ThursdayâÂ?Â?s Religion News Roundup

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Does Satan make gays gay?

A staffer for the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote a column about gays saying that “the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil.”

The newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, which ran the column by Daniel Avila, retracted it on Wednesday, saying it had failed to recognize the “theological error” before publication. Avila also apologized for the “hurt and confusion.” Maybe the Devil made him do it?

In other sci-fi news, some are asking whether Mormons are a horror movie come to life for Southern Baptists:

“From the viewpoint of many Southern Baptists, Mormons are Southern Baptist zombies,” writes Matthew Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church Smithton in Belhaven, N.C. “Mormons hold the same family values as Southern Baptists. They talk about Jesus like Southern Baptists. They send out missionaries like Southern Baptists. They baptize people like Southern Baptists. But they believe the wrong things about Jesus, God and the Bible.”

Jewish leaders want another decennial census of the American Jewish community, but apparently the only thing they can agree on is not to have it.

Victims of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff are not impressed by his wife Ruth’s apology (publicity) tour. “We think it is obscene,” said Ilene Kent, who ran a support network for people who lost everything when the now-jailed financier went down.

It’s the feast day of Richard Hooker, Anglican priest and theologian who died on this date in 1603 and is sometimes called the English Aquinas.

Hooker is credited with formulating the “three-legged stool” of Anglican and Episcopal theology – scripture, tradition and reason – that has supported the Communion along the often parlous path of the via media between Protestantism and Catholicism. Though Hooker actually never used the term “three-legged stool,” and many Anglicans reject its premise. The path gets steeper still.

Another item from the Dept. of Apocrypha:

President Obama said he likes the national motto as much as Congress, but wishes Congress would match faith with works instead of engaging in slam-dunk competitions like voting on legislation to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto.

“That’s not putting people back to work,” Obama said as he pushed for passage of his jobs bill. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”

Obama’s spokesman justified that invocation of the deity by noting that the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves,” is from the Bible.

Except it’s not. Nor is it very biblical, as many Christians note. It didn’t even originate with Ben Franklin, but goes back to the Greeks, Aeschylus and Euripides, then to poet George Herbert before it was adapted to its modern form by political theorist Algernon Sydney in 1698. Only later did it wind up in Poor Richard’s Almanac. Got it?

Then again, “In God We Trust” didn’t appear on coins until 1864 and was not adopted as the national motto until 1956, so there.

The whole national motto debate prompts Joe Carter to deliver himself of an awesome “civil rant against civil religion,” which is actually too informative to be a rant, but don’t be put off.

Meanwhile, back in today’s America, weak economic growth is expected to last for years. And the Greeks aren’t making things easier, according to other European leaders who were hoping to enjoy some time off together in Cannes. And in California, a breakaway band of Occupy Oakland protesters sparked violent clashes with police.

Rick Perry is getting slammed for his flat-tax proposals, and from social conservatives who note that Perry’s plan would eliminate all tax advantages for married couples where one spouse is the primary breadwinner.

“Does Rick Perry want to undermine traditional marriage?” asks Phyllis Schlafly. And when you’ve lost Phyllis Schlafly…

Marriage brokers in India are using iPads. Why not? It’s a $5 billion market.

Funny, but not: four oldsters in Georgia, one who dresses like Santa Claus at Christmas, plot terror attacks at the local Waffle House. “There is no way for us, as militiamen, to save this country, to save Georgia, without doing something that’s highly, highly illegal: murder,” Frederick Thomas, 73, the groups’ ringleader, was quoted as saying on FBI tapes.

Murder is also generally thought of as highly, highly wrong.

Finally, thumb-sucker of the day is this essay from Robert Bellah, the dean of sociologists of religion and author of a magisterial new account of the origins of religion, “Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age.”

Bellah explains his motivation for writing the book: “Deep desire to know everything: what the universe is and where we are in it.”

— David Gibson

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