Religion Today Summaries - May 9, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 9, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Creationism Dismissed as 'A Kind of Paganism' by Vatican's Astronomer
  • Divinity Students, Inmates Find Knowledge Behind Bars
  • Animists in Southwestern Nigeria Attack Anglican Church
  • Man May Have Caused Pre-historic Extinctions

Creationism Dismissed as 'A Kind of Paganism' by Vatican's Astronomer

One of the Catholic church’s leading astronomers, Guy Consolmagno, is taking aim at the belief that God created the universe in six literal days. In a report on Science & Theology news, Ian Johnston of The Scotsman newspaper reports: Brother Consolmagno said a "destructive myth" had developed that religion and science were competing ideologies. He described creationism as a "kind of paganism" because it harked back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events. Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods. "Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition... And science needs religion in order to have a conscience," Consolmagno said.

Divinity Students, Inmates Find Knowledge Behind Bars

Vanderbilt University's 'Writing About Religion' class is being held at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, home to Tennessee's death row. An AP story appearing on The Christian Post reports how inmates and Vanderbilt students sit together and immerse themselves in passages from Matthew, discuss the meaning of faith, and debate the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. The class meets once a week, on wooden chairs moved into a circle. "All the great men went to prison, the way I see it - Jesus, Paul and John the Baptist," said 35-year-old inmate Rahim Buford, who was sentenced to life at 18. "If you want to find out who you are, you have to be confined in some way." The program began three years ago with faculty members volunteering their time to introduce divinity students to the growing number of people who seek religion behind bars. For some inmates who have no expectations of ever living outside of Riverbend's prison walls, the classes represent a precious moment of freedom. "It's an opportunity to deal with the loneliness. These classes have probably saved my life," said inmate Tom Warren, 47.

Animists in Southwestern Nigeria Attack Anglican Church

Traditional animists attacked churches in Ode-Aye town, in the southwestern state of Ondo in February and March, beating two Anglican priests into comas and destroying church property worth an estimated 6 million naira (US $48,831). The Rev. Joshua Ogunele, Anglican bishop of the Diocese on the Coast of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, told Compass Direct that followers of native religions attacked the St. Christopher Anglican Church along with other nearby churches. The church’s priests, the Rev. Chris Adetula and the Rev. Oladejo Luji, nearly lost their lives, he said. During their annual Okute festival, adherents of the native religion had imposed a 21-day ban on Christian worship, especially use of drums. The Ondo State High Court in 1988 ruled the imposition of the ban on non-adherents of the traditional religion was “frivolous and vexatious.”

Man May Have Caused Pre-historic Extinctions

New research shows that pre-historic horses in Alaska may have been hunted into extinction by man, rather than by climate change as previously thought. Spero News reports that the discovery is being published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers have discovered that uncertainties in dating fossil remains and the incompleteness of fossil records mean that the survival of the caballoid horse beyond the arrival of humans cannot be ruled out. The paper's aim is to provide a more accurate timetable for the extinction of caballoid horses and mammoths and, ultimately, the cause. "This research is exciting because it throws open the debate as to whether climate change or over-hunting may have led to the extinction of pre-historic horses in North America," said the University of East Anglia's Karen Robbirt. It is known that the end of the Pleistocene period was a time of large-scale extinctions in North America and elsewhere, but the factors responsible have remained open to question, with climate change and over-hunting by humans the prime suspects.