I grew up Catholic, taking all the necessary steps of a good Catholic including CCD class, though I admit I was on the bandwagon that called it “central city dump” and couldn’t tell you what it really stood for until college.
Ironically, it wasn’t until I took a most unique class when I lived abroad in Italy during college that I became intrigued by religion and its impact on history and modern culture. The class was “The History of Renaissance Prostitution in Venice and Florence.” I’m not kidding. Of the ten classes I took, it was by far the hardest and most fascinating.
That was my appetizer to this post on religious food for thought. What are your thoughts on religion? Oh and bonus points if you know what that image has to do with this post.
- On Monday, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released the biggest study on American religion in almost 50 years, which detailed the religious affiliation of the American public. One finding was that 16% of Americans over the age 18 are unaffiliated with a religion, the highest percentage being in Oregon (27%) and lowest in Mississippi (6%). Interestingly, this is far lower than other industrialized countries. The Director Luis Lugo points out that “A good percentage of folks in that group tell us that religion is at least somewhat important in their lives, but they have become disassociated from institutionalized religion.”
- There are a million books on religion and they are all over the map in terms of critical and positive, funny and serious. Strangely enough nearly every book we’ve read in my book club in the last two years has had some religious component to it. Here are two that will definitely spark conversations in your circles: Under the Banner of Heaven and Infidel. Be forewarned that neither paint an unbiased picture of religion. The former by Jon Krakauer details the history of Mormonism and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book is an autobiography that talks about how she came to reject Islam.
- If you haven’t seen it, get a group together to watch Jesus Camp, a surprisingly unbiased Oscar-nominated documentary chronicling Christian kids who are being primed for “God’s Army” at the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D. Unlike the film, the critics weren’t at all unbiased. As one review put it, “The kids speak in tongues, dance in orgasmic frenzy before a life-size cardboard cut-out of George W. and are taught that anti-abortion is the only political issue worth pursuing. (Global warming and the Earth in general are irrelevant, since only the afterlife matters.)”
- Here are four quotes from famous people on religion (yes, this is actually a list within a list!): “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself (or herself) in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.” – Albert Einstein; “If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.” - Mahatma Ghandi; “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” - Dalai Lama; “No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” - George H.W. Bush