$10 fee proposed for filing state tax returns. Unbelievable!
Daily Archives: February 20, 2009
As I read celebrity atheist Christopher Hitchens’s recent Newsweek attack on the pope in particular and Roman Catholicism in general, I remembered an incident that happened when I was in the U.K. in early January. Walking out of London’s Victoria Station, I was stopped by a TV reporter who asked me what I thought about the British atheists’ newest ad campaign. It was one of those typical man-in-the-street interviews, with a reporter and a cameraman buttonholing passersby to find a snappy quote for the evening news.
In England, which has long been a cultural template for the U.S., the atheists, after years of calling themselves humanists, have finally come out of the closet. With strong support from the renowned Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins, the new campaign has splashed an ad on the side of 800 British buses proclaiming, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Immediately following the ads came an announcement from the BBC early last month that it would add atheists to the list of various people of faith who are invited to offer the three-minute “Thought for the Day” on the influential Radio 4.
Britain has actually recognized atheism for some time now. As a country with an officially established church, it requires all its state primary schools to include religious-education classes. The classes often reflect the ethnic and religious composition of the schools’ surrounding neighborhoods, so that those in heavily Muslim or Hindu communities will focus largely on non-Western religious traditions. Yet one mandate of all these classes involves introducing students to religious diversity and pluralism rather than teaching any specific dogma. In 2004, the government decided that pluralism requires that all schools include some instruction on atheism.
Digital podcasts and streaming video might bring Christian audiences inspirational messages in the future, but they aren’t bringing in the cash that broadcast ministries need to weather a painful economy.
To make ends meet, religious broadcasters are tightening their belts and going back to basics. That means sticking with time-tested formulas, postponing innovations and counting on loyal (largely senior) audiences to keep donating even when it hurts.
Figures from the Church of England released today show further evidence that, while some trends in churchgoing continue to change, the overall number of people regularly attending church has altered little since the turn of the millennium. The 2007 figures confirm that attending a Church of England church (including cathedrals) is part of a typical week for some 1.2 million people.
The Rt. Rev. Keith Whitmore has agreed to serve as consulting bishop to the reorganizing Episcopal Diocese of Quincy in the period prior to a special synod at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Peoria, Ill., on April 4.
The reorganizing synod became necessary after a majority of clergy and lay delegates voted last November to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church. The Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, resigned Nov. 1, six days before the synod convened.
A two-year-old church property dispute between Episcopalians and Anglicans appears to be on its way to the Virginia Supreme Court.
On Feb. 3, The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia together filed an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court hoping to overturn a Dec. 19 decision by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows in favor of the Anglican District of Virginia, known as ADV.
On Feb. 10, the Episcopal appeal was followed by a motion asking for an exception to the Supreme Court’s limit of 35 pages in appeal cases.
The belief of the resurrection of our Lord from the dead, and of His ascension into heaven, has strengthened our faith by adding a great buttress of hope. For it clearly shows how freely He laid down His life for us when He had it in His power thus to take it up again. With what assurance, then, is the hope of believers animated, when they reflect how great He was who suffered so great things for them while they were still in unbelief! And when men look for Him to come from heaven as the judge of quick and dead, it strikes great terror into the careless, so that they betake themselves to diligent preparation, and learn by holy living to long for His approach, instead of quaking at it on account of their evil deeds. And what tongue can tell, or what imagination can conceive, the reward He will bestow at the last, when we consider that for our comfort in this earthly journey He has given us so freely of His Spirit, that in the adversities of this life we may retain our confidence in, and love for, Him whom as yet we see not; and that He has also given to each gifts suitable for the building up of His Church, that we may do what He points out as right to be done, not only without a murmur, but even with delight?
”“Saint Augustine, On Christian Doctrine
US banking shares hit their lowest level since 1992 on Thursday as fears mounted that the government would be forced to nationalise a key institution.
Further heavy selling of key names ”“ Bank of America and Citigroup were once again among the worst performing, down 14 per cent to $3.93 and 13.8 per cent to $2.51, respectively ”“ helped push the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its lowest level in six years.
Shares in several regional banks also sustained heavy losses as the S&P financial index dropped 5.2 per cent to its lowest level since 1995.
“Every time someone mentions the word [nationalisation] then investors shiver ”“ and with good reason,” said Marc Pado, chief market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. “There’s a lot of angst over what [US Treasury Secretary] Geithner’s going to propose.”
The launch of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies ”“ which the founders have agreed to shorten to the abbreviated AHS ”“ is the latest in a series of pro-secular movements that have sprung up to oppose what they believe is a growing pandering towards religious groups.
With scientists and rationalists celebrating the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth this year, the timing is more than apt. But the creation of this latest manifestation of atheism reveals a renaissance over the past three years for secular and humanist ideals that began with Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion and only recently manifested itself in the popular atheist bus campaign, in which double deckers carried the message: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
There was once a time when those ideals were, of course, commonplace. Two centuries ago, progressive intellectuals of the post-Enlightenment age were all too happy to predict the end of religion, that the triumph of science and reason would win out and that man would turn away from God. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, meanwhile, student atheist groups were a vibrant and influential part of university life. Thinking the battle had been won, they largely died out two decades ago .
But, as religious conflict spreads once again throughout the world, throwing the Western world into a so-called clash of civilisations with radical Islam, the time is ripe, according to secularists, for a new religion ”“ a live-and-let-live brand of soft atheism.
In order to lift restrictions on gay clergy, the assembly must approve each of the following resolutions before the next could be
— That the ECLA is committed to allowing congregations and synods to recognize and support “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”
— That the ELCA is committed to finding a way for people in such relationships to serve as clergy in the church.
— That the ELCA agrees to “respect the bound consciences” of churchmembers who disagree on the issue.
— The ELCA must agree to remove the blanket ban on partnered gay clergy.
Task Force leaders said the church must deal with underlying issues — how it feels about gay relationships and the lack of consensus in the church — before it can amend its rules.
I was going to begin this column with a 13-year-old Chadian boy crippled by a bullet in his left knee, but my hunch is that you might be more interested in hearing about another person on the river bank beside the boy: George Clooney.
Clooney flew in with me to the little town of Dogdore, along the border with Darfur, Sudan, to see how the region is faring six years after the Darfur genocide began. Clooney figured that since cameras follow him everywhere, he might as well redirect some of that spotlight to people who need it more.
It didn’t work perfectly: No paparazzi showed up. But, hey, it has kept you reading at least this far into yet another hand-wringing column about Darfur, hasn’t it?
So I’ll tell you what. You read my columns about Darfur from this trip, and I’ll give you the scoop on every one of Clooney’s wild romances and motorcycle accidents in this remote nook of Africa. You’ll read it here, way before The National Enquirer has it, but only if you wade through paragraphs of genocide.
The Darfur conflict has now lasted longer than World War II, but this year could be a turning point – provided that President Barack Obama shows leadership and that the world backs up the International Criminal Court’s expected arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
The holding companies seem to have invested most of their TARP money in their other businesses or else retained the option to do so by keeping it in deposit accounts, even as the capital of their banks decreased. At the same time the banks, which provide the majority of loans to large corporate borrowers, drastically reduced lending to new borrowers.
It’s easy to see why holding companies would withhold capital from their troubled banks. If a bank is insolvent – as many are now believed to be – and the government has to take it over, the holding company loses any capital it gave to the bank. Rather than take that risk, the holding company can opt to spend its money elsewhere, perhaps on trading of its own.
But this is not a good use of scarce capital. We might end up with too much of this proprietary trading and too little lending. It also means that when it comes time to recapitalize banks there is a bigger hole to fill, and when banks fail there is less capital available to meet the government’s obligations to insured depositors and other creditors.
Keeping money at the holding company may benefit its shareholders, but it is costly for taxpayers.
Bailouts, at the very least, should reach their target.