For year’s top religion stories, a major case of déjà vu

(RNS) The calendar may have said 2010, but for Pope Benedict XVI and much of his global flock, it looked and felt a lot like 2002. For the second time in a decade, damning charges of child molestation at the hands of Catholic priests dominated headlines, this time reaching the highest levels of the Vatican, as critics questioned whether Benedict himself mishandled abuse cases. The Roman Catholic Church wasn’t the only institution battling a sense of deja vu, as some of the most controversial religion stories from the past 20 years returned to the headlines. A 1994-style fight over health care reform not only pitted Republicans against Democrats, but also Catholic bishops against Catholic nuns. Lingering questions about President Obama’s Christian faith morphed into a belief among one in five Americans that he’s actually a Muslim.

Et ad Acadiam ego

women’s basketball streak is done. Trinity men’s squash streak
continues. I’m headed north to Acadia for a little rest and recreation. And a little holiday from blogging. A Happy New Year to you all!

The Influence of Religion

Over the years, Gallup has asked Americans whether they “think religion as a whole is increasing its influence on American life or losing its influence.” And unlike other Gallup survey questions having to do with belief in God and worship attendance, the results have varied a good deal. Right now, we’re at one of those points when Americans overwhelmingly say that religion is losing influence–as in the late 60s and early 90s. The question is, what exactly does this graph signify? A case can be made that, from the late 50s, American society was in fact becoming more secular–or at least that the public piety of the so-called Eisenhower Revival was in decline.

Despite abysmal track record, Calif. atheist keeps suing in lonely crusade

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (RNS) He is the most famous — and the loneliest — atheist in the country. For 14 years, Michael Newdow, an emergency room doctor and attorney, has challenged what he sees as violations of the First Amendment’s protection against established religion. He works alone from his Sacramento home, his only tools a computer, a printer and a razor-sharp sense of injustice. He has sued to have “In God We Trust” removed from U.S. currency, to prohibit prayer at presidential inaugurations and most famously — or infamously — to strike the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Merry Chaplaincy




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Responding to my post on military chaplains post-DADT, commenter Sandra Brown writes: First of all you are missing one thing, the clergy takes
an oath before God to uphold God’s message. Religiously speaking this is suppose to be their first commitment. A clergy member is sworn to this or their own salvation is void!  It
has nothing to do with the military only those who take their oaths SERIOUSLY. In regards to your reference to “render unto
caesar,” in the clergy setting, rendering unto God is first and
foremost!  Stop misquoting the bible. That was
not the intent of the quote by Jesus Christ.

Christmas vacation

Hi Folks, The Religion News Roundup is taking a much needed vacation. To the 44 percent of you who like people to wish you “Merry Christmas,” well, then Merry Christmas. And for the 49 percent who prefer a more generic greeting, Happy Holidays. In any case, thanks for reading, and we’ll see you on Jan. 3.

Gallup: More religious, more healthy

(RNS) Americans who are “very religious” are more likely to practice healthy behaviors than those who are less religious, a Gallup survey shows. The new findings are based on a survey of more than 550,000 people who were asked about their decisions related to healthy eating, smoking and exercise. Overall, very religious Americans scored 66.3 on a “healthy behavior index,” compared to 60.6 among the moderately religious and 58.3 among the nonreligious. The very religious were defined as those who consider religion to be an important part of their daily lives and say they attend worship services at least every week or almost every week. Researchers found that the nonreligious were 85 percent more likely to be smokers than the very religious.

Catholic bishops, evangelicals praise START treaty

(RNS) The U.S. Catholic bishops and other Christian groups are hailing the Senate’s ratification on Wednesday (Dec. 22) of a treaty with Russia that would reduce both countries’ nuclear arms by about 30 percent. Despite some early objections from Republicans, the Senate approved the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) by a vote of 71 to 26. President Obama brokered the deal with Russia last April. Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., who chairs the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, commended the bi-partisan vote.

COMMENTARY: The coming marginalization

(RNS) It used to be that Americans focused their religious lives around brick-and-mortar structures — churches, synagogues, mosques and temples — for worship, study and assembly. Members of various faith communities considered those buildings the center of their spiritual lives as they gathered for religious rites of passage including baptisms, baby namings, bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies, confirmations, weddings, and funerals. Inside those sacred spaces with their steeples or domes or stained-glass windows, Americans followed the men — it was nearly always men — who donned colorful vestments as a visual validation of their religious authority. Not any more. There are enormous changes afoot, and failure to respond will mean clergy and their once dominant institutions will be pushed to the sidelines of American life.

Thursday’s Religion News Roundup

Following the dispute in Phoenix over whether Catholic hospitals can offer emergency abortions (to save the mother’s life), the ACLU wants the feds to ensure that Catholic hospitals don’t put ideology ahead of medicine; the NYT fears Catholic bishops are giving “license to jeopardize women’s lives,” while the Arizona Republic says a “fundamental Catholic commitment to life” remains intact at St. Joseph’s Hospital, even though the local bishop withdrew his Catholic stamp of approval. CNN’s Eric Marrapodi profiles evangelical phenom Francis Chan, who just wants to get away for a while but can’t seem to escape the spotlight. Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson seems to endorse legalization (or at least decriminalizing) small amounts of marijuana. Modern-day shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night, are getting renewed attention this Christmas, from USA Today and United Methodist News Service.