Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service

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'Game of Thrones' Returns, and So Do Its Religions

Image via Keith Bernstein/HBO/RNS

Game of Thrones, the engrossing, sometimes disturbing, always exciting TV series returns for a sixth season Sunday night on HBO. The network is not releasing screeners, so it’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen. But one thing you can bet on — the television show, like the books by George R.R. Martin they are based on, involve storylines with religious elements. Considering where some of those stories left off, religion may come further to the fore in the new season. Here’s a primer on a few of the religions of Westeros, the imagined, medieval-inflected world of Game of Thrones.

Bipartisan Commission: LGBT Discrimination on 'Religious Liberty' Grounds Is Human Rights Violation

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

Citing “religious liberty” as a reason for denying one class of citizens bathroom access, equal housing, or services is a human rights violation.

That’s the finding of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bipartisan agency that advises the president and Congress on civil rights matters. The commission issued a statement April 18 saying it “strongly condemns recent state laws passed, and proposals being considered, under the guise of so-called ‘religious liberty’ which target members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for discrimination.”

Dying Christopher Hitchens Considered Christianity, New Book Claims

Image via Fixed Point Foundation / RNS

Before his death at 62, Christopher Hitchens, the uber-atheist and best-selling author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, considered becoming a Christian. That is the provocative claim of The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist, a controversial new book winning both applause and scorn while underscoring, again, the divide between believers and atheists Hitchens’ own life and work often displayed.

Majority of Christians Oppose Payday Lenders as 'Sinful'

To a majority of Christians, those who provide payday loans, with their three-digit interest rates, are sinners. That’s among the findings of a new poll conducted by LifeWay Research , a Nashville-based Christian group, that surveyed 1,000 self-identifying Christians in 30 states with no regulations on payday lending.

District Court to Spaghetti: You Are Not a God

The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Image via Head / Wikimedia Commons

A federal court has ruled that the Flying Spaghetti Monster, referred to as “His Flying Noodliness” by fans and followers, is not, alas, the object of a real religion. In a 16-page decision, the U.S. District Court of Nebraska ruled that Pastafarianism is satire, not sacred, and that anyone who thinks it is a religion has made an error “of basic reading comprehension.”

What Happens When You Feature Secular Art in Sacred Space

Image via Kimberly Winston / RNS

To walk into First Congregational Church of Los Angeles on a Sunday morning is to see all the trappings of the mainline Protestant denominations pundits say are dying for lack of innovation, of relevance, of connection to the world outside church walls. There’s the robed pastor and choir, the 20,000-pipe organ playing the expected Bach interlude, the white-draped Communion table set with silver goblets, the well-thumbed pew Bibles, and the paper church bulletin being used as a fan by a couple of overly warm parishioners.

Church of John Coltrane Evicted

Image via Kimberly Winston / RNS

The altar is set with a drum kit, a keyboard, a saxophone, and, most importantly, a much-loved vinyl rendering of a jazz classic, complete with liner notes. When this church and its 70 members are forced to leave their storefront location at the end of next month, they will pack those instruments as lovingly as they will the shiny brass tabernacle that holds the Eucharist, the brass cross, and the scarlet and gold icons that grace all the walls.

Sunday School Crafts Get an Ironic Step Up

Image via Ross MacDonald / RNS

If Dana Carvey’s Church Lady wrote a craft book, it would look a lot like What Would Jesus Craft?: 30 Simple Projects for Making a Blessed Home. Born out of a lifelong collection of just plain wacky stuff gathered by author Ross MacDonald, the book blends tongue-in-cheek satire with tender regard for a 1950s Christian sensibility to serve up do-it-yourself craft projects that would make Jesus weep.

‘Of Kings and Prophets’ Like ‘Game of Thrones’ Minus the Dragons

Image via RNS/ABC/Trevor Adeline

Seger, who said she has seen only trailers of the series, says there can still be a market for such shows among Christians, like herself, or Jews.

“A Christian audience can get hooked on exactly the same things that any other audience does: violence, blood, sex, etc.,” she said. “As Christians, we might want to be high-minded and enlightened but that doesn’t mean we are.”

Catholic 'Seal of the Confessional' Upheld as Religious Liberty Issue

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A Louisiana judge has ruled that a state law requiring clergy to report child abuse or other crimes learned in the confessional is unconstitutional because it infringes on religious liberty. At issue is a long-running case involving Rebecca Mayeaux, a 22-year-old who claims that when she was 14 she told the Rev. Jeff Bayhi, a Catholic priest, during confession that a church member was abusing her. Mayeaux claims Bayhi told her to “sweep it under the rug.”

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