Here are the top stories making news in religion for Friday.
Portland, Oregon has now become the second city in the United States to enact legal protections for agnostics and atheists. The Portland City Council unanimously voted to extend the protections against religious discrimination in the city’s civil rights code for people who do not believe in a god or gods.
However, the city ordinance includes an exemption for religious facilities.
According to the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of Oregonians identify as religiously unaffiliated.
At the Kodaiji Temple in the ancient city of Kyoto, a robot using artificial intelligence has been created to preach the teachings of Buddhism. Officials say the reason for creating the robot was to encourage people, through technology, would otherwise not be interested in religion, as there is an appeal in the novelty of a robot with artificial intelligence. Officials believe that the robot will “help people who usually have little connection with Buddhism to take an interest.”
The humanoid-appearing robot was modeled after Kannon Bodhisattva, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The robot has been given the name of Mindar. This artificially intelligent deity gave its first speech on the Heart Sutra, which is a key scripture in Buddhist teaching. The teachings spoken by the robot are said to offer a path to “overcome all fear, destroy all wrong perceptions and realize perfect nirvana.”
A trailer has been released by Magnolia Pictures for a new documentary called Hail Satan?, which chronicles the rise of the controversial religious movement of the Satanic Temple. Initially, the movement began as an elaborate media stunt. However, it has evolved into a recognized religion that is now fighting for legitimacy. The Satanic Temple was formed in 2012.
In one segment of the film, a member of the group says that it is their “duty” to stand up to the influence of Christianity that makes its way into the American government.
“We want people to evaluate the United States being a Christian nation,” says another group member. “We are supposed to be a nation that doesn’t allow the government to dictate what is appropriate religious expression.”
The alternative religious group has already found itself in battle as it has taken on organizations which include the Westboro Baptist Church, the Arkansas State Capitol, the state of Missouri, and the Netflix original series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in relation to a Satanic statue that appeared in an episode.