Religious and nonreligious identification results from IFYC's 2013 alumni survey.

Nearly 1 in 4 alums of leading U.S. interfaith organization are nonreligious

Earlier this month, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)—a leading interfaith organization in the United States that works with college and university campuses to equip young people for cooperative service and dialogue around shared values—released intriguing numbers about the alumni of their programs.

According to their survey results, nearly 1 in 4 IFYC alums identify as atheist (4.7 percent), agnostic (7.1 percent), secular humanist (5.3 percent), or spiritual but not religious (6.5 percent). “The number of IFYC alums that identify as atheist, agnostic, or secular humanist is about as much as our Roman Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhist alumni combined,” said IFYC Director of Alumni Relations Amber Hacker in a recent interview. The large number of nontheist or nonreligious IFYC alums may come as a surprise to some—perhaps especially those wondering whether nonreligious people are actually welcome in interfaith work. When I worked as a contractor for IFYC a number of years ago, I didn’t encounter many other atheists, agnostics, or nonreligious people. But that has shifted dramatically in recent years.

Dinesh D'Souza at the 2013 Freedom Fest - Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1kW6YAx)

Dinesh D’Souza wanted you to buy this Christmas tree

The end of the year is a great time to think back over all the American human race has accomplished. There will be no shortage of retrospectives across the Internet: Celebrity deaths, strangest letters to Dear Prudence, best Longform reads, top Christian songs. Tomorrow, I’ll share a retrospective of my own in the form of some of 2013’s top moments in religion. But I would be remiss to let the end of the year go by unnoticed without first pointing you to my favorite religious moment of the year: Dinesh D’Souza’s Christmas Tree Infomercial. D’Souza, former president of The King’s College who resigned after admitting he “did not have any idea that it is seen as wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced even though separated.” If we’re talking “best of,” I’m not sure I can choose my favorite moment of this video in which D’Souza, who doesn’t “endorse products…however, in this case, I wanted to talk about something…pretty incredible.”

Would we know Malala Yousafzai if she was one of the hundreds of children killed by American drones?

2013: The top 14 Muslim news stories of the past year

2013 was a bloody, difficult, unraveling year for many Muslims around the world. May 2014 be a year that sees the discomforted comforted, the orphans cared for, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the homeless provided with shelter. May there be a widening of the circle of compassion, may there be a real peace rooted in justice, and above all else, may all of us be participants in making it so.

The Sparrow

My 5 favorite religious books from 2013

This year, my favorite religious books included a riff on power from Andy Crouch, ruminations on birds and holiness from Debbie Blue, and a “Job through the ages” commentary from Mark Larrimore, as well as great novels by Mary Doria Russell and Lisa Samson.

There should be an international court to try cases of animal cruelty, says Oxford ethicist

“Humanitarian organizations worldwide should collaborate in setting up an international court to judge cases of animal cruelty and specifically to assess the culpability of governments”, says Oxford ethicist Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. “Individuals and groups should be able to bring cases before the court where governments have failed to take reasonable steps to prevent systematic and widespread occurrence of cruelty to animals. The court would consist of eminent humanitarians drawn from the legal and veterinary professions, together with ethicists, philosophers, theologians, and those accomplished in anticruelty work worldwide.”

“Although animal protection is obviously a matter of global concern, animal protectionists have sometimes been slow in recognizing this fact and have contented themselves with working on an issue-by-issue, country-by-country basis. But what this approach neglects is the need for international strategies to tackle what are global problems.”

The call is made in Professor Linzey’s Introduction to The Global Guide to Animal Protection published today by the University of Illinois Press. “Government and industries found guilty (or who fail to participate in the hearings) would be named and shamed and placed on a register.

Kel Mitchell at Women's Image Network Awards - Photo from www.lukeford.net via Wikimedia Commons (http://bit.ly/1imJLro)

Kenan and Kel’s Kel Mitchell still loves orange soda, God

If you’re anything like me, there are few words that warm your heart on hearing them as much as these:

“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?” The voice behind the words was Kel Mitchell, one half of sketch comedy’s most brilliant duo, Kenan and Kel. Together, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell made their way from part of an ensemble cast on Nickelodeon’s All That (a sort of mid-’90s Saturday Night Live for kids) to stars of their own show, Kenan & Kel (complete with theme song by rapper Coolio), to headliners of the film Good Burger, a film robbed by Titanic of the best picture Oscar in 1997. Both Kenan and Kel auditioned for Saturday Night Live after their childhood success, but only Kenan made it. The high (or low) point of Kel’s career in the last decade was a widely-circulated rumor of his death by drug overdose in 2006, prompting the creation of websites and Facebook groups with names like “Kel Mitchell is NOT dead!”

We must fight injustice to animals as we do injustice to blacks, women and gays – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians. No human being should be the target of prejudice or the object of vilification or be denied his or her basic rights. “But there are other issues of justice – not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures. The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked.