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Halcyon actively monitors change covering more than 150 key elements of life.

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What's Changing? - Religion

Religion

 

Please see selected recent belief, religion and spiruality-related change below.

 

See also;

 

November 2021

  • Americans are much more likely to derive meaning from religion than people in other wealthy economies. According to Pew, 15 percent of Americans said faith "makes life meaningful," compared with 5 percent of New Zealanders, 4 percent of Australians, and 3 percent of Dutch and Canadians.

 

July 2021

 

April 2021

  • Brazilian researchers found that religion alleviates depressive symptoms in believers. Published in the journal Trends in Psychology, the researchers asked 279 volunteers (72 percent female) to respond to an online questionnaire that focused on intrinsic religiosity, meaning in life, and levels of anxiety and depression. The team concluded, "intrinsic religiosity has a protective effect against depression symptoms; however, it occurs indirectly, via meaning in life." One defining symptom of depression is an inability to foresee a better future. This new research may entertain an intrinsic sense of belief in the sacredness of life as a natural antidepressant, as Robert Sapolsky phrased it. During a time of growing unease, the suspension of disbelief might be what the doctor ordered - for some at least
  • William James defined spiritual experiences as states of higher consciousness, which are induced by efforts to understand the general principles or structure of the world through one’s inner experience. At the core of his view of spirituality is what we might call ‘connectedness’, which refers to the fact that individual goals can be truly realised only in the context of the whole - one’s relationship to the world and to others. Traditionally, this spiritual state has been described as divine, achievable through contemplative and embodied practices, such as prayer, meditation and rhythmic rituals. Indeed, this higher state of consciousness and connection has been reported in many spiritual traditions. However, recent neuroscientific research shows that the same state can be achieved by secular practices too, noted Psyche.

 

February 2021

  • Benjamin M. Friedman, Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University presented at Chatham House his book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, which fundamentally reassesses the foundations of current-day economics, showing how religious thinking has shaped economic thinking since the beginnings of modern Western economics and how this influence continues to be relevant today, especially in the United States.

 

August 2020

  • In Being Buddha at Work, authors BJ Gallagher and Franz Metcalf argue that, as it is based on both spiritual and pragmatic principles, Buddhism provides a path for individual enlightenment even in a work context, it offers a practical way to tackle the “three marks of existence,” which are “frustration, interconnectedness and impermanence.” The road to peace starts with simple awareness or mindfulness. (Buddhism posits four “noble truths”: that life is full of suffering, that humans suffer because they’re attached to what they want, that it’s possible to end suffering by ending desire and that the “eightfold path” offers a way to peace. The eight stages on this path to enlightenment are: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.)

 

July 2020

  • Science and religion (fact versus faith) are often seen as two incongruous groups. When you consider the purpose of each and the questions that they seek to answer, the comparison becomes less black and white. A Big Think video featured religious scholars, a primatologist, a neuroendocrinologist, a comedian, and other minds considering, among other things, the evolutionary function that religion serves, the power of symbols, and the human need to learn, explore, and know the world around us so that it becomes a less scary place.

 

December 2019

  • Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism - the world's scriptural belief systems take many different forms but all tend toward 'kenosis' - self-transcendence for the benefit of others, but all have been used and abused for less spiritual ends, according to former nun and renowned theologian Karen Armstrong.
  • In increasingly secular western societies, technology and religion may seem at odds. Some organised religions, however, are using technology to interact with communities in an attempt to forge connections between devotees and fuel engagement. Religious education, relationships, habits and knowledge are being transformed as social media allows laypeople to network with clerics and other religious figures. In  2019, for example, Pope Francis addressed a conference at the Vatican on the “Common Good in the Digital Age”, saying that “a better world is possible thanks to technological progress, if this is accompanied by an ethic inspired by a vision of the common good”. Hugh Davies, a researcher of technological history, says organised religion has long embraced technology: through evangelising and proselytising, religion has used media technologies, employing the best sculptors, architects, painters and musicians to produce spectacles that captivate the masses.
  • According to A Replacement for Religion, many people find themselves in the "odd" situation of not believing in religion - but nevertheless being interested in it, moved by it and sympathetic to some of its aims. We may enjoy religious art and architecture, music and community, and even some of the rituals - while being unable to believe in divine commandments or the existence of a higher being. The book examines these feelings and what we might do about them, addressing such issues as how hard it is to find a sense of community, how rituals are dying out and how much we sometimes crave the solemn quiet you find in religious buildings, as well as the comfort offered by the belief in a deity.

 

May 2019

  • Spirituality has been defined by one researcher as “a personalised, subjective commitment to one’s values of connection to self, others, nature, and the transcendent”. In a 2017 survey across 15 Western countries, for example, 64% of respondents said even though they didn’t believe in God as described in the Bible, they believed in a higher power.
  • Recent research suggests that religious experiences satisfy two basic functions of the brain: self-maintenance (“How do we survive as individuals and as a species?”) and self-transcendence (“How do we continue to evolve and change ourselves as people?”).
  • Some suggest we are human animals whose brains “have been designed to blur the line between self and other”, and that we are always going to seek out activities – trance dance, prayer, communion – that remind us of and enhance this blur.
  • Alain de Botton’s Religion for Athiests argues that the supernatural claims of religion are entirely false - but that it still has some very important things to teach the secular. It suggests that rather than mocking religion, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from it - because the world’s religions are packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. de Botton  proposes that we may look to religion for insights into how to, among other concerns, build a sense of community, make our relationships last, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, inspire travel and reconnect with the natural world. (Not everyone agrees with this sentiment, by any means: for The Clarion Review "de Botton’s effort misses the mark. His treatment of religions is undermined by his glib generalisations and his indifference to (or lack of awareness of) the reasons believers do what they know or believe is right".)

 

March 2019

  • Asking which came first: all-seeing gods or large societies, The Economist argued that the gods who watch over small societies tend to demand little more than deference. One theory holds that this is because in small societies, where everyone knows everyone, a supernatural policeman is not needed. But bigger societies need a different policing mechanism. So a “Big God”, who cares whether people do right by others, is a feature of most top religions.

 

December 2018

  • Atheism has grown significantly in recent years. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins sold over 3 million copies and some of philosophy’s biggest names are flying the flag of the non-believer. Yet simultaneously, some traditional religions like Christianity are growing faster now than ever before worldwide, suggesting that both belief and non-belief are here to stay.
  • The Protestant work ethic is real, argued Quartz. In a study in the Philippines, villagers taught a religious curriculum saw a 9% increase in income relative to a control group taught a secular programme.

 

November 2018

  • Researchers created an artificial society to investigate religious conflict. The model found that two xenophobic groups that are in regular contact create “periods of mutually escalating anxiety”. In practice, such a policy would create moral concerns about separating and confining groups based on identity, as well as whether dividing groups based on religion should be a goal in any society, noted Quartz.
  • A new report from Brookings thinktank looked at the projection of religious soft power, mainly Islam. The authors find that it is not just Saudi Arabia and Iran that seek to win hearts and minds. Many other countries and regimes—including Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia - are projecting their particular versions of Islam internationally.

 

October 2018

 

September 2018

 

August 2018

 

July 2018

 

June 2018

 

May 2018

  • Religion does not appear to be going away, argued Aeon. It remains a potent force in public life, whether it be for peasants pressing for land reforms in Brazil or women mobilising en masse to end civil war in Liberia. And more crucially, for the majority of people in the world faced with suffering and the perennial uncertainties of life, religion can bring comfort, understanding and identity. In 2000, when the World Bank spoke to women and men from 60 countries about what really mattered to them, they said living in ‘harmony’ with the transcendent mattered to them. A widow from Bangladesh, for instance, said that time for prayer was as essential to her welfare as a full stomach and mat to sleep on. For some, a meaningful life might even be the most basic human need.

  • Some argue that all religious organisations should now be relegated to the status of private self-selected and self-constituted NGOs like trade unions and other lobby groups, should survive on what money they can raise from their adherents, should have the same and no more than the same rights and entitlements as any other such organisation and should stop getting privileges, money and an amplification for their views (views, never forget, derived from the beliefs of illiterate goat-herds in ancient times) from government.  (The same philosopher created a non-religious Bible that draws from the wealth of secular literature and philosophy in both Western and Eastern traditions.)

 

Pre 2018

  • Spirituality, for many, seems ton involvw a sense of connection to a much greater whole, which can include an emotional experience of awe and reverence.  However, for many others especially those who are inclined towards the pragmatic, there may be an increasing tension between their own values and spirituality.
  • Many people are starting to try and understand and thereby influence the evolution of spirituality.  One conscious effort to act on this has been the creation of 31 December each year as World Spirituality Day.
  • Spirituality is of course, an ancient value, and previous attempts to make the whole of society more spiritually aware have occurred, for example, during both the Renaissance and even long before that, during the the so-called "Axial Age".
  • At TED, psychologist Jonathan Haidt asked a simple, but difficult question: why do we search for self-transcendence? Why do we attempt to lose ourselves? In a tour through the science of evolution by group selection, he proposed a provocative answer.
  • David Foster Wallace said that everybody worships and,"The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship - be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some intangible set of ethical principles."
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