The murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo

The murderous attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed ten journalists and two police once again illustrates the danger of the idea that anything should be exempt from examination, satire, even ridicule. The murderers are purported to have said that they were avenging their prophet in retaliation for the various articles and cartoons that the magazine has published over recent years that lampooned prophet Mohammed.
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The closeted Congress?

The Pew Research Center has surveyed the new Congress about the religious beliefs of its members and we find that nothing much has changed from the previous one.

More than nine-in-ten members of the House and Senate (92%) are Christian, and about 57% are Protestant, roughly the same as in the 113th Congress (90% and 56%, respectively).1 About three-in-ten members (31%) are Catholic, the same as in the previous Congress.

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Hell and Rob Bell

Over three years ago, I wrote about Rob Bell, the head of one of the Mars Hill evangelical megachurch in Michigan that had an estimated 10,000-strong congregation. He was once touted as the next Billy Graham but then had some kind of epiphany that he expounded in a book Love Wins in which he argued that hell may not exist and that heaven may be open to everyone, not just those who accept Jesus as their personal lord and savior, the usual standard for admission among evangelicals.
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Ohio governor panders to the religious

John Kasich, the current governor of Ohio, has been suspected of having presidential ambitions, just waiting for the right moment to join the vast throngs of Republican elected and non-elected people who think they have what it takes to do the job. He has been coy about expressing his ambitions openly but he just gave an indication that he is seriously considering it by taking an action that is blatant pandering to the religious nutters.
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The tricky task of winning hearts and minds

The Daily Show took aim at the Freedom From Religion Foundation that had sent a letter threatening legal action to the owner of a small restaurant Mary’s Gourmet Diner that offered a 15% discount to patrons who prayed before meals. As a result of that letter, the owner of the diner dropped the promotion. The show interviewed Dan Barker, co-president of the FFRF, about why he did this and although he was articulate and clear, he did not come off well.
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Pope truthers!

Catholic and other conservatives are not happy with pope Francis’s moves to put a kinder, gentler face on the church’s policies, even while preserving its essential doctrines. But the dissatisfaction has extended to the point where we now have truthers who are challenging his very legitimacy as pope, using some statements in a new book about him and his election.
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The religious suppression of women

When we think of the most misogynistic societies where the freedoms of women are severely curtailed, one tends to think of Islamic countries. But it turns out that any society that takes the religious beliefs of its holy books seriously tends to repress the rights of women, and this includes Christianity and Judaism as well. If anyone needs a single reason as to why religion should have no role in public life, it is because religious doctrines are incompatible with democratic values. Once you let religion get a foothold in setting government policy, it will steadily encroach, demanding more and more concessions to its beliefs
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If god is inscrutable, how do they know what god wants?

The Vatican actually has an observatory and actual astronomers working in it. The observatory apparently came about because of the church’s deep interest in creating accurate calendars since the fixing of some holy days such as Easter depend upon the positions of stars and planets. Maybe they also secretly hoped that they might get a glimpse of god as he wandered around in the sky.
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