I’ve visited this issue earlier; even quoted Teddy Roosevelt’s warning, that “…the one absolute certainty of bringing this nation to ruin, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.”  I might have left the matter there, if the “This is a Christian nation!...” claque hadn’t decided to intensify their contention several decibels louder than before.  What seems to have gotten them steamed up now,  is a complaint from a Jewish person and an Atheist, both of whom took issue over having to sit through public prayer sessions before their Town Council’s meetings (the council being an all-Christian one) and pushed their complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Court, citing other instances of pre-meeting prayer by higher government units, allowed as how something similar, at the local level, wouldn’t be that bad to sit through and said so in writing, which emboldened the ‘pro-Christian-Nation choir’ to add heft to their chant.


  Chris Stedman, the author of the acclaimed autobiography, Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, will be speaking at the Sunday, May 11th meeting of the Capital District Humanist Society in Albany. His topic will be “Can Atheists and Theists Coexist Peacefully?”

Stedman’s presentation is free and open to the general public. More information can be found on the CDHS website.

    Rachel Urquhart's debut novel, The Visionist, is based in real life: the Visionists were young Shaker girls who began to suffer mysterious fits, thought to be in communication with the spirit world.

The Visionist tells the story of 15-year old Polly Kimball who kills her abusive father in a fire. Her mother leads them to seek shelter in The City of Hope, a nearby shaker Settlement. She is anointed a visionist upon her arrival, where she is - by turns - worshipped and questioned.

    In Living With A Wild God, Barbara Ehrenreich reconstructs her childhood mission, bringing an older woman's wry and erudite perspective to a young girl's impassioned obsession with the questions that, at one point or another, torment us all.

Ehrenreich is the New York Times bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed.

  Former President Jimmy Carter has written his 28th book: A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.

He writes about his concern that for political or religious reasons, more females have been murdered worldwide than all of the people who have died in every war during that same span of time.

Wikimedia Commons / Cy White

New York City's Cardinal Timothy Dolan and bishops around the state lobbied Tuesday in Albany for a tax credit that would help Catholic schools.

Dolan and the bishops met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to advocate for a new tax credit for charitable donations made for educational purposes. The legislation would eventually add up to $300 million a year for education, with half going to public school programs and half going to scholarships for students who attend private schools.

The state Senate has previously approved a bill with the investment tax credit.

People have an affinity for things.

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Brent Plate, visiting associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College, examines how objects can have a rich personal significance.

Moving from New York City to Raleigh, North Carolina upon ordination was my first serious foray out of a somewhat insular northeastern cocoon and into “real” America.  I was not exactly sheltered until then. I grew up in an ethnically diverse Queens neighborhood, and the inner city public high school I attended was a testing ground for class and racial coexistence.  Still, I thought I knew what difference was until I discovered how different difference could be in the same country, less than five hundred miles south of where I grew up.  The Raleigh and East Carolinas that I remember from the early nineteen nineties were a study in contrasts.  The city is part of an urban powerhouse of cosmopolitanism that attracts people and businesses from all over the world.  Yet it also boasts some of the world’s most rigidly conservative churches and it sits in the midst of the American tobacco farming industry, a very traditionalist, hierarchical culture.

   Do “angels” exist? If so, are they heaven-sent or products of the human brain? After the publication of the bestseller The Third Man Factor, which examined the phenomenon of explorers who found themselves at the edge of death and experienced a benevolent presence that led them out of the impossible, John Geiger was inundated with firsthand accounts from people who had the same experience—a vivid presence that aided them as they faced crises ranging from physical and sexual assaults to automobile accidents, airplane crashes, serious illness, childbirth, and depression.

His new book, The Angel Effect, examines this phenomenon, and Geiger argues that it has the potential to aid us, even to save us, and asks whether it is a trainable skill.

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Religious news figured prominently in the headlines during 2013.   The world was shocked in February 2013, when Benedict became the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. Fast forward nine months: Benedict's successor, the Argentine Pope Francis, was named Time Magazine's "person of the year." Not bad for a fellow who once upon at time worked as a bouncer!