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Category Archives: Atheist

Unity has long been a theme, and anxiety, for new presidents – Outlook India

Posted: January 17, 2021 at 9:54 am

By Hillel Italieap

New York, Jan 15 (AP) When Joe Biden addresses the country for the first time as president, his inaugural speech is likely to echo calls for unity that predecessors have invoked since the first time George Washington was sworn in.

Unity has since been a theme, and an anxiety, for many incoming presidents, who have faced economic and social crises and moments when the very future of the U.S. was in doubt.

Historians mention the first inaugural speeches of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as possible parallels for Biden, who has said his goal is to restore the soul of the country.

Biden, who assumes office just two weeks after an armed seige of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, will preside over a nation in which millions believe Trump''s baseless claims that the election was stolen. Few presidents have faced such questions about their own legitimacy.

Unity has always been an aspiration," says presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. It seems like whenever we have foreign policy flare-ups, we use the word freedom. But when we have domestic turmoil we use the word unity.

The United States was forged through compromise among factions that disagreed profoundly on slavery, regional influence and the relative powers of state and federal government. When Washington assumed office in 1789 he cited the blessings of providence in noting that the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established.

Jefferson was the third U.S. president, and the first whose rise was regarded by opponents as a kind of emergency.

The 1800 election won by Jefferson marked the beginning of competing political parties Jefferson was a leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, losing incumbent John Adams a Federalist and critics regarded the new president as a dangerous atheist.

"JEFFERSON AND NO GOD!!! was how one Federalist paper described Jefferson''s candidacy. Adams did not attend the inauguration, a breach rarely repeated although Trump has vowed to do the same.

Let us then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind," Jefferson urged in his address.

"We are all republicans: we are all federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it."

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, a Federalist who administered the oath of office to Jefferson, wrote later that the speech was in the general well judged and conciliatory.

Lincoln''s pleas were more dire, and tragically unmet, despite what historian Ted Widmer calls his genius to combine urgency with literary grace. Seven out of 11 future Confederate states had seceded from the U.S. before he spoke, in March 1861, over fears he would end slavery. The Civil War would begin a month later.

We are not enemies, but friends, Lincoln had insisted, reminding fellow Americans of their mystic chords of memory while also warning that resistance to the will of voters would destroy democracy.

"A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism, he said.

Historian David Greenberg, whose books include Nixon''s Shadow" and Republic of Spin, cites Richard Nixon''s inaugural in 1969 as another speech given at a time of social turmoil. The U.S. was violently divided over the Vietnam War and civil rights, and Nixon himself had long been seen as an unprincipled politician exploiting fears and resentments appealing to what he would call the silent majority.

His speech at times was openly and awkwardly modeled on the 1961 inaugural of John F. Kennedy, who had defeated Nixon in 1960.

We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting unity, Nixon stated. We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.

Some presidents asked for unity, others asserted it.

Franklin Roosevelt, elected in a landslide in 1932 during the Great Depression, said in his first inaugural speech: If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other.

Four years later, having won by an even greater landslide, he declared the country had recognized a need beyond financial help, a deeper need, to find through government the instrument of our united purpose.

Unity can prove more imagined than real. When James Buchanan spoke in 1857, three years before the Civil War, he claimed that all agree that under the Constitution slavery in the states is beyond the reach of any human power except that of the respective states themselves wherein it exists. (AP)


Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI

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‘I was fat and in my 30s, then I discovered rugby and it changed my life’ – iNews

Posted: at 9:54 am

For most people, rugby is all about the professional and international game; huge, exquisitely toned lumps of muscle colliding at pace in front of packed crowds at Twickenham in the Six Nations Tournament.

There is another sort of rugby. Its the sort played at around 1,000 clubs in England by something close to two million people. It is just as much of an international phenomenon. Around the world, in another 120 countries, more than eight million people play. When you get to those sorts of numbers, the participants cant all be elite athletes. Ive met some of them, and elite was definitely not the first word that sprang to mind. Athlete didnt get much of a look in either. The sort of rugby I play is not the sort that fills stadiums, attracts sponsorship or secures lucrative global media deals.

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It doesnt fill the back pages of national newspapers or launch celebrity TV careers. Its not the sort of rugby that gets talked about a great deal. But its the sort of rugby that changed my life. It is also the sort of rugby I wanted to share and see a bit more of, especially when were allowed to play again. I want to encourage more people to try out a sport that has brought me so much joy and seen me safely through some tricky patches in my life something that is only going to be more necessary after the pandemic. I didnt discover rugby until I was in my mid-thirties and it did me a world of good.

I am now a little further away from the mild mid-life crisis that I was having as I took up rugby for the first time. I can see now even more clearly the huge importance that rough-and-ready, grass-roots rugby played in my life and general well-being. I can definitely see now how playing a very physical game has had benefits that have nothing to do with physical strength and fitness. It has given me an emotional resilience that has definitely come in handy.

The only lasting physical side effect of spending my middle age in the middle of a rugby scrum is that my neck is now inappropriately thick for my little body. Finding a shirt that fits is challenging, but everything else is fine, thanks to the time spent on rugby pitches.

Michael Argyle, the late Oxford psychology professor, said that the happiest people in the world were those who were either active members of a religious group or those who took part in team sports. So it was that at the age of 35, as a miserable atheist, I took up playing rugby. I hadnt played any rugby since I was about 13, and that was at school.

I cant think of many other situations where a middle-aged fat bloke can interact socially with hoody-wearing teenagers. Probably the only other time it happens is when youre being mugged.

One of the things that have impressed me about club rugby is that I cant think of many other situations where a middle-aged fat bloke can interact socially with hoody-wearing teenagers. Probably the only other time it happens is when youre being mugged. Talking to teenagers is normally unbearably painful. Add a rugby ball into the equation, however, and suddenly it seems to work. It turns out that they can actually be quite pleasant. The young man who looked after me at my first session on the playing fields of my local rugby club did a great job and Ive never looked back.

In lower league rugby, and I suspect in much of the rest of life, you dont have to be great to get on, you just have to be there. In my first few years as a more mature student of rugby, the secret of my success was an ability to read the club circular, get to the club on time and, if we were playing away, to make sure I knew where we were going. This gave me a distinct advantage over other players who might have been much better at rugby than me but couldnt organise themselves out from under a duvet on a Saturday morning.

Michael Agyle, the late Oxford psychology professor, said that the happiest people in the world were those who were either activ members of a religious group or those who took part in team sports. So it was that at the age of 35, as a miserable atheist, I took up playing rugby

The fact was that I was beginning to depend on my regular Saturday afternoon expeditions on a rugby pitch to keep me sane. Life was getting complicated personally and professionally. I had two delightful children who were turning into slightly disorientating teenagers and I was struggling to cope with the additional pressure that had come with a promotion at work. I discovered that, no matter how stressed I was and how many complications I was mulling over in my mind, there was nothing that cleared the head better than a game of rugby. It is simply impossible to think about a difficult appraisal, a budget reforecast or another pointless PowerPoint presentation when a six-foot, 20-stone prop is running at you with a rugby ball in one hand and a clenched fist in the other.

Actually I can still picture the player who helped me to realise the therapeutic power of rolling around on a rugby pitch in the mud with a load of fat blokes. A local side had one particular prop who has helped to clear my mind at least twice a season. With a shaved head, a thickset muscular form and a slightly evil-looking goatee beard, he looks like Ming the Merciless on steroids. Locking horns with him in the front row for every scrum is unsettling enough, but once he gets the ball in his hand and a little speed on him, you really dont want to get in his way. The fear I felt coming up against him certainly did put petty office politics into perspective.

So, more and more I needed rugby and, fortunately, it needed me. A succession of captains of the lower sides knew that when their preferred teenage front-row star couldnt be found anywhere after a Friday night out in Croydon, I would be at the clubhouse regardless, clutching a printed-out set of AA Route Map directions to whichever rugby club was playing host to us that weekend.

In almost every living room and on almost every sofa in the country there is a fat bloke who could, and perhaps should, make himself available to his local rugby club. Somewhere there is a captain with fourteen names on his team sheet waiting for a call from a random stranger who wants to give rugby a go. Sedentary sofa man may be useless but he will get a game and no one will mind if he drops the ball or throws it the wrong way, as long as he buys a round afterwards and comes back the following week.

When all this is over, and we can enjoy sport not just on our TV screens but also in person, I hope to meet him out on the pitch. As well as at the bar

Mud, Sweat and Beers: How Rugby Changed My Life by Steven Gauge (Summersdale, 9.99) is out now

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Critically Acclaimed Spiritual Fiction Vividly Details an Atheist Woman’s Transformative Encounters at an Ordinary Garage Sale, Challenging Her…

Posted: January 11, 2021 at 10:08 am

CHICAGO, Jan. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- What if God showed up at your garage sale to teach you about life and prove His existence? Author Dr. Marni Hill Foderaro explores this very scenario in her spiritual fiction, God Came to My Garage Sale, the story of how spiritually transformative encounters challenged an atheist womans long-held beliefs against the existence of God and life after death.

Janet finds her comfortable Midwestern suburban life uprooted by financial troubles and as a result, she must now hold a garage sale. Throughout the weekend, she experiences one divine encounter after another: she notices numerous signs that connect to major events in her own life and receives messages from loved ones whove passed on. These spiritual encounters lead Janet to wonder if God sent those signs to teach her that her beliefs about life and death are misguidedthat every human has the power to manifest their realities into a deeper understanding of God and that it is possible to traverse beyond our plane of human existence.

God Came to My Garage SaleBy Dr. Marni Hill Foderaro ISBN: 9781982234751 (softcover); 9781982234768 (electronic)Available at Balboa Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble


About the authorDr. Marni Hill Foderaro is an award-winning educator and celebrated author. She earned her doctorate in education and completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard after a very successful and rewarding 35-year career as a high school special education teacher with 12 years as a university adjunct professor. God Came to My Garage Sale is an award-winning finalist in the Spirituality: Inspirational category of the 2020 Best Book Awards sponsored by the American Book Fest, and Foderaro has been interviewed on Wellness Radio with Dr. Jeanette Gallagher, Motherella, and Passion Harvest, among others. Foderaro is a lover of animals, nature, music and world travel. Foderaro handles lifes challenges with love and compassion. She values honesty, integrity, equality and goodness and prays for peace on earth. She was born in the South, raised her children in the Midwest and has made the Caribbean her home. In addition to her speaking engagements (including gracing the bLU Talks stage in 2021 at Columbia University in New York) and various writing endeavors on embracing Spirituality after surviving Domestic Violence, Narcissistic Abuse and Parental Alienation, Foderaro is a contributing author to numerous anthology books, including: The Last Breath, The Evolution of Echo, The Ulti-MUTT Book for Dog Lovers and bLU Talks Presents (Business, Life and the Universe). To learn more, please visit her website,

Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, Inc. a leading provider in publishing products that specialize in self-help and the mind, body, and spirit genres. Through an alliance with the worldwide self-publishing leader Author Solutions, LLC, authors benefit from the leadership of Hay House Publishing and the speed-to-market advantages of the self-publishing model. For more information, visit To start publishing your book with Balboa Press, call 877-407-4847 today.

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White Supremacy in the Church: Black Leaders Discuss the Way Forward – University of Georgia

Posted: at 10:08 am

Mandisa Thomas was never made to go to church or believe in God. She learned about various gods through literature and history.

Daryl Bloodsaw grew up beneath the shadow of white supremacy in Monroe, Georgia, the site of the 1946 Georgia lynching of four black sharecroppers by an unmasked, white mob.

Thomas, founder and president of Black Nonbelievers, with 300 members in the Atlanta area and 5,000 Facebook subscribers nationwide, is an atheist and humanist activist based in Atlanta. Bloodsaw is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church West in Athens, home to about 600 members, and a Ph.D. candidate in the religion department at the University of Georgia. They represent two opposite views of faith in the Black community.

Black Americans are more likely to be Christian than any other racial or ethnic group, with 79% of Black Americans self-identifying as Christian, according to Pew Research Center. Only 18% of Black Americans are unaffiliated. Christianity has been pervasive in the Black community for centuries. But for some Black Americans, this isnt a positive.

Black Nonbelievers started in 2011 when Thomas saw the need for connection between Black atheists and agnostics in an overwhelmingly religious environment in Atlanta. For her, it was sometimes difficult to connect to the Black community because of the prevalent spirituality.

Thomas claims that Christianity has been a catalyst for white supremacy, which has fueled institutional oppression.

There are still so many people who arent connecting those dots, she said. We see more Christians speaking out on white supremacy, but ultimately, Christianity is white supremacy.

Historically, the church has been the apex of both condemning and perpetuating racism. Christianity in many cases was forced on enslaved people.The existence of traditionally Black churches is a result of segregated services. The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., Southern Baptists, split during the Civil War over slavery. The Southern Baptist Convention has since issued an apology and denounced white supremacy.

Some of the strands of this can be found in post-civil war Christianity. Sometimes its called in scholarly circles, southern civil religion, Bloodsaw said. They call it southern civil religion because it was the Christianity that morphed to fit southern culture versus southern culture being reflective of Christianity.

Bloodsaw said that this unique brand of Christianity is defined by a sense of nationalism.

What happened after the Civil War is that the South refused to acknowledge defeat, he said. They believed it was only a matter of time until slavery was reinstated. Bloodsaw said southern white Christianity was shaped by this hurt.

In Thomas view, there hasnt been enough criticism of the God concept.

People are getting tired of hearing when someone dies at the hands of the police, Oh, we need to pray on it, said Thomas. Just sitting and praying on it has never worked.

Bloodsaw shares in Thomas criticism, particularly the white church.

I see white Christianity and Black Christianity very differently, he said. There are strands of white Christian understanding and practice that are not consistent with what is preached in the Black church.

It is possible to give the Christianity credit for white supremacy and the Civil Rights movement in the same breath. To Thomas, this is a hijacking of the progress of the Black community.

They want to have their cake and eat it too, she said.

But, to Bloodsaw, true Christianity pushes against white supremacy.

Those who associate the church with the institution of white supremacy, are looking through a Eurocentric lens, Bloodsaw said. I cant tell you Im going to church every Sunday and praying and kneeling down to a white Jesus.

Since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the U.S. has erupted into racial justice protests and marches. Thomas said shes seen more criticism of the church, and Bloodsaw commented that many white pastors made statements.

I say they made statements, because you know, its only a statement, Bloodsaw said, adding that a statement without action is meaningless.

Bloodsaw does not shy away from addressing issues of racial reconciliation from the pulpit. Over the course of the summer he addressed reparations, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and urged his congregants to vote their conscience.

Matthew Harrison, a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychology at UGA, observed the impact that these events had on both the white and Black church. He saw more interest in white people attending predominantly Black churches. On the other side, he saw white churches struggle with how open they would be to talking about race relations.

As a person of Christ, have you always illustrated true love for all your brothers and sisters regardless of what race they are? he said.

Bloodsaw sees the primary difference in responses to racial injustice today in the Black and white church as peacemaking versus peacekeeping.

Peacemakers dont keep the status quo, he said.

Both Bloodsaw and Thomas have different ideas of the path forward. Thomas believes letting go of faith could be a source of liberation.

We dont go around proselytizing that people should let it go, but ultimately, they should let it go, she said, laughing.

She believes the way forward for the church is very, very difficult. For her, ideally it would guide people to become more self-sufficient and community minded without requiring conformity.

Do I think the church is ready to truly do that? she asked. No. But its possible.

Bloodsaw affirms that the church has work to do, but his racial justice work is intricately connected to his faith.

The church has to rediscover its revolutionary spirit, he said.

Harrison, who self identifies as spiritual, sees God in how far the Black community has progressed.

I look at how far we were able to come and I see that as an indicator of what God is capable of, he said.

For Harrison, the answer is in recognizing that religion is up to the individual to some degree.

Religion is truly rooted out of faith in what you choose to believe for yourself, he said.

Whats good about religion, Harrison said, is that its up to interpretation.

Meg Hansen is a senior majoring in religion and journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

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How many Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Mormons and Hindus are in Congress? – Deseret News

Posted: at 10:08 am

A new study shows that, when it comes to religion, the Senate and House of Representatives are less than representative of America.

While the religious makeup of the 117th Congress is similar to the one that preceded it, the breakdown by faith reveals a Congress that is both markedly more religious there isnt a single self-described atheist among the elected officials and differently religious than the country it serves. Some faith groups are underrepresented while others have an outsize presence, Pew Research Center reported.

The study also illuminates religious differences between the Republican and Democratic parties, which can add to partisan tensions.

Here are the key takeaways from Pews study:

While the number of Christians in America has continued to decline in recent years, the number of Christians in Congress has increased since Pew began tracking the religious affiliation of elected officials in 2009.

Almost 90% of the 117th Congress is Christian, according to Pew, in comparison with 65% of the American public.

The upper and lower houses of Congress have a strong Protestant majority, with Catholics coming in a distant second. The House is 54.5% Protestant and 30.9% Catholic. The gap between the two Christian denominations is bigger in the Senate, where 59.2% of seats are held by Protestants and 24.5% are held by Catholics.

Both Protestants and Catholics are more heavily represented in Congress than they are in the general population, Pew reported. However, nondenominational Protestants, Baptists, and Pentecostals are all underrepresented.

As to why Congress is more religious than America, some clues, perhaps, lie in the incoming or reelected officials who were or remain pastors, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who sparked controversy on Sunday when he closed a congressional prayer with Amen and a-woman.

Speaking to the Deseret News earlier this year, Cleaver explained that he was called to run for political office as another means of serving the public.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) a freshman representative who is a nurse by training and who got her start in politics as an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) also previously led congregations.

If elected in the hotly contested Georgia Senate runoff, the Rev. Raphael Warnock will be another pastor joining the congressional ranks.

There is a much higher proportion of Jewish people in Congress than in the country as a whole. Although they make up only 2% of Americas population, Jews constitute 6.2% of the two legislative bodies.

When the House of Representatives and Senate are considered separately, Jewish overrepresentation in Congress becomes even more dramatic: With eight Senate seats, Jews comprise 8% of the upper house.

Similarly, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are represented in the Senate at a higher rate than they are in the House of Representatives. But, when the two houses are taken together, Latter-day Saints come in at 1.7% of Congress, which is roughly the same share of Americans who identify with the faith group.

Muslims, who comprise 1% of the country, are slightly underrepresented in Congress. The three Muslim representatives, who were all reelected after serving in the 116th Congress make up 0.6% of the 117th Congress.

While 26% of Americans identify as atheist, agnostic or none of the above, only one member of the 117th Congress describes herself as unaffiliated Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona.

Sinema doesnt consider herself an atheist, according to Pew.

A whopping 98.9% of Republicans in the House and Senate identify as Christian. While 77.8% of Congress Democrats are Christian, as well, that 21 percentage point difference points to the fact that the Democratic Party is more generally more diverse than the GOP.

All but two of the non-Christians who have a religious affiliation are Democrats. Among them are three Muslim representatives, two Hindus and a Buddhist.

Republican members of Congress are more likely to be Protestant (68.2%) than Catholic (25.7%). Democrats in Congress are more evenly split between the two denominations with 43% being Protestant and and 33.7% being Catholic.

Of the 33 Jewish elected officials in Congress, only two are Republican. The other 31 are Democrats, which reflects the Jewish peoples long-standing, historical affiliation with the Democratic Party.

The nine members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints sitting in the 117th Congress are all Republicans, Pew reported, highlighting the retirement of Democratic Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico.

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Podcast Ep. 356: Jesus and the Capitol Coup | Hemant Mehta – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

Posted: at 10:08 am

In our latest podcast, Jessica and I discussed the past week in politics and atheism.

We talked about:

Order Elle the Humanist and get a 10% discount with the promo code friendlyatheist!

Former PA Christian Nationalist lawmaker Rick Saccone lost his job after taking part in the Capitol Coup. (10:42)

A Catholic news outlet called out anti-democratic MAGA Catholics by name in an epic smackdown. (25:20)

There are a few surprises when it comes to the religious makeup of the new Congress. (29:30)

The Georgia Senate elections were a bright spot in an otherwise awful week. (35:00)

Meghan McCain finally realized parental leave is a good idea because she had a baby and for no other reason. (40:27)

Republicans flipped out after a House chaplain said A-woman when ending a prayer. (46:22)

This short documentary about Ark Encounter is more of a free ad. (48:51)

A Pakistani court banned used of the awful virginity test for sexual assault cases. (56:08)

The CEO of Whole Foods doesnt think you need affordable health care. (58:35)

Wed love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play, stream all the episodes on SoundCloud or Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below. Our RSS feed is here. And if you like what youre hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!

(Image via Shutterstock)

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James "Jim" G. Rice All Obituaries – The Gazette

Posted: at 10:08 am


James "Jim" G. Rice, died at 74 years old, in his home on Jan. 2, 2021, by planned self-administered euthanasia. He was born on June 18, 1946, in Columbia Mo. Jim had a B.A. degree from Macalester College, a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. degree in Education from the University of Missouri. During his life, he worked in a variety of Jobs, but especially as a social worker, a librarian, and a teacher. During the bulk of his career, he was on the faculty of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of lowa. He published two books and numerous journal articles in his field. He retired in 1997 and did a variety of volunteer work in several agencies. Jim was a pacifist and voluntarily worked for two years as a government social worker during the Vietnam war, earning conscientious objection status. He was an atheist. He held a deep commitment to the belief that extremely fortunate people such as himself should atone for their random and largely unearned preferential place in the universe by living minimally and giving generously to the vast majority of people in the world who are undeservedly far less advantaged. He was proud of his achievements, but he knew that they were almost entirely attributable to the completely accidental good fortune of being a white male born here with fine parents. His pastimes were lifelong learning, reflecting, people watching, avid reading and taking long walks, especially in the woods. He was survived by a sister, Robin Rice; a son, Craig Stephen Rice; and a daughter, Laura Elaine Rice. Jim's body has been donated to The University of lowa Hospitals and Clinics. At Jim's request, there will be no memorial services. To share a thought, memory or condolence with Jim's family, please visit the funeral home website at

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Heroes of the Faith: C.S. Lewis – Keep the Faith

Posted: at 10:07 am

I am one of many people who have found both wisdom and wit from the writings of C.S. Lewis. Clive Staples Lewis known always as Jack to his friends was born in Northern Ireland in 1898 and grew up in a house overflowing with books. He was sent to England to be educated where he left his familys formal Christianity to become a professing atheist. After a time on the frontline during the First World War, he began an academic career in English Language at Oxford University which was in effect to last all his life. Even when he was made a Professor at Cambridge, Lewis still returned to Oxford for weekends.

As a young man Lewis found himself increasingly unhappy with his atheism. With a vivid imagination enriched by extensive reading, he found himself longing for something more satisfying than anything atheism could offer. Conversations about God with many Christian friends, including J.R.R. Tolkien, gradually convinced him that religion could be true and, in 1929, Lewis became a reluctant believer in God, moving within months to a full acceptance of Christianity.

Without neglecting his increasingly acclaimed academic career, Lewis started defending and promoting his new-found faith. The result was a wide variety of books which were all brilliantly written, well-argued and thoroughly accessible. The Second World War brought him more attention when he became a popular radio speaker; his talks on the Christian faith were published as _Mere Christianity_, a book widely considered a spiritual classic. Lewis wrote many other books on subjects that he knew people found difficult: miracles, pain, prayer and other issues. He also wrote a range of fiction, all of which involved his

faith: _The Screwtape Letters_, a science fiction trilogy and the seven childrens books of _The Chronicles of Narnia_. Lewiss success came at a cost: his outspoken defence of the Christian faith was resented by his colleagues.

Lewiss social circle in Oxford was almost entirely masculine but, to everyones surprise (including his), in his late fifties he found himself in an unlikely romance with Joy Davidman, an American writer.

Their happy marriage lasted four years before her passing from cancer.

Lewis himself died in 1963 but his books continue to have an extraordinary influence within Christianity and beyond.

Many books have been written about Lewis as a theologian, a writer and a defender of Christianity. Here are some of my favourite C.S. Lewis quotes.

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves.

Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.

From a devils point of view: The safest road to Hell is

the gradual one the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

As an evangelist, what I most appreciate about Lewis is the superb way in which he communicated Christian truth. Somehow, he was able to hold together a number of virtues.

First, Lewis communicated with _both depth and simplicity_. For a man who lived the cloistered life of an Oxford academic, Lewis was profoundly sensitive to the concerns and struggles of ordinary people.

At a time when theologians were discussing questions no one was asking in language no one could understand, Lewis spoke simply and directly to everybody. He had the gift of taking profound and complex theological ideas and, with memorable phrases and relevant illustrations, transforming them into truths that everybody could understand. With his extraordinary knowledge and profound intelligence Lewis could easily have talked down to his readers, yet he had the ability and the humility to put himself alongside them. Theres a lesson there.

Second, Lewis communicated to _both imagination and intellect_.

Lewiss personal road to faith had begun with his imagination. He never forgot that and even in his most reasoned works we find him using sparkling language and evocative imagery. That appeal to the imagination is even stronger in his fiction. Yet at the same time, Lewis knew that appeals to the emotions alone can be dishonest and unhelpful unless they are based on reason. Much of the power of Lewiss writing lies in this simultaneous appeal to head and heart: persuasive claims delivered in gripping prose. There is good sense here. A faith based only on emotions can fail in a time of testing, while one based only on reason can leave the heart barren. Another lesson.

Finally, Lewis communicated with _both focus and breadth_. Lewis was a bold defender of the Christian faith but he was selective in what he defended. So, he was outspoken on the fundamentals of the faith as the deity of Christ, the truth of the Gospels and certainty of heaven:

essentials that he famously termed Mere Christianity. Yet beyond such matters he refused to be drawn. There is no agreement on who originally said, In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity, but Lewis would have agreed with it. I find there is another lesson there.

Lewis speaks powerfully to those on the edge of faith. Yet he also speaks to us Christian believers who are in need of encouragement and direction. C.S. Lewis is a truly outstanding hero of the faith.

Revd Canon J.John


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Heroes of the Faith: C.S. Lewis - Keep the Faith

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RTs Waterford Whispers News sketch was woefully unfunny, crude and offensive – The Irish Times

Posted: at 10:07 am

One of the more unpleasant aspects of contemporary life is the hyper-tribalisation of every disagreement into a binary choice . On the progressive side of the aisle, they even have a word for it: allyship. If you agree with us on subjects A, B and C, then youd better sign up wholeheartedly for cause D. If you dont, then youre either a traitor or a dupe. Deviation from this rule will not be tolerated.

So when it comes to the recent controversy over a woefully unfunny Waterford Whispers News sketch broadcast by RT on New Years Eve, criticism of the decision to broadcast the skit inevitably came almost exclusively from religious leaders and conservative commentators. And the (much quieter) defence inevitably derived from the secular left. In this instance, the conservatives are (mostly) right and the liberals are (mostly) wrong. So should I send my membership card back or just burn it at home?

If you missed it, the sketch, which took the form of a fake bulletin presented by former newsreader Aengus Mac Grianna, featured God being arrested. In another shocking revelation this year, Mac Grianna told viewers, God became the latest figure to be implicated in ongoing sexual harassment scandals. The five-billion-year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young middle-eastern migrant and allegedly impregnating her against her will. He was sentenced to two years in prison with the last 24 months suspended.

Watched live, as part of a mainstream flagship entertainment programme in the context of a national lockdown which would have boosted audience numbers well above the norm, the item was crude, jarring and clearly offensive to many viewers. Buried somewhere within the bad writing was a hamfisted attempt to make a point about the Irish court systems treatment of sexual assault by making a rape joke about Christian belief. And a Happy New Year to you too.

In a hanging-out-to-dry process which will be familiar to freelance writers and entertainers everywhere, it was left to poor Mac Grianna to make the most heartfelt apology, even though hes unlikely to have had script approval. Truly I am deeply sorry for the offence, distress and hurt caused, he wrote on Twitter. It was wrong for me. It was wrong of me.

So far, so familiar. A more modern twist to the tale centredon the fact that the offending item was still available on the RT Player, giving rise to inevitable demands for its removal (although, given the shortcomings of the player, that wasprobably the best place to keep it safely hidden).

But when Atheist Ireland, whove never seen a bandwagon they didnt fancy jumping on, correctly pointed out that nobody has the right not to be offended, they also managed to miss the point in a particularly 21st century sort of a way by conflating censorship and editorial decision-making.

Yes, of course RT has the right to broadcast whatever it wants within the limits of the law of the land. It is also, like other media organisations, constrained by its own ethical and editorial guidelines. And it has an internal decision-making team of producers, editors and managers whose job it is to make sure those guidelines are observed, that quality thresholds are met and whatever material is being produced is appropriate for the timeslot and context in which it is being broadcast.

All of this complex machinery is designed, in theory at least, to ensure that media companies may aspire to the publishing equivalent of Tom Waitss definition of a gentleman as someone who can play the accordion but doesnt. Good editorial judgment is often about recognising when to put the bloody accordion down before its too late.

That process clearly failed here, a fact RT acknowledged on Thursday of this week, when it published the findings of its own Editorial Board that the sketch had failed to comply with its own standards as well as with a number of legislative and regulatory requirements. The processes which led to the piece being broadcast will be reviewed, it has been removed from the Player and an apology will be published. To be fair, it's a clear and comprehensive acknowledgment of a serious lapse in standards. But its also legitimate for critics to ask whether such a failure of judgment reflects a lack of respect for that part of the population in this case, presumably, practising Christians most likely to be offended.

There is, of course, a certain wearisome pattern to these things. Everyone has their part to play the TDs railing against godless media types, the calls for unspecified but serious penalties against RT, the outraged letters to the editor so that it feels properly like the relevant Reeling in the Years clip from the 1970. But its four decades now since Ireland banned The Life of Brian, the bishops crozier has long lost its power and, to this atheists eye, the decision to broadcast the sketch looks less like a fearless commitment to satire and more like a gross failure of imagination and empathy.

Note: the print version of this article went to press beforeRT published the findings of its Editorial Board and announced the actions it wouldtake as a result of those findings. Thisdigital version has been amended to reflect those developments.

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RTs Waterford Whispers News sketch was woefully unfunny, crude and offensive - The Irish Times

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Kanimozhi: Our culture is different. They (BJP) cant create fear of other religions here. It wont work in TN polls – The Indian Express

Posted: at 10:07 am

The DMK leader talks about fighting polls without Karunanidhi, says DMK is at forefront of fighting BJPs polarising tactics in TN, claims Rajinikanth would not have been a factor, and rules out any tension with the Congress over seat-sharing talks. The session was moderated by National Editor (Mumbai) Nirupama Subramanian.

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: You have already started campaigning in the western and southern districts of Tamil Nadu. This will be the first Assembly election that the party will contest without your father and former DMK chief M Karunanidhi. How difficult will this election be for the party as you take on the AIADMK that has the BJPs support?

We have already faced the Lok Sabha election without him (M Karunanidhi), under the leadership of M K Stalin. He steered the party to an amazing victory. Except for one seat, Theni, we won everything else. The difference in votes between the winning and the losing candidates was in lakhs. So, I think we have already proven that we can win Our founding leaders have made sure that the core ideology of the party is very firm in the minds of the cadre and all the leaders It is well-established Our present leader has been in the party for many years, he knows how to guide us in these elections. We have faith in his leadership.

Of course, there are going to be challenges. The AIADMK is going to completely depend on money for votes. The BJP, we all know, never shies away from using anything to win an election. So that will be a challenge. They (the BJP) will use their usual techniques of polarising voters, bringing in religion, which has never happened in Tamil Nadu This is not just a challenge in these elections, it is a larger issue that the entire country has to deal with. The DMK will be at the forefront of working against it.

What I have seen during campaigning is that people are quite fed up with the AIADMK. They always give in to what the Centre wants, they never stand up for our rights. Take the farmers issue. Even though there are no protests in Tamil Nadu, when you speak to farmers individually, they feel very let down because of the AIADMK governments support to the farm Bills. People are disillusioned with the AIADMK government, and they believe that a DMK government is the answer Employment is a huge issue in these elections and when the DMK comes back to power we will bring in investments and industry so that there is more employment. Administration will also be much better under a DMK government.

LIZ MATHEW: So far it seems that in the Tamil Nadu elections you are going to follow the Bihar formula, where the DMK will contest together with the Congress and the Left. But giving the Congress more seats in Bihar didnt work very well for the Oppositions alliance. Will you keep that in mind during seat-sharing talks?

I dont think there will be any issue over allocation of seats. There is a good understanding between the leadership of the Congress and the DMK. We will be able to work around it (the seats) to everybodys satisfaction. Everybody understands that it is an important election for the state also.

LIZ MATHEW: The BJP was trying to woo superstar Rajinikanth. Will his decision to exit the poll fray before even entering it affect the BJPs prospects in the state?

Mr Rajinikanth has given a statement saying that he will not enter politics, and why it is not right and fair to do it now and get others involved and then let them down I dont know if they (the BJP) can find anybody on a par with him.

Also, even if he (Rajinikanth) had come into politics, I dont think it would have made a difference in this election.

P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: As somebody who has been a part of Tamil Nadu politics for many years, how do you look at the attempts at polarisation in the state that you mentioned? How does it impact the states secular fabric?

Fortunately, the BJP, at the most, tries to paint the DMK as an anti-Hindu party or something like that They havent been able to say anything against the minorities in Tamil Nadu. And, they also understand that even the Hindus in Tamil Nadu are not like that (communal). I think, even in Kerala, people will not accept divisions on religious lines. We have all lived together comfortably Even caste-wise There have been no issues in living with people from other religions, or a temple being built Its a different kind of culture here. People dont feel threatened. They are very comfortable. I dont think polarisation on religious lines would be a problem here They (the BJP) will not be able to create fear of other religions That is what they play with, and that will not work in Tamil Nadu.

P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: The BJP has found resonance among some sections in Tamil Nadu. Over the next five years, do you see the party emerging as an important player in the state?

They would want to become a prominent party (in Tamil Nadu), and it cannot be denied that they are working towards it. And, I cannot deny the fact that the BJP has more cadres and leaders now in the state. But I dont think it has had a significant growth that should worry us. They are working towards it And, despite all the confusion within the AIADMK, eventually they will be able to sort themselves out.

ARUN JANARDHANAN: The BJP seems to be working to a plan. They are trying to become the main opposition party in Kerala and Tamil Nadu by 2026. Do you see that happening? And, can you say that the DMK will never ally with the BJP in the future?

The DMK is one of the most vocal parties against many of the things that the BJP stands for. I dont see the possibility of an alliance with the BJP because we stand for two different things completely I really believe that in Tamil Nadu and Kerala politics, you cannot divide people on religious lines very easily.

ARUN JANARDHANAN: But do you think the BJP has made parties such as the DMK and the CPM in Kerala more careful while talking about religion?

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: Also, how do you respond to the charge by the BJP, and by many others on social media platforms, that the DMK is an atheist party in a state where people are quite religious. They are religious in a non-communal way, but people in Tamil Nadu are religious

Why should someone be charged for being an atheist? Its not a crime. Why should we defend it? I dont think there is a need to defend it. I am an atheist and I am very proud of it. The DMK has atheists, but our leader MKS (Stalin) has said that 90 per cent people in the party are Hindus also. So, it is not like the DMK is against Hindus. We have Muslims, we have Christians, agnostics and atheists. We are not saying that we are a Hindu party or an atheist party. When Anna (C N Annadurai) started the party he said there is one God, that God can be anything to anybody. Or, you dont have to have a God. I dont think we have to defend ourselves for being atheists.

(On being careful) They (the BJP) are saying that the CPM and the DMK are against the majority, so we have to give an explanation. We have to say that we are not against the majority. If we will fight for the Muslims, we will fight for the Hindus too The DMK does not want to take away the right to believe from anybody. But of course, we stand against the caste system, against untouchability, against anybody who takes away others rights on the basis of caste or religion. We believe in social justice. We are not saying everybody should become an atheist. We dont force it on anybody. Being an atheist also is not wrong in our party.

ARUN JANARDHANAN: Where do you place Kamal Haasan in Tamil Nadu politics, given that an alliance with his party doesnt seem likely?

With Kamal Haasan or without him, the DMK is winning this election. If Haasan wants to work with the DMK or the latter with him, it is a decision that the leadership has to make. We did very well in the Lok Sabha elections without any new additions to the alliance. So, who comes in and goes out is the party leaderships decision.

HARISH DAMODARAN: Do you think Tamil politics has gone beyond the Dravidian identity? Periyar (E V Ramaswamy) statue being vandalised would have been unimaginable once. Do you think the politics is now more conservative?

Periyars statue was vandalised because of the weak, backbone-less government that we have. The police should have taken action but they are scared to do so. But in one way, I think, attacking Periyar ideologically and even vandalising his statues it has brought in more youth who are interested in finding out about Periyar and his ideology. You can see on social media platforms that now there is a strong presence of people defending the Dravidian ideology. They are not a part of the AIADMK or DMK. So, I dont think it has become negotiable. People are doing it (defending the ideology) from the comforts of their homes on social media and not on the streets. That is the change. And, Covid-19 also has contributed to it.

Most of the exchange of ideas now happens on social media. And, its political parties like us who still take to the streets and meet people. Nobody is against learning another language, whether it is Hindi, Malayalam, German or anything We are saying dont impose a language on us. Dont take away our right to choose. You dont have to make the choice for us, whether we have to learn Hindi or Sanskrit. If people just want to learn only two languages, they have the right to choose I think we still believe in social justice. That is the core of the Dravidian ideology. I dont think we have moved away from that.

MANOJ CG: Do you think the Congress has failed to provide leadership for the Opposition at the national level?

All the opposition parties have to come together to work towards creating a strong Opposition. We cant expect only one party to do that I think it (the Opposition coming together at the national level) will happen as time passes by because it has not even been two years since the Lok Sabha elections. Parties are also concentrating on state elections. We have elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and in West Bengal As time goes by, the Opposition will come together more strongly and work out strategies on how to deal with the issues facing the nation.

AMRITH LAL: Tamil language and culture used to be a very important aspect of the Dravadian movement and Dravadian assertion. Now, increasingly, both the DMK and the AIADMK generally tend to speak more about governance. The emphasis on culture and language has reduced

When the Jallikattu protests happened, everyone asserted that it is an important part of our culture. So, nothing has changed when it comes to protecting our culture and language See, Tamil is not being threatened today. Even if the Central government and the BJP are trying to impose Hindi in different ways, Tamil (language) is in a very comfortable space. Its not being threatened in any way. There is no need to talk about preserving the language as such. If there is a threat to our culture and it has to be protected, its not just political parties the people also react The DMK has to talk about governance and development because we have had zero governance and development in the past 10 years.

VANDITA MISHRA: You said that religion doesnt play the same role in Tamil Nadu as it might in the northern states. But apart from religious mobilisation, the BJP puts a lot of energy into constantly manufacturing some kind of mobilisation among people on different issues. How can regional parties reinvent themselves to face this challenge?

The needs, the problems, the issues, everything changes, and every party has to keep reinventing and adapting to changes. That cannot be denied The DMK is a cadre-based party and we reach out to people directly. Now, of course, with modern technology, and we know that the BJP uses social media we also have to adopt social media to reach out. We have to make it part of our election process This is one thing we have to keep working at. This election, investment and employment are the most important issues in Tamil Nadu. We have to talk to people about it and give them the confidence that Tamil Nadu will be put back on the growth path.

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: The DMK is focusing a lot on womens rights in its campaign. After Jayalalithaas death, there is no big woman leader in Tamil Nadu politics. Do you see yourself taking that place?

Ive always taken up womens and human rights issues There is a need for more womens participation in politics, and that is why the DMK has been insisting on 33 per cent reservation for women I dont understand why the BJP, which made it a part of its manifesto, is refusing to bring it in.

I do see women coming in larger numbers for our election campaign because there are a lot of issues which have not been addressed. The self-help groups, for example, had created a solid base for many women, especially in rural areas, and enhanced their social participation. But because the SHGs are not getting loans and support from the government, they are not functioning as before. This has taken away empowerment from these women and they are quite disillusioned. It is a major issue in this election.

P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: In December 2018, Stalin had proposed Rahul Gandhi as the prime minister candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Since then, there has been a lot of confusion about the UPA alliance. Do UPA members meet?

The UPA in Tamil Nadu is very strong and we are working together. We do meet We shared the stage in support of the farmers protesting in Delhi. Our leader had invited leaders from all parties to come and be part of it. As far as Tamil Nadu goes, I dont think theres any confusion. We work together and there are regular meetings. At the national level, in Delhi, leaders meet when there is a need to When Parliament is in session, we have regular meetings about how we are going to respond to a Bill etc.

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: Recently, M K Stalins son Udhayanidhi Stalin was elevated to star campaigner. He has also become the secretary of the youth wing of the party. Are these signs of a leadership progression in the DMK?

I dont think we should be discussing leadership right now. We have a leader and everybody is focusing on his leadership. This whole election is about the DMK coming back to power. Our election campaign is completely focused on our CM candidate, M K Stalin.

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: The CBI has appealed against the acquittals in the 2G case. Will it become an issue in the election campaign?

We have all been acquitted. Nobody was convicted. The judge has very clearly said that there is no evidence How can they use this against the DMK?

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: Following Rajinikanths decision to not enter politics, do you think the space for film stars in politics has reduced?

I will not say that. Who you are, what you stand for, and what you are capable of is what is going to decide what you become in politics. Just because somebody is a popular star If youre talking about somebody like M G Ramachandran, he was not just a star. He came from the Dravidian movement and he worked for the DMK for many years. He had a base and that is what made him what he was. So, I will not say that no other film star can ever make it in politics You can come from any field but you will have to understand the kind of hard work that is needed. This doesnt happen overnight because you are a face which everybody likes or you have been popular in films. People may recognise you more than anybody else, but your face doesnt mean that people will accept you as a leader.

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Kanimozhi: Our culture is different. They (BJP) cant create fear of other religions here. It wont work in TN polls - The Indian Express

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