This Week in Religion 2018-04-22

by | April 22, 2018


By Scott Douglas Jacobsen 

Quiz any atheist on campus about the origin of the phrase, “separation of Church and State.” Do it! Will they tell you that it does not in fact appear anywhere in the Constitution? Perhaps. There are some intelligent students in the Secular Student Alliance. Here is one question that they won’t be able to answer, though: “Why aren’t all people atheists?”

To most atheists, religion is simply a matter of ignorance. They’ll say religious people simply adopt the values and prejudices of their parents without giving them a moment of critical reflection. Whether you’re raised as a Christian or a Muslim is simply a matter of geography.

The new age atheists like Richard Dawkins will say religious people outright reject science and logic. Try telling that to the fifty or so Nobel Prize winners in science from the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences.”


“IN no other democratic elections does religion play such a consistently crucial and entrenched role as in Malaysia. Just look at the rhetoric spewed forth by the politicians during this 14th general election period.

Pas, traditionally, uses religion to woo voters, often saying that other parties are not “Islamic” enough.

In its national and state manifestos, Pas claims that it is “offering Islamic governance” and “more Islamic elements”, including hudud punishments for violating certain “perceivedly” syariah prescribed practices, such as a spot fine on Muslim women who fail to wear the hijab in public.

In past elections, there would be a war of words between Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.”


Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday in Houston, always seemed a little old-fashioned to me. But it wasn’t until a few days ago, when news broke that the former first lady was dying, at age 92, that she seemed old.

Like other aspects of her persona, Bush had an old-fashioned sort of religious faith.

It wasn’t the old-time religion of gospel revivals, but rather the old-line faith of her Episcopal Church.”


“The relentlessness of the moral and spiritual tacking by the seventeenth century Puritan writer, John Bunyan, in his memoir, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, is nothing short of dizzying.  Bunyan wrote this autobiographical work during his twelve year stay in the Bedfordshire jail.  (It was during this imprisonment that Bunyan also began work on his best known book, Pilgrim’s Progress.)  As a Puritan non-conformist, Bunyan’s preaching technically violated laws at that time aimed at insuring the preeminence of the Church of England.  The authorities’ zeal for enforcing such laws increased considerably with the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, when Bunyan was prosecuted.  For so steadfast and devoted a prisoner of religiously-informed conscience, though, the spiritual life Bunyan portrays in Grace Abounding seems unexpectedly wobbly.”


“The University of Malta and the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, from Cambridge, UK, recently held its first Faraday course in Malta on the theme ‘Science and religion – two views or two realities?’.

During the course, held at Mount St Joseph spirituality centre, Mosta, the participants discussed various themes, including ‘Science and religion: clash of worldviews’, ‘Religion, religious practices in Neolithic Malta’, ‘Cosmology and faith’, ‘Faith and reason: the case of the Bible and archaeology’, ‘The genome of man: shaped by the past and editing for the future’, ‘The environmental crisis: ecological, environmentalist and religious convergences and divergences’, ‘The mythical conflict: have science and religion got on better than people think?’, ‘Science and miracles’, ‘I God’, and ‘The Church breathing with two lungs on Homo Technologicus’.”


“If you were to go by the stream of psychology and neuroscience books published over the last two decades, you’d think Buddhism is an intricate philosophical system designed by a man with a keen insight for the emergence of psychoanalysis and philosophy some 2,400 years down the road.

Indeed, Buddhism lends itself to emergent sciences in ways no other faith has. In fact, many modern thinkers, including Sam Harris and Stephen Batchelor, question if faith is even necessary to understand Buddhism. The question of faith is one Siddhartha Gotama generally avoided. As Batchelor writes:

Gotama’s dharma opened the door to an emergent civilization rather than the establishment of a “religion.”

In an early instance of transcending tribalism, Buddha opened up his teachings to the entire world; it was not a gender- or race-dependent practice. Monks and nuns were in a co-dependent relationship with the public: the clergy offered spiritual sustenance while commoners provided them with food and money. Anyone could partake in the Three Jewels, either for a lifetime or, in some nations (such as Japan), for a season: dharma, Buddha’s teachings; sangha, the community; and the Buddha. Faith in these three aspects offers ground-floor entry into the Buddhist life.”


“As part of an effort to reduce noise in Ghana’s capital, Accra, the environment minister has suggested that the Muslim call to prayer, normally broadcast over loudspeakers across the city, should instead be sent out on WhatsApp. The notion has proved immensely unpopular – not least because it equates the call to prayer with noise pollution. But it also highlights religion’s growing, if sometimes uneasy, reliance on tech.

Contactless collection Catholic and Protestant churches in the UK have begun using contactless card readers for donations and other payments, hoping to make life easier for parishioners who may not be carrying cash. A contactless collection plate is being trialled by the Church of England, but it is being held up because it is feared the technology might slow things down.

The confession app Confession (version 2.1) walks sinners through the business of confession, pings you push notifications when it’s time for your next shriving and includes a handy sin checklist in case you have forgotten what you’ve done wrong. What it doesn’t do is offer absolution. You still need a priest for that.”


Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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About Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

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