Century Marks

Century Marks

For better or for worse

More national atheist and humanist agencies such as the Humanist Society and the Center for Inquiry are developing ordination programs to establish nontheist ministers in most states to perform weddings and funerals. CFI began its certification program in 2009. With the rise of the “nones”—the 20 percent of Americans without a religious affiliation—more couples are looking for wedding celebrants who don’t mind skipping God’s blessing of the ceremony. There are currently 138 celebrants ordained through the Humanist Society, and some perform weddings in multiple states. The Center for Inquiry has 23 celebrants (RNS).

Lovely burden

Many people express the desire not to be a burden on their family when they are dying. Church of England priest Giles Fraser has another view: “I do want to be a burden on my loved ones just as I want them to be a burden on me—it’s called looking after each other . . . My existence is fundamentally bound up with yours. . . . Of course, I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night. Shut up about being a burden. I love you. This is what it means to love you. Surely, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about all of this” (Guardian, May 3).

Muslim converts

About 5,200 Brits convert to Islam each year, bringing the total number of converts to about 100,000, according to research at the University of Wales. Women make up about two-thirds of the converts, many of whom convert in order to marry a Mus­lim. Other reasons for conversions are a sense of community and a reaction to the bawdiness of British culture. Prisons are a fertile ground for male conversions. Converts say that the discipline of Islam helps them cope better with the conditions of prison life. Once released, prison converts often find it difficult to integrate into mosques, which are typically ethnic enclaves (Economist, May 18).

Pay priorities

In half of the states, the highest-paid state employee is the football coach, usually at the largest state school. The next highest paid is likely to be a basketball coach (true in 12 states; there’s a tie between the football and basketball coaches in Minne­sota). The heads of medical schools garner the highest state salaries in four states—a distant third highest-paid employee. A medical school plastic surgeon gets the highest state salary in Nevada, and in New Hampshire it’s a hockey coach (deadspin.com).

Book sales

Pastors buy 3.8 books on average per month, according to a recent Barna Group survey. In contrast, only 29 percent of the general American population buys more than ten books a year. Pastors usually choose books based on someone else’s recommendation of a book or topic, with spirituality, theology and leadership being the most frequent topics selected. Although almost half of the pastors surveyed use a digital device, pastors of all generations prefer hard copies to digital versions. More than nine in ten pastors also recommend a book during their sermons at least once a year (barna.org).