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Forum on Public Policy Online

Vol 2010 no.4 (Posted December 2010)

 

Terrorism || Social Justice|| Religion ||

Religion

Psychology and Religion: Are They Compatible?
William Franklin Evans, Associate Professor of Psychology, James Madison University

The author uses the following operational definitions to explore the relationship between psychology and religion: psychology—the study of the human soul; spirituality—the search or will for ultimate meaning; faith—whatever or whomever one trusts most to provide ultimate meaning; religion—the symbolic expression of faith through myth, story, and ritual to support ultimate meaning (Evans, 1997; Einstein, 1984; Fowler, 1981; Frankl, 1984, 1997; Fromm, 1950; Tillich, 1957).  The author concludes that people who have similar faith tend to share similar religion (Evans, 1997).  Exploring traditional world religions as well as non-traditional religious paths, the author considers the seemingly innate desire for spirituality as expressed in the search for ultimate meaning.  The author also explores an understanding of religion as defined by the field of psychology and argues that there are certain expressions within the study of psychology that could be considered a form of religion.

Toleration as a Concept: Paradoxical or Practicable?
Tonya E. Lee, Ministry Director, There’s Hope Ministries

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to analyze and consider if tolerance, as a concept, is achievable or impractical.  While most measures of toleration are done within the realm of political toleration, there are measurable effects of religious commitment and belief systems on the concept of tolerance.  The call for absolute tolerance of one concept, religion, or ideology may, in fact, lead to the rejection of another.  Absolute tolerance, defined here as the “acceptance of all ideals and ideologies as equally valid,” requires that many religions compromise the very tenets of their belief systems.  Therefore, the call for absolute tolerance is not only impractical but paradoxical in nature.  However, the call for individual tolerance, maintaining individual autonomy, nurturing diversity, and encouraging integration in a cohesive and harmonious society is not only reasonable but necessary in maintaining true democracy.     

Spiritualization, de-spiritualization and re-spiritualization: Questions from an ‘evolution-of-consciousness’ perspective
Martin Lockley, Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Colorado, Denver

Abstract
As individual ontogeny broadly recapitulates evolutionary phylogeny, the ontogeny of consciousness from birth to death may hold clues to the evolution of consciousness.  Did humanity, like the individual, ‘fall’ into self consciousness, thereby discovering a physical, material, secular world that compromises and ‘crowds out’ spiritual sensibility?  This view, explored by Steiner, Barfield, Gebser, Jung, Long, Welburn, Wilber and others, has intriguing implications, widely manifest in our human obsession with origins and destiny (physical and spiritual).  Does Barfield’s ‘hero’s journey’ paradigm (original participation –separation- final participation) represent a natural ‘life cycle’ of spiritualization, de-spiritualization and re-spiritualization associated with the dynamic evolution (ontogeny and phylogeny) of consciousness? Does history in fact reveal that most early cultures took humanity’s spiritual origins for granted due to a deep sense of participation in cosmic events?  Is the weakening of this worldview merely a passing symptom of modernity’s self-conscious separation from cosmos, and the resultant dethroning of religious institutions/paradigms in favor of scientific-materialistic secularism?  What next?   Is Thompson’s identification of a “post-religious spirituality” a meaningful metaphor for re-spiritualization processes that are evolutionarily predictable—even inevitable.  Can humans sustain a sense of separation from the cosmos and still regard it a viable, philosophic/scientific perspective on reality?

Religion Policy and the Faith-Based Initiative: Navigating the Shifting Boundaries between Church and State
Michael D. McGinnis, Professor, Department of Political Science and Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington

Abstract
Despite widespread presumption of a wall of separation between church and state, boundaries between the activities of religious and policy organizations in the United States are fluid and endlessly renegotiated. Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are full participants in complex policy networks in some policy areas (health, education, and social services), while in other issue areas FBOs have minimal if any impact. Government policies at national, state, and local levels directly or indirectly manipulate the incentives and disincentives of believers’ participation in policy-relevant activities.
Religion policy encompasses a wide array of policy instruments (or policy tools), and this paper identifies the key determinants of diverse patterns of relationships among the leaders of religious and political organizations. The Bush-era faith-based initiative illustrates religion policy in action, revealing both its potential and its inherent limitations. This paper concludes with an examination of criteria by which the positive and negative consequences of increased FBO participation, for those involved in specific policy areas and for society as a whole, might be evaluated.

The Bible and the Death Penalty
George A. Schiering, Chaplain, Westchester Medical Center/Life Cycles Ministries

Introduction
As a lifelong learner of theology and criminal justice, I have become aware of a probable linkage between Biblical laws and our modern day penal codes. This connection to the past and how our laws have been shaped and, subsequently, evolved to their present status, has been an personal area of interest for me. The idea that the aforementioned correlation requires further examination and exploration is apparent to me in that present day social and societal belief systems give the impression of present day laws being an outgrowth of Biblical laws. These beliefs, which are imbedded in the cultures of our western societies, appear to cross a discriminate timeline. This results from the emergence of concepts involving punishment for crimes and moral codes having been established.  
While studying the biblical writings in the Old Testament, which is the Christian name for the Hebrew Bible, or what Jewish scriptures call the Tanakh, I found The Seven Laws of Noah. These, according to Jewish tradition state that, “God gave to Noah these commandments.” These laws, referred to as the Noahic or Noahide commandments, are found in Genesis Ch. 9, and, I believe, they were a big step in establishing our western civilization and culture. This reasoning is based on civilized people being instructed and/or commanded by these laws to establish courts of justice and not to commit bloodshed.  These mandates are straightforward, because moral principles were addressed. And, I think, these mandates helped to establish the “civil” portion of the word “civilization.” Furthermore, according to Judaism, The Noahic commandments are binding on all people (civilization) for all times, because all people are descended from Noah and his family. 

 

Tolerance and Subjection in Native American Religious Practices
Daniel P. Zielske, Music & Anthropology Instructor, South Central College

Abstract

The United States of America prides itself on the ideal of “freedom of religion,” yet Native American religions were outlawed until 1978, when then President Jimmy Carter signed the Freedom of Religion Act.  For the first time, Native Americans were allowed to practice their religion openly.  Lands that previously were spiritual centers for Native Americans had been turned into parks and reserves were now open for ceremonial use.  Outwardly, it appeared that the U.S. had become more tolerant towards non-Christian religions, yet there are still a number of ceremonies that, if done properly, would violate other laws.  Thus, Native American religions were still under the subjection of the American legal system and cannot fully practice their religious beliefs.  Many ceremonies and their participants were targeted by local and federal law enforcement agencies looking for alleged subversive activities.  Over time this has somewhat diminished, but there are still laws that target Native American religious practices, participants are still being followed and/or harassed, and there are still sacred places that are purposefully being targeted and destroyed by development projects in an attempt to minimize participation in Native American religions.  This paper gives insight into toleration and subjection of Native American religious practices.

 

 

 

 

 

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