Century Marks

Century Marks

Churches for sale

From Britain to Denmark, Europe has hundreds of empty churches. The closing of a church is painful—especially in villages where the church for centuries served as a community anchor, even for unbelievers. Efforts are often made to adapt the buildings for a community service, such as a library. Because they are very expensive to maintain, empty churches are more frequently turned into some kind of commercial endeavor. The Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, still owned by the Catholic Church, has been turned into a skate park. The Nether­lands has the largest number of idle church buildings. Roman Catholic leaders in Holland estimate that within a decade two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be closed, and 700 of the country’s Protes­tant churches will likely close over the next four years (Wall Street Journal, January 2).

Brain scan

Can the same brain circuitry produce both Mother Teresa and Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers? Two neuroscientists at the Univer­sity of Utah are exploring what happens in the brain while people have religious experiences. They are examining the brains of Mormons undergoing MRIs while being led through a series of religious experiences. The researchers aren’t trying to determine how people come to believe in the supernatural, but rather to discern what happens once they believe. They think that brain activity during religious experiences won’t be much different between Mormons, Jews, and Muslims (Los Angeles Times, January 7).

Homesick soldiers

Michael Sharp and Emmanuel Kambale, colleagues in the Congolese Protestant Council’s Peace and Reconciliation program, have found a way to encourage some 1,600 soldiers to put down their arms. The FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), which has been ravaging villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 20 years, has its roots in the Hutu militias that killed Tutsi civilians during the Rwanda genocide. Listening to the fighters’ stories, Sharp and Kambale discovered that they were homesick for life back in Rwanda. That acknowledgment has led some of them to give up the fight. But the meager $12,000 per month Peace and Reconciliation budget is drying up in March (NPR, January 2).

How to grieve

Asra Q. Nomani found it impossible to mourn the loss of her dear friend and colleague, Danny Pearl. Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was beheaded in 2002, purportedly by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. After attending his 2012 arraignment at Guan­tánamo for the World Trade Center attacks, Nomani asked psychologist Steven Stosny the question she had long avoided: “What is grief?” “It’s an expression of love,” he told her. “When you grieve, you allow yourself to love again.” “How do you grieve?” she asked him. “You celebrate a person’s life by living your life fully,” he replied (Washingtonian, January 23, 2014).

Google facts

An analysis of Google Trends in 2011 and 2012 indicated that highly religious and conservative states like Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama had the greatest number of Internet searches for sexual content, both gay and straight. States like Vermont and New Hampshire, the least religious states, had the lowest number of searches for sexual content. A possible explanation for these trends is the theory that the more people repress their urges in public, the more they indulge in them privately (Discover, December 30).