Today is International Religious Freedom Day, marking 16 years since the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act. Celebrate – if you live somewhere that allows itScreen Shot 2014-10-27 at 8.23.21 AM

Enjoy yourself while you can as things may get grimmer as the week goes by. Potential frights on the horizon (depending on your point of view): Daily updates on Ebola (but not Ebola in Africa where folks are dying daily, just U.S. fears and in-fighting)! Halloween on Friday! Decisive World Series Games! Eight more days of relentless commentary on the mid-term elections! EEEEK!

Who’ In? Who’s Out?

We use to ask this in junior high. Now, it’s all about Ebola and visas, and quarantines that the Daily Beast calls counterproductive and common sense vs. government-imposed sense (was it really a good idea to go bowling, Dr. Spencer?) Nurse Kaci Hickox, welcomed back from Africa by being promptly quarantined in an unheated tent despite no symptoms of Ebola, took legal action to win Monday morning release.

Steve Drain, spokesman for Westboro Baptist Church, tells RNS’ photo editor and videographer Sally Ann Morrow that the intersection of 12th and Orleans streets has become “the epicenter of the moral struggle of the covenant” now that human rights group is staging drag shows at a rainbow-painted house across the intersection. Check Sally’s riveting video.

Evangelical ethicist David Gushee, author of best sellers and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, is now an LGBT ally. Gushee says he opposes “ethically sloppy Christianity” and does not bless “an anything-goes ethic” but he’s calling for Christians to take LGBT Christians into the church “as kin” and a way to emulate “treating people the way Christ did.” Columnist Jonathan Merritt points out exactly why this is so important.

Carried away:

A man suspected of driving a car into a Ten Commandments monument outside the Oklahoma state Capitol is under mental evaluation, according to the highway patrol. He told the Secret Service that Satan told him to smash the six-foot-tall monument. Where’s Charlton Heston when we need him?

Anti-burqa protesters from the protest group that calls itself “Faceless” tried unsuccessfully to enter the Australian parliament wearing Ku Klux Klan hood, motorbike helmet and niqab.

Check the fine print

Is the Idaho wedding chapel called the Hitching Post a non-profit religious enterprise exempt from requirements to accommodate gay couples? Or is it really a for-profit enterprise that Alliance Defending Freedom handpicked to test the limits of the legalization of gay marriage?

RNS contributing editor Jacob Lupfer has a sharp commentary on the Hitching Post pastors hitching themselves to a legal challenge;  “To the degree that the Knapps’ consciences only trouble them now that same-sex marriage is legal, theirs will be a victory for bigotry as much as for liberty.”

Speaking of testing the law, what’s up in California where seven churches say they were notified that their insurance must cover elective surgical abortion and some forms of contraception? No, no, no, says the state regulatory body. Sarah Pulliam Bailey sorts out competing arguments.

Secularism on the move 

It’s spreading through once-Christian ranks, if you go by the Barna Group’s new numbers. Test yourself to see if you are actually post-Christian.

In Tunisia, the secularist party is claiming victory over Islamists although the results aren’t in yet.

Point of view:  

Stats nerds (Me! Me!) heads up. Nine out of ten Americans say they believe in God. Now, Tobin Grant graphs out range of belief – and whether you believe in a God, however distant, or a personal God.Belief-in-Personal-God

“An idol is anything we use as a substitute for God,” says Jana Riess, who fears sometimes in LDS culture people cross the line idolizing Mormon prophets.

Mark Silk says Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput – staunch critic of a devilishly confusing synod – has thrown a bit of devilish confusion himself on Catholic doctrine and the death penalty.

Just for fun

John Allen at Crux turns the bishops’ performances at the recent synod into an Oscar spoof. The Alfred Hitchcock Award for Best Direction of a Suspense Story went, no surprise, to Pope Francis.

Huffington Post profiles a newish Jewish Hasidic-ish music group, Zusha. “You don’t have to throw down your yarmulke to relate to everyone,” says percussionist Elisha Mlotek.

Prepping for Halloween, “Ouija” ruled at the weekend box office, adding cha-ching to our fascination with the paranormal.

Categories: Beliefs

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics, and manager for social media.

5 Comments

  1. It’s hard to imagine that any percent of atheists believe in a “personal” god when the central tenant of atheism is that there is no god in which to believe. Maybe the magic chart needs some adjusting….

    • Unfortunately, polls must take every answer they get at face value, even if it is an obvious troll. Most likely those who answered that they were Atheists and believed in a personal god were trolling just to mess with the poll.

      Then again, I’ve talked with someone who claimed to be a Baha’i and an Atheist, claimed to worship the Prophet Baha’u’llah, claimed no god existed, and claimed to be the next prophet despite the Baha’i “no-new-prophet-until-the-year-2863″ rule, so apparently there are people out there in real life with bizarre, confusing belief systems that seem self-contradictory.

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