The World Wide (Religious) Web for Friday, November 11, 2011


THE IDOL OF THE INTERNET: “Virtually Pleasuring Ourselves Out of Existence.”

If all of our life choices are determined by the medial forebrain pleasure circuit, why would anyone choose to do anything other than push the self-stimulating buttons?

The answer is that our lives depend on resisting that urge. Indeed, if easy stimulation of the pleasure circuit has the capacity to surpass one’s instinct for food, sexual reproduction, or caring for young, the survival of our species may depend on the sublimation of that pleasure.

Unless we have a spiritual, moral, or ethical framework to suggest that suffering, the absence of pleasure, has merit and benefit to our lives, civilization is at risk of being ignored to death. And as religious institutions are the most likely purveyors of the concept of suffering as the source of life, perhaps the last laugh in the evolutionary story is that the survival of the fittest might be in favor of religion.

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JO PA AND IL PAPA: “Why Penn State abuse is (and isn’t) like the Catholic Church.”

Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno is out in the university’s burgeoning sex abuse scandal, and comparisons to the Roman Catholic Church’s own abuse scandals are in.

“The parallels are too striking to ignore. A suspected predator who exploits his position to take advantage of his young charges. The trusting colleagues who don’t want to believe it—and so don’t,” author Jonathan Mahler wrote in The New York Times.

“This was the dynamic that pervaded the Catholic clerical culture during its sexual abuse scandals, and it seems to have been no less pervasive at Penn State.”

The analogy is popular. But does it hold up to scrutiny? Yes, and no. Here are three ways in which the twin abuse scandals are similar, and three ways they are different.

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DON’T WORRY, BE (A) HAPPY (CHURCHGOER): “Study links religious services to optimism.”

Regular attendance at religious services is associated with a more optimistic outlook and a lesser inclination to be depressed, compared to those who do not attend services at all, a study concluded on Thursday.

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AND YET, NO SERMONS ON GLUTTONY: “Religion And Obesity; Report Associates Religious Activity With Weight Gain.”

Religious activity is generally associated with good physical and mental health.

Six major studies of mortality risks in the last 10 years found frequent worship attenders were anywhere from 18 percent to 35 percent less likely than non-attenders to have died during the time period studied, says researcher George Fitchett of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Rising obesity rates, however, are a notable exception to the generally positive record, Fitchett said. He presented his findings on religion and obesity at the recent joint meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association in Milwaukee.

People who attended services or otherwise participated in organized religion weekly were 62 percent more like to be obese than those who never participated, according to data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis of adults ages 45 to 84 sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

In a separate study of 2,500 healthy women and men, researchers following up with participants 18 years later found 32 percent of frequent worship attenders became obese. In comparison, just 22 percent of non-attenders became obese, Fitchett reported. The data was taken from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study funded by the heart and lung institute.

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1 CORINTHIANS 7:3 WATCH: “Christian leaders talk about marriage and sex.”

Last week, Rick Warren sent this message to the nearly 500,000 people who follow him on Twitter: “Husbands & wives should satisfy each other’s sexual needs. 1 Cor 7:3.”

His Twitter feed lit up with amens and retweets. “Oh gosh,” exclaimed one follower.

Evangelical Christians want to talk about sex. And not in the same old punitive way. They want to talk about hot sex — as long as it’s between a man and a woman who are husband and wife. That Warren, perhaps the nation’s most prominent evangelical pastor, would take up the cause only shows how much it matters to the people who listen to him.

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WHAT WOULD JOHN WESLEY DO? “Methodists Increasingly Involved in Occupy Movement.”

Winkler believes that if alive, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, would at the very least support the aims of the Occupy Movement.

He pointed out Wesley’s criticism of 18th century English merchants over their business practices as an indicator of that support.

“There is no question in my mind that Wesley would have protested greed and the neglect of the poor. He would support the goals,” said Winkler.

In my opinion, Wesley would’ve been too busy riding the evangelistic circuit to waste time at a protest.

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EVANGELICALS & THE BOMB: “NAE Backs Nuclear Disarmament.”

In a November 8 media conference call, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) released its new resolution calling for multilateral reductions in nuclear arms. It suggested that possession of nukes may be idolatrous. But it did not explain how to handle nuclear armed adversaries unwilling to disarm. NAE represents more than 45,000 local churches from over 40 different denominations.

This resolution was influenced by the “2 Futures Project,” a group funded by left-leaning philanthropies that advocates complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Although not himself a board member, that project’s chief, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, was present at the NAE board’s October board meeting to help explain the resolution before the board voted on it. He also had participated in a key planning meeting on the resolution over the summer.

According to NAE President Leith Anderson, the body seeks to fulfill Ronald Reagan’s vision of a nuclear-free future. With the end of the Cold War, Americans no longer worried about nuclear strikes from powerful enemies. Now, as Anderson shared in a recent teleconference, “the most frightening threat these days are rogue nations and terrorists [sic].”

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TONY BLAIR OPINES: “10 dos and don’ts for religion and democracy.”

  1. DO have democracy-friendly religion and religion-friendly democracies.
  2. DON’T think you understand democracy if you think it’s only about elections: it’s about a culture and mindset which includes freedom of thought, freedom of expression, political and religious pluralism, and human rights.
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