Weekend Edition Saturday

Saturday mornings are made for Weekend Edition Saturday, the program wraps up the week's news and offers a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts, sports, entertainment, and human interest stories. The two-hour program is hosted by NPR's Peabody Award-winning Scott Simon.

Drawing on his experience in covering 10 wars and stories in all 50 states and seven continents, Simon brings a humorous, sophisticated and often moving perspective to each show. He is as comfortable having a conversation with a major world leader as he is talking with a Hollywood celebrity or the guy next door.

Weekend Edition Saturday has a unique and entertaining roster of other regular contributors. Marin Alsop, conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, talks about music. Daniel Pinkwater, one of the biggest names in children's literature, talks about and reads stories with Simon. Financial journalist Joe Nocera follows the economy. Howard Bryant of EPSN.com and NPR's Tom Goldman chime in on sports. Keith Devlin, of Stanford University, unravels the mystery of math, and Will Grozier, a London cabbie, talks about good books that have just been released, and what well-read people leave in the back of his taxi. Simon contributes his own award-winning essays, which are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant.

Weekend Edition Saturday is heard on NPR Member stations across the United States, and around the globe on NPR Worldwide. The conversation between the audience and the program staff continues throughout the social media world.

The Very Reverend Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, says a recent Pew poll shows most Americans still consider themselves religious — but that organized religion is losing credibility.

The U.S. is less Christian than it used to be, and fewer Americans choose to be a part of any religion, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Of the more than 35,000 people surveyed, 70 percent say they are Christian — but the number of people who call themselves atheist and agnostic has nearly doubled in the last seven years.

The decrease of religious feeling seems especially pronounced among young adults, but also includes people of all ages, ethnicities, incomes and educational backgrounds.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., points out that the survey shows a majority of the nation still identifies as religious.

But he tells NPR's Scott Simon that organized religion is losing credibility with many.

Interview Results

On what he sees when he looks at the Pew results

I see two trends. Both of them, I think, have been going on for a long time. One of them is the increasing trend towards secularism in Western culture that really began after World War II in Europe, and it's taken America a long time to catch up with this. The second has to do with the church itself, and the church's declining credibility as a place for people to pursue their spiritual questions. One of the things that the survey says pretty strongly is that the people who are religious continue to have very strong desires to pray, to do important social justice work and community work with people, but they don't see the church as the place to do that.

On how churches can respond to poll results like these

I think it has to do with, in some ways, the intentionality of what we do. Most churches that you go to don't know very much about their community, understand who's there demographically, and offer the kinds of worship experiences that would appeal to people who are not attracted to Sunday morning. We might actually try thinking about how to organize our communities, not based on what people have historically always liked, but actually based on sort of more core principles about Christianity.

On the impact of violence performed in the name of religion

I can understand why people are turned off by religion. But again, the Pew study seems to say, although there is an increase in the number of atheists and agnostics, the vast majority of Americans still consider themselves religious.

But what they don't consider themselves is institutionally religious. And in some ways I think they see the institution as implicated in some of the misuses of religion in the name of violence.

On those who say religion is unnecessary, given humanity's growing scientific knowledge

I think science and religion are at some point both about big questions of origin and wonder. And I think, for me, I've always felt that it's important for religious people to have the same kind of philosophical stance they use in their religious life as they do in the rest of their life. And a lot of times I think religion — religions — ask people to sort of turn off the scientific part of their lives and just go and kind of think about God kind of pre-scientifically.

I don't think we can do that. We've got to have a faith that is, in some sense, consonant with the way we think about the world scientifically. And again, I think one of the things the Pew study suggests to us is that if the church can get over its anxiety about talking about God in a grown-up way, we would actually reach out to and speak to more people than we do right now.

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The field is narrowing in both the NBA and NHL playoffs, and it's time for the Preakness Stakes. Sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins NPR's Scott Simon to talk about the week in sports.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

A Mexican politician is trying to find a body double to attend ceremonial events in his stead. NPR's Scott Simon wonders if it might be a useful gimmick for American politicians, too.

American political consultants soar around the world these days to counsel candidates, from Britain to Israel to Panama. But now a Mexican politician has an idea that might interest U.S. politicians and their consultants.

Renato Tronco Gomez, an independent deputy in Veracruz, wants to find a body double. He's holding a contest this month to find someone who will study his speech, walk, and mannerisms so that he can play Mr. Gomez at ceremonies and events that the deputy cannot attend himself.

"I am not trying to fool anyone because my double will always identify himself as my double," Mr. Gomez told the AP. "But if singers and comedians do it, why not?"

Mr. Gomez stressed that his body double would not cast his vote in parliament. That requires a fingerprint ID, "and I'm not going to cut off my finger to give it to my double," he says, and adds, "there is going to be an agreement that he can't sleep with my wife, nor live in my house, nor be father to my children."

I wondered about that.

It's tempting to dismiss Mr. Gomez' contest as a gimmick. But gimmicks can be as useful in politics as political action committees.

A politician could court contributors while the body-double sits behind the politician's nameplate through the drone of committee meetings so dreary they wouldn't even be on C-SPAN. If the Lakeside Council of Neighbors meets one night at the same time as the Lakeview Citizens Committee, a politician and his double can make both meetings, and both sincerely declare, "I wouldn't miss this!"

If the Museum of Lithuanian Culture on Pulaski Road has an event at the same time as the Polish Museum of America on Milwaukee Avenue, the politician wouldn't have to make a choice. Politicians like that.

A politician can choose a double of a different race or gender and tell groups with whom he might not have much in common, "I feel your pain." He can appear before an anti-gun control group while he sends a body-double to speak before an pro-gun control group, and then both earnestly and fervently deny whatever the other said.

A politician can use his body-double the way a child blames an imaginary friend for breaking the living room lamp.

But a body-double might also be more relaxed, interesting, slightly irreverent, and lots more entertaining than the politician he or she is doubling. The double might feel free to utter things a politician never can, like "What was I thinking?" or, "I never thought of that." Who do you think you'd rather meet: the politician or the body-double?

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.