Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Man, the Religious Animal

"Are human beings naturally religious?"  This is a question often invoked when debating issues of religion.  For secularists and non-religious pointing to disparaties in the religiosity of peoples throughout the world and in different cultures religion is merely a social construct which if anything goes against natural inclinations.  Other evidence, such as the survival and prevalance of religion even in states which attempt to repress and extinguish it such as China.

University of Notre Dame's sociology professor, Christian Smith, takes a stab at this question in his article in First Things "Man the Religious Animal".  Smith starts off by re-evaluating what is often meant by "nature". " We need instead to take a realist approach, which observes that everything that exists in reality possesses distinctive characteristics and capacities by virtue of its particular ontological makeup."  In line with this view of nature, Smith goes on to argue that "human beings are naturally religious when by that we mean that they possess, by virtue of their given ontological being, a complex set of innate features, capacities, powers, limitations, and tendencies that give them the capacity to think, perceive, feel, imagine, desire, and act religiously and that under the right conditions tend to predispose and direct them toward religion." These innate characteristics in human nature include the tendency to belief more than can be proved, the desire to recognize and solve problems, the existential condition, and the human need to make "strong evaluations".  This has many implications.  These tendencies that tend to draw individuals to religion does not necessarily signal a great revival of religious practices, but it does make the possibility of complete secularization highly improbable. 

Read Christian Smith's full article in First Things.

Media training for lay Catholics

Catholic Voices USA is running a new training program for faithful lay Catholics who want to prepare themselves to speak to the media about Catholic issues. Journalist Kathryn Jean Lopez is part of the training team. You can find the application for the program here. They welcome applications from baptized Catholics under age 45 who can commit to regular press briefings, media training, and spiritual development. They especially welcome applications from the New York area.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Changes Everything

We just celebrated the greatest day in the liturgical year, yet too often the glory of Easter is not fully appreciated.  The celebration of the Resurrection, highlighting the most essential belief we have as Christians, is often overshadowed by other celebrations such as Christmas that have readily captured the Christian imagination.  In "Easter Changes Everything" George Wiegel highlights how Easter gives significance to our lives and the birth of Jesus by drawing on Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, an Italian biblical scholar's, reflection on the story of Jesus purifying the temple of Jerusalem.

"In cleansing the Temple, Jesus is declaring that God is now present to his people in a new and perfect way and in a new “meeting tent”: the incarnate Son, “the Word … made flesh” who dwells among us, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He, Jesus, is the new Temple, and to recognize that and live in this new mode of the divine Presence one must “remember,” as St. John writes at the end of the Temple-cleansing story (John 2:22)."

We must celebrate Easter.  It is the power of the resurrection that changed everything, that changed both nature and history.  "As St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15, Easter faith is that conviction on which the entire edifice of Christianity is built."  As we enter the Easter season, let us remember the great mystery of Our Lord and his resurrection returning to an Easter Faith and allowing it to transform us.

To read George Wiegel's reflections visit First Things