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Exodus from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

Plus: Another New Life pastor quits, Joan of Arc "relics" studied, and other stories from online sources around the world.

1. Eight churches, including two of the country's most prominent, vote to leave
The big religion news today is the votes of eight northern Virginia Episcopal churches to leave the diocese of Virginia. The votes at two of the country's most prominent Episcopal parishes—colonial-era Truro Church and The Falls Church—weren't even close, with at least 90 percent voting to align with the Church of Nigeria. It's a significant development in the long story of the upheaval in the Anglican Communion. Those who want to follow it closely would do well to bookmark titusonenine, Stand Firm, Classical Anglican Net News, or any of the many Anglican blogs out there. We're watching, but we're not going to link to every press release, statement, photo, and doodle coming out of this debate. Bottom line: The Episcopal Church is breaking up, and it's about to have a major fight over property ownership.

2. More Haggard fallout
An effort at New Life Church in Colorado Springs to "ensure the leadership … is clean" has resulted in the resignation of an executive staff member, The Denver Post reported today. "Christopher Beard, who headed [twentyfourseven,] a ministry that trained young adults in leadership skills, stepped down Friday after admitting to 'a series of decisions displaying poor judgment, including one incident of sexual misconduct several years ago,'" the Post reported, quoting associate pastor Rob Brendle. Beard is also a former psychotherapist. In other Haggard news, the Post reported that the former National Association of Evangelicals president was due to narrate a video called "What Would Jesus Do?" for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Post also had news over the weekend about Paul Barnes, another area pastor who recently resigned over sexual misconduct.

3. Church overwhelmingly backs guilty pastor
Nearly two weeks ago, Weblog noted the case of Macedonia Baptist Church pastor John Henry Walker, who pled guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, and lying to federal authorities—then denied Communion to church members who had criticized him during the scandal. Apparently he has done more than that. "Attorney Mike Todd, a Walker critic at the church, said he and four others were turned away [Sunday] because Walker had apparently revoked their membership," The Charlotte Observer reports today. Those who were allowed in "voted 181-32 to express confidence in Walker's leadership" and to keep him on as senior pastor. (Weblog wonders if it was a secret ballot, and if those 32 will be allowed in next week.) One member explained to the Observer: "A good preacher. … If he done wrong, the Lord will take care of it when he gets up there."

4. A burning question 'solved'
French scientists say supposed remains of Joan of Arc are … um. Well, here's The Guardian (emphasis added):

Catholic saint, national icon and one of the world's most famous military leaders, Joan of Arc has been a subject of fascination for the French for almost six centuries. Now academics believe they are close to proving that controversial relics are actually those of the real-life Maid of Orleans.

Here's The Independent:

One of the most tantalising studies in forensic science appears to have ended in disappointment. The preliminary conclusion by a team of experts trying to determine whether a rib bone and a piece of cloth were the remains of Joan of Arc is that the items are probably not connected to the 15th century French heroine.

Here's the Associated Press:

A rib bone and a piece of cloth supposedly recovered after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake are probably not hers, according to experts trying to unravel one of the mysteries surrounding the 15th century French heroine. … A cat femur found among the remains just confuses the matter. For some, it lends weight to the notion of a hoax or a fake relic. However, other historians say cats or other animals representing the devil could have been thrown into pyres in medieval times … ."

With news coverage like this, who needs legends?

5. India's church is on fire
For those who have been reading Weblog's many links to persecution stories in India, be sure to read Julia Duin's piece in Saturday's Washington Times. Here's how it begins:

Anyone wanting a seat at the Full Gospel Assembly of God Church here must show up early Sunday morning to get past the milling crowds and beggars outside the front entrance.
Full Gospel symbolizes what is schizophrenic about Christianity in India: It is prosperous in some places and persecuted in some states. High-tech Bangalore is in Christianized southern India, which may be why Full Gospel is one of the country's fastest-growing congregations.
It is impressive even by American megachurch standards. It has 12,000 members, a dozen assistant pastors and 15 services each weekend in several languages.

It's a bit reminiscent of Tim Stafford's May 2004 Christianity Todaycover story on India — which was criticized by some Indian Christians as overemphasizing persecution in the country, and by other Indian Christians as underemphasizing the problem.

Quote of the day:
"The votes today have compromised these discussions and have created Nigerian congregations occupying Episcopal churches. This is not the future of the Episcopal Church envisioned by our forebears."

— Peter Lee, bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Virginia, quoted in The New York Times. The Episcopal Church's forebears held African slaves.

More articles of interest
Anglicanism | Sexual ethics | Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes | Church life | Catholicism | Joan of Arc | History | Christmas | Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jews | Christmas and Muslims | Christmas displays | Christmas and schools | Education | Church and state | Politics | Mitt Romney | Life ethics | Disease | War, terrorism, and Iraq | Religious freedom | Crime | Abuse | Giving | Missions & ministry | Money and business | Left Behind videogame | Media, art, and entertainment | Diets | Books | Atheism


  • 7 Va. Episcopal parishes vote to sever ties | Same-sex unions, choice of gay bishop spark conservatives' break from church (The Washington Post)

  • 8 Virginia flocks break away | Eight Northern Virginia churches announced yesterday they will leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia after their congregations voted overwhelmingly to depart because of liberal trends in the 2.2-million-member Episcopal Church (The Washington Times)

  • Earlier: Diocese faces exodus of flock | The losses are unlikely to stop now. Two more Northern Virginia churches with a combined 400 members -- Church of the Epiphany in Herndon and Our Saviour Episcopal in Oatlands -- are slated to vote in early 2007. (The Washington Times)

  • Episcopal parishes in Virginia vote to secede | Some clergy have criticized what they regarded as the church's leftward drift, including the consecration of an openly gay bishop (The New York Times)

  • Earlier: Episcopalians are reaching point of revolt | Several American churches say they intend to form a new branch that would rival or even supplant the Episcopal Church (The New York Times)

  • Episcopal parishes in Va. break away | Two of the most prominent and largest Episcopal parishes in Virginia voted overwhelmingly Sunday to leave The Episcopal Church and join fellow Anglican conservatives forming a rival denomination in the U.S. (Associated Press)

  • Conservative moves stir Anglican troubles | In other developments, the Anglican church in Tanzania — where the world's Anglican leaders are due to meet in February — has announced it will not accept money from supporters of homosexuality, and the church in New Zealand is in uproar after the Bishop of Dunedin, George Connor, ordained a gay man as deacon. In Australia, leading liberals and evangelicals said homosexuality had not threatened to divide the church here (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • John Sentamu: You ask the questions | The Archbishop of York answers your questions, such as 'Is Britain a Godless society?' and 'Do you still get stopped and searched?' (The Independent, London)

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Sexual ethics:

  • Also: George & Laura Bush: The People Interview | The President and First Lady talk about the war, the future and their marriage. Plus: President Bush answers your questions (People)

  • The Constitution's guardrails | A lawsuit filed in US District Court last week accuses 109 Massachusetts lawmakers of violating the US Constitution (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)

  • Ill-conceived | A doctor's views on sex take Boston back to the not-so-good old days. (Charles P. Pierce, The Boston Globe)

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Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes:

  • Staffer at New Life resigns | Disclosure to overseers of past "sexual misconduct," "poor judgment" (The Denver Post)

  • Haggard rules out PETA video narration | Animal rights crusader PETA is looking for a new preacher. The organization had arranged for Ted Haggard, the Colorado Springs evangelical pastor disgraced by accusations of soliciting gay sex from a prostitute, to narrate a 15-minute PETA slaughterhouse video called "What Would Jesus Do?" (The Denver Post)

  • Anonymous call led to resignation | The series of events that led to Barnes' resignation and a tearful, candid confession about, as he put it, a lifelong struggle with homosexuality (The Denver Post)

  • Evangelical and gay? Believers find self-acceptance | The experiences of gay and lesbian evangelicals - and how the broader evangelical community responds to homosexuality - is back in the public eye after two Colorado pastors fell from grace over an issue that has divided Christianity for decades (The Denver Post)

  • Practicing what we preach | It may be tempting to look with a measure of disdain on moral voices who have gone exactly where they've told others not to go. But a simple lesson to take from these painful announcements is that these ministers face the same internal struggles that many others do in defining their sexuality (Editorial, The Denver Post)

  • Preachers found logic in denial | There's more to the story of the outright duplicity of the pious ministers than just lurid material for book deals (Diane Carman, The Denver Post)

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Church life:

  • An evangelical explosion | Rick Warren's PEACE plan is aimed at catching a larger spiritual wave sweeping the developing world. But the nature of faith in Rwanda is complex (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Christianity takes on African flavor | On a rocky hilltop in Johannesburg, a priest leads his congregation in an all-night prayer vigil. His is not a religion for the fainthearted, but a marathon of African Christianity at its grass roots (Associated Press)

  • A $1 million blessing for 'robbed' church | Check arrives after stolen lots recovered (Chicago Tribune)

  • Faith soars in lowly settings | Storefront churches have a colorful history and are a longtime presence in the urban north. But over the past few decades, as South Jersey's population continues to seep into rural areas, new congregations have followed, setting up worship in the suburbs' vacant shopping centers, converted warehouses, rented movie theaters, fire halls and even schools (Courier Post, Cherry Hill, N.J.)

  • Also: Location doesn't matter for most | What congregants say about their storefront church experience (Courier Post, Cherry Hill, N.J.)

  • Dispute over Old Tennent Cemetery divides church | The Old Tennent Cemetery in Manalapan is at the center of a power struggle between the board charged with its care and the church's leadership (Asbury Park Press, N.J.)

  • Also: Plot holders caught in the dispute | Many don't attend services at Old Tennent but have strong ties to the cemetery in which their loved ones rest (Asbury Park Press, N.J.)

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  • Welcome to the new holy land | They come to Britain in their hundreds of thousands, the poor of Africa, Asia, South America and eastern Europe, all seeking refuge, asylum or just a better life. And for many, the first port of call is the Catholic Church. Together they form a diverse new flock that is revitalising - and reinventing - the faith (The Observer, London)

  • Benedict the unlikely pin-up pope | Benedict XVI, the shy former disciple of that most media-friendly of popes, John Paul II, has entered an area of the mass communications market that his predecessor apparently never tapped (BBC)

  • Two congregations face the move to a new home | In one community a sense of loss, in the other a sense of confusion (The Boston Globe)

  • No clerical error: Vatican in soccer tournament | The inaugural Clericus Cup will kick off in February 2007, and the Vatican will be one of the 16 teams (Associated Press)

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Joan of Arc:

  • Solved at last: the burning mystery of Joan of Arc | France's favourite saint was martyred by her English foes, who ordered her remains to be cast into the Seine. Now scientists believe they have established the facts surrounding her execution (The Observer, London)

  • Mystery of Joan of Arc relics is solved | Bone is a cat's, and fabric is the right age but dyed and not burned (The Independent, London)

  • Bone fragment likely not Joan of Arc | A rib bone and a piece of cloth supposedly recovered after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake are probably not hers, according to experts trying to unravel one of the mysteries surrounding the 15th century French heroine (Associated Press)

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  • The real George Washington? | Was the father of our country a deist, a Unitarian, a lukewarm Christian, or a fervent evangelical? (Gary Scott Smith, The Washington Times)

  • Bethel Baptist remembers Christmas Day church bombing | Bethel Baptist Church on Sunday commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Dec. 25, 1956, bombing that attempted to kill its former pastor, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the now legendary civil rights leader who openly defied Birmingham's segregation laws (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

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  • Christmas belongs to Christians | Though its themes of peace, generosity and goodwill have universal religious appeal, Christmas belongs to Christians. We have little to fear in acknowledging that, and perhaps a good deal to gain (Scott Korb and Leon Morris, The Baltimore Sun)

  • On Christmas letters - and pushy Christmas Christians | I am fed up with those who insist on shoving Christmas down the throats of a people nearly universally religious but not universally Christian (Jack L. Allen, Nebraska State Paper)

  • Have yourself a Talibanic Christmas | Those who do not share the religious views of the majority are not entitled to ban Christianity from the public square (Linda Chavez, The Washington Times)

  • 'Christmas' vs. 'holidays' a false dilemma | Likewise, complaints about the commercializing the season also are baseless (Tibor Machan, The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Christian bullies manufactured this 'War on Christmas' | When it comes to persecution, Christians have come a long way from being fed to the lions, my friends (Dan Radmacher, The Roanoke Times, Va.)

  • Deck the halls with bows of folly | America is not a stamp collection with one of each. It's an overwhelmingly Christian country with freedom of religion for those who aren't. (Mark Steyn, The Washington Times/Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Don't believe it | Mary was probably not a virgin in the modern sense of the word (Geza Vermes, The Guardian, London)

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Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jews:

  • Offering support for a menorah, unofficially | Residents and businesses of Fort Collins, Colo., are displaying menorahs in their windows after the city refused to allow one near public Christmas displays (The New York Times)

  • Menorah lights up religious displays debate | The Chester County commissioners have given approval for an outside group to put a menorah outside the courthouse, and they plan to announce the display of a crèche, causing some legal experts to say the commissioners now have to consider any request for a display (The Pottstown Mercury, Pa.)

  • Searching for genuine faith in an assimilated holiday | Although Hanukkah is marked with minor celebrations elsewhere in the world, it tends to be treated as 'Jewish Christmas' in the U.S. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Trees, menorahs light up Hawaii airports | Despite a dustup in Seattle over whether Christmas trees and menorahs have a place in that city's airport, both were put up this season at airports throughout the Hawaiian islands without controversy (Associated Press)

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Christmas and Muslims:

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Christmas displays:

  • Group seeks equal time next to nativity | It would read: "At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." (The Flint Journal, Mi.)

  • Nativity captivity: Baby Jesus thefts a prank or an affront? | It's become something of a holiday tradition—and more culturally charged now than ever. (San Diego Union Tribune)

  • No need to fear Christmas | After a rough few years of over-the-top political correctness, we're again getting comfortable with the old-fashioned greeting: Merry Christmas. But there is still some way to go. (Editorial, The London Free Press, Ont.)

  • Respecting Christmas | Political correctness prevailed over good sense this week when an Ontario judge ordered a Christmas tree removed from the lobby of a Toronto courthouse for fear it might offend non-Christians (Editorial, Toronto Star)

  • Those darned Christians | From the way they're treated, you'd think they were a threat to the nation (Licia Corbella, Calgary Sun)

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Christmas and schools:

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Church and state:

  • Church day cares in losing battle | The epic battle over licensing of religious-affiliated day cares has been dragging on for a decade (Sunday News, Lancaster, Pa.)

  • Church bells annoying? It depends on who's listening | An outcry over chimes of church bells has grown louder, part of a clamorous stew of opinions about church and state, and tolerance (The New York Times)

  • Point of contention | A white, legally built LDS church spire in Medford is safer than the old one, but its brightness offends some (Mail Tribune, Medford, Ore.)

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  • Olver among few in Congress with no religion | Six Congress members are religiously unaffiliated, a rare non-designation in national politics, where a candidate's faith can identify them with a group of voters, be used to avoid public scrutiny, or simply reflect the huge religious membership in America (Sentinel and Enterprise, Fitchburg, Mass.)

  • Gingrich, on a mission, has no time to campaign for '08 | Newt Gingrich has set his sights not on the presidency, but on the restoration of God to a central place in American government and culture (The New York Times)

  • Preaching the gospel green | Rev. Richard Cizik has been a pivotal figure in convincing Christians and Republicans that environmentalism is a 'biblical obligation.' (Newsweek)

  • A new agenda for U.S. evangelicals | Evangelicals are weaving the ethic of 'neighbor love' into the fabric of sin and salvation (Mark Totten, The Christian Science Monitor)

  • The Republican identity crisis | The golden age of austerity under Reagan is a myth (Michael Gerson, Newsweek)

  • Not-so-true believers | Once again, GOP candidates are pandering to the religious right. Why believe them? (Jonathan Chait, Los Angeles Times, also at The New Republic)

  • America's religious right: God's own country | They hate gays and abortion, and love George W Bush. They worship in churches the size of shopping malls, and dominate the nation's - and the world's - political agenda. But is the Christian backlash finally starting against America's religious right? (Robert Lanham, The Independent, London)

  • Europeans see religion as no bar to EU | Religion, cited by some as an argument against admitting predominantly Muslim Turkey, plays little part in EU citizens' feelings about whether to admit new members (Financial Times)

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Mitt Romney:

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Life ethics:

  • Lethal injection is on hold in 2 states | Florida governor suspends executions; judge orders California to alter methods (The Washington Post)

  • Also: Gov. Bush halts executions | There will be no further death warrants signed in Florida until problems with Wednesday's botched execution of Angel Diaz are resolved by a special commission created Friday by Gov. Jeb Bush (Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.)

  • Rome judge won't remove man's respirator | An Italian judge rejected a paralyzed man's request to be removed from a respirator Saturday, ruling that the law does not permit the denial of lifesaving care and urging lawmakers to confront the issue (Associated Press)

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  • Mandatory HIV test stirs controversy | Many churches are compelling couples to take HIV tests before they wed, but their members are divided as to whether this will help curb the spread of Aids or perpetuate stigma (The East African Standard, Kenya)

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War, terrorism, and Iraq:

  • Tending injured souls | Jeffrey Seiler's spiritual path has taken him from his days as a Marine in Vietnam to helping today's combat veterans (Daily Press, Hampton Roads, Va.)

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Religious freedom:

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  • Washington archdiocese settles sex suit | The total dollar figure and the amount per victim are small compared with the sums negotiated by some other Catholic dioceses (The Washington Post)

  • Also: D.C. archdiocese pays $1.3M to victims | The Archdiocese of Washington has agreed to pay $1.3 million to 16 men who said they were sexually abused by eight priests from 1962 to 1982. (Associated Press)

  • $60M clergy abuse settlement approved in Los Angeles | Attorneys representing 45 people who sued the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, accusing clergy members of sex abuse, signed off Friday on a $60 million settlement, according to the lead plaintiffs' lawyer (Associated Press)

  • Call for atonement over priest abuse | Pope's official pastor urges fasting and penance so the church can 'cry before God.' (Los Angeles Times)

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Missions & ministry:

  • Preaching to Wall Street | A former commodities trader turned pastor and his faith healer wife are doing their best to dispel Satan from their financial district (The New York Times Magazine)

  • On the street, a quiet outreach of kindness | Little Brothers lift the less fortunate (The Boston Globe)

  • Couple helping one family at a time | Jim and Terry Orcutt's My Brother's Keeper will provide gifts and food for 1,600 families this year (The Boston Globe)

  • Buried in obscurity | Found dead on Causeway Street in June, his body awaits a nameless final rest. Thursday, a Beacon Hill church pauses to recall the recently departed homeless (The Boston Globe)

  • A (Boston) common place for worship | An outdoor church service for homeless people has evolved into a nationwide ministry (The Christian Science Monitor)

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Money and business:

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Left Behind videogame:

  • 'Left Behind' video game: Let us prey | Inspired by a hugely popular book series, the new video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces deposits players into a futuristic world where born-again Christians must use prayer and song to convert infidels — or tanks and snipers to blow them away (Los Angeles Times)

  • Apocalypse: New teen computer game | A teen-rated computer strategy game in which players battle the Antichrist, treat secularism as satanism and are forced to convert or kill non-Christians is creating a storm of controversy in the United States (National Post, Canada)

  • Rated 'O' for offensive | Some things are not meant to go together — like the combination floor wax and dessert topping hawked in a mock advertisement on an early Saturday Night Live episode. Or this: religion and video-game carnage (Editorial, USA Today)

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Media, art, and entertainment:

  • Media notes | Researchers say Dobson distorted work; New York Times highlights reporter's religion (Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post)

  • Putting faith in showbiz | Filmmakers, TV producers, even video game creators are sharing an epiphany: Christianity sells (The Denver Post)

  • Lennon gives Wee Frees a chance | A Glasgow filmmaker's obsession with John Lennon has unearthed an unlikely friendship between the Beatle and a Wee Free minister, struck in the Highlands of Scotland (Scotland on Sunday)

  • Holy Moses! | The new Almighty Heroes are action figures with a higher calling: teaching children about the Bible (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Nonsecular fun and games | Professor proud of her collection of religion-themed toys (The Boston Globe)

  • Dover-trial film might evolve | Names, location could change (York Daily Record, Pa.)

  • For a relic of Lorton, an uncertain future | The county hasn't decided what to do with the religious treasure of one of the nation's toughest prisons once it's cleaned up (The Washington Post)

  • Amish: Shattering the quiet | I was one of the reporters who converged on the peaceful Pennsylvania countryside after the shooting of 10 Amish girls (Susannah Meadows, Newsweek)

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  • Eats of Eden | George H. Malkmus, founder of the "Hallelujah Diet," says that as many as 2 million people around the world are trying to adhere to the plan (News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Faith-based diet books call for more than just fruits and veggies | the latest crop of faith-based diet books are moving outside the realm of food and exercise, touting a more holistic approach that encourages everything from advanced hygiene, a challenge to feed the poor and a call to add a side of prayer and meditation alongside your veggies and hormone free meat (USA Today)

  • Deliver us from dieting | Sometimes, it takes a strong spirit to stick to a healthy eating plan. These five books rely on God to get you through the tough times (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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  • Finding an equation for God | Francis Collins's The Language of God reveals everyone's errors: those of the atheist, the agnostic, the creationist, even, inadvertently, the author's own BioLogist/theistic evolutionist (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • 'Chick lit' for Christians | Tamer tales of single women find audience (The Gazette, Colorado Springs)

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  • Religion professor backs atheistic view | Anthony B. Pinn of Rice University in Texas has been on both sides of the is-there-a-God divide. Once an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he now evangelizes for African-American humanism (atheism to those outside the ivory tower) (The Boston Globe)

  • Preaching to the converted | What does Christmas mean to our most fervent non-believer? John Preston talks to Richard Dawkins (The Telegraph, London)

  • Atheist chic | This is an especially exciting time to be a heathen (Dan Neil, Los Angeles Times)

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