Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
My faith, according to Beliefnet?
1. Reform Judaism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (93%)
3. Liberal Quakers (91%)
4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (80%)
5. Baha’i Faith (79%)
I’m Conservative Judaism, but that doesn’t show up on their quiz. Orthodox Judaism shows us #8. I’d say this was reasonably accurate.
I have no idea about the veracity of the claims made here about the Ten Commandments. But it sounds right to me, based on my reading of biblical commentary. A fascinating story.
Ed Yong with something close to my heart.
Together, these four studies – three survey analyses and one experiment – contradict the idea that religious belief and devotion in themselves are the driving force behind the suicide bombing mindset. Nor is this mindset exclusive to Islam, as the third and fourth experiments show. Instead, it seems that the link between religion and suicide attacks is more to do with collective rituals. Ginges’s theory is that these rituals strengthen an individual’s loyalty to a community, but risk hardening their hearts against outsiders. That’s certainly a reasonable interpretation but it’s worth noting that religious services are complicated affairs, which have many sides to them besides group behaviour. People who worship en masse may get very different perspectives on their faiths that those who pray alone don’t, and this study doesn’t really take that into account.
What I’d be interested in seeing — and I suspect it would be borne out — is if the suicidal mindset also exists among those in collectivist secular societies. Communism and fascism had plenty of people willing to kill or die on its behalf. And race has been as powerful a motivator for bloodshed as religion, if not more so. After all, to go the Godwin route, the Third Reich’s persecution of Jews was far more racial than it was religious. Hitler’s writings were far more focused on how the Jews physically repulsed him than on any aspect of the faith.
I have long believed the religion is primarily the excuse for evil behavior, be it wars, genocide, suicide bombing or oppression. Nice to see at least a little bit of support from the sociologists.
This is why I hate mixing politics and religion — because it does as much harm to religion than politics:
The priest–the priest who had just joined with us in the prayer of the Rosary was now red-faced shouting. I thought. Talking about me. I had cooperated with evil. I had? I had killed babies? My heart was black. I was giving scandal to the entire church. I had once been a leader but now I forfeited any semblance of respectability or leadership. The good father grasped tightly the edges of the ambo, the unusual name given to the lectern in the Catholic Church. No faithful Catholic would ever contemplate doing what I had done. I was dead to the Holy Mother Church.
My wife held my hand tightly. We looked at each other in disbelief. Here was someone in the vestments of the priesthood who had called us to have our prayers be heard, who recited the Kyrie with us, asking the Lord’s mercy upon us, now seemingly merciless, telling me and the many there assembled that I was unworthy. I was to be publicly shunned and humiliated. My offense? Endorsing Senator Barak Obama for President of the United States.
The irony of ironies was that my motivation for the endorsement was entirely Catholic. No, Obama doesn’t share the Catholic faith, but he certainly campaigns like he does. As reflected in his book, the Senator is focused on the human person, on the common good, on the social justice of economic arrangement. All is so very Catholic.
It was time for Communion. Notwithstanding the indictment of the homily, I did not think of myself as unworthy of receipt of the sacrament–at least no more so then pre-Obama endorsement. Communion in the Catholic tradition is indeed sacred. We believe the bread and the wind is transformed–transubstantiated–into the body and blood of Christ. I have often watched my parish priest focus his gaze with reverence upon the bread and the wine during the offertory to gain some appreciation for the significance of the divine person whose presence on can scarcely grasp….
But I was not to receive the Eucharist that evening. The couples who stood in line before my wife and myself received the body of Christ in their hands or on their tongues and returned to their seats. My wife received. My hand outstretched, the priest shook his head from side to side. Was that a no? It was Judgment Day, and I hadn’t made it. LSAT Insufficient. Inadequate GPA. Do not pass GO…go directly to Hell.
The Catholic Church has waaay overstepped its bounds on the abortion issues. It’s no longer enough to personally oppose abortion. You have to vote to inscribe that opposition into law. Anything else — poverty, freedom, religious tolerance — means nothing. If you are not for the outlawing of abortion — hell, if you just support someone who is against the outlawing of abortion — you are no longer Catholic. You can literally go to hell.
This tends to happens when a faith that believes their leader speaks with the voice of God conflicts with a discipline — politics — that does not recognize absolute authority but works in compromise, bargains, persuasion and argument.
I would be remiss if I did not point out the following:
As of this writing, I have successfully kept the name of the priest and his religious order out the public record. Every expert in Canon Law who has examined the question and concluded under Canon 915 that the denial of Communion was unauthorized and inappropriate. After the even became public, Cardinal Mahoney called the priest into his office, and several months after that meeting, Father ______sent Carol and myself a letter of apology. The letter is thoughtfully written and the apology accepted. Perhaps there was a Providential hand at work using the two of us to teach a lesson to a larger congregation. The lesson? Any Voter Guide even hinting at a Catholic duty as a matter of faith and morals to vote against Senator Obama is seriously in error.
But the Kmenic incident is part of a large and troubling trend that is one of the principal reasons I can not vote for the Republicans any longer, no how matt how much I like their candidate. When you portray your opponents as godless (Ann Coulter’s best-selling book) or the Party of Death (Ramesh Ponnoru’s book) and claim you are on a mission from God (Tom Delay’s remarks a couple of years ago), you are no longer a political party, but a religious movement.
An interesting story about the Postville plant has conservative rabbis demanding fair treatment of workers in order for food to be kosher.
This is perfectly reasonable and the orthodox rabbis need to have their beards dipped in ink for opposing it.
For food to be kosher, it can not be processed or transported on the Sabbath. The Bible says very specific things about not abusing those who work for you. Shouldn’t that mean that kosher food must be processed in a plant that is safe on workers?
I forgot one aspect of the God Delusion that is probably the most controversial. Dawkins spends an entire chapter ranting about the foisting of religion upon children. He fumes about a child being described as a “muslim child” or a “christian child” and thinks they should be left out of religion until they are old enough to choose.
First, one suspects that Dawkins supports this point of view because he knows or thinks that children raised in such a way will not be religious at all. It’s a back-door means to a different sort of indoctrination.
You have to wonder who is supposed to keep religion away from children. It can only be government. Because the only people who will voluntarily keep children away from religion are not the kind of people who will abuse their children with an extreme brand of faith.
Second, the extreme examples he cites do not reflect the majority of Americans or religious people in the 21st century. Yes, it’s horrible that some parents instill their children with a terror of hell and tell them their friends are going there. But they would probably be abusing their children in other ways if religion were banned for kids. There is a certain mindset that goes along with that brand of family religion.
Third, what if they’re right? Dawkins argues that the probability of a biblical God is low, but he does not argue that it is zero. There’s no fundamental reason not to believe, for example, that the scientific world is an illusion and God is cruel and judgmental (see Heinlein’s Job). Maybe the crazies are right. I’m not so sure of my position that I’m willing to outlaw crazy theology.
Fourth, religion isn’t the only identity we attach to children. National identity and ethnicity is given as well. How many children have been killed because they were French or Croatian or Apache compared to those killed because they were Jewish or Protestant. We raise our children learning the language, culture and traditions of our nation and ethnic group. Should we refuse to have children say the Pledge of Allegiance? Should Native Americans not pass on their culture, which is clinging to life by a thread? I suspect Dawkins would say no.
I too feel rage when I hear of parents enculcating their children with absurd or even dangerous fundamentalist religious beliefs. But it is the price we pay for freedom. And the privilege of being a parent. It’s not pretty, but it’s the only way to let the world be run.
Much of Dawkins’ section on the evils of fundamentalism is, like his attack on the Bible, recycled from other authors. I didn’t find much worth blogging about — other than the specious contention that there is no moral difference between aborting an innocent fetus and killing a convicted murderer. But Dawkins closes by claiming that moderate religion enables the extremism and so is equally guilty.
I wonder if he would agree that, by that logic, socialists bear responsibility for the crimes committed by their extreme brethren in national socialism or communism. Granted, he’s claiming faith encourages people not to think — apparently having never met a conservative rabbi or a Jesuit teacher. But most socialists don’t think about their views either. They buy into the nonsensical mantra that an egalitarian society can be created by the force of government despite ample evidence to the contrary. They base a lot on feelings and intuition — especially guilt. It’s no accident that clergy tend to be very socialist.
A refusal to think is not the exclusive domain of religion.
Again, there are other ways to pursue faith than blind obedience to a doctrine. And indeed, we are moving in that direction. In the most dogmatically religious country in the west — America — the vast majority of religious people believe that others faiths can be equally valid. I’m sure the idea of deeply religious people being tolerant must stick in Dawkins’ craw.
The evolution of religion gets to heart of the entire “religion is cruel and evil argument”. I strongly suspect that religion reflects society more than it drives it. As the wag once said, we tend to make God in our image. When we were a cruel people, we made a cruel God. When we were an intolerant people, we made an intolerant God. Now that we are moving forward — a subject (The Changing Moral Zeitgeist) that Dawkins devotes a lot of time to — religion is following. it’s a trailing indicator, but an indicator nonetheless.
The history of science follows a similar intellectual pattern moving from the deterministic world if Newton to the uncertain world of quantum mechanics. But he world didn’t change; our understanding of it did. As we have moved from a cruel and jealous God to a tolerant one, God hasn’t changed. Our understanding has.
Overall, as you can tell by my putting up of eight long posts on one book, I found The God Delusion to be stimulating. The section that deal with biology and intelligent design are outstanding. The sections that attack faith less so. And while some of my arguments are addressed in the book, they aren’t addressed very well.
Atheists like Dawkins like to believe they are open minded. To use his phrase, their consciousness has been raised above that of us unenlightened folk. But I have a final thought. Early in the book, Dawkins asks if there is any scientific evidence that would ever make a theist abandon their belief in God. I have to wonder: is there any evidence that would cause an atheist to accept belief in God? I can’t think that there would be.
If that tenet is agreed to, then the God question moves beyond science. Science can tell us what God isn’t. But I’m not convinced that it tells us that God isn’t.