Faith Digest

Faith Digest: Jesus is 'biggest'

Jesus ranks No. 1. It’s official. Jesus tops the list of the biggest names in human history, according to the authors of Who’s Bigger: Where Historical Figures Really Rank. To compile their top 100 list, researchers used “culturometrics,” whos bigger book130a fancy term to describe quantitative data analysis applied to individuals in society the same way Sabermetrics tracks performance in baseball, pundits aggregate polls in elections, and algorithms rule computer search engines. Steven Skiena, a computer science professor at Stony Brook University, and Charles Ward, an engineer on the ranking team at Google, created a complex amalgam of measures. To establish their “significance” ranking, they assessed more than 800,000 names, calculated scores of celebrity and achievement or gravitas and then factored in how long, and how long ago, someone lived. The top 10 behind Jesus, in order, were Napoleon, Muhammad, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Adoph Hitler, Aristotle, Alexender the Great and Thomas Jefferson. Protestant reformer Martin Luther ranked No. 17, just above Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The Apostle Paul ranked No. 34.

Radio host who predicted world’s end dies at 92. Harold Camping, the radio preacher who convinced thousands of followers Jesus would return on May 21, 2011, to usher in the end of the world, died Dec. 15. harold camping300California radio evangelist Harold Camping said the world would end on May 21, 2011 — a date he based, in part, on when he believes Noah entered the ark. (RNS file photo by Kimberly Winston)Camping first predicted Jesus’ return in 1994, but his most recent forecasts gained national attention through advertisements and the Family Radio network of stations he founded. He warned “judgment day” would occur in May 2011 and said the world would end in October 2011. When his prophecies turned out to be false, he declared in March 2012 that his May 21 prediction had been “incorrect and sinful” and said his ministry would get out of the predictions business. The ministry sold its prominent stations and laid off staffers, with assets dropping from $135 million in 2007 to $29.2 million in 2011.

Respect for clergy drops. Clergy used to rank near the top in polls asking Americans to rate the honesty and ethics of people in various professions. This year, for the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1977, fewer than half of those polled said clergy have “high” or “very high” moral standards. respect clergy300Overall, 47 percent of respondents to the survey gave clergy “high” or “very high” ratings, a sharp drop in confidence from the 67 percent of Americans who viewed them this way in 1985. Among Republicans, 63 percent gave clergy one of the two top ratings for ethics, compared with 40 percent of Democrats. Young people aged 29-34 tend to rate professionals more highly than those 55 and older, but the pattern does not hold for clergy. Less than one in three young people (32 percent) give clergy high moral marks, compared with 50 percent of those 55 and older. This year, clergy took a back seat to nurses, pharmacists, schoolteachers, medical doctors, military and police officers. Nurses are the most trusted and have been nearly every year since Gallup added them to the poll in 1999, with 82 percent of people saying they rank high or very high on the ethical spectrum. Clergy came in seventh of the 22 professions ranked. The poll of 1,031 Americans was conducted Dec. 5-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Native American artifacts will be returned to tribes. The Annenberg Foundation paid $530,000 for 24 sacred Native American artifacts, for the sole purpose of returning them to the two tribes who had tried but failed to keep them off the auction block. The artifacts were included in the sale of 170 items at a Paris auction house. A lawyer for the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes argued before a French court that as sacred objects, used in religious ceremonies, the artifacts should not be sold. But a U.S. law that limits trafficking in Native American items holds no force abroad, and a French judge ruled the auction could go forward. That is when Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, the vice president and director of the Los Angeles-based foundation, decided to bid on the 24 objects and return them to the tribes if successful. The Annenberg Foundation reported an endowment of $1.53 billion in 2011, according to its website, and gave out $104 million for charitable purposes in the fiscal year that ended in June 2011. Its grants are given to a wide range of causes, including the environment and education.

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