In times of stress, turning to contemplation can be helpful – here’s why religions emphasize rest


Most religions emphasize rest and contemplation. Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Kristen Lucken, Brandeis University

Over a year of dealing with COVID-19 has left a lasting imprint on our daily lives. The pandemic disrupted usual work routines, with the majority of Americans having to work from home for long spells. While working from home has some hidden benefits, such as no daily commute, it also resulted in longer workdays and high levels of stress for many.

A global study of the communication patterns of 1.3 million workers during the global lockdown showed the average workday increased by 8.2% during the pandemic, and the average number of virtual meetings per person expanded by almost 13%. Many in the workforce felt overloaded with never-ending online meetings and unexpected family obligations that added pressure to the lives of working parents and other caregivers.

People’s well-being can be profoundly impacted if work-life balance ignores the need for rest and recuperation. As a scholar who studies the sociology of religion, I know that the themes of rest and contemplation are woven throughout the fabric of most religious traditions, and they remain equally salient in our lives today.

Faith, contemplation and rest

Box of Yehuda brand Shabbat candles, used during the Shabbat celebration.
Themes of rest and contemplation are woven through many religious traditions. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam view a day of rest each week as a sacred right and responsibility of believers. The traditional Jewish Shabbat offers a 24-hour period beginning at sundown on Friday when the busyness of everyday life halts. Participants gather to worship, share a meal, study and pray.

Similarly, practicing Muslims celebrate their holy day on Fridays. This is a time when Muslims step away from work to attend a midday jumah, a prayer service at a local mosque, where imams offer sermons on a range of intellectual, spiritual and practical topics and lead congregations in prayer.

Although attendance numbers are declining, many Christians observe the holy Sabbath on Sundays through church attendance, communal worship, music and the sharing of the Eucharist, when Christians consecrate and consume bread and wine representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Christian Sabbath represents a time to rest, pray, worship and spend time with family.

Branches of Islam, Christianity and Judaism additionally call for regular times of prayer and contemplation as part of daily and yearly cycles. In the Islamic tradition, stopping to pray throughout the day represents one of Islam’s five pillars of faith.

Through the practice of meditation, religious traditions quiet the senses in order to achieve a mindset of rest that they believe brings about heightened consciousness. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains teach the concept of dhyana, which generally translates to “contemplation.”

Through yoga, meditation and other contemplative practices, practitioners can achieve a state of meditative consciousness and self-awareness that can lead to better mental, physical and spiritual health.

Quieting the mind

Religions emphasize the need for rest and quiet reflection so our over-cluttered minds can focus on prayer and other contemplative practices. The Apostle Paul discusses how cultivating the “fruit of the spirit” through prayer and contemplation moves us toward patience and away from egocentrism.

Buddhists believe that quieting the mind through meditation can help people recognize that their feelings, perceptions, worldviews and even the self are impermanent features of life that can cause suffering. It can also help people contemplate their connectedness to the world around them.

Rest and contemplation help connect religious people with the deeper sources of meaning they seek to cultivate through scriptural study, meditation and prayer. As the American Trappist monk Thomas Merton explains in his 1948 autobiographical book “The Seven Story Mountain,” contemplation is a time of rest, the suspension of activity and a “withdrawal into the mysterious interior solitude in which the soul is absorbed in the immense and fruitful silence of God.”

Health benefits of rest and meditation

Medical science has become religion’s unexpected partner in confirming the benefits generated by these religious practices.

Researchers have found an association between downtime, learning and creativity. Sleep, nature walks and exercise offer a number of life-enhancing benefits, including improved memory, productivity and physical health. Recent advances in neuroimaging technologies have allowed researchers to observe brain changes during times of intense prayer, yoga and mindfulness meditation. Scientific evidence suggests that engaging in these practices may lead to improved health and well-being.

A broad range of clinical studies on mindfulness, decentering and acceptance therapies note that regular meditation can physically alter the brain and how it responds to the world. For instance, these practices have been found to transform the brain’s neural pathways and create new neurological networks that can lead to improved health and well-being.

Research on the practices of Japanese and Chinese Buddhist monks reveals benefits for physical and mental health. Furthermore, active meditations, such as yoga, qigong and tai-chi, are found to increase a sense of well-being through the regulation of mood and the reduction in anxiety and depression.

Even in the midst of a pandemic – or a stressful work week – taking time to rest, exercise, sleep, meditate or pray can lead to improvements in our everyday physical, mental and spiritual health.

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Kristen Lucken, Lecturer in Religious Studies, Brandeis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Faith still shapes morals and values even after people are ‘done’ with religion


For many, leaving religion does not mean leaving behind religious morals and values. Jesus Gonzalez/Moment via Getty

Philip Schwadel, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Sam Hardy, Brigham Young University

Religion forms a moral foundation for billions of people throughout the world.

In a 2019 survey, 44% of Americans – along with 45% of people across 34 nations – said that belief in God is necessary “to be moral and have good values.” So what happens to a person’s morality and values when they lose faith?

Religion influences morals and values through multiple pathways. It shapes the way people think about and respond to the world, fosters habits such as church attendance and prayer, and provides a web of social connections.

As researchers who study the psychology and sociology of religion, we expected that these psychological effects can linger even after observant people leave religion, a group we refer to as “religious dones.” So together with our co-authors Daryl R. Van Tongeren and C. Nathan DeWall, we sought to test this “religion residue effect” among Americans. Our research addressed the question: Do religious dones maintain some of the morals and values of religious Americans?

In other words, just because some people leave religion, does religion fully leave them?

Measuring the religious residue effect

Recent research demonstrates that religious dones around the world fall between the never religious and the currently religious in terms of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Many maintain some of the attributes of religious people, such as volunteering and charitable giving, even after they leave regular faith practices behind. So in our first project, we examined the association between leaving religion and the five moral foundations commonly examined by psychologists: care/harm, fairness/cheating, ingroup loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion and purity/degradation.

We found that religious respondents were the most likely to support each of the five moral foundations. These involve intuitive judgments focusing on feeling the pain of others, and tapping into virtues such as kindness and compassion. For instance, religious Americans are relatively likely to oppose acts they deem “disgusting,” which is a component of the purity/degradation scale. This aligns with previous research on religion and moral foundations.

Most importantly, and in line with the religion residue hypothesis, we have found what we call a “stairstep pattern” of beliefs. The consistently religious are more likely than the dones to endorse each moral foundation, and the religious dones are more likely to endorse them than the consistently nonreligious. The one exception was the moral foundation of fairness/cheating, which the dones and the consistently religious supported at similar rates.

Put another way, after leaving religion, religious dones maintain some emphasis on each of the five moral foundations, though less so than the consistently religious, which is why we refer to this as a stairstep pattern.

Our second project built on research showing that religion is inextricably linked with values, particularly Schwartz’s Circle of Values, the predominant model of universal values used by Western psychologists. Values are the core organizing principles in people’s lives, and religion is positively associated with the values of security, conformity, tradition and benevolence. These are “social focus values”: beliefs that address a generally understood need for coordinated social action.

For this project, we asked a single group of study participants the same questions as they grew older over a period of 10 to 11 years. The participants were adolescents in the first wave of the survey, and in their mid-to-late 20s in the final wave.

Our findings revealed another stairstep pattern: The consistently religious among these young adults were significantly more likely than religious dones to support the social focus values of security, conformity and tradition; and religious dones were significantly more likely to support them than the consistently nonreligious. While a similar pattern emerged with the benevolence value, the difference between the religious dones and the consistently nonreligious was not statistically significant.

Together, these projects show that the religion residue effect is real. The morals and values of religious dones are more similar to those of religious Americans than they are to the morals and values of other nonreligious Americans.

Our follow-up analyses add some nuance to that key finding. For instance, the enduring impact of religious observance on values appears to be strongest among former evangelical Protestants. Among dones who left mainline Protestantism, Catholicism and other religious traditions, the religion residue effect is smaller and less consistent.

Our research also suggests that the religious residue effect can decay. The more time that passes after people leave religion, the more their morals and values come to resemble those of people who have never been religious. This is an important finding, because a large and growing number of Americans are leaving organized religion, and there is still much to be learned about the psychological and social consequences of this decline in religion.

The growing numbers of nonreligious

As recently as 1990, only 7% of Americans reported having no religion. Thirty years later, in 2020, the percentage claiming to be nonreligious had quadrupled, with almost 3 in 10 Americans having no religion. There are now more nonreligious Americans than affiliates of any one single religious tradition, including the two largest: Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism.

This shift in religious practice may fundamentally change Americans’ perceptions of themselves, as well as their views of others. One thing that seems clear, though, is that those who leave religion are not the same as those who have never been religious. Given the rapid and continued growth in the number of nonreligious Americans, we expect that this distinction will become increasingly important to understanding the morals and values of the American people.

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Philip Schwadel, Professor of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Sam Hardy, Professor of Psychology, Brigham Young University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Friday Morning Thoughts


016When we are young we are invincible, unstoppable and foolishly ignorant of our mortality. But we also were full of undying faith and knew the joy of being children of god. As we grew older we had to face our mortality and the fact we are not the unstoppable or unmovable force we once believed. We begin to lose faith in this world and in our selves, and many lose their faith in God as well.

We can reestablish our faith in God and we can also leave the fear of our mortality behind us with such faith. We must constantly remind ourselves where our strength, blessings and wisdom comes from, not from ourselves but from God. We must learn to let go and let God take control, the Ego or Self tends to be resistant to letting God be the one to be in control.

Fear is the enemy, it causes doubt and drains the power of faith, love and it keeps us from happiness.  Selfishness is an enemy as well, one can not serve ones self before serving God nor can they truly help others is they seek to satisfy themselves first. We can only serve one master at a time, and if that master is our own self we tend to neglect not only God but all the people who need us and love us as well.

Matthew 6:24
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

James 1:3
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

Thoughts on Love and Forgiveness


Rembrandt – “The Return of the Prodigal Son

Love, one of the greatest gifts and blessings God gave us. The love we have for family and friends and the love they have for us as well . The love for our fellow humans and the love we share with all those we interact with. So much we long for and desire, but Love is the grandest prize we can obtain and definitely the greatest gift we can give and/or share.

We were created in Love, we were saved by Gods love and we will in the end bask in his love. We should live this short life full of love and sharing it everywhere we travel. Forgiveness and Love are the two things we have the power to manifest and to spread wherever we go. We should love one another for it is commanded that we do so and it seems to be the most joyful thing we have to do in our lives. To forgive lifts the burden from both the one who forgives and the one that is forgiven.  Love  fills us with light and happiness.

Ray Barbier

God gave man power in love, hope, faith and compassion.


His Only-begotten Son and the Word of God 1885...

Love, one of the most powerful emotions and a great gift from god. We should love God first before all others especially ourselves. Then we should love the family, friends, the rest of humanity and then we must love ourselves. Loving ourselves last is a reminder not to have a prideful love or a love full of vanity for ourselves. Loving God first reminds us to give all the glory to Him and to keep our focus on him as well. Love is one of those things that has no limitations except for what you put upon it. It has no boundaries or limit in quantity and can be shared with all living things. Love is one of those gifts that keeps on giving and it has proven to be viral, the more you share love the more it spreads.

Love can cure ailments of the mind,, heart and sometimes even the body. God’s love can cure-all ailments if it accompanied with faith. Faith is the belief in God’s love and promises so in its own way faith is also love. God gave man power in love, hope, faith and compassion he gave us all his love through the life and death of his only begotten son Jesus. Forgiveness which Jesus taught is one of the many forms of love God gave us and wishes for us to practice. Love is the key, the answer and the power that we should embrace.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 K.J.V.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution By license.

God gave each of us the right to believe as we wish


Symbol of the three Abrahamic religions.

The world is in darkness,the world is trying to extinguish the spark of light in all of us. Those that promote hate, prejudice and intolerance are trying to keep us from finding the light we have in this world. In this world of darkness there is a light to be found.  God created a spark of light within us all and most of us are unaware or unable to feel its presence anymore. When we were children that light was bright and made life wondrous and beautiful. We allowed the world around us to cover the candle within us and we need to uncover it. Place that candle on a candle stick for all to see and so it can force the darkness away from us all. We can not allow the distractions and road blocks the darkness throws in our path to get in the way of being the beings of light god wants us to be. He wants us to be peaceful, loving, compassionate and full of hope. Things such as greed, lust and fear stand in the way of most of us and they keep us preoccupied and distracted from happiness and peace.

Three religions that were spawned by the one true God, yet those three religions still are distracted and preoccupied by their differences instead of being tolerant of each other. A house divided against itself surely will fall and that is the case with the three religions if they do not learn to co-operate or at least tolerate each other. We all serve the same God, even though we have differences in beliefs on some subjects that are sensitive we can learn to accept one another. We are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God and we should love one another regardless of our different beliefs.  I am a firm believer in freewill and the fact God gave each of us the right to believe as we wish. Of course if we choose the wrong beliefs there will be a price to pay. This though is the price of freewill and is something each of us should consider when choosing our religious beliefs. I will not state which belief is the right one for only god knows the answer to that question and it isn’t my place as a mere human to answer. I believe as I do and respect the religious beliefs of all others in hopes they will do the same for me.

 We all have to live on this planet together, we can do it as brothers and sisters in peace or continue to go down this road of mistrust, hatred and of war. The choice is there for each one of us to choose and hopefully most of us will choose the path of peace and of love than the one of hate and war. Let us all be adults and civilized, let us live together as a great family and as the unique human species we are together in harmony.

Raymond Barbier

To Be Selfless


Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...The path of Righteousness, a path seldom followed and is not an easy path to travel. To be selfless, humble and full of compassion for both your friends and your enemies. To put everyone else before your own seems to be against the nature of most people. To put aside judgment of others so that you will not be judged by the same conditions as well as not seeing your possessions as your own. To seek wise counsel and avoid being deceived along the way.

“(Proverbs 3:3) Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart”

it seems so much easier to be selfish, greedy and full of loathing. It is far easier for one  To take instead of give and to hurt instead of heal. To take care of your own and let others suffer in hunger and poverty seems to be the safest route. Yes to live in lust and partake in all the pleasures is far more entertaining than to refrain from such things. To enjoy the pleasures of your spouse is good but to enjoy the pleasures of others is not. It is a betrayal of not only your spouse but of your own self and the vows you made.

Our Lord and Savior died and paid for our sins so we could be redeemed not so we could be careless and be foul. Sure no man can be without sin, It is in our very nature to sin and it is also within our power to abstain from sinning. We must do our best in avoiding sin and we must repent for the sins we commit when we fall. Teach righteousness and avoid being judgmental of sinners for you will be judged by god in the way you judge others.

 Matthew 7:1-3 Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?”

In a world so full of injustice and a world lacking in love and compassion we must live. We have a choice to either be like the world we walk in or to be like the one who saved mankind from its sinful nature. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and without it we could not have the promise of salvation or being worthy of Heaven.

“(Colossians 2:13) And you, being dead in your sins and the un-circumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

 

May God Bless you and yours.
Raymond Barbier

I kind of like knowing the man who is leading my church


Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael, 1515. In ...Small town church vs. Mega church, which is a better experience for the congregation? I would vote on a small town church any day, when any church grows too big it looses the closeness and community feel it should have. I would think it would be next to impossible for a pastor to know each and every member of his church if he has numbers in the thousands or some as large as a 40 thousand members. I guess mega churches serve a purpose but it seems to me that priorities may go awry when there is so much cash flowing in. I guess I am old-fashioned and see a church as no where above about 100 members or maybe a little more.

I kind of like knowing the man who is leading my church personally and have one that is approachable along with down to earth. If I am to trust my religious teachings to someone I would like to know what kind of person he is and have one that is more middle class or lower in annual income. Though I can not tell you what a pastor of a mega church makes but I have known of a few that lived in mansions and has sport cars and even personal jets.

Now I will not say that all Mega Church pastors are rich or see money as more of an issue than their faith. There are plenty of good servants of god who may be pastors of such churches. Many souls have ben saved through such ministries and a lot of charitable works have been done by them too. There are always a few bad apples in a barrel but the rest of the apples are still ripe. Just my personal preference is a smaller more personable church.

 

Well that’s all for now.
May God be your guide through life.
Raymond Barbier.

NBC made a big mistake


The Pledge of Allegiance in the United States ...

NBC made a big mistake when they tried to edit out the words one nation under god from the televised pledge of allegiance before the US open. Political correctness is getting out of hand and censoring out any reference to a religion is nothing but plain discrimination. I know that there are those who do not believe in a god or in the same god as the Christians and I respect their choice to believe in the way they choose. I do not see how having the word god in the pledge can be considered offensive to anyone. It isn’t stating your pledging allegiance to god, it’s a pledge of allegiance to our country which is under god. I will even go as far to say if you don’t agree with the god part of the pledge then when you say it then you can omit it but don’t remove it from the pledge and or edit it out when its broadcasted via television or radio.

Our founding fathers were Christians and they believed in the separation of church and state. They meant far as political control, they believed in religious freedom and so do I. To say having the 10 commandments in a court-house or city hall is wrong is taking it to an extreme. To be perfectly honest if a city hall in the us wanted to put a quote from the holy scriptures of any other religion on their walls I personally would not be offended. That’s freedom of religion in my belief. Far as prayer in school I support the idea with the condition that the child can elect to either pray to the god of their choice or abstain from prayer if they are atheist or they don’t want to pray.

NBC of course made a sad attempt at apologizing and even pulled the big business “we will deal with it internally and not publicly” speech. That’s basically saying they supported the actions of the individuals responsible. More and likely nothing will happen to those who chose to edit out god and eventually this will fade away from the minds of Americans. Sad to think that God has become like a dirty word in our modern world. Far as boycotting NBC as suggested by some of the outraged viewers, that’s no problem for me for NBC hasn’t had any shows I liked on it for quite a while.

NBC has the right to edit out what ever they choose, They just have to deal with the backlash created by their editing. Hopefully the lesson has been learned from this incident, I feel that it hasn’t but I always try to be positive. This little editing job I believe is just the beginning of the removal of religion from the airwaves. I pray to god I am wrong, only time will tell.

Well have a good day
Raymond Barbier