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Religion & Spirituality

This is your brain on religion

  • From Pope Francis to Phil Robertson: Why are some people of faith generous — while others are nuts?
  • Uncovering the science of belief
  • Noam Chomsky | What Is the Common Good?

D.F. Swabb, Salon

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pope_neuroscience-620x412.jpg Saturday, Jan 4, 2014 | As far as I’m concerned, the most interesting question about religion isn’t whether God exists but why so many people are religious. There are around 10,000 different religions, each of which is convinced that there’s only one Truth and that they alone possess it. Hating people with a different faith seems to be part of belief. Around the year 1500, the church reformer Martin Luther described Jews as a “brood of vipers.” Over the centuries the Christian hatred of the Jews led to pogroms and ultimately made the Holocaust possible. In 1947, over a million people were slaughtered when British India was partitioned into India for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims. Nor has interfaith hatred diminished since then. Since the year 2000, 43 percent of civil wars have been of a religious nature.

Almost 64 percent of the world’s population is Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, or Hindu. And faith is extremely tenacious. For many years, Communism was the only permitted belief in China and religion was banned, being regarded, in the tradition of Karl Marx, as the opium of the masses. But in 2007, one-third of Chinese people over the age of 16 said that they were religious. Since that figure comes from a state-controlled newspaper, the China Daily, the true number of believers is likely at least that high. Around 95 percent of Americans say that they believe in God, 90 percent pray,We Are Our Brains cover 82 percent believe that God can perform miracles, and over 70 percent believe in life after death. It’s striking that only 50 percent believe in hell, which shows a certain lack of consistency. In the Netherlands, a much more secular country, the percentages are lower. A study carried out in April 2007 showed that in the space of 40 years, secularization had increased from 33 to 61 percent. Over half of the Dutch people doubt the existence of a higher power and are either agnostic or believe in an unspecified “something.” Only 14 percent are atheists, the same percentage as Protestants. There are slightly more Catholics (16 percent).

D.F. Swabb is a Dutch physician and neurobiologist who is renowned as a brain researcher.

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Noam Chomsky | What Is the Common Good? Noam Chomsky, Truthout 

  • Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.
  • Are We Being Driven Like Cattle?
 

Noam Chomsky | What Is the Common Good?

  • Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.
  • Are We Being Driven Like Cattle?

Noam Chomsky, Truthout

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2014.1.7.Chomsky.Main.jpg (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Brian Hillegas, Reigh LeBlanc, abrinsky)

This article is adapted from a Dewey Lecture by Noam Chomsky at Columbia University in New York on Dec. 6, 2013.

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 | Humans are social beings, and the kind of creature that a person becomes depends crucially on the social, cultural and institutional circumstances of his life.

We are therefore led to inquire into the social arrangements that are conducive to people's rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations - in brief, the common good.

For perspective I'd like to invoke what seem to me virtual truisms. They relate to an interesting category of ethical principles: those that are not only universal, in that they are virtually always professed, but also doubly universal, in that at the same time they are almost universally rejected in practice.

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, political commentator and activist. He is perhaps best known as a critic of all forms of social control and a relentless advocate for community-centered approaches to democracy and freedom. Over the last several decades, Chomsky has championed a wide range of dissident actions, organizations and social movements. 

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Are We Being Driven Like Cattle? John Scales Avery, Countercurrents.org

CounterCurrents.org banner

  • So the people, the driven cattle, have been made to fear terrorism. How was this done? It was easy after 9/11. Could it be that the purpose of the 9/11 disaster was to make people fear terrorism, so that they could be more easily manipulated, more easily deprived of their civil rights, more easily driven into a war against Iraq? 
  • There is strong evidence that many highly placed governmental figures knew well in advanced that the World Trade Center would be attacked, and that they made the disaster much worse than it otherwise would have been.
  • Scared to Death
  • Henry Giroux on Zombie Politics

Gay educator says he was told he could save job if he divorced

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  • In a video interview with a former student of his, the Eastside Catholic High vice principal terminated from his job because he had married his male partner, said the school’s president offered him the option of a divorce as a way to keep his job.
  • The shame of the Catholic workplace
  • The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus

Lornet Turnbull, Seattle (WA) Times 

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Mark Zmuda terminated after same-sex marriage. 

January 6, 2014 | The former vice principal of Eastside Catholic school, who was terminated last month after school officials found out he had married his male partner, said in a newly released video that he was told he could keep his job if he got a divorce.

Mark Zmuda, 38, a well-liked swim coach who was vice principal of Eastside’s middle and high schools until Dec. 20, said the school’s president told him he could keep his job if he divorced his husband of five months and had a commitment ceremony.

Zmuda’s termination from the school of 935 students drew global attention and triggered a sit-in by Eastside Catholic high-school students and at other area Catholic schools as well as ongoing rallies and protests.

Lornet Turnbull: Seattle (WA) Times staff reporter

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The shame of the Catholic workplace, Jim Smith, Minneapolis (MN) StarTribune

  • Even as the pope moderates, discriminatory practices continue.
  • Can Pope Francis Change the Church?

The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus, Bill Berkowitz for BuzzFlash at Truthout

  • The Knights of Columbus was founded as a mutual aid society which combatted bigotry and discrimination against Catholics. Now, more than one-hundred thirty years after its founding, it has devolved into an organization which uses such catchphrases as "life and family" or "marriage and family," and yet has such a narrow view of family and has firmly planted itself in the forefront of discrimination and bigotry.
  • The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government

Pope Francis condemns fundamentalism, urges setting an example over proselytizing

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  • “I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the center but rather from the periphery,” the pope said.
  • The pope vs. the bishops: Challenges to building a church for the poor

Eric W. Dolan, Raw Story

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Pope-Francis-via-AFP2.jpgFriday, January 3, 2014 | Pope Francis recently urged the faithful to understand reality by looking at it “from the periphery” in order to avoid becoming fundamentalists.

Francis meet with 120 superiors general of men’s religious orders at the Vatican in November. His comments were published Friday by La Civiltà Cattolica, a Rome-based Jesuit weekly.

Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost.

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The pope vs. the bishops: Challenges to building a church for the poor, Vinnie Rotondaro, Salon 

  • Pope Francis has won over many with doctrine-based economic populism. Why is he so alone among Catholic leadership?
  • 5 reasons you should stay off the Pope Francis bandwagon

The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus

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  • The Knights of Columbus was founded as a mutual aid society which combatted bigotry and discrimination against Catholics. Now, more than one-hundred thirty years after its founding, it has devolved into an organization which uses such catchphrases as "life and family" or "marriage and family," and yet has such a narrow view of family and has firmly planted itself in the forefront of discrimination and bigotry.
  • The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government

Bill Berkowitz for BuzzFlash at Truthout

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GayRallyCA.jpg (Photo: Staffordvaughan)

Thursday, 26 December 2013 | While Pope Francis is getting most of the media attention related to all things Catholic, a Catholic lay organization that has been around for more than 130 years is starting to be the object of some well-deserved scrutiny. The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic lay organization in the world. It is well known for its charitable work. There's a good chance that somewhere in America on just about any weekend, the Knights of Columbus is holding an event to raise money to help the poor, feed the hungry, provide disaster relief, and support families in need. Its bake sales and pancake suppers are events that many communities eagerly look forward to and support wholeheartedly. Unbeknownst to many cookie or pancake enthusiasts, however, is the reality that a portion of the money – read that, millions of dollars -- raised by the Knights is being poured into anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage campaigns.

That is a side of the Knight of Columbus that is rarely reported on. According to a new report by Catholics for Choice, "The order has pushed a conservative agenda ranging from the highly specific—a complaint against highschoolers reading Catcher in the Rye—to systemic opposition to reproductive choice and marriage equality through sizable donations to programs run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other conservative organizations."

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer who has been monitoring and reporting on right-wing movements for a number of publications over the past ten years.

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The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government, Chris Hedges, Truthdig

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  • The rise of Christian fascism is aided by our complacency. The longer we fail to openly denounce and defy bankrupt liberalism, the longer we permit corporate power to plunder the nation and destroy the ecosystem, the longer we stand slack-jawed before the open gates of the city waiting meekly for the barbarians, the more we ensure their arrival.
  • How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington

Nativity, the Story of Whistle-blower Kevin Annett and the “little matter of genocide”

  • The dirty secret, the “little matter of genocide”, about which the United States of America shares considerable guilt, is the century-long history of abuse, rape and murder of tens of thousands of its aboriginal children in church-run Indian residential schools and mission schools, a subject on which Kevin is an acknowledged world expert.
  • Ebony and Ivy: The Secret History of How Slavery Helped Build America's Elite Colleges

Gary G. Kohls, Duty to Warn

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Kevin%20Annett.com%20Logo.jpg December 17, 2013 | One of the most meaningful Christmas stories that I have ever heard came from my Vancouver, Canada friend, Reverend Kevin Annett. His story is titled “Nativity” and is printed further below.

Kevin spent a week at my home in Duluth, Minnesota a couple of years ago. The week was spent giving scheduled radio and film interviews, giving informal talks over meals, delivering a major speech to the Lake Superior Freethinkers, conducting forums at churches and answering questions following a Zinema 2 screening of his award-winning documentary, “Unrepenant”. It was a productive week, although local media chose not to cover any of his appearances.

story/45/24045/w320/EbonyIvy1.jpg.png?20131120 Dr. Gary G. Kohls is a retired physician who writes about issues of war, peace, justice, mental health and nonviolence and feels it is important to mix religion and non-partisan politics. 

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Ebony and Ivy: The Secret History of How Slavery Helped Build America's Elite Colleges, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

  • You know, you can find a version of that story for every college that’s established in the colonial world. You’re playing basically two degrees of separation from some horrific slaving voyage.
  • Filmmaker Uncovers Her Family’s Shocking Slave-Trading History, Urges
  • Americans to Explore Own Roots
  • The Best and the Brightest Led America Off a Cliff

A Failed Bishopric: Farewell, John Neinstedt

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  • Perhaps the archbishop’s Edina “apology” is best interpreted as just a preliminary to his resignation. Boil it down and you get: “I dropped the ball on the church’s most persistent and damaging problem in order to pursue a deliberate political agenda aimed at crushing dissent in my church and exerting influence in the political affairs of the state. I am no longer worthy to lead this archdiocese. I quit.”
  • Pope Francis, The Vatican: Stop Sexual Abuse For Good

Nick Coleman, The State I'm In

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archbishop-john-nienstedtI am shocked — SHOCKED! — to find pederasty in here. 

Dec 16, 2013 | That derisive laughter you heard Sunday was the response of many Twin Cities Catholics to Archbishop John Nienstedt’s pre-Christmas “apology” for letting down his flock — again. As reported by local media with a straight face, Nienstedt’s humbug homily was supposed to be taken as an effort to come clean by a guy who seems to have missed the past 30-year history of efforts to rein in sexual abuse in the Church. Nienstedt’s words weren’t an apology; they were just another cover up. This time, it was his own back end he was trying to cover.

This was an attempt to pass the buck for a lack of due diligence by a church leader who came to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in 2007 with a very specific agenda in mind — an agenda that was not focused on protecting the most vulnerable members of the church but on destroying the liberal bent of an archdiocese that some in Rome — including former Pope Benedict XVI — wanted to quash. Nienstedt, appointed by Benedict to replace the liberal Archbishop Harry Flynn, was just the man for the job. He already had smashed the liberal legacy of the late bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minn., Raymond Lucker, who strongly supported women in the church and recommended that married men be eligible for ordination. In St. Paul, Nienstedt wasted no time cracking down on dissenters in the Twin Cities church, his actions largely focused against gays and homosexual support groups: He supported an outfit that claimed to be able to “cure” gay Catholocs, refused Communion to gay activists, ordered St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis to cease holding a “Rainbow Mass” during Twin Cities Pride week and even wrote a cranky letter to the University of Notre Dame opposing the school’s decision to invite “anti-Catholic” gay rights supporter Barack Obama to speak. At one point, the bully in the pulpit even told an anguished mom that she better be careful about supporting her gay child or she could end up in hell.

Nick Coleman is a Minnesota journalist, blogger (The State I'm In <http://www.nickcolemanmn.com>) and former  columnist for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

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Pope Francis, The Vatican: Stop Sexual Abuse For Good, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Change.org

  • Australian Catholic Bishops Geoffrey Robinson, Bill Morris and Pat Power call on Pope Francis to seize the opportunity of his appointment to establish a Council of the whole Church, inclusive of the laity from around the globe, to confront the global sex abuse scandal and address the issues that contribute to the causes of systemic sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
  • Sign this petition Sign the petition

 

 

Child Sex Abuse Crisis of the Religious Right Grows

Sex & Relationships

  • Why should parents of high-school students feel any trust in sending their kids off to a university whose president writes a letter urging leniency for a man who molested teens?
  • Pope Francis, The Vatican: Stop Sexual Abuse For Good
  • Catholic Church ramps up opposition to Minnesota anti-bullying bill

Frederick Clarkson, Daily Kos

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | A few months ago I wrote about how the child sex abuse crisis in evangelical Christianity, although less reported, is at least as bad as it is in the Catholic Church. Taken together, this suggests that there is a crisis of a different kind looming for the leaders of the Religious Right, whose concern for the victims of abuse has been too muted, and too often belated when it is evident at all. There is also too often an obvious and alarming tendency to sympathize and side with the abuser over the victims. The proud defenders of what they call "family values" become bizarre self-parodies, at best, under such circumstances.  

There are signs that accountability is coming.

This week as the the world considers the life of Nelson Mandela, a leading advocate for victims of sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention offered a remarkable idea. Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators suggested a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modeled on the one that helped South Africans put the horrors of apartheid behind them, might also help the Southern Baptist Convention come to grips with it's child sex abuse scandal.  She thinks that Baptist leaders have been long on reconciliation and short on truth, and that maybe a comprehensive effort at both might help.

Frederick Clarkson is Senior Fellow at Political Research Associates. He has written about politics and religion for thirty years. 

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Related:

Pope Francis, The Vatican: Stop Sexual Abuse For Good, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Change.org 

  • Australian Catholic Bishops Geoffrey Robinson, Bill Morris and Pat Power call on Pope Francis to seize the opportunity of his appointment to establish a Council of the whole Church, inclusive of the laity from around the globe, to confront the global sex abuse scandal and address the issues that contribute to the causes of systemic sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
  • Sign the PetitionSign this petition
     

Catholic Church ramps up opposition to Minnesota anti-bullying bill, Beth Hawkins, MinnPost

  • “All we are asking folks to do is to make sure a school setting is safe and allows a child to learn,” Senator [Scott] Dibble" — a Minneapolis DFLer and the chief author of both the same-sex marriage bill and Safe Schools said. “Why should it be so hard to make sure kids are not singled out for harassment?
  • “The archdiocese has done nothing to sit down and problem-solve what would be best for kids,” Dibble concluded. “The truth is bullying is a problem we have to solve. It happens every day and it is a real problem.”

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