A topless abortion activist with the words "God is Woman" written across her bare chest was arrested in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Thursday, after rushing the nativity scene and attempting to flee with a baby Jesus figurine.
Iana Zhdanova of FEMEN, a radical feminist organization from Ukraine that's based in Paris, stunned onlookers in Rome on Christmas Day when she stormed the nativity display wearing only jeans and sneakers. Video footage of the incident shows the blonde-haired activist proudly raising baby Jesus above her head and screaming an inaudible message to horrified onlookers before being apprehended by Vatican police.
The protest came shortly after Pope Francis unveiled the nativity while marking Christmas with a late-night mass in St Peter's Basilica. more >>
In the midst of all our preparations for our Christmas celebrations, something serious appeared on the horizon. A former Evangelical, Valerie Tarico, wrote an article on Salon called "Why rape is so intrinsic to religion." With a title like that, the week before Christmas: one can only surmise that she intended to provoke.
I feel called to respond to this article, as a Roman Catholic woman intellectual. I know that I have many non-Catholic readers among my Ruth Institute friends, but I have to speak as a Catholic for two reasons. First of all, that is what I am. Secondly, non-Catholic Christianity is not a well-defined thing. One can readily point to non-Catholic Christians who believe all sorts of things. There is no non-Catholic Christian "definitive" or "traditional" interpretation of anything. Say what you like. Believe what you like. But Catholicism has at least this virtue: one can figure out what it actually says and does not say.
Dr. Tarico cites numerous examples of rape stories in a variety of religious traditions: Zeus, Jupiter, Zoroaster and so on. Tucked away within those stories is the story of the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. I'm reminded of the old Sesame Street song: "One of these is not like the others." more >>
The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court recently stated that a city that allowed atheist and Wiccan invocations at their council meetings was "foolish" for doing so.
"We're having prayers [by] atheists? We're having Wiccans say prayers? How foolish can we be? … I'll say this in Huntsville because I think it needs to be said in Huntsville," said Roy Moore, known as the "Ten Commandments Judge" for once putting a large Decalogue monument in the rotunda of Alabama's highest court, earlier this month.
Speaking before the Madison County Republican Men's Club, Moore specifically denounced Huntsville City Council for their allowance of non-Christian prayers at their government meetings. more >>
Ryan Bell, an ex-pastor who quit his faith in God for a year following his resignation from the Hollywood Adventist Church and a divorce from his wife of 17 years, is set to decide New Year's Day whether he will remain a believer or become an atheist. While he has distanced himself from zealous atheists, Bell expressed a desire to be "good" without submitting to boundaries.
Nearing the end of his yearlong embrace of non-theism, Bell told the LA Times that leaving the faith has allowed him to see "both sides of the coin." The former Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University teacher has consorted with several atheist groups as a public speaker, sharing his experiences of walking away from church life. "Being with atheists, they can have the same sort of obnoxious certainty that some Christians have," he said of his experiences. "I don't want to be part of that. It feels like I'm stuck in the middle. I want to be for something good, but I don't want boundaries, and religion just feels like a very bounded thing."
As he nears a self-imposed January 1 deadline to decide between atheism and faith, Bell told the LA Times, "The question I am asking right now [is] why do I need religion to love?" more >>
A couple of atheist authors have published a secular version of the 10 Commandments in a book they co-wrote, following a global contest that received 2,800 submissions from 18 different countries and offered a $10,000 reward.
"A lot of atheists' books are about whether to believe in God or not," said one of the authors, Lex Bayer, according to CNN. "We wanted to consider: OK, so you don't believe in God, what's next? And that's actually a much harder question."
The author wrote Atheist Heart, Humanist Mind along with John Figdor, a humanist chaplain at Stanford University. Bayer, who also works as an executive at AirBnB, said that the book helped him clarify and articulate his own beliefs. more >>
Atheist author and activist Sam Harris has taken aim at the head of the National Institutes of Health, arguing that he's an example of an intelligent person pushing religion.
In a recent podcast, Harris cited former director of the Human Genome Research Institute, Dr. Francis Collins, as "a bit of a Bible-thumper."
"He believes in evolution, thankfully, but he also believes that immortal souls and free will were just downloaded onto the hard drive of only one species of primate at some point in history by an almighty God," Harris commented. more >>