Tag Archives: religion

“What if our religion was each other…”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people

“Turn off the TV, calm down and stop trying to convert people to your religion.

These are among the top 10 pieces of advice issued by Pope Francis this week as part of his recipe for a happy, more fulfilled life.

Speaking in a very frank interview published in the Argentine weekly “Viva”, the Pope drew on his personal experiences to come up with his own lifestyle guide with a humble, anti-consumerist twist.

The highlights include a call to families to “turn off the TV when they sit down to eat because, even though television is useful for keeping up with the news, having it on during mealtime doesn’t let you communicate with each other”, according to a Catholic News Service translation of the interview.

And Francis said people will also be much happier when they stop trying too hard to bring others round to their way of thinking – including on religion. He said the church grows “by attraction, not proselytising”, and added that the best way to get through to anyone was with “dialogue, starting with his or her own identity”.

The number one piece of advice actually came in the form of a slightly clichéd Italian expression, roughly translated as: “Move forward and let others do the same”. The equivalent in English would be “live and let live”.

Pope Francis’s secrets to happiness

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

4. A healthy sense of leisure. The Pope said “consumerism has brought us anxiety”, and told parents to set aside time to play with their children and turn of the TV when they sit down to eat.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have,” he said. “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?’”

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,’” the Pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

9. Don’t proselytise; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising,” the Pope said.

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

Translated by Catholic News Service

1 Comment

Filed under Spotlights

How liberalism became an intolerant dogma

How liberalism became an intolerant dogma

 

My reaction to this article is multifaceted: on the one hand, I am glad that Damon Linker made these points, and on the other hand, I would like to argue against some of the implications and assumptions he makes.

To start with, I would like to clarify the difference between liberalism and libertarianism. Linker conflates the two concepts, and, while they are similarly related, they are not altogether identical.

According to wikipedia:

Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis) is a political philosophy or worldview founded on the idea of liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and a right to life, liberty, and property.

while

Libertarianism is the group of political philosophies which advocate minimizing coercion and emphasize freedom, liberty, and voluntary association. Libertarians generally advocate a society with significantly less government compared to most present day societies.

These definitions suggest that liberalism has a stronger focus on equality, while libertarianism is more strongly focused on small government. My take is that liberalism is more willing to explore the options for achieving equality, whereas libertarianism is staunchly wedded to the idea that small government will produce equality. It’s arguably impossible to know which camp is “right.”

The problem that I have is Linker (who is directly influenced by Mark Lilla’s essay) conflates the two concepts without fully examining the differences.

He is correct, however, in identifying that the libertarian concept can be aptly applied to both sides of our bipartisan political systems:

“…Libertarianism in this sense fuels the American right’s anti-government furies, but it also animates the left’s push for same-sex marriage — and has prepared the way for its stunningly rapid acceptance — in countries throughout the West…”

Linker then goes on to say:

“…What makes libertarianism a dogma is the inability or unwillingness of those who espouse it to accept that some people might choose, for morally legitimate reasons, to dissent from it. On a range of issues, liberals seem not only increasingly incapable of comprehending how or why someone would affirm a more traditional vision of the human good, but inclined to relegate dissenters to the category of moral monsters who deserve to be excommunicated from civilized life — and sometimes coerced into compliance by the government…”

Now, I don’t know much about those who espouse libertarianism. I’ve only had the chance to talk in depth politics with one self-assigned libertarian and so my knowledge of the matter is limited. However, I have a much deeper understanding of liberalism as I was raised in a liberal household, have liberal friends, and generally support “liberal causes.”

And, yes, I would say that I have witnessed a trend of liberals who “seem not only increasingly incapable of comprehending how or why someone would affirm a more traditional vision of the human good, but inclined to relegate dissenters to the category of moral monsters who deserve to be excommunicated from civilized life.” I experienced this type of liberal primarily when I was attending college and they, more often than not, came in the form of well-meaning feminists who wanted so badly for women to be “liberated from the oppressive regime of Western society” that they would criticize any and all who remotely participated in seemingly “oppressive” actions, thoughts, and social roles. For example, I was “looked down on” for wearing makeup and shaving my legs.

And, yes, I can see that that kind of liberal is in the public eye right now thanks to the media and high-profile liberal groups who, although fundamentally well-meaning, insist on casting blame instead of focusing on shared hardships (see my previous blog post “The Day I Became a Men’s Rights Activist” for further examples).

However, that loud-voiced minority does not accurately represent all liberals as a whole. And it is always unfair to utilize synecdoche when describing any group of human individuals.

Linker acknowledges this point without actually realizing it when he says:

“…The latter tendency shows how, paradoxically, the rise of libertarian dogma can have the practical effect of increasing government power and expanding its scope…”

This is where Linker’s previous mistaken conflation of libertarianism and liberalism comes into play. Again, I don’t know as much about libertarians as I do liberals, but if they were interchangeable they would not have different guiding principles.

He then brings in some examples of “liberalism’s dogmatism… in recent months”:

  • “Brendan Eich resigned as the chief executive of Mozilla, a company he helped found, after gay rights activists launched a boycott against the company for placing him in a senior position. Eich’s sin? More than five years earlier, he donated $1,000 to the campaign for California’s Proposition 8, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state. It didn’t matter that he’d explicitly assured employees that he would treat them fairly, regardless of their sexual orientation. What mattered was that Eich (like the 7 million people who voted in favor of Prop 8) had made himself a heretic by coming down on the wrong side of an issue on which error had now become impermissible.
  • Liberals indulged in a wildly overwrought reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, with seasoned journalists likening the plaintiffs to the Pakistani Taliban, and countless others taking to social media to denounce a government-sanctioned theocratic assault on women’s health — all because some women working for corporations that are “closely held” by religiously conservative owners might have to pay out of pocket for certain forms of freely available contraception (as, one presumes, they currently do for toothpaste). Apparently many liberals, including the Senate Democrats who seem poised to gut the decision, consider it self-evident that these women face a far greater burden than the conservative owners, who would be forced by the government to violate their religious beliefs. One highly intelligent commentator, inadvertently confessing his incapacity to think beyond the confines of liberal dogma, described the religious objection as “trivial” and “so abstract and attenuated it’s hard to even explain what it is.”
  • Beyond the Beltway, related expressions of liberal dogmatism have led a Harvard undergraduate to suggest that academic freedom shouldn’t apply to the handful of conservatives on campus — because their views foster and justify “oppression.” In a like-minded column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania argued that religious colleges should be denied accreditation — because accrediting them “confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education,” one of which is to pursue “skeptical and unfettered” (read: dogmatically liberal and secular) inquiry…”

His portrayal of these events is arguably myopic and one-sided. Linker presents each event in an overly-simplistic way that distorts the reasons behind them.

First, Brendan Eich was only CEO of Mozilla for two weeks. Yes, he was one of the co-founders of Mozilla, but the original revelation of his donation was back in 2012. It only became an issue recently because he was promoted to CEO. According to the New Yorker:

“…While Eich attempted to defuse the problem with conciliatory blog posts and interviews about diversity and inclusiveness, he didn’t actually say that his views on gay marriage had changed. That, inevitably, provoked a uprising within the Mozilla community: a public petition was circulated demanding that he step down, the dating site OkCupid recommended that its customers stop using Firefox, and some Mozilla employees (though far from all of them) called for his resignation…

 

The problem was that Eich’s stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology. At this point, a tech company having a C.E.O. who opposes gay marriage is not all that different from a company in 1973 having a C.E.O. who donated money to fight interracial marriage: even if there were plenty of Americans who felt the same way at the time, the C.E.O. would still have been on the wrong side of history. And since the role of a C.E.O. as a public face of an organization is more important than ever these days, Eich’s personal views were inevitably going to shape his ability to run the company.

 

That’s especially true because of the unusual nature of Mozilla. Mozilla is not like most companies. It’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, and is just one part of the broader Mozilla community, which includes thousands of open-source software developers and other volunteers around the world. These people still do much of the work behind Mozilla’s products—contributing code, technical support, design improvements, and so on. This means that Mozilla depends on the goodwill of its supporters more than most corporations do; it relies on their willingness to donate their services in pursuit of the broader Mozilla project, which is all about keeping the Web transparent and accessible. If it alienates them, Mozilla’s entire mission will be at risk…”

Furthermore, board members at Mozilla didn’t even want to have Eich as CEO in the first place. They had wanted “an outside CEO, presumably to shake up the organization”:

“…Three of the company’s six board members actually resigned before Eich was appointed… Eich himself told VentureBeat that the board had interviewed twenty-five candidates before settling on him; he even wondered aloud why they didn’t pick Jay Sullivan, who was the other internal candidate for the position…”

In other words, Eich’s resignation was much more multi-faceted than Linker implies.

Linker’s second bullet point is even more blatantly sensationalized, as obvious in just the first seven words:

“Liberals indulged in a wildly overwrought reaction…”

“Indulged”? “Wildly”? “Overwrought”? Really, Linker? That’s how you present a balanced report on recent events?

“…all because some women working for corporations that are “closely held” by religiously conservative owners might have to pay out of pocket for certain forms of freely available contraception (as, one presumes, they currently do for toothpaste)…”

Now that’s a new low, your biases are showing Linker.

Hobby Lobby stated from the beginning that it isn’t against all forms of birth control, just certain ones such as Plan B, Ella, and intrauterine devices. Hobby Lobby does provide insurance coverage for 16 other forms of birth control, including pills that prevent ovulation. They object to these certain forms of birth control because they are supposedly “abortion-causing,” which is “against their religious principles.”

These contraceptive options in fact do not cause abortion, they merely prevent the attachment of a potentially fertilized egg to the uterine wall. Some intrauterine devices don’t even regulate or administer hormones. Their science behind the decision is blatantly wrong, regardless of what their actual argument is.

Yes, those forms of contraception are “freely available” but they are also highly expensive if you don’t have insurance to help cover the cost. I personally have an IUD and it cost me $300 out of pocket, it would have cost me $800 if I hadn’t had health insurance to help. That is significantly more than “toothpaste.”

For Linker’s third bullet point, I would agree that it is unfair to deny accreditation to religious colleges. But, again, that is one individual liberal that Linker is using to characterize the entirety of liberals. Synecdoche, much?

However I should give him some credit since he does acknowledge this:

“…But wait, some will object: You can’t reduce contemporary American liberalism to the illiberal outbursts of loudmouthed activists, intemperate journalists, foolish undergraduates, and reckless Ivy League professors!

 

To which the proper response is: True!..”

He goes on to say:

“…Still, I wonder: Where have been all the outraged liberals taking a stand against these and many other examples of dogmatism — and doing so in the name of liberalism? I’ve been doing that in my own writing. And I’ve appreciated the occasional expressions of modest support from a handful of liberal readers. But what about the rest of you?..”

I have to admit I agree with the sentiment, but the way Linker phrases it stinks a bit like egotistic intellectual masturbation: “I see it, why don’t you see it?”

Linker then goes on to offer an explanation for why, in the first place, we find ourselves “in a world dominated by libertarian dogma.” He says that,

“…From the dawn of the modern age, religious thinkers have warned that, strictly speaking, secular politics is impossible — that without the transcendent foundation of Judeo-Christian monotheism to limit the political sphere, ostensibly secular citizens would begin to invest political ideas and ideologies with transcendent, theological meaning.

 

Put somewhat differently: Human beings will be religious one way or another. Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things.

 

With traditional faith in rapid retreat over the past decade, liberals have begun to grow increasingly religious about their own liberalism, which they are treating as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good…”

I would first like to point out that Linker uses the phrase “religious thinkers” to mean “Western society’s religious thinkers.” Not all religious thinkers follow “Judeo-Christian monotheism.” That aside, his use of the word “religious” is a bit ambiguous. Religious can mean a variety of things, according to dictionary.com:

re·li·gious

adjective

1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with religiona religious holiday.
2. imbued with or exhibiting religionpious; devout; godly: areligious man.
3. scrupulously faithful; conscientious: religious care.
4. pertaining to or connected with a monastic or religious order.
5. appropriate to religion or to sacred rites or observances.
 

More often than not, most arguments, opinions, and statements boil down to semantics and it’s very difficult to fully and accurately understand or convey meaning in today’s rapidly evolving language environments.

The phrase “religious thinkers” is obviously referring to thinkers associated with specific, established, recognized religions. And, if we are to extend that meaning to his later statement that “human beings will be religious one way or another,” then we are to understand that he really means that “human beings will be associated with a specific religion one way or another.” However, I don’t think that’s what he wants to say.

Thus, the phrase “either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things” is inherently contradictory: he is changing the meaning of “religious” from one sentence to another. He then extends this new meaning to the next paragraph to make his point.

Thus, I have to admit that I have little understanding of what he means by, “liberals have begun to grow increasingly religious about their own liberalism, which they are treating as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good.” And, consequently, I don’t understand what he means by,

“…But liberalism’s leading theoreticians (Locke, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Madison, Tocqueville, Mill) never intended it to serve as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good. On the contrary, liberalism was supposed to act as a narrowly political strategy for living peacefully in a world of inexorably clashing comprehensive views of reality and the human good…”

Wouldn’t a “narrowly political strategy” be one aspect of “a comprehensive view of reality and the human good”? I don’t know. 

Linker concludes by saying that “the proper response to the distinctive dogmatism of our time is to urge liberals to return to their tolerant roots.” However, I would instead urge them to logically and thoroughly follow their liberal ideals which would then result in a “return to their tolerant roots”. I’m disputing Linker’s method, not end goal.

More often than not, people don’t follow the logic structures of their arguments and opinions to their logical conclusions. This plagues liberals, libertarians, and conservatives alike. They get so caught up in advocating for “what they believe in” that they often don’t examine why they believe what they believe and what further implications come along with that. 

Take the minimum wage debate as an example: If you are against the minimum wage raise, you are hurting your own prospects as well as the prospects of others. If wages were raised, money would be pumped into the economy making life better for EVERYONE. Just look at the states that have raised the minimum wage this year, they’re seeing higher employment growth than the states that didn’t. A recent article on Salon.com is a perfect example of this: “I was poor, but a GOP die-hard: How I finally left the politics of shame“.

Overall, I think Linker has a great message to send to the masses. However, I think he could have thought a little bit more about his delivery and wording to make his meaning clearer and could have made an effort to not sound biased. But that doesn’t mean his article should not be read and shared and discussed.

Even if you agree with someone’s overall point does not mean you should not critically examine what they say.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Study: Muslims hate terrorism, too

Study: Muslims hate terrorism, too

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Post-Hobby Lobby, Religious Orgs Want Exemption From LGBT Hiring Order

Post-Hobby Lobby, Religious Orgs Want Exemption From LGBT Hiring Order

*explosion of expletives* 

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

“In America, ev…

“In America, even sincere and long-hold religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted,”

– U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II 

 

Found this quote in reference to KY’s acknowledgment of same-sex marriages, but it has so many more relevant applications to current social justice issues. For instance, it could definitely be used in reference to the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

Leave a comment

July 1, 2014 · 5:12 pm

Facebook Likes Predict Sexual Orientation, Religion, & More

Facebook Likes Predict Sexual Orientation, Religion, & More

Today at 11:44 am by Sarah Downey

“A new study takes the saying “what you like says a lot about you” to a whole new level. Researchers from Cambridge University analyzed 58,000 Facebook profiles and found that a person’s Facebook Likes, which are public by default, are highly accurate in predicting personal, sometimes sensitive details about him or her.

Simply analyzing a person’s Facebook Likes was 88% accurate in predicting whether a man is gay or straight, 95% accurate in predicting whether a person is Caucasian or African American, and 85% accurate in determining whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican.

The researchers concluded that Facebook Likes, these “relatively basic digital records of human behavior,” “can be used to automatically and accurately estimate a wide range of personal attributes that people would typically assume to be private.”

Most Likes that serve as predictors of other attributes, including whether a person is in a relationship or a substance abuser, aren’t obvious–it’s not as if single people Like pages called “I like being single” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Instead, Likes that have seemingly no connection to certain personality traits are surprisingly linked. The researchers gave a few good examples:

The best predictors of high intelligence include “Thunderstorms,” “The Colbert Report,” “Science,” and “Curly Fries,” whereas low intelligence was indicated by “Sephora,” “I Love Being A Mom,” “Harley Davidson,” and “Lady Antebellum.” Good predictors of male homosexuality included “No H8 Campaign,” “Mac Cosmetics,” and “Wicked The Musical,” whereas strong predictors of male heterosexuality included “Wu-Tang Clan,” “Shaq,” and “Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps.”

7.4 million websites have Facebook Like buttons on them (not to mention the buttons all over Facebook itself), and that number is growing. Users can Like almost anything: photos, comments, musicians, brands, celebrities, and pages. As we’ve written about extensively, social buttons like Facebook’s Like button aren’t just for sharing: they’re trackers. Unless you’re using a tool like DoNotTrackMe to block them, they know which sites you visit and what you do on a website, even if you never click them. The mere fact that they’re present on a page means they’re tracking you.

This study illustrates how the little things you do online add up to create a highly detailed picture of who you are. You may not think that a Like here and there says anything about you, but they all add up–especially with Facebook’s new Graph Search that displays all your Likes with a single search…and those searches can be incriminating, embarrassing, or even dangerous (“Men in Iran who are interested in other men,” for example). Plus the long list of people with whom Facebook shares data includes advertisers, app developers, law enforcement, and other companies.

Even if you’re trying to be discreet by leaving personal information out of your profile, others can figure it out through your public Likes. If researchers with a limited budget can learn this much about a person through their Facebook Likes, imagine how big companies, advertisers, or governments could use–or misuse–that data. Are you the type of person who takes risks? Maybe an insurance company will hike up your rates. Are you politically conservative? Maybe a potential employer will pass on hiring you because of it. Are you someone who loves coffee? Maybe online retailers will charge you more for it than someone else (Google filed a patent for price discrimination based on online social data).

Your past Facebook Likes are listed chronologically in your Activity Log.

The only solution Facebook offers is using your Facebook Activity Log to un-like things one by one, but for many users with hundreds or thousands of Likes, this process will take hours. Be wary of third-party apps that say they’ll let you delete all your Likes at once; search for reviews to learn more about whether they’re legitimate. We advise you to rethink every Like you click, knowing that all of them can come back to bite you.”

Leave a comment

March 12, 2013 · 6:42 pm