Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two and a Half Men and a Half Convert to SDA

Here are two links to the story about Angus Jones's conversion to Seventh-day Adventism that I mentioned in class today:  here and here.

This attention given to Jones's remarks about the TV show "Two and a Half Men" reflects how controversial aspects of religious individuals and groups gets more press than non-controversial aspects.  Of course, the Hollywood angle has a role, too.

The first link is more informative for our class's purposes than the second.  You can see how Jones reacts to the pejorative use of "cult" (are they really a cult by our class's definition? ask yourself), and the author explains how Jones's remarks reflect some of the religious teachings about maintaining a pure life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yoga and Religion in School

Some parents in Encinitas, CA, are upset that Yoga has been introduced in the public schools.  They claim that having all children practice Yoga in school is akin to indoctrination into Hinduism.  See this article.

The argument demonstrates the difficulty some people have in defining religion.  To some people Yoga is not religion, but to others it is.  The wikipedia entry on Yoga links it with Hindu philosophy.  Unfortunately, the author of the article does not address the parents' claim about the link between Yoga and Hindu philosophy, which is a gaping hole in the article.

There is also money side to the story:  the school accepted a $533,000 grant to do the Yoga in the school, and the school does not want to give up that money.  It is clearly in the school's interest to say that Yoga is NOT religion so that they can keep the grant money.  Just as it is clearly in a Yoga business's interest to say that Yoga IS religion to avoid paying sales taxes (see this case from a couple years ago).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Return of Confiscated Church Property

The Czech Parliament recently approved a plan to return valuable property that was confiscated by the Communist government back to the original Roman Catholic Church owners.  The total value of the returned amount equals about $7 billion, which would be given back over 30 years.  The Czech president can now approve or veto the deal to make it official, but there are enough votes to overturn a veto.  See the short story here.

This story is interesting and relevant for us in a few ways.  First, it illustrates again how the fate of churches so often depends on their relationships with the government.  Second, it demonstrates how large the stakes may be for some church-state interactions.

But the sentence that really caught my eye was this one:
Under the plan, the churches would become independent from the state and gradually stop getting government financing.
It is not clear whether the author means that the Catholic Church would stop receiving any money from the government, or if only the facilities on the returned properties would stop receiving government funds.  My guess is the later, but I welcome clarification.  As I understand it (and I welcome correction from a reader), the Czech government subsidizes officially recognized religions, of which the Roman Catholic Church is one.  So ending the subsidy to the Church would be a significant change.

It remains to be seen how this affects the long-run success of the Roman Catholic Church in the Czech Republic.  They were once the dominant religious body but are now around 10% of the country's population.  Czechs are also known for being some of the least religious in all of Europe.