Archive for the ‘Sociology’ category

A Place for Truth in a Pluralistic Society

November 26, 2018


Is truth so all-inclusive that it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere? We wouldn’t say that about scientific truths, but what about religious truths?

In particular, are the distinctions between the various religions so minor that it doesn’t matter which one of them you believe? Or any of them at all?

These are questions that arise in a pluralistic society such as we have in the United States and much of the Western world. Pluralism accommodates differences, celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion. Pluralism, generally, is a good and wholesome thing in a civilized society.

Whereas, people with differences once harbored hostilities toward one another, and waged war and walled each other out on the basis of those differences, a pluralistic society tolerates, accommodates and even celebrates diversity.

Pluralism allows people to live as they see fit to live and as they believe they ought to live, within reason of course. (My right to live as I see fit ends at your right to be free from my intrusion.) Pluralism maximizes liberty and freedom and allows people choice. Pluralism is a necessary construct in a free society.

Truth, however, is not so inclusive. We don’t accommodate any or all theories in science. We don’t tolerate views in science that compete with proven evidence without equally compelling evidence to the contrary because truth matters to the scientific endeavor.

Truth is what it is.

This is not to say that people aren’t free to adopt their pet theories, but pet theories are not relied upon by a circumspect scientific world that is trying to launch probes to Mars and program vehicles to drive by themselves without killing innocent people.  In the same sense, if truth matters, and if there is any truth to be found in religion, we defy logic and common sense to say that one religion or set of beliefs is just like the next. And the consequences of failing to discern fact from fiction may be just as dire.

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What the Studies Say on Immigration and Crime

June 23, 2018


Much of the positioning and politicking about immigration focuses on crime and fears that immigration brings crime into the country. Donald Trump famously said of Mexican immigrants, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” (Remarks from the speech by Donald Trump when announced his run for the Republican nomination for president at Trump Tower Atrium in Manhattan on June 16, 2015)

Crime is obviously a very big societal concern, and one we shouldn’t take lightly. Most Americans are in agreement on that point. Protecting law abiding citizens from criminal behaviors is a top priority, one that often justifies using a significant percentage of local tax dollars in support of law enforcement. If immigration increases crime in our communities, tightening up the immigration laws makes sense from the standpoint of protecting citizens from crime. But does it?

Does immigration increase the crime rate in our communities? Are immigrants more likely to commit crimes than citizens?

I wasn’t at all sure what the studies show so I set out to determine for myself the answer to the questions. These are important questions because our immigration policies should be informed by the facts. As Christians, especially, we should be guided by truth.

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Sam Harris Podcast Interview with Bart Ehrman – Part 3 – Withering Sun

May 26, 2018


In previous installments, I have written two blog articles on my observations regarding an interview of Bart Ehrman by Sam Harris on What is Christianity. Bart Ehrman is an agnostic, New Testament scholar at Princeton, and Sam Harris is one of the so-called “new atheists”. In the first article, I relate portions of Ehrman’s story about his “loss of faith”, and I question whether he really had anything but a very shallow idea of faith to begin with. In the second installment, I talk about a certain wooden fundamentalism that continues to be apparent in how Ehrman sees the Bible. It’s a kind of all or nothing approach. Previously, he accepted all of it; now he accepts none of it.

Before moving on to other observations, I want to stop and raise a couple of points related to the portion of the interview already covered. First of all, I want to go back to the comment made by Ehrman about the charismatic youth leader who influenced him in a local Campus Crusade for Christ chapter. Erhman describes the “sinner’s prayer” he recited as an induction. The same youth leader urged him to go to Moody Bible Institute if he wanted to be a “serious Christian”.

Erhman was obviously influenced by this charismatic youth leader. Many of us are similarly influenced by charismatic people that we meet along the way. Some of us are influenced to do things that we might not otherwise do and which have no lasting import to us when we leave the circle of that influence.

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Lost Boys with Guns

February 24, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 184293546 Copyright: belchonock

The gun debate rages on anew, with the flames refueled by the Florida school shooting. Other potential causes of our unique problem with gun violence, mass shootings and school shootings in particular are being identified, usually by the gun advocates. Mental health, removing God from schools and religion from public life, and other things. Do we have a gun problem? Do we have a mental health problem? Do we have a lack of purpose and meaning problem? I think the answer is probably, yes, to all of the above, but there is another problem that no one seems to be talking about. At least, I haven’t seen anyone talk about it until I read an Op-ed article in the NY Times today by Michael Ian Black, The Boys Are Not All Right.

In reading his piece, it dawns on my that, together with whatever other problems we have that contribute to make the United States the only country in the world in which school shootings occur on a regular basis, we have a boy problem. We have a problem with our boys. Our boys are not all right!

It shouldn’t be rocket science for us to realize that girls don’t do mass shootings. They just don’t. Most mass shootings are committed by adolescent boys or young, college-age men. The exceptions are older men. Girls don’t shoot people up like that.

This statistic should jump out at us!

Why are mass shootings, and school shootings in particular, committed by boys and by men? What is the difference between boys and girls, men and women, that explains this phenomenon?

Another fairly obvious statistic is that the incidents of mass shootings and school shootings, in particular, have risen exponentially in the last 30 years. In fact, just 40 years ago, mass shootings were quite rare. Now they have become routine, regular, common-place – whatever you want to call it. We aren’t even surprised any more. What has happened in the last 30 years to cause this spike in mass shootings and school shootings?

I think Michael Black has turned over the stone to a possible answer. My thoughts on the subject, inspired by his article, are linked here

via The Lost Boys with Guns.

 

The 2nd Amendment, Freedom & Responsibility

February 16, 2018
Second Amendment to the Constitution

Depositphotos Image ID: 173296888 Copyright: zimmytws

If faith without works is dead, then our thoughts, prayers and condolences are meaningless at some point if we aren’t willing to take some action to address the societal problem of school shootings and mass shootings in general. What is the Christian response to these tragedies? Is the 2nd Amendment greater than the 6th commandment (though shall not murder), the greatest commandment (to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds) and the second greatest commandment (to love others as ourselves)? How do we balance the 2nd Amendment with God’s commandments? Are guns really the issue? Below is an article with some thoughts to consider as we mourn the victims of another school shooting.

via The 2nd Amendment, Freedom & Responsibility

 

Integrity and Authenticity in Belief

December 8, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 13127659 Copyright: creatista

I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Keller lately. Today I listened to an old interview in which he said something that got me thinking. He asserted that, for many or most people, whether they are religious or secular often depends on their social influences. I suppose this would mean parents and family as well as peers. Richard Dawkins, the famously vocal atheist has said similar things: what religion we are depends to a large extent on the society in which we grew up.

Keller supported his thesis with anecdotal evidence from his own experience. He says, for him, he was religious initially because he wanted to gain the favor of people closes to him. What does that say about the power of social interactions? What does it say about our beliefs? If Richard Dawkins and Keller are right, how authentic are anyone’s beliefs?

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Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 5 – Racism

July 7, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 102795786 Copyright: monkeybusiness

This is the last in a series of five blog articles on the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist? The subject is introduced in Part 1. We tackled sexism by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on men and women in Part 2 and by looking at how Jesus treated women in Part 4. We tackled racism in Part 3 by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on diversity. Finally, we view racism and diversity through the life of Jesus and His followers in this part 5.

Jesus doesn’t tackle the issue of racism or diversity directly, but He lived in a complicated time. He was Jewish, living in a tight knit Jewish community, which was governed and ruled by foreigners, the Romans. The Jews had a history of living alongside foreigners and were at various times throughout that history governed by them against their will.

Many of the foreigners were actually very closely related, like the Samaritans, who were of Jewish descent, and the Canaanites before them.

The Jews believed there were only two types of people: Jews and everyone else (Gentiles). They seemed to have forgotten that the very first words God spoke to Abraham, when He chose Abraham and his progeny, was that God chose them to be a blessing to all the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) God didn’t choose them to bless only them, but to bless all nations through them.

Jesus was that blessing. Jesus is traced back to Abraham. He is from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the root of Jesse’s seed, father of David. Jesus is the Promised One. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, so, how Jesus viewed others is the key to understanding what the Bible says about racism and diversity.

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