Persecuting “religious pathologies”

The French government is planning a crack-down on people with what is being called “religious pathologies,” including those that are overly orthodox and traditional, want to be separate from secular society, or believe in creationism.   From Reuters:

France will deport foreign-born imams and disband radical faith-based groups, including hardline traditionalist Catholics, if a new surveillance policy signals they suffer a “religious pathology” and could become violent.

A French Islamist shooting spree last March that killed three soldiers and four Jews showed how quickly religiously radicalized people could turn to force, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism.

His warning came two days after President Francois Hollande announced the creation of an agency to track how the separation of church and state is upheld in this traditionally Catholic country with Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish minorities.

Valls and two other cabinet ministers told the conference on Tuesday evening the Socialist-led government would stress the secularist policy called “laicite” that they said was weakened under the previous conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” he said.

“The objective is to identify when it’s suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology,” said Valls, whose ministry oversees relations with religions.

France’s official secularism sidelines faith in the public sphere, but a trend towards a more visible religious identity among some Muslims, Jews and Catholics has made defending it a cause for the traditionally secularist left-wing parties.

Valls stressed the focus would be not only on radical Salafi Muslims recruiting among disaffected youths, but also on groups such as Civitas, a far-right lay Catholic movement that protests aggressively against what it calls insults to Christianity. . . .

Valls said the government had a duty to combat religious extremism because it was “an offence to the republic” based on a negation of reason that puts dogma ahead of the law.

Giving examples of religious extremists, he mentioned creationists in the United States and the Muslim world, radical Islamists, ultra-traditionalist Catholics and ultra-Orthodox Jews who want to live separately from the modern world.

via France steps up struggle against religious radicals | Reuters.

Notice the psychologizing of the issues.  Religion will not be persecuted because of their beliefs but because those who hold those beliefs will be considered to have a “pathological” condition.

Do you think this will spread from France?  Is this what Christians will be facing everywhere, including in the United States?  Perhaps a mental hospital if you believe in creationism?

 

HT:  Trystan Bloom

The world’s most emotional countries

According to an on-going Gallup study, Americans and Spanish-speakers are the world’s most emotional people.  Not only that, they are happy to the point of exuberance.  Not so with Middle Easterners and former Communists.  From Max Fischer of the Washington Post, who goes so far as to provide a color-coded map of the world’s emotions:

Singapore is the least emotional country in the world. ”Singaporeans recognize they have a problem,” Bloomberg Businessweek writes of the country’s “emotional deficit,” citing a culture in which schools “discourage students from thinking of themselves as individuals.” They also point to low work satisfaction, competitiveness, and the urban experience: “Staying emotionally neutral could be a way of coping with the stress of urban life in a place where 82 percent of the population lives in government-built housing.”

The Philippines is the world’s most emotional country. It’s not even close; the heavily Catholic, Southeast Asian nation, a former colony of Spain and the U.S., scores well above second-ranked El Salvador.

Post-Soviet countries are consistently among the most stoic. Other than Singapore (and, for some reason, Madagascar and Nepal), the least emotional countries in the world are all former members of the Soviet Union. They are also the greatest consumers of cigarettes and alcohol. This could be what you call and chicken-or-egg problem: if the two trends are related, which one came first? Europe appears almost like a gradient here, with emotions increasing as you move West.

People in the Americas are just exuberant. Every nation on the North and South American continents ranked highly on the survey. Americans and Canadians are both among the 15 most emotional countries in the world, as well as ten Latin countries. The only non-American countries in the top 15, other than the Philippines, are the Arab nations of Oman and Bahrain, both of which rank very highly.

English- and Spanish-speaking societies tend to be highly emotional and happy. Though the Anglophone nations of the world retain deep cultural links, it’s not clear if Spain’s emotional depth has anything to do with Latin America’s. According to Gallup, “Latin America leads the world when it comes to positive emotions, with Panama, Paraguay, and Venezuela at the top of that list.” Yes, even Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is apparently filled with happy people.

Africans are generally stoic, with some significant exceptions. The continent is among the world’s least emotional, though there is wide variation, which serves as a non-definitive but interesting reminder of Africa’s cultural diversity. Each could be its own captivating case study. It’s possible that South Africa’s high rating has to do with its cultural ties to Western Europe, for example, and Nigeria’s may have to do with the recent protest movement in the south and sectarian violence in the north.

The Middle East is not happy. Gallup notes, “Negative emotions are highest in the Middle East and North Africa, with Iraq, Bahrain, and the Palestinian Territories leading the world in negative daily experiences.” Still, that doesn’t quite fully explain the high emotions in the Levant and on the Arabian peninsula, compared to the lower emotions in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. Perhaps this hints at how people in these countries are being affected by the still-ongoing political turmoil of the Arab Spring.

via A color-coded map of the world’s most and least emotional countries.

Working through the five stages of grief

Dana Milbank, while crowing over President Obama’s re-election, says that Republicans are going through the 5 stages of grief:

Denial. “I think this is premature,” Karl Rove protested on Fox News election night, after the cable network, along with other news outlets, correctly projected that President Obama had won Ohio — and therefore the presidency. “We’ve got to be careful about calling things.”

Bargaining. “We’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions,” House Speaker John Boehner offered Wednesday, shifting his budget negotiating posture before reconsidering the next day, but “the president must be willing to reduce spending and shore up entitlement programs.”

Depression. “If Mitt Romney cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached,” Ann Coulter said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “It’s over. There is no hope.”

Anger. “We should have a revolution in this country,” tweeted flamboyant mogul Donald Trump, who had served as a prominent surrogate for Romney. “This election is a total sham and a travesty.”

Acceptance. Uh, well, there hasn’t been much of that yet.

via Dana Milbank: Republicans working through their grief – The Washington Post.

Well, let’s work on that last one. First of all, remember that the Democrats were going through the very same depression with the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004.  They too were worrying if their party would survive, if they could ever win the hearts of an American majority again, if they needed to give up their liberalism and become more like Republicans.  That was for the president just before this one.  And now the Democrats have re-elected their guy and are as triumphalistic as 2004 Republicans.  And now look at those woe-begone Democrats and those crowing Republicans.  The pendulum swings, the wheel turns, and fortunes keep changing.

Furthermore, those of us who believe in limited government should also believe in the limited importance of government. True, this election will mean that government will get stronger and, perhaps more concerning, that the general public wants it to get stronger. But our country is too big and complicated to control or even to figure out.  Attempts to control and to figure out everything and everyone invariably fail, making for new political opportunities.

Yes, conservatives will have lots to resist.  Republicans will need to regroup and address their failures.

But this election surely doesn’t mean the end of America, as I have been hearing.  The government as presently constituted does not prevent us from going to church, enjoying time with our families, having a good meal, reading an interesting book, or exercising other facets of our humanity.  We are far, far from state totalitarianism, and if you don’t think so read up on life in the former Soviet Union or present-day North Korea.

Christians in particular should cultivate some perspective from a much-much bigger picture.  However you voted–and I  recognize that some Christians are overjoyed with this outcome that others are mourning–I invite your meditation on Psalm 146, the whole thing, an exploration of whom we must trust including for things we think are political:

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
 who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry. . . .

The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!  (Psalm 146:3-7)

The faith of infants

A key Lutheran teaching is that infants can have faith.  This is why Lutherans see no contradiction between infant baptism and justification by faith.  Lutherans see faith not just in terms of intellectual knowledge or conscious volition, but as trust, dependence, and relationship with a Person.  Infants can trust, depend on, and have a relationship with their parents and also with their Heavenly Father.  The faith that begins with baptism then grows and matures, fed by the “milk” of God’s Word, as the child grows into adulthood, and continuing thereafter.  (That faith can also die if it is not nourished, which is why someone can have been baptized as an infant but then reject the faith and become an unbeliever in need of conversion.)

Anyway, a new book explores, from the vantage point of scientific research, the way infants and extremely young children seemed to be wired for religious belief.

Wheaton provost Stanton L. Jones reviews Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief by psychologist Justin L. Barrett:

He summarizes creative, sophisticated research establishing that in infancy, babies understand distinctions between mere objects and agents (human and non-human, visible and invisible) which initiate actions that are not predictable and yet are goal-directed or purposeful. Only agents act to bring order out of disorder.

Children over three begin to discern and attribute purpose to much of what happens around them, which they in turn are inclined to attribute to human and superhuman agents. When children are old enough to actually discuss their intuitive concepts of god(s), they seem normatively disposed to believe in a (or many) divine agent(s) possessing “superknowledge, superperception, creative power, and immortality,” as well as to believe in a purposeful design to creation, in some sort of basic universal morality, and in the persistence of human identity after death.

Roughly the first 40 percent of Born Believers summarizes this research, while the remaining portion fleshes out its implications. Barrett’s view of religious development is that “children are naturally drawn to some basic religious ideas and related practices (natural religion), and then the meat of a religious and theological tradition as taught by parents grows on this skeleton.” He discusses trends in the research that might foster effective religious education.

via Born Believers, Part 1 | Books and Culture.

The Empathy Gap

Why does Obama still lead Romney in the polls, despite the dismal state of the economy?  Charles Krauthammer says it’s because of the “empathy gap.”  People think Obama seems to have more empathy–more feeling for people, a greater ability to identify with others, especially when they are hurting–than Romney does.  That, in fact, was a major theme of the Democratic Convention, the high point of which was the speech by Bill Clinton, the maestro of empathy.

Obama and the Empathy Gap – Charles Krauthammer – National Review Online.

So is that any way to choose a president?  But isn’t empathy a good quality to have in a ruler?

Thoughts on homosexuality not being genetic

A couple of weeks ago I posted this:  Evidence homosexuality is not genetic | Cranach: The Blog of Veith.  It was a link to a discussion of how identical twins (who share the exact same genes) are not particularly likely to both be gay (something that happens in only 10% of the cases).  That would indicate that homosexuality is not genetic, or, if there is some kind of genetic component, it isn’t causative or determinative.  That post attracted more than ten times the usual traffic on this blog!  But there is more to say on the matter:

(1)  Homosexuality cannot be genetically transmitted.  Or if it is, that would strike a mortal blow against Darwinism.  You don’t have to believe that natural selection gives rise to different species to believe that natural selection is a real phenomenon.  That simply means that genes that aid survival and (more importantly) reproduction will be passed on to the next generations.  Same-sex attraction does NOT promote reproduction.  Rather, it prevents reproduction.  So that trait, if it is genetic and inheritable, would tend to die out.  And yet it hasn’t.  So it’s hard to imagine how it could be genetically determined and handed down.

(2)  Just because homosexuality isn’t genetic, that does not mean it is just a “choice.”  It might have causes that are psychological, physiological, medical, cultural, environmental, or some combination of these or other factors.  It’s too bad that the politically-correct conviction “not that there’s anything wrong with it” is inhibiting research into the causes of homosexuality.

(3)  The Lady Gaga diagnosis–”I was born this way”–has indeed helped homosexuality become broadly accepted today. This, however, may not be true.

(4)  There would seem to be no moral issue if a person can’t help his or her sexual orientation. And yet having a desire is not the same as acting on that desire (which is certainly evident in heterosexual attractions), so moral agency remains.  To be sure, our inner desires to do what is forbidden–our “concupiscence”–are sinful and testimony to our fallen condition.  Nevertheless, the will is operative.

(5) And yet, Christianity teaches that the will is in bondage to sin.  As a result, we cannot simply choose to stop sinning.  This applies to all sins and not just to homosexuality.  Sin inheres in our “flesh.”  Sin is part of our fallen condition.  In that sense, sin–including but not limited to homosexual desires– is inherited (even though, contrary to Darwin, it has no survival value).

(5)  All have sinned, including homosexuals, whose sin goes far beyond sexual transgressions, just as heterosexuals sin in more ways than in their sexuality.  And what all sinners need is grace, forgiveness, redemption, all of which is freely available from Christ, who covers their sins with His blood.   Self-righteousness, though–the conviction that “I am good as I am” and “I don’t need forgiveness”–is what keeps sinners away from Christ and all His free gifts.

Can you think of any other corollaries?

And I’m curious about this, from you Lutheran theologians.  It seems that Lutheranism has a view of sin and of human anthropology that is very realistic, though different from that of other theologies with a higher view of the will and a lower view of sin.  Does Lutheran theology throw any distinct light on this issue?

 


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