Archives for Religion
With the 4th of July just past, most of us have been at least unconsciously reflecting on freedom, but a lot of people are confused about what that really is. As I shared in my first post on the subject last week, freedom isn't the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is your capacity to be your best self in every moment; the ability to do what's best for yourself and others at all times, regardless of your feelings to the contrary or the pressures you're under. But that's terrifying and most of us don't have the courage to be truly free. Do you? Let's see.
(It's good to be back! Thank you for your patience during my recovery.*) Right now, in the middle of the Fortnight for Freedom, many People-of-Faith are organizing to assert and protect our first and most cherished freedom, the Freedom of Religion which, although a universal human right, is legally enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution. But with all this talk in the press about "freedom," it might be useful to consider a few questions. Namely; "What is 'freedom' anyway?" And, "Are you free?"
A common complaint against religion is that it is guilt-inducing. Sometimes the complaints are tongue-in-cheek, as when sitcoms and comedians make jokes about "Catholic guilt," "Jewish guilt," "Baptist guilt," etc. Other times, the complaints are more serious; for instance, when a client in therapy is suffering from a deep sense of inferiority or hopelessness brought on by an overly strict religious upbringing. So what is the real relationship between religion and guilt?
Well, to be fair, that's not exactly what the researchers said. But it would be easy to draw those conclusions from a casual reading of two recent reports. The first study, from the University of British Columbia, notes that "Analytic Thinking Can Decrease Religious Belief." (Although, considering the methodology, which appears to have involved having people do a questionaire measuring religious belief, do some mental activities like filling out additional questionaires intentionally printed in hard-to-read fonts [to engage analytic reasoning skills], and then retesting their belief levels, I'm not really sure what this study actually shows). The second report is from UC Berkeley, which states, "Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion Than are Non-Believers." This study assessed levels of religious faith of participants and then examined how likely participants were to give "10 lab dollars" (??) to a stranger after watching a video about children living in poverty. According to the lead researcher “Overall, this research suggests that although less religious people tend to be less trusted in the U.S., when feeling compassionate, they may actually be more inclined to help their fellow citizens than more religious people." Um. Okay. Maybe...
Sometimes you’ll hear people make the comment, “He thinks he’s God’s gift to the world.” They mean it as a criticism, but the statement is true about each and every one of us. You ARE God’s gift to the world. Christianity teaches us that everything we have; our talents, our treasure, even our minds, bodies and spirits, have been given to us as a gift that we are to use to work for the good of others. Every one of us was created with a specific purpose in mind. God has a plan for your life and we can discern God’s intention for our lives by asking ourselves, “How can I use my gifts, talents, experience, heart, mind and strength to make the lives of the people around me better TODAY?”
Today, Lisa Hendey, host of the very popular site, CatholicMom.com, interviewed my wife, Lisa, and I on the publication of our new book, the completely revised and updated 10th Anniversary Edition of Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids. In the interview, we share a bit about our life, our kids, and what it really takes to raise children who can be authentically loving, responsible, joyful adults. We had so much fun with Lisa Hendey that we thought we'd share it with our friends at Faith on the Couch. Join us for a chat!
I confess I find articles like this both vexing and laugh-out-loud funny. The article is a summary of Piers Morgan's exclusive interview with the Dali Lama. The interview itself is fairly wide-ranging, but apparently the most shocking and surprising thing for the editors of CNN.com is that the Dali Lama (and perhaps, gentle reader, you should sit down for this)...
Apparently, if you want to be a real man, you’d better get to church. Studies consistently show that women are more likely to attend church services than men. But new research shows that men who attend church services are actually more manly (in the most positive sense of that word) than those who skip. The study, reported in the book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Husbands and Fathers, by University of Virginia sociologist, Dr. Brad Wilcox, shows that men who attend church are more effective leaders, more attuned to the needs of others, more responsive to their wives and children, and conduct themselves in ways that make them better marriage partners and parents than those men who are church-phobic.
How may times in our lives do we feel a connection with someone and wonder if they really connect back? Have you ever been in a relationship that you thought was loving but, for whatever reason, you just weren't sure that the person you loved really loved you? It could be a romantic relationship, but it could just as easily be a relationship family member or a friend. Sure, people often say the right words, but how can you be sure if someone genuinely loves you? A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of the things about which psychologists and theologians tend to agree is that love is not a feeling. Rather, love is the commitment to work for another person's good, especially when it challenges one's comfort zone to do so. But that definition of love begs the question, "What does it mean to 'work for somone's good'?'' It turns out that the answer to that question reveals a simple test that will tell you whether someone really loves you or not.
When I begin seeing a new client, the first question I always ask is, “How will you know when we're done?” Often the client will respond, “I just want to be happy.” There’s nothing wrong with that of course. I would be truly concerned about the client who wanted to consciously find more ways to make themselves miserable.