Saturday, January 31, 2015

Religion, Faith and Belief – well covered in the Media, but with different slants

By Gary Berg-Cross
Lots of media (newspapers, magazines, radio and online types like blog sites etc.) have a Religion section or its equivalent.  WaPo has it online under the National section where you can read about the “Latest Religion News.
This includes local Religion events from around the Washington area including music
(Dixieland jazz), Martha’s Table, food drives, Super Bowl Fellowship, Bible study, yoga, wellness, organ recitals.

Under the WAPO  RELIGION heading you read how the ubiquitous  (and Controversial)
Koch brothers give big (again) to Catholic University. But you can also find related  coverage under the Metro or Style section which has On Faith.
The NYT has a Religion and Belief section with occasional posting like:
Mark Oppenheimer Beliefs column. A January post observed that many faiths struggle with concept of animal ensoulment; cites proliferation of pet cemeteries throughout the United States.

An earlier one in January was about former NY Gov Mario Cuomo willingness to speak publicly about his religious beliefs.

On Xmas day atheist Mark Bittman Op-Ed article cross-posted there that reflects that 2014 was the 100th anniversary of Christmas truce during World War I, when soldiers from both sides took break from fighting to be festive together.

Also on Xmas dayT M Luhrmann had a cross posted Op-Ed article about people attending God-neutral, growing in popularity movements like Sunday Assembly around Xmas Yes even for atheists group ritual is important to make sense of the world.

Even the Guardian has a Religion section and moving to online phenomena the news aggregating blog site called  the Huffington Post has a Religion news section. It’s under its Voices category. As a liberal site I find its coverage includes a bit more critical tone than most of the others. You can read about “Why Julianne Moore Stopped Believing In God” They break faith down into several categories and also have a  Religion and Science section that features "blog posts and news reports that address the ongoing conversation and tension between religion and science. The page has a pro-science and pro-faith point of view and highlights smart, sophisticated perspectives from all religious traditions on how to best improve relationships between these two fields of inquiry."

These feature research and fact-oriented coverage and not just opinion. Recent examples include, Children Exposed To Religion Have Difficulty Distinguishing Fact From Fiction, Study Finds”  and “Religious Objections To Vaccines Are A Threat To Public Health.

Still I find most of these sites could be considered religiously or faith oriented. They are labeled so.

A bit different is the Belief section of the very liberal blog aggregator Alternet.  Here we are beyond a religious and religious faith slant to one of the more general topic of belief including secular belief. Atheism is pretty prominently featured and discussed and discomfort to faith-based belief folks is likely.  They cover issues in a more confrontational way - sort of like a New Atheist style, but they include articles that might take on that topic too.

Recent posting included:
E. O. Wilson: You don't have to be an atheist to know that religion is harming the Earth.
Of course some of the coverage discusses the religio-political connections such as:

AlterNet-Jan 28, 2015
20 percent of Americans have no affiliation with organized religion. Only 0.2 percent of Congress says the same. By Zaid Jilani.

Another one with political connections was “This Week in Religion: Huckabee Claims God Blessed Him, and Mormons Back LGBT Rights.” 

Dan Arel, author of Parenting Without God and blogs at Danthropology, authors the This Week in Religion section. Just in January he has covered some critical topics:

Other recent posts on include some overviewing non-belief in a bit of the way other media feature an established religion.

AlterNet-Nov 17, 2014
The answers tell us a lot about religion and non-belief in America. ... Not all of them identify as atheist or agnostic or a non-believer, but plenty do, and while there are many people offering to defend this particular community, few are willing to speak for them. ...

Still other posts are critical of religious leaders such as:
Billy Graham's Son Is One of America's Most Dangerous Islamophobes. This one by Bill Berkowitz  was aggregated from another liberal blog site TruthOut.

Alternet is one of those challenging sites.  No one is going to agree with everything they feature, but you get some interesting topics, usually documents and well reasoned if a bit argumentative – sort of like the New Atheists. An example is the “12 Worst Ideas Religion Has Unleashed on the World” By Valerie Tarico who argues that these 12 dubious concepts advocate conflict, cruelty and suffering. Among them are things hard to disagree with:

The idea of  Heretics, kafir, or infidels (to use the medieval Catholic term) are not just outsiders, they are morally suspect and often seen as less than fully human. In the Torah, slaves taken from among outsiders don’t merit the same protections as Hebrew slaves.”  Or Holy War – If war can be holy, anything goes.”  Blasphemy the notion that some ideas are inviolable, off limits to criticism, satire, debate, or even question. is of course on the list, but the #1 listed was:

Chosen People –The term “Chosen People” typically refers to the Hebrew Bible and the ugly idea that God has given certain tribes a Promised Land (even though it is already occupied by other people). But in reality many sects endorse some version of this concept. The New Testament identifies Christians as the chosen ones. Calvinists talk about “God’s elect,” believing that they themselves are the special few who were chosen before the beginning of time. Jehovah’s witnesses believe that 144,000 souls will get a special place in the afterlife. In many cultures certain privileged and powerful bloodlines were thought to be descended directly from gods (in contrast to everyone else).

Religious sects are inherently tribal and divisive because they compete by making mutually exclusive truth claims and by promising blessings or afterlife rewards that no competing sect can offer. “Gang symbols” like special haircuts, attire, hand signals and jargon differentiate insiders from outsiders and subtly (or not so subtly) convey to both that insiders are inherently superior.

No feel good Super Bowl Fellowship coverage likely at, but lots of thought poking topics.  It not only makes you think, it makes you want to think. 

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