RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service Survey: About Three-Fourths of Americans Believe in Heaven, Hell (RNS) About three-fourths of Americans believe in heaven and hell but almost one-fourth say they have “no idea” what will happen after they die, a study by the Barna Research Group shows. Researchers with the Ventura, Calif.-based firm found that 76 percent of respondents believe that heaven exists and 71 percent believe there is a hell. Forty-six percent of respondents said they would describe heaven as “a state of eternal existence in God’s presence” while 30 percent said it is “an actual place of rest and reward where souls go after death.” Fourteen percent said heaven is “symbolic,” 5 percent said they did not believe in life after death, and 5 percent were uncertain. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said hell is “a state of eternal separation from God’s presence” while 32 percent said it is “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.” Thirteen percent said hell is “just a symbol of an unknown bad outcome after death.” Sixteen percent said they were uncertain or did not believe in an afterlife.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service Bush Distances Himself From Military Official’s Religious Remarks (RNS) President Bush declared Wednesday (Oct. 22) he does not agree with controversial statements made by a defense undersecretary, while Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he has no plans to remove the lieutenant general during an investigation of his remarks. Reports about comments made by Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin in church speeches have led to requests for his reassignment as well as defense of his right to free speech. Among other comments, Boykin said terrorists were trying to destroy the United States “because we’re a Christian nation.” Bush, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, said the matter came up when he met with Muslim leaders in Indonesia.

NEWS FEATURE: New Rock Opera of Jesus as `!Hero’ Set to Tour

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Veteran Christian musician Eddie DeGarmo has modernized the gospel _ moving Jesus from Nazareth to New York _ in hopes of turning listeners and viewers of his rock opera “!Hero” back to the Bible. “Really, what I want is for them to go back and get involved with the original gospel and learn what that story is,” DeGarmo said in an interview shortly before “!Hero” began its 19-city run. The tour starts in Wabash, Ind., on Nov. 1 and ends Nov.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service Senate Approves `Partial-Birth’ Abortion Bill, Sends It to Bush WASHINGTON (RNS) President Bush said he will sign a bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday (Oct. 21) that bans so-called partial-birth abortions, a major victory for religious groups who have tried three times to ban the procedure. The 64-34 vote by the Senate is the most sweeping federal restriction since abortion was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. The House voted 281-142 on Oct.

COMMENTARY: Mississippi Muslims

c. 2003 Religion News Service (Professor Akbar S. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C., is author most recently of “Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World,” published by Polity Press.) (UNDATED) I would not recommend traveling in the United States on Sept. 11, especially if your name is Ahmed. The security is so tight at the airports that it is difficult to breath. The atmosphere crackles with tension.

NEWS STORY: Military Official Requests Investigation Into His Remarks

c. 2003 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The defense undersecretary whose recently revealed views on terrorism and religion sparked controversy and charges of religious intolerance has requested that an inspector general investigate the situation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced Tuesday (Oct. 21). Meanwhile, reaction to Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin’s reported remarks in speeches at churches is continuing, with some members of Congress drafting a letter defending him and the National Council of Churches general secretary requesting a meeting with Rumsfeld. “Gen. Boykin has requested that an inspector general review this matter and I have indicated that if that’s his request, I think it’s appropriate,” Rumsfeld told reporters during a regular Pentagon briefing.

NEWS FEATURE: Mending Mezuzahs: Rabbis Make a Mission of Checking Doorpost Prayers

c. 2003 Religion News Service EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. _ With the care of a jeweler, Rabbi Yossi Hirsch began inspecting the tiny mezuzah parchment, searching for errors in minuscule Hebrew letters that were supposed to spell Judaism’s most important prayer. An error, however small, would mean the mezuzah _ the term for an encased parchment that Jews place on door frames as per biblical command _ lacked the correct Hebrew message and the Jewish family in Iselin, N.J., that had posted it for several years should replace it. Quickly, the rabbi detected several errors. “This is why we go around checking the mezuzahs,” said Hirsch, of the Lubavitcher Chabad Chai Center in East Brunswick.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service NCC Leader Rebukes Malaysian Prime Minister (RNS) Recent anti-Semitic comments by the Muslim prime minister of Malaysia endanger Islam’s claims to peace and threaten Jews with violence, the head of the National Council of Churches said. The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the ecumenical body of 36 mainline and Orthodox churches, rebuked Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for saying that “Jews rule the world by proxy.” “You cannot truthfully claim to be advocating nonviolent means when your comments incite anti-Semitism, creating a climate conducive to violent acts,” Edgar wrote to Mohamad on Monday (Oct. 20). Mohamad, speaking to the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Oct.

COMMENTARY: Competition Corrupts

c. 2003 Religion News Service (Tom Ehrich is a writer and computer consultant, managing large-scale database implementations. An Episcopal priest, he lives in Durham, N.C.) CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas _ My corner of the world is sleeping when I drive to the airport for my flight to Texas. The airport, by contrast, is bustling at 5:30 a.m. Every ticket counter has a crowd. Restaurants are serving.

NEWS FEATURE: Adventist `Whitecoats,’ Volunteers for Military Experiments, Hold Reunion

c. 2003 Religion News Service

FREDERICK, Md. _ Ivan Belko still remembers how he willingly inhaled Q fever, a biological agent that was the focus of a military experiment he volunteered for in the 1950s. “I was one of the ones that got pretty sick,” recalled the 69-year-old who participated in “Operation Whitecoat,” a special arrangement between the U.S. Army and conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose members believe they should not be involved in combat. “I had a very bad headache, probably about as worse as I’ve ever had in my life.”

Belko, a retired medical technologist, traveled from Modesto, Calif., to join about 150 other Whitecoat veterans at the “For God and Country” reunion weekend that marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the operation.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service Griswold’s Comments on Gay Bishop Cause Flap with Florida Catholics (RNS) Episcopalians may not use a Catholic church for a bishop’s installation ceremony if the nation’s top Episcopal bishop intends to preside at the service, a Catholic bishop said Thursday (Oct. 2). Roman Catholic Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, Fla., said he cannot allow Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to preside in a Catholic church because of Griswold’s views on homosexuality.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service NCC Financial Health Recovers, Reserve Funds Tripled (RNS) The National Council of Churches has improved its financial health by paying off all debts, doubling its net worth and tripling the amount of reserve funding, its top officer said Wednesday (Oct. 1). The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC, said reserve funds have increased from $2.3 million last year to $9 million as of June 30. In addition, he said the body of 36 mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches has “zero debts.” “We’re in the healthiest position we’ve been in 10 years,” Edgar said.

NEWS FEATURE: Rabbi, Pastor Study Conflict, Reconciliation During Asian Sabbatical

c. 2003 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ So this rabbi and this Baptist pastor from Alabama were walking in downtown Hanoi, and they kept seeing motorbikes carrying cages full of dogs on their way to be slaughtered for someone’s supper. No joke. “In Vietnam, they believe it’s good luck to eat dog at the end of the month,” said Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Jonathan Miller.