belief system – Aaim Austin http://aaimaustin.org/ Thu, 10 Mar 2022 02:58:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 https://aaimaustin.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/icon-5-120x120.png belief system – Aaim Austin http://aaimaustin.org/ 32 32 OPINION: Fundamentalism and the Radical Right – a Personal Story https://aaimaustin.org/opinion-fundamentalism-and-the-radical-right-a-personal-story/ Sat, 08 Jan 2022 18:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/opinion-fundamentalism-and-the-radical-right-a-personal-story/ by Bob Hughes, Ed.D. According to KUOW reports, two schools in King County account for the overwhelming majority of juvenile COVID-19 cases in the county. Both schools are affiliated with churches belonging to the Assemblies of God denomination. Because I have some personal knowledge of this branch of the Christian tree, I was not surprised […]]]>


by Bob Hughes, Ed.D.


According to KUOW reports, two schools in King County account for the overwhelming majority of juvenile COVID-19 cases in the county. Both schools are affiliated with churches belonging to the Assemblies of God denomination. Because I have some personal knowledge of this branch of the Christian tree, I was not surprised by the news. As someone who has spent their adult life working in education, however, I am sad that a school is ignoring science and the safety of its community and embracing radical beliefs that put children at risk.

Most people who know me today will be surprised to learn that 45 years ago I was a member of an Assemblies of God church. I was not brought up in this church, but I converted in my late teens and early twenties to seek direction in life. At the time, I became fully committed to the beliefs of this denomination. I even obtained a bachelor’s degree from an Assemblies of God college where I majored in English and completed a compulsory second major in Christian theology. My first teaching job was in a Christian high school run by the Assemblies of God for a year and a half. It was through attending this college and teaching at this school that helped me leave Christianity as I observed and experienced the changes emerging in the denomination and its schools over these years. In the 40 years that have passed since these experiences, I have witnessed further development as the Assemblies of God and other fundamentalist groups more aligned with radical right-wing politics. If you read other newspaper articles, you will see that Assemblies of God churches are often cited as anti-vax and anti-mask leaders in local communities.

As an active believer attending a Christian college in the mid to late 1970s, I saw how this denomination evolved into its current position. I was first drawn to fundamentalist Pentecostal beliefs because of the fervor shown by the followers. The people I have met lived the beliefs they espoused. They believed in daily devotion to the Godhead. Their god was real because he spoke to them and acted daily in their life. Faith was not something they talked about on Sunday morning. They relied on their beliefs to guide them at all times. I was drawn to this sense of dedication; it was something I was trying to emulate. I found comfort in believing that a divinity was involved in every moment of my life. But then my relationship to the church and the faith changed when a turn towards political radicalism began to take over churches in the mid-1970s.

Many people who study the evolution of right-wing Christian politics have widely documented this change. But for me it was a personal change. Religious services for fundamentalist churches at the time were generally Sunday mornings and evenings and mid-week (usually Wednesday) evenings. Sunday mornings were intended for a general community of believers and for raising awareness of potential new believers. Sunday evenings, however, were for the most faithful believers to come together in a more intimate group focused on deepening faith and connecting to God. Wednesday was the time when believers explored the intricacies of the faith as they learned to interpret the scriptures.

But at some point in the 1970s, pastors began inviting special speakers on Sunday evenings and Wednesday services to talk about politics. At first, these people spoke of the need to protect the faith by being politically aware of the many attacks they claimed to have been carried out against the faith. Over time, these exhortations have become calls to action for believers to preserve the faith: vote for certain candidates, support certain laws, and write to elected officials. Special speakers like this were especially important at the Assemblies of God quorum I attended. Speakers denounced the ungodly actions of a Supreme Court that ruled on everything from women’s health to school desegregation. They complained about a social safety net supporting laziness that was anti-Christian. They denounced the “homosexual agenda” which, according to them, permeated society. Their grievances against the societal changes of the time were confused with theology and faith. Eventually, in the late 1970s, right-wing politics merged with faith and became a symbiotic and dogmatic theme for Sunday and Wednesday night services. As the church radicalized and dramatically clashed with my own political beliefs and worldview, I realized that I could not continue with this denomination. Eventually, as I examined the faith more, I gave up Christianity completely.

My decision was a personal decision that I did not extend to beliefs about what others should do. I have friends and family who have a fundamentalist faith, and I respect both people and their beliefs as genuine. Just as I believed before leaving that faith, they view their relationship with their god as personal and meaningful. I understand and will always admire this. What I cannot understand and respect, however, is the impact that the political change has had. The two King County schools with COVID-19 outbreaks are good examples of the influence of this political change. One of the two schools has gone so far as to seek legal advice on how to tackle mask warrants they see as encroaching on their freedom. Having studied the Christian faith in a formal way and having experienced it personally, I cannot recall any scripture that dictates the kind of extreme libertarianism that is expressed when people refuse to adopt a simple measure of public safety like the port. a face mask. Yet this view is now merged with religious beliefs that combine political libertarianism and belief in God.

It was an illogical belief system that resulted from this marriage. Politics overtaking faith has led right-wing fundamentalists to reject former President Jimmy Carter, whose heartfelt Christianity made him teach Sunday school until he was 90. These same fundamentalists are now kissing former President Donald Trump, a notorious libertine crook who only waves a Bible to make political points. The adherents of the new merger make this choice on the basis of political calculations about who will advance a defined political program, and not on who is an ethical leader or an example of the Christian life. Their illogicality opens these people up to being manipulated by political actors who play on their fears and prejudices – none of which are based on the fervor of faith characteristic of earlier fundamentalism before it was co-opted by a radical political program. Political calculation has gone beyond faith, and the result is impacting fundamentalists and also those of us who live with them – as evidenced by the two King County schools.

The fusion of fundamentalist faith and right-wing ideology has not served the church well. It creates a narrow definition of Christianity that excludes people who share the faith but not the political perspective. At a time when people are increasingly divided, the link between fundamentalist beliefs and radical politics creates another schism in society. Moreover, right-wing radicalism makes fundamentalist worshipers fearful of differences among others and suspicious of authority, such as when public health experts explain the need to wear masks during an epidemic. As a result, this coupling has damaged the capacities of fundamentalist churches to participate in the communities in which they reside.

In 1981, Billy Graham, the most respected fundamentalist evangelist of the time, notoriously warned that “I would mind if there was a marriage between religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it. His statement turned out to be prophetic, as even Billy Graham’s son Franklin Graham, who now controls the ministry his father built, succumbed to the lure of right-wing politics.

In the decades since I left Christianity, many fundamentalists have replaced fervor of faith with fervor for ideology. Or, at least, they allowed this ideology to join with the faith to run their lives in a way that was previously reserved for their faith alone. As Billy Graham warned, fundamentalists who fell prey to right-wing ideology became pawns for leaders with agendas – generally undemocratic and often authoritarian agendas. So when I read that two schools run by a fundamentalist denomination were producing the most juvenile cases of COVID-19 in my county, especially at a time when these infections were preventable, I understood how it came about. product. But that doesn’t make this result any less sad.


The South Seattle Emerald is committed to maintaining space for a variety of perspectives within our community, with the understanding that different perspectives do not preclude mutual respect among community members.

The opinions, beliefs and views expressed by contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of Emerald or the official policies of Emerald.


Bob hughes spent 40 years in Washington State education as a teacher, researcher and administrator. He is professor emeritus at the University of Seattle.

?? The image shown is attributed to Gilbert Mercier (under a Creative Commons license, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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CM condemns the rise of religious fundamentalism https://aaimaustin.org/cm-condemns-the-rise-of-religious-fundamentalism/ https://aaimaustin.org/cm-condemns-the-rise-of-religious-fundamentalism/#respond Mon, 23 Aug 2021 14:38:15 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/cm-condemns-the-rise-of-religious-fundamentalism/ Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Monday that the powerful stream of humanism that animated the teachings of 19th-century social reformer Sree Narayana Guru was a panacea for the world torn by communal and racial strife. Inaugurating the Renaissance leader’s birth anniversary celebrations by videoconference from Kannur, Mr. Vijayan took the opportunity to condemn the […]]]>


Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Monday that the powerful stream of humanism that animated the teachings of 19th-century social reformer Sree Narayana Guru was a panacea for the world torn by communal and racial strife.

Inaugurating the Renaissance leader’s birth anniversary celebrations by videoconference from Kannur, Mr. Vijayan took the opportunity to condemn the rise of religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan.

He said Afghanistan was an example of what would happen to a nation consumed by religious fundamentalism. “Fundamentalism is a destructive fire that destroys civilizations and nations,” he said.

Only humanism could extinguish such destructive conflagrations. The Guru’s teachings rooted in compassion, universal peace, human rights and tolerance have provided answers to the woes of the world.

Mr. Vijayan recalled the plight of the oppressed people of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He said communal hatred often appears in India.

“There has never been a time in history when religious fundamentalism has limited the rights of human beings on such a global scale,” he said.

The Guru had emphasized the essential unity of humans regardless of race, culture, caste, creed, religion, gender or skin color. “One caste, one religion, one God for humans” was Sree Narayana Guru’s belief system.

The LDF government had honored the reformer’s credo with progressive action. He had defeated the powerful caste forces in the feudal society of Kerala in the 19th century by spreading reason, education, enlightenment and pacifist thought.

Mr. Vijayan said the reformer recognized caste as a convenient instrument for social and financial oppression. He fought it with an emphasis on Renaissance values. He gathered a social conscience against child marriage, polygamy, animal sacrifice and other social evils of his time.

Mr. Vijayan said the Guru was above castes and religion. His teachings were universal in nature. They have had a beneficial effect on all strata of society. Mr Vijayan said it was historically inaccurate to portray the reformer as the leader of a particular caste. The seer had used religious thought as a tool to emancipate the masses.


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Study suggests religious belief does not conflict with interest in science, except among Americans https://aaimaustin.org/study-suggests-religious-belief-does-not-conflict-with-interest-in-science-except-among-americans/ https://aaimaustin.org/study-suggests-religious-belief-does-not-conflict-with-interest-in-science-except-among-americans/#respond Mon, 31 Aug 2020 07:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/study-suggests-religious-belief-does-not-conflict-with-interest-in-science-except-among-americans/ A new study suggests that the conflict between science and religion is not universal but rather depends on the historical and cultural context of a given country. The results were published in Social psychology and personality sciences. It is widely believed that religion and science are incompatible, with each belief system involving conflicting understandings of […]]]>


A new study suggests that the conflict between science and religion is not universal but rather depends on the historical and cultural context of a given country. The results were published in Social psychology and personality sciences.

It is widely believed that religion and science are incompatible, with each belief system involving conflicting understandings of the world. However, as study author Jonathan McPhetres and his team point out, the majority of research on this topic has been conducted in the United States.

“One of my main areas of research is trying to improve confidence in science and find ways to better communicate science. To do that, we need to start to understand who is most likely to be skeptical of science (and why), ”McPhetres, assistant professor of psychology at Durham University, told PsyPost.

In addition, “there is a contradiction between scientific information and many traditional religious teachings; the conflict between science and religion also seems more pronounced in certain regions and for certain people (conservatives / evangelical Christians). So, I was partly motivated to see exactly how true this intuition is.

First, nine initial studies involving a total of 2,160 Americans found that subjects who scored higher in religiosity showed more negative implicit and explicit attitudes toward science. Those who are very religious also showed less interest in science activities and less interest in reading or learning science.

“It is important to understand that these results do not show that religious hate or dislike science. Instead, they’re just less interested compared to someone less religious, ”McPhetres said.

Next, the researchers analyzed data from the World Values ​​Survey (WEV) involving 66,438 subjects from 60 different countries. This time, when examining the relationship between religious belief and interest in science, the correlations were less obvious. While on average the two concepts were negatively correlated, the strength of the relationship was weak and varied across countries.

Finally, the researchers collected additional data from 1,048 subjects in five countries: Brazil, the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Here, the relationship between religiosity and attitudes towards science was, again, weak. In addition, a greater religiosity was actually linked to a greater interest in science.

Based on these results from 11 different studies, the authors suggest that the conflict between religion and science, although apparent in the United States, may not be generalized to other parts of the world, a conclusion that ” seriously undermines the assumption that science and religion are necessarily in conflict. Since the study used various assessments of belief in science, including implicit attitudes towards science, interest in science-related activities, and choosing science-related topics from a list of other subjects, the results are particularly convincing.

“There are many barriers to science that don’t need to exist. If we are to make our world a better place, we have to understand why some people may reject science and scientists so that we can overcome this skepticism. Anyone can contribute to this goal by talking about science and sharing interesting scientific findings and information with people whenever you get the chance, ”said McPhetres.

The study, “Religious Americans Have Less Positive Attitudes Toward Science, But This Does Not Extend to Other Cultures,” was authored by Jonathon McPhetres, Jonathan Jong, and Miron Zuckerman.


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COVID-19 and the Death of Market Fundamentalism https://aaimaustin.org/covid-19-and-the-death-of-market-fundamentalism/ Thu, 16 Apr 2020 07:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/covid-19-and-the-death-of-market-fundamentalism/ In addition to countless human tragedies, the COVID-19 pandemic will have many lasting social and economic impacts. However, perhaps none will be more profound than the death of free market fundamentalism and the return of the state. Why now? After all, there have long been moral, social and environmental risks posed by an unfettered market. […]]]>

In addition to countless human tragedies, the COVID-19 pandemic will have many lasting social and economic impacts. However, perhaps none will be more profound than the death of free market fundamentalism and the return of the state.

Why now? After all, there have long been moral, social and environmental risks posed by an unfettered market. Risks that strongly justify state action – inequality and climate change being the two most glaring examples. It didn’t help.

This is different. COVID-19 exhibits blinding power economic case of change. It shows that an ideological and quasi-religious approach to market regulation, sometimes called neoliberalism and, until the virus, the dominant political approach in the West, is fatally flawed. It creates a weak and unstable economy, which amplifies risks and is unable to manage shocks1. He threatens himself.

Of course, a pandemic would still have had a very significant and disruptive economic impact. However, we can already see that countries with a cohesive, competent, respected and well-resourced state – all of which market fundamentalists have sought to undermine – are likely to have both and human cost.

Thus, market fundamentalism is no longer even in the interests of the corporate sector or financial elites. It creates unmanageable economic risks and ultimately poses an existential risk to capitalism, as argued by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz2. Therefore, any business or finance leader who continues their knee-jerk support for actions to “free markets, cut taxes”, “get government out of the way”, will now know the consequences.

It’s not about being for or against “the market” or “the business sector”. It is not about “curbing corporate power” or developing “an alternative economic system”. Capitalism, properly defined and well managed, can be a powerful and effective making up of an intelligently designed, democratic and fair society.

However, what has clearly failed is seeing markets as some kind of pure ideology. This type of extremist fundamentalism resembles Islamic fundamentalism which promotes terrorism, or Christian fundamentalism which opposes science. Fundamentalism leads to thoughtless corruption without evidence of the original idea.

Markets at the heart can to work. When properly regulated, they are an effective and efficient means of organizing certain activities. They are useful part of a system – but are not a system in themselves. Left to their own devices, they do not solve all problems or meet all social needs. This is why the return of the state is essential to build a stable economy. As a bastion of capitalism, the FinancialTimesstated in a recent editorial:

“Radical reforms – reversing the dominant political orientation of the past four decades – will have to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities. , and seek ways to make labor markets less precarious Redistribution will again be on the agenda, the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as taxes basis on income and wealth, will have to be taken into account.

I am not naive about the response that will come. Proponents of market fundamentalism will be desperate to claw back public spending and fight the inevitable pressure for higher taxes and stronger services. This response must be fought. But to succeed, such opposition will need to include – perhaps even be led by – many of those same powerful elites who previously advocated, or at least condoned, the market as an ideology.

Why would they?

First, they will have the consequences of not managing economic risks etched in their memory by COVID-19. But many will also recognize that this is only the first of many ongoing risks that are, like the virus, completely predictable based on solid scientific evidence.3.

Rather than an unexpected “black swan” event, the virus is only the first in a herd of black elephants on the run are rushing towards us: climate change, ecosystem degradation, deforestation, water shortages, food crises triggering geopolitical conflicts, ocean acidification, inequalities and many more. These will impact the global economy as an ongoing series of COVID-19 viruses, with no possible vaccines, that will last for decades. The Great Disturbance is now clearly underway.

This is the future in which our economy will have to be managed. The return of the state and a well-regulated market economy will be our only chance to achieve this.

COVID-19 gives us clear evidence that market fundamentalism is a failed economic strategy. Interpreting markets as an ideology or quasi-religious belief system leads to unmanageable and systemic economic risks. Any corporate or financial system leader who does not now become an advocate for a strong, well-resourced and respected state, decent taxes and a strong social safety net, will share the responsibility for the decline of capitalism. .

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New study shows link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism https://aaimaustin.org/new-study-shows-link-between-brain-damage-and-religious-fundamentalism/ https://aaimaustin.org/new-study-shows-link-between-brain-damage-and-religious-fundamentalism/#respond Thu, 02 Jan 2020 08:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/new-study-shows-link-between-brain-damage-and-religious-fundamentalism/ Brain damage: New study links brain damage to religious fundamentalism, and demonstrates how brain damage increases religious fundamentalism. PsyPost reports: A new study in the journal Neuropsychology found that lesions in a particular region of the brain tend to increase religious fundamentalism. Raw story reports: A to study published in the journal Neuropsychologia showed that […]]]>


Brain damage: New study links brain damage to religious fundamentalism, and demonstrates how brain damage increases religious fundamentalism.

PsyPost reports:

A new study in the journal Neuropsychology found that lesions in a particular region of the brain tend to increase religious fundamentalism.

Raw story reports:

A to study published in the journal Neuropsychologia showed that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a region of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. The results suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by decreasing cognitive flexibility and openness – a term in psychology that describes a personality trait that involves dimensions such as curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

The study, “Biological and cognitive foundations of religious fundamentalism, explains some general terms and information:

Religious beliefs are socially transmitted mental representations that can include supernatural or supernatural episodes that are believed to be real. Religious beliefs, like other beliefs, are embedded in different ways in different people and societies …

One form of religious belief, religious fundamentalism, embodies adherence to a set of firm religious beliefs advocating unassailable truths about human existence …

In general, religious beliefs tend to differ from empirical beliefs. While people may subjectively think that religious belief is a true or false representation of how the world is, it should be noted that some religious beliefs usually do not update in response to evidence, and conservatism is. particularly noticeable in the case of fundamentalist beliefs.

The study “examined Vietnam’s male combat veterans with damage to a part of the brain known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. They found that veterans with these lesions exhibited higher levels of religious fundamentalism than those without. “

The study concludes:

In summary, we have found that adherence to fundamentalist religious doctrine is partly mediated by diminished flexible conceptual thinking and reduced openness and that the key cortical region supporting the representation of various religious beliefs as well as flexible conceptual thinking is the dlPFC.

Commenting on the study, Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University, the study’s corresponding author, says PsyPost:

Human beliefs, and in this case religious beliefs, are one of the storehouses of cognitive and social knowledge that set us apart from other species and indicate how evolution and cognitive / social processes have influenced the development of the human brain.

Grafman, noting the study’s limitations, added:

For this study, we recruited Vietnam veterans with and without brain injuries. They were all veteran American combat men. This limits generalization to other groups of people, including women, people from other countries, and people from cultures with different primary religious beliefs.

We need to understand how distinct religious beliefs are from moral, legal, political, and economic beliefs in their representations in the brain, the nature of conversion from one belief system to another, the difference between belief and action, and the nature of the depth of knowledge that individuals use to access and report their beliefs.

Bottom line: New scientific study shows damage to the prefrontal cortex is associated with religious fundamentalism.

New study shows link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism (Image via YouTube)


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Fundamentalism, Traditionalism, and Bigotry in Pagan Polytheistic Communities https://aaimaustin.org/fundamentalism-traditionalism-and-bigotry-in-pagan-polytheistic-communities/ Tue, 01 Oct 2019 07:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/fundamentalism-traditionalism-and-bigotry-in-pagan-polytheistic-communities/ Image from Pixabay Rigidity and fundamentalism lead to bigotry and prejudice Fundamentalism is a problem in all traditions, philosophies and religions. There is a clear and worrying link between religious rigidity and bigotry. An appeal to “tradition” is… well, appealing. People like concrete ideas. Certainty leads to security. They like things to be spelled out […]]]>

Image from Pixabay

Rigidity and fundamentalism lead to bigotry and prejudice

Fundamentalism is a problem in all traditions, philosophies and religions. There is a clear and worrying link between religious rigidity and bigotry. An appeal to “tradition” is… well, appealing. People like concrete ideas. Certainty leads to security. They like things to be spelled out for them. What to do, what not to do, and draw very narrow lines in the sand and build even smaller boxes about “acceptability”. And have you ever tried to change someone’s mind once it’s been made up that something is 100% true? Dogma can rule us all. And fundamentalism and traditionalism appeal to those who like very clear rules and rigid structures in their faith, ideas and beliefs.

The problem lies in human nature. It’s certainly not just us as pagans, polytheists, occultists, etc. The problem is certainly not limited to any particular religion, let alone polytheism. The best-known example among us would be the Asatru, who unfortunately have a large white supremacist movement against which they regularly fight. But the Celtic and Hellenic reconstructionists have them too. We ALL have them.

Unfortunately, we all live in a society, and that society impacts much of our thinking and our approach.

Race and spiritual tradition can be a horrible and dangerous mix

“Tribalism”, “ethnic”, “racial”, “folk”: these are all buzzwords for the same thing. The idea that genetics is important, theirs is superior, and nothing less should be fought. Certainly, one can be proud of one’s own heritage, of one’s tradition, of one’s background and of what one has. But the lines are crossed when they become lines of definition based on the belief in the “acceptability” of others. And now your own faith includes belief in that very superiority that you are supposed to have.

There is something about fundamentalism that eventually leads to bigotry. Rigidity in religion tends to lead to rigidity in other areas. Religion and beliefs are often used as shields or excuses for bigoted behavior and speech. “I’m not the bigot, it’s you who are bigoted against my beliefs.” And their beliefs include a group or groups of people being inferior or deserving of restrictions more than other groups. Homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, racism, and anti-Semitism are all examples of some of the “beliefs” that rigid traditionalists can cling to.

We all know that these kinds of people cry ‘white genocide’ or try to claim a marginalized status that they don’t have. If you’re a white cisgender guy, you’re still a white cisgender guy. If the idea that you have a privilege irritates you, help us change the system by recognizing that you are more likely to underestimate a problem because you are not personally affected by it. It’s really all that privilege.

Times and culture can change, but rigid traditionalists won’t.

After all, if you’re part of a religion that discriminated against women in ancient times, feminism or any kind of gender equity would be “not applicable to your faith.” The same goes for attitudes towards race and gender identity. And again, if you are not affected by the problem(s) in question, you are more likely to underestimate their seriousness. You may have been convinced over time that they don’t exist, and that’s where the trouble begins. If this (supposedly) didn’t bother your tradition’s founders and/or elders, why should it bother you?

And all traditions have roots in things that include problematic behaviors and ideas. All. No exceptions. Which means we need to evolve and evaluate over time.

Rigid traditionalists do not move with the times. They are stuck in whatever past century they get their ideas for their faith from. It doesn’t matter if current research contradicts any of these ideas. After all, they are THEIR ancestors. They would know more than historians, researchers and actual historical records, wouldn’t they?

Religion isn’t the problem, it’s dogma

Too many people think that religion is the cause of war and hatred. And I would say it’s not a religion, it’s a dogma. ANY dogma in any lifestyle, philosophy or belief system can lead to war and hatred. Rigidity of thought leads to friction with others as well as fanaticism. Have you ever met an activist vegan? I’ve had it several times, and I’m one. Believe me when I say infighting and “more vegan than you” are one thing. How about someone with a different opinion in the fandom than yours? Visit any of the Star Trek, Star Wars, or Doctor Who fanbases to see just how toxic they can get (yes, I’m a fan of all three). What about the Red Sox or Patriots teams? I’m from Boston, and all I can say about it is “yuck”. Sports fans can be fanatical, we know that.

It’s unfortunately like I said, dogma is the problem, not specifically religion. And why any philosophy, especially one based on tradition, should be prepared to be flexible and evolve with the situation and/or the times. We must be open to change and listen to opinions and research different from our own. And accept the idea that our path is not necessarily the best or even the right path. It’s just the one we personally prefer.

What do we do about it?

I wrote about cancel culture and deplatforming the other day, and that’s definitely an idea on how to deal with that. Community rejection is a start. If nothing else, it shows others what behavior is acceptable or not. Obviously, what you do is on a case-by-case basis depending on the issues.

There are also self-checks. When does our devotion to the gods change from fanatic to fanatical? The “new convert syndrome” is a thing, and those new to the faith should be aware of it. Also, you have to be honest with yourself and what you are looking for. What are you afraid of, and why does that include getting “wrong” or doing the “wrong” things? Or are others in your tradition encouraging you to be afraid? Peer pressure is one thing. What about those of an orthopraxic religion that relies on “right” practice as the defining quality of faith over “right” belief? In such traditions, how do you determine what is “right”? Who determines this? And when is cultural appropriation used in an appropriate or racist context?

Even in ancient times, the “good” practice was not so concrete. The Greek religion was more exactly the Greek religions, as in the plural. And nowadays, different initiatory Wiccan lineages even exist. And a number of them are evolving or have already evolved on issues such as gender polarity. Autonomous covens within the same tradition may even have their own practices or adopt the tradition.

Looking for structure where there is none can be a headache. And I can see why people would try the shoehorn structure on a tradition or faith that doesn’t have it naturally. People crave certainty.

How do we know if our own approach and/or spiritual group is “fan” or “fanatic”?

Here is my own personal checklist for determining if your own tradition/faith could benefit from a reassessment:

  • Does the practice harm or otherwise isolate an existing marginalized group of people?
  • Do your beliefs include non-acceptance of an existing marginalized group of people, or total erasure? (“It’s not really a thing, they’re not real”)
  • Does your faith interfere with your daily life? Your responsibilities? Your mental, emotional and/or physical health?
  • Does the practice interfere with your overall level of happiness? Does it cause an excessive amount of stress?
  • How does your faith impact how you treat others? Do you treat differences of ideas with acceptance or disdain?
  • Are you able to change your mind if presented with alternative evidence and research? Do you take your mistake well or do you take it personally?
  • How much time do you spend caring more about other people’s practices than your own?
  • Are you able to “agree to disagree”? If not, where do you draw that line and why? Think carefully about this one and the hills you personally choose to die on.
  • Is there an overemphasis on race, gender identity, sexuality, nationality, or ancestry in terms of “acceptable” versus “no”?
  • Do you only isolate yourself from those who are part of your tradition, or do you continue to socialize with others who are not?
  • In your own tradition, are there others telling you who and who not to date? See also my blog on “what to avoid in groups and organizations”.

Sometimes we find groups that initially seem fine to us, but over time demonstrate qualities that would best be described as bigoted. This is something to watch out for too.

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How religious fundamentalism hijacks your brain, as neuroscientist explains https://aaimaustin.org/how-religious-fundamentalism-hijacks-your-brain-as-neuroscientist-explains/ https://aaimaustin.org/how-religious-fundamentalism-hijacks-your-brain-as-neuroscientist-explains/#respond Mon, 10 Sep 2018 07:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/how-religious-fundamentalism-hijacks-your-brain-as-neuroscientist-explains/ In moderation, religious and spiritual practices can be excellent for a person’s life and mental well-being. But religious fundamentalism – which refers to the belief in the absolute authority of a religious text or rulers – is hardly ever good for an individual. This is mainly because fundamentalism discourages any logical reasoning or scientific evidence […]]]>


In moderation, religious and spiritual practices can be excellent for a person’s life and mental well-being. But religious fundamentalism – which refers to the belief in the absolute authority of a religious text or rulers – is hardly ever good for an individual. This is mainly because fundamentalism discourages any logical reasoning or scientific evidence that questions its writing, making it inherently unsuitable.

It is not correct to call religious fundamentalism a disease, as this term refers to a condition that physically attacks the biology of a system. But fundamentalist ideologies can be seen as mental parasites. A parasite usually does not kill the host it inhabits because it is critically dependent on it for its survival. Instead, it feeds on it and changes its behavior in a way that benefits its own existence. By understanding how fundamentalist ideologies work and are represented in the brain using this analogy, we can begin to understand how to vaccinate against them, and potentially, how to rehabilitate someone who has been ideologically brainwashed – in other words. , reduced ability to think critically or independently.

How religious ideologies spread

Just as organisms and their genes compete for survival in the environment and the gene pool, so ideas compete for survival within brains and the pool of ideas that inhabit them. Renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins used this insightful analogy to explain how ideas propagate and evolve over time. In his influential 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene,” he called ideas “memes” (the mental analogue of a gene), which he defined as self-replicating units that spread throughout culture. . We are all familiar with many different types of memes, including the various customs, myths, and trends that are now part of human society.

As Dawkins explains, ideas are propagated through the behavior they produce in their hosts, which allows them to be passed from brain to brain. For example, an ideology – such as a religion – that brings its people to practice its rituals and communicate its beliefs will be passed on to others. Ideas that succeed are those that can spread the best, while those that fail to replicate themselves disappear. Thus, some religious ideologies persist while others sink into oblivion.

It’s easy to see why religion quickly spread through culture once it emerged. When humans acquired the cognitive ability to reason and plan for the future, they became aware of their own mortality. The realization that oneself and all those close to you will one day die is understandably terrifying, and this existential fear perfectly sets the stage for anxiety reduction ideas, like those that offer endless afterlife. But religions are complex ideas, and the psychological effects they have on minds go beyond simple anxiety relief.

Essentially, the brain is a biological computer, and an ideology is a set of coded instructions, or “cultural software”, that execute on the hardware of the brain. The esteemed philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett insightfully described how ideas can control minds when he said: It’s a better habitat for memes. In this regard, it is often not the brain that controls the mind, but the memes that make up the mind that control the brain. This is especially the case when the meme is a religion.

Religions are changing

Like genes and gene complexes, when an ideology is replicated – or passed from one person or group to another – it mutates. As a result, different versions of this belief system are produced which generate different types of behavior. As such, there are often good and bad variations of a given religion. For example, there are moderate versions of Christianity and Islam, which promote qualities such as a sense of community and a moral code that encourages ethical behavior. These ideas can be beneficial for the host organism, that is, the individual practicing religion. At the same time, there are nefarious variants of Islam and Christianity – especially the rigid fundamentalist versions – that cause the host mind to process information in a biased manner, think irrational, and become delusional.

Ideological viruses and mental parasites

There are different types of viruses and parasites, and viruses are themselves parasites. While biological viruses are infectious agents that replicate inside living cells, computer viruses are destructive pieces of code that insert themselves into existing programs and modify the actions of those programs. A particularly nasty type of computer virus that relies on humans for replication, known as a “Trojan horse,” disguises itself as something useful or interesting in order to persuade individuals to download and upload it. broadcast. Likewise, a harmful ideology disguises itself as something beneficial in order to insert itself into an individual’s brain, in order to order him to behave in a way that transmits the mental virus to others. The ability of parasites to modify the behavior of hosts in such a way as to increase their own “ability” (ie.

A particularly intriguing example of parasite manipulation occurs when a hairworm infects a grasshopper and grabs its brain in order to survive and reproduce. This parasite influences its behavior by inserting specific proteins into its brain. Essentially, infected grasshoppers become slaves to carbonless parasitic machines.

Likewise, Christian fundamentalism is a parasitic ideology that weaves its way into the brain, commanding individuals to act and think a certain way – a rigid way that is intolerant of competing ideas. We know that religious fundamentalism is strongly correlated with what psychologists and neuroscientists call “magical thinking,” which refers to the making of links between actions and events when such links do not exist in reality. . Without magical thinking, religion cannot survive or reproduce. Another cognitive impairment that we see in people with extreme religious views is a greater reliance on intuitive thinking rather than reflective or analytical, which frequently leads to incorrect assumptions as intuition is often misleading or too simplistic.

We also know that in the United States, Christian fundamentalism is linked to the denial of science. Since science is nothing more than a method of determining truth using empirical measurements and hypothesis testing, denial of science equals denial of objective truth and hard evidence. In other words, the denial of reality. Fundamentalism not only promotes delusional thinking, but it also discourages followers from exposing themselves to different ideas, which protects the illusions essential to ideology.

If we are to vaccinate society against the harms of fundamentalist ideologies, we have to start thinking differently about how they work in the brain. An ideology that tends to harm its host in order to self-replicate gives it all the properties of a parasitic virus, and defending against such a belief system requires understanding it as such. When a fundamentalist ideology inhabits the brain of a host, the spirit of the organism is no longer totally in control. Ideology controls its behavior and reasoning processes to spread and maintain its survival. This analogy should inform how we approach efforts to reverse brainwashing and restore cognitive function in areas such as analytical reasoning and problem solving.

Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow it @BobbyAzarian.



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Separate religious belief from cultural tradition. In the real world, this is no easy journalistic task – GetReligion https://aaimaustin.org/separate-religious-belief-from-cultural-tradition-in-the-real-world-this-is-no-easy-journalistic-task-getreligion/ https://aaimaustin.org/separate-religious-belief-from-cultural-tradition-in-the-real-world-this-is-no-easy-journalistic-task-getreligion/#respond Tue, 10 Jul 2018 07:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/separate-religious-belief-from-cultural-tradition-in-the-real-world-this-is-no-easy-journalistic-task-getreligion/ Is it possible to separate religious influences from secular societal customs? And if so, how does a journalist go about it? It is not an easy task. It goes double for journalists – perhaps most journalists – with little exposure to the principles of group dynamics or the psychology of institutional religion. It may sound […]]]>


Is it possible to separate religious influences from secular societal customs? And if so, how does a journalist go about it?

It is not an easy task. It goes double for journalists – perhaps most journalists – with little exposure to the principles of group dynamics or the psychology of institutional religion.

It may sound like pride on my part, but I think the vast experience gained in the field of religion prepares journalists to better understand the complex social and psychological formulations of humanity – enabling religious writers and editors to ( potentially) better analyze the differences.

This recent New York Times The story of the semi-isolation of menstruating women in remote western Nepal, leading to the deaths of some, provides a platform to explore the issue.

But first, a quick return to Brazil.

You may recall that a few weeks ago I published an article here about the custom of some Brazilian indigenous tribes to murder unwanted children. I tried to explain how, from their tribal perspective, the practice made sense.

I noted that in their rainforest environment, where food is surprisingly difficult to find, children – fatherless or physically handicapped – were, in the opinion of the tribes, sacrificed for greater good. It was because they could not contribute to the group’s food supply, which the tribal leaders saw as an unacceptable burden that threatened the survival of the whole group.

I have also noted how the practice seems outrageously obscene when viewed from a Western mindset rooted in Abrahamic religious traditions. My purpose was to illustrate how difficult it is for journalists to put aside their deepest values ​​when covering groups with very different beliefs.

The late Huston Smith, the famous scholar of comparative religion, once wrote, I am paraphrasing now, that every civilization – and by every civilization it has even included small semi-nomadic jungle tribes – is influenced by a vision spiritual about how life is best lived.

I guess this means that in the Brazilian case, the tribes followed an intimate sense of their own notion of right and wrong, even though they didn’t articulate it in spiritual or religious terms. In this case, religion is defined as a group codification of ideas on the most complex issues of life. They did it only from a practical and materialistic point of view.

Physical survival is, after all, one of life’s most complex issues.

The practice highlighted in the history of Nepal, however, presents a qualitative difference compared to the situation in Brazil. Here, the religious component is a bit clearer – as is the writer’s (presumably unconscious) Western bias. This, despite the incomplete investigation of history into the origins of the practice.

The lede plunges us into the heart of history. It’s long, but essential:

TURMAKHAND from Nepal – Not so long ago, in rural western Nepal, Gauri Kumari Bayak was the spark of his village. Her loud voice echoed through the fields as she husked the corn. When she walked down the road at high speed, leading birth control classes, many admired her self-confidence.

But last January, Ms Bayak’s lifeless body was carried up the hill, a stream of mourners screaming behind her. His remains were burned, his robes donated. The small hut where she was forced to sequester herself during her menstrual period – and where she died – has been destroyed, erasing the last mark of another young life lost to deadly superstition.

“I still can’t believe she’s not alive,” said Dambar Budha, her stepfather, regretfully, sitting on a rock, gazing at the hills.

In this corner of Nepal, deep in the Himalayas, women are kicked out of their homes every month when they have their period. They are considered polluted, even toxic, and an oppressive regime has developed around this taboo, including the construction of a separate hut for menstruating women to sleep. Some of the spaces are as tiny as a closet, mud or rock walls, basically period holes. Ms Bayak died from inhaling smoke into her own as she tried to warm up by a small fire during the freezing Himalayan winter.

Notice the word “superstition”?

I would call this an unnecessary editorial intrusion; the writer expressed his own western values. Better to just describe the situation than to judge it.

As I said, it is extremely difficult to shake off your deeply ingrained values ​​when trying to explain another belief system, whether it is a report from Nepal or Brazil, and even when the writer is, as in this case, a very experienced foreign correspondent who has already covered subtitles. Saharan Africa for Time.

Further down in this Times piece, we come to the corner of the in-game religion.

Many religions observe rules regarding menstruation, and Hinduism places particular emphasis on purity and pollution. Yet researchers do not know why the taboo on menstruation is so strong in western Nepal, where countless villages, across an area of ​​hundreds of kilometers, still practice it.

Perhaps this is because this part of Nepal is poor, relatively homogeneous, predominantly Hindu and isolated, and the houses tend to be small. (In other Hindu subcultures, menstruating women may be isolated to some extent in their household.)

I think a lot more could have been said about the way Hinduism is practiced.

For example, rather than just speculating on why the practice continues in this part of Nepal – an incredibly beautiful nation that I have visited – the reporter might have noted that Hinduism is a catch-all term. by the British colonialists to bring together the very varied indigenous spiritual traditions of India.

As such, Hindu traditions and beliefs are exceptionally diverse. Journalists are supposed to care about these kinds of little details.

In other words, what one group of Hindus believes may be totally rejected by another. Or to put it somewhat differently, Hinduism is polycentric, meaning it has no binding hierarchy, has various centers of power, and is as culturally diffuse as it is religiously confusing to outsiders.

Which brings us full circle to my question posed at the top of this post.

Is the semi-isolation of menstruating women in parts of western Nepal still rooted in religious belief? Or have its Hindu roots been entirely lost through the centuries, and the practice persists only because, well, this is how it is – and always has been? When those who practice this custom describe it, are they doing it in religious language?

Again, my point is that with ancient traditions it is often almost impossible to separate spiritual or religious life patterns from mysterious life patterns, what you might call popular beliefs, which comfort humans – even if they don’t really know why, and even if from a stranger’s point of view, they seem cruel and doomed.

Yes, it’s a difficult call, maybe impossible.

Yet for me, trying to untangle that Gordian knot is one of the great learning experiences in religious journalism. The point is to listen carefully.


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Social Justice Policy is a ‘Quasi-Religious Belief’ System on Campus https://aaimaustin.org/social-justice-policy-is-a-quasi-religious-belief-system-on-campus/ https://aaimaustin.org/social-justice-policy-is-a-quasi-religious-belief-system-on-campus/#respond Thu, 15 Mar 2018 07:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/social-justice-policy-is-a-quasi-religious-belief-system-on-campus/ This week, Professor Gad Saad told Breitbart News why it can be so difficult to intellectually engage Social Justice Warriors – progressive politics has become their religion. In an exclusive and wide-ranging conversation with Breitbart News, Professor Gad Saad of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, explained why the social justice policy is designed to invite […]]]>


This week, Professor Gad Saad told Breitbart News why it can be so difficult to intellectually engage Social Justice Warriors – progressive politics has become their religion.

In an exclusive and wide-ranging conversation with Breitbart News, Professor Gad Saad of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, explained why the social justice policy is designed to invite religious-type membership.

“… It is a form of quasi-religious belief. The common thread between the quasi-religion of social justice and the real religion is that they both start with revealed truths, ”Saad began. “And these revealed truths are the starting points of their belief system. And these beliefs cannot be attacked or questioned. This is why they are in the domain of faith and not of evidence.

Saad explained that a strict adherent to the policy of social justice will not be swayed by even the strongest arguments. Why? Because the warriors of social justice refuse to allow intellectual criticism of their “revealed truths”.

“Even scientific truths are ‘provisional’. They are currently correct but tomorrow they could be replaced, ”Saad said. “When it comes to social justice, it doesn’t work that way. That’s why I call them all part of this cancer virus of the human mind; postmodernism, radical feminism, identity politics, cultural and moral relativism. These are revealed truths. You are starting from a premise and there is no evidence that I can offer you that can change the way you think. This is why, in this sense, they are quasi-religious.

The founder of the Heterodox Academy, Jonathan Haidt, uses the term “sacred ring” to refer to the set of ideas of a group or person that they will not allow to be questioned.

It’s just a fact that as humans we are really good at making something sacred. Maybe it’s a rock, a tree… a book, a person… We do something sacred, we worship it, we surround it, often literally. … When you do this, you bond with each other, you trust each other, you share a sacred object and you go into battle …

Haidt explained the “sacred ring” in the context of social justice policy.

There is no nuance, you cannot exchange other goods with him. So if you organize yourself around the fight against racism, the fight against homophobia, the fight against sexism, again all good things, but when they become sacred, when they essentially become objects of worship, a fundamentalist religion, so when somebody comes to class, somebody comes to your campus, and they say the rape culture is exaggerated, they’ve committed blasphemy.

So how did Professor Saad avoid developing his own “ring of sacredness?” “

“Even the most indisputable proof that I can give you, like what I just described [regarding men’s evolved preference for the hourglass figure in women], if new data were to emerge – it made me question my evidence – then if I’m an honest scientist, I have to go back to the drawing board, ”Saad explained.

Breitbart News on Wednesday published Professor Saad’s advice for parents who are considering sending their children to progressive colleges and universities.


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God in War: How Religious Belief Affects Soldiers https://aaimaustin.org/god-in-war-how-religious-belief-affects-soldiers/ https://aaimaustin.org/god-in-war-how-religious-belief-affects-soldiers/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 07:00:00 +0000 https://aaimaustin.org/god-in-war-how-religious-belief-affects-soldiers/ When Shoshana Johnson decided to join the military, his intention was not to make history. Originally from Panama, where her Catholic foundation was laid, she and her family moved to the United States as a child. Johnson’s passion for food prompted her to attend cooking school. In 1998, the daughter of a retired army sergeant, […]]]>



When Shoshana Johnson decided to join the military, his intention was not to make history. Originally from Panama, where her Catholic foundation was laid, she and her family moved to the United States as a child. Johnson’s passion for food prompted her to attend cooking school. In 1998, the daughter of a retired army sergeant, she enlisted in the service to save money for school. In 2003, Johnson, who worked as a cook in the military, was in Iraq preparing meals for supply mechanics. But less than a month after arriving, she would become America’s first black prisoner of war.

The first package of care Johnson received after his deployment to the Middle East was from his mother. Inside the box was a rosary. “I remember calling my mother back when we were arriving in Kuwait and saying, ‘Hey, I left my rosary beads and stuff on the bedside table. Can you send it to me?’ Johnson said from his home in El Paso, Texas. The rosary was in his backpack about 200 miles south of Baghdad when, on March 23, 2003, a group of Iraqis ambushed the army specialist’s truck convoy in Nasiriyah.

Johnson was shot in both ankles when captured; the rosary remained, still in his backpack, buried among the rubble and the bodies of at least 11 American soldiers killed in the attack. Johnson and four male soldiers were taken prisoner and spent 22 days in captivity. It has been 14 years since the former army cook and other captives became national heroes upon their return home, but psychological injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to haunt her . While Johnson’s rosary was left in Iraq after her capture, she continued to carry her religious belief.

The relationship between religious belief and trauma has become a topic of study for Joseph Currier, assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Alabama. His research examines the impact of religion or spirituality on veterans facing life after war and tries to understand how they might recover from the invisible scars of war. In a study published in Spirituality in clinical practice, Currier and others report that “suicide has become one of the leading causes of death among those who served in the United States military. In fact, suicide deaths were more common than combat-related deaths among US military personnel in 2012 and 2013. ”The report suggests that in some cases, religious belief can make healing from trauma more difficult. “Certain forms of religiosity appear to increase the risk of suicide or PTSD after trauma,” said Currier.

Over the course of two years, Currier and his team recruited 125 veterans who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan and completed “at least one war zone deployment” to participate in the study. Therapists asked veterans “to rate how often they use religious methods to cope with the most stressful events in their lives.” Half of the study participants self-identified as a “religious person,” and half of this group was affiliated with Protestant Christian organizations, while 40% identified themselves as Roman Catholics.

According to Currier, however, religious affiliation or the denomination of a religious group is not the most important factor in assessing the impact of faith on mental health: “It is not enough for us to know that someone is religious or whether it is affiliated with Christianity or Buddhism, or know their religious affiliation. What is most important is that we know how religious someone is.

“I left a semblance of God in my life [back] in this god-forsaken goddamn country, ”says Mike Rudulph, a Marine Corps veteran who has toured Iraq twice. Rudulph did not participate in Currier’s study. “I gave up absolutely all notions or beliefs in any type of God after seeing what happened there.” Born and raised in Alabama, Rudulph says he struggled with his episcopal faith as a gay man years before he saw the fight. “Obviously there were segments of the Episcopal Church in other places that embraced homosexuality, like the state that ordained the gay bishop, but at least where I was, it wasn’t was not there. “

Even after Rudulph’s partner joined the Marine Corps in hopes of being deployed together, the infantry sergeant withheld details of his sexuality from his family and his military unit. Rudulph was part of a division tasked with securing Iraqi detainees at Al-Taqqadum, an Iraqi air base located about 20 miles west of Fallujah. There his faith is regularly tested. How could God tolerate his acts of war while condemning his sexuality? “The only God I knew in Alabama was a God who was going to throw me into the depths of hell.”

In the study, Currier and the other researchers agree that “reducing the risk of suicide among US military populations has become a major public health priority.” Of the veterans who participated in the study, Currier reports that just over a quarter “have passed the suicide risk threshold.” In some cases, a person’s religious or spiritual perceptions actually increased their risk for suicidal ideation.

Felicia Hopkins, author of Halfway: stories of war that healed my life, is a retired army officer and trauma chaplain who spent a year caring for injured service members. She says it’s often the guilt that keeps troops from healing. “People [want] absolution, ”Hopkins said. “People who want to know that they will be forgiven, people who want to know that God understood what they had to do… I did my part. Now, God has to do his part.

“If someone has a very rigidly positive belief system, where they believe I kind of have that implied agreement with God that if I’m just doing the right thing most of the time and trying to be a really good person. and refrain from doing things that are perceived to be immoral, that God will protect me 100% from suffering or adversity in life, ”said Currier,“ they can go through times of very high stress, potential trauma, and they’ll have no way of making sense of that within this very rigidly positive belief system. So what can happen then is that they’ll then move on to the other side of the things and will come to terms too much with where God goes from this all-good and all-powerful being to now God is seen to be completely untrustworthy and incompetent.

Shoshana Johnson leaned on her faith when she tried to make sense of her capture and later her release. “I had this horrible incident, but I have to go home. I got to see my family again, ”Johnson said. “Other people don’t understand this, and a lot of people haven’t done anything wrong and don’t understand this, so I really think God has blessed me over and over again, and I don’t know why.”

His interpretation of the Catholic Church’s position on suicide – it is classified as a mortal sin – impacted choices to attempt suicide, resulting in multiple stays at a Texas psychiatric medical center. “I was in the planning stage and once at the hospital we talked about it and they were like, ‘Well, why? ” [and] I said, ‘Because I feel like God made a mistake, and then I can correct the mistake,’ ”Johnson recalls. She didn’t believe she had earned the right to return home safely to her daughter and family. “In the Catholic faith, once you commit suicide, it is the ultimate sin, so all the preference [God] gave me will definitely end, at that point.

Veterans who had a positive or broad outlook on the role of religion, or spirituality, in life fared better – those “with ties to formal religious groups” showed fewer signs of PTSD or thoughts. and suicidal behavior. Perhaps, says Currier, the veterans benefited from the support they found in their church or spiritual groups, not just doctrine. “The community can be crucial in supporting veterans who may be struggling with suicide or PTSD or other common mental health issues,” said Currier.

The study sample does “not reflect active and veteran populations in the United States.” Most of the veterans were men, young servicemen who had served in the military or in the Marine Corps. But the report can help validate veterans’ claims for mental health care providers who will consider their religious and spiritual beliefs as part of their treatment plan. “That’s the only way it works,” says Johnson, who is now being treated by a psychiatrist who also happens to be a Catholic. “If you cannot accept my spirituality, how can I completely unload myself? “

After Shoshana Johnson’s mother reported the loss of her daughter’s Rosary in an interview, Johnson said Rosaries arrived at her home from all over the world. Instead of a backpack, Johnson now carries a purse, and tucked away in one of his pockets is a rosary he has been told has been blessed by Pope John Paul II.

Christina Brown Fisher is a freelance journalist from New York.


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