Saturday, May 2, 2009

Can religion save souls?

I have always thought that the idea of saving souls and healing through prayer to be pretty irrational. I can't say that I have ever had nearly enough faith in anything to allow myself to believe that religion could save anyone or set anyone on a different track. Nevertheless, many people claim that faith is what brought them through the toughest of situations. People are grateful to god and church in times of distress, violence, sickness and depression. Religious faith has been linked to healing patients of substance abuse, cancer, major surgery including cardiac surgery, suicidal tendencies, and criminal behavior. Although I don't quite understand this phenomena, I cannot deny that it occurs. I only wonder if there is any evidence that proves that prayer and religious faith effects people psychologically. The information that I found while researching doesn't seem to offer any type of scientific proof or explanation, it just supports the argument that religious faith increases the hope that people feel and allows them to remain mentally focused on a positive outcome. I guess sometimes people just need something to believe in. They need to believe in something that goes beyond rational thinking in order to have faith in themselves or to believe that they are going to make it out of whatever hardships are troubling them. According to an article on "Faith-based, positive religious resources can help patients recover from cardiac surgery, according to findings from a study presented at the 114th annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA). The study suggests that enhanced hope and perceived social support can protect psychological well-being during stressful procedures and experiences, whereas having negative religious thoughts and struggles may hinder recovery." This idea very much reinforces the concept of the power of positive thinking. If patients believe that there is a powerful force of good out there trying to help them then they find in much easier to stay positive and strengthen themselves. But is this really attributed to God? Couldn't we find other ways to remain positive in distressful situations without turning to religion? I like to think so, but in a world ridden with pessimistic ideology and money woes I guess there almost needs to be some sort of magic supernatural thought to really inspire someone to stay positive. Reality just doesn't quite cut it.
This video is a quick explanation of how religion effects the brain, and how the feeling of transcendence, which is linked to spiritual healing, can be explained scientifically.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Was Jesus a vegetatian.

The idea that Jesus was a vegetarian is almost as ignorant as proclaiming that George Bush knew exactly what he was doing in office. Although I’m no scientist when it comes to religion, I am however well versed in the teachings of both protestant and catholic traditions. When I was growing up in the family, religion was an important part of our culture. There are many references in the Bible to the consumption of both bread and fish, which automatically disqualifies any and all of these ridiculous and credulous assumptions. The fact that PeTA encourages this type of thinking should clearly indicate to us that they are unreliable both in their judgment and their philosophies. In my opinion, such a social atrocity of lies and unsustainable evidence to support their idea’s, is much worse a fallacy then to have religion provide a social and cultural role in people’s lives or even serving a political or civic role to society. Groups and organizations such as these actually rob people’s minds of their personal judgment and provide a getaway plan for the conscious theft of our individuality as well as our health.

This video may have a point but i still like to grill my steak outside on a nice summer day. Cheers...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Parody Religions

So, this whole year we’ve been talking about the major religions like Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Native American beliefs, Buddhism, Hinduism, and a bunch of other ones. But what about Googlism? The Invisible Pink Unicorn? And Pastafarianism? Some of you may be aware of these unheard “parody” religions, but I wanted to look into them a little closer. Most of the religions poke fun at the established religions today like Christianity, but surprisingly they have pretty good points and theories that are just as “correct/ridiculous” as the religions of today.

Googlism is one of my favorites because it outs a few things into perspective This is on the main web page of The Church of Google (which is not affiliated with the actual Google Company of course).

“We at the Church of Google believe the search engine Google is the closest humankind has ever come to directly experiencing an actual God (as typically defined). We believe there is much more evidence in favour of Google's divinity than there is for the divinity of other more traditional gods.”

I took a moment and thought about that quote. To me, that statement seems pretty accurate, especially in these modern times.I look more to google than to God to figure out my problems. I looked further into the website and found they created the “9 Proofs” that show how close Google is to a modern god. A few examples of them are “Google is all knowing, Google is everywhere, and Google answers prayers.” Sound familiar? This is just like the Christian's (or any other major religion's) God, just Google can’t smite you if you do something it doesn’t like. This actually sounds like a pretty good religion to me now that I think of it.
Another one I found pretty intriguing was the Invisible Pink unicorn. According to the belief as explained by Steve Eley:

"The Invisible Pink Unicorns is a being of great spiritual power. We know this because she is capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorn is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that she is pink; we logically know that she is invisible because we can't see her."

It looks silly what the above statement says, but that statement is pretty much based off of any religion out there today. You can’t see a god because he/she/it is invisible, but you can’t prove it doesn’t exist because it isn't visible. Of course these religions aren’t practiced as vigorously as modern religions (at least I don’t think) but they are there just to show that there are some foolish and silly ideas and beliefs of those religions.

Here are a few Parody religions/beliefs if you’re interested:
The Church of Google
The Invisible Pink Unicorn
Pastafarianism (Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster)
Last Thursdayism
Russels Teapot

Friday, April 24, 2009

Media, Morality and Religion

A topic that I have focused a lot on this semester throughout the readings in this course and that of Capitalism and Democracy is that of the media and its similarities to religion and its corresponding role in affecting morality. Essentially, the technology change in the past decade alone has allowed for a huge increase in the availability of the media essentially-everywhere. We as a society are not so dependent on our cellphones and I-phones, I-pods and X-box's that maybe these new devices are the futures bible. Are our children going to grow up learning morals and ethics essentially handed down throughout generations of Christians in our nation from the bible like its been? I dont think so.
It is truly scary to think about the next generation and the advent affect technology and the media's increasing availability will have on them. I find myself as many of my peers would I believe in the middle, not too old that it takes me 5 min. to send a one word txt, not too young to be liking the crazy new video game systems and games that come with them now. I'm not saying I know exactly where I fit into the generation graph but I do know I'm in the middle of a serious change in how one generation to the next finds itself nurtured by the media. Personally, Im terrified...
Sacred and Secular, symbolic or stupid, satisfied or sadened. I think that one thing I have taken away from this class, and one thing I hope the next generation takes away from the media is that there are always in betweens, everything is always relative, no one is ever truly "right" or "wrong" in an ethical or moral stand point because no one can judge that. There will always be different ways to obtain common ethics and morals known as "good" to a society, and there will always be ways that are viewed as "bad". There will always be parts of the media that corrupt, and parts that triumph in doing good, sharing knowledge and spreading information. Whatever happens happens is the long run in the grand scheme of things, be here now. om.

Religion and Moral Development

I wanted to share with all of you this theory I came up with while doing the most recent homework assignment (overview of each section of the course).

At some point in the discussion we have mentioned whether or not religion promotes morality or not. As Wolfe claims, "Both morality and religion are far too dynamic for any one-to-one relationship between them to remain stable for any long period of time" (Wolfe 128).

I believe that religion does serve a purpose in spreading morality. Specifically, religion gives a motivation for people who are not yet developed enough to do good for the sake of doing good. This is not to say that religion is only for such people, but that it does provide alternative motivations for obeying moral law. My justification for this stance is as follows:

Lawrence Kohlberg outlined six stages of moral development (check this link):
Basically broken down into:

Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation
(How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation
(What's in it for me?)

Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity
(Social norms)
(The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
(Law and order morality)

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience)

A person with stage 4,5, or 6 morality will attempt to seek morality in order to maintain social order, maintain a social contract, or because their sense of universal morality guides them to (respectively). Obviously, nothing about religion is prohibitive of these stages and there is nothing about reaching these stages that would inherently drive a person away from religion.

However, for those majority of the populous who fall into stages 1, 2, or 3 of moral development, religion offers reasons to act within a set of moral boundaries that a person with that level of morality would be unlikely to develop autonomously.

For those at stage 1: "Do what is right or God(s) will punish you!" There is no escaping His (or their) judgement, so the "its only wrong if I get caught" mentality of the Stage 1 person does not apply.

For those at stage 2: "What's in it for you? Salvation! When you die (which is inevitable) you will go to a wonderful place as long as you follow all of the rules right now."

For those at stage 3: "Why should you do it? Because everyone else in the community/society do also." Even if you are on the lower end of the moral totem pole you can still hold yourself up by mimic-ing the superior moral behavior outlined by a figurehead such as Christ, Buddha, or other religious figure.

Thus, I believe that religion can serve as a powerful motivating force for the portions of the population that have not yet developed higher level morality.

Once again I must stress that this does not indicate that religious people are somehow lagged in moral development or anything of the sort. I just wanted to provide a potential explanation for how religion can assist in spreading morality to those who might not otherwise have found it.

For course readings click here:

Religion & Christian Capitalism in the US

In light of my previous post, looking at religious spikes in times of woe, and a way to tie these two core courses together here at the end of the semester, the role of capitalism and religion together was on my mind. It's a funny thought that when times are tough, people generally flock to religion when the money goes. However ironically, religion in modern America is deeply ingrained within the capitalist system, focusing a great attention on spending tremendous amounts of money on mainstream material religion, on worthless products for the masses. This consumerist segment of religion stems from commercialism and material culture.

Religion in America alone is greatly part of material culture, marketing products and unfortunately beliefs. Religion is a large profit source in this country, serving to be greatly entwined within the capitalist framework we base our country on. They both work together with this notion of religion and capitalism comprising hand in hand. Also this country bases huge values on religion, and bases its economic foundation on a capitalist system, therefore two huge entities running a country side by side, coincide together to create one material American culture of religious capitalists, to speak very generally.

To further describe this notion that religion integrates well with a capitalist society, Colleen Mcdannell in her text, "Material Christianity" highlights the close interrelation between the two. She states,

"Christian retailing - the selling of Christian goods and services to a buyer for personal or household use - is a significant aspect of contemporary religious life in America. During the early 1990s, the sales of Christian products in bookstores exceeded $3 billion annually!"

The success of the Christian retailing market is undeniable, as religion is fueled by capitalism's framework. Using Christian retailing specifically material Christianity, religion creates a specific culture in America. This culture is a result of the capitalistic system in place governing and working with religion, allowing a place for it. If $3 billion a year doesn't correlate a religious money making market within a strong capitalist structure than I don't know what would!

McDannell continues, "By buying and displaying Christian art in their homes, giving gifts with biblical sayings, or wearing T-shirts, conservative Protestants translate their beliefs into visible messages." This transformation of belief to material items, creates a religious culture based on buying and selling, within a capital driven political system. This notion clearly links the two realms of religion and capitalism, finding a common place between the two in our American society.

For some external input, I found another blog from relating to someones strong atheistic views on materialism in religion, specifically in Christianity in regards to Christmas and other commercialism. The blog is quoted,

"...inherent tension between the evangelical right and the corporate right, both of whom try to live together within the GOP. Pure market capitalism does not respect traditions or religion. Capitalism doesn't care. The market doesn't care. All that matters is how to make the best profit possible from selling to the public" (Cline).

With this is mind, pure capitalism feeds of markets, and the massive market that religion offers is able to provide the economic framework a lot of revenue. Capitalism in our country thrives with religion's markets, and religion thrives more so with the help of a profit driven economic system behind it. Separation of church and state doesn't matter when money is involved, especially when its benefiting the system itself.

Works Cited:

Cline, Austin. "Material Excesses of Christmas are a Moral Problem: Objecting to the Extreme Spending, Borrowing, Materialism." Agnosticism / Atheism - Free Inquiry, Skepticism, Atheism, Religious Philosophy. 25 Apr. 2009.

McDannell, Colleen. Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Religion and State

The idea of religion has been around as long as humans have been walking this earth. The definition of religion is the worship of any superhuman controlling power, often a personal God or gods. What makes religion interesting is how everyone has their own idea what religion means to them. Across the United States, there are people who dedicate every day of their lives to worship and there are people who worship nothing. Because of how diverse our country is, state and religion should never be paired together. A good example of a conflict caused by this can be found in any Amish Commune.

The problem with religion and state is where the state draws the line as to where religion is involved. Children are required to attend school until they're 16. But in Amish communities, it is believed that the youth needs no further schooling beyond 8th grade. As you can see, this can cause many conflicts between the state, the first amendment, and citizens right to freedom of worship.