Religious experience & magic mushrooms


Representatives of the world’s major religions–well, not ALL of the world’s major religions–are being given the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” in a scientific study of religious experience.

The Johns Hopkins and New York University study has enlisted two dozen participants, including Catholic and Orthodox priests, Presbyterian ministers, Jewish rabbis, and Zen Buddhists.  No Muslims or Hindus have agreed to participate.  There is no mention of evangelicals or other conservative groups, such as confessional Lutherans.

Preliminary findings indicate that the psychedelic drugs make the subjects appreciate their own traditions more, but also make them more universalistic in appreciating the mystical dimension of other religions.

Notice the assumptions:  Religion has to do with inner experiences rather than objective truths.  Religion has to do with non-rational mysticism–the sort that can be duplicated by psychedelic drugs–rather than doctrine, worship, and a relationship with God and other people.  Also non-factors are morality, sin, forgiveness, salvation. . . .

This mindset turns religion into just another way of getting high.  It isn’t just that drugs become religious.  Religion becomes a drug.

[Read more…]

The earth will soon be uninhabitable

Within a few decades, according to an article in New York Magazine, global warming will make our planet uninhabitable.  Human beings will become extinct due to heat death, the end of food, climate plagues (such as bubonic plague germs thawing out when the icecap melts), unbreathable air, perpetual war, permanent economic collapse, and poisoned oceans.

In fact, if this time table is correct, most of us now reading this blog will die of one or more of those factors, each of which is discussed in a section of the article.  Read the article linked after the jump.

Now a number of climate scientists, including those who warn about global warming, are saying that this apocalyptic doomsaying gets the science wrong and does more harm than good.

Why is that?

Do you think there is something to these warnings.  Are they an attempt to get people’s attention in the face of public skepticism about the problem?  Is it better to give the worse case scenario rather than a more measured treatment if the purpose is to “wake people up”?

Compare this prophecy to religious end-of-the-world proclamations.  Is it a sign that environmentalism has become a religion, complete with “Repent for the End is Near!” preaching?

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Atheists are more closed-minded and intolerant than religious people


A study has found that atheists are more closed-minded and less tolerant of different viewpoints than religious people are.

Those findings go against both conventional wisdom and atheists’ perception of themselves.

Why do you think religious people are relatively open-minded and why do you think atheists are relatively closed-minded?


Illustration:  Atheist Atom Symbol by (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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How to criminalize Christianity

The United States has freedom of religion, and to say Christians are “persecuted” here is surely overblown, compared to how Christians are treated in other parts of the world.  And yet, overt persecution could conceivably break out even in this land of the free.  But how, given this country’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

We are seeing some of the ways this could happen and to a degree is already happening.  The right to religious freedom can be played against other rights that are considered more important.  Thus, religious opposition to certain kinds of sinful behavior can be treated as illegal discrimination.  A Christian’s disagreement with other religions can be outlawed as hate speech.

Another legal argument is taking shape in Georgia, where a college is being sued for not permitting a Christian student from preaching the Gospel, even though he had reserved space in one of the two campus “Free Speech Zones.”  (That a college allows free speech only in “zones” is itself a travesty, both of the ideals of higher education and of American law.  According to the Constitution, the whole nation is to be a free speech zone.)

The college is defending itself on the grounds that the preaching constituted “disorderly conduct.”  And that by calling people “sinners,” the preacher was using “fighting words,” which are legally outside the bounds of free speech.

One can envision a time when the freedom of religion applies only to religions that are universalist, permissive, non-proselytzing, and culturally-conforming.  That is to say, hardly any actual religions. [Read more…]

Lutheran Sociologist Peter Berger Dies

Peter Berger

Peter Berger has died at the age of 88.

One of the most prominent figures in the field of sociology, Berger was a pioneer in the sociology of religion.

Describing himself as an “incurable Lutheran” of the ELCA variety (though critical of much of that denomination’s liberal tendencies), Berger was sympathetic to evangelicals and other cultural conservatives.

After the jump, I will give some of his contributions, not only to sociology but to contemporary conservative thought and religion.

[Read more…]

Saying grace


About half of Americans say grace before meals, according to a new study.  Even 11% of those who don’t believe in religion a
say some sort of grace.  (For regional, ethnic, political, age, and denominational breakdowns, read after the jump.)

Religion journalist Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes about the phenomenon, interviewing a number of different people about why they pray.  An atheist, for example, says that he feels that it is important to express some kind of gratitude.  (But to whom?)

She also cites the Lutheran table prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus. . . .” [Read more…]