Arts and Entertainment David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh in Monday's episode

Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh was only meant to work on Coronation Street for two months. Her character was intended as little more than a gimmick to help the Manchester-based soap opera compete in the ratings battle with then-dominant EastEnders. Fifteen years later, her character’s story has finally come to a close, and with it, one of soap’s most enduring and touching romances: that of oddball Roy and his kind-hearted wife, Hayley.

Taliban militants - there was a risk the man could face persecution in Afghanistan for having rejected Islam

Afghan atheist to get asylum in Britain on religious grounds

A supervisor on the case, said: 'The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position'

God's Dog, By Diego Marani; trans Judith Landry: Book review - detective novel reimagines Rome as a sinister theocratic state

"My name is Domingo Salazar; I was born on the feast of Saint Dominic and brought up by the Dominican Fathers. I am a policeman, I see to it that the laws of our Holy Mother Church are respected and I work for the worldwide spread of that same Church… I studied at the patriarchal monastery in Bologna and then at the Papal Police Academy in Rome, which I left with the rank of inspector in the fifth year of the reign of Pope Benedict XVIII."

Tim Berners-Lee invited an atheist minister to present Thought for the Day

Unholier than thou: BBC denies atheist traditional slot on Thought for the Day

Atheist minister says he had been invited by the founder of the worldwide web Sir Tim to present but had been blocked by BBC senior management

High spirits: comedian Pippa Evans, co-founder of the Sunday Assembly

The Week in Comedy: All smiles on Sunday with a radical take on religion

It wasn't your average Advent Sunday service. It started with a rousing chorus of Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' and ended with Abba's 'Waterloo'. In between there was a poem dedicated to Tony Wilson, a mini rave and a Danish clapping game. This was Sunday Assembly, a "godless church" which has one aim - to celebrate life. It has all the trappings of a traditional Sunday service – a sermon, songs, readings, community notices, a collection, tea and cakes – but none of the religion. Its only creed is live better, help often, wonder more.

Sarah Palin, pictured here in 2011

Sarah Palin fears 'liberal' Pope Francis being influenced by the 'sneering media'

Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has said Pope Francis has “taken her aback” with his liberal interpretation of Christianity and has expressed fears he may be being influenced by the mainstream media.

Reflections on Yom Kippur: The importance of admitting that people make mistakes

That's the one thing all religions have in common

Man found guilty of murdering atheist friend in argument over existence of God

Douglas Yim now faces 126 years to life in prison

Pope Francis delivers a speech to Catholic faithful at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro

Atheists are more intelligent than religious people? That's ‘sciencism’ at its worst

This study exhibits more prejudice than worthwhile research

Professor Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins Muslim jibe sparks Twitter backlash

He posted: 'All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge'

Francis Bacon's Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X

New Bible bashes sales of 50 Shades of Grey in Norway - one of Europe’s least religious countries

A new translation of the Bible  has topped the bestseller list in one of Europe’s least religious countries. The new version, replacing a 1978 edition, sold 160,000 copies in 2012, beating Fifty Shades of Grey.

Atheists may still experience everlasting bliss

Is there a modern version of hell that avoids the medieval image of demons thrusting the souls of the damned into hellfire? Indeed there is. In Catholic circles, hell is defined as an eternity spent in the absence of God.

Hell depicted in an engraving by Gustave Dore, illustrating Canto XXV of Dante’s Inferno, written circa 1310

What the Hell? Vatican caught in two minds over damnation for non-believers

The ‘infallible’ Pope’s proclamation that atheists will go to heaven has led to a rebuke from officials who declared they will go to hell. Jonathan Owen reports on the controversy

Boy Scouts of America to admit openly gay boys

The Boy Scouts of America has thrown open its ranks to gay youngsters, but not adult leaders, in a compromise that some warned could fracture the organisation and lead to mass defections.

Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good

Pope Francis has said that atheists should be seen as good people as long as they do good, in a move to urge people of all religions - or no religion at all - to get along.

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Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture