Posted by: Brian Robinette | October 21, 2009

The Senior Seminar is Now Off-line

The blog for the 2009 senior seminar is now closed.

Posted by: nuismera | May 13, 2009

Final Thoughts

I want to thank every single one of you for every thought, idea, frustration, etc that you’ve shared over the course of the year.  Most majors don’t know everyone graduating with them and I think we can safely say that we’ve come to know each other, grow alongside one another, challenge one another’s thinking and become friends.  Read More…

Posted by: amharmon | May 13, 2009

The End of the Beginning…

I hope that this semester and four years as theology majors has been as life-changing and beneficial  for everyone in our class as it has for me. Going back, though I had have to deal with many hardships (and probably should have taken a semester off), I would not change anything. I am one of those followers of old-fashioned wisdom who believes that everything happens for a reason. (I hope that this it true). Perhaps my questioning of my faith will lead me to becoming an even stronger follower and person. I hope no matter what everyone does with their futures that they retain the fundamental things that we have been taught at SLU. For me, these are the acceptance of each human person regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion. I hope to become an agent of the US goverment in Foreign Service and will use this idea of acceptance of all human persons throughout my career and hopefully life. That seems to me to be the only way that situations of peace will prevail in this world that is increasingly conflicted. I have attached a song by Lily Allen (called ‘Kabul Sh**) that I have been listening to throughout this semester. Regardless of ones political views (she seems to be speaking out against the actions of Tony Blair and Bush), this song could have some meaning to hopefully everyone in our class. The first lyrics in the song, “There’s a hole in our logic…” seem to define the entire song. People will continue living for themselves and lacking understanding of others who are different as long as this mentality is allowed to continue. So if it takes someone like Lily Allen to write a song, or people like us to take this sense of understanding and acceptance into whatever path this life takes us on, things can and hopefully will change. Thanks to everyone for a great and insightful semester and good luck with wherever life takes you! Kabul Sh** by Lily Allen

Posted by: stumpffk | May 13, 2009

Final Presentations

I usually don’t like giving presentations much and presenting my work to peers but for some reason this semester it was different.  Putting together a condensed version of my paper led me to rediscover what all of my research led to and the theologies I was able to synthesize.  Finally presenting this semester long work was really important to me as I was able to share my research and my views on integrating already present, Christian ideas of God with Darwin’s theory of evolution.  I felt like I was able to give this knowledge to other people who might be struggle and wrestling with questions about God and evolution and I hope it helped them along their journey. 

I also really enjoyed listening to everyone else’s presentations and what they were working on.  It was great to hear some other projects and the conclusions they reached, whether working on science and faith or otherwise.  Not to single anybody out or leave anyone out but for me the panel on personal experiences of God was maybe one of my favorites because it was less of combating Dawkins or someone directly and more of a way that a personal relationship with God is important in having faith and that is something the New Atheists maybe just haven’t experienced yet.  All the other presentations were great as well and I have taken a step back and realized that this semester I didn’t do my learning on my own but did it through the help of everyone in class bringing their own opinions and view points to the table.  I enjoyed getting to know all of you a lot better this semester and I am greatly going to miss this subject with these people.  Just wondering if anyone else had an strong opinions or feelings about the final presentations.

Posted by: zaubizs | May 13, 2009

Looking Back on Last Semester

In thinking about the past two semesters as a whole, I began to think of some of the ideas that I thoroughly enjoyed discussing and working with in the seminar. I also tried to think of some of the topics that we covered in the fall semester that we came back to discuss this semester. I actually can think of very few things from the fall semester that seemed to have an immediate impact on what we covered in the second semester or were involved to a great degree in the discussion of the New Atheism. One of the most interesting aspects of religion is the importance of community. For the Christian religion, I think that community is something that is not fully appreciated or even embraced by many of the believers. In the fall semester, we participated in numerous discussions about the importance that community can play in developing in true relationship with God. This was especially highlighted when looking at LaCugna. The idea of community was something that I was hoping that we would be able to discuss in greater depth this semester. With the topic of New Atheism for this semester, discussing became a more difficult topic to discuss than had been the previous semester. Now looking back on this semester, I would like to further address community and see what possible roles that community can offer in the New Atheism debate. I don’t really remember anyone touching greatly upon this idea within their presentations and would be interested to see if community and the powerful role that it can provide for a Christian life would resolve any issues in the New Atheism debate.

Posted by: zaubizs | May 13, 2009

What most surprised you about your research?

In doing the research for my research paper, I was struck by a number of things that I was not used to dealing with when writing a research paper of this kind. For me the research that was involved in this paper was unlike any other research that I had ever done. In hindsight most of the difficulty that I experienced came from the topic that I chose to cover in the paper. In most research papers that I have written, the material that I want to look at and cover can be found pretty easily by using the index and table of contents in the sources being used. In trying to look at the language and words that are used within the New Atheism debate there was no one particular section that one could focus on within a source in order to pull information. What I was looking at was how the language and words of the different participants in the New Atheism debate came together to form the argument for that person? In order to do this one had to look at the work of the author as a whole and not pull from a single segment. This was an aspect of the research that I had not expected and proved to be not only time consuming but rather difficult as one had to figure out how all of the pieces of the writings came together to form the argument of the author. One aspect that did prove to be a little easier was when I focused on specific words such as “faith” and “religion”. The uses of these words were still scattered throughout the sources but it was a little easier to make the connections with these specific words.

I became a theology major in what I consider to be somewhat of a roundabout way. I had previously been a Christian raised in the Baptist tradition. I had attended public school for all of my schooling up to college. I had originally had no plan to take anymore classes besides the required three theology classes. I did not plan on being involved in any of the Catholic services and activities on campus. I was actually very excited to find some of the other Christian organizations on campus. Both of these views changed pretty quickly after participating in my first theology class. I greatly enjoyed the introductory theology course and looked forward to taking the other two required classes. After taking the next two classes, I decided to continue to take more theology courses and did so until at in the middle of my junior year I finally declared theology as my major. While I had a pretty big change in my plan for taking theology courses, I am incredibly glad that I did do so. In taking these theology courses, I have gained a new respect on what it means to study theology. My original thought was that the theology courses would be incredibly dry and have nothing to offer in terms of growing my relationship with God. I have found the complete opposite and have grown in ways that I would have never thought possible through the theological studies that I have done. While I by no means have anywhere near a marginal grasp of any of the concepts that I have studied, I am pleased with the wide variety of theology classes that I have taken which has offered differing perspectives.

For a long time I thought that doubt was something that was completely incompatible with faith. Doubt was something that came into ones life and once that happened the end result would always be the loss of ones faith. Once one began to doubt they were beginning to lose their faith in a process that would be continued with more doubt. I have changed my mind about how doubt affects faith. Now I believe that doubt can actually be one of the most beneficial things for faith. Doubting begins a process with questioning of the beliefs of the faith that one holds. Certain aspects of ones faith can be called into question. It is often that doubt arises when these questions that are asked go unanswered or are not answered in a manner that seems to be in accordance with the answers that the person that begins to doubt. The questioning causes one to analyze what is going on and thinks deeper about one’s faith or at least certain aspects of ones faith. Often these questions forces one to question what they believe in their faith however one of the most important things that the questions cause is one to why they believe certain aspects of their faith. In addressing these issues, one has the ability to strengthen one’s faith by questioning and doubting. This importance of questioning in order for one’s faith to grow fosters the idea that faith is not something that is stagnant but it is something that is constantly changing and growing for the individual believer.

Posted by: zaubizs | May 13, 2009

Interesting Use of New Atheism to Get to Education

As we began to look at the New Atheism I was not incredibly excited as I suspected a large focus to be put on the sciences. I became even less at the prospect of having to sit through a parade of presentations on science and the New Atheism during our final senior panels. After hearing about the papers and seeing the presentations of everyone in the class, I was greatly surprised and pleased to see such a wide variety of topics that dealt with the New Atheism that were not completely science based. Two of the most interesting presentation and paper topics dealt with the educational system and how the New Atheism presented a point to start from or even highlighted the issue of education. The education systems that are particularly interesting to look at are the ones that have a religious affiliation. I really enjoyed hearing the different ideas that Andrea had to offer in regard to working toward a multi-religious or inter-religious educational system. I found it very interesting how she took something from Dawkins’ writings that seemed to be such a small point and went with it in order to tie in something that she was thoroughly interested in. I found the concepts of multi-religious and inter-religious education to be incredibly fascinating. I would agree that both would seem to be very difficult to incorporate into the school system. Even if we don’t get to the levels that these models call for I would like to see more variation in the religions that are even mentioned in a positive light in the education system. I would be very interested to see how the models of such different types of religious education will work out in the schools where they are being tried in Europe.

Posted by: JLLH | May 13, 2009

Condoms and Catholicism

pope-aids

I’m sure everyone has heard about the Pope’s provocative comments regarding what he believes is the best solution to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. This new story broke a few months ago and it’s such a controversial topic that I just figured that someone else had posted about it. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I’ll give my two cents. I find it presumptuous at best that the Pope thinks he has the answer to a problem that has stumped doctors, sociologists, anthropologists and the significant portion of the public health community for at least two decades. The problem is multidimensional, community-specific and has its origins in deeply entrenched systemic problems both in the United States and abroad. I’ve been to South Africa on a trip that looked at the role of public health nursing in the HIV/AIDS crisis and I’m currently working on a CDC-funded research project that assesses the behavior that puts people at high risk for HIV infection. I also work at an HIV/AIDS clinic. And I’ve learned that a) the problem is humblingly complex, involving the social, economic, political, historical, cultural and personal aspects of the individual and b) the population at the highest risk for infection are generally those marginalized in society whose gender, childhood and socioeconomic status impede their ability to make autonomous, rational, emotionally attuned and well-informed decisions (most of which are required to maintain a position such as abstinence, especially in Africa). In making the blanket statement that abstinence is the answer the Pope is grossly belittling the idiosyncratic nature of the problem. You cannot assert solutions to a problem to which you remain predominantly ignorant. Until you live in a community and understand the needs of its people – how they think, what they value, what they struggle with, etc… – you should not even flirt with the idea that you know how to solve that community’s problems.

03_thefourhorsemen

I just read a critique on the “friendly atheist” website on an article written by Julian Baggini regarding the rhetoric of the Four Horsemen. Baggini, an atheist himself, is the author of the Very Short Introduction to Atheism and his opinion sounds strikingly familiar to theologian John Haught. Baggini questions the effectiveness of New Atheism’s “antitheism,” a quality Haught terms the “intolerance of tolerance.” He says the Four Horsemen embellish the significance of science in revealing answers about the world and says that their approach lacks “balance and modesty.” I need to quote him because he sounds so much like Haught it’s freaky:

“For me, atheism’s roots are in a sober and modest assessment of where reason and evidence lead us. That means the real enemy is not religion as such, but any kind of system of belief that does not respect these limits on our thinking. For that reason, I want to engage with thoughtful, intelligent believers, and isolate extremists.”

I think it’s great that there are voices within the atheist community that are not only outwardly critical of New Atheism but able to identify and articulate the qualities needed in an argument (humility, openness and honesty) in order for the viewpoint to be constructive and

What was the atheist response? Interestingly, it wasn’t the same old narrow and acrimonious intolerance that Haught and Baggini critique and that I unendingly encountered this semester as I searched the blogosphere for material for my paper. For the most part, the responses were similarly critical of the methodology the Four Horsemen use to form their conclusions as well as the rhetoric they exercise to advertise them. Similarly, the website Edge.org offers a moderate, thoughtful and intelligent atheist opinions on the very subject matter that Haught other theologians ask the New Atheists to engage. These moderate and informed voices contribute significant numbers to the atheist community and are comprised of scholars who have access to the realm of academia. So one question that comes to mind is, why don’t they get more publicity? Ironically, it’s probably because they don’t exercise the provocative rhetoric that simultaneously draws public attention and undermines the argument’s effectiveness and legitimacy.

Posted by: amharmon | May 13, 2009

Atheist Churches?

I thought that I would expand a bit on what I discussed earlier in my post about the Christian Atheists. So this idea of Atheists having their own churches and meeting places is a bit strange to me, as is the fact that they even call them ‘churches’. As I mentioned before, there is not a huge number of atheist churches and there is an even lesser number of Atheists who actually attend them. The ones that do attend, usually meet up in small congregations on Sundays, of all days. Some prefer to attend the services of Humanist groups and Unitarian-Universalist churches which profess no belief in any God and discourage the believe in the traditional, orthodox understanding of God. One of the most notable Atheist churches is the North Texas Church of Freethought, established by 3 former Catholics and 1 former Methodist. Their church has a membership of just over 200 people, thought to be the biggest atheist congregation in the world. They meet on Sundays at the same time as other religions so that their members ‘can enjoy the same social and community benefits that other churchgoers enjoy’.  This church is mostly concerned with issues of justice, honesty, and values and believes that making the correct moral choices has everything to do with a person having a rational thinking mind. The church focuses on the human condition, living a better life, making moral decisions, and seeking meaning. There are a varitety of sermon topics and the lastest of which included, “Gratitude, Our Amercian Freedoms, Bioscience, Biotech, and Bioethics.”  The church also offers “Freethought Sunday School” in which the members childern are taught moral critical thinking and the right moral choices without a religious aspect. Though I believe their reasons for meeting are completely understandable, I disagree with their use of religious terminology. Using the word ‘church’ seems to defeat their purpose for being so-called atheists. I believe that many of these atheists that attend these churches are converts from other religious traditions who seek to retain some of what they think are the important apsects of their former religion. Just like a Christian parent may sometimes desire for his child to get a Christian and God-filled education, an Atheist may want their child to attend a non-theistic based class or school. However, many other Atheists oppose the idea of Atheist churches. The head of the organization American Atheists it not fond of the idea of Atheist churches because she represents an organization based upon the opposition of organized religion, which is what these Atheist churches seem to be. I am curious of  what the New Atheists would have to say about this, but with Dawkins calling himself a ‘cultural Christian’,  I can’t imagine him opposing the Atheist churches.

Just kidding…

…or am I.

No I am. But I want to remind us all that we are graduating as THEOLOGY MAJORS! That means we are now expected to have all the answers about God and religion by everyone who finds out what we went to school for. I know you feel as confident in rising to the challenge as I do.

But seriously, we have learned a lot this last semester about doing good theology not to mention over the course of our four years of study. If we don’t know all the answers we have a pretty good grasp on how to find satisfying responses to the questions of the world. We did it with our panel presentations over issues that ranger from religious violence, to faith, to free will.

We should take some responsibility for the privileged ‘power’ that comes with studding theology. Though we may not feel completely ready for it, our degree gives us a different role in the community. We must be humble guides in the waters of ‘God Talk’ for our questioning churches, friends, coworkers, etc. We won’t be perfect but if we don’t step up who will? As Annie Dillard says, “There’s no one but us.”At the very least we should keep it interesting.

Posted by: stumpffk | May 13, 2009

The Trinity Renewed

I never thought last semester would have benefited me much to be honest.  It was an entire semester based on the trinity and philosophy, and let’s be honest, the Trinity has very little importance in our lives today, even if Lacugna disagrees. 

However, this semester, while working on my final thesis project, the doctrine of the Trinity finally reached full swing and meaning in my life.  Last semester, the doctrine of the Trinity was still as abstract to me as it was before, but working on evolution and God, my ideas were renewed and reaffirmed.   Working on my final thesis project and really re-evaluating my beliefs on evolution and God, the doctrine of the Trinity has become a foundational belief in my faith. 

After going to see Dr. Kenneth Miller last semester in his talk between biology and theology, I have been deeply interested in the seeming conflict between evolution and theology and he re-affirmed my belief that theology and biology could be reconciled, although I had no evidence.  Dr. Miller gave me more reason than before to believe that human evolution from primates was a reality and that this reality could still be compatible with the Christian view of God.

After investigating further, after my initial love of the integration between theology and biology, the trinity began to have real implications in my life, more so than I ever realized and more so than I ever was possible after last semester.  The doctrine of the Trinity was always an abstract doctrine that I never fully understood or thought applied to my life, until I started researching more on the Trinity and evolution.  I came to the ultimate realization that the doctrine of the Trinity was the only legitimate way to view God and evolution and that the only way we can reconcile a Christian God and the scientifically verifiable theory of evolution was through the interconnectedness of the Trinity.  Never before has the Trinity has such important meaning to me as I view evolution and the Christian notion of God.  For the first time, the Trinity has intimate meaning to me and I can thank not only Dr. Robinette for the suggestion to add the Trinity into my discussion, but also Fr. Voiss for introducing us to the ever so mysterious doctrine of the Trinity.

Posted by: amharmon | May 13, 2009

America’s Most Hated (Before Dawkins)

Hey everyone, I know that we didn’t talk much about any other Atheists during the seminar beside Dawkins and his henchmen, but I thought it would be interesting to talk of who led the Atheist movement before Dawkins came into the picture. Madalyn Murray O’Hair was America’s leading and most outspoken atheist and was dubbed ‘America’s Most Hated Woman’. She started the group American Atheists and remained its president for almost 30 years and she is most famous for the lawsuit Murray v. Curlett, in which it was ultimately determined (later by the Supreme Court) that prayer would no longer be allowed in public schools. She was known duirng her life for being extremely brash and tough with others and was known for turning many friends into enemies. Following the ending of prayer in public schools O’ Hair was able to rebuild her life from a life of relative obscurity and poverty to one of national notoriety. She believed that rationality (much like the New Atheists) should base peoples beliefs, not  superstitions or stories. She was noted with saying that for every church built, there should be a hospital put in its place. She apparently enjoyed insulting Christians to unbelievable levels (much like Dawkins) in order to gain public attention. Interestingly enough, her oldest son  Bill, ended up becoming a Christian in the Baptist denomination. This of course, was a huge blow to O’Hair’s public image, as Bill had been the reason she fought so hard to keep prayer out of public schools. She continued on as the head of American Atheists with her younger son and granddaughter to help her in the Atheist movement. She ended up coming to a tragic end of her life, when an ex-con who she hired to do office work killed and dismembered her, her son, and granddaughter.  Her eldest son Bill was saddened by the deaths but has still continued on in his Christian beliefs. He runs a website and organization now that promotes  Religious Freedom ( http://www.wjmurray.com ) and is even quoted with having called his mother as “an evil person who led many to hell”. In tying Murray-O’Hair in with the discussions of our class, I would be interested to see what Dawkins or any of the New Atheists have to say in regard to her. I believe that they would agree that she was a fundamental person in the Atheism movment and seemed to hold a lot of the same views as them.  Perhaps the New Atheists took a lesson from her in what to do and say to get media attention and gain followers. I would also be interested in how Tina Beattie would respond to O’Hair in the Atheist movement. I know Beattie talk about the sexist rhetoric the New Atheists use and wonder how she would respond to a woman in a position of power within the Atheist movement (granted O-Hair was not a ‘New Atheist’). It is interesting to see the parallels between O’Hair and the New Atheists, while also being aware of her brutal and tragic end. Her son Bill seems to think that she got what was coming to her. I wonder if that is true… Do we really follow and believe in a vengeful, vindicative God who would allow someone to be eliminated from the earth in such a brutal fashion, just to make a point?

Posted by: Jaime | May 13, 2009

Short Hand Wisdom for Allyson

This was meant to be a short post that turned into a really long one. I wanted to address Allyson’s post 4 Years of Faith Challenging Experience.

I thought, “Girl that’s so much stuff! I really feel for you!” All that time we bumped into each other and I never knew. I know you wouldn’t have wanted to share but I wish I could have been there more for you.

I totally understand your place with God. Whatever I expected from God, I never thought it would have been this much of a struggle. I guess this relationship with the Divine would be as straightforward as using the internet or my other relationships (which you can appreciate the difficulty in just maintaining human relationships).  Why doesn’t Christ just show himself to us?

I took Dawkins very seriously my first reading and let my self be shattered as if I was a glass statue hit by a cannon ball. For two whole days I couldn’t even talk to anyone because I didn’t know who I was or who I should be. My favorite prayer was “God, where the (expletive) are you.” I didn’t know if I would be anything at the end.

But I found at the end of all my searching this semester that I can give my heart to nothing else but the God pointed to by the Christian tradition and other faith traditions. Some days are better than and I still play in that nihilism occasionally but here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.

  • When I feel fully alive, present, and in love I feel something moving in me beyond myself and have a natural inclination to worship. When I feel crappy about myself I have trouble believing. Lesson: In times when I’m least qualified to make judgment calls I want to say there is no God. When I’m most qualified I feel there has to be a God.

Read More…

Posted by: andreaheyse | May 13, 2009

Faith and doubt

Faith and doubt, two tricky and very loaded words. So what do they mean to me and what have I learned about them?

Faith is a funny thing. Its a word that kept coming up in the New Atheist arguments. Metaphysics this, and empirically verifiable data that. The New Atheists would argue that having faith in a divine being was preposterous, but theists would counter the argument by saying that to believe science was as much of a faith leap as is was to believe in anything. Honestly I agree with both sides, taking a leap of faith on anything, God or science, is risky. We put our own credibility on the line by trusting the ideas we claim to have faith in and at any moment, potentially could be proven wrong. Its not an easy game to play but faith, as fluid and crazy as it may seem at times, is sometimes the only tangible thing to hold onto. Doubt is an instrumental part of faith though. Without it, we can’t expect our faith to grow. We learn through doubt and challenge and question. Hold onto the things you have faith in but don’t be afraid to look at those things head on and search for meaning. If faith and doubt are worth anything, its the ability and freedom to pursue what we hold to be true.

Posted by: andreaheyse | May 13, 2009

Improvement on religious education

One of the prompter questions Dr. Robinette sent us was: “Do you think religious education in our parishes and schools are adequate to give people a basis for engaging ideas like we’ve encountered this semester? How might religious education be improved in that regard?” This was a question that pertains pretty perfectly to my paper so I’ll dabble a bit:

First off, I don’t think that religious ed. in the churches or schools is doing a great job of introducing pluralistic ideas. That being send, I’m sure it depends on where the church/school is located and I’m also coming off of my own personal experiences where looking back, I don’t think it was enough. I think that the earlier in childhood that concepts of pluralism can be introduced, the better. Why not start ideas of acceptance as early as we can? When I was in grade school and high school, I can’t ever remember having a conversation even remotely surrounding the concept of atheism or really anything other than Catholicism. Going to Catholic schools it would make sense to be taught those concepts but I think that kids need to get a grasp on the bigger picture well before college, when I started thinking about these things. I think the models of either multi-religious education or interreligious education are great ways to improve upon these shortcomings. I don’t know how ready the U.S. would be for these ideas at this time but I think starting small, with religious ed classes and private school religion classes could be one option.

Posted by: andreaheyse | May 12, 2009

Final panel presentations:

Initially I was pretty excited to give my final panel presentation because 1.) I was pumped to share my research which I found to be pretty intriguing and 2.) I’m pretty comfortable in front of a crowd, except when its in an academic setting where I tend to be a bit nervous so I thought it would be a great way to practice sharing my ideas to a crowd I was pretty sure would be receptive to it. 

In preparing my “script” for the presentation, I basically just went through my whole paper and tried to pull out what I thought would be the most important aspects to share in a coherent way. It was tough though because really, I could only say about 6 pages worth of material taken from a 25 page paper. I remember thinking to myself, how do authors of entire books do presentations like this if I’m having trouble pairing it down from just a paper. Once I had the script down, it was just a matter of putting together powerpoint slides and bing bang boom, I was ready to go! 

Like I mentioned earlier, presenting my thoughts in an academic setting tends to make me a bit nervous, no matter how much of a people person I am outside of class (hence why you rarely heard my voice during the course of the seminar). After the presentations though, the positive feedback on my research and personal ideas was pretty great. I even had a friend tell me that someone told him about my presentation a couple days later. Who would have thought! Not me, thats for sure. So I guess, I’m learning (better late than never) that I can open my mouth in that setting and I do have something to say.

Posted by: andreaheyse | May 12, 2009

how did i get here?

So after my freshman year here at SLU, I decided to make the large jump from Physical Therapy with a minor in Theology to a double major in Theology and International Studies. One of the biggest questions I always get after telling someone that is “Why the big switch?” Well I knew that I needed a change, something just wasn’t quite right for me being a PT major. Although I enjoyed it and thought I could make a good Physical Therapist, I didn’t think that it was what I was supposed to do. 

The switch has really proved to be an incredible one for so many reasons. I have grown, challenged, changed, and questioned religion in general but most specifically my own views of religion. I, like I’m sure many of you, came into SLU pretty sure about where I stood with the religion of my childhood. What I came to discover after becoming a Theology major was that the religion of my childhood had served its purpose at the time but was not something I could identify with any longer. This was a scary realization but a necessary one. Over the last three years or so my opinions have changed and perspective opened wide to pluralism and the appreciation of differences. This was part of the reason I wanted to pair Theology with International Studies. Since I am so intrigued by other people, cultures, countries and traditions I have found that one of the best ways to learn about others all over the world is to try and understand where their beliefs lie. To understand ones concept of the divine (or lack there of) is to look into their world for even a little bit.

Posted by: stumpffk | May 12, 2009

The Big Bang and The Resurrection

So this post is a long time coming but here it is.  Last Easter my priest back home gave a homily somehow relating Jesus and time travel and how Jesus pretty much defies all time travel and time restraints through his resurrection on the third day… I don’t really remember it that well.  This year, around Easter time I was doing research for my paper and working on writing it and I was reading Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God and I was at the part where Collins talks about Stephen Hawking and his work, A Brief History of Time which if I remember correctly had a lot to do with the cosmos theory and the big bang. 

So I went to Easter mass with my family on Sunday and the same priest from last year gets up for his homily and reiterates some of the points he made last year and began talking about the big bang and pulled out a book someone gave him in the congregation after last year: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.  He started relating how the Big Bang was this huge event in time that is still causing the universe to expand and still affects us today.  He then tied this in to Jesus’ resurrection in that, just like the Big Bang, Jesus’ resurrection is still resonating and affecting us today.  I found that an extremely interesting link to make and one I particularly found intriguing and interesting considering not two days earlier I was reading all about Stephen Hawking and the Big Bang.  Anyway I thought it was an extremely weird coincidence and I though I would share.

Posted by: trev0rclark | May 12, 2009

A Final Call to Compassion

One of the things I’ve noticed that the New Atheists really want to purport (in the extermination of religion) is compassion. Although all of us agree that their methods are extremely misguided, their goal is to eliminate oppressive and hateful groups that perpetuate violence. Like I said, I think that the New Atheists make themselves vulnerable to their own criticism, but their critique is one that is important because we often neglect the gospel messages for the sake of Church politics and maintaining authority. Perhaps it is time we reevaluate our goals.

            I was struck pretty hard with Rachel’s story about the woman who asked how this course on The New Atheism was a specifically “Catholic” class. I share her unease with this type of comment that, at its core, alienates other Christian traditions as having legitimate contributions to discussions of faith. Although I am Catholic, I was raised in the United Church of Christ. I, for one, think I have struck a type of balance between these two faiths, but find that my spirituality grows and flourishes in the Catholic tradition. But, I am incapable of escaping completely some of my protestant sensibilities and, as a result, I tend to side with the UCC on certain issues.

              Because I think this call for compassion and altruism, (which I should throw out there is NOT first put forth by the New Atheists, but finds in these authors a new and somewhat less sophisticated version of altruism), is something to be taken seriously, I think we need to make sure we are examining our own political structures within the Church to see if we are still participating in institutional oppression. I don’t mean to bring us to a heated political debate on the last day of the blog, but I wanted to throw out there that after 4 years of philosophy and theology, I think “love is all you need” could become my new MO. Forget theories of justice and political right. Forget abstract searches for truth and formal causality. Whether you think we are built/created/formed/evolved, the answer for human interaction is always the same: compassion.  

 

Thanks everyone for a wonderful semester. God bless.

Posted by: crewsnr | May 12, 2009

A Little Reminiscing…

During these last couple weeks, I have been remembering these last four years of college and all of the memories I have from this period of my life.  As a result of the education I have received and my experiences during this time, I am a very different person than the eighteen year old who showed up for college in August of 2005.  I have truly enjoyed being a Theology major and have really learned a lot, particularly in the last year.   I have really benefited from the two senior Seminars and want to say thank you to all my peers who have shared their ideas and thoughts with me and listened to mine over the last couple years.

I decided to become a theology major because I wanted to learn more about my faith and deepen my understanding of Christianity and other religions in order to teach others about it.  And I quickly discovered that I had a lot to learn!  I still remember the day four years ago when I was introduced to the historical-critical method for interpreting Scripture and other texts.  Looking back on the two large paper projects from this year, I am amazed at how much I learned and gained from those experiences.  I have watched some of my fundamental beliefs and ideas about God have changed in this last year.   It has been very exciting, and I know that it will serve me well in the future!  I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity to work with all of you and to learn about my faith!

Posted by: crewsnr | May 12, 2009

Faith in the Search for the Historical Jesus?

jesusSeveral days ago, I was reading an article on PBS’s Frontline internet page about the historical Jesus and modern society’s search for his identity.  It seems like every year, particularly during Easter, someone writes an article or a TV show is aired about the identity of Jesus.  I could not help but think that the New Atheists would applaud this effort even though they would disagree with its purpose and its intentions.

These articles and shows usually try to answer two questions: Who was this man?  And what do we actually know about him?  The first question can be answered in many different ways.  Some people believe he was a good moral teacher and social worker.  Others think he was a charismatic leader attempting to overthrow Roman rule.  A few suggest that he was a crazy lunatic.  And many believe that he was God Incarnate.

Yet, can we historically verify any of these claims?  Read More…

Posted by: buckleyr | May 12, 2009

Atheist Intolerance

Looking for inspiration for my final blog entry of the semester, I of course went to my trusted YouTube link, and as usual, it did not let me down. I found a video that was actually a CNN News story about atheist intolerance. The reporter was interviewing a couple that had let it be known in their Mississippi town that they were atheists. Shortly after, their child had no friends to play with, the husband’s boss got complaint phone calls at work, and people drove by the family’s home just to stare at them. The news story went on to say that atheists are the least trusted and least accepted minority group in the country. Some have even lost jobs due to their atheism.

When I watched the clip and learned of many of the injustices that atheists have to experience due to the refusal of acceptance by many theists, I was quite disheartened. It really made me realize even more exactly how much religious groups can learn from New Atheist claims and accusations. As theists, we generally teach messages of love, acceptance, and compassion to all types of people, especially minority groups. Still, why is it so hard for some of us to accept those that have different beliefs about God than we do? Generally, we pride ourselves on setting peaceful examples to the world, but what kind of example does this set? To atheists, it only tells them that our God loves everyone, except them. Actions like this only highlight the hypocrisy of some religious people. So, in actuality, as I have thought all semester, some of Dawkins’ criticisms are valid. Christians and other religious people should not ignore these critiques, but work to correct them. We really can learn from atheists how to be better theists.

Here is the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbjIYvXpvLM

Posted by: amharmon | May 12, 2009

4 years of Faith Challenging Experiences

When I first arrived at SLU, in no way did  I envision that I would experience so many situations throughout my career here that would cause me to question my faith. Having been raised in the church, I dealt with many troubling situations (from severe poverty to abuse) in which I was taught to just handle them and that God would never let me suffer more than he thought I could handle. It was only during my time at SLU that I began to truly question whether a God was there and if he actually saw me.  For example, my freshman year I began to suffer from intense physical pain all over that was so debilitating, that sometimes I would not be able to get out of bed. Later having received the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, I was forced to try and cope with the pain as best as I could, because my insurance would not cover all of my medications. At the same time, my family was going through their own troubling situations. My step-father having been diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s disease (ALS) a few years before was becoming more and more sick. I watched him go from a walking, talking, piano/organ player, runner, and attorney to a depressed, moody, yet still brilliant person who could no longer do basic things like feed himself, much less walk. This had a profound affect on my family and caused much tension and sadness within the house. My mother became diagnosed as manic depressive, fell into a deep depression, in which she was basically unreachable by anyone. My older sister, suffering from her own Post-traumatic stress, became suicidal and deeply depressed. Also causing problems was my step-sisters son, (who was living in our house) who was basically a true problem child. Angry at his mother for abandoning him, he took out his frustrations in many ways, from destroying rooms of the house, to lying, stealing, hiding knives in his room, to hurting and abusing his younger brother. This further created tension within the house, though I thought that at college I would not be as affected by these situations. I dealt with my pain silently during this first year, but managed to surface with my faith basically unscratched.

My sophmore year proved to be one of the most challenging, as the situations at home worsened and I was asked to be home as much as possible to help out. At the same time, I began to struggle with many personal issues including my health, troubled relationships, and coming to terms with those childhood memories that I could no longer ignore. I began to ultimately question why God would have had suffer through of all of those experiences for no benefit or reason. I wondered if God meant for some believers to suffer more than others and at the same time, began to doubt that God had ever been there at all for me. I became consumed in a lifestyle that made no place for a God to exist within it and began to turn further away from my background and faith. It was also during this year that I took two theology classes that forced me to question my upbringing and understanding of the Christian faith. I took Sexual Ethics with Rubio and Christianity in Africa and Asia with McClymond and by what I learned in both classes, I came to my own conclusions that God existed but that he was nowhere near me.  These thoughts were furthered by my experiences duirng my second semester. I returned from abroad ready to face all of the problems and situations I had openly ignored for a semester. During the second semester, in the first month, my stepfather was put on life-support following a collapsed lung and was tranferred throughout numerous hospitals in IL. At the same time, I underwent many doctors appointments and consultations/tests, as my doctors became suspicious that I suffered from lymphoma. Thankfully by the end of the semester these tests were found to be negative, but due to all of my appointments and trying to visit my stepdad I missed a lot of classes, which forced to me to take one incomplete in a class and to withdraw from another.

That summer, I visited my stepfather more, as his condition worsened. At that point, doctors had performed a tracheotomy on him (meaning he had to use an artificial ‘voicebox’ to talk) and he was being weaned off of life support. By the end of the summer, the family dynamic had grown increasingly weak, though most of us held onto hope that my stepdad would be able to eventually return home and be in more peace there than in the nursing home type facilites that he had been kept in. In the beginning of August following a long, fun day of celebrating my sister’s 15th birthday, my mom received a call that night that changed everything. My stepfather had died of a heart attack on the ONE night where no one had gone to visit him. We all felt different feelings of pain, guilt, and abandonement and were forced to continues on in our lives. No less than 4 days had passed since we had attended my step-father’s funeral in Atlanta, when I had to move back in in St. Louis. I struggled to begin my senior year as unchanged to my friends and as a great student to my teachers. I found it difficult, however to relate to people and to be able to talk about my life’s events without making the situation akward.

In the first semester, I found most everyone to be very understanding and sympathetic, yet could no longer relate to any of my friends. I found myself seeing all of them less and less and becoming more distant. Then during the my second semester (this semester), my family seemed to be being torn apart due to how each person was dealing with their grief and stress. On top of that I had a growth that looked suspicious to three doctors, the final of which basically told me that I had stage -one melanoma. I became worried and thought about death itself and my own mortality and of God’s relation to me. I thought of al of the dreams that I had and of all the things that I could possibly never do and became increasingly worried and sad. Following the surgery, the growth was found to be abnormal and atypical,  yet non-cancerous! I was ecstatic to say the least and geared up to finish strong in a semester in which I had missed a lot classes.

At this point, I find myself on the edge of my college career and becoming ready for life in the real world. I feel that my faith is slowly creeping back into my life, yet I still lack a feeling of closeness with God. This lack is no longer due to me associating all of the trials of my life with a God who failed to act or care, but has become a belief in God who is distant perhaps by my actions. I know that life is only going to bring more trials and rough spots to me, but at this point, while maintaining my faith in God, I feel that I lack closeness to him, leaving me to question his role in my life. I am curious if anyone has had any similar experiences, leading them to question their beliefs and faith. I am also curious if anyone has any advice for regaining that close, personal relationship with God that I once had.

.

Posted by: buckleyr | May 12, 2009

More on Religion and Violence

I was discussing my final research project for this class with a friend, and I told him that it was about religion and violence/nonviolence. He told me that he agreed that violence is certainly not just caused by religion, but by human beings as well. However, when violence is backed by religion, there is no stopping it. This sounded strangely similar to many of the claims that the New Atheists make in regards to religious moderates and how it can many times lead to extremism because religious people are trained that I they believe something because of their religion, it is not to be questioned. This had a lot to do with my paper topic, so I had a reply.

Ward claims that there is both religious extremism and atheist extremism. An important difference is that religious extremists have the means to change with the foundations of peace and love that are found in their very religion. Because they are religious, they have a way to correct their own violent actions with peace and compassion. I do not know how likely it is that religious extremist groups will actually change their ways of thinking due to the teachings of their respective religions; however, I do know that religion does in fact provide foundations for movements of peace. This is exactly what my research this semester was about, as I explored particularly the religious influence on the Civil Rights Movement. Still, I won’t go into too much detail on that here, since you all have already heard my presentation. My point is simply that, unlike my friend, I don’t think religious violence is more unstoppable than any other type of violence, nor is it necessarily the most dangerous type. Most violence is not generally about religion, but politics. It is all destructive, and maybe we should stop looking at religious differences so much that cause this extremism, but the other reasons for it as well.

Posted by: buckleyr | May 12, 2009

New Atheists vs. “Regular” Atheists

Earlier today, I was having lunch with a friend who claims to be “Atheist/ Agnostic.” We were talking about our classes this semester, and of course, my senior seminar came up. We then proceeded to have a deep discussion of the New Atheists and their claims. He was actually familiar with Dawkins, which helped in our discussion. This was the first time I had discussed the New Atheist movement with a real life atheist. I really enjoyed this conversation. First, because as I was talking about the subject with him, it really hit me how much I had learned and explored this semester. And second, because I finally got to hear what a regular person had to say about the writings and scholarship of Dawkins and his colleagues.

We discussed the fancy and biased rhetoric that Dawkins uses, and my friend admitted to some of the exaggerated claims that Dawkins makes. While I said that the New Atheists use “strawman arguments” to criticize religion, my friend thinks that they use their rhetoric simply to get attention. Even my friend, an atheist, believed that half of Dawkins’ book was to market himself and his ideas. If half of the New Atheism is just marketing, then what is real about their ideas?

This conversation really made me think about the New Atheists and how they are influencing (or failing to influence) other atheists. How many everyday atheists are subscribing to what the New Atheists say, and how many agree with my friend? I think this would be a topic for further exploration, especially to see what direction the New Atheism might go in the future.

Posted by: strasskt | May 11, 2009

Deeper Horizons

Throughout this semester, I have come to find that studying New Atheism has been like learning a new culture. It was something I had not been exposed to, and I was forced to engage in conversation about topics I was unfamiliar with, especially science. Classes like this make me realize how much I appreciate being able to study other cultures at SLU. It is a privilege to have this opportunity at a religious institution. I know many Christian schools which focus their studies solely on Christianity. I have always felt that SLU maintains an open atmosphere that is welcoming to the variety of voices that exist today. Last semester I took a Psychology course about Cross-Cultural Psychology. In my evaluation I said that every student should be required to take the class. For me, broadening my horizons is a priority. After all, it is the nature of learning. Specifically, I find learning about different peoples an especially crucial form of study. As we talked about in my Psychology course, every person is raised in a different culture, even if they grow up in the same house. I hope I’m not straying too much off topic, but I think this class has opened my mind to new perspectives in the same way my Psychology course did.

Posted by: allenrachel | May 11, 2009

What has being a theological studies major meant to me?

It has meant late nights with brilliant minds.

It has meant taking classes because I was interested, not required. 

It has meant knowing that I do not know everything, and that is a good thing.

It has meant getting to know those human beings who will be undoubtedly be changing this world for the better.

It has meant thinking critically about my most important beliefs.

It has meant praise and lamentation.

It has meant becoming more of the person God created me to be.

It has meant asking others to do the same.

It has meant learning more of our collective narrative.

It has meant learning to write that narrative for others to read.

It has meant long conversations in the Humanities building that are ultimately about friendship, not schoolwork.

It has meant using faith and reason simultaneously.

It has meant learning more about the faith in which I grew up.

It has meant learning about the other faiths in the world.

It has meant a new idea of vocation.

It has meant evangelization.

It has meant speaking out against injustice.

It has meant being silent in prayer.

It has meant an education that has meant more than I knew it would.

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