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David B. Feldman, Ian C. Fischer and Robert A. Gressis

It is commonly believed that religious convictions moderate death anxiety and aid in coping with loss. However, scant research addresses this issue. We detail the results of an empirical study comparing religious believers and non-believers on measures of death anxiety and grief. More precisely, we investigated the relationships between certain religious beliefs (e.g., specific views of God and extrinsic vs. intrinsic religiosity) and levels of fear and acceptance of death, as well as both painful grief reactions to losses and grief-related growth (e.g., deepening relationships with others, discovering new views of life, etc.). A total of 101 participants from across the U.S. were surveyed, including individuals with an array of ages (19 to 57), education levels, and ethnicities. About half professed religious or spiritual belief, and 71 participants lost a loved one in the last 10 years. Those with some form of belief did not demonstrate lower levels of death anxiety. They did, however, display higher levels of certain types of death acceptance. Additionally, those who professed some form of religious belief, in comparison to those who did not, tended to have lower levels of grief and greater levels of grief-related growth. Those believers who viewed God as warm and interested in their lives (versus more distant) had significantly lower levels of personal fear of death. Similarly, those with high intrinsic religious motivation (seeing religious participation as a valuable goal in itself, rather than instrumental to achieving other goals) reported lower levels of fear of death and higher levels of death acceptance. In short, though religious belief appears to matter in general with regard to death anxiety, and grief, the specifics of those beliefs further nuance how religion is connected with people’s reactions to human mortality.

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Terence O'Connell

Have you lost a loved one? The loss can be inestimable, the grief excruciating. What helped you? Did someone say something comforting? Did someone offer a consolation, which you resented?
Have you ever tried to comfort someone with a terminal illness or one who has lost a loved one? Knowing how to help or what to say that is not trite, insincere, or superficial can be difficult. The point of view of a grieving person is quite different from that of those who wish to offer comfort. In a multicultural society such as ours, anticipating the beliefs of the grieving person can be even more difficult. This book explores the perspective of a grieving person. It considers the merits and potential harm of alternative comfort strategies. As a philosophical analysis of grief, it emphasizes an understanding of the beliefs that underlie grief and the usefulness or dangers of emotions. Because grief is so complex and sensitive, a narrow approach runs the risk of alienating the grieving person. The ideas in this book are expressed in a dialogue among three characters. Their discussion is broad and fundamental. Starting from the familiar consolation, “She’s no longer suffering” and the grieving person’s resentment toward the expression, the three friends articulate the value of life and the evils of death. Their discussion enriches their understanding of grief. Many consolations offered to mourners are poor arguments. Even the better ones do their work best in the context of a greater understanding of grief.

Positive Peace

Reflections on Peace Education, Nonviolence, and Social Change

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Edited by Andrew Fitz-Gibbon

Positive Peace is a scholarly and creative compilation of articles on peace education, nonviolence and social change. Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) sets the scene in his introduction with the challenge that positive peace is both a resisting of the physical violence of war and the passive violence of the psychological structures that lead to conflict. Peace education rises to meet that challenge. In twelve chapters, philosophers and educators look at a variety of topics from Gandhian nonviolence, to pragmatic conflict solving; hope and the ethics of belief, to the way we use violent language; mothering and peace activism, to multiculturalism and peace. Recurring themes are: pragmatic nonviolence, the ethics of care as an antidote to violence, and hope in a violent world. Chapters on the use of film in peace education, song and nonviolent activism, and teaching art history and peace, demonstrate pragmatic possibilities for would-be peace educators. Arun Gandhi in his introduction asks, “For generations human beings have strived to attain peace, but with little or no success. … Why is peace so illusive? Is it unattainable? Are humans incapable of living in peace?” This book suggests that peace education has a large part to play. It is an important attempt to begin to meet the challenge.

On Education and Values

In Praise of Pariahs and Nomads

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George David Miller and Conrad P. Pritscher

The educationally emaciated, suffering from intellectual and spiritual bilumia, binge on facts and linear thinking. The imprimatur of clarity and the infatuation with quantification are accoutrements of this affliction, often characterized by apathy. Chaos is introduced as the wrecking ball for the hierarchical skyscrapers that overcrowd the educational skyline. The type of chaos proposed can be explained by the neutron bomb analogy. Chaos destroys all that is inessential but leaves standing the essential and promotes holistic rather than compartmentalized learning. The authors further contend that one insight is better than a myriad of facts; in being vigilant of serendipity; that the value-aspect of facts is as important as the facts themselves. Such beliefs form a foundation for educational holism. Our goal is to popularize philosophy in the same way science has become popular without a mass understanding. Empiricism is criticized for creating the theoretical basis for fragmentation (forming the basis for an island ideology) by excising essence. Founded on inessential empirical ideology, efforts to teach multiculturalism merely exacerbate difference, promote alienation, and discourage tolerance. Within the framework of value hierarchies we favor, tolerance is not understood as open-armed acceptance of just anything, but the forbearance of an evil for the promise of greater good. Essence cannot be removed: even in the idiosyncratic we can find the essential. In the absence of chaotic methodology, critical thinking remains an apolitical, amoral, and atemporal process displaced from social and political reality. We propose a critical thinking that is not legalistic, but is action-oriented. The pipe dream for education is a political, moral, temporal, and decompartmentalized critical thinking that disseminates philosophy across the curriculum. Those who risk becoming pariahs and nomads are essential to the rejuvenation of the educational system.

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Michelle M. Hamilton

In Beyond Faith: Belief, Morality and Memory in a Fifteenth-Century Judeo-Iberian Manuscript, Michelle M. Hamilton sheds light on the concerns of Jewish and converso readers of the generation before the Expulsion. Using a mid-fifteenth-century collection of Iberian vernacular literary, philosophical and religious texts (MS Parm. 2666) recorded in Hebrew characters as a lens, Hamilton explores how its compiler or compilers were forging a particular form of personal, individual religious belief, based not only on the Judeo-Andalusi philosophical tradition of medieval Iberia, but also on the Latinate humanism of late 14th and early 15th-century Europe. The form/s such expressions take reveal the contingent and specific engagement of learned Iberian Jews and conversos with the larger Iberian, European and Arab Mediterranean cultures of the 15th-century.

Jessica Wolfendale and Matthew Talbert

Recently, a number of philosophers have argued that soldiers typically aren’t responsible for war crimes because situational factors such as battlefield stress and military training undermine their capacity to recognize morally relevant features of their environment, and thus soldiers should be excused for their wrongdoing. In this chapter we challenge this conclusion and demonstrate that this account is inadequate as an explanation of war crimes and a theory of responsibility. Drawing on social cognitivist accounts of personality, we show how military training instils attitudes, beliefs, and emotions in soldiers that inform their uses of violence in ways that can contribute to war crimes. Even though soldiers can’t fully control the dispositions they develop through military training, we argue that soldiers who commit war crimes are responsible for their behaviour if their actions express morally objectionable attitudes that justify their victims in blaming them. However, a soldier would not be responsible for war crimes if her behaviour was elicited by situational pressures that bypassed her dispositions, beliefs, and emotions. Thus, we provide a nuanced analysis of responsibility for war crimes that recognizes that aspects of military conflict can undermine moral responsibility.

Yahya Sabbaghchi

Two different views exist on whether or not starting a war is justifiable. Some people accept war as a justifiable action, while others do not tolerate it at all. Thus, the main question is one of justification: Is there any justification for starting a war or not? The same debate can be found among Muslims. On the one hand, people who are in favor of starting a war believe that Islam has permitted the initiation of war solely to promote Islam. On the other hand, there are others who think that from an Islamic point of view no one can start a war, even for a sacred aim like promoting one’s religion. What is the right belief from the viewpoint of Islam? This chapter will study this problem and argue that the only justified kind of war in Islam is a defensive war; Islam never allows Muslims to start a war. The history of wars during Muhammad’s life supports this idea. The chapter also studies an important subsidiary question, that is: What can we say about those verses in the Quran that encourage Muslims to fight against infidels? Don’t they show that the Quran approves and even advises the initiation of war? It will be shown that all of these commands in the Quran have a historically common context: They exist due to the violation of peace treaties by infidels and only encourage the Muslims to defend themselves against those infidels who have in fact started a war against them.