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This is your brain on religion

  • From Pope Francis to Phil Robertson: Why are some people of faith generous — while others are nuts?
  • Uncovering the science of belief
  • Noam Chomsky | What Is the Common Good?

D.F. Swabb, Salon

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pope_neuroscience-620x412.jpg Saturday, Jan 4, 2014 | As far as I’m concerned, the most interesting question about religion isn’t whether God exists but why so many people are religious. There are around 10,000 different religions, each of which is convinced that there’s only one Truth and that they alone possess it. Hating people with a different faith seems to be part of belief. Around the year 1500, the church reformer Martin Luther described Jews as a “brood of vipers.” Over the centuries the Christian hatred of the Jews led to pogroms and ultimately made the Holocaust possible. In 1947, over a million people were slaughtered when British India was partitioned into India for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims. Nor has interfaith hatred diminished since then. Since the year 2000, 43 percent of civil wars have been of a religious nature.

Almost 64 percent of the world’s population is Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, or Hindu. And faith is extremely tenacious. For many years, Communism was the only permitted belief in China and religion was banned, being regarded, in the tradition of Karl Marx, as the opium of the masses. But in 2007, one-third of Chinese people over the age of 16 said that they were religious. Since that figure comes from a state-controlled newspaper, the China Daily, the true number of believers is likely at least that high. Around 95 percent of Americans say that they believe in God, 90 percent pray,We Are Our Brains cover 82 percent believe that God can perform miracles, and over 70 percent believe in life after death. It’s striking that only 50 percent believe in hell, which shows a certain lack of consistency. In the Netherlands, a much more secular country, the percentages are lower. A study carried out in April 2007 showed that in the space of 40 years, secularization had increased from 33 to 61 percent. Over half of the Dutch people doubt the existence of a higher power and are either agnostic or believe in an unspecified “something.” Only 14 percent are atheists, the same percentage as Protestants. There are slightly more Catholics (16 percent).

D.F. Swabb is a Dutch physician and neurobiologist who is renowned as a brain researcher.

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Noam Chomsky | What Is the Common Good? Noam Chomsky, Truthout 

  • Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.
  • Are We Being Driven Like Cattle?
 

Noam Chomsky | What Is the Common Good?

  • Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.
  • Are We Being Driven Like Cattle?

Noam Chomsky, Truthout

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2014.1.7.Chomsky.Main.jpg (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Brian Hillegas, Reigh LeBlanc, abrinsky)

This article is adapted from a Dewey Lecture by Noam Chomsky at Columbia University in New York on Dec. 6, 2013.

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 | Humans are social beings, and the kind of creature that a person becomes depends crucially on the social, cultural and institutional circumstances of his life.

We are therefore led to inquire into the social arrangements that are conducive to people's rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations - in brief, the common good.

For perspective I'd like to invoke what seem to me virtual truisms. They relate to an interesting category of ethical principles: those that are not only universal, in that they are virtually always professed, but also doubly universal, in that at the same time they are almost universally rejected in practice.

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, political commentator and activist. He is perhaps best known as a critic of all forms of social control and a relentless advocate for community-centered approaches to democracy and freedom. Over the last several decades, Chomsky has championed a wide range of dissident actions, organizations and social movements. 

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Are We Being Driven Like Cattle? John Scales Avery, Countercurrents.org

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  • So the people, the driven cattle, have been made to fear terrorism. How was this done? It was easy after 9/11. Could it be that the purpose of the 9/11 disaster was to make people fear terrorism, so that they could be more easily manipulated, more easily deprived of their civil rights, more easily driven into a war against Iraq? 
  • There is strong evidence that many highly placed governmental figures knew well in advanced that the World Trade Center would be attacked, and that they made the disaster much worse than it otherwise would have been.
  • Scared to Death
  • Henry Giroux on Zombie Politics

Gay educator says he was told he could save job if he divorced

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  • In a video interview with a former student of his, the Eastside Catholic High vice principal terminated from his job because he had married his male partner, said the school’s president offered him the option of a divorce as a way to keep his job.
  • The shame of the Catholic workplace
  • The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus

Lornet Turnbull, Seattle (WA) Times 

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Mark Zmuda terminated after same-sex marriage. 

January 6, 2014 | The former vice principal of Eastside Catholic school, who was terminated last month after school officials found out he had married his male partner, said in a newly released video that he was told he could keep his job if he got a divorce.

Mark Zmuda, 38, a well-liked swim coach who was vice principal of Eastside’s middle and high schools until Dec. 20, said the school’s president told him he could keep his job if he divorced his husband of five months and had a commitment ceremony.

Zmuda’s termination from the school of 935 students drew global attention and triggered a sit-in by Eastside Catholic high-school students and at other area Catholic schools as well as ongoing rallies and protests.

Lornet Turnbull: Seattle (WA) Times staff reporter

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The shame of the Catholic workplace, Jim Smith, Minneapolis (MN) StarTribune

  • Even as the pope moderates, discriminatory practices continue.
  • Can Pope Francis Change the Church?

The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus, Bill Berkowitz for BuzzFlash at Truthout

  • The Knights of Columbus was founded as a mutual aid society which combatted bigotry and discrimination against Catholics. Now, more than one-hundred thirty years after its founding, it has devolved into an organization which uses such catchphrases as "life and family" or "marriage and family," and yet has such a narrow view of family and has firmly planted itself in the forefront of discrimination and bigotry.
  • The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government

Pope Francis condemns fundamentalism, urges setting an example over proselytizing

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  • “I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the center but rather from the periphery,” the pope said.
  • The pope vs. the bishops: Challenges to building a church for the poor

Eric W. Dolan, Raw Story

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Pope-Francis-via-AFP2.jpgFriday, January 3, 2014 | Pope Francis recently urged the faithful to understand reality by looking at it “from the periphery” in order to avoid becoming fundamentalists.

Francis meet with 120 superiors general of men’s religious orders at the Vatican in November. His comments were published Friday by La Civiltà Cattolica, a Rome-based Jesuit weekly.

Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost.

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Related:

The pope vs. the bishops: Challenges to building a church for the poor, Vinnie Rotondaro, Salon 

  • Pope Francis has won over many with doctrine-based economic populism. Why is he so alone among Catholic leadership?
  • 5 reasons you should stay off the Pope Francis bandwagon

The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus

Belief Banner

  • The Knights of Columbus was founded as a mutual aid society which combatted bigotry and discrimination against Catholics. Now, more than one-hundred thirty years after its founding, it has devolved into an organization which uses such catchphrases as "life and family" or "marriage and family," and yet has such a narrow view of family and has firmly planted itself in the forefront of discrimination and bigotry.
  • The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government

Bill Berkowitz for BuzzFlash at Truthout

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GayRallyCA.jpg (Photo: Staffordvaughan)

Thursday, 26 December 2013 | While Pope Francis is getting most of the media attention related to all things Catholic, a Catholic lay organization that has been around for more than 130 years is starting to be the object of some well-deserved scrutiny. The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic lay organization in the world. It is well known for its charitable work. There's a good chance that somewhere in America on just about any weekend, the Knights of Columbus is holding an event to raise money to help the poor, feed the hungry, provide disaster relief, and support families in need. Its bake sales and pancake suppers are events that many communities eagerly look forward to and support wholeheartedly. Unbeknownst to many cookie or pancake enthusiasts, however, is the reality that a portion of the money – read that, millions of dollars -- raised by the Knights is being poured into anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage campaigns.

That is a side of the Knight of Columbus that is rarely reported on. According to a new report by Catholics for Choice, "The order has pushed a conservative agenda ranging from the highly specific—a complaint against highschoolers reading Catcher in the Rye—to systemic opposition to reproductive choice and marriage equality through sizable donations to programs run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other conservative organizations."

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer who has been monitoring and reporting on right-wing movements for a number of publications over the past ten years.

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Related:

The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government, Chris Hedges, Truthdig

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  • The rise of Christian fascism is aided by our complacency. The longer we fail to openly denounce and defy bankrupt liberalism, the longer we permit corporate power to plunder the nation and destroy the ecosystem, the longer we stand slack-jawed before the open gates of the city waiting meekly for the barbarians, the more we ensure their arrival.
  • How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington

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