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War of the Boards

In late October an atheist group in London responded to a Christian evangelism conference’s bus ads by blitzing the city with anti-God billboard ads. This Christmas season in the United States, Christians and atheists across the country are primed to stage a similar billboard war of beliefs. The American Humanist Association is sponsoring ads across the country—predominantly in major cities—throughout the holiday season that ask, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” The organization hopes to install similar billboards in 46 states as part of its “Godless Holiday Campaign.” And starting this week in at least two Colorado cities, a network of atheist, humanist and “freethinking” organizations is running billboards that read: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

“We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you,” said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the American Humanist Association. “Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”
In response, various Christian organizations have vowed to reply with billboards of their own. [AP, 11/12/08; gazette.com, 11/12/08]

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Out With the New, in With the ... Old?

October may be marked as "Pastor Appreciation Month," but Robert A. Schuller likely isn't feeling the love this week. On Saturday, the senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, Calif., was ousted from the church's long-running television show, Hour of Power, by his own father, Robert H. Schuller, who founded the renowned megachurch and handed over his ministry to his son in 2006. Though the younger Schuller will continue to lead the congregation, his dismissal from the show stemmed from a disagreement about expanding the show beyond a single personality and including other guest speakers. "The real minister's name that we honor is Jesus, not Schuller," said the elder during Sunday's service, adding that he hoped Hour of Power would continue to air "for decades, centuries to come. Because of that, we don't want one face ... to be a spokesman." Although Robert A. Schuller believed he could carry the show alone, he was overruled by both his father and the church's board of directors—a decision which has strained the father-son relationship. "We're trying to do the best we can and bring about a deeper reconciliation," said one church associate. "[Their relationship] is not irreparable, but it's gone through some difficult days." [latimes.com, 10/27/08]

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The Church That Isn't a Church

QUOTE: "I was called to start a mission, not a church. There is a difference. ... You don't try to preach ... what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second." —Robert H. Schuller, explaining his and the church board's decision on Sunday. For decades, Schuller was known for preaching positive-thinking sermons that appealed to a wide audience, including those turned off by traditional religion. Since taking over three years ago, however, Schuller's son has veered slightly from this path by preaching directly from the Bible and taking stronger stances on various moral issues. [latimes.com, 10/27/08]

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Can't We All Just Get Along?

According to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, there are more than 550 "interfaith centers" in the United States—many of which have begun since 9/11—dedicated to combining various faiths in the same house of worship. "I wanted to build a church where Christians are not in charge," says one Seventh-day Adventist pastor who leads the Faith House Manhattan in New York. "We wanted to include all the people who have a right to belong and be partners in the discussion, not as outsiders that need to be converted, but as insiders that we need to be interdependent with." Not surprisingly, many interfaith centers are particularly attractive to women. "Interfaith organizations provide opportunities for women's leadership in a way that oftentimes the religious traditions themselves do not, simply because those positions do not need to be sanctioned by any religious head or body," explains Pluralism Project spokeswoman Kathryn Lohre. [Religion News Service, 10/27/08]

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Anything You Can Do, I Can Do (With More Money)

After seeing London buses advertising a Christian evangelism conference, an atheist group raised more than $175,000 online—mere hours after launching a charity site—to retaliate with their own signs. The British Humanist Association, which is administering the "Atheist Bus Campaign," will purchase ad space on more than 30 buses for signs that read: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Although organizers originally planned to post the signs for only four weeks in January, donations have exceeded expectations almost twentyfold so far, immediately creating the possibility of a more massive push. "A lot of people say trying to organize atheists is like herding cats. The last couple of days shows that is not true," said comedy writer Ariane Sherine, who initiated the campaign. "I thought it would be a really positive thing to counter that by putting forward a much happier and more upbeat advert, saying 'Don't worry, you're not going to hell.' Atheists believe this is the only life we have, and we should enjoy it." [AP, 10/23/08]

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Restoring a Nation

QUOTE: “My faith is not in a person, and certainly not in a political party, for the healing of America, but I know God’s Word and His ways well enough to know that our decisions do move Him to action or inaction. … There is no doubt that we have entered a Daniel 10 moment in time. … The spiritual warfare in this election is incredibly fierce, and just as it was in Daniel’s day, it is all about restoration of a nation. And also like Daniel, we must keep praying until we win the battle in the heavens.” —Dutch Sheets, pastor of Freedom Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., who is asking the church to pray for this election “like you’ve never prayed for any in the past.” For more on Sheets’ plea for intercession, click here.

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