Sunday, April 26, 2015

Who Are You and What Have You Done with Salon?

Wow, an intelligent, non-bellicose, reasoned and calm statement about the "debate" between religion and science from ....Salon?!  I'm assuming the writer hacked his way onto the site and probably the article will be taken down because it doesn't offend anyone.  Great read.  Highlights:

"Richard Dawkins likes to complain that, “religion teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not really answers at all.” To which the Dalai Lama might respond, “Why, yes, Mr. Dawkins. Yes, it does.”
"The premise of authentic religious practice, on the other hand, is that mystery is not to be feared but wrestled with, as Jacob wrestled with the angel. It’s not enough to be merely in awe of the universe; the question all the great religions ask is what are you going to do with your awe? One of the many valid responses to this question, along with traditional religious answers like, “do unto others as I would have done unto me,” “love the stranger,” “let go of desire,” and “heal the world” is: “Do science. Extend knowledge. Measure great distances, observe small particles.” '
and especially
"The fundamentalists cultivate something like a sulky teenager’s romanticized notion of love, and the atheists a grumpy old bugger’s lack of belief in such nonsense. But love of the Divine isn’t a feeling, or a belief, it’s something you make yourself available to. It’s an understanding that we are being asked, not to desperately fill the infinite spaces between each other, but to let what’s in that space fill us–with laughter, and humility, and wonder, and love."

Passionate Intensity...if that's okay.

"Meanwhile, religious switching, which is expected to hinder the growth of some other religious groups, is not expected to have a negative net impact on Muslims. By contrast, between 2010 and 2050, Christianity is projected to have a net loss of more than 60 million adherents worldwide through religious switching."
Note at the beginning: this is not an anti-Muslim post. Whether or not this growth is a good thing can be discussed elsewhere. What I find troubling is the decline of Christians. Now I realized many atheists would like to believe that is simply because religion is "dying out", but the very data quoted in this study belies that argument. Is it, then. because in the west we are more technologically advanced and so turn to science instead of religion? Perhaps; and certainly if this were 100 years ago that would most likely be the case. But the fact that we're currently trying to convince Iran not to make nuclear missiles does not seem to indicate that Muslim countries are suffering from a lack of science.
I think the real reason as more to do with how Christians in the west behave. We live, in the west at any rate, in a lukewarm age. Open displays of religious belief are discouraged. Keep it to yourselves. What a man does in the privacy of his own home is his own business, implying that one's belief in God is a "thing" one does sometimes if there is nothing good on television (which, albeit is most of the time). Good, status quo, middle-class Christians take this advice to heart, or as close to their hearts as they are capable. Status quo, don't rock the boat, don't want to appear like a "fanatic" to the neighbors ("Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag.").
Which leaves open displays of religion to those who are radical enough to not care, or indeed because they CRAVE the attention. The Westboro sect will go through rain, snow, ice, imprisonment, etc., to protest a soldier's funeral. I disagree with them, in fact, I not only disagree with their theology but DESPISE them, but even I have to admit, that's dedication. How many good, kind "normal" Christians would go to such lengths to fight for what they believe in?
Or do we believe in it? Most people "believe" when it benefits them, but not when it might get them in trouble, nay even when it might get others to even look at them askance. I am amongst the worst of these. And I'm a hermit. I'm supposed to be "especially dedicated". But, oh dear, the pressure to be "normal", to fit in.
And here's the kicker: if I go to a football game in December, half-naked and painted orange and black...that's okay! Yes, people might be amused, but all I would get is some light hazing the next day at the office. THAT sort of fanaticism is okay, even though it is a thousand times more arbitrary (You were born in Cincinnati? You become a Bengals fan. Your sister went to the Naval Academy? Beat Army!)
Where are the Christians who believe in peace, love, charity, non-judgmentalness? Why are they not showing the radical nature of such beliefs? And if we believe we are amongst those Christians, why do we lack an ounce of the dedication of a twisted so-called Baptist sect?
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity", indeed. And sadly.

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's Starting to Look a lot Like...Who?!

This, in a nutshell, is why reformers have the hardest lives: they satisfy no one. Conservatives consider them too liberal, and liberals (such as, evidently the writer of this article) believe they are not liberal enough. Whatever one's personal feelings about His Holiness, the one thing that cannot be said about him is that he has "done nothing". Indeed, even this writer makes the somewhat oxymoronical statement that yes, he has come down hard on financial abuses in the Curia, ended persecution of American nuns, reached out to other faiths (most notably the Patriarch of Constantinople), etc., etc., but, she says, he needs to actually "get moving". It seems to me he has been moving quite steadily. Whether one likes the direction in which he is moving is a separate matter.
And as for comparing him to Sarah Palin....well, I think that offends Conservatives as much as Liberals, and probably everyone in between.
Pope Francis says his pontificate might be only four or five years? He’d better get moving if he wants to be remembered as more than the ‘selfie pope’