Last week, as though to console us for the passing of summer and to fortify us against the winter, the Church offers not one but two cheery celebrations, albeit ones that sit a little oddly in contemporary culture. On Tuesday last week, we had the feast of the three named archangels (Michael, Gabriel and Raphael) and on the Friday it was the turn of our guardian angels.
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In religious studies, students can either undertake a full course or a short course. The top results for full-course entries were slightly below the overall average, with 6 per cent achieving A or A* grades. In the short course, 8 per cent of students achieved an A or A*. To give an idea of the standard required, most examination boards require 80 per cent for an A grade and 90 per cent for an A*. The short course results in particular should be a cause for celebration.
How many Catholics in other countries will open their doors to refugees? A favorite pastime among Catholics is to declare what the pope should do. Lately, I've heard from a couple of people who thought Pope Francis should speak out about certain domestic situations in their countries.
In recent years we've come to think of atheism as an evangelical creed not unlike Christianity. An atheist, we tend to assume, is someone who thinks science should be the basis of our beliefs and tries to convert others to this view of things. In the type of atheism that's making the most noise today, religion is a primitive theory of how the world works - an intellectual error without human value, which we'd be better without.
Between 1933 and 1945, more than 300 Jewish artists took refuge in Britain: painters, sculptors, graphic artists and designers, several with established careers in Germany and Austria. Many were forced to flee after blacklisting by the Reichskulturkammer set up by Joseph Goebbels in 1933.
In a sense the Tunisian gunman Seifeddine Rezgui was Everyman. He was not known to be a particularly devout Muslim; an internet video shows this healthy young engineering student demonstrating his break-dancing; he wore a Real Madrid shirt. Yet he has murdered 38 innocent holidaymakers.
Several years ago, the movie Argo won the Academy award as the best movie of the year. I enjoyed the movie in that it was a good drama, one that held its audience in proper suspense even as it provided some good humor and banter on the side. But I struggled with several aspects of the film.
It was politically courageous of David Cameron, in the middle of an election campaign where controlling immigration was a key issue, to order the Royal Navy into action alongside the Italians and others to rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe.
Migration illustrates one of the signal features of modern life, which is malice by proxy. Like drones and derivatives, migration policy allows the powerful to inflict horrors on the powerless without getting their hands dirty.
The UK is preparing for a general election in May, and apathy is on the rise. The three main parties — Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats — are failing to inspire voters, especially the younger ones. They all seem to be pretty much the same. There’s a feeling that nothing will change whoever forms the new Government. The mood among voters, in other words, is sadly… “whatever.”
I don’t believe in the God that Stephen Fry doesn’t believe in either. There’s bravery in the entertainer’s imagined confrontation with God – but in describing it he shows that he misunderstands the nature of Christianity
“What would happen, if religious language were to be taken more seriously in secular Europe and the preventable deaths in the global South of millions from hunger and war was to be denounced as ‘blasphemy?’” Jürgen Habermas: the “substance of the human” can only be rescued by societies that “are able to introduce into the secular domain the essential contents of their religious traditions”
The assassination of journalists in Paris, beheadings by Islamic State and the enslavement of children by Boko Haram in Central Africa all draw justly shocked reactions. Less prominent in global media is the persecution of Christians and others by fundamentalist Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of Asia.
What if what separates us, what if what makes other persons, churches, and faiths seem foreign and strange is also a grace, a difference intended by God? Can we think of our differences, as we think of our unity, as a gift from God? Most religions, including Christianity, would answer affirmatively.
Christians make better humanists. That could be the top line of a report just out from the thinktank Theos. And I suspect the timing – just in time for Christmas – is no coincidence. After all, the story of God becoming a human being is one of the deep wellsprings of European humanism.
It’s no secret that today there’s been a massive drop-off in church attendance. Moreover that drop-off in church-going is not paralleled by the same widespread growth in atheism and agnosticism. Rather, more and more people are claiming to be spiritual but not religious, faith-filled but not church-goers. Why this exodus from our churches?
Catholic beliefs have long been challenged by that elite triumvirate of academia, media and government. Today, many of us are also finding our beliefs challenged in our daily lives — in our professional careers, our parenting and how we live.
The Big Bang theory and evolution do not eliminate the existence of God, who remains the one who set all of creation into motion, Pope Francis told his own science academy. And God's existence does not contradict the discoveries of science, he told members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Oct. 27.
A lot more discussion and reflection are needed before the synod of bishops comes up with concrete proposals next year. What matters is that the pastoral is being brought to bear on the doctrinal: the church has decided to live in that tension. It’s a lot less tidy, but a lot more holy.