religion-politics1Americans are tired of religion influencing politics, right? Apparently not.

According to a new Pew Research Center study released yesterday, a growing number of Americans think religion is losing influence in American life — and they want religion to play a greater role in U.S. politics.

Since 2006, Pew had found falling support for religion in politics, notes the Wall Street Journal. But something changed this year. “To see those trends reverse is striking,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research. One reason could be that a growing majority—72%, according to the study—say religion is losing its influence in U.S. life, Mr. Smith said, “and they see that as a bad thing.”

“It could be that as religion’s influence is seen as waning, the appetite for it moves in the other direction,” he said.

Here are some of the highlights from the study:

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mad-scientist1“Science.” You know what that means, right? Hard-core facts. Indisputable evidence. No guessing. No “I think.” No opinions. Certainly no faith. If it’s “science,” then there is no arguing. And anybody who doesn’t buy into “science” is clearly wrong.

Right?

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wants to clear a few things up regarding “science.” First, he wants to make sure that we have the definition correct.

Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That’s the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet. But what almost everyone means when he or she says “science” is something different.

If that is what “science” is, what is “almost everyone” else talking about?

To most people, capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It is a thing engaged in by people wearing lab coats and/or doing fancy math that nobody else understands. The reason capital-S Science gives us airplanes and flu vaccines is not because it is an incremental engineering process but because scientists are really smart people.

In other words — and this is the key thing — when people say “science”, what they really mean is magic or truth.

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UN Climate Summit

No sooner does one proxy resolution season end, it seems, then another begins. The religious shareholder activist group As You Sow has announced last week it will continue to push proxy resolutions at Exxon Mobil Corporation in 2015. If there’s any doubt what stance they’ll take, those doubts should be allayed by As You Sow’s presence at last weekend’s Climate Summit at the United Nations:

The world will be watching, and this is a time to stand up and be counted. As You Sow will be there to march and stand up for the voice of investors. We invite you to walk with us, raising our voices together against climate risk, for a sustainable future, and a strong economy.

What exactly is meant by AYS’s assertions for climate risk, sustainability and a strong economy? In a Sept. 12 press release, the shareholder activists reference a recent report by Carbon Tracker Initiative, a London-based nongovernmental organization in which ExxonMobil is accused of “understating climate-change risk to investors.” CTI’s agenda is to reduce the use of fossil fuels, of course, but over the past several years they’ve presented a new wrinkle to the argument. It seems that – if successful in their renewable-energy mandates and carbon caps – ExxonMobil investors will be left holding an empty sack as a result. According to AYS and Arjuna Capital, another group of progressive investor activists:

ExxonMobil is underplaying the risks presented to its business and investors by the need for international action to prevent climate change, according to a new report.

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fatherhood-work-family2Mothers who have achieved success in corporate America are often asked how they balance the demands of child-rearing with those of their careers, and understandably so.

Fathers, on the other hand? Not so much.

The demands of motherhood are significant, to be sure, particularly during pregnancy and the early stages of child development. But given that men have continued to assume more responsibilities in the home, in conjunction with a modern influx of women in the workplace, one would hope that we might begin to hear such questions asked of successful men.

Not waiting to be asked, Max Schireson of Internet database company MongoDB recently resigned from his position as CEO, noting his fatherhood duties as the primary reason:

Here is my situation:

* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.

* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.

* I have an amazing wife who also has an important career; she is a doctor and professor at Stanford where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques, and other topics. She is a fantastic mom, brilliant, beautiful, and infinitely patient with me. I love her, I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job.

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Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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"Walking on Water" - artist Mako Fujimora's 2014 ArtPrize entry

“Walking on Water” – artist Mako Fujimura’s 2014 ArtPrize entry

In Grand Rapids, Mich., we await the beginning of ArtPrize tomorrow, the world’s largest free, open-entry art competition. Those of us familiar with ArtPrize know that the entries (remember, ANYone can enter) range from the incredibly ridiculous (bunny mannequins in the Grand River, anyone?) to the breathtaking and beautiful. There is always a subjective nature to art, even among art considered by most to be “great” (you like Picasso, I like Renoir.) As we seek out great art, it is important to look past the art and ask, “What can art do?” Can art help save the world?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI thinks so:

Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Let Sikh Americans Serve in the U.S. Military
Simran Jeet Singh, On Faith

Why we should repeal the ban against turbaned Sikhs in the Armed Forces.

Understanding America’s ridiculously large $17 trillion economy by comparing US metro areas to entire countries
Mark J. Perry, AEI Ideas

The table above helps to put America’s ridiculously large $17 trillion economy (GDP in 2013) into perspective by comparing America’s largest 20 metro economies in 2013 based on data released today by the BEA) to the economies of entire countries with similar GDPs in 2013.

Report Finds Slight Growth in Population of Inmates
Erick Eckholm, New York Times

Breaking three consecutive years of decline, the number of people in state and federal prisons climbed slightly in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday, a sign that deeper changes in sentencing practices will be necessary if the country’s enormous prison population is to be significantly reduced.

Women religious fight human trafficking
Michael O’Loughlin, Crux

They traverse an “underground railroad” system as they make their escape from their captors. They stay in safe houses, scattered across the country to hide and protect them.

logoAmericans in the 21st century are living through a period of rapid social and economic change, says Peter Augustine Lawler and Richard Reinsch, and our established ways of thinking about public questions have not been serving us well. The changes are forcing us to ask what it means to be a free person in a free society.

But how do we answer that question without resorting to radical individualism?

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On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, the West Michigan World Trade Association will sponsor a panel discussion: ‘US and EU Sanctions on Russia: How They Affect You.’ Andy Wahl, WMWTA president notes that “This topic is very much on the minds of our members and of critical importance to many in the wider business community.” The panel will discuss:

The recent annexation of Crimea, subsequent downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and ongoing unrest in East Ukraine have significantly altered US and European Union (EU) relations with Russia. Both these geopolitical developments and the resulting sanctions present significant challenges to US companies doing business with the Russian Federation, directly or through European affiliates. Strategic questions that arise include:

  • Which market segments are or could be lost as a consequence of Western export bans?
  • How might sourcing channels be affected by Russian responses?
  • What are the legal and ethical implications of US products reaching consumers in Crimea, bypassing Ukraine?
  • How are shipping rates and the prices of commodities likely to change in the face of global uncertainty?
  • What impact will political tensions have on commercial risk profiles in the Baltics, Moldova, the Caucasus, and other adjacent areas?

Members of the discussion include: Todd Huizinga, Acton’s Director of International Outreach, Dr. Gerry Simons, Professor of Economics at GVSU, editor of the Seidman Business Review, and a native of England; Brian Gill, a Russian-speaking lawyer who worked at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; and Dr. Joel Westra, Professor of Political Science at Calvin College and a specialist in multilateral and regional security.

The event will take place at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Grand Rapids Campus. A reception will begin at 6PM and the panel discussion will start at 6:30PM. To reserve a seat or to learn more about this event, you can contact Rebecca Climie at manager@wmwta.org or 616.301.0032. The cost is $20 or $15 for WMWTA members.

Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “war on poverty” – Jan. 8, 1964

Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “war on poverty” – Jan. 8, 1964

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released its report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013. The agency announced that “in 2013, the poverty rate declined from the previous year for the first time since 2006, while there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income.”

Sure to spark reactions from both sides of the political aisle, the report, along with this year’s 50th anniversary of the U.S. government’s launch of a “war on poverty,” present an opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of the United States’ domestic poverty alleviation strategy to date.

But amid the necessary analysis and debate about government’s role in helping the least among us, it is essential to keep at the forefront of our thinking the primary figure poverty alleviation efforts are intended to help: the human person. Through taking the time to recognize each individual’s unique gifts and creative capacity, we can more fully appreciate his/her contribution to society and form relationships that enable this flourishing to take root.

Ismael Hernandez, founder and executive director of the Freedom and Virtue Institute, echoes the importance of recognizing people’s true nature. He says, “The person needs to be called by name, the ‘poor’ need for us to dump that label and look at them as unique and unrepeatable human beings, not simply another token belonging to an expansive and yet shallow sea of sameness.”

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LittleSistersofthePoorIt seems such a subtle distinction: “freedom to worship” as opposed to “religious freedom.” The phrase, “freedom to worship,” started appearing in 2010, and in 2013, President Obama made the following remarks in his address for the annual Proclamation for Religious Freedom Day:

Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.” He then refers to the history of this right. “Because of this protection by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose.”

It seems as if the president is equating the two, doesn’t it? But Sarah Torre says there are not the same, and equating the two is dangerous. In fact, it’s a lie. (more…)