TIME Congress

America Is Getting More Non-Religious, But Congress Is Not

Congress Spending
J. Scott Applewhite—AP The Capitol Dome and the Capitol Christmas Tree are illuminated in Washington D.C. on Dec. 11, 2014.

About one-in-five Americans don’t consider themselves members of any particular religion, but in the 114th Congress there’s only one.

Congress changed a fair amount after the recent elections, with Republicans taking over the Senate and a slew of retirements from both parties. But in one major way, the new crop of lawmakers being sworn in tomorrow will be the same as ever: they are religious.

About 92% of members in the now- GOP controlled House and Senate identify as Christian, according to a new Pew Research Center study, only a small bump from the 90% Christian 113th Congress. Over half of members are Protestant and about a third are Catholic, both of which are among the most common religious affiliations among American adults.

But despite the growing number of Americans who don’t affiliate with any religion, there will be very few lawmakers who are not religious.

According to the data provided by the Pew Research Center and CQ Roll Call, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is the only member of Congress who currently identifies herself as religiously unaffiliated. (Sinema, however, also doesn’t consider herself a nonbeliever; she says she prefers a “secular approach.”) By comparison, about 20 percent of Americans say they are religiously unaffiliated.

Only two known atheists have served in Congress in recent years: Democratic Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Pete Stark of California, though Frank didn’t announce his atheism until after leaving office. As the Huffington Post notes, he was more comfortable coming out as the first openly gay member of Congress in 1987 than coming out as a nonbeliever in 2012.

Smaller religious groups including Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism are more proportionately represented in Congress: according to the data about 2% of American adults are Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu, and 1% of Congressional members practice those faiths. There are fewer Jews in the 114th Congress than in the 113th, but 5% of Congress members are Jewish compared to 2% of the American public, according to Pew.

Check out the religious breakdown of the 114th Congress below.


TIME Religion

A Nation in Dire Need of Christmas

82nd Annual Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Joe Stevens—Retna/Corbis The 82nd Annual Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in New York City on Dec. 3, 2014.

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

How this annual feast can transform us

As the year winds down, even the biggest optimist can’t deny that 2014 has been a tough year for our nation and the world. The tragedy of the past year has played out on our television screens and in our newspapers. Everyday the headlines seem to get worse. Just this past weekend, our nation was dealt another blow after a disturbed individual executed two New York City police officers in broad daylight. The man was seeking revenge for the unprosecuted death of Eric Garner—an unarmed black man who was killed during a disagreement with New York City police officers over the illegal sale of cigarettes.

The roots of the violence that killed Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos this past weekend and Eric Garner and Michael Brown earlier this summer are complicated and multi-faceted. Racism, policism, economic and structural injustices are only some of the contributing factors.

Though we can’t name everything that’s marked these men’s deaths, we can name the shame that we as a nation experience knowing that this is a country where the plague of violence continues to rage on with no end in sight.

Bobby Kennedy said it so well: “whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily—whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence—whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.”

Against this grim backdrop, our nation comes upon Christmas. The true spirit of this season is often trapped behind our society’s gilded age of consumerism and superficiality. But if we open our eyes and our hearts to rediscover the radical story of Christmas, the holiday can be a source of hope and liberation for our nation during this time of great trial.

Though we tend to romanticize the Christmas story, it’s important to remember that Mary and Joseph bore a lot of hardships leading up to Jesus’s birth. Time and again, they faced discomfort and rejection. As Luke puts it so vividly, there was no room in the inn.

Our nation is suffering its own winter of hardships, but in Jesus, God proves that love itself can be born amidst brokenness, abandonment, and obscurity.

And this is a love that can overcome violence. Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the dream the prophet Isaiah had of a world made new, a time and a place where “swords and spears are beaten into ploughshares and pruning hooks” and nations “will cease to learn the art of war.”

Jesus comes to bring that holy dream of Isaiah this Christmas, and in the words of Glenn Rudolph, he comes to create a place where ” peace will pervade more than forest and field, [and] God will transfigure the violence concealed deep in the heart and in systems of gain.”

The basic message of Christmas is simple: No matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, or how badly we’ve failed, God never grows tired of loving us. In Jesus, God has visited his people. At Christmas, Jesus came all the way down into the grittiness of human dysfunction—its violence, its disloyalty and its sinfulness—to bring everyone up. No one is excluded, and no one is left behind.

In the United States, Christmas comes during the darkest time of the year, where sunlight only appears eight hours a day. But it is in this context that the holiday is best understoood. The child born on Christmas is the Star of Bethlehem, most visible on the darkest day of the year.

In his birth and in his story, we can begin to discern a new way forward: a way that leads out of darkness and into God’s wonderful light.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Let’s Teach About Islam in Our Schools

Eric Yoffie was President of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012.

We Americans need to teach about Islam in our public schools.

This is essential because there exists in our country among all Americans—whether Jews, Christians, people of other faiths, or non-believers—a huge and profound ignorance about Islam.

It is not that stories about Islam are missing from our media; there is no shortage of voices prepared to tell us that fanaticism and intolerance are fundamental to Islamic religion, and that violence and even suicide bombing have deep Koranic roots. There is no lack of so-called experts who are eager to seize on any troubling statement by any Muslim thinker and pin it on Islam as a whole. Thus, it has been far too easy to spread the image of Islam as enemy, as terrorist, as the frightening unknown.

How did this happen?

Part of the reason is the ignorance to which I referred. Part of the reason is the relatively modest number of Muslims in our country, preventing most Americans from forming the kind of friendships with Muslims that foster tolerance and understanding. Part of the reason is the sensationalist nature of our 24-hour news cycle. And part of the reason is the undeniable fact that there exists a radical fringe of Muslim fanatics who kill in the name of God and foment hatred of America and the West, subverting Islam’s image by professing to speak in its name.

But as the small number of Muslim extremists becomes ever more skilled at commanding attention and manipulating the media for their own purposes, it becomes more important for the rest of us to avoid tarring all Muslims with the brush of fanaticism. This means rejecting the stereotyping of Islam, categorically and unequivocally. This means recognizing that normative Islam, which has a billion adherents, is a religion that promotes kindness and compassion, opposes violence, and promotes a middle way between extremes. This means speaking up when American bigots demonize Muslims and bash Islam. And this means, above all, educating Americans in a serious way about the teachings of Islam.

Teaching about Islam in American schools is permitted by our legal system. Indeed, it is encouraged.

In 1963, in the landmark case Abington v. Schempp, the Supreme Court prohibited school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools, but also allowed—and in fact endorsed—the study of religion in school settings. Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas Clark observed: “It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its advancement of civilization.” Several subsequent decisions reiterated the point that schools may not advocate or indoctrinate when it comes to matters of faith, but they have every right to offer academic instruction about religion.

The virtues of teaching about religion to students—particularly older students—are obvious. Religion is so deeply rooted in the human experience that absent a fundamental knowledge of the major religious traditions, a sophisticated understanding of art, history, and politics is simply impossible. And what is true everywhere is especially true in America, where bonds of trust and understanding across religious and ethnic lines is what makes us unique in the world.

It is also obvious, in my view, that while students should ideally study all major religious traditions, Islam should be given special attention at this historical moment. Fanatics who have hijacked Islam were responsible for the horrors of 9/11 and continue to wage a war of terror, indelibly shaping the consciousness of a generation. And American forces have been fighting wars in the Islamic world for more than a decade. These factors make the study of genuine Islam, as practiced by the non-radical masses, all the more essential.

It is true that while the need to teach about Islam may be clear, implementing a program is a far more complicated matter. Even those who agree that teaching about religion in general and Islam in particular is valuable and important are quick to point out the innumerable problems that are sure to arise. (For a thoughtful symposium on the pros and cons of teaching about religion in public schools, see religionandpolitics.org.)

To begin with, Islam is not a centralized tradition. Pluralistic, diverse, and complex, it is not simply summarized, and there is no short list of beliefs and practices that can be easily digested by high school students. Instructing young Americans about Islam will require training the teachers and preparing the curricula that are not now readily available but are required to do the job right. More broadly, religion is a hugely sensitive topic in our country, and every high school principal in America is likely to struggle with how exactly to maintain the distinction between “teaching” and “preaching,” between “non-sectarian” and “sectarian,” and between what is objectively acceptable and what is not.

Nonetheless, as real as these problems are, Justice Clark’s admonition in 1963 is as valid today as it was then. Our children cannot be fully educated human beings if they do not learn about the great religious traditions of our world, and teaching about Islam—the most misunderstood religious system of our time—is a solemn obligation. Here in America, we must not permit ignorance to grow or prejudice to harden. The task is difficult, but let us begin.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

A Call for Light During Our Nation’s Dark Period

Europe and Africa The Week In Pictures Dec. 15 - Dec. 22, 2014
Michael Sohn—AP The first flames of a giant Hanukkah Menorah in front of a Christmas tree at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 16, 2014.

Rabbi Miller is a popular speaker and writer on technology and its effect on the Jewish world.

It is no coincidence that lights are a core component of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.

The most famous debates of Jewish law throughout history occurred between the students of Hillel the sage and the students of Shammai the sage. And of those famous debates, the one most often discussed case involves the lighting of the Hanukkah candles.

The students of Shammai argued that the first night of the eight day festival Jewish people are commanded to light all eight candles of the menorah and then remove one additional candle with each successive night. This, they reasoned, would show that our joy is diminished as the festival goes on. The students of Hillel, on the other hand, argued that we begin lighting one candle and then add an additional candle each night until the menorah is burning bright with eight candles on the final night. This shows that our joy increases throughout the holiday.

The Jewish tradition of lighting Hanukkah candles follows the school of Hillel. And I’m glad my ancestors ruled the way they did. The increase of light is a beautiful metaphor not only for this dark time of year, but for these dark days in our nation. The warm glow of the menorah we place in our windows for all to see demonstrates our determination to bring much needed light into our communities despite the unrest among us. For this reason, another name of Hanukkah is the “Festival of Lights” and Judaism is not the only religion seeking to bring light into this dark world.

It is no coincidence that lights are a core component of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Each of these three religious holidays occurs around the winter solstice when the days are the shortest and our nights become darker earlier. Like the lighting of the Hanukkah candles, the lighting of the Kwanzaa candle also seeks to bring light into a dark world. Streets are brighter during this winter holiday season as those celebrating Christmas light Advent candles and string bright, colorful lights atop their trees and houses. The dedication to light as a metaphor during the cold, dark months is not even limited to only those observing Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was celebrated this past October by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. Additionally, the Zoroastrians celebrate the winter solstice with their holiday of Yalda.

Why do so many of the world’s religions mark the darkest season with festivals of light? The kindling of fire brings much needed light into our lives and it also symbolizes hope. That message is needed now more than ever. I look around me at the state of our country today and I’m scared and angry. I’m scared because it’s full of the darkness of distrust and racial disharmony. I’m angry because I had imagined a brighter America for my young children as they grow older. I’m scared because I’m seeing race relations move quickly in retrograde motion and I’m angry because so many decades of progress appear to be for naught.

News reports should be boasting of progress. Just like science, medicine and technology, the way we treat each other should also be improving. Why can we report our amazing stories of innovation in every area of society save for the way we treat those who are different than us? For too many years, we’ve reasoned that if the President living in the White House is black and so are CEOs and surgeons, then racial tension must have ended in our country. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We have a lot of work to do.

The historical narrative of Hanukkah is not merely about creating light. It’s a story about the miracle of light. Indeed, it would be a modern day miracle if we all sought to bring more light into our dark society. Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, Mormons and Atheists—regardless of race or the color of their skin—must all work together to bring much needed light into our world. I desperately want to stop being scared and angry for the world I will bequeath to my children and grandchildren. My parents’ generation worked too hard to right the wrongs of racism in our nation for us to let it sadly slide back to a much darker time.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Holidays

8 Things People Are Hating on During the Holidays

People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus celebrate in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on Dec. 13, 2014 in New York.
Don Emmert—AFP/Getty Images People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus celebrate in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on Dec. 13, 2014 in New York.

It's the most wonderful time of the year. But that's not stopping people from bashing everything they hate about the season, including Christmas trees, rampant consumerism, Santa photos, and religion.

What do some people wish would be forever banned, or at least toned down, during holiday seasons in the future? Let’s start with these.

Who could hate an event that pulls together thousands of merrymakers dressed up in Santa Claus gear, and that also raises money for charity? Lots of people. That’s because SantaCon, an annual bar crawl that takes place on a Saturday in December in New York City and San Francisco, is known to devolve into a drunken, sometimes violent mess that annoys the police and horrifies families that happen to stumble into the scrum. Building up to this year’s Con, the San Francisco Chronicle urged participants to try hard to not be the mischievous elf who “makes children cry or gets so drunk in public that Santa gets on the naughty list for public urination.” SantaCon was actually banned in several neighborhoods in New York City to keep partiers at bay. At least one very Bad Santa was on the loose, however: One man dressed as Santa robbed a bank in San Francisco and then disappeared into the pack of red-and-white revelers on the streets.

Secret Santa Gift Exchanges
Are popular office secret Santa gift exchanges the “worst idea ever”? Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke says so, largely because, well-intentioned or not, in the exchange “the odds of a recipient actually liking, needing, or not being mildly offended by the gift are slim.” No one can argue with the other kind of secret Santa that has been popping up during the season, however: One mysterious “Santa” has been visiting fast-food restaurants and handing out $100 tips to workers, while other are anonymously spending tens of thousands of to pay off the layaway accounts of total strangers.

Santa Photo Ops
Santa imagery is used to sell all sorts of things around the holidays. The Dillards department store, for instance, posted a sign in the young girls’ section that was supposed to be a letter to Santa Claus, asking for “a big fat bank account and a slim body,” before people complained and it was removed. Then there are the different permutations of photo ops—Santa on a Harley-Davidson, Santa with pets, mall Santa photo packages that start at $30 and go higher. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some are critics of Santa’s overexposure, especially the Georgia gun range that welcomed children for a Santa photo op, which some called “irresponsible,” or worse.

Christmas Trees—Real and Fake
You’d think Christmas tree sellers would be pretty jolly. But the debate about whether natural or fake trees are best has pushed opposing sides to do some nasty trash talking. The artificial tree is little more than “a giant green toilet bowl brush,” Rick Dungey, a spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association, told the Los Angeles Times. “A real Christmas tree starts as a seed. It comes from nature. Fake ones end in a landfill, and they won’t decompose like a plant will.” Critics of real trees, meanwhile, point out that because states such as California are suffering from serious droughts, and because it thousands of gallons of water are needed to raise a Christmas tree, the all-natural option isn’t entirely environmentally friendly either.

Gift Cards
The gift card may very well be the most requested present year in, year out, but it’s nonetheless a lazy, thoughtless “crime against Christmas,” my colleague Kara Brandeisky argued recently. What message is sent when we give gift cards? “I couldn’t be bothered to think of you this holiday season; help yourself to exactly $25 worth of crap from Target.”

Supposedly Thoughtful Gifts
The best counterargument to the exchanging of “thoughtful” handpicked gifts is the one Jacob Davidson, another MONEY colleague, makes by showing that the vast majority of people wind up not liking their gifts. “You’re statistically likely to buy an unwanted, meaningless present, so don’t get gray hairs over choosing the right one.” Just buy a gift card.

Even though Black Friday at the mall flopped, with foot traffic and sales down substantially on what’s traditionally one of the year’s biggest shopping days, consumerism is undeniably alive—and so are the critics tired of shopping encroaching on family time during the holidays. By far what agitated the masses the most was how stores insisted on being open on Thanksgiving, starting as early as 6 a.m. Protesters launched campaigns to boycott stores open on the holiday, but it’s unclear what, if any, effect they’ve had.

An atheist group based in New Jersey decided that the holiday season was the perfect time to take pot shots at religion, in the form of roadside billboards in the heartland featuring a girl in a Santa hat and the words on a mock letter, “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.” Some Christian groups are also viewing Tom Ford’s provocative new piece of jewelry—a cross penis pendant, available in gold and silver, in sizes small and medium (no large)—as an intentional insult to their religious beliefs.

TIME Education

Catholic Colleges Tell Poor Kids to Go Elsewhere

The Catholic University of America campus with National
John Greim—Getty Images The Catholic University of America campus with National Shrine Basilica in Washington, DC.

Church-affiliated schools are among the nation's most expensive for low-income students

At Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., officials sometimes bring in low-income applicants and their families for counseling. The point of the sessions is not to encourage the students to attend, but to suggest they consider going somewhere cheaper.

The university needs to spend its financial aid to attract “higher-end students,” says W. Michael Hendricks, vice president for enrollment management — the kind of high-achieving, wealthy students that can improve a school’s prestige and bolster its bottom line. And he says the school has another, seemingly paradoxical rationale for dissuading low-income students: its Catholic identity makes the university hesitant to burden low-income families with debt. “It totally flies in the face of our mission,” Hendricks says.

Despite such sentiment, Catholic University charges the highest net price in America for low-income students — the cost once discounts and financial aid are taken into account — according to a study by the New America Foundation based on information reported to the U.S. Department of Education by the institutions themselves. And they have plenty of company among peer institutions.

At a time of escalating worry over access to higher education, Catholic institutions are in the uncomfortable position of comprising five of the 10 most expensive private universities for low-income students, and 10 of the top 28, the study found.

Some Catholic colleges “seem to have departed from what you would assume the principles of their faith would have compelled them to do,” says Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for low-income students.

“It’s disturbing that institutions give money in these very difficult times to students who don’t need it,” Haycock said, and “don’t focus their resources on those who absolutely need it the most.”

Colleges that charge the most to poor families, the New America Foundation researchers said, are giving increasing proportions of their financial aid to wealthier students, whose families can afford to pay the rest of the tuition. These kids often come from well-funded suburban high schools and have comparatively higher entrance examination scores and high-school grades that improve the colleges’ standings in rankings.

Officials at some Catholic colleges and universities say that, as a matter of survival, they feel compelled to spread small amounts of financial aid to a large number of these higher-income students, rather than give more of it to the poor. By making many small grants, they say, they can attract the number of tuition-paying students needed to keep the colleges in business.

It’s a sensitive issue for the nation’s 200-plus Catholic colleges, given that church teaching calls for a “preferential option for the poor,” which the U.S. Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops has interpreted to mean that “poor people have the first claim on limited resources.”

Some Catholic institutions do succeed at keeping down costs for students with family earnings low enough to qualify for federal Pell grants — generally, $30,000 a year or less. But others are charging those students a net price that is equal to two-thirds or more of their families’ entire annual incomes.

At Catholic University, for example, the poorest students pay an average annual net price of $30,770. Philadelphia-based Saint Joseph’s University charges its poorest students $30,503; Saint Louis University, $23,882; the University of Dayton, $21,520; and Loyola University Maryland, $20,672.


These schools also enroll low percentages of poor students. Only between 13% and 15% of the students they enroll come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for Pell grants.

Five other Catholic colleges and universities, however, are among the 10 private colleges at the other end of the spectrum, providing a lower-cost education to comparatively high proportions of Pell students.

Saint Thomas University in Miami, for example, has an average net price of $8,072 for its lowest-income students, who make up more than half of its enrollment. Others with high proportions of low-income students and low net prices are Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Calumet College of Saint Joseph in Indiana, Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif., and Saint Francis College in Brooklyn.

“Some Catholic colleges are able to place a high priority on meeting the needs of very low-income families. Others have limited resources, making it more difficult to address those financial needs,” says Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. “While embracing their faith tradition, our institutions still must contend with the realities of education costs that are true of any college or university in the United States.”

In fact, some of the Catholic colleges that charge the most have robust wealth in the form of their endowments. Saint Louis University has a $956 million endowment; the University of Dayton, $442 million; Catholic University, $264 million; Saint Joseph’s, $193 million; and Loyola of Maryland, $177 million, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Among the other Catholic universities with high net prices for low-income students, Villanova University has an endowment of $419 million, while Notre Dame has a towering $6.9 billion in the bank.

Gerald Beyer, a theology professor at Villanova, thinks high-cost Catholic colleges should try harder to move away from the “preferential option for the rich” adopted by many on-Catholic private private universities in the U.S. “By the very nature of their mission, Catholic universities must fight against this trend,” Beyer says.

He points to an overlooked passage from Pope John Paul II’s 1990 document Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which says that Catholic universities should seek “to make university education accessible to all those who are able to benefit from it, especially the poor or members of minority groups who customarily have been deprived of it.”

Jesuit Catholic colleges and universities in particular stress principles of social justice, but three of the order’s universities rank high on the list of colleges that accept few Pell students and leave them with high net costs: Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, and Loyola University Maryland.

Saint Joseph’s spokesman Joseph Lunardi says the school takes the issue seriously. At an October meeting, he says trustees discussed its comparatively low proportion of Pell students, asking whether the university is “losing ground in their mission.”

Lunardi added that the proportion of Pell students would be higher if 1,000 part-time students were included, since 40% to 50% of them are low-income, and that the net-price figures collected by the federal government and used in the report include only students who receive federal financial aid, not all students.

Saint Louis University and Loyola-Maryland declined to comment.

The University of Dayton, which is affiliated with the Marianist order, said that, since the 2011-12 academic year covered by the New America study, it has instituted a four-year guarantee that students’ net price won’t increase and has taken other steps that are beginning to result in the admission of more Pell students and less student debt.

Of all the nation’s colleges, Catholic University is most closely identified with the institutional church. Its bylaws require that 18 of its 48 trustees be bishops. An annual collection in parishes across the country raises about $5 million for the university, which goes for scholarships issued through participating parishes.

Hendricks, the enrollment manager, says the school is “always struggling” with the moral implications of admission practices. “At Catholic schools in particular, we like to stay need-blind,” he says, referring to a waning practice under which universities accept applicants regardless of their ability to pay. “That’s our mission. It’s getting more and more expensive to do that.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news website focused on inequality and innovation in education.

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TIME Religion

Pope Francis Gives Stern Talking to Vatican Bureaucracy

Pope Francis delivers his blessing at the end of an audience with Italian athletes in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Giampiero Sposito—Reuters Pope Francis delivers his blessing at the end of an audience with Italian athletes in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec. 19, 2014.

“Sometimes [officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ – superior to everyone and everything”

Pope Francis had some blunt criticism for Vatican bureaucrats on Monday. In prepared remarks Monday, the Pope urged Roman Curia officials to remember their duty to serve in charity and love.

“Sometimes, [officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ – superior to everyone and everything,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

READ MORE How Pope Francis Helped Broker Cuba Deal

“The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission,” he added. “But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses.”

The AP reports that “few were smiling” during the Pope’s comments.

Read more from the Associated Press.

TIME Religion

Here’s a Secular Alternative to the Ten Commandments

Lex Bayor and John Figdor are the authors of "Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century."

“Pics or it didn’t happen,” the mantra of the Snapchat generation, is a simple but profound reflection of how we think. It reflects a healthy skepticism. If you’re going to claim something unlikely—I made eight 3-pointers in a row, I met Jon Stewart at Starbucks, or I was dealt a royal flush in online poker and won a thousand bucks—you better have some good evidence to back it up.

Earlier this year, the Christian polling organization The Barna Group shocked the Christian world by producing research showing that 38% of Americans were essentially secular, a category they called “the unchurched.” The category, which describes people who “do not participate in activities such as believing in God, attending church or reading the Bible,” shows that nearly two in five Americans live essentially nonreligious lives. These numbers are consistent with findings from Gallup and Pew showing that one-third of people under 30 are nonreligious and that coastal cities like San Francisco and Boston are 45% nonreligious.

But as happens with the increased prominence of any minority group, widespread misinformation and bigotry is being spread about nonbelievers. In 2010, Pope Benedict erroneously blamed the Holocaust on atheists, and just this year, Louisiana Congressional candidate Zach Dasher falsely blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on atheists. With this sort of misinformation and prejudice, it isn’t surprising to find conservative Christian critics dismayed about the rise of the nonbelievers and the decline of Christianity in modern America.

What is driving the trend toward secularism? Given the beliefs of the “pics or it didn’t happen” generation, it isn’t hard to see why the traditional religious worldview, which advocates for “faith in things unseen,” is becoming less popular. Should we really take it on faith that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that evolution is false or possibly a conspiracy, or that prayer is more powerful than medicine?

Natural skepticism is an important component of the nonreligious view of life. In our view, belief should not only follow the evidence but be proportional to it. This is one of the most important “non-commandments” that we discuss and explain in Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century. The book is about the positive beliefs and values of the nonreligious and guides readers in establishing their own set of personal beliefs. We wrote it to answer the question: “So you don’t believe in God…now what?”

As a Humanist Chaplain serving the community at Stanford University, John meets countless students of this new generation who, after giving up on a belief in God, come to him asking some variation on the question, “What is worth believing in?” Nonbelievers recognize that the scientific method is the best way to understand the natural world, realizing that science has unlocked secrets ranging from the structure of the atom to hereditary traits found in our DNA. We can also apply these critical thinking skills to questions about morality and human behavior. We can look at the contemporary individualistic, Western social model in countries including the United States, and compare it to family-oriented Confucian societies in Asia, or the social democracy model prevalent in Europe.

Faced with the evidence of a multitude of prosperous and harmonious societies with distinctly different moral and ethical systems, many nonreligious people conclude that morality is most likely subjective. The underpinnings of morality stem from the experiences and preferences of real people, not abstract principles or an absolute decree. Our moral compasses—refined through our upbringing, tempered by our society, and informed by our particular experiences, talents, and natural abilities—guide our behavior. Choosing to be moral is a choice motivated by empathy and compassion in our relationships with others and measured more in actions than in words.

While the “rise of nonbelievers” or the “emergence of the unchurched” may be cause for concern for some religious Americans, perhaps existentially so for conservative Christianity, most Americans should be thrilled to have more seculars among us. To help counter the misinformation spread about the nonreligious, sociologist Phil Zuckerman at Pitzer College has compiled some statistics that tell us who they really are. Compared to the general population, Zuckerman finds that nonreligious Americans are younger, more educated, politically independent (though left-leaning), supportive of feminism and gay rights, and strongly opposed to torture and the death penalty.

While there are hundreds if not thousands of books about what atheists don’t believe in, including religion, God, and supernaturalism, there has been comparatively little attention paid to what atheists and humanists do believe. We wrote our book in hopes not only of educating people about the positive beliefs and values of the nonreligious, but also of inspiring other nonbelievers to come out and share their beliefs and values.

To encourage people to introspect about their beliefs, we created the ReThink Prize, and asked people to submit their own beliefs and reasoning for a chance to win one of ten $1,000 prizes. Now that the contest has come to an end, we’re happy to share the wonderful winning beliefs! The winning beliefs addressed themes ranging from personal freedom, to open-mindedness, from critical thinking to compassion and empathy:

1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence. (Jeremy Jimenez)

2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true. (Matthew Main)

3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world. (Isaiah Jackson)

4. Every person has the right to control of their body. (Chris Lager)

5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life. (John Roso)

6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them. (Jamie Andrews)

7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective. (Carol Fly)

8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations. (Michael Marr)

9. There is no one right way to live. (Eli Chisholm)

10. Leave the world a better place than you found it. (Maury McCoy)

Lex Bayor and John Figdor are the authors of “Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century.”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Meet the Church of England’s First Ever Female Bishop

Reverend Libby Lane poses for pictures during a photo call following the announcement naming her first woman bishop by The Church of England, after a historic change in its rules, in Stockport, northwest England, on Dec. 17, 2014.
Paul Ellis—AFP/Getty Images Reverend Libby Lane poses for pictures during a photo call following the announcement naming her first woman bishop by The Church of England, after a historic change in its rules, in Stockport, northwest England, on Dec. 17, 2014.

In a historic move, Reverend Libby Lane is the first woman in England to be named a bishop

The Church of England’s stained-glass ceiling has been smashed at last.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Elizabeth Lane was named as the first female bishop in the Church of England, just a month after the church made a change to its canon law to allow female bishops. Beginning on Jan. 26, Lane will serve as Bishop of Stockport, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Chester.

The Church of England first allowed female priests in 1992 and the battle to have female bishops began shortly after. Female bishops are already common in the Anglican churches in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, but in the Church of England traditionalists argued that only men should serve in the role of bishops, claiming it was sanctioned by scripture. Others argued that allowing female bishops was ethical and necessary to keep the church relevant. In July, the church’s legislative body, known as the General Synod, voted to allow female bishops and formally enacted a change to canon law in late November.

So who is the woman who will be the Church of England’s first female bishop?

Lane — who goes by “Libby” — was ordained as a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994 after being educated at the University of Oxford and trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall, a theological college at Durham University in north-east England. Since 2010 she has been the Dean of Women in Ministry for the diocese of Chester, a post created to support other women within the church. As a bishop’s selection advisor since 2003, she has spent the last ten years making recommendations to the church about candidates offering themselves for ordination.

Speaking at a town hall on Wednesday in Stockport, Lane said that it was a “remarkable day for me and a historic day for the Church.” She continued: “On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be bishop I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has backed the push for women bishops. He issued a statement about Lane’s appointment on Wednesday, saying: “Her Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the Church and the community make her a wonderful choice. She will be bishop in a diocese that has been outstanding in its development of people, and she will make a major contribution.”

Lane’s appointment, which was approved by the Queen, was also endorsed by the U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who congratulated Lane in a statement on Wednesday, saying: “This is an historic appointment and an important step forward for the Church towards greater equality in its senior positions.”

While Lane’s appointment is being lauded as a moment of progress, the church still has a way to go until it reaches gender equality. As the Guardian reports: “About half of female clergy are unpaid. They are also less likely to hold senior positions… [and] only three of the 44 English cathedrals are run by women today and the overwhelming majority of female clergy are not running their own parishes.”

But having a woman bishop is a significant first step. For her part, Lane seems to believe her new role could lead to further appointments for women, telling the Telegraph: “Today I pray will not be simply about one woman called up a new ministry in the church but much more than that, an opportunity to acknowledge all that has gone before and to look ahead to what is still to be done.” It’s that resolve to look to the future that allows other women to believe Lane won’t be the Church of England’s only female bishop.

TIME Religion

Dalai Lama Says He Would Rather Be the Last Than See Someone Stupid Take His Place

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during Ganden Ngachoe, the death anniversary of 14th Century Tibetan Saint-Scholar Lama Tsongkhapa, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014.
Tsering Topgyal—AP Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during Ganden Ngachoe, the death anniversary of 14th Century Tibetan Saint-Scholar Lama Tsongkhapa, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014.

Buddhists believe that the next Dalai Lama is born when the current one dies

The Dalai Lama has conceded that the title may die with him and that it is “up to the Tibetan people” to decide whether someone follows him. In a BBC interview on Tuesday night, the 79-year-old leader said: “The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease.”

“There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama,” he said.

The 14th Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, is the longest serving leader and has held the title since he was 15 years old. Each Dalai Lama is thought to be reincarnated in the body of a male child identified by Buddhist priests in Tibet.

A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the current Dalai Lama has been in exile in India ever since an attempted uprising in Tibet in 1959. He now supports a “middle way” with China, hoping for autonomy but not independence for Tibet.


Read next: TIME’s Exclusive With the Dalai Lama on Pot, Facebook and the Pope

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