*Atheism on the Rise

Religiosity is on the decline in the U.S. and atheism is on the rise, according to a new worldwide poll, the Religion News Service reports. The poll, called “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 (the last time the poll was conducted) to 60 percent. At the same time, the number of Americans who say they are atheists rose from 1 percent to 5 percent. “The obvious implications is that this is a manifestation of the New Atheism movement,” said Ryan Cragun, a University of Tampa sociologist of religion who studies American and global atheism. Still, Cragun does not believe the poll shows more people are becoming atheists, but rather that more people are willing to identify as atheists. “For a very long time, religiosity has been a central characteristic of the American identity,” he said. “But what this suggests is that is changing and people are feeling less inclined to identify as religious to comply with what it means to be a good person in the U.S.” (Religion Today, August 16, 2012)

Misplaced *Trust, *Responsibility

What if we held weather forecasters responsible for their errant predictions?

Human fallibility as well as the limitations of geophysical science were set aside in a 13-month long trial in Italy. On October 22, six Italian scientists and an ex-government official were sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L’Aquila. A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.

Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defense maintained there was no way to predict major quakes. The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people.

Many smaller tremors had rattled the area in the months before the quake that destroyed much of the historic center. It took Judge Marco Billi slightly more than four hours to reach the verdict in the trial, which had begun in September 2011.

From Oct 22, 2012 BBC online [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20025626]


*Courage, *Unity, *Suffering

In the summer of 1994, as the frenzy of Rwanda’s 100-day genocide neared its end, a number of the Interahamwe (the pro-Hutu youth militia responsible for most of the estimated one million massacred Rwandans), crossed the boarder to hide in Congo. A few years later, these paramilitary fighters came back into Rwanda to complete their “unfinished business.” They conducted vigilante raids to kill Tutsi and claim loyalty from Hutu survivors.

In the small town of Nyange in western Rwanda, on the cold, rainy evening of March 18, 1997, shortly after dinner, but before returning to their dormitories, a number of St. Joseph’s Secondary School students gathered to study for their exams.

Suddenly, a group of Interahamwe insurgents attacked the unassuming campus. The night watchman—campus security—was executed. Immediately following his murder, 27 students were forced into a classroom and ordered to separate—Tutsis on one side, Hutu on the other. But the students refused to separate themselves.

In a courageous act of solidarity, the students refused to save their own lives by identifying the differences among them. Instead they stood in solidarity with their Tutsi friends.

Chantal Mujawamahoro—a 21-year-old Hutu was the first to lay down her life for her fellow students. Her name literally means “maiden of peace.” She bravely stood up to the attackers and proclaimed, “We do not have Hutus or Tutsis here. We are all Rwandans.”

They shot her in the head. Killing her at her desk.

One by one six more students were assassinated in front of their classmates.

Despite the impending slaughter, the young group of students remained determined to stand in unity—undivided in their identity as one.

Rather than wasting bullets, the infiltrators rounded up the surviving students and threw grenades into their classroom—the young people were left for dead. But most survived—each of them mutilated, many having lost limbs or other body parts, some left blinded.

I recently visited their campus and as I listened to their stories, as I heard their testimony of unity, I was inspired and convicted. Their bodies were broken, but they represented wholeness. My mind went to the Church. I saw in these students a totem—an image—of the body of Christ, unified and whole. And, for me, it painted a stark contrast with the disunity and brokenness I’ve witnessed and experienced—and even contributed to—in the Church.

Their disfigured and wounded bodies stand today as an indictment to the fractured body of Christ. [Christopher Heuertz, Q – http://www.qideas.org/blog/we-are-all-rwandans.aspx]

*Battle, *Addiction, *Freedom

In 1941, Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda was sent to a small US-occupied island in the Philippines with orders to do all he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island. He linked up with a group of soldiers already stationed there, but within a month, all but four of the men had been killed in battle. Hiroo and the others took the hills.

In 1945 they began seeing pamphlets stating the war had ended, but Onoda dismissed them as propaganda. In the following few years, the others surrendered or died one by one, but Onoda held his position, even continued his guerilla activities … until 1974.

Onoda finally met a college dropout named Suzuki backpacking in the island who explained to him the war had ended. Still, the dedicated soldier was reluctant to believe. Finally, his former commanding officer — long since retired — flew to the island and gave Onoda his orders to lay down his arms.

Like Lt. Onoda, many are unnecessarily fighting a war that has long since been won. The wrong war. This is not the battle we’ve been called to, it’s the battle we’ve been saved from. And we’re not engaged in combat because of honor, but because of pride and disbelief.

Before Jesus breathed his final breath, he cried out “It is finished.” Maybe some within the sound of his voice thought he was talking about his own life, or maybe they thought he was talking about the future of his following … but the truth is that he was talking about the power of sin and death. Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. And at that moment death was swallowed in victory; the cost of our freedom was paid in full.

Like the pamphlets that arrived on that tiny Philippine island, we have heard about our liberation — but we refuse to believe it. It’s too good to be true. We stubbornly stay in the fight, and we lose battle after battle — the same battles he has already won.

It is finished, he said. Sin. Death. Guilt. Regret. Sin. Despair. Isolation. And did I mention sin? These are all swallowed up in the victory of the cross and his powerful resurrection.

His work is finished, he has rested. And he is inviting us now to rest in him. [From Preaching Life; aboutsunday@aboutsunday.com]

*Potential, *Faith

Nearly 90 years ago in the dry, hardscrabble land of West Texas was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Ira Yates. He couldn’t make enough money from his ranching operation to pay the mortgage or the taxes and was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes or food, his family, like many others, lived on government subsidy.

One day Ira Yates heard about an oil company exploring the area, and he invited them to see what his land might have. At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day (around $5.3 million per day in today’s prices). Within three years multiple wells on his land produced 41 million barrels per year. Still today there are over 360 productive oil wells on his property.

The day Ira Yates purchased the land he received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he was living in poverty, barely subsisting on welfare. A multi-millionaire living in poverty! The problem? He didn’t know the oil was there. He owned it, but he did not possess it. [Source unknown]