“Why We Should be Cultivating Ritual, Not Piety” by Per Smith..

I have broke (briefly) the re-blog thing: so manual – worth a read nonetheless!

Over at the new Patheos blog, Science on Religion, Connor Wood poses the no longer rhetorical question: “Does religion make us moral?” He presents this question in order to highlight the implications raised by the recent publication of Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, who as Connor notes is an atheist:

It might seem surprising, then, that Bloom has recently published a paper in the Annual Review of Psychology detailing, in part, all the good that religion can do. Religion, Bloom points out, does actually seem to make people more altruistic and generous. Religious people give more to charities than non-religious people, including secular charities. And IRS tax receipts show that states where people are more religious have much higher rates of charitable giving than less religious states. Meanwhile, lab experiments show that participating in religious rituals primes people to be more generous and caring toward one another.

READ MORE

The link is http://irritually.org/2012/06/15/why-we-should-be-cultivating-ritual-not-piety/ – and the rest is worth a look…

Ok, ok: not about spiritual matters-but felt like re-blogging it..

lives; running

One theme of this summer’s Olympic sports coverage will be the weak challenge by British athletes in the men’s and women’s middle distances – in the women’s 800 metres for example, UK athletics have been able to fill just one of the three potential spaces . There is no expectation of a serious medal challenge at any distance between the 400 metre and Mo Farah at 5k

It hasn’t always been like that. There was of course the Ovett-Coe-Cram moment, but in the thirty years before that, UK middle distance running was generally competitive; and (as I’ve posted before) elite UK marathon times have been getting consistently slower, year by year, for a while. Where did the previous tradition of middle-distance running come from?

Once answer, I suspect, is the figure of Alf Tupper, who was a staple of many working-class childhoods, from his first appearance in the Rover in 1949. Aged 18…

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Meanwhile, at American Buddhist Perspective..

More interesting stuff from Justin, on models of thought in Buddhism:

I am often asked “why ‘impose’ Western models of thought on Buddhism?” as if discussing the nature of Buddhist philosophy or ethics is some sort of new colonialist/imperialist activity. The fact is, the Buddha used countless models, analogies, and illustrative examples in his teachings. READ MORE

When I have more energy, I think there is much to be said on how Buddhism engages models of teaching… Till then, I’ll make do with a quote from the Mahaparinibbana Sutta;

I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg from Tampa reviews Dispirited..

At http://cbatampa.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/but-not-religious.html, Rabbi Jason Rosenberg from Tampa reviews Dispirited.

Below is a flavour of the piece…

There’s always a lot of talk about the idea of being “spiritual but not religious.” It certainly is a fairly common refrain, and it’s no surprise that proponents (and leaders) of organized religion are often against it. I’ll admit to having pretty mixed feelings on the matter*. On the one hand, I’m really not all that eager to attack people who are, more or less, minding their own business. It’s one of the ways in which religious people like myself often allow themselves to engage in mean-spirited pettiness. Not very religious, or spiritual, frankly.

* If you read this blog at all regularly, this should come as no shock to you!

And, maybe more significantly, it’s often not fair. At the very least, it’s using the same broad brush that many of us religious types hate being used on us. I mean, when someone says, “religion is all superstitious nonsense,” I usually protest about the word “all.” It’s manifestly true that some religion is superstitious nonsense. Maybe much of it.  READ THE FULL REVIEW…

Another interesting review – it doesn’t wholly agree, but engages with what seem serious questions..

Interesting review..

Becoming Integral: Notes on Planetary Coexistence

“When someone tells me that they are not really religious, but that they are a very spiritual person, I want to punch their face. Hard.” (1)

I just finished reading David Webster’s short and fun book Dispirited: How Contemporary Spirituality Makes us Stupid, Selfish and Unhappy (Zero Books, 2012).  I was happy to read a book that offers a critical analysis of contemporary spirituality, both because I teach theology and religious studies and because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which contains a vast array of flavors of “spirituality.”

Before reading the book, I read an interview with Webster about the project.  The interview makes some interesting points, including Webster giving Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a response to the question of what book he wishes he’d written.  Along those lines, I would say that Webster’s critique of spirituality is good, but it’s not quite as…

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Mortality..

[Apologies for slow blogging / response of late. Those who know me will be aware of the reasons behind this. It may continue for some time, I fear. I will probably continue to tweet due twitter’s brevity, but blog posts – and certainly responses – will be fewer/slower.]

Below is a quote from the Pabbatopama Sutta, found in the Samyutta Nikaya (of the Buddhist Pali Canon). I omit the second part- which offers post-death rewards to those who follow the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha, not because it’s irrelevant, but because it is not my primary concern here.

All religions (and quite a few things that claim not to be) seem to offer some rescue from death. I am tempted to see it as one of those features that distinguish religious phenomena from religion-like socio-political phenomena. What I do like, below, however, is the sense of inevitability- that it rolls over us all. It reminds me of Matthew 5.45 (For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ESV, 2001), and reminds us that irrespective of post-mortem claims, this world is indifferent to us.

While others may choose to focus on the consolations that faith offers post-death, I am much more interested in this indifference. It seems instructive. Post-death threats and promises have not promoted ethics, and many religious thinkers have also taken this view. I am sure that there are those who believe (and claim evidence, but this is another matter), to an extent, that death is survivable: but I am not interested in that. The evidence is sketchy (at very best), and this world is without us once we die. It is this world that interests me. A mortal being is what we are to this world. Even if we look beyond death, this world is a place where we are mortal. It is only effected by what we do before death. What happens beyond is irrelevant.

Like massive boulders

mountains pressing against the sky

moving in from all sides

crushing the four directions,

so aging and death

come rolling over living beings:

 

noble warriors, brahmans, merchants

workers, outcastes, & scavengers

They spare nothing

They trample everything.

 

Here elephant troops can hold no ground

nor can chariots or infantry

nor can a battle of wit

or wealth win out

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn03/sn03.025.than.html

I am not convinced of all Chapman says, but this is an interesting review of what is an unquestionably important book..

Vividness

David L. McMahan’s The Making of Buddhist Modernism has changed the way I think about Buddhism more than any book I’ve read in years. I think it’s destined to be an influential classic.

It’s a history of how and why “Western Buddhism” came to be what it is. That casts new light on what “Western Buddhism” is, and raises new questions about whether that’s what we want.

My understanding of this book is the main basis for this blog series. (Of course, I use other sources too, and of course McMahan might disagree with everything I say.) This is not a general review. Instead, I will explain some parts of the book that are relevant to my own project.

Traditional Buddhism is very unlike Western Buddhism

Most Western Buddhists don’t realize how different even the most traditional and “authentic” forms found in the West are from traditional Asian Buddhism. Once…

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