Recent quotes:

This is your brain on God: Spiritual experiences activate brain reward circuits -- ScienceDaily

"When our study participants were instructed to think about a savior, about being with their families for eternity, about their heavenly rewards, their brains and bodies physically responded," says lead author Michael Ferguson, who carried out the study as a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Utah. Based on fMRI scans, the researchers found that powerful spiritual feelings were reproducibly associated with activation in the nucleus accumbens, a critical brain region for processing reward. Peak activity occurred about 1-3 seconds before participants pushed the button and was replicated in each of the four tasks. As participants were experiencing peak feelings, their hearts beat faster and their breathing deepened. In addition to the brain's reward circuits, the researchers found that spiritual feelings were associated with the medial prefrontal cortex, which is a complex brain region that is activated by tasks involving valuation, judgment and moral reasoning. Spiritual feelings also activated brain regions associated with focused attention.

Thou Shalt Work Out | Outside Online

health-minded Christian pundits have hailed First Baptist as a shining example of what’s possible when religion and fitness unite. In late 2009, the church invested a quarter of a million dollars to renovate its existing 25,000-square-foot rec center, making it a viable alternative to the city’s upscale health clubs. Besides the Group X room—a full-size basketball court where 14 instructors teach pilates, TRX, high-intensity interval training, “Godspeed Spin,” and other classes throughout the week—the facility has two weight rooms with HFB-branded Cybex machines, a cardio room, an indoor track, sprawling locker rooms, a hydromassage bed, and, for good measure, six bowling lanes.

Iowa neighborhoods and churches

To explain Iowa’s swing state status, Lasley notes that Iowa has had a reputation as a conservative state with values that focus on farm, faith, and family. But in Iowa, those community values also tend to have what Lasley called a “progressive edge”: Iowa has never had segregated schools and in 1851 became the second state to legalize interracial marriage. In 2009, Iowa became the third state to legalize same-sex marriage. “It’s hard to hate someone when you have to live next to them and you depend on them for help and you sit elbow to elbow with them in the pew every Sunday morning,” Birkby says. “This is what has always made Iowa so great. We are great neighbors, because we have to be. Or we were anyway.”

How did Calvinism survive in Hungary?

In Hungary the situation is different, due mostly to the semi-independent Transylvanian Principality (1570-1711) and the Ottoman occupation of the central parts of the Kingdom of Hungary (1541-1699). In the principality, the elected princes were either converts to Calvinism, as in the case of János Zsigmond, the first prince of Transylvania (1565-1571), or were already born as Calvinists and were therefore promoters of freedom of religion. In the case of the Ottoman-held territories, Catholic aristocratic families fled north or west into so-called Royal Hungary, and therefore their former serfs could follow their own religious inclinations.

Los Angeles Churches Make Worship...Hip? - The New York Times

“What Waze is doing is navigating the scene,” he said, to a chorus of “yeahs” and “mm-hmms.” “It’s taking in all the information, it’s taking in other people’s traffic patterns, it’s taking in, what’s happening that we don’t even know behind the scene, and Waze makes decisions for us that we don’t realize is for our benefit. “What we need to do when we interact with God,” he said, “and he tells us to go somewhere, we need to be like Waze, where we are excited about the journey, to take turns that we didn’t even realize were ahead of us. We’re going to go to places that we weren’t even certain we wanted to go.” Mary Tanagho Ross, a lawyer and longtime Mosaic congregant, said the church’s style of preaching resonates. “I love that I can understand what they’re saying, and I don’t need somebody to interpret that for me,” she said. “It just feels really real, really authentic. I think that’s what people want: authenticity and simplicity.”

The Writer Runner | Runner's World

These early minutes are the gray space, the bland miles I have to run through before the prickling starts and the God rhythms pulse in my heart and I have to trick myself into not listening. My therapist says when this happens, it's the first hit of endorphins. It's not God, it's biology, he says. My therapist is not a runner.

How Globalization Fuels Terrorism and Fundamentalism

In the past, Ladakhis would rarely identify themselves as Buddhists or Muslims, instead referring to their household or village of origin. But with the heightened competition brought by development, that began to change. Political power, formerly dispersed throughout the villages, became concentrated in bureaucracies controlled by the Muslim-dominated state of Kashmir, of which Ladakh was part. In most countries the group in power tends to favor its own kind, while the rest often suffer discrimination. Ladakh was no exception. Political representation and government jobs—virtually the only jobs available to formally-schooled Ladakhis—disproportionately went to Muslims. Thus ethnic and religious differences—once largely ignored—began to take on a political dimension, causing bitterness and enmity on a scale previously unknown.

Why running can be prayer | USCatholic.org

Like running, prayer is a discipline that takes repeated practice. I have noticed that if I don’t pray one night, it is more difficult to return the next night. I can fill those minutes with so many other activities: watching television, scrolling endlessly on my phone, worrying about the future. Jesuit Joe Simmons writes, “When I fall away from running—or for that matter, from praying—I feel out of sorts and lazy; alien to my best self.” To say that I have made writing and prayer habitual actions is not to devalue their significance. Rather, when something becomes habit, it becomes part of our skin and soul. I run to run faster; I pray to pray better.

Seventh Day Adventism

they also hold many false and strange doctrines. Among these are the following: (a) the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon; (b) the pope is the Antichrist; (c) in the last days, Sunday worship will be "the mark of the beast"; (d) there is a future millennium in which the devil will roam the earth while Christians are with Christ in heaven; (e) the soul sleeps between death and resurrection; and (f) on the last day, after a limited period of punishment in hell, the wicked will be annihilated and cease to exist rather than be eternally damned. (For rebuttals of many of these ideas, see the Catholic Answers tracts, The Antichrist, The Hell There Is, Hunting the Whore of Babylon, The Whore of Babylon, and Sabbath or Sunday?)

How to understand ‘biblical inerrantists’

But the most revealing part of this document is the main section not-at-all-pretentiously titled “Articles of Affirmation and Denial.” This section will teach you everything you need to know about this bunch of would-be authorities. The 19 — excuse me, XIX (Roman numerals are more imperially authoritative) — “articles” each includes a raw assertion followed by a related denial. Those denials are the important bit. Read them. But as you do, replace the phrase “We Deny that …” in each of those articles with the phrase “We Fear that …” Or, better yet, “We Have a Terrifying, Gnawing Suspicion that …” Or even “We Lie Awake at Night Desperately Wishing We Had Some Substantial and Convincing Response to the Claim that …”

America's religious divide

Given the power of right-wing religiosity in this country it’s not surprising that there should be a very fierce atheist and rationalist countermovement. I am actually one of these people who really likes watching those YouTube videos with titles like, “Christopher Hitchens owns idiotic Texan religionist” or whatever. I actually watch that stuff and enjoy it. But when I drift down to the comments section, I’m always amazed anew that there are quite so many atheists in this country, and that they are quite so completely fanatical. That is to say, if you are unwise enough, as I have been, to write a sort of plague on both their houses type of piece, in which you are mildly critical of certain elements of the new atheism as well as being fairly obviously critical of religiosity, you get no quarter from the atheistic camp.

Dylan learned about rock from Billy Graham

When I was growing up, Billy Graham was very popular. He was the greatest preacher and evangelist of my time — that guy could save souls and did. I went to two or three of his rallies in the ’50s or ’60s. This guy was like rock ’n’ roll personified — volatile, explosive. He had the hair, the tone, the elocution — when he spoke, he brought the storm down. Clouds parted. Souls got saved, sometimes 30- or 40,000 of them. If you ever went to a Billy Graham rally back then, you were changed forever. There’s never been a preacher like him. He could fill football stadiums before anybody. He could fill Giants Stadium more than even the Giants football team. Seems like a long time ago. Long before Mick Jagger sang his first note or Bruce strapped on his first guitar — that’s some of the part of rock ’n’ roll that I retained. I had to. I saw Billy Graham in the flesh and heard him loud and clear.

‘You can’t insult the faith of others': Pope on Charlie Hebdo

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Newspaper Edits Female World Leaders Out of Charlie Hebdo March | Mediaite

Rules for Jewish conversion in flux

Not long ago, Israel passed legislation that intended to make Jewish conversions less difficult. The bill’s final form, however, gave the chief rabbinate control over the approval of all conversion certificates; this compromise will result only in more bureaucratic mix-ups and disagreements about the converts’ legitimacy — and their right to invoke the Law of Return, by which countless Jews have found safe haven and refuge in Israel.The Rabbinical Council of America, which oversees Orthodox conversions, strictly adheres to the chief rabbinate’s standards. For example, unmarried conversion candidates are often required to refrain from dating until their conversion is approved, a process that can take years. Many candidates are required to move to Orthodox neighborhoods and enroll their children in full-time private Jewish day schools — a formidable financial obstacle.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Being Jewish - The Atlantic

Orthodox Judaism generally requires the most hours of an adherent's time, while Reform Judaism generally requires quite a lot less of an adherent's time. Therefore, based on income alone (which makes a person's time more or less valuable), “we would expect the members of Orthodox congregations to have the lowest wage rates and the members of Reform congregations to have the highest wage rates,” with Conservative Jews somewhere in the middle. And since education correlates well to income, we’d expect college and advanced degrees to be similarly-sorted throughout the denominations. Sure enough, Chiswick writes, “This pattern was clearly apparent by the mid-20th century.”
Despite the ample statistical analysis, the study hits a few stumbling blocks. Firstly it only takes into account analytical intelligence, disregarding creative and emotional intelligence. Moreover, it could be argued the study is not representative, as over 87 per cent of the participants involved in the various studies were from the US, the UK and Canada. Also, the predominant religion is the study is Protestantism, while other beliefs are not investigated.