Saturday, July 6, 2013

All Around the Web - July 6, 2013

HT: Everyday Theology

Carl Trueman - The Myth of Persecution | This is how you write a critical book review. The best line has to be Moss's comment thus left me wondering whether her target audience was not, after all, benighted Bible-thumping Christians but rather the fan base of Jersey Shore.

This is an entertaining, at times thought-provoking, but deeply flawed book. For all of its underlying scholarship, it is reminiscent of those Christmas Specials on the History Channel where some learned scholar announces to the camera that the Bible never specified that there were three wise men. Cue portentous pause, the assumption apparently being that somewhere in the ensuing silence one can hear two thousand years of Christian theology (rather than a mere century of kitsch festive season artwork) collapsing into a heap of rubble. 

Moss wears her learning lightly and obviously enjoys her role as aspiring iconoclast. She articulates her basic thesis in clear, readable prose: in the first three centuries empire wide, intentional, targeted persecution of Christians specifically for their Christianity was extremely rare; and martyrs were more significant because of the manner in which they were represented in literature than they were in their own times and contexts. Further, it is often difficult to date with precision the martyrs who do survive or to ascertain how historically reliable they are. As a historical thesis it is scarcely radical and reflects what I was taught as an undergraduate and what I teach in my M.Div. classes at Westminster Theological Seminary; it is the political thesis to which she moves that is far more contentious.

Moss's historical thesis depends upon a number of points. She points out that it was not Christianity in itself but certain implications of Christianity (for example, the problematic nature of loyalty to the emperor and the civic sphere for those of an exclusive religion) which created much of the hostility. She also tends to posit late dates for martyr accounts, tying them to developments concerning what we might describe, for want of a better phrase, as the fetishizing of the body exemplified in the rise of monasticism and the cult of the saints in fourth-century Christianity.

Slate - Daddy's Home | Read the whole article.

Studies suggest that after the arrival of a baby men’s testosterone falls, while their prolactin levels rise. These hormonal shifts are significant because testosterone is associated with aggression and heightened libido, whereas prolactin is associated with heightened levels of parental care. Taken together, these hormonal shifts seem to prepare men to settle down, steer clear of attractive alternatives, and engage their children. Or, in psychologist Anne Storey’s words, this new research “suggests that hormones may play a role in priming males to provide care for young.”

But these hormonal changes don’t just happen for any father; they appear to be most likely for men who are living in a long-term relationship with the mother of their children; indeed, our book reports that men’s hormonal changes move in synchrony with their partner’s hormonal shifts when they live together. Moreover, research by anthropologist Peter Gray indicates that drops in testosterone are most pronounced among men engaged in “affiliative pair bonding and paternal care,” i.e., men who are married to and living with the mother of their own children. Fatherhood, then, appears most likely, or only likely, to prime men physiologically to settle down when they are living with the mother of their children.

LA Times - Mosque-building rises as Muslim American clout grows |

The opening this weekend of a new mosque in Rowland Heights is powerful evidence of a building boom of such facilities in Southern California and around the nation.

Over the last several years, new mosques have risen in Mission Viejo, Irvine, Anaheim, Reseda, Rancho Cucamonga, Rosemead, Diamond Bar and Tustin. Additional mosques are slated for Temecula, Ontario, Lomita and Corona.
Strikingly, the new mosques have been funded entirely by local Muslims, who began settling in the region in the 1960s. Before 2001, new mosques were often funded by foreigners; the Saudis financed the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, and Libyans helped build Masjid Omar near USC.

Stricter government scrutiny of foreign investments from Islamic countries after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, along with reluctance by local Muslims about accepting foreign money, helped change the practices, according to Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

Digital Trends - Can pen and paper survive in a world of touchscreens and tablets? |

One of the very first things you learn to do is to write. In school, you were forced to follow a handwriting rule book along with your peers, so at first every person’s penmanship looked the same, but as you got older, your writing started to develop characteristics unique to you. From the very first moment you put squiggled lines on paper, you were already developing a personality that could be tied to what would later on become your regular penmanship. Yes, the idea of finding out what a person is like based on his or her chicken scratch is an old one – there are more than a few businesses dedicated to analyzing how you dot your i’s and cross your t’s and what this says about you.

But more importantly, handwriting analysis lends a big hand to cracking criminal cases – we’ve all seen enough episodes of CSI to prove as much. Handwriting analysis is a very important aspect of forensic science and sometimes a crucial method for catching certain types of criminals, which is why it was a bit of a surprise when The Georgia Bureau of Investigation recently shuttered its Handwriting Analysis Unit after being in action for 20 years.

Pacific Standard - On Twitter, Christians Are Happier Than Atheists |

Are churchgoers more cheerful than non-believers? A good deal of research points in that direction, and a new study provides corroborating evidence gleaned from a new medium: Twitter.

Scouring nearly two million tweets from followers of five Christian leaders and five well-known atheists, a research team led by University of Illinois psychologist Ryan Ritter found that “Christians express more happiness than atheists in everyday language.”
“Our results reveal important psychological differences between believers and nonbelievers, and also suggest reasons why believers may be happier than nonbelievers in general,” the researchers write in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

A letter from dad:

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