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How much do you know about religion?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Online Quiz

I missed one question (forget which one it was); one of the World Religion questions.

Interesting to learn how little we know . . .

Previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations. Nearly six-in-ten U.S. adults say that religion is “very important” in their lives, and roughly four-in-ten say they attend worship services at least once a week. But the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey shows that large numbers of Americans are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions – including their own. Many people also think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.

PBS will air a program entitled God in America in October.

God in America examines the potent and complex interaction between religion and democracy, the origins of the American concept of religious liberty, and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation’s courts and political arena. The series considers the role religious ideas and institutions have played in social reform movements from abolition to civil rights, examining the impact of religious faith on conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War, and how guarantees of religious freedom created a competitive American religious marketplace. It also explores the intersection of political struggle and spiritual experience in the lives of key American historical figures including Franciscan Friars and the Pueblo leader Po’pay, Puritan leader John Winthrop and dissident Anne Hutchinson, Catholic Bishop John Hughes, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, reform Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, Scopes trial combatants William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, evangelist Billy Graham, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell.

food for thought

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The American Clergy is suffering from burnout.

Americans now sample, dabble and move on when a religious leader fails to satisfy for any reason. In this transformation, clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten. They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly.

. . . Clergy need parishioners who understand that the church exists, as it always has, to save souls by elevating people’s values and desires. They need churchgoers to ask for personal challenges, in areas like daily devotions and outreach ministries.


Practicing Catholics perceived electrical shocks while viewing an image of the Virgin Mary (above right) as less painful than shocks delivered while looking at a non-religious picture (above left). In contrast, professed atheists and agnostics derived no pain relief from viewing the same religious image while getting uncomfortably zapped on the hand.

The research was done by Katja Wiech of the University of Oxford in England. Bruce Bower wrote an article describing the research in the October 11th issue of Science News.

Pain and Religion

Of course, being human, we all suffer from pain during our lifetimes – different degrees of pain.  Some pain can be alleviated; some pain has no cure.

Barbara Brown Taylor provided some insights about pain:

“If you flee from pain and failure, then you run into them everywhere you go.  If you can find some way to open to them instead, then they may bring their hands from behind their backs and lay flowers on your bed.”

“Job is one of pain’s most eloquent poets.”

“At its worst, [pain] can erase most of what you knew about yourself.  People who live with chronic pain usually know more about this than those who may reasonably look forward to feeling better soon.  To live with pain on a daily basis is to be involved in a high-maintenance relationship.  To make peace with the pain can require as much energy as fighting it.  Things you once did without thinking—rising, dressing, eating, walking—now take concerted effort, if not paid help.  Who is this person who cannot do such simple things?  Who is this person who cannot help anyone, even herself?”

“Whatever else it does, pain offers an experience of being human that is as elemental as birth, orgasm, love and death.  Because it is so real, pain is an available antidote to unreality—not the medicine you would have chosen, perhaps, but an effective one all the same.”

“Plato once said that pain restores order to the soul.”

A dear friend has an incurable disease and will be experiencing more and more pain as her disease progresses.  This journey, one which she would have never chosen, has plumbed the depths of her optimism, her rationality, and her spirituality – and she retains this optimism, rationality and spirituality.  She is providing words of wisdom and comfort and insights to her friends as she continues on this road – a journey with a certain conclusion.  Lou Gehrig’s Disease will eventually ravage her body and yet her brilliant mind remains insightful, creative, curious, and compassionate (she has always and will always have these qualities).

It is difficult for me to imagine my vibrant friend not able to do the physical things one takes for granted.  It is NOT difficult to realize she will still be the intelligent, lovely person I have always known – albeit with a body unable to accept commands.  This is a horrible disease.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is an incurable fatal neuromuscular disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness, resulting in paralysis. The disease attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons, which control the movement of voluntary muscles, deteriorate and eventually die. When the motor neurons die, the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movement. Because muscles no longer receive the messages they need in order to function, they gradually weaken and deteriorate.

Approximately 14 cases of ALS are diagnosed each day nationwide. Most of those who develop the disease are between 40 and 70 years of age. The average expected survival time for those suffering from ALS is three to five years. At any given time, approximately 30,000 people in the United States are living with the disease.

The cause of ALS remains unclear, and no cure exists. While there is no drug to prevent or cure the disease, recent breakthroughs have resulted in Rilutek, a drug that modestly slows the progression of ALS.

Praying daily for my friend.