It’s time for our weekly recap of the biggest stories in faith and culture. From Joel Osteen’s views on gay marriage to a new atheist-themed TV network, there are quite a few articles worth highlighting:

First and foremost, Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed went deep into unfriendly territory Friday night, engaging liberal atheist Bill Maher on Maher’s HBO show “Real Time.” You can watch that show-down here.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)

And, is there really danger in believing stories about people who claim they nearly died and visited heaven? Wait until you read what this philosopher thinks.

There’s a lot of bad news these days, which is why this woman’s good deed at Chick-fil-A is absolutely worth reading.

“It was a way for me to pass on the love of God, and to give someone a surprise,” she told WTVT-TV.

Oh, and then there’s the homeschooling family that sent seven of their children to college by age 12, a man born without arms and legs who’s inspiring millions — and a mom who is sacrificing part of her eyesight to protect her unborn baby.

Now, let’s move on to something a bit more controversial. A high school principal knows he can’t pray publicly at school events, but he was apparently determined to get as close as he possibly could at this year’s commencement. 

“I’d like to remind our graduates that our nation’s motto is, in fact, ‘In God We Trust.’ If you’re ever in doubt, just take a quick look at our nation’s currency and you’ll find out for yourself,” said Principal Kevin Lowery of Lebanon High School in Lebanon, Missouri (watch his speech here).

There’s also the ongoing saga surrounding Jack Phillips, a Colorado-based baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. Despite the furor surrounding his stance, he’s seen an intriguing impact on his business.

Now, let’s get a little statistical. There was quite a bit of polling released in the last few weeks about where Americans stand on various social and religious issues.

First, consider the fascinating map showing the second most popular religion in each U.S. state.

Second, what do people really think about the role of nature versus nurture in homosexuality? A recent Gallup poll has the answer (Bonus: Here’s Pastor Joel Osteen’s take on whether gay marriage is “against the rules”).

Televangelist and best-selling author, Joel Osteen, right, and his wife, Victoria, left (Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Kourkounis)

Televangelist and best-selling author, Joel Osteen, right, and his wife, Victoria, left (AP Photo/Jessica Kourkounis)

And last but not least, is the Bible the literal word of God?

Moving on to atheist activists’ new pet project, just consider that they’ll soon be coming to your living room (Hint: They’re taking a page from the televangelist playbook).

On a separate but related note, here’s what a secular invocation looks like — and here’s what atheists recently handed out to public school students in Kentucky.

And to finish this week’s news round up: A new English Bible translation was recently unveiled by Christian publisher Charisma House. The Modern English Version (MEV) is “the most modern translation produced in the King James tradition in thirty years,” according to a press release.

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