreation of applying the measurement tool to yourself.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Education, Politics, Religion, Science | , , , , | Comments Off on Who’s smarter than an atheist?

Atheists & Agnostics, Jews and Mormons score best on test of religious knowledge

Atheists/Agnostics, Mormons and Jews score best on test of religious knowledge

From the Executive Summary of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

Atheist PZ Myers did a restrained victory dance.

Get Religion suggests that as a nation we do in fact need to be better informed about religion. Lest Americans continue to excel at believing without knowing.

Matthew C. Nisbet, associate professor in the School of Communication at American University, argued that the survey’s outcome was to be expected, scientifically. He sees it all “in the context of research I have conducted with my colleague Dietram Scheufele on like those shaping political knowledge more generally.”

He explains:

(1) Each of the highest scoring groups is a very small minority in a U.S. culture [that is] dominated by other belief traditions. Under these conditions of minority status, there is much higher motivation for members of these groups to seek out, acquire, and retain knowledge about their own beliefs, the beliefs of others, and the legal protections afforded religion.

(2) This motivation to acquire and retain knowledge is amplified when these minority individuals also anticipate engaging in conversations or arguments with others–where as a small minority–they often have to defend their own beliefs.

In other words, contrary to some of the claims made today, it’s not that atheists are smarter or superior to other groups, but instead, the social climate in the United States encourages and motivates atheists to acquire higher levels of religious knowledge.

While members of more dominant groups feel secure in their relatively uninformed lassitude.

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Education, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

Young evangelicals lag behind age peers in acceptance of same-sex marriage

Young evangelicals and acceptance of same-sex marriage

Sociologist Darren Sherkat explains his analysis:

While conservative Christian activist scholars have touted the myth that younger sectarians are less homophobic and just like everyone else, actual analyses of data show that the gap between sectarians and other Americans has actually grown across [age] cohorts (even though younger sectarians are less homophobic than older Sectarians).

Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics astutely amplifies:

But it’s still the case that the under-30s are somewhat more liberal on the issue than their evangelical boomer parents–and way more liberal than over-60 evangelicals. So even though they look at this point like over-60 non-evangelicals, the evidence is of a liberalizing generational trend within the evangelical community. What the data show is most segments of American society moving quickly (the younger they are) towards acceptance of SSM, with a few–under the influence of conservative religion–moving more slowly in the same direction.

We’re all in the same parade, but some are dragging their ideological feet.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , | Comments Off on Young evangelicals lag behind age peers in acceptance of same-sex marriage

The opening cannonade of this year’s war on Christmas

We overlooked that barrage, but Susan Campbell heard it:

… I just won $25. I bet a friend (a member of the clergy in a mainline church, no less) that the first salvo in the fake War on Christmas would be launched prior to Halloween this year — the traditional time for retailers to start hanging their garlands.

And I was right. Gary L. Cass, of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commssion, sent out a warning email at 12:07 p.m. Tuesday.

So we skipped the war on Halloween this year? Well, in any event, “Yes, Virginia, there is a” WarAClaus.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Cultural, Satire | , , | Comments Off on The opening cannonade of this year’s war on Christmas

Er, Bishop Long: Who is David? Who is Goliath?

After speaking to his 10,000-strong congregation Sunday, simple shepherd Eddie “David” Long tossed his weathered leather pouch of five well-selected rocks into his $350,000 Bently and drove to his modest $1.4-million residence to further gird his loins for battle with Goliath (apparently the four young men who have filed suit against him).

September 27, 2010 Posted by | children, Churches, Crime, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Er, Bishop Long: Who is David? Who is Goliath?