The Church and Society
The College for Bishops Leadership Institute was established to provide educational resources for new bishops as well as trending informational resources for all bishops. The Church and Society focuses on the following specific topics:
New items are added on a monthly basis. To comment or suggest additional topics or resources, please use the feedback form located at the bottom of this page.
Science & Religion
Temperatures reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit in France this month, while a hailstorm covered some Mexican towns in more than three feet of ice, and Anchorage, Alaska set a new 90 degree record. In May, we learned that more than a million species are in danger of becoming extinct. This crisis should be the perfect opportunity for the church to shine. It’s an opportunity for people of faith to join hands with science and literally save the world.
Church of the Nativity (Raleigh, NC) is working with partners to sponsor a website and blog of useful environmental resources for church congregations. This handout lists 20 action items that churches can use to responsibly reduce their carbon footprint. Find this and more at ZeroWasteChurch.org.
Awe experiences are self-transcendent. They shift our attention away from ourselves, make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, and make us more generous toward others. But what is awe? What types of experiences are most likely to elicit feelings of awe? And what are the effects of awe? While philosophers and religious scholars have explored awe for centuries, it was largely ignored by psychologists until the early 2000s. Since then, there has been growing interest in exploring awe empirically. This has led to a number of fascinating discoveries about the nature of awe, while also raising many questions still to be explored.
In the Modeling Religion Project, an international team of computer scientists, philosophers,religion scholars, and others are collaborating to build computer models that they populate with thousands of virtual people, or “ agents.” The goal of the project is to give politicians an empirical tool that will help them assess competing policy options so they can choose the most effective one. It’s a noble idea: If leaders can use artificial intelligence to predict which policy will produce the best outcome, maybe we’ll end up with a healthier and happier world. But it’s also a dangerous idea: What’s “best” is in the eye of the beholder, after all.
It can be argued that race is a “social construct,” a way of categorizing people that changes over time and across countries, and that human populations are remarkably similar to each other from a genetic point of view. Over the years this consensus has morphed into an orthodoxy that maintains that we should be anxious about any research into genetic differences among populations. However, recent genetic studies have demonstrated differences across populations not just in the genetic determinants of simple traits such as skin color, but also in more complex traits like bodily dimensions and susceptibility to diseases.
What was it about the minds of ancient Israelites that allowed them to hear and see God directly—or at least, to believe that they did? Were the biblical prophets literally hearing voices and seeing visions, understanding themselves to be transmitting God’s own exact words? If so, why did such direct encounters with God become rarer over time? In his new book, The Great Shift, James Kugel investigates these questions through the lens of neuroscientiﬁc ﬁndings.
Archaeologists say they have identified the remains of the cell of St Columba on the Scottish island of Iona. They have used radiocarbon dating to place samples of burned wood in the middle of Columba’s time there almost 1,500 years ago. The charred remains of a hut were excavated in 1957 but it has taken until now for science to accurately date them.
President Donald J. Trump has just signed measures rolling back significant parts of President Obama’s moves to protect the environment. Among other things, President Trump wants to withdraw and rewrite the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s policies to fight global warming. These may seem like political questions, but they are also moral ones. Father James Martin offers three reasons why caring for the environment is a moral issue and why policies that fail to protect our planet are not only against Catholic teaching but are also immoral.
In humans’ mysterious journey to become intelligent, socializing creatures like no other in the animal world, one innovation played an essential role: religion. That’s the theory that a preeminent evolutionary scientist is setting out to prove. “You need something quite literally to stop everybody from killing everybody else out of just crossness,” said Robin Dunbar. “Somehow it’s clear that religions, all these doctrinal religions, create the sense that we’re all one family.”