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March 1, 2017 / compassioninpolitics

Critique of the Secular Policy Institute

As the footnotes of his wikipedia page point out: “Zuckerman’s work is based on his studies conducted during a 14-month period in Scandinavia in 2005–2006.” or this key distinction: “Zuckerman interviewed Danes and Swedes. He didn’t interview Finns or Norwegians.” Initially, that seems to be a rather small data points. The question of representativeness and sample size is certainly in question. He only had 149 interviews.
The question of the Dane’s Christianity or religiousity is intitially problematic:

>The problem of interpreting religion in Scandinavia is highlighted in Ina Rosén’s 2009 dissertation, I’m a Believer—but I’ll be Damned if I’m Religious. x It concerns the difficulty of using traditional religious language in interviews and surveys. When the focus groups in her survey/interviews talked about religion, they connected to what Rosén calls “routinized religion,” a category in line with her concept “packed religion.” When using this type of category or conception, religion appears “thin, cultural, declining or diffuse” in Denmark—a statement, therefore, in accordance with Zuckerman’s findings. **However, when Rosén used an “unpacked” conception of religion, she was able to conclude that three-quarters of the Danes are believers;xi a “glaring contrast” to Zuckerman’s results. In sum, after passing a religious language barrier, this recent study shows that a “majority of Danes believe or are willing to identify as religious to a lesser or greater extent.”xii Putting the pieces of evidence together thus allows a critical perspective on Zuckerman’s contention that the Scandinavian societies are secular.**

Not to mention, I think the notion of secularism is a historical one too, which some have critiqued Zuckerman about.
But more to the point, the level of analysis (countries and states) is particularly odd. Studies at the level of the individual, which is ultimately where we make decisions like this favor religion as a means to happiness and well-being. Large swaths of research point in this direction, such that its one of the core principles that the research aggregated at the University of Pennsylvania (and others) points to this connection. The Berkeley Center for Good even points to the importance of character, wisdom, and religion for happiness.

>**Such analyses of secularity and civility have been faulted for cherry-picking both their social health measures (for example, excluding suicide) and their countries (omitting North Korea, China, Vietnam, and the former Soviet states). Instead, they focus on secular countries whose values were fed by a Judeo Christian heritage. Still, ]* Zuckerman’s point can be extended to U.S. state-by-state comparisons.**
>The Southern states all have higher religious-adherence rates than the West Coast states. They also have slightly higher divorce rates and much higher crime and smoking rates. So once again, it looks like the least religious places are the healthiest and most flourishing.
>**But it’s individuals who experience more or less faith, happiness, and health. And, surprise, the correlations across individuals run the other direction. Among 45,859 American adults responding since 1972 to National Opinion Research Center surveys, the percentage of “very happy” people ranged from 28 percent of those who never attended religious services up to 48 percent of those who attended more than once a week.**

The Heritage Foundation has two white papers on this topic which summarize social science on this question:
1. *“Why Religion Matters”*
2. “Why *Religion Matters Even More”*

I highly recommend scanning the conclusions here in bullet list form:
Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability (http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/12/why-religion-matters-even-more-the-impact-of-religious-practice-on-social-stability)
Professor Philip Zuckerman even admits to alternative causalities, which is at least honest. And moreover, even atheists admit this connection (see the *The Atheist Case for Religion*).

David Myers, a psychologist points to the weaknesses of these comparisons:
* http://www.davidmyers.org/davidmyers/assets/ChronicleEssay.LTE.pdf (http://www.davidmyers.org/davidmyers/assets/ChronicleEssay.LTE.pdf)
* http://www.davidmyers.org/davidmyers/assets/Perspectives_NatSecularity.pdf (http://www.davidmyers.org/davidmyers/assets/Perspectives_NatSecularity.pdf)

You can read about the religion and well-being connection here:
>A 2012 review of more than 326 peer-reviewed studies of mainly adult populations found that out of those 326 studies, 256 (79%) found only significant positive associations between religiosity/spirituality and well-being. The author postulated that the positive influence of religion or spirituality on well-being can be explained through a few key mechanisms, such as religion’s role as a coping strategy and as a support system for prosocial behaviors. In addition, religious beliefs can potentially alter the way individuals cognitively react to stressors, and often, the regulations of most faiths decrease the likelihood of individuals experiencing particularly stressful life events (such as divorce or incarceration) (2).
I also don’t think Zuckerman looks at the benefits of the US system (innovation in health care, freedom, etc…). Also, the US defends the world, so that military spending is what enables a socialist experiment like those countries to survive in the first place. And, there is no way to know if the US had a more robust social safety net if similar cultural features would arise, which puts significant holes in his overall thesis if its mean to be comparative and/or apply to the US (and be, well scientific in any sense of the term).
Not only that but as sociology professor Lisa Graham McMinn points out
>Zuckerman sells humanity short. If people are content but no longer care about transcendent meaning and purpose or life beyond death, that’s not a sign of greatness but tragic forgetfulness. Their horizon of concern is too narrow. They were made for more. What does it profit a society if, as this book’s jacket notes, it gains “excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer,” but loses its soul? Can a country build strong social systems *and* keep its soul? While I am thankful for Zuckerman’s reminder about Christianity’s social implications, and the example of a place that meets those obligations differently than we do, I am sad he misses the rest.

Given that, this points to:
1. significant problems with Zuckermans study and method which call his study question
2. a large swath of counter-veiling peer reviewed studies (over 326) which focus on the individual, which call his conclusions into serious question.
3. A question about Zuckerman’s goals and priorities and assumptions.
Its worth noting that one of the main advocates of the secularism thesis from Boston University recanted.
Moreover, the work of Randy Foster has demonstrated the massive economic value of Christianity in quantiatative numbers, and its specific to the US’s history.
Sources:
* Critique of Zuckerman: http://liu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:438951/FULLTEXT01.pdf (http://liu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:438951/FULLTEXT01.pdf)

* Well Being Research: Spiritual Engagement and Meaning (http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/spiritual-engagement/)
And here’s more evidence: Religion and Well-being: Assessing the evidence (http://www.bethinking.org/is-religion-harmful/religion-and-wellbeing)

Source: Review: Society without God (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/february/13.57.html?start=1)

Update:
Rate of divorce, mental health overall, and rate of suicide is significant detractors from the Scandanavian story which Zuckerman omits. Each represents a problem for his thesis. Specifically:
*Scandinavia is a great place to live although perhaps not quite the utopia that Mr Zuckerman sometimes gets all misty-eyed about. Cultural religion is very strong here, the church is very liberal and the alternatives small or invisible. However society is changing, the consumerism and narcissism of modern life is proving to be wearing and empty. Scandinavians are prodigious users of antidepressants which seems at odds with the fact that it’s such a great place to live.*
Source: http://thesimplepastor.co.uk/book-review-a-society-without-god/ (http://thesimplepastor.co.uk/book-review-a-society-without-god/)
I think the historical context might also have some interesting things to say, not to mention what gave rise to these egalitarian leanings in the first place.
It seems particularly challenging that secularism leads to a kind of nihilism and lack of hope which feeds into the problems outlined above.
Another Update:
This cites another article that reviews Zuckerman’s thesis:
#51 Society Without God (https://thenakedtheologian.com/2011/04/01/51-society-without-god/)

I haven’t been able to access full version of this article:
Michal Pagis, review of *Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment* by Phil Zuckerman, *Journal of the American Academy of Religion* 79:1 (March 2011): 264-267
Update:

Finally, if you look at other evaluations of what countries are secular, his analysis seems to fall apart: List of countries by irreligion – Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_irreligion)
[click on each one of the frameworks and you get a different answer for which countries are secular, which dramatically swings all these kinds of evaluations]

February 28, 2017 / compassioninpolitics

Health, Nutrition, and Wellness Coaching for Senior Citizens

The Value of Change:

  • The Value of Nutrition for Seniors (Articles):
  • Quick article on nutrition for seniors
  • The Value of Nutrition for Seniors (Videos)
  • Specific Options/Plan for Working out for Seniors
  • The Value of Working Out for Seniors (Articles):
  • The Value of Working Out for Seniors (Videos):
  • Specific Options/Plan for Working out for Seniors

The Checklists:

  • Checklist/Calendar for Nutrition
  • Checklist/Calendar for Exercise
  • Checklist/Calendar for Water
  • Checklist/Calendar for Budgeting
  • Checklist/Calendar for Home & Car repairs
February 22, 2017 / compassioninpolitics

What is the meaning of chuch–what is the difference between Ekklesia and Koinonia in the Greek?

The essential meaning of the word church is:

Assembly, community, fellowship, sharing, or the called out.

I believe there are two Greek words for church used in the New Testament:

  • Ekklesia 
  • Koinonia

Here is a simple definition:

Here is a more theological definition of Ekklesia versus Koinonia:

Ekklesia:

a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly

  1. an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
  2. the assembly of the Israelites
  3. any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously
  4. in a Christian sensean assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meetinga company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sakethose who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one bodythe whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earththe assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven

Source: Ekklesia – New Testament Greek Lexicon – King James Version

Koinonia:

fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse

  1. the share which one has in anything, participation
  2. intercourse, fellowship, intimacythe right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)
  3. a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship

Source: Koinonia – New Testament Greek Lexicon – New American Standard

Based on a previous reading, I felt that koinonia was more verb-like. However, I’m sure the intent of both is to be active. Its about living out community that one becomes a true community.

February 19, 2017 / compassioninpolitics

Design Thinking Innovation Talk by Tim Brown CEO of IDEO at Khosla Ventures

Design Thinker Brunnel (designer & technologist).  Great western railway.

Applying the principles of Design to wider societal issues:

  1. Convergent versus Divergent Innovation.  How we think about problem solving (convergent versus divergent).  Create new choices and apply those.
  2. Integrative Thinking.  Analytical versus Holistic/Systems View/Integrated Way (Roger Martin–Integrative thinking–multiple tensions in your head and resolve those tensions).
  3. Focus on people.
  4. Prototyping.  Learning through making things.  “Prototyping speeds up the design process…The faster you make things and put them into the real world–the faster you learn about the quality of your idea and improve it.”  Time to first prototype.  Opportunity to disrupt via the speed of process.  (Medical device–a 7 week process, and first surgeries with 8 months later.  “Speed of prototyping can create enourmous advantage.”  Tim Brown)
  5. Collaboration.  Start movements, not just storytelling.  Good ideas rarely sell themselves.  “Telling stories isn’t enough.  We need to create movement.  Create real passionate involvement in the things we create.”  Have more people out in the world to be involved in the design process.”  For instance, OPEN Ideo process to tackle social innovation problems (via NGOS like Oxfam, etc..).  Small but passionate for 50,000 designers.  Lots of specific examples around crowdsourcing via OPEN Ideo.  For instance, Jamie Oliver.  Meaningful participant services, which derive value from.  21st century being the Creator economy (Creator versus Creative Economy).  Sappho.  Citizen Journalism to replace classified revenue. “We need to find new ways to be collaborative–we need to be creative about collaboration.”
  6. The Role and Psychology of Fear.  How do we create risk taking & playful & to explore without fear of failure.  Parenting so that they can learn and explore without a lot of risk.
  7. Simple Design.  Design–simplify.  For instance, simple legal agreement.
  8. Asking the right question.  It all depends on this.  It so often depends on the place you start from.  What types of question should you be asking about products, services, culture, communication, storytelling, etc..  (can apply design thinking to)

Design everything!!!

Q & A:

  • 4 Metrics on Open IDEO
  • Webs of innovation on Open IDEO
  • Ad hoc teams on Open IDEO.
  • Health Care innovation via human centric in terms of nurses and doctors.  Better and faster outcomes.
February 19, 2017 / compassioninpolitics

Steal Like an Artist TED Talk

 

The Key Points from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist TED Talk

  1. Creatives are collectors, not hoarders.
  2. Newspaper recycling.
  3. Newspaper blackout poems–like the CIA did Haiku
  4. Tom Phillips had a similar idea.  He borrowed from William Burrows (Cut up method), from Bryan Gyson.  Goes all the way back to the time of Benjamin Franklin.
  5. Every idea is a re-mix of previous ideas.  They teach you this in art school.
  6. Genetics proves you are a remix of mother and father.  You have a geneaology of ideas.  (family, friends, cities).  You are a mashup of what you let into your life.
  7. Build a family tree.
  8. “I am a creative clepto-maniac.”  “Steal things that really mean something to me.”
  9. Steve Jobs.  Trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and bring those things into what you are doing.”  Piccasso quote.
  10. David Bowie, “I’m more like a tasteful thief.”
  11. Whats worth stealing?
  12. Good art versus bad art versus worth stealing.
  13. TS Elliot.  “Immitate versus steal.”  Good poets turn it into something or better.
  14. Transformation is (really) flattery!!!
  15. Wendy McNaughten (rip it off).  (You can learn more here)
February 19, 2017 / compassioninpolitics

Design Thinking Talks at TED–Doing Real Problem Solving and Innovation

Design is about getting ideas out into the world, rather than keeping them in your head.

  • Your five year old self.  Play!!
  • Patterns, Contrasts, & Consistencies
  • “You’ll have a brain high-five!!”
  • Re-frame, what do I know now.
  • “Beware of your biases.  Beware of what you know.”
  • Make thinking a practice and a team sport.
  • Try this now!!  Try this this afternoon!!
  • Call me if it works.
  • If I can do design thinking, I know you can too.  Lets evolve it forward.
February 16, 2017 / compassioninpolitics

The Best Tim Keller quotes from Prodigal God

On Misperceptions of Christianity:

“Our Western society is so deeply divided between these two approaches (moralism, self-discovery) that hardly anyone can conceive of any other way to live. If you criticize or distance yourself from one, everyone assumes you have chosen to follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups. The moral conformists say: “the immoral people — the people who ‘do their own thing’ — are the problem with the world, and moral people are the solution.” The advocates of self-discovery say: “The bigoted peole — the people who say, ‘We have the Truth’ — are the problem with the world, and progressive people are the solution.”

Tim Keller, Prodigal God

On Faith versus Works:

“In the end, Martin Luther’s old formula still sums things up nicely: “We are saved by faith alone [not our works], but not by faith that remains alone.” Nothing we do can merit God’s grace and favor, we can only believe that he has given it to us in Jesus Christ and receive it by faith. But if we truly believe and trust in the one who sacrificially served us, it changes us into people who sacrificially serve God and our neighbors. If we say “I believe in Jesus” but it doesn’t affect the way we live, the answer is not that now we need to add hard work to our faith so much as that we haven’t truly understood or believed in Jesus at all.”

Tim Keller, Prodigal God

Christianity is the Opposite of the Opiate of the Masses:

“Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people. It’s more like the smelling salts.”

Tim Keller, Prodigal God

Motivation, Fear, and Christianity:

“A person motivated by love rather than fear will not only obey the letter of the law, but will eagerly seek out new ways to carry out business with transparency and integrity.”

Tim Keller, Prodigal God

Christianity is Different from Religion:

“Would you please be open to the possibility that the gospel, real Christianity, is something very different from religion?” That gives many people hope that there is a way to know God that doesn’t lead to the pathologies of moralism and religiosity.”

Tim Keller, Prodigal God

Link: Here