Bible Archaeology

The First Photographs Ever Taken of Jerusalem

Smithsonian has released the first ever photographs taken of the Jerusalem as seen and taken in 1844 by Philibert Girault de Prangey. Simply stunning…

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More of the Holy City then, here.

 

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Church

Faith Rising in East, Setting in West?

Europe and Christianity.

If I asked you to describe the state of Christianity in Europe, you’d probably answer “not good.” And there’d be ample reason to do so. Most of us are familiar with the depressing statistics regarding church attendance in Western Europe and Scandinavia.

But there is more to Europe than Britain, France, and Sweden. And in Central and Eastern Europe, a different story is being written.

More here.

 

Church

Congregations Expect to Grow, But Few Parish Members Invite Others to Worship

In the Church Times:Click to enlarge

Only one quarter of Anglicans who responded to a Church Times survey are in the habit of inviting people to church.

Just 27 per cent of laypeople responding to a questionnaire agreed with the proposition: “I often invite other people to come to my church”; 56 per cent disagreed. Six per cent agreed with the proposition: “I would never invite anyone to come to my church.” …

The clergy, naturally enough, came out as more active evangelists. More than half, 53 per cent, often invited people to church, although 33 per cent admitted that they did not.

Four per cent of clergy respondents said that they would never invite anyone to their church (the survey attracted responses from retired clerics as well as incumbents). Half the clergy respondents expected their church to grow in the next 12 months.

They were less sanguine about the experience of newcomers, however. One quarter of the clergy agreed with the proposition: “It is not easy for newcomers in my church”; 52 per cent disagreed. For the laity, the figures were 19 per cent and 57 per cent…

The whole piece can be read here.

 

Church

Who’s ‘Godless’ Now? Russia Says It’s U.S.

Russia under President Vladimir Putin (right) has grown closer to Patriarch Kirill and the church.

Moscow — At the height of the Cold War, it was common for American conservatives to label the officially atheist Soviet Union a “godless nation.”

More than two decades on, history has come full circle, as the Kremlin and its allies in the Russian Orthodox Church hurl the same allegation at the West.

Do read on in The Washington Post here.

 

Church

American Atheists’ Super Bowl Billboard Makes Fun of ‘Hail Mary’ Prayer

 

Wicked atheists:

American Atheists is putting up a new billboard making fun of prayer outside Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, where the Super Bowl is scheduled to take place on Sunday.

The 14 feet by 48 feet billboard features a man in a priest uniform with the text “A ‘Hail Mary’ only works in football. Enjoy the game!” referring to the Roman Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary and also the name of a long-forward pass in football.

“Prayer is superstition, plain and simple,” AA President David Silverman said in a statement.

“It trivializes the dedication of the players and takes away from their achievements. A third of football fans pray in hopes of helping their team. These are adults we’re talking about – people with children, people with careers, people who vote. It’s 2014; it’s time to stop believing that prayer works. Give credit where credit is due and celebrate what this is really about-coming together to cheer on hard-working athletes doing what they do best.”

Managing Director Amanda Knief noted that people of all religions, as well as atheists, come together during the Super Bowl, and noted that the organization, one of the biggest secular ones in the country, is excited to be part of the event.

The atheist group has become famous for putting up billboards that target religion throughout the country. In December 2013, it had a billboard in New York’s Times Square claiming that “nobody” needs Christ during Christmas.

“This year, start a new tradition: Don’t go to church. You hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated. Instead, spend more time with your family and friends – or volunteer. There are better uses of your time and money,” Silverman said about the Christmas tradition.

The billboard prompted State Sen. Andrew Lanza from Staten Island, N.Y., to run a petition calling for the “immediate withdrawal” of the ad as it lacks “decency, civility and kindness.”

“It seems to me that this is part of a continued ‘War on Christmas’ and also upon the belief and value system of millions of Christian, Jewish and Muslim people who have faith in God,” Lanza commented. “Religious persecution of the kind that similarly led to the Holocaust began with small baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others.”

 

Church

Exorcisms Via Skype?

So it would seem:

The age-old practice of exorcism is getting updated thanks to the use of modern technology by a reverend in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Reverend Bob Larson claims he has performed more than 20,000 exorcisms in the past four decades.

Now he is giving possessed people the option of having their demons banished from their bodies via Skype.

A 60-minute Skype exorcism costs $295, and is considered a tax-deductible donation to the International Missions Program.

Skype’s cheap rates allow Larson to connect with allegedly possessed people from all over the world, including one of his most recent clients, a Norwegian man named David, who supposedly had four demons inside him.

During one encounter filmed by ABC15.com, one of the demons mocked Larson by asking, “Are you Bob the Builder,” followed by a maniacal cackle straight out of the “Tales From The Crypt” TV show.

Larson has numerous exorcism videos on YouTube, including this one where he claims to exorcise a gay demon.

Some skeptics think the over-the-top antics by the allegedly possessed souls are a sign that it’s all just a show, but Larson denies those allegations.

“It’s real,” Larson told the station. “There would be no reason to theatrically stage this for any reason. Why would anybody do that? I have no idea.”

However, Larson’s Skype exorcisms are making other religious leaders cross.

Reverend Isaac Kramer, the director of the International Catholic Association of Exorcists, an organization that trains and ordains new exorcists, says exorcisms can’t be done over the Internet.

“If a person is fully possessed, the demon inside of them will not let them sit in front of the computer screen to be exorcised,” Kramer told Vocativ.com. “Chances are, they’re going to throw the computer screen across the room and destroy everything.”

Crazy stuff.