Clergy housing tax-exemption challenge fails

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a decision by a US District Court judge that the tax-free housing rental allowances given to clergy were unconstitutional since the heads of atheist organizations did not get a similar benefit. The lawsuit had been brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. You can read the opinion here.
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Are you ready for some Rapture?

Andrew Brown, writing in the Guardian, says that dissatisfaction with pope Francis’s moves to make the Catholic Church less overtly hostile to gays and divorced people while not actually changing doctrine has caused consternation among traditionalists because what’s the fun in viewing some practice as sinful if you cannot shun the sinners and also condemn them to a lifetime of torment in hell?
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Muslims and dogs

Muslims tend to shy away from dogs, viewing them as unclean. I was not aware of this attitude when growing up in Sri Lanka, but looking back I don’t recall any of my Muslim friends having a dog as a pet. Maybe I did not notice it because my own family did not have dogs either and I viewed that as the norm. I became aware of the antipathy of Muslims for dogs as pets fairly recently but thought that it derived from cultural history. But it appears that it can be viewed as actually going against Islamic doctrine.
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The rabbi, the mikvah, and the hidden cameras

There has been a scandal recently in the orthodox Jewish community when a prominent rabbi of a big temple was arrested when it was discovered that he had secretly installed hidden cameras to film women taking a ritual bath known as a ‘mikvah’. I was curious about what a mikvah was and its purpose and this article by Lauren Markoe addresses most of the questions. It turns out that it relates to the obsession that all religions have about women’s purity and how to make them ‘clean’ so that they become worthy to be in the presence of men and have sex with them.
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Creationists never give up

There are two things I have learned about creationists and intelligent designers. One is that many of them will never give up their beliefs whatever the facts. The other is that they crave acceptance by the scientific community and will try any means to give their ideas even the slightest veneer of scientific credibility. In pursuance of these goals, they managed to stealthily secure a venue at Michigan State University to hold one of their meetings this coming Saturday.
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The unchurched and the post-Christian

One of the interesting things is how news items snowball. The realization that there are a lot of non-religious people out there in the US has resulted in a greater level of interest in what being non-religious means and how many of us there actually are. This has turned out to be rather difficult to do. It has not helped that nonbelievers tend to resist being pigeonholed and there has been a proliferation of labels used by them to self-identify, such as atheists, agnostics, secularists, humanists, freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, and the like.
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