Belief Beat

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Author Alain de Botton has announced plans to build an Atheist temple in the United Kingdom, presumably so nonbelievers have a place to gather and share their philosophies.

Um… isn’t that what Starbucks is for?

Also, I can’t wait to see how the architect will handle this kind of project. Maybe the building can feature a giant X instead of a cross?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Alaska Airlines, now the country’s seventh-largest airline, has announced it will stop offering prayer cards with its in-flight meals. (It’s just raining religion news in the great unchurched Pacific Northwest lately.)

I’ve flown Alaska several times since moving to Seattle, but I confess that I’ve never noticed these Psalm quotations. They were only offered on flights longer than four hours, only to first class passengers (because like other airlines, Alaska stopped serving in-flight meals to coach years ago). So, just a fraction of flyers have seen them since 2006. Looks to me like the Judeo-Christian outcry on Facebook and media blogs includes many people who didn’t even know about this tradition (which apparently originated as a marketing ploy, rather than an evangelical mission). Airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airline has received more complaints than kudos about the cards for years.

Perhaps the decrease in appreciation for the cards is related to having limited them to the first-class cabin? Could it be that high-paying travelers are less likely to be charmed by high praying? Hmmm. There’s no way to prove it — I tried asking Egan, but she said they weren’t releasing specifics on the numbers and nature of the complaints. So,  just a hunch. It could also be that Alaska Airlines has grown a lot in the past generation, and this kind of thing isn’t going to fly with a more diverse base of passengers. Meanwhile, the growing airline has been making efforts to be more sensitive to religious minorities, such as Orthodox Jews.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

I reported for Reuters at the Washington state Capitol yesterday, covering the public hearings on a gay marriage bill — and in between, the breaking news that the state Senate now has enough votes to pass the bill. (The House already had enough votes.) It now appears that Washington’s lawmakers will legalize gay marriage next month, while opponents work on gathering the 260,000-plus signatures they need between now and July 6 to put the issue on the November ballot, confident that voters will overturn the law,  Prop. 8-style.

From a religion reporting perspective, the interesting angle was seeing clergy take different sides in their testimony. On the pro-gay marriage side, the speakers included Rabbi Jonathan Singer (of Seattle’s  Temple Beth Ami, a Reform Jewish congregation), an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America bishop, and a United Church of Christ pastor. On the opposing side, the speakers included the Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, an African-American church pastor, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a range of white evangelical voices.

Conservative families rallied against a gay marriage bill at the Washington State Capitol on Monday.

Christian groups also helped rally several hundred people, including (homeschooled?) children, outside the Capitol in favor of traditional marriage.

It was a very long day, and I was surprised that none of the legislators simply gave up, after hearing all these conflicting faith-based views, and suggested that they just not take religious beliefs into account either way. But I guess that would be bad politics, even in the great unchurched Pacific Northwest. From my notes:
Most Washingtonians do not belong to any congregation. Catholics, about one-sixth of the state’s population, make up the majority of religiously affiliated Washington state residents, followed by evangelical Christians, according to data distributed by the Association of Religion Data Archives. Gov. Chris Gregoire, herself a practicing Roman Catholic, does not believe this issue poses conflict for religious groups, given that clergy would remain free not to perform or recognize same-sex unions, said Karina Shagren, Gregoire’s spokeswoman. But the language leaves too much room for doubt, said Pastor Joe Fuiten, of Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell, who has been rallying evangelical Christians against the legislation.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.