Russell Brand is wrong about Western religions

What Brand forgets – or, more likely, has never learned, because no one teaches this stuff in school – is that tradition, religion, and culture are humanity’s most basic biological and cultural tools for achieving balanced relationships between and within societies. As linguistic and cultural animals, we require conventions, continuity, and tradition in order not only to make sense of the world, but to to fine-tune all aspects of our relationship to it. Read more

Trust issues? The answer might be rhythm

Why do religions have rituals like bowing or praying in time with a group? Recent research from New Zealand shows that moving or chanting in sync helps people act more generously – especially if they’ve worked hard to stay in time with each other. Read more

A friendly reminder: Science isn’t reality. Reality is reality.

The complementary opposite of science isn’t religion, but embodiment. Despite their incredible effectiveness, scientific models and ideas are not reality. Only reality is reality. So stop trying to capture the entire world with theories, and get in your body instead. Read more

Why Are There Atheists?

Certain aspects of personality orientation may naturally lead some people to religious belief and others to nonbelief; compared with religious believers atheists tend to be less social, more individualistic, and less socially conforming. At the same time, atheists’ characteristic suspicion of authority and skepticism of tradition may make them the natural choice for producing novel and creative solutions to problems. Read more

Civil Religion: It’s What America Needs

As political battles reach new heights, and the fabric of the nation seems stretched to its breaking point, civic religion – responsible, earnest, and humble, fully aware of our tarnished history – might be exactly what we need. Read more

Why conservatives hate Obamacare

Conservatives worry that offloading social responsibilities to an impersonal, systemic platform will corrode the collective bonds of daily, local life. But they aren’t very good at expressing this fear, and progressives aren’t very good at understanding it. Read more

Ritual reduces life’s noise-to-signal ratio

Our world is filled with unspoken social conventions that transform messy, continuous information into clearer, binary data. Ritual is one of them. Anthropologist Roy Rappaport claimed that ritual, the “cybernetics of the holy,” simplifies and streamlines social information so that there’s less noise in the signal of culture. Read more

Ritual creates tribes…and tribalism

In a lot of ways religion is a Catch-22. It primes us to be strongly bonded to the people around us, which is one of the single biggest predictors of personal happiness, health, and life satisfaction. But the stronger our tribes get, the more outsiders look like enemies. The solution to this Catch-22 is to learn as much as we possibly can about religion, ritual, and their place in human life. Read more

Calling an End to the Culture Wars

Connor Wood argues that conservative and liberal thought are both invaluable: conservatives are experts on how to build and maintain small communities, while liberals focus best on big-picture and abstract problems. Do we need both to survive? Read more

Steven Pinker: Stop bashing religion. You’re hurting science.

If you force people to choose between traditional meaning and objective knowledge, they will choose meaning – and I don’t blame them. So, Dr. Pinker, please, get off your smug horse and stop bashing religion, spiritual beliefs, and traditions when advocating science. Our descendants will thank you. Read more

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