Even though they may be atheists or agnostics themselves, parents would be well advised to send their kids to Sunday school, advises baby doctor Benjamin Spock.
"Judaism and Christianity are integral parts of the history and culture and attitudes of most of the people in the United States, even of those who have rejected these religions." Spock points out, "and it's also valuable for all people to be familiar with the biblical stories that their fellow citizens often reter to and to be familiar with the hymns that are often sung outside churches as well as in them."
In an article in Redbook magazine, Spock, who identifies himself as agnostic, conceded that "talking with children about religion has been made more difficult in the past 100 years by the changing religious attitudes and weakening beliefs of many people."
But, he went on, "the concept of the universe as a purely physical system and of the human being as merely a contraption made up of cells and chemicals, developed through the process of evolution, leaves many of us who are agnostics or are only vaguely religious feeling unsatisfied."
Spock acknowledged that "parents who never go to church can't, in all fairness, insist that their children attend Sunday school, but they can recommend it."
In an open letter, which received wide attention in the media. South Africa's 12 Roman Catholic bishops condemned widespread arrests of young Catholics who opposes the country's apartheid policies. They also called on Prime Minister John Vorster to end what they said was his practice of labeling as a Communist anyone who opposes racial segregation.
"The best antidote to communism is not repression. It is justice, "the bishops said in their letter. "For this reason, the Young Christian Workers are among your best allies. But this cannot be understood so long as the belief persists that every endeavor to improve the social and political lot of blacks in South Africa is communism."
The letter expressed dismay at recent arrests of leaders of Young Christian Workers and Young Christian Students organizations.
"These young people belong to a worldwide movement that is one of the most significant religious developments of the last half century." the bishops said. Repressive measures against the groups have "struck us a particularly cruel blow in recent weeks through the detention without trial of so many young members of our church, especially dear to us for their dedication to the noblest Christian ideals," they said.
In a separate but related development, Britain's annual conference of Methodists urged their half million members to participate in a Year Against Apartheid campaign by actively boycotting all South African goods.
The action was taken after a dramatic appeal by the Rev. Brian Brown, former administration secretary of the now-banned Christian Institute of South Africa. He said the move was necessary to awaken the "tragically dulled" consciences of South Africa's white community.
The supreme court of the United Methodist Church has been asked to rule whether an avowed homosexual may serve as a minister of a church. The issue was raised formally when 37 ministers of the New York annual conference petitioned the church's Council of Bishops for a ruling on their bishop's appointment of the Rev. Paul Abels as pastor of Washington Square Church in New York's Greenwich Village.
Both the majority of the conference's ministers and members of Washington Square, widely known as one of the denomination's more radical congregations, endorsed Abels' reappointment.
In another development, 43 faculty members of Northwestern University voted not to cooperate in joint doctoral programs with neighboring Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, a United Methodist school, because the seminary faculty last spring dismissed two ministerial students who publicly acknowledged their homosexuality.
A national gathering of Indian Christian leaders, Protestant and Catholic, has denounced their govenment's treatment of Harijan Christians, untouchables who convert to Christianity, as a grave social injustice.
Harijan is the term coined by Mahatma Gandhi for the lowest, or untouchable, group within the Hindu castle system. Following India's emergence from colonial status, the government launched what amounted to an affirmative action program for Harijans. The program included loans for housing, land grants, scholarships and favorable job quotas in government service.
Such concessions, however, are denied Harijan who convert to Christianity on the ground that Christianity recognizes no caste distinctions.
The ecumenical convention attended by more than 200 delegates, including Christian members of parliament, pledged a massive national drive to demand justice for Harijans who have converted. It also called on the churches to take the lead in creating a caste-less society by eliminating such divisions within the church.
Leaders of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and the United Presbyterian Church will gather in Louisville Aug. 23 to 25 for continued talks on the proposed reunion of the two denominations . . . The Free From Religion Foundation has filed a suit against the state of Wisconsin, charging the state violates the First Amendment to the Constitution because its legislature opens each session with prayer . . . But in Columbus, Ohio, the Christian Civil Liberties Union is pushing for a state law that would require public schools to schedule a period of silence each day for prayer or meditation . . . In Spain, the Chamber of Deputies has approved a new constitutional provision which stipulates that there will be no state religions . . . The government of Greece has announced plans to build a mosque in Athens. The decision was seen as a goodwill gesture to the increasing numbers of Moslem Arab tourists . . .
The Southern Baptist Home Mission Board has dispatched a record 18,000 summer volunteer missionaries to assignments through out the United States this summer. Most of the volunteers are college students who give 10 weeks to mission work.