President Donald Trump took a step to help address the nation’s outbreak of mass shootings by using his executive power to create a United States Department of Prayers. “With this order we’re showing Americans that we’re doing everything we can as a government to address gun violence in our country, which is so terrible,” Trump said at a signing ceremony in Japan, where he is visiting as part of a 12-day Asia tour. Under the order, the department will deploy a religious leader based in the area of the incident to offer official prayers on behalf of the federal government. More.
Houston mega-church pastor Joel Osteen says he would have been happy to open his 18,000-seat church to victims of Hurricane Harvey but city officials never said they needed his space and God didn’t speak to him about it. “When God told me to pray for the souls of people who seed my church with money, of course I obeyed His Word and did so,” says Osteen, who has been criticized for not inviting flood-stranded people into his arena-sized church. “So I was expecting God to share His Word about providing comfort to the people of Houston, many of whom have been living in wet clothes for three days.” Osteen says he “thought regularly” about the human tragedy he saw unfolding around him as flood waters reached five feet in some areas and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. “Their plight touched my heart,” he said. “It didn’t matter what I was doing— putting gel in my hair or deep-cleaning my face. I hurt for the people of this city. I knew there was despair in our midst.” More.
Houston mega church pastor Joel Osteen, after taking criticism for his slow response to displaced Hurricane Harvey victims, announced he’s opening up his 18,000-seat church to all who need it if they leave their wet boots outside and try to find something dry to wear. “God asked us to put more than $20 million in TV broadcasting equipment in His church and we really can’t get that wet,” said Osteen, who has made millions proselytizing what’s known as the prosperity gospel—the belief that God will reward you with monetary success if you seed His churches with donations. The more you seed the church, the richer you stand to become. Osteen said that criticism leveled at him for not opening the doors of his church right away are unfair because he needed the extra time to put mats down to protect the floor, which cost $3 million. More.
Franklin Graham III, son of the late televangelist Billy Graham, says he’s concerned for the country’s moral well-being because today almost a quarter of Americans identify as atheists or otherwise claim no religious affiliation, a sharp increase from a generation ago, when few people claimed no religious affiliation. “The United States is a country founded by Christians on the basis of Christian values, so it is very disturbing from a moral and spiritual standpoint that one out of every four Americans is not going to get into heaven,” said Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham was speaking at a rally in Charleston, S.C., for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Other religious leaders, including Jerry Falwell, Jr., and James Robison, were at the event. More.
Religious people the world over are sick and tired of people who don’t believe in God picking on the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the Universe. “What did He ever do to you?” says Sandra Borden, 54, an administrative assistant at Safe-T One Auto Insurance in Lexington, Ky. “Can’t you pick on someone else? Leave God alone!” Like many other religious people, Borden says that God, as the Creator of the World, can smite anyone He wants to and cause all kinds of duress for people, like he did to Job in the Bible. For that reason, atheists and other non-believers should just watch it. “He can rain down on you all the pestilence He wants,” she says. More.
If all the resources that go into supporting religion in the United States were channeled into productive enterprises, the domestic economy would expand by an estimated $465 billion a year, a study by the Federal Reserve finds. “Religion is a big part of the identity of many Americans, and certainly is embedded in our heritage as a country, but from a purely economic standpoint, it’s a disaster,” says Alfred Smith, a senior Fed economist. The study by Smith and a team of researchers is the most detailed yet of the economic toll religion takes on the U.S economy. It has sought to factor in virtually every way religion intersects with the economy, from lost tax revenue to states and localities, lost investment into goods and services that grow the economy, lost productivity by having people employed in religious institutions instead of companies and organizations that produce goods and services, and the cost of violence perpetrated in the name of religious belief. More.
The Republican party has set up a clash of biblical proportions by nominating God to be its presidential candidate in the 2016 U.S. elections. The nomination, which comes unusually early in the election cycle, puts religion at the front of debate by opening up a host of Constitutional questions should God become president. “Does God’s law supersede Constitutional law? Does His commandments automatically trump Supreme Court rulings? Would the bible replace the Constitution? There are just a lot of unanswered questions this unprecedented moves raises, so we’re really going into unchartered territory,” says Gary Turner, a Constitutional scholar at the University of Chicago. More.
After seven years of investigation, a United Nations team of researchers has concluded that Iran does not have homosexuals, as former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted at Columbia University in 2007. In his statement seven years ago, while he was speaking in New York City, Ahmadinejad told his audience of mostly students and faculty that “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you we have it.” At the time, the comment elicited laughter and some boos among the 700 people in the audience. But according to the U.N. team that has just delivered its comprehensive report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Iran in fact has no homosexuals. More.
A tribe of nomadic goat herders from a remote desert region say their jealous, spiteful, and misogynist God is the one true God for all the universe and for all time even though He might seem an odd fit for today’s world. “I know it is hard for you in the technologically advanced West to believe that you should be ruled by our God, who had nothing to say to anyone in the world until He chose to speak to our ancestors 2,000 years ago. But that is the fact of the matter,” says Lazarus Ben-ammi, leader of a tribe of desert goat herders who claim a direct line with God. The tribe is in New York City on the first stop of a world tour in which they explain why theirs is the one true God of all the universe. More.
A man preaching God’s Word last night on a street corner in Los Angeles isn’t a true preacher, a group of religious leaders has charged, because the preacher has not been certified. “Only preachers who’ve been certified, for obvious reasons, have the right to preach God’s Word,” says a statement by the International Association of Religious Preachers, based in Houston. “Absent certification, anyone can pose as a preacher and claim to represent the Word of God. For that reason, it’s important that persons impersonating professional, certified preachers be enjoined from engaging in acts of uncertified religious preaching.” The accused preacher, Lemont Davis, was apprehended by Los Angeles police at 5:30 p.m. on the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Beverly Blvd. According to the charge filed with the Los Angeles Municipal Court, Davis was claiming to “spread God’s Mercy,” with the aim of spurring a miracle on behalf of a homeless woman, Roberta Jackson, whose health is in decline. More.
Special to The Guardian. In a find that stunned the world of religion, archaeologists digging in a remote region of the Sinai desert discovered what is believed to be the original Holy Bible from more than 2,000 years ago with its International Standard Book Publishing (ISBN) code still intact. “This is an almost unbelievable discovery,” says Alfred Pottersmith, lead curator of Middle East artifacts at the British Museum in London. “To think we could be holding in our hands the original bible from God’s disciples is humbling beyond words.” What gives archaeologists confidence the bible is the original Word of God, first edition, is the presence of the internationally recognized 9-digit numeric commercial book identifier code known as the ISBN code. More.
Jews, Muslims, and peoples of other faiths in the United States will have to scramble to find ways to talk about the omnipotent, omnipresent deity referred to as God®, because American Christians have successfully trademarked the term “God®” along with “Savior®” and “Holy Father®.” “It’s a great day for American Christians of all types,” says Edward Reynolds, head pastor of the Ecumenical Christian Church, U.S.A., based in Foxborough, Mass. “For more than 200 years, peoples of Abrahamic faiths in the United States have peacefully shared among themselves the use of the term “God®” and other important religious words, but today the terms have been provided a permanent home with American Christians, which, as we’ve been arguing for years, is the rightful place for them.” More.
Among the earth-shattering revelations coming out of the recently discovered “Addendum of the Pentateuch,” also known as the “Moses Addendum” or “New Book of Moses,” is the discovery of rocky relations between Adam and Eve. Eve, the mysterious book makes clear, “had it up to here” with Adam’s constant whining about sex and his insistence on being “experimental” rather than just plain-vanilla when it comes to their connubial relations. “You are worse than the serpent who had me, by false testimony, eat of the tree to the anger of the Lord,” Eve is quoted as saying in the book. “The Lord has given me the headache, but you are giving me the pain.” “We’re all familiar with this story, eh?” said Boris Neuberger, a theologian with the Oxford Seminary in London, where the book, discovered buried in an ancient ravine on Mount Sinai in Egypt, is being analyzed. More.