Praying During the Oil Spill—and Doing Something

From the folks over at the blog You’re Not Helping:

Praying to God about the spill is futile, but many of those praying are the same ones getting out and performing the actual work to combat the spill and hopefully clean some of it. Several of the Louisiana lawmakers proposing the bill, for example, are those also on the ground helping with cleanup and recovery efforts. According to news reports, many of those who attended prayer vigils all along the Gulf coast in past weeks were cleanup workers taking part after a long day’s work in the field—workers who went back out the following day to start again. And the next day. And the next day. And the next day. If these people are risking their health and livelihoods to get out and do something about a disaster that affects each and every one of us no matter the location, we think that it’s absolutely fine if they want to pray at the same time. We just hope they’ll understand if we don’t join them in the god-offerings.

It’s Not All About the Existence of God

In Adam Frank’s view:

We must get past forcing all discussions of Science and the Sacred into the narrow hallway of God: Yes or No? Chaining down the discussion this way ensures that all the interesting, vital things that could be explored are missed and our opportunities are missed with them. All the necessary conversations about what we value and what we hold to be sacred are lost in the static. All the potential understand[ing] about our place the fabric of Being, and the meaning our own narratives of belonging, are drowned out in partisan sniping. More importantly, all understanding of how these narratives, which science now helps to provide, are lost in an impossible standard of impossible proof which neither science or religion can provide.

Do We Imitate Others’ Faces to Get Their Feelings?

According to New Scientist, when neuropsychologist Luigi Trojano studied “locked-in” patients, who can move only their eyes:

He discovered that such people often fail to identify specific emotions in others.
Trojano’s team asked seven locked-in people and 20 healthy controls to view and respond to pictures of famous actors portraying six basic emotions, such as happiness or fear. When asked to identify each emotion, the locked-in patients were wrong 57 percent of the times they viewed fear. They were also more likely than controls to misidentify anger, sadness, and disgust

World Cup’s Obsession, Devotion, and Fanaticism

Bradley Onishi, a doctoral candidate in religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, sees “religion” at the World Cup:

If it is not about religion, it seems that the only means of explaining the phenomenon of the World Cup is through categories and concepts that we usually reserve for the religious and the sacred. In a strange way, the World Cup is about none of the forces that overshadow the day-to-day concerns of human life. The Cup is a very elaborate ritual, played out on the largest global scale possible. It transcends politics, economics, and religion by incorporating all of them. It does so by juxtaposing people, groups, national identities, particular belief systems, and political circumstances in manners that simply do not happen in any other setting. …
The World Cup shuts down cities for entire days; it draws out the hopes and fears of entire nations; and, just like I found out as a sulking 14-year-old boy, it creates a sense of communal energy and passion that reminds me of what Émile Durkheim called, “collective effervescence.” Since that day at the Rose Bowl I have only experienced tat kind of energy one other time: at a religious revival in a packed stadium of 20,000 people in Urbana, Illinois.

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