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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Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England