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.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project