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How a little faith can bring a lot of love

April 11th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

From The Telegraph

Regular worshippers have a better love life, finds university research

Married churchgoers with busy social lives are likely to be the happiest in love, according to a study.

Researchers also noted that people aged 31 to 59 tended to be slightly happier with their love lives than those who were 60 and over.

And while education was found not to have an effect on a person’s happiness in love, religion was. The team, from the University of Porto in Portugal, noticed that people who regularly visit church tended to be more positive about their love lives. The finding backs up previous research that suggests religious involvement leads to better mental health and greater sexual relationships.

The study was published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.

Read here

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Cameron Speaks of Christian Faith as Day Ends With Hymn

April 10th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith, Politics Comments Off

By Robert Hutton, Bloomberg

Prime Minister David Cameron, whose day began with the resignation of Culture Secretary Maria Miller, finished it with his eyes shut, leaning against a pillar in his London residence as a soprano sang for his Easter reception.
 
He had no comment on her choice of hymn: “Ave Maria.”
 
“The Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens,” Cameron told his audience of Christian leaders and politicians at 10 Downing Street when she’d finished. “After the day I’ve had, I’m definitely looking for volunteers.”
 
Miller’s resignation over an expenses claim, after nearly a week of pressure from the media, the opposition and members of Cameron’s own Conservative Party, dominated the political day and the premier’s weekly question-and-answer session in Parliament. The affair has been an unwelcome distraction as the Tories campaign for local and European Parliament elections next month.
 
In his remarks at the reception, the prime minister made no reference to the issue that’s hurt his relationship with the Church of England over the past two years, the introduction of gay marriage — a policy overseen by Miller.
 
Read here
 
Read also:  David Cameron: 'Jesus invented the Big Society – I'm just continuing God's work' - Independent
 
David Cameron’s Easter speech: “Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world” – God & Politics in the UK
 
 
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How prophetic were Fulton Sheen’s words 80 years ago

April 6th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

By Francis Phillips, Catholic Herald

Christians must go to the cross for the truth

Having recently blogged about the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, I note an American blogger, Little Catholic Bubble, is reading his “Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues” as a Lenten exercise. Reading one of the excerpts pulled me up short. The book was published as long ago as 1933 but it could be describing with uncanny accuracy the situation today. Sheen wrote, “We are at the end of a tradition and a civilization which believed we could preserve Christianity without Christ, religion without a creed, meditation without sacrifice, family life without moral responsibility, sex without purity and economics without ethics. We have completed our experiment of living without God…”
 
How prescient he was, though I am surprised that even in 1933, when Christian traditions and values in society and in family life still seemed to be stable and intact, he could see the writing on the wall. I think even Sheen would have been staggered at the speed at which his prophesy has been realised: changes in the definition and meaning of marriage; routine and widespread abortion; increasing pressure to legalise euthanasia – these are only some of the more obvious features of modern life taken for granted in the western world.
 
[...]  I sometimes think we inside the Church can get so worked up about “issues” – the informal “style” adopted by Pope Francis, whether one form of the liturgy is “better” than another and so on – that we lose sight of the one thing needful, pointed out by Bishop Bossuet. As I write this, the words of Bishop Egan of Portsmouth, who I blogged about last week, echo in my ears: “We will, being Christian, have to suffer and have to go to the Cross… because you have to witness to the truth.”

A brave Catholic blogger, Caroline Farrow of Catholic Voices, also discovered this when she spoke up from the floor in a recent BBC Question Time debate. The Catholic Herald this week relates her experience with the headline, “Blogger “spat at” after debating same-sex marriage on television.” Having watched a Youtube clip of this event, the hostility directed at Caroline is palpable.

Christians who put their head above the parapet and stand up for what they believe will increasingly discover to their cost what it is like to live in the kind of world that Fulton Sheen foretold so prophetically.
 
 
NB:  The discussion on gay marriage referred to above begins 39 minutes into the video.
 
 
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In-demand schools: the gospel truth

March 29th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

By Graeme Paton, Telegraph

Religious belief may be in free fall, but faith schools’ appeal to the godly – or frankly desperate – is undimmed

The number of adults declaring a religious belief appears to have been in decline for years. According to the most recent census, the Christian population of England and Wales nosedived by about four million over the past decade, while the number of people with “no faith” almost doubled.

But there is one cross-section of the community that seems consistently immune to our collective slide towards agnosticism. Figures show that churchgoing remains strongest – and, in many cases, is increasing – in areas that surround oversubscribed faith schools.

To supporters of the system, it shows the extent to which good schools with a religious ethos act as a focal point for families with a shared belief.

But to sceptics, it merely illustrates what many have long suspected – that large numbers of parents conveniently find God when there is a chance of getting their children into a decent state school and saving themselves the cost of a private education. In short: get on your knees, avoid the fees.

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Wayne Grudem: Does ‘political’ involvement distract from the gospel? Part 2

March 14th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

From The Christian Institute

Part 2
As Dr Grudem considers ways that Christians should influence government, he discusses five wrong views and one right one. Here he examines the second wrong view – ‘Exclude religion from government’.
 
Part 1: The first wrong view – ‘Government should compel religion’
 
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Sorry, campaining mums – it’s faith that makes faith schools work

March 10th, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education, Faith Comments Off

By Toby Young, Spectator

An email popped into my inbox on Tuesday morning urging me to join a ‘fair admissions campaign’ that’s been launched by a couple of mums in Shepherd’s Bush. Their children are at a local primary school and they’re angry that they won’t be able to get them into any of the local faith schools. ‘Two of our children are in Year Five and we feel offended by the fact that out of 11 secondary schools in the borough almost half will put them at the very bottom of the waiting list due to our “wrong” beliefs,’ they write.

Now, I’m probably among the dozen or so local residents least likely to join this campaign but, to be fair, I don’t think they singled me out. Rather, they sent the same email to hundreds of people, hoping to cash in on the fact that Tuesday was ‘National Offer Day’, the day when parents who’ve applied to state secondaries learn their children’s fate.

I have some sympathy for these women. One of the reasons I helped set up the West London Free School is because I, too, was unhappy about the quality of education being offered by the local secular comprehensives. But that was five years ago. There are three new secondary schools in the borough now — two of them free schools — and the old ones have got better. For instance, the percentage of children getting five A–Cs in their GCSEs including English and maths at Fulham Cross Girls’ School was 48 per cent in 2008, compared to 69 per cent in 2013. The gap in quality between local comprehensives and local faith schools is closing.

However, I’m afraid that’s where my sympathy ends. What parents who complain about being excluded from faith schools don’t understand is that the reason they’re above average — which is why they want to send their children to them in the first place — is precisely because of their religious ethos.

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Lib Dem minister backs secular marriage

March 10th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith, Marriage Comments Off

Simon Hughes MPby Matthew Holehouse, Telegraph

The traditional Christian wedding ceremony should have no legal status under a shake-up of marriage laws, the Justice Minister has said.

Couples who want to wed in Church would have to undertake two separate ceremonies in order for their marriage to be recognised by the state, under proposals suggested Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat justice minister.

The French-style reforms would see couples undergo one secular, state-recognised ceremony, before exchanging religious vows if they wish.

But any bid to overturn centuries of legal precedent by stripping church or synagogue weddings of their legal status is likely to be fiercely opposed by clergy as an attempt to marginalise religion.

The suggestion follows a landmark Supreme Court ruling that decreed the Church of Scientology has the right to conduct weddings because it is a legitimate “place of meeting for religious worship”. Critics say the organisation is a dangerous cult.

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Oscars: Conservatives Mock Hollywood After Matthew McConaughey’s ‘God’ Speech

March 4th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith, Media Comments Off

By Paul Bond,  Hollywood Reporter

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others tease celebrities who are "confused" when the actor thanks God after winning best actor for his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club."

Matthew McConaughey’s best-actor acceptance speech invoking God and family might have garnered a lukewarm reception from his celebrity colleagues at the Oscars on Sunday night, but it was getting lots of positive attention from conservative media figures, including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who used the moment to insinuate that Hollywood is anti-religion.

“First off, I want to thank God because that’s who I look up to. He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand,” McConaughey said after winning for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.

Limbaugh said during his syndicated radio show Monday that the celebrities at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for the 86th Academy Awards were “confused” by McConaughey’s acceptance speech.

After playing some of the audio, Limbaugh joked that “maybe three people” in the audience reacted positively when McConaughey thanked God. “That was the only time that they didn’t quite know what to do. That was it,” Limbaugh said.

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We Neglect Religious Education At Our Peril

March 1st, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

By Nick Morrison, Forbes

Religious education is in crisis. The subject is increasingly marginalized, unloved and taught by non-specialists – at a time when teaching about religion has never been more important. The result is we risk creating a vacuum that spells danger for all of us.

Many of the most divisive issues we face today are coated in religion, whether it is those that divide a community, such as abortion or gay marriage, or those that give rise to conflicts between societies. If ever there has been a time when an understanding of belief and the role it plays in people’s lives is important it is now.

And yet we seem content to let it wither, caught between a worry it could be seen as indoctrination and a suspicion that it is an anachronism in a scientific age.

In the U.K., the government has scrapped grants for trainee religious education teachers, at a time when one fifth of places are already unfilled. Although the subject is compulsory up to 16, it is more likely to be taught by non-specialists than any other and its exclusion from the core that count towards school rankings ensures it will be marginalized.

Arguably, the situation in the U.S. is just as debilitating. The constitutional separation of church and state dogs arguments over religious education in public schools, with the result that many parents look elsewhere, to Sunday schools and the like.

It is not as if the aspiration isn’t there. A report by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, which brings together professional associations and different faith communities, included the intention to equip children with “the skills needed to engage seriously with religions and worldviews”, so they can examine how individuals and communities can live together.

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Study reveals teens’ views on faith and RE

February 5th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

From Sec-Ed.co.uk

The wide-ranging Youth on Religion project has given us a number of insights into teenagers’ views on faith, including their concerns about the content and delivery of religious education. Professor Nicola Madge explains.

Young people in multi-faith areas favour multi-faith over single-faith schools. They also value religious education but want to see changes in its content and delivery.

New research findings from the Youth On Religion (YOR) study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council’s Religion and Society programme, are based on a survey of more than 10,000 13 to 17-year-olds and interviews with around 160 17 to 18-year-olds.

The research was carried out in three multi-faith locations – the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Newham, and Bradford in Yorkshire. Participants came from a range of faith backgrounds and included Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and those with no specific faith.

A central message from the research is that 6th-formers have a high level of respect and tolerance for peers from different backgrounds.

Most stress how multi-faith schooling, providing opportunities to get to know other pupils with a range of faith values, is good preparation for later life, including going to university. Mixing at school or college also encourages an interest in diversity and helps to reduce prejudice.

Multi-faith schools do not, however, provide any guarantee of integration. Reports of religious and cultural groups clustering together, and clear indications that pupils are particularly likely to choose best friends from similar faith and cultural backgrounds, emerged from the study.

Nonetheless serious clashes between faith groups at school or college seemed rare. Arguments and name-calling were reported but did not appear to be predominantly about religious values, even if religious labels were used as forms of abuse.

Read here

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Stevie Wonder, Oprah and iPhones oust Jesus as topics of discussion at traditional Christian school assemblies

February 2nd, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

By Jonathan Petre, Mailonline

A growing number of schools are ditching traditional Christian assemblies in favour of reflections on topics such as iPhones, Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder, a Mail on Sunday investigation has found.

Up to 270 primary and secondary schools have been allowed to opt out of the legal requirement to provide a daily act of ‘broadly Christian’ collective worship – up from about 230 five years ago.

Documents obtained from local authorities under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws show that one secondary school, Acton High School in Ealing, included the ‘birth of the iPhone’, to highlight ‘communications’.

Traditionalists attacked the trend for robbing children of their understanding of a vital element of Britain’s heritage.

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘It is the birthright of children in this country to become familiar with its identity – including its religious identity – which is, broadly speaking, Christian.

Moving from the nativity of Christ to the nativity of the iPhone shows the extent to which assemblies have become degraded.’

But Acton High School head Andy Sievewright said only a quarter of his pupils were from a Christian background, so the school did not have ‘a specifically Christian focus’.

Read here

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Does religion count at the ballot box?

January 27th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith, Politics Comments Off

From EAUK

New research published by Theos examines the relationship between religious belief and voting behaviour. The Voters and Values report analysed surveys from 1959-2012 to show that how people identify their religious belief, as well as how frequently they attend services, is a significant factor in showing how they are likely to vote.
 
Anglicans are more likely to vote Conservative, and the more frequently they attend church, the more likely they are to vote that way. Catholic voters, however, favour the Labour party and in this case there is no discernible difference between those who attend and those who do not. Other Christian groups, the only further breakdown most of the statistics allowed, were more fluid in their voting habits, although they did show a noticeable association with support for the Liberal Democrats (and its predecessor parties).
 
Among other religious groups Muslims favoured Labour, Jewish voters preferred the Conservative, Hindus traditionally backed Labour but were more evenly split in 2010, as are Sikhs throughout the period investigated. The Buddhist vote was inclined to go to the Liberal Democrats.
 
Read here
 
 
 
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We have more to fear from religious state orthodoxy than a biblically-illiterate Ukip councillor

January 19th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith, Politics Comments Off

From Cranmer

A Ukip councillor from Henley-on-Thames has written to his local newspaper claiming that the current deluge of tempest and floods aflicting the United Kingdom are "divine retribution for the government's decision to legalise gay marriage". The subsequent outpouring of incredulity, condemnation and scorn has been rather disproportionate to the man's political (or religious) significance, except to say that elections to the European Parliament are fast approaching, and Ukip are widely tipped push the Conservative Party into a humiliating third place, if not win outright. Ergo, the merest unorthodox utterance by the lowliest of Nigel Farage's rabble army will be tend to be whipped up into a storm of shame and embarrassment.

David Silvester had been a life-long Tory (he is still named on Henley Conservatives' website as a branch treasurer). He defected to Ukip when David Cameron changed the natural-law (and dictionary) definition of marriage to embrace homosexual partnerships, thereby riding roughshod over millennia of Judæo-Christian orthodoxy (not to mention, Islamic, Hindu and Sikh beliefs on the primacy of the procreative potential of sexual union). The consequence of this, according to Mr Silvester, are storms, floods and other climactic judgments, which are God's warning about national rebellion, idolatry and apostasy.

The full letter is worth reading, not least because Mr Silvester expounds his belief and sets it in some sociological context, including the Queen's Coronation Oath. It is theologically naive and evidences spiritual immaturity, but the Bible exhorts us to nurture milk-drinkers onto meat (1 Cor 3:2), notwithstanding that some are patently unable to digest it.

Read here


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Girls being forced to choose between God and the Brownies, Church leaders warned

January 17th, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Faith Comments Off

by John Bingham, Telegraph

Church of England general Synod to debate whether imposing a single Girl Guide promise, without reference to God, is allowing ‘rank discrimination’ against Christians on Church premises

Young girls are being forced to choose between God and the Brownies, the Church of England’s ruling body has been told.

The decision to drop references to God from the movement’s traditional pledge of allegiance and expel anyone who refuses to adopt the new version, amounts to “rank discrimination” against Christians, Muslims and followers of other faiths – often taking place inside church halls, according to opponents.

The attack on the new oath, which came into force in September, is contained in papers being sent to almost 500 members of the Church’s decision-making General Synod which meets in London next month.

Instead of promising to “do my best, to love my God” members of the Guides and Brownies now pledge to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs”.

The Scouts also recently introduced a new secular pledge to enable atheists to become full members but retain the traditional wording for those who wish to use it.

By contrast Girlguiding UK has been made clear that only the secular promise is valid.

Read here


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Scots secularists bid to curb Churches’ role in education

January 15th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

From The Christian Institute

A Scottish secularist pressure group has called on the Government to remove religious representatives from education committees, during a session in Holyrood today.

But the Kirk has criticised the move, saying it was the Church of Scotland which helped to establish universal education, and that its representatives play a supportive role.

The Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) wants to see a change to the law, because under the Local Government Act 1973 local authority education committees are required to appoint three representatives from religious organisations.

These appointees – which should include one from the Church of Scotland, one from the Roman Catholic Church and a third from any other religious organisation – each have votes equal to elected councillors.

Read here


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Girlguiding – full report

January 14th, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Faith, News Comments Off

From ITV News

A Guide troop has been given more time to decide whether to adopt the new Girlguiding promise or be thrown out of the organisation.
 
The 37th Newcastle group in Jesmond is refusing to use the new promise because it no longer mentions God. Girlguiding says the new words welcome girls of all faiths and none.
 
Watch Julia Barthram's full report here
 
 
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Decline in belief in God masks rise in superstition

January 7th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

By Denyse O'Leary, MercatorNet

If people stop believing in God, they still have to believe in something

A Harris poll taken shortly before Christmas chronicled declining belief in God over the last eight years in the United States: From 82% in 2009 to 74% in 2013.
 
Similar declines were posted for belief in miracles (79% to 72%), heaven (75% to 68%), Jesus as God (72% to 68%), angels (74% to 68%), Jesus’ resurrection (70% to 65%), life after death (69% to 64%), hell (62% to 58%), the devil (62% to 58%), and the Virgin Birth (60% to 57%).
 
In all these areas, seniors (68+) are much more likely to believe than young people (18–36): God (83% to 64%), miracles (78% to 65%), heaven (73% to 62%), Jesus as God (75% to 58%), angels (68% to 59%), Jesus’ resurrection (74% to 55%), life after death (67% to 59%), hell (63% to 54%), the devil (60% to 53%) and the Virgin Birth (67% to 48%).
 
Do these poll results merely capture the fact that people grow more pious with age and experience? Well, consider this: The Harris poll correlates well with the most recent Pew Research Center survey of America’s religious attitudes, taken in 2012. It found that
just 19 percent of Americans identified themselves as white evangelical Protestants—five years earlier, 21 percent of Americans did so. Slightly more (19.6 percent) self-identified as unaffiliated with any religion at all, the first time that group has surpassed evangelicals.
Read here
 
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“Thought for the Day” and a question of balance

December 27th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Faith Comments Off

From Brother Ivo

Well, it didn’t take long.

Having failed in their annual ambition to remove the birth of Christ from the Christmas season, the atheists returned on Boxing Day with assistance from their cheerleaders at the Today programme, who invited Sir Tim Berners Lee to guest edit the programme. We were not only offered an “alternative” Thought for the Day from an atheist “minister” but also a Thought for the Day from a Unitarian whose views could not be considered representative of Orthodox Christianity.

Like a resentful child showing off after attention has been centred upon a sibling, there had to be a cultural response from the atheist opinion formers at our State Broadcaster, and so there was.

Presenter Evan Harris noted that he could ask questions of their invented Thought for the Day presenter but not of the regular contributors: it was an implied criticism of the status quo, overlooking that there is no prohibition or inhibition upon the programme editors exploring religious matters anytime they choose 365 days of the year during the daily two hour programme.

Tim Berners Lee explained that he included the atheist spot as a “challenge” to the BBC establishment, as if the cultural ethos of the faith following majority were somehow dominating the everyday programme. Plainly this is not the case.

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Why do modern parents want their children to believe in Father Christmas, but not in God?

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas, Faith Comments Off

By Toby Young, Telegraph

I was woken at 6.45am today by my six-year-old son Freddie wanting to know if I believe in God. We’ve had this conversation before, but it takes Freddie a while to process things so I was happy to have it again. It didn’t occur to me that he had a special reason for asking this question on Christmas Eve.
 
“I don’t believe in God because there’s no evidence that he exists,” I told him. “In the absence of any evidence, I can’t bring myself to believe in something so unlikely.”
 
“Because you can’t see him?” he asked, trying to get his head around this.
 
“Well, yes, that’s one reason,” I said.
 
“So does that mean you don’t believe in Father Christmas?”
 
So that was why he wanted to have this conversation on today of all days. Why hadn’t I seen that coming? I immediately did a reverse ferret.
 
“Er, no, I do believe in Father Christmas,” I said. “Definitely. A hundred per cent.”
 
“So you've seen him?”
 
“Well, no…”
 
“So why do you believe in him?”
 
It was a good question. I don’t believe in him, obviously, but I want my children to. Why?
 
Read here
 
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What does religion look like through the eyes of a six year old?

December 20th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

by Tom Payne, Telegraph

The gods have woken up from their nap. It is early evening, and they are dressed for a special day. It is Diwali, so tonight they are in peacock costumes as they gather around the central deity, Bhagwan Swaminarayan. They beam with youthful faces, bright like porcelain, and we crowd around, too, clanking £1 coins on to a salver so that we can warm our hands by the same flames that have warmed the gods. Or at least the murtis – the images of the gods.

I have come to the Hindu temple with my six-year-old daughter, Lilac, who is impressed by this, and especially dazzled by the light above the gods, which reminds her of the Strictly Come Dancing glitterball. It is the only light fitting she has seen recently that comes close to the massive chandelier that swoops from the ceiling of the London Central Mosque beside Regent’s Park.

Lilac has been spending her half-term inspecting London places of worship, chandeliers and all. The mosque was our first. The next day was a Gurdwara – a Sikh temple – in Holland Park. Then it was Saturday, so she went to the Sabbath service in the New West End Synagogue, Bayswater, as well as taking in the nearby Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. And finally, on the Sunday, it is Diwali, when Lilac arrives at Neasden, family in tow, to join 30,000 devotees at the marble-white mandir. Our mission is not just to find London’s best-lit temple; we’re seeing how other people approach God.

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