Archive for the ‘Publications and Reports’ Category
9mm Golden Calves
by James E. Atwood | January 2013
Originally printed in Sojourners Magazine
BACK IN 1990, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued this warning: “The religious community must … take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns, which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse.” Two decades later, about 660,000 more Americans have been killed by guns, with a million more injured.
These figures convince me that what was a risk in 1990 has become our reality today: For too many, guns have become idols. They claim divine status; make promises of safety and security they cannot keep; transform people and neighborhoods; create enemies; and require human sacrifice.
Not all gun owners have permitted their guns to become idols or absolutes. In fact, a recent poll shows most gun owners and NRA members, in contrast to public perception, believe personal freedom and public safety are complementary, not contradictory. But those few who hold the microphone at the NRA (the wealthy manufacturers and the gun zealots who do their bidding) have permitted their fascination for guns to supplant God and God’s requirements for human community.
An idol’s followers boldly claim divine status for it. Former NRA executive Warren Cassidy was clear when he boasted, “You would get a far better understanding [of the NRA] if you approached us as if you were approaching one of the great religions of the world.” Not to be outdone, Charlton Heston, during a speech as NRA president, intoned, “Sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel—something that gives the most common man [sic] the most uncommon of freedoms, when ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and liberty.”
To turn away from the idolatry of guns will require community dialogue, self-examination, and prayer. One part of our response should also be to enact common-sense gun laws—which, when they have teeth, are very effective. We in the U.S. need two new federal laws, which would almost guarantee an immediate, dramatic decline in gun violence. The first needed law is a renewed ban on the sale of assault weapons. Good citizens have no need for guns that can rapidly fire up to 150 rounds without reloading and are designed to kill great numbers of people in close-quarter military combat. These are the weapons of choice for deranged individuals who are determined to kill. They must be banned in America forever.
A second common-sense law would require all gun purchasers to undergo an instant background check. This is technically feasible today, but it has not been implemented because the Gun Empire considers any law, however wise or minimal, to be a coordinated attempt to confiscate their weapons. Such a law would eliminate the many sales by unlicensed dealers at America’s 5,000 gun shows—dealers who can, in most states, legally sell any weapon to any person with no questions asked. It’s simply cash and carry.
I make no claims of certainty in determining whether or not a particular individual’s spirit has been converted by an idol, but for 37 years I have observed individuals who grow threatened and angry when gun values are questioned; who show little grief for society’s gun victims; who oppose any preventive measures to stop gun violence; and who believe the solution to gun violence is to arm more people. I am confident that such traits indicate that people are, at least, struggling with idolatry as they turn a human-made thing into an absolute that challenges the requirements of the living God. As Jesus taught us, we cannot serve two masters.
James E. Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor, is a gun owner, author of America and its Guns: A Theological Exposé, and chair of the Greater Washington chapter of the anti-gun- violence group Heeding God’s Call.
Image: Christmasstockimages.com Licensed for Re-Use
The School of Management Sciences, Varanasi and Centre for Spiritualism and Human Enrichment (C-SHE), in partnership with California State University San Bernardino (USA) and PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry (India), is organizing a three day International Conference on “Leadership and Management through Spiritual Wisdom” from 22nd February to 24th February, 2013.
• Highlighting the challenges of leadership and management in globalized era.
• Exploring causes of leadership success and failures.
• Role of Spiritual wisdom in leadership and management.
• Developing insights into the dimensions of spiritual wisdom.
• Understanding means and methods for inculcating and practicing spiritual wisdom in
leadership and management.
• Developing a path where an individual become free, actualized and emancipated so as to
become an enlightened leader and to find out the basic alchemy for this kind of leadership who
can bridge the chasm between the opposites & spiritual view of life.
• Highlighting importance of inter-disciplinary approach to various professional disciplines for
bringing synergy and unified approach for solving management problems.
For more details please visit www.icon.smsvaranasi.com. To know more about the Center for Spiritualism & Human Enrichment and its various programs, please visit the website: http://cshe.smsvaranasi.com/
Papers should be sent at email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Advancing the work of former CPWR Board Member, Bro. Wayne Teasdale, The Coming Interspiritual Age, by Dr. Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord [released January 8] explores themes of oneness, unity, and diversity on a world-wide scale. Forecasting a global shift toward spiritual consciousness, the authors unwrap an evolving makeup of religious communities to showcase how new forms of personal identity and scientific contexts in religion are creating a collective interspirituality.
Endorsing figures comprise Ken Wilber, Pir Zia Inayat Khan, Matthew Fox, Richard Rohr, Paul F. Knitter, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Andrew Harvey Ashok Gangadean, Yasuhiko Kimura, Charles Gibbs, Nancy Roof, Aster Patel, and more than forty more.
This title is currently placing among Amazon’s top ten new releases of religious publications and will be available shortly for orders outside the United States.
After a decade, Nepal is due to hold its census for the eleventh time in 2011. The history of census in Nepal goes back a hundred years to 1901. National census can facilitate planning of projects targeted towards specific groups if it records actual figures and conditions of those groups. The past censuses of Nepal are often termed to be “deliberate undercounting of [indigenous] communities…” and erroneous with omissions and misreported data , thus providing false picture of population composition. This has particularly concerned the indigenous nationalities of Nepal struggling for their identity and rights. Currently, Nepal has 59 ethnic groups identified as indigenous nationalities and many other groups are striving to be listed. The country has recently been transformed from a Hindu kingdom to a secular federal republic. The 2011 census – the first one since the country became a republic – thus holds a specific importance.
Can people strengthen the brain circuits associated with happiness and positive behavior, just as we’re able to strengthen muscles with exercise?
Richard Davidson, who for decades has practiced Buddhist-style meditation – a form of mental exercise, he says – insists that we can.
And Davidson, who has been meditating since visiting India as a Harvard grad student in the 1970s, has credibility on the subject beyond his own experience.
A trained psychologist based at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he has become the leader of a relatively new field called contemplative neuroscience – the brain science of meditation.
Over the last decade, Davidson and his colleagues have produced scientific evidence for the theory that meditation – the ancient eastern practice of sitting, usually accompanied by focusing on certain objects – permanently changes the brain for the better.
“We all know that if you engage in certain kinds of exercise on a regular basis you can strengthen certain muscle groups in predictable ways,” Davidson says in his office at the University of Wisconsin, where his research team has hosted scores of Buddhist monks and other meditators for brain scans.
“Strengthening neural systems is not fundamentally different,” he says. “It’s basically replacing certain habits of mind with other habits.”
Contemplative neuroscientists say that making a habit of meditation can strengthen brain circuits responsible for maintaining concentration and generating empathy.
One recent study by Davidson’s team found that novice meditators stimulated their limbic systems – the brain’s emotional network – during the practice of compassion meditation, an ancient Tibetan Buddhist practice.
From The Huffington Post
Many sociologists of religion, as well as the general public, seem to take for granted the causal relationship between higher education and the decline of religion. The more educated someone becomes, the theory goes, the less religious they are likely to be. As European and American universities broke free from the control of the church in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science and the scientific worldview arose to become the prime competitor to religious authority. With this historical trend, it was assumed that those who occupy these elite places of learning would also shed the trappings of irrational religious belief. However, more and more sociological evidence reveals that this may not be the case.
In a recent article published in Sociology of Religion, sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons use data from a new, nationally representative survey of American college and university professors to test the long-running assumption that higher education leads to irreligiousness. Based on their research, they argue that “while atheism and agnosticism are much more common among professors than within the U.S. population as a whole, religious skepticism represents a minority position, even among professors teaching at elite research universities.” This has been a long-running debate amongst those who study religiosity in higher education and pay attention to trends in societal secularization.
From The Washington Post
Is knowledge of religion important? Why?
The Pew poll of religious knowledge, in which atheists/agnostics scored ever-so-slightly higher than Jews and Mormons demonstrates at least four significant facts about what we know and why we know it. Appreciating these facts would go a long way toward ending the ugly fighting between theists and atheists. Of course they would need to want to stop their mutual mistreatment and disrespect for that to happen, but that is a different matter altogether.
First, Knowing God is different than Knowing about God and knowing about religion should not be confused with following a particular faith. That atheists and agnostics (why they are lumped together is a question for another time) scored highest is actually not that surprising. In fact, one might assume that knowing about religion plays a similar role in the lives of atheists/agnostics as does having religious experience does in the lives of believers – each is a source of personal identity.
Turning Park51 Into a Teachable Moment: Curriculum Guide and Fact Sheets
The controversy surrounding the Park51 Cultural Center in lower Manhattan has been at the forefront of the media and the nation’s consciousness recently. Chances are, your students have encountered this issue and are thinking about it. And chances are this issue is going to reach your classroom this fall – especially around 9/11.
Washington, D.C.—Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for different levels of education.
On questions about Christianity (including the Bible), Mormons and white evangelical Protestants show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews, atheists and agnostics stand out for their knowledge of world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Jews, atheists and agnostics also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own. Many people also think that the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.
These are among the key findings of the “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey,” a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 adults.