Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The February 11th issue of Newsweek Magazine featured an article entitled "Harvard's Crisis of Faith", by Lisa Miller. The article recounted a debate over whether Harvard undergraduates should be required to take a religion course. The requirement would have been within a group of courses under the heading, Reason and Faith. Harvard evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker remarked that requiring students to study Reason and Faith was equivalent to requiring them to study Astronomy and Astrology.

I tend to agree with Professor Pinker. We find ourselves in a time when religion has become so ubiquitous that it is held up alongside reason as a valid way of knowing, and yet also at a time when violence and strife based on religious viewpoints threatens the future. It's time to confess that religion is purely subjective. You have a right to yours, if you choose, but please restrain yourself from making "you" statements that imply we should share common ground.

In recent days I also read of a Islamic fatwa forbidding Muslims from going through full body scanners at airports because of the Quran's teachings on modesty. The article didn't detail anything else faithful Muslims might learn from the Quran in regard to air travel.

In a parallel vein, the Roman Catholic Bishops have now taken a position that patients in a persistent vegetative state cannot have feeding tubes removed. In the process they stated that Catholics can still file advance directives about their medical care as long as such directives, like "living wills", do not contradict Catholic teachings. The Bishops' directive is binding on Catholic medical institutions like Spokane Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Enough already. Way more than enough. In my own study of theology it was made clear that human sinfulness is such that humans simply cannot trust themselves with power. It seems we will always find a way to turn power to hurtful uses. I don't remember my professors talking much about the potential for abuse of the power of religion itself, but I think the subject deserves some study. Perhaps the faith-filled profs at Harvard who are so keen on requiring every student to take a religion class could take that on.

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