Leisure and Worship: A Christmas Message

For much of my adult life, leisure has been something of a bad word. Isn’t what I learned in my years studying at Ivy League schools followed by joining the ranks of university professors that I’m made to do intellectual work, and pretty much 24/7?

Until recently, I thought leisure was what I do when I’m too tired to work. After much prodding, I finally read Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture. While clearly upholding the material and spiritual value of all work, Pieper critiques the modern view of life as “total work.” Although no one really works 24/7, the ideological commitment to “total work”, subscribing to the idea that hard work defines the good life, can be just as harmful as (almost) never taking a break from work.

Why? Because, Pieper masterfully explains, [Read more...]

Sociological rules of Christmas gift giving

Sociologists will an analyze anything people do, no matter how taken-for-granted the activity. ( I suppose that’s why I like it so much–always trying to look at things a new way). For the season, here is an except about from the famous “Middletown” study. Theodore Caplow, and a team of researchers, studied people in Muncie, Indiana (1979) about their gift giving, and they came up with nine unwritten rules for gift giving.

1) The Tree Rule. Married couples with children of any age should put up Christmas trees in their home. Unmarried persons with no living children should not put up Christmas trees. Unmarried parents (widowed, divorced or adoptive) may put up trees but are not required to do so.

2) The Wrapping Rule. Christmas gifts must be wrapped before they are presented.

3) The Decoration Rule. Any room where Christmas gifts are distributed should be decorated by affixing Christmas emblems to the walls, the ceiling, or the furniture.

4) The Gathering Rule. Christmas gifts should be distributed at [Read more...]

On Hitchens, Apologetics, and the Strangeness of Christianity

So Christopher Hitchens is dead. Waste no time speculating about his end, or what happened next. It is empirically unknowable. While Hitch’s pen was a sharp one, and I occasionally read his work, I confess I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to his antagonism toward religion, apart from reading the first 60 pages of God is not Great. No new arguments there, so far as I could tell.

For a time after the book was released Hitchens took to debating well-known Christian apologists in public forums. Of course Hitch thought Christianity—and religion in general—was more a force of darkness than light. The first few pages of the book let readers know that in no uncertain terms. His critics often retorted with comparative claims, saying things like, “Yes, Christians have done some bad stuff, but Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin were atheists, and behaved far worse than any of ours ever have.” Perhaps, but when we start comparing body counts, nobody looks appealing anymore.

Apologetics, be it of the positive or negative sort, has never much appealed to me. Not sure why. I slogged my way through [Read more...]

Christianity and Islam throughout the World (map)

Here’s one of my favorite maps.  It shows the percentage of Christianity and Islam in each country throughout the world.  Looking at it all surprises me just wide the reach is of these two religions that trace their roots back to the same person, i.e., Abraham.

 

Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists. QRS #2

Here’s a provocative study, conducted by psychologists, that concludes that Americans distrust atheists as much (and actually more) than they do rapists.

I include it in my “questionable religious statistic” category because, well, it’s a real stinker.

It doesn’t work at many levels, including committing a base-rate fallacy.

If your car gets dinged by somebody, it’s much more likely to be by a Christian than an atheist, because there are a lot more Christians in the country than atheists (about 2/3rds of Americans are Christians, about 4% atheists). This is true even if Christians are much less likely to ding your car (which I don’t know to be the case).  But, if it’s between atheists and rapists, we can expect it to be an atheist, again, there are more of them. Several million atheists, but far fewer rapists (thankfully).

It’s a little embarrassing for us in the social sciences that this study got published.

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“A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.

Psychologists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon say that [Read more...]


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