Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Pope's Twitter Account Revisited

Back in December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope to open a Twitter account.  See my original post on this here.

Pope Francis, not to be outdone, also created a Twitter account.  Take a look at it here;  scroll down and look at his last posts of the last few months.  What do you notice?  Why would Pope Francis take the time out of his busy schedule to maintain an active Twitter account?  Can you use our economic approach to religion to think meaningfully about the pope's Twitter usage?  Does the notion of religious capital provide any insight?

(OK, it is possible that one of the pope's assistants does the actual posting with some input from the pope, but let us just assume that the pope is actually choosing the content).

Is Belief in the Supernatural Natural?

Evolutionary biologist/political scientist Dominic Johnson argues that the answer is yes, as explained in this article in the New Statesman.
Johnson believes that the need to find a more-than-natural meaning in natural events is universal – “a ubiquitous phenomenon of human nature” – and performs a vital role in maintaining order in society. Extending far beyond cultures shaped by monotheism, it “spans cultures across the globe and every historical period, from indigenous tribal societies . . . to modern world religions – and includes atheists, too”.
[S]ome kind of moral order beyond any human agency seems to be demanded by the human mind, and this sense that our actions are overseen and judged from beyond the natural world serves a definite evolutionary role. Belief in supernatural reward and punishment promotes social co-operation in a way nothing else can match. The belief that we live under some kind of supernatural guidance is not a relic of superstition that might some day be left behind but an evolutionary adaptation that goes with being human.
Johnson is not the first but rather just the latest to make this argument.  Read the article to understand how belief in the supernatural may provide evolutionary advantages.  The argument is interesting in its own right, but it is also relevant to our class discussion on secularization later in the quarter.  If belief in the supernatural is, well, natural, then perhaps there will be limits to the secularization that has been predicted for centuries.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Exorcising Computer Virus

That is one of the services offered by Wiccan witch Joey Talley.  Read this article at the Worldwide Religious News site to learn of her techniques.  Here is an excerpt from the article.
"When I go into the room where somebody’s computer is, I go in fresh, I step in like a fresh sheet, and I’m open to feel what’s going on with the computer."
Then I performed a vanishing ceremony. I used a black bowl with a magnet and water to draw [the virus] out. Then I saged the whole computer to chase the negativity back into the bowl, and then I flushed that down the toilet. After this I did a purification ceremony. Then I made a protection spell out of chloride, amethyst, and jet. I left these on the computer at the base where she works.
Did the virus clear out immediately once you were finished?
Yes, it cleared out immediately. They usually do.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dowsing for Gold

Here is a scene from the reality show Bearing Sea Gold on the Discovery channel in which one of the characters in the show dowses to find gold.  Dowsing is done to find water, gold or other minerals, and more.  In this video the person use two metal rods.

A few things stand out.  First, deckhand Robbi Wade said, "People might think I'm crazy for doing this, but it don't bother me one way or another if they think I'm crazy or not as long as I get some gold."  He also said "I believe in it."  This is a rational chooser who is clearly results oriented.

Second, he also gave an explanation that it works via magnetism but did not provide much more details.  He does not believe it is working through the power of a supernatural being, so it is not religion according to Stark and Finke's definition in Acts of Faith.  Stark and Finke might call it magic, but his reference to magnetism suggests that he thinks dowsing works via natural rather than supernatural means.  It is not clear that the supernatural term applies very well here.

Third, that there is clear Christian imagery (a Christian cross at minute 3:03) on the ship suggests that they have no problem mixing religion with the practice of dowsing.  This may not be surprising given that they seem to view dowsing as working through natural means.  It is just a means of finding gold that they believe works for them.  It is also relatively inexpensive as you just need the two metal rods and some practice.  They do it themselves rather than hiring a professional dowser.  In their minds it is merely a cost-effect way to find the gold.

And in case you were wondering, yes, you can hire dowsers.  Maybe someone from the American Society of Dowsers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Bible and Brew in Minneapolis

That's the title of one of the regular monthly events hosted at the home of Nicholas and Kristin Tangen, members of the Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in northeast Minneapolis.  See this article or this new link.  The event brings together those that enjoy discussing the Bible while having a beer.  There are many such events around the Minneapolis-St.Paul area, each targeting a specific group.

Questions for you to consider:
  • Why are these gatherings organized?
  • What are the kinds of economic good that are produced at these gatherings?
  • Who are the likely attendees at these gatherings?
  • How integral is beer to these gatherings?
  • Why might it be appropriate to call these "religious" gatherings?