Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Religion incongruence as the norm

Mark Chaves, of Duke sociology, has written this very interesting paper about what he calls religious congruence (or, more appropriately, religious incongruence).

He uses "'religious congruence' in three related senses: (1) individuals' religious ideas constitute a tight, logically connected, integrated network of internally consistent beliefs and values; (2) religious and other practices and actions follow directly from those beliefs and values; and (3) the religious beliefs and values that individuals express in certain, mainly religious, contexts are consistently held and chronically accessible across contexts, situations, and life domains. In short, it can mean that religious ideas hang together, that religious beliefs and actions hang together, or that religious beliefs and values indicate stable and chronically accessible dispositions in people."

He then makes the case that "people's religious ideas and practices generally are fragmented, compartmentalized, loosely connected, unexamined, and context dependent. This is not a controversial claim; it's established knowledge. But this established knowledge does not inform our research and thinking as centrally and deeply as it should."

I like this article because it moves us away from holding up an ideal of religion as some tight, consistent scientific proposition, and it allows for a messier, richer understanding of it. In that sense, religion is much more like everything else in life than it is a scientific equation.

Thanks Jay!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Becoming a diva

It's a well-known unvalidated assumption that best-selling authors are also high-maintenance people to work with; in short, they are divas. Because I've never seen any studies that establish the causality direction of this relationship, I'm not taking any chances. As such, I am trying to become (even) more difficult to work with, just in case it helps with sales.

My first effort: The publicist at Bethany House asked me to get a cellphone so that he could get a hold of me more easily for last minute interviews regarding my new book.

Well, the old me would have happily agreed, but I put some thought into it, and I replied that I would, as long as I got the request as a Haiku.

I received the following Haiku, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and off I went to get a cell phone.

Hungry media
monster never satisfied;
cell phone appeases

I think I like this high-maintenance thing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

An article on deconversion from Christianity

I've just published an article on deconversion from Christianity, i.e., why some Christians leave the faith. In it, three coauthors and I examined 50 on-line accounts in which people who have left Christianity explain why they did so. Their accounts coalesce into several themes, including:
* Theological concerns
* God failing them
* Interactions with Christians
* and interactions with non-Christians.

It's in the Journal of Religion & Society, an interesting on-line journal.

Here's the abstract: 

"This article examines the written narratives from fifty former Christians. In these narratives, drawn from an online community of deconverts, the writers described their experiences with and explanations for leaving the Christian faith. Several themes emerged as to why they left, including: intellectual and theological concerns, a feeling that God had failed them, and various frustrations with Christians. The writers gave little mention to non-Christians as pulling them out of the faith. These narratives emphasized external, rather than internal, attributions for the deconversion. They also identified primarily “push” rather than “pull” factors as the cause of deconversion. While some narratives outlined the costs and benefits of deconversion, others told of seeking moral rightness regardless of the cost."

Let me know what you think...

Friday, May 13, 2011

On the receiving end of the Flynn Effect

The Flynn Effect is the observation that IQ scores have steadily risen across the world for decades now. While this social fact is open to multiple interpretations, I have certainly witnessed in my own life. That is, my kids are definitely smarter and better educated than I was at their age.

Case in point: 10-year-old Gus and I last night went to the local middle school orientation for next year, and he came home talking about whether he wanted to learn Latin or German (French, Spanish, and Chinese being the other options). When I was entering fifth grade, I think the only new words that I was learning were vulgarities.

This morning, when I was making him breakfast, I listened to him humming a classical tune that he's learning in his piano lessons. At that point, I realized that I too had been humming--the theme from the Flintstones.

I'm all for my kids doing better in life than I have, but they are taking it too far!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thanks that I'm thankful for today

I had a nice conversation yesterday with my friend Mark, and he talked about how our perception of what we need in life varies substantially by where we live in the world--distinguishing "first-world" vs. "third-world" needs.

So, today I have been thankful for many of the things that I normally don't take time to be thankful for, including:
* fresh, safe food to eat
* clean water to drink
* a sewer system to remove waste
* a sturdy house to keep the elements out
* the prospect of decades more life to enjoy.

What are you thankful for today?