Marvin Olasky, advisor to the political stars
William Hague, leader of Britain's Conservative Party, has taken a leaf from George W. Bush's playbook and is beginning to endorse faith-based social programs. Hague, who doesn't attend church regularly and has previously refrained from discussing his religious beliefs, is now saying he is a "committed Christian" who finds spiritual fulfillment while walking the Yorkshire Moors instead of sitting in a pew each Sunday. In an effort to woo religious voters at the evangelical festival Spring Harvest, Hague also said he believes religion should play a larger role in education. Hague said he has been taking advice on faith-based social welfare from Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine, but he told The Guardian: "I am not talking about replicating exactly things that have happened in America but I think the general lesson that sometimes things can be done better by religions, by voluntary organizations, by charities than they have ever been done by the state or local authorities ... I think that is a very powerful lesson."

Exorcism is in the air
On Wednesday Weblog linked to an article in The Los Angeles Times about the increasing number of exorcism ministries and request for exorcisms in the past few years. Now psychologists at the University of Washington in Seattle say they've been expecting this trend. Elizabeth Loftus, an expert in memory research said that after the release of The Exorcist in 1973, "We saw thousands of people out there thinking they were possessed and asking for exorcism." Loftus saw no reason why that phenomenon wouldn't be repeated again with the current re-release of the movie, and the popularity of a similar Showtime feature Possessed. University researchers decided to take advantage of this environment to test the plasticity of memory: they decided to see if they could convince people they had witnessed demonic possession as children. After putting their subjects through a suggestive activities and tests, the researchers found that about 18 percent, or one in five of the people they talked to, changed their minds about the plausibility of demonic possession and were convinced they had actually witnessed it as children. "It's relatively easy to make people believe they had an experience when they were children that they didn't have," Loftus said. Of course, just because some people can be artificially convinced they have experienced demon possession, that doesn't mean that Satan isn't real, or many people have not been genuinely possessed by his minions. Christians still have the tricky job of determining whether each reported case of possession is genuine or not.

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Ahh, you big softies
Methodists leave a "soft" impression according to a study by the Barna Research Group. The United Methodist Church hired Barna to research what the general public thinks and knows about Methodists. The resounding answer? Most people say they have no idea. "This is the reason we need a campaign at all levels of the Methodist Church," said Steve Horswill-Johnson, the UMC executive in charge of Methodism's new media campaign. "Folk drive by our churches all the time and do not know what it is." The United Methodist Church plans to spend $20 million in an effort to raise awareness of their denomination. Why not? In these days of billboards that advertise God it is increasingly important that churches have strong name brand recognition, right?

Will the debate never end?
Some scientists say there is no room for cosmology in science. Others say science is really the fulfillment of cosmology, a way for people to gather more information about the created order of the universe and its Creator. These two stories about the evolution debate in Kansas and the Templeton Prize each dig into varying perspectives from scientists and lay people. Peruse both for an interesting melange of opinion that runs the gamut from a Christian who believes in evolution to a Christian who proclaims that all scientists will go to hell for having the audacity to try to figure out how God wired the universe. Both articles are filled with a sense that compromise isn't possible: many of the people quoted seem to see science and religion as separate camps of war that can never meet without leaving a field of fallen theories, creeds, and ideals in their wake.

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