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End-of-world dates mistaken (and other news)

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Thanks to the Free Press, there's a page in this newspaper about faith every week. But there's a lot more going on in the world of religion. Here's a quick look at some interesting items from the past couple of months.

Harold Camping admits he was wrong

After spending an enormous amount of money to warn people the world was ending on May 21 last year, then changing his prediction to Oct. 21, Harold Camping admits he has no idea when the world will end.

"We realize that many people are hoping they will know THE date of Christ's return," Camping wrote in a letter posted on his ministry's website. "We humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing."

The 90-year-old Camping says he is finished looking for new dates for when the world will end and intends to concentrate on deepening his faith through rereading the Scriptures.

"We must also openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world," he stated. "Though many dates are circulating, (we have) no interest in even considering another date."

Double standard in reporting about Afghanistan?

Why is it when a Muslim goes on a murder spree in a place such as Afghanistan he is called a terrorist in the media, but when an American soldier does the same thing, he is portrayed as a troubled individual?

That's what Omar Salfi wants to know. In a blog on Religion News Service, Salfi wondered why it is that when an Americans kills people, "it is portrayed as an aberration," but when a Muslim kills it is "covered as a signal of a communal, global genocidal tendency."

What we should be doing, Salfi says, is affirming that "the life of each and every person in the world, civilian or military, American, Afghani, Palestinian, Israeli, Iraqi, Iranian, male or female, rich or poor, gay or straight, carries exactly and identically the same intrinsic value... all human lives are sacred, all are sacrosanct. And all violations of human lives are equally morally repugnant."

Christianity declining in Great Britain

Christianity is waning in Great Britain and could be outnumbered by non-believers by 2032.

That's the finding of a study carried out by the Office for National Statistics titled Religion in Great Britain. According to the study, the number of Christians in that country has declined eight per cent since 2004 to 41 million, while the number of non-believers is up 49 per cent, to 13.4 million, over the same period.

"If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year, the number of people with no religion will overtake the number of Christians in Great Britain in 20 years," the study said.

Churches foreclosed

It's not only homeowners in the U.S. who are in financial trouble -- churches have defaulted on their mortgages, too.

Since 2010, 270 U.S. churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.

The church foreclosures have hit all denominations across America. Most of these buildings ended up being purchased by other churches.

Jimmy Carter leaves the Southern Baptist Church over its treatment of women

After more than 60 years as a member of the Southern Baptist Church, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has announced he has left that denomination over its treatment of women.

Carter, 88, called his decision "unavoidable" after Southern Baptist leaders said that they would not ordain women and that women should be "subservient to their husbands."

Said Carter in response: "The truth is that male religious leaders have had -- and still have -- an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world."

Carter added that "the Bible says all people are equal in the eyes of God. I personally feel that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ in the church."

Religion behind Russian reluctance to condemn violence in Syria?

Two reasons that keep coming up for why that country won't condemn the Assad regime are its military and economic ties. But religion also plays a role.

During the recent election, Vladimir Putin sought the support of the Russian Orthodox Church for his presidential bid. The church agreed to support him; in return, it asked him to promise to protect Christian minorities in the Middle East. "So it will be," the New York Times reports Putin as saying.

Church leaders elicited the promise over fears of what might happen to Syria's two million Christians -- many of them Orthodox -- if the current regime falls. They cite the experience of Christians in Iraq and Egypt, who have suffered following the demise of protective dictators in both countries.

jdl562000@yahoo.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 9, 2012 J13

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