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Religion, Lately: Hug an Atheist trailer, evangelical sea-change in the making, and a spell for keeping Syria safe from American bombs

Religion, Lately: Hug an Atheist trailer, evangelical sea-change in the making, and a spell for keeping Syria safe from American bombs

By Kenny Smith…..While the great state of Massachusetts considers atheist challenges to the 1954 Hug an atheist dayinclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, a forthcoming documentary tells sympathetically of the daily lives (some might say, “lived religion”) of American atheists. Check out the trailer forHug an Atheist as well as an interview with the film maker. In the millionth round of religion v. atheism, famed sociologist of religion, Rodney Stark, weighs in on the side of religion, though of course the reality is more complex.

Religion Lately: Dress Codes, Betting on the Next Pope, Demon Sweaters, and Palestinian-Only Bus Lines

Religion Lately: Dress Codes, Betting on the Next Pope, Demon Sweaters, and Palestinian-Only Bus Lines

By Heather Abraham…..A heads up to all thrift store shoppers—you may need to find a dry cleaner who can remove demons from slightly used clothing. According to Pat Robertson, there is a slight chance that a great find at a thrift store may be home to demonic entities. I wonder? If demons can attach themselves to clothing trough human touch, do we have to worry about demons at the manufacturing level? If so, demon removal may be a great business venture.

Religion Lately: Jedi Training Camps and Marian Visions in Texas, Gay-ing Dead Mormons, & St. Valentine was a Pagan Too?

Religion Lately: Jedi Training Camps and Marian Visions in Texas, Gay-ing Dead Mormons, & St. Valentine was a Pagan Too?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
In Austin, Texas, yet another “Jedi Camp” offers training for youngsters. In San Francisco, adult Jedi demonstrate advanced light-saber fighting skills. Exactly how much Jedi-based social production does it take to constitute a “religious movement,” anyway?
Down the road in Houston, neighbors continue to bring devotional offerings to an oak tree in one man’s yard, in which they claim to see the Virgin Mary. Fortunately, said resident has no plans to take the tree down and violate their religious freedom to come onto his property.

Religion Lately: Uller Fest, Atheist Religion , & Tim Tebow, Harbinger of Doom?

Religion Lately: Uller Fest, Atheist Religion , & Tim Tebow, Harbinger of Doom?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
In Breckenridge, CO., the town council passed a resolution allowing public consumption of alcoholic beverages for “Uller Fest,” a day-long celebration, complete with a bonfire, dedicated to Uller, the Norse god of snow. Despite the positive effects of popular TV series such as Big Love, the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” Jon Huntsman’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential bids, and a national public relations campaign, concerns have grown among Mormons about those who grow up and leave the church, as well as the inability to control information about LDS history (e.g., that Joseph Smith was a polygamist and defended this practice as divinely mandated). Mormons make up approximately 2% of the American population and nearly half feel that they are discriminated against on religious grounds, though are nonetheless optimistic about their future.

Religion Lately: Transhumanism, Rise of the “Preppers,” & Apocalypse Tomorrow, Surf Now!

Religion Lately: Transhumanism, Rise of the “Preppers,” & Apocalypse Tomorrow, Surf Now!

Kenny Smith….
Unsatisfied with an average lifespan of 70 odd years? Consider the emerging tradition of Transhumanism which seeks to convince traditional religions to open their minds (and souls) to fusion with the technological. See, for example, “The Cyborg Buddha,” which explores the possibility that the goals of Buddhism (freedom from suffering) might well by grafting organic and technological components in a new and improved humankind. Yes, they’re serious.

Religion Lately: Extraterrestrial Christs and Jedi Blues, Salem Witches Counter Tebow-Magic, Domestic-Violence Video Games

Religion Lately: Extraterrestrial Christs and Jedi Blues, Salem Witches Counter Tebow-Magic, Domestic-Violence Video Games

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
For Christ-figures blended with the extraterrestrial, technological, and trans-human, check out the following link. Star Visitor theology, anyone? A journalist ponders the odds of extraterrestrial encounters, arguing that UFO-based religions require as much faith as any other…..A day in the life of a lazy Jedi….. Rev. Ed Young’s “24-hour live streaming online bed-in,” in which he and his wife discussed healthy Christian marriage and sex, ended in a minor eye injury. With Young’s recent “sexperiment,” Marc Driscol’s new book about Christian sex, and a thriving Christian sex toy industry, some believe that Evangelicals have become overly preoccupied with the topic.

Religion Lately: Rise of the New Evangelicals, Star Seed Possibilities, Perfect End-Times Beverage, & The Roof-Top Sex-Preacher

Religion Lately: Rise of the New Evangelicals, Star Seed Possibilities, Perfect End-Times Beverage, & The Roof-Top Sex-Preacher

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Imagine Evangelical Christians who reject militarism, consumerism, and cultural triumphalism, in favor of social justice, environmentalism, and religious reconciliation with other faiths. They might represent the coming norm. If so, will these new Evangelicals distance themselves from religion? The future may be a ways off yet, as recent studies of American ministers note one major area of disagreement prevails: not creationism, nor the belief in the literal truth of the Bible, but whether or not the earth is 6,000 years old.

Religion Lately: The Religion of File Sharing, Sex Toys for All the Abrahamic Faiths, the Rise of the So-What’s?

Religion Lately: The Religion of File Sharing, Sex Toys for All the Abrahamic Faiths, the Rise of the So-What’s?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Do you think that information is holy, and that the practice of sharing it is tantamount to an act religious worship? If so, the new religion of Kopimism, whose holy symbols are those that suggest a desire to copy or be copied (e.g., “CTRL+C”), may be just what you’re looking for. According to the good news of Kopimism, all file-sharing should be made legal and copyright laws abolished, as both inhibit the free expression of religion.

It’s not just Evangelical Christians who are enjoying religiously approved sex toys at websites such as “holy hooking up,” but also Orthodox Jews and Muslims in search of Kosher and Halal “marital aids.

Religion Lately: Atheists v. Pagans, Jesus Toasters, & “Sin-Free” Egyptian Vacays

Religion Lately: Atheists v. Pagans, Jesus Toasters, & “Sin-Free” Egyptian Vacays

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Atheist bloggers turned out in force for a record-setting $180,000 in donations for Doctors Without Borders, to which some Christians replied “thank God!” While fighting Christianity, Atheists wonder whether they should be fighting Wiccans and Neo-Pagans as well. They are, after all, religious. In Santa Monica, CA., where a lottery determined who would have access to “vandal-proof, cage-like areas surrounded by chain-link fencing” in which to place their public holiday displays, Atheists won 18 of 21 such spaces, with just two going to a coalition of churches, and one to a Jewish group.

Religion Lately: Disappointingly Tame Atheist Billboards, Christmas and Politics, Atheists In Church, and the Gingrinch Who Stole Christmas

Religion Lately: Disappointingly Tame Atheist Billboards, Christmas and Politics, Atheists In Church, and the Gingrinch Who Stole Christmas

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Whereas last year’s atheist billboard at the Lincoln Tunnel, NJ was said to be overly direct (it told you that Christian stories were myths), this year’s is said to be so tame (they ask you whether they seem like myths to you), that Catholic leaders are not responding with a counter billboard of their own. Don’t worry, a new and much more offensive billboard is in the works! One Christmas display that did provoke controversy was a crucified Santa skeleton. Atheists serving in the US military are starting to ask for, and may soon demand, atheist and humanist chaplains for their foxholes!

Religion Lately: Early Nativity Wars, Jedi and Sith Marry & Which Religion Is The Most Fun?

Religion Lately: Early Nativity Wars, Jedi and Sith Marry & Which Religion Is The Most Fun?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
As we approach the end of the year holidays, Public Display Wars are already begun, with one Virginia county offering public space to the first ten groups/persons to apply. An interesting solution. The result? As one frustrated blogger writes, “Christmas displays gone mad”: a traditional nativity scene, a sign calling Christian figures “myths” another advertising for the American Atheist League, a cryptic holiday display of the “Tree of Knowledge,” a letter dictated Jesus himself submitted by a local resident, a crucified Santa Claus, and two signs from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Religion Lately: HolySmoke.com, Jedi Rise in Hungary, The “Real Hogwarts” & Judgment Day Approaches (again)

Religion Lately: HolySmoke.com, Jedi Rise in Hungary, The “Real Hogwarts” & Judgment Day Approaches (again)

By Kenny Smith….
Holy Smoke.com, a company owned and operated by “good Christians, with good moral values… offers to load the cremains [cremated remains] of customers into shotgun shells, rifle cartridges and bullets,” from which they may then be fired by fellow hunters and gun-enthusiasts. “I will rest in peace,” one company spokesperson said, “knowing that the last thing that turkey will see is me screaming at him at about 900 feet per second.” Discounts are available for the military, police and firemen. Yes, they’re serious. Some conservative Christian fear a rise in vampire and werewolf-related crime in light of films such as Twighlight.

Religion Lately: Scientology’s Super-Power Building, Celebrity Vampires Outed, Obama as Anti-Christ (again), and American “Moneytheism”

Religion Lately: Scientology’s Super-Power Building, Celebrity Vampires Outed, Obama as Anti-Christ (again), and American “Moneytheism”

By Kenny Smith….
The Church of Scientology’s ($90 million) Super Power Building, which some describe as “a bizarre cross between a Mediterranean-style hotel and the Starship Enterprise,” offers some “889 rooms, an indoor running track and NASA-style training equipment,” where devotees will master super-human abilities, opens later this year. While it’s unclear how Vampire Churches (yes, they exist) will react, apparently both John Travolta and Nicholas Cage are vampires dating back at least to the Civil War, and photographs (now for sale on EBay for some $50,000, though with free gift wrapping and shipping) prove it!

Religion Lately: Mabon Celebrations, More Teavangelicals, Ugly Atheists, and the Machine Gun Preacher

Religion Lately: Mabon Celebrations, More Teavangelicals, Ugly Atheists, and the Machine Gun Preacher

By Kenny Smith and Heather Abraham…..
Wiccans and Neo-Pagans of all sorts celebrate Mabon this September 23 (or there about), a celebration of the fall harvest and the Autumn Equinox, a day in which the hours of day and night are perfectly balanced, and just one day after the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! Looking for a primer on Wiccan/Pagan holidays? Rob Bell, the controversial Christian minister whose book, Love Wins, published earlier this year questions some basic conservative ideas, for instance, that heaven is not a Christians-only club, strikes out on his own. Elsewhere in Christendom, one Southern Baptist leader argues that state executions are “pro-life.”