Century Marks

Century Marks

Cultic atheism

Richard Dawkins, militant atheist and author of The God Delusion, is becoming an embarrassment to the agnostic/atheist/secularist community for the way he has developed a cult of personality. His website encourages people to join the “Reason Circle.” A donation of $85 a month buys discounts on his merchandise and the chance to meet someone from his foundation—but not Dawkins. For that you have to pay $5,000 a year. For $100,000 a year, backers get a private breakfast or lunch with the man himself. “At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits,” says religion columnist Andrew Brown (Spectator, August 16).

Saving churches

By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).

Heading south

Sensing that they are losing the culture wars in the United States, several North American evangelical leaders are taking the battle to Latin America. Mat Staver, head of the law faculty at Liberty University, and Samuel Rodriguez, a Latino preacher from California, have helped form a U.S.-Latin American coalition to oppose gay marriage, abortion, and pornography. They have already lost a battle in Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico City, which have legalized gay marriage, but they are having some success in Peru. American conservative Christians were influential in fostering antigay legislation in Uganda (Reuters).

Germ warfare

Josephine Finda Sellu, a nurse supervisor, is on the front line of the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone. She lost 15 of her nurses in rapid succession. As other workers left the hospital, her family begged her to quit her job. Some of her colleagues have been abandoned by their families due to fear of the disease. Usually a tower of strength, Sellu cries when she talks about the nurses she’s lost to the disease. She sometimes wishes she had become a secretary instead, but she sees her job as a healer as a calling from God (New York Times, August 23).

On the street

Mark Bustos, a stylist at an upscale salon in Manhattan, gives free haircuts to homeless people every Sunday, his only day off from work. He started the practice during a trip two years ago to the Philippines. The response was so enthusiastic that he decided to make the same offer in New York. Many of the people whose hair he cuts are very thankful. He especially remembers the man who, after seeing what he looked like with his new haircut, asked, “Do you know anyone that’s hiring?” (The Week, August 29).