Atheists Likely to Outnumber Christians in England in 20 Years

According to a new study, Christianity is waning in England and could be outnumbered by nonbelievers within 20 years, the Religion News Service reports. The study, conducted by the British Parliament, showed there were 41 million Christians in Britain, down nearly 8 percent since 2004. Meanwhile, the number of nonbelievers was 13.4 million, up 49 percent over the same period. Researchers at the House of Commons Library concluded Christianity had declined to 69 percent of the population while atheists had increased to 22 percent. “If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year, the number of people with no religion will overtake the number of Christians in Great Britain in 20 years,” the study said. It also found that from 2004-2010, the number of Muslims in England grew by 37 percent, to 2.6 million. The Hindu and Buddhist populations also grew substantially, and the number of Jews slightly decreased.

  • The end-time “falling away” is underway in earnest (2Thess. 2:3)

Leftward Tilt Causing Methodist Decline

Membership at the United Methodist Church, once the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., and other mainline denominations continues to decline, and the head of an “ecumenical alliance of Christians” says politics is a likely reason for that. The denomination’s 2010 membership was a little over 7.5 million, which represents a drop of nearly 109,000 members from the previous year — reportedly the largest dip since the 1970s. Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion & Democracy, says, “As the church moved left theologically starting with the early 20th century, especially in the 1920s, it also moved left politically.” And on that journey, much of Methodism seemed to forget the original recipe of its success in early America, which was not involvement with the details of politics, but was focused on proclamation of the gospel, the preaching of salvation, and the transformation of individual lives.” Tooley points out that the Methodist Church in Africa, which clings to the Bible, has grown considerably. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church USA, which has tangled over social issues like homosexuality, has also seen a decline, dropping below the two-million-member mark.

  • It’s not just political drift, but rather compromising the Word of God by adopting the more ‘tolerant’ and ‘inclusive’ dogma of new age secular humanism

Prayer Movement in Hollywood This Week

Thousands of Christians will unite in Hollywood this Thursday to pray for the entertainment industry because of the major influence it has on the country and the world. TheCry Hollywood, a full day of prayer for entertainment media, is set to take place at 2:00 p.m. at Universal City’s Gibson Amphitheater. Organizers explain that the event is “not a concert. It’s not a conference. It’s a cry.” “The whole heart of the day is to pray … to fast … to worship, and to believe God [will] move in the heart of entertainment media in a way that will impact the whole nation and the world,” details Faytene Grasseschi, the event director. TheCry Hollywood’s director is urging Christians to pray for Hollywood and the entertainment industry, as it is a primary cultural authority of the day.

Banks Foreclosing on Churches in Record Numbers

New data shows a shocking trend: Banks are foreclosing on religious institutions at an alarming rate. Much like individuals who lose the capability to continue paying their mortgages, churches, too, are feeling the financial crunch. In fact, since 2010, more than two hundred houses of worship have experienced foreclosures. In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating. That compares to just 24 in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.

  • The Bible says in many places that Christians should not take on debt. Churches spend far too much money on buildings and not enough on the Gospel.

Planned Parenthood Accused of 87,000 Fake Claims

A lawsuit alleging that Planned Parenthood submitted more than 87,000 fraudulent claims – and pointing out that there could be an $11,000-plus penalty for each case – has been unveiled in a Texas dispute by attorneys representing former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson. The case alleges the nation’s abortion industry giant submitted “repeated false, fraudulent, and ineligible claims for Medicaid reimbursements” through the Texas Women’s Health Program. “Americans deserve to know if their hard-earned tax money is being funneled to groups that are misusing it,” said Michael J. Norton, an ADF senior counsel. “No matter where a person stands on abortion, everyone should agree that Planned Parenthood has to play by the same rules as everyone else. The case was filed originally under a federal law that allows “whistleblowers” with inside information to expose fraudulent billing by government contractors.

Justice Dept. Blocks Texas Voter ID Law

The Department of Justice rejected a new Texas voter ID law, saying the state failed to show that its photo-ID requirement would not discriminate against minority voters, particularly Hispanics. The law, passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature last year, requires voters to show a Texas driver’s license or a Department of Public Safety identification card. Proponents of such laws say the measures are aimed at combating voter fraud. Advocacy groups for minorities and the poor dispute that and argue there is no evidence of significant voter fraud. The New York Times says the decision by the department’s Civil Rights Division follows a similar move against a South Carolina voter ID law and “brought the Obama administration deeper into the politically and racially charged fight over a wave of new voting restrictions, enacted largely in recent years by Republicans in the name of combating voter fraud.”

  • We need a photo-license to drive a car, to board an airplane, why not for the important act of voting? Opposition is pure politics since illegal immigrants vote Democratic.

Food Stamps Used to Buy Drugs and Guns

Many food stamp recipients have traded their benefits with corrupt retailers in exchange for cash they used to buy drugs and weapons. That’s just one of the outrageous examples of abuse in the food stamp program revealed when Phyllis Fong, the Department of Agriculture’s inspector general, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “By giving a recipient $50 in cash for $100 in benefits, an unscrupulous retailer can make a significant profit. Recipients, of course, are then able to spend the cash however they like. In some cases, recipients have exchanged benefits for drugs, weapons, and other contraband.” The latest estimate places the number of food stamp recipients in this fiscal year at about 46.3 million, up from 30.8 million at the beginning of fiscal year 2009.

Electric Cars Facing Dark Days

These are dark days for electric cars, darker than even a few months ago despite gas prices headed past $4 a gallon in parts of the nation. Sales for the plug-in electric vehicle industry aren’t meeting expectations for several companies, causing some to rethink goals and others to fold. General Motors will stop making the Volt for five weeks starting March 19. Sales are below expectations, though stronger this year than those of the competing plug-in Nissan Leaf. Bright Automotive, which hoped to sell hybrid plug-in delivery vans, said last month it’s closing its doors. Meanwhile, for the first two months of this year, Toyota sold more than 10 times as many hybrid Priuses than all plug-in electric vehicles on the market. The Prius and other similar hybrids are not plug-ins, using a combination of gas and battery power.

Property Tax Collections Start Downward Trend

More than five years after real estate prices began to tumble, Americans are finally starting to get property tax breaks on their devalued homes. Cities, counties and school districts today collect 20% more in property taxes than they did in 2006, when home values were one-third higher than now, but the tax tide is slowly starting to recede. Last year, property tax collections rose just 1.2% — and actually declined 0.9% when adjusted for inflation. That’s the first time property tax collections have fallen below the inflation rate since 1995 and only the third time in 40 years. If the downward trend continues, property taxes may actually bring in fewer dollars this year than last even before adjusting for inflation. That hasn’t happened since the Great Depression. Most states have complex laws that make property tax declines rare, small or long-delayed, even when home values plummet. This makes the property tax stable during economic turmoil, unlike the income or sales tax. Public schools get about 40% of this money. The rest flows to other local governments.

Deficits Push N.Y. Cities and Counties to Desperation

Last week, Suffolk County, one of the largest counties outside New York City, projected a $530 million deficit over a three-year period and declared a financial emergency. Its Long Island neighbor, Nassau County, is already so troubled that a state oversight board seized control of its finances last year. And the city of Yonkers said its finances were in dire straits. Even as there are glimmers of a national economic recovery, cities and counties increasingly find themselves in the middle of a financial crisis, reports the New York Times. The problems are spreading as municipalities face a toxic mix of stresses that has been brewing for years, including soaring pension, Medicaid and retiree health care costs. And many have exhausted creative accounting maneuvers and one-time spending cuts or revenue-raisers to bail themselves out.

  • The deficit crisis will begin hitting the U.S. in earnest later this year starting in cities and counties, since they can’t print money like the federal government can.

Economic News

Americans stepped up spending on retail goods in February, which could be evidence that a stronger job market is boosting the economy. Consumers bought more autos, clothes and appliances. The Commerce Department says retail sales increased 1.1% last month, biggest gain since September. Department stores had their biggest gain in more than a year.

Fueled partly by rising gas prices, public transportation ridership across the USA increased by 2.3% in 2011 over the previous year. Americans last year took 235 million more trips on buses, trains and subways than in 2010. That’s the most ridership since 2008, when gas prices soared to a national average of $4.11 a gallon in July. Greater use came despite more than eight out of 10 transit systems either cutting service, increasing fares or both in recent years.

Over the past decade, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55 to 64 age group. The 20 to 34 age bracket has the lowest rate – despite high-profile startups like Facebook or new star Pinterest. A study by the Kauffman Foundation shows that about 23% of new entrepreneurs in 2010 were in the 55 to 64 age group, compared with 15% in 1996.

The job outlook is brightening for younger workers, who were hit hard in the recession and play a vital role in the economy. Jobs for 25-to-34-year-olds increased by 116,000 to 30.5 million in February. Their unemployment rate fell from 9% in January to 8.7%, the lowest since January 2009. For workers overall, the jobless rate was unchanged at 8.3% in February.

Eurozone

Hundreds of thousands of people in 60 cities across Spain took part in demonstrations on Sunday called by the country’s main trade unions to protest the government’s tough new labor changes and cutbacks. The rallies are the unions’ first trial of strength before a general strike called for March 29 to oppose the recently approved austerity measures. The overhaul, passed by decree last month and confirmed in Parliament Thursday, slash the cost of firing workers and ease conditions under which they can be dismissed.

Known for their work ethic, Swiss citizens appear to be leading the way on European austerity, rejecting a minimum six weeks paid holiday a year. Swiss polls closed Sunday on several national referendums, including one pushed by a union to raise the minimum holiday from four weeks to the standard used in Germany, Italy, Russia and other European nations. The Swiss heeded warnings from government and business that more vacation would raise labor costs and put the economy at risk.

Middle East

Israel halted its airstrikes against Gaza Strip militants early Tuesday and rocket fire from the Palestinian territory ebbed as a cease-fire ending four days of clashes appeared to be taking effect. Both sides had indicated they have no interest in seeing the fighting spiral into all-out war, and Egyptian intelligence officials brokered a truce. Twenty-four Palestinians, including five civilians, died in the cross-border fighting that erupted on Friday with Israel’s killing of a militant commander. There were no Israeli fatalities, but the lives of 1 million people living in southern Israel were disrupted by frequent sirens warning them to take cover from incoming rockets.

News reports from both America and Israel have confirmed that Israeli leaders in Washington earlier this week asked for American military help to allow them to launch an effective strike against Iran’s nuclear program. Specifically, the Jewish leaders asked for advanced “bunker buster” bombs designed to take out reinforced underground sites like the Iranian Fordo nuclear facility. Also requested were aircraft for in-flight refueling. Both of these items would be vital to ensuring a strike was actually effective in halting Iran’s nuclear weapons development. Neither government will confirm the status of the discussions, but Israeli news outlets have suggested that President Obama agreed to supply the needed equipment if Israel would promise not to strike Iran before the November elections.

Syria

Opposition activists have declared Tuesday a day of mourning across Syria as the death toll from a year of government attacks escalates. More than 8,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. “Violations of human rights are widespread and systematic,” Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the U.N. General Assembly, said Monday. Syrian activists said Monday that pro-government gunmen have killed at least 22 people — including children — in the latest violence in the embattled central city of Homs. State media in Damascus confirmed the deaths but blamed “armed terrorists.” The Local Coordination Committees said 45 were “murdered.” Homs has been one of the hardest hit cities in violence since an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March last year.

Afghanistan

A U.S. service member walked out of his base in southern Afghanistan before dawn Sunday and started shooting Afghan civilians, going house to house in two villages, killing 16 people in their homes. NATO forces have detained the U.S. service member who is accused of going on the shooting spree in two villages. The Taliban vowed revenge Monday for the “inhumane attack” U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have stepped up security following the shootings Sunday in Kandahar province out of concern about retaliatory attacks. Taliban militants opened fire Tuesday on an Afghan government delegation visiting one of the two villages in southern Afghanistan where the attacks occurred. The gunfire killed an Afghan soldier who was providing security for the delegation.

Pakistan

A suicide bomber attacked a funeral attended by an anti-Taliban politician in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least 13 mourners and wounding 30 others. The politician, Khush Dil Khan, escaped unhurt in the blast on the outskirts of Peshawar, the main city in the northwest. Islamist militants are fighting a vicious war against Pakistani security forces in and around Peshawar, which lies close to border regions with Afghanistan where extremists hold sway. Many hundreds have been killed over the last few years.

Japan

People across Japan prayed and stood in silence on Sunday to remember the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation one year ago, killing just over 19,000 people and unleashing the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century. The earthquake was the strongest recorded in Japan’s history, and set off a tsunami that swelled to more than 65 feet in some spots along the northeastern coast, destroying tens of thousands of homes and bringing widespread destruction. The tsunami also knocked out the vital cooling systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, causing meltdowns at three reactors and spewing radiation into the air. A 12-mile area around the plant is still off limits. All told, some 325,000 people rendered homeless or evacuated are still in temporary housing. While much of the debris along the tsunami-ravaged coast has been gathered into massive piles, very little rebuilding has begun.

The government says the crippled Fukushima plant is basically stable and radiation has subsided significantly, but the plant’s chief acknowledged to journalists visiting the complex recently that it remains in a fragile state. Enormous risks and challenges lie ahead at the plant, including locating and removing melted nuclear fuel from the inside of the reactors and disposing spent fuel rods. Completely decommissioning the plant could take 40 years. Only two of Japan’s 54 reactors are now running while those shut down for regular inspections undergo special tests to check their ability to withstand similar disasters. They could all go offline by the end of April amid local opposition to restarting them. The Japanese government has pledged to reduce reliance on nuclear power, which supplied about 30% of the nation’s energy needs before the disaster.

Russia

More than 20,000 protesters streamed down a central Moscow avenue Saturday to denounce Vladimir Putin’s presidential election win, but the crowd’s relatively small size compared to recent protests suggested the opposition movement has lost some momentum. Some of the new political energy that has emerged in Russia in recent months, however, is being channeled into local politics and civic activism. Two men in their 20s who had both just won seats on municipal councils were among those who addressed the crowd Saturday to call on Muscovites to get involved in how their city is run, starting with their own neighborhoods. It was Putin who originally disposed of the direct election of governors, and it is he who has overseen the banning of most opposition candidates from state-controlled media.

  • Putin’s reelection signals a return to greater totalitarianism in which ‘civic activism’ at the local level is not going to have a major impact

China

Chinese police rescued more than 24,000 abducted women and children across the country last year. Trafficking in women and children is a big problem in China, where traditional preference for male heirs and a strict one-child policy has driven a thriving market in baby boys, who fetch a considerably higher price than girls. Girls and women also are abducted and used as laborers or as brides for unwed sons. A report from the ministry said police rescued 8,660 abducted children and 15,458 women in 2011 as nearly 3,200 human trafficking gangs were broken up. The number of total victims is presumably much higher since most cases are not successfully resolved or even reported.

Weather

Forget spring fever, try summer fever. For much of the country, the unusual warmth will keep on rolling this week. On the heels of the nation’s fourth-warmest winter on record, high temperatures this week will soar to as much as 35 degrees above average, and dozens if not hundreds of weather records will be likely set from the Midwest to the Northeast. For most of the central and eastern USA, temperatures will be more typical of May than March.

Record floodwaters inundated parts of southern Louisiana early Tuesday after intense rains caused flash flooding and prompted hundreds of rescues. Estimates by the National Weather Service put total rainfall at 12 to 18 inches across the region, with possible amounts of 20 or more inches in some areas. Floodwaters were cresting overnight for Bayou Vermilion at Carencro at 5.5 feet over flood stage and 12 inches above the record set in May 2004.

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