A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:
Posts Tagged ‘Religion Society’
I’m not a lawyer and so feel free to put me right on the issues I raise.
At the end of last year the Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed Mrs Celestina Mba’s appeal against an employment tribunal ruling that she was not constructively dismissed as a result of her refusal to work on Sundays.
In the original case Judge Heather Williams QC stated:
While the claimant’s belief is deeply held it is not a core component of Christian faith.
This is exactly the same line of argument used by an appeal tribunal in the case of British Airways worker Nadia Eweida:
Christians generally do not consider wearing a cross as a religious requirement.
In the dismissal of the appeal Mr Justice Langstaff…..
……stressed the importance of reading the Tribunal’s decision as a whole, and while acknowledging that this part of the decision [Sunday was not a core component of the Christian faith] was not well expressed, concluded that the Tribunal was not seeking to making a qualitative determination on the content of matters of faith. Rather, as the context and the cases cited made clear, the Tribunal was making a quantitative assessment as to the number of Christians who might be affected by the PCP. As many Christians are prepared to work on Sundays, it was appropriate for the Tribunal to consider this in weighing the extent of the discriminatory impact of the PCP as part of a proper assessment of proportionality, and thus there was no error of law. 
The problem with this approach is that the court is making a decision based on what is, or is not, a core component of Christianity.
At what point can a judge declare with some certainty that something is a religious requirement? Is it when more than 50% of religious adherents claim it to be so? Or is it when a religious text declares it as so? To what sources do we refer to corroborate such assertions?
Do individual rights and freedoms really depend on how many people agree with my conscience or speech?
Let’s face it, it’s an absolute quagmire for courts to pontificate on theological necessities, and yet I don’t see they have any choice with the current climate of Christian litigation.
It’s such a double-edged sword, as on the one hand, I don’t see Jesus advocating legal action against Caesar should he infringe the rights of his followers. But on the other hand, I can sympathise with the climate of fear of state encroachment on religious liberties.
Goodness knows what the solution is, but in the meantime, many folk are eagerly anticipating the European Court of Human Rights ruling on four complaints that UK law has failed to adequately protect the applicants’ right to manifest their religion, contrary to Articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination).
The ruling is due next week Tuesday 15th January.
UPDATE: Danny Webster has put together some thoughts on the upcoming ruling.
Guest post by Edmund Standing:
In July 2011, Campus Crusade for Christ International apologist Josh McDowell warned that the Internet poses a great threat to Christianity because:
The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have.
Meanwhile, from the atheist side, we find claims such as this:
Want proof that religion is dying? Look no further than the dominance of atheists on the Internet. We fucking own this place, and it’s only matter of time before we mock faith into non-existence.
So, is the Internet really leading to an explosion of atheism and will it really sound the death knell for Christianity?
Perhaps such questions can only be adequately answered in the future, given how relatively young the Internet still is, and given the extent to which the West still dominates the Internet, in terms both of users and content. However, I’m unconvinced that the bold claims about atheism taking over thanks to the Internet ring true.
The Internet is an incredibly fast moving and relatively ephemeral ‘place’. Social networking and video websites are amongst the most used sites on the Internet and both are based largely around superficial trends and fads that come – and more importantly go – at a speed unknown a few generations ago. Twitter, for example, is one of the leading social media websites, where topics and ideas fly around at great speed, rising for a short while as ‘trending’ topics, only to quickly disappear and be replaced by some new fascination. On the Internet, news, ideas, videos, and pictures quickly go ‘viral’, but very few hang around for long. Last year saw the explosion of the ‘KONY 2012′ viral video campaign (which was endorsed by various celebrities). Its popularity led President Obama to make comments about the campaign, yet now, in 2013, it has long since ceased to be a ‘trending topic‘. Then there were the supposed Mayan prophecies of the world ending in 2012, which caused a buzz online and have now – unsurprisingly – disappeared from view. A look at Google’s top searches of 2012 likewise reveals the extent of the superficiality of popular Internet usage.
Just as the Internet moves at a very fast pace, so does the ‘real world’. A few years ago, the world seemed to be going Da Vinci Code mad. People everywhere were talking about Jesus and his supposed relationship with Mary Magdalene. Articles appeared in the press, documentaries appeared on TV, and a feature film was released. But nowadays, who’s talking about any of that? A few years after that, it seemed atheism was everywhere, with a series of books being published (such as The God Delusion and God is not great) that propelled atheism into the media spotlight and led to the claim that this was a ‘new atheism’. The media hype around ‘new atheism’ has now died down, if not died out.
Neither books nor Internet content now seem able to truly hold the attention of the masses for very long, and while the ‘new atheism’ phenomenon has arguably led to atheism having a higher profile online, much of it is of a very superficial nature. Internet atheism seems to be predominantly a trend led by young Internet users, many of whom are not so much philosophical atheists but rather nihilistic youngsters looking for a new avenue for rebellion and a new target for their love of ‘trolling’ and the spreading of Internet ‘memes’. A certain type of Internet atheist seems to love pictures featuring supposedly ‘clever’ put-downs of religion, offering deliberately reductionist explanations of the (Abrahamic) religious worldview, the claim that the Bible contains nothing but ‘fairy tales‘, weak jokes about the Resurrection being nothing more than the story of a ‘Jewish Zombie‘, and claims that religious believers are ‘stupid‘ and that religion is a ‘mental illness‘. This kind of ‘jargonising‘ offers nothing of worth to serious discussions of religion.
Leaving this kind of trivial material aside, it is of course the case that atheists have made very good use of the Internet, in terms of the vast amount of atheist and sceptical material that is now available to the curious searcher. However, one cannot help wondering what percentage of Internet users are willing to give up what spare time they have to trawling through large websites filled with long articles seeking to debunk faith. Religion may appear a minority interest in the dazzling new electronic world, but then atheism is too. There may be plenty who will be swayed to discard their faith having come across Internet atheist material, but it is arguably the case that such people were probably only nominally religious to begin with. The main demographic in the online atheist ‘convert’ community seems to be people who were brought up in some sort of fundamentalism and have now rejected that narrow faith in favour of an equally narrow and passionate atheism (or anti-theism). Such people are already very engaged in some sense with religion or religious ideas and will largely have specifically sought out atheist materials as a result. In order for atheism to truly triumph in the Internet context, it would have to grip a large proportion of people who have not actively sought it out. I’m unconvinced this is actually happening.
Arguably, if anything is triumphing on the Internet (aside from the kind of ephemeral online trends cited earlier) it is actually a kind of irrationalism which, far from being based on serious consideration of issues traditionally at the heart of philosophical discussion (the meaning of life, the existence or otherwise of God, ethics, and so on) leans instead towards conspiracy theories and a kind of ‘scepticism’ that is far from that advocated by atheists. Jonathan Kay, author of a recent book on conspiracism, has argued that the growth in Internet conspiracy theory materials has led to ‘nothing less than a rift in the fabric of consensual American reality’. Interestingly, when recounting his experiences of interviewing conspiracy believers, Kay argues that ‘they wouldn’t be doing this if they had some satisfying worldview that gave them the kind of intellectual and emotional stability they were looking for in their life’. Perhaps it is here that the Internet may actually lead to a revival of interest in Christianity. If Internet users start to desire something real, something that makes sense beyond the shifting electronic sands of the Web, something that anchors reality and truth in an age of speed and confusion, and something that brings rest from the chaotic nature of modern life, it may well be that beliefs that offer a connection between the past, the present, and the future will take on a new appeal. Atheism, in comparison, will never offer a satisfying worldview that provides the kind of intellectual and emotional stability so many crave.
Will the Internet really destroy Christianity?
I wouldn’t count on it!
The answer to the question “Should everyone be in therapy” is answered with a resounding ‘yes’ in an article on QIdeas.
The authors base the answer on the premise of ‘knowing thyself‘ and the biblical concept of ‘self-examination’:
For centuries, self-examination was crucial for spiritual transformation. But, as David Benner convincingly argues in his Care of Souls, a post-Enlightenment church became mired in intellectual debates, losing its focus on soul care and spiritual direction. It was during this time the church abdicated its transformative role, trusting psychologists with the care once entrusted to priests, pastors and spiritual directors. And for the past 100 years, while a debate has raged on about the proper relationship between secular psychology and the church, it’s clear the original motive—know thyself— stands behind it all and remains crucial for the church’s mission. For the person best able to love God and neighbor is the person who knows the motives of her heart and is freed to live self-sacrificially.
The authors argue that as knowing thyself and knowing God are intimately connected, therapy should be curam animarum—the care of souls. They lament the ‘quick fix’ behavioral solution-based processes of modern therapy, but then posit this surprising twist:
But at the same time, I’m not convinced Christian therapists do this as well as secular therapists at times. Let me explain. Many settle for what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” a quick fix approach which stands in stark contrast to the “costly grace” of searching and knowing ourselves, through exploring our stories and examining our motives. This kind of care is, indeed, much more rare. Christian counseling which is reduced to mere Bible memorization, or repentance or a behavioral regimen misses the point. It is all law, and no grace—particularly costly grace. It is all behavior with no real, deep examination of one’s self. And so we often find among secular therapists the kind of “depth psychology” which takes seriously how deep the rabbit hole of human brokenness and sin go.
The authors conclude that we should all engage in counselling and judging by the link they give; specifically, Christian Counselling.
Now it must be borne in mind that QIdeas is based in the US and interestingly over on the Guardian today, Mark Vernon, writing in response to the ‘Spiritual but not religious mental illness study‘ comments:
This raises another question, though. Do religious organisations in the UK today take enough notice of the insights of psychology and, conversely, do schools of therapy treat spirituality seriously? As the Cambridge psychologist and priest Fraser Watts explored in a recent talk, American therapists, for example, seem to be far happier talking about their clients’ spiritual concerns than their British counterparts.
This is a vital question and one I explored via the book Spirituality and Psychiatry which was kindly sent to me by the Royal College of Psychiatrists:
Here are the opening words from the Foreward:
During my presidency I became more and more convinced of the importance of promoting mental health and well being, alongside the treatment of mental illness. But I see mental health as the responsibility of everyone, not just health and mental health professionals. The social care, criminal justice and education sectors and faith-0based organisations should all be involved in asserting the centrality of mental health in society, in contributing to the prevention of mental illness and in supporting individuals with mental disorders.
Sheila Hollins – Former President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
This to me is the crux, namely, the church must be at the forefront of supporting those with mental health issues, in partnership with other professionals.
Historically, much of the psychiatric care was provided within a religious context. There are shrines noted for their miraculous healing of folk with mental illness, the most famous of which is the shrine of St Dymphna, the Patron Saint of mental and nervous disorders. Priory’s also cared for the mentall ill.
The modern era has seen the development of psychiatry as a distinct discipline, which has sadly been characterised by an exclusion of spirituality and religiosity within mental healthcare.
The souring of relations between religion and psychiatry has been severe. Freud asserted that belief in God was delusional and that all religion was mass neurosis. Reductionism came to dominate in the mid 20th Century and consequently humans viewed as nothing more than cerebral, with behaviour as Pavlovian / Skinnerian conditioning.
There has been almost no teaching on spirituality in the context of mental heath in UK medical schools, or at post-graduate level in the training of psychiatrists, consequently, students and practitioners have had little or no training in how to enquire about an individual’s spirituality or religious faith. The word ‘religion’ has not featured in the indices of most psychiatric textbooks.
Christians have viewed psychiatry as in conflict with traditional religious values and many have associated psychiatry / psychology with atheism and antagonistic to religion in general, and perhaps with good reason, given the above.
However, encouraging attitude changes are taking place within psychiatry, concerning the importance of spirituality as a dimension of mental healthcare. This has been prompted in part by ‘service users’ asserting that spirituality is a vital dimension of their experiences that they wish to be able to discuss freely without being labelled in pathological terms. Surveys have indicated that up to half of patients turn to their religious and spiritual beliefs to help them get through a crisis, but they do not feel comfortable talking about such things with a psychiatrist.
Research in the area of mental illness and religious belief developed during the 1990′s from almost nothing to an accepted area of inquiry with research funding. Religion has been found to provide a protective factor from – and in – mental illness. Religion can also have negative effects, however, in general the beneficial effects considerably outweigh the adverse.
In 1991, the Patron of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Prince of Wales, urged an approach to mental healthcare that encompassed body, mind and spirit, and in 1997 the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the annual meting.
The notion of linking spirituality with psychiatry developed largely in the 21st century and was preceded In 1999 with the formation of the Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest group (SIG). The SIG currently has a membership of some 1300 psychiatrists out of a College membership of 13000.
This is what the SIG say about themselves:
The Special Interest Group was founded in 1999 to provide a forum for psychiatrists to explore the influence of the major religions, which shape the cultural values and aspirations of psychiatrist and patient alike. The spiritual aspirations of persons not identifying with any one particular faith are held to be of no less importance, as well as the viewpoint of those who hold that spirituality is independent of religion. The meetings are designed to enable colleagues to investigate and share without fear of censure the relevance of spirituality to clinical practice. The Special Interest Group aims to contribute a framework of ideas of general interest to the College, stimulating discussion and promoting an integrative approach to mental healthcare. For patients, there is the need to help the service user feel supported in being able to bring spiritual concerns to the fore.
In contrast with the general population, only a minority of psychiatrists in Britain hold religious beliefs: 73% of psychiatrists reported no religious affiliation compared with 38% of their patients. Only 39% of female and 19% of male psychiatrists believe in God. However, 92% of psychiatrists in Britain believe that religion and mental illness are connected and that religious issues should be addressed in treatment; 42% considered that religiousness could lead to mental illness.
There is a need to overcome common prejudices within psychiatry such as ‘religion is usually harmful for patients’ and ‘religion is for the weak, vacillating and dependent’.
Overall, spirituality is increasingly being included as a component of psychiatric treatment, furthermore, a variety of faith-based organisations are providing care for folks with mental health problems.
The first chapter of the Spirituality and Psychiatry concludes with this:
Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals need to be bilingual, ‘fluent in….the language of psychiatry and psychology….and the language of spirituality that focuses on issues of meaning, hope, value, connectedness and transcendence’. It is probably fair to say that we have, for too long, neglected one of these languages to our own detriment and the detriment of our patients. That there is now renewed interest in learning the language of spirituality is very encouraging, but like all languages this one needs practice. Just as the language of psychiatry needs to be employed at every stage of assessment, diagnosis and treatment, as well as in all good research and training in mental healthcare, so the language of spirituality needs to permeate our relationships with our patients, colleagues and our whole understanding of the field of psychiatry.
I would advocate as forcefully, that Christians need to ‘learn the language’ of psychology and psychiatry in order that our churches may partner with mental healthcare providers. Faith-based organisations need to be part of the interdisciplinary and interprofessional team providing care to the vulnerable members of our community suffering from mental illness.
Two articles appeared yesterday in the media claiming those who are ‘spiritual’ but not practicing organised religion were more prone to mental health problems, than those practicing religion and those neither religious nor spiritual.
Being spiritual may give life deeper meaning, but it can also make you more susceptible to mental illness, new research suggests.
A study found that people professing to be spiritual, but not conventionally religious, were more likely to suffer from a host of mental challenges.
They suffered problems including abnormal eating conditions, drug abuse, anxiety disorder, phobias and neurosis.
They were also more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems.
They are more likely to suffer from a range of mental health problems than either the conventionally religious or those who are agnostic or atheists, found researchers at University College London.
They are more disposed towards anxiety disorders, phobias and neuroses, have eating disorders and drug problems.
In addition, they are more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems.
Professor Michael King, from University College London, and his fellow researchers wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry: “Our main finding is that people who had a spiritual understanding of life had worse mental health than those with an understanding that was neither religious nor spiritual.”
Before I move on I want to note that both articles concluded with this comment from the researchers:
The nature of this association needs greater examination in qualitative and in prospective quantitative research.
The study was published in The British Journal of Psychiatry:
Religious participation or belief may predict better mental health but most research is American and measures of spirituality are often conflated with well-being.
To examine associations between a spiritual or religious understanding of life and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses.
We analysed data collected from interviews with 7403 people who participated in the third National Psychiatric Morbidity Study in England.
Of the participants 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% were spiritual but not religious and 46% were neither religious nor spiritual. Religious people were similar to those who were neither religious nor spiritual with regard to the prevalence of mental disorders, except that the former were less likely to have ever used drugs (odds ratio (OR) = 0.73, 95% CI 0.60–0.88) or be a hazardous drinker (OR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.69–0.96). Spiritual people were more likely than those who were neither religious nor spiritual to have ever used (OR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.02–1.49) or be dependent on drugs (OR = 1.77, 95% CI 1.20–2.61), and to have abnormal eating attitudes (OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.10–1.94), generalised anxiety disorder (OR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.09–2.06), any phobia (OR = 1.72, 95% CI 1.07–2.77) or any neurotic disorder (OR = 1.37, 95% CI 1.12–1.68). They were also more likely to be taking psychotropic medication (OR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.05–1.86).
People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.
OK, the major problem with drawing any conclusion from this study, is the ‘chicken and egg’ question. Which came first, spirituality or mental illness?
Put simply, does being ‘spiritual’ without being religious cause mental problems? Or does having mental problems cause folk to search for spiritual understanding without wishing to practice religion?
The popular assumption will be that a spiritual outlook causes mental problems; however, it is equally valid to claim that those with existing mental health problems seek a spiritual understanding for comfort.
Another intrigue thrown up in this study relates to the mentally ill and the practice of religion.
Is it possible to infer that those not practicing religion have less social support, increasing vulnerability?
If this is the case, then the question must be asked as to why this group has a reluctance to be part of a religion.
Religion, was articulated as: “the actual practice of a faith, e.g. going to a temple, mosque, church or synagogue”.
Is it possible that the mentally ill feel their respective place of worship is uncomfortable for them?
If so, then searching questions must be asked.
UPDATE: The Spectator has a blog on this in which they rightly note the ‘Chicken and egg’ issue.
A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:
And finally The World of Mentalists 2012 Award Results:
Best Mood Disorder Blog
Best Psychosis Blog
A Path With Heart
Best Psychiatry, Psychology or Psychotherapy
Best Nursing, Social Work or Professions Allied to Medicine Blog
The Masked AMHP
Best Student or Academic Blog
World of Oid
Best Mental Health Not Otherwise Specified Blog
Chaos and Control
Pakistani Christian refugee Imran Firasat being deported from Spain for making a documentary about MohammedThursday, December 27th, 2012
I want to set out a caveat at the top of this post, and that is I can only track information relating to this on very Right leaning, anti-Islamic websites. But if true, and the facts are as reported, then this would indeed be alarming:
Sultan Knish introduces this thus:
Spain has begun deportation proceedings against Imran Firasat, a Christian refugee from Pakistan, for making a documentary about Mohammed and thereby threatening the national security of Spain. If Firasat is deported back to Pakistan, he will face the death penalty proving that it’s a short step from the Spanish Inquisition to the Pakistani Inquisition.
Imran Firasat has been served the official documents by the Spanish government confirming that his residency status has been revoked.
The authorities quickly hand-delivered the official revocation documents to Imran on Friday evening, December 22nd, giving him no chance to consult his lawyer or plead his case. Through these actions, Spain has proven to the world that it holds Islamic law in high regard, even above its own laws.
Firasat is an ex-Muslim from Pakistan who has taken a radical stand against Islam since his conversion to Christianity. He has received many death threats from Muslim individuals and groups in various Islamic countries for seven years because of his criticism of Islam.
Spain, a free western nation, had given Imran welcome asylum to protect him from these violent and radical Islamic groups. Imran has been involved in the co-production of the Youtube, The Innocent Prophet, with Terry Jones and Stand Up America Now. The Innocent Prophet was released to the public on Youtube on December 15, 2012.
Imran officially backed out of the project when the Spanish government threatened to revoke his protected residency status and have him deported to Pakistan where the death penalty is waiting for him because of his criticism of Islam. Firasat did his best to cooperate with Spanish authorities by presenting documented proof to them that he had backed out of the project. Despite this, Spain quickly revoked Imran’s protected asylum status during a period of approximately ten days. This would normally take the government about six months to process.
Imran has not committed any crime according to Spanish law. He has only exercised his right of free expression concerning his views on Islam. Nevertheless, his residency status has been revoked and he faces imminent deportation to a Muslim nation where the penalty for blasphemy against Islam or Muhammad is death.
As Firasat was working with Terry Jones, he clearly keeps some unsavoury company; however, if his residency has been revoked, then the Spanish government would certainly be signing his death warrant.
I’d be interested if anyone has any other info on this.
Well, t’is that time of year to wish you dear readers a merry Christmas.
I always get a little nervy for our brothers and sisters in Islamic lands around Christmas, as historically this is a vulnerable time for them.
Sorry, I don’t want to put a downer on things, but it’s good to remember them, to pray for their security and safety and be thankful for our freedoms.
I wonder what plans you may have, or even what Christmas means to you. Is this traditionally a good period for you, or are there reasons you may find it tough going?
I was reminded earlier on Twitter that in my pre-Christian days a Jehovah’s Witness knocked on my door with his two young kids in tow on Christmas day. I was outraged, how dare someone try to pump their religious crap at me, and on Christmas day of all days!
God has a sense of humour though, if it wasn’t for the JW’s banging on my door, I wouldn’t have faith today.
Anyway, enjoy and feel free to touch base whether you find this season hard going or not.
Hat-tip: Bene Diction Blogs On
I Want to kick off by making note of British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) new Twitter account: @BritRelNumbers. As regular readers will know BRIN are an indispensable resource, furnishing us with juicy stats pertaining to religion in Britain today. They’ve currently got just 6 followers on Twitter, so please do click the link and give them a follow and a boost.
Today BRIN have another excellent seasonal round-up and although I’m pilfering the stats relating specifically to Evangelicals and evangelism, please do hop over for: Global religious landscape, Membership of religious groups, Religion census in Wales, Andrew Brown on the census, Singing the gospel, and Christmas cards without Christ.
Here’s the section on Evangelicals and evangelism:
Notwithstanding, evangelicals do not necessarily embrace practical evangelism. They often stay within their religious comfort zone, 74% saying that all or most of their family or household members are Christians and 51% the same about their circle of friends; 43% accept that they do not come into contact with many non-Christians. Many (39%) lack the motivation to share their faith, 48% feel too scared to do so, and 60% acknowledge that they have missed an opportunity to speak to others about God during the past four months. These are acknowledged to be generic weaknesses, 87% recognizing that most Christians want the confidence to give testimony to their faith, and 76% that Christians do not pray enough for revival.
Of course, there are barriers on the other side, too, with 74% declaring that none of their non-Christian contacts seem interested in talking about spiritual things. The major hindrances to the advancement of faith among non-Christians are perceived by evangelicals to be: secular alternatives to Sunday worship (89%), the Church’s unattractive public image (87%), the Church’s middle class ethos (73%), an aversion to joining any kind of organization (68%), the Church’s narrow views on sex (62%), the inability of Christians to give meaningful answers to the problem of suffering (61%), popular knowledge of science (59%), and the attacks of atheists such as Richard Dawkins (51%).
The summary of the findings, 21st Century Evangelicals: A Snapshot of the Beliefs and Habits of Evangelical Christians in the UK, Winter 2012 – Confidently Sharing the Gospel? is available at: