Religion Today Daily Headlines - January 15, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - January 15, 2013

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Stanford University Appoints Atheist 'Chaplain'
  • Fewer Americans View Homosexuality as a Sin
  • Hundreds of Thousands in Paris Protest Gay Marriage
  • 'Spiritual, Not Religious' People More Likely to Have Physical, Psychological Problems


Stanford University Appoints Atheist 'Chaplain'

Although it may sound like a contradiction in terms, Stanford University has appointed an atheist "chaplain" to serve its non-believing students, WORLD News Service reports. Stanford’s independent Humanist Community technically employs John Figdor, but he is an officially recognized chaplain under Stanford’s Office of Religious Life. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Harvard Divinity School graduate Figdor explains his work by saying that "atheist, agnostic and humanist students suffer the same problems as religious students — deaths or illnesses in the family, questions about the meaning of life, etc. — and would like a sympathetic nontheist to talk to." Scotty McLennan, dean for religious life at Stanford, eagerly welcomed Figdor as a campus chaplain, saying that the hire made sense because Stanford itself had been founded on inclusive principles. The Stanford family, who created the university in 1885, did explicitly prohibit the school from aligning with any particular denomination, but its founding grant also called for the university to teach students the doctrines of "the immortality of the soul, the existence of an all-wise and benevolent Creator, and that obedience to His laws is the highest duty of man." And the family established the campus' Memorial Church for nonsectarian worship, and so that "all those who love Our Lord Jesus Christ may partake of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper." Chapel attendance at Stanford has been voluntary.

Fewer Americans View Homosexuality as a Sin

Americans' acceptance of gays and lesbians is continuing to grow, with a new poll from LifeWay Research showing that just over a third of Americans view homosexuality as a sin, down from 44 percent a year earlier, the Religion News Service reports. "The culture is clearly shifting on homosexuality and this creates a whole new issue: How will America deal with a minority view, strongly held by evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and so many others?" said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. Stetzer said that Obama's own shift in embracing same-sex marriage and other gay rights in the past year may have played a role in the change in public opinion. LifeWay's survey in November found 37 percent said they believe homosexual behavior is a sin, down from 44 percent in September 2011. The percentage of Americans who do not believe homosexuality is a sin remained nearly the same, at 43 percent in September 2011 and 45 percent in November 2012. There was an increase in the percentage of those who said they were unsure of what they believe. Not surprisingly, the new survey found that those who identify as "born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian" are the most likely to say that homosexual behavior is a sin (73 percent). Conversely, those who never attend religious services are the most likely to say they do not believe homosexual behavior is a sin (71 percent).

Hundreds of Thousands in Paris Protest Gay Marriage

About 340,000 people converged on the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday to protest a proposed gay marriage law, CBN News reports. President Francois Hollande is planning to legalize same-sex marriage, but many of the country's Catholic bishops and other religious leaders are fighting the initiative. Public opinion appears to be moving in their favor -- a recent poll shows about 50 percent of French citizens support gay marriage, down from 65 percent in August. France has already legalized civil unions for same-sex couples, but the new law would give gay couples the right to adopt. Those in support of traditional values insist children should be raised by a mother and a father.

'Spiritual, Not Religious' People More Likely to Have Physical, Psychological Problems

British researchers say people who say they are "spiritual but not religious" are more likely to have a wide range of physical and psychological problems, WORLD News Service reports. Professor Michael King of University College London surveyed more than 7,400 people and divided them into categories. 35 percent described themselves as "religious," 46 percent described themselves as "neither religious nor spiritual," and 19 percent were in the "spiritual but not religious" category. According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, "Members of this final group were 77 percent more likely than the others to be dependent on drugs, 72 percent more likely to suffer from a phobia, and 50 percent more likely to have an anxiety disorder. They were also 40 percent more likely to be receiving treatment with psychotropic drugs, and at a 37 per cent higher risk of neurotic disorder."

Publication date: January 15, 2013