25 November 2007

"Sunday School for Atheists" and UU Religious Education - Similar and Different??

For anyone who is interested in Unitarian Universalist religious education, this article from Time Magazine is worth reading:

Sunday School for Atheists

Here are two quotes from this article:
"An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. 'It's important for kids not to look weird,' says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto. Others say the weekly instruction supports their position that it's O.K. to not believe in God and gives them a place to reinforce the morals and values they want their children to have."

****
"The Palo Alto [Humanist Community Center] Sunday family program uses music, art and discussion to encourage personal expression, intellectual curiosity and collaboration. One Sunday this fall found a dozen children up to age 6 and several parents playing percussion instruments and singing empowering anthems like 'I'm Unique and Unrepeatable,' set to the tune of 'Ten Little Indians,' instead of traditional Sunday-school songs like 'Jesus Loves Me.' Rather than listen to a Bible story, the class read "Stone Soup," a secular parable of a traveler who feeds a village by making a stew using one ingredient from each home."
This sounds a lot like what we would present in a Unitarian Universalist religious education program for our children.

I'm curious why a group would need to create a Sunday School program that sounds so much like a Unitarian Universalist one in a community where a Unitarian Universalist congregation already exists.

Given that the "Atheist - Agnostic - Unchurched" demographic is a growing in North America and Christianity is shrinking in North America, does it make sense for Unitarian Universalists to package ourselves as a "church"?

Does the use of traditional language of reverence in our congregations drive off this growing demographic group?

Does the use of the word "church" in the name of many of our congregations drive off this growing demographic group?

This growing demographic is a natural one for us and it was our "market niche" in the past. What will Unitarian Universalism look like if we forfeit this portion of the religious marketplace?

18 November 2007

Blog Reading Level -- You've Gotta Be Kidding Me

UPDATE: this so-called reading level test is a way for a blogger to unknowingly increase the search rating for a cash payday loan company.

If you put this badge on your blog, you should remove the ALT tags for the payday loan company from the HTML code before uploading this badge on one's blog or web site.

Hat tip to CK of arbitrarymarks.com for mentioning this potential blog spam issue.


I saw this blog reading level test on the "A Perfect World" blog:



The result for my blog makes me question the quiz technology. I'm a very simple and ordinary person.

16 November 2007

Another Resource For Sharing Microsoft Office 2007 Documents

Here is yet another resource for dealing with the newly introduced "incompatible" file formats in Microsoft Office 2007 (see this link and this link for earlier resources mentioned on this blog for helping volunteers and church staff who don't have Microsoft Office 2007 but want to use Office 2007 documents).

For anyone using Ubuntu 7.10 ("Gutsy Gibbon") release of Linux along with the optional Automatix software for this Ubuntu release, one can easily use the import/export filters in Open Office that read the new Microsoft Office file formats.

This would be useful for churches and other cash-strapped non-profit organizations that may be using older donated computers and open source software but also need to share data with volunteers (who may be using the latest version of Microsoft Office on a spiffy new computer).

Yes -- it's possible to ask a volunteer to save a document in a compatible file format (the older Microsoft Word .doc file format, .rtf rich text format, etc). However, this new addition to the Ubuntu - Open Office environment will make life easier for the volunteers and staff with the older computers. And when newsletter and other deadlines are fast approaching, this will be helpful.

[Note: Wikipedia describes Automatix as a "tool that automates the addition of applications, codecs, fonts and libraries not provided directly by the software repositories of Debian-based distributions (specifically Debian, MEPIS and Ubuntu).]

Religious scholars mull Flying Spaghetti Monster (CNN)

For every Unitarian Universalist who worries that we are not "religious" enough to be considered a real religion, check out the CNN.com coverage of the American Academy of Religion conference in the "Religious scholars mull Flying Spaghetti Monster" article (more info on the Flying Spaghetti Monster can be found here).

Here's a brief quote from the article:

It was the emergence of this community that attracted the attention of three young scholars at the University of Florida who study religion in popular culture. They got to talking, and eventually managed to get a panel on FSM-ism on the agenda at one of the field's most prestigious gatherings.

The title: "Evolutionary Controversy and a Side of Pasta: The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Subversive Function of Religious Parody."

"For a lot of people they're just sort of fun responses to religion, or fun responses to organized religion. But I think it raises real questions about how people approach religion in their lives," said Samuel Snyder, one of the three Florida graduate students who will give talks at the meeting next Monday along with Alyssa Beall of Syracuse University.

The presenters' titles seem almost a parody themselves of academic jargon. Snyder will speak about "Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion," while Gavin Van Horn's presentation is titled "Noodling around with Religion: Carnival Play, Monstrous Humor, and the Noodly Master."

Using a framework developed by literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin, Van Horn promises in his abstract to explore how, "in a carnivalesque fashion, the Flying Spaghetti Monster elevates the low (the bodily, the material, the inorganic) to bring down the high (the sacred, the religiously dogmatic, the culturally authoritative)."

The authors recognize the topic is a little light by the standards of the American Academy of Religion.

"You have to keep a sense of humor when you're studying religion, especially in graduate school," Van Horn said in a recent telephone interview. "Otherwise you'll sink into depression pretty quickly."

But they also insist it's more than a joke.

Indeed, the tale of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its followers cuts to the heart of the one of the thorniest questions in religious studies: What defines a religion? Does it require a genuine theological belief? Or simply a set of rituals and a community joining together as a way of signaling their cultural alliances to others?

In short, is an anti-religion like Flying Spaghetti Monsterism actually a religion?

Joining them on the panel will be David Chidester, a prominent and controversial academic at the University of Cape Town in South Africa who is interested in precisely such questions. He has urged scholars looking for insights into the place of religion in culture and psychology to explore a wider range of human activities. Examples include cheering for sports teams, joining Tupperware groups and the growing phenomenon of Internet-based religions. His 2005 book "Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture," prompted wide debate about how far into popular culture religious studies scholars should venture.

11 November 2007

New Hotel Trend -- Gideon Bible Out, Condoms and "Intimacy Kits" In

The "So Long, Gideons" article on the Newsweek web site mentions a religious and ethical shift.

Gideon Bible placement in hotel rooms is declining.

In part, this is due to a recognition that we are not an exclusively Christian nation:
Unlike traditional hotels, the 10-year-old boutique [Soho Grand Hotel] has never put Bibles in its guest rooms, because "society evolves," says hotel spokeswoman Lori DeBlois. Providing Bibles would mean the hotel "would have to take care of every guest's belief."
This isn't just a "blue state" New York City development:
Since 2001 the number of luxury hotels with religious materials in the rooms has dropped by 18 percent, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
What has been added to hotel rooms recently:
Edgier chains like the W provide "intimacy kits" with condoms in the minibar, while New York's Mercer Hotel supplies a free condom in each bathroom. Neither has Bibles. Since its recent renovation, the Sofitel L.A. offers a tantalizing lovers' dice game: roll one die for the action to be performed (for example, "kiss," "lick") and the other for the associated body part. The hotel's "mile high" kit, sold in the revamped gift shop, includes a condom, a mini vibrator, a feather tickler and lubricant. The new Indigo hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., a "branded boutique" launched by InterContinental, also has no Bibles, but it does offer a "One Night Stand" package for guests seeking VIP treatment at local nightclubs and late checkout for the hazy morning after.
[Hat tip to the Friendly Atheist Blog for this article.]

10 November 2007

A Funny and Engaging Our Whole Lives-Related Video Podcast Resource

The Midwest Teen Sex Show is a great sexuality education resource that I discovered through Susie Bright's blog.

It's a video podcast that discusses teen sexuality in funny, frank, and responsible ways.

Here's a brief explanation from their web site
:
Why a show on teen sexuality?

Teens and sex. It happens. Not every teen is having sex and not every teen is abstaining. We hope the Midwest Teen Sex Show will create a space for frank discussion of all things related to teen sexuality. Broadcast media shies away from any real exploration of the topic, and they forget that not all teens live in Orange County. So subscribe on iTunes, download our latest episode, tell your friends, and let’s get it on! (Midwest style).

Is this sex education?

Sort of–we like to call it sex information. We’ll leave the formal education to classrooms and textbooks. The Midwest Teen Sex Show is here to provide sex information in a clear and entertaining way. We won’t pretend to be experts, but hopefully a few of our own embarrassing experiences and insights will keep you out of trouble.

Are you promoting teen sex?

No! We’re promoting a discussion of teen sex.


Useful Tidbits From A Free Computer Trade Publication

Computerworld magazine is one of the "free" trade magazines that I get at work. I was cleaning off my desk and found some useful resources in the back issues I had collected.
Good luck using these computer resources in your congregation and other Unitarian Universalist settings.

08 November 2007

Quiz: What kind of Christian are you?

I retook the "What kind of Christian are you?" Beliefnet quiz again tonight.

My score (105 on a scale of 0 to 400) is slightly different from the first time that I took this quiz, but the category result remained unchanged.

Apparently, I'm still a "Bishop Spong Christian" -- here's a breakdown for the scale used in this quiz:
I think my result comes from reading too much Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan, Bishop Spong, etc -- I don't believe in God and no quiz answer I gave required my belief in the divine.

Yet somehow I'm considered a "Bishop Spong" Christian even though I don't believe in what most Christians traditionally believe about God, Jesus, his birth, his death, etc -- very puzzling.

I wonder what result other Unitarian Universalists would get on this quiz.

07 November 2007

Eschatology Quiz Results

Here's my quiz results ...





What's your eschatology?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Moltmannian Eschatology

J├╝rgen Moltmann is one of the key eschatological thinkers of the 20th Century. Eschatology is not only about heaven and hell, but God's plan to make all things new. This should spur us on to political and social action in the present.


Moltmannian Eschatology



75%

Amillenialist



75%

Preterist



50%

Dispensationalist



25%

Premillenialist



0%

Left Behind



0%

Postmillenialist



0%