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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition – 2 – What is truth?

Famous posthumous portrait of Niccolò Machiave...

Posthumous portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is truth?

Religion deals with beliefs and practices concerned with truth.

Most religious leaders appear open to interfaith dialogue but many, it seems, aren’t too keen to alter their core beliefs. They’ve invested their entire lives in a given belief system. It not only provides a comfortable living. It also gives them an identity. An importance. And some might say, a bit more sympathetically, a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

Unless religious leaders are utter charlatans, like some TV evangelists, their sense of truth keeps them on track. To deviate from their cherished beliefs would be, in most instances, too psychologically and economically disruptive.

So after all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with interfaith conferences has subsided, many religious leaders probably walk away virtually unchanged, each still believing, my way is best.

This might seem cynical. But clearly there’s a politically correct aspect to religion.

In his classic The Prince Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) wrote that good ruling means

It is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.¹

But what would a Machiavellian ruler have to do with religious leadership? The one works in the world of realpolitik while the other addresses the realm of the spirit. At least, this is the image that many religious leaders tend to portray. In reality, however, we can’t separate religion from the world. Consider the Vatican Bank, a global institution worth about $8 billion.

Not only that. There have been allegations about money laundering in the Vatican.² And other stories about Church payoffs to keep victims of sexual abuse quiet.³ Corruption and sexual abuse happen everywhere, in all corners of human experience. They are not only Catholic concerns. Still, Catholic leaders must publicly manage the weak side of human nature as it manifests within the Church.

During the Pope Benedict years, especially, Catholics heard a lot about homosexuality, abortion and other easy targets. But they almost never heard about the alleged corruption, closet homosexuality, and proven perversions within the Church. This arguably was a kind of lie by omission. But it wasn’t just a lie. It was pointing the finger to individuals less powerful, more vulnerable, and who, for the most part, couldn’t fight back.

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French postmodern historian and thinker Michel Foucault wrote volumes about truth and morality. Foucault wasn’t interested in declaring truth or the good moral life. Instead, he was quick to point out how some discourses about truth and morality are highlighted while others are buried. Foucault believed that power, itself, was the key agent.4 Power either makes or breaks a given discourse about truth and morality.

This may be the case with most organizations, religious or not. But we should be careful when talking about power. What exactly is power? Isn’t there a negative, controlling type along with a positive, liberating form of power? Could a given institution, like the Catholic Church, express some combination of these two fundamental types of power?

Introduction « 2 » 3 (coming soon)

1. See XVIII – CONCERNING THE WAY IN WHICH PRINCES SHOULD KEEP FAITH

2. http://onforb.es/1hmS43i

3. http://goo.gl/XSR9rT

4 See Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. C. Gordon et al. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.

Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014.


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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition

Jesus le nazaréen by *Katch* via Flickr

Introduction

If you ask someone on the street about the difference between a Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian, chances are they’ll smile and admit ignorance.

Back in the 1990s, a fellow student of Religious Studies raised an interesting point in one of those mandatory seminars that everyone attends but secretly wishes they didn’t have to. He said humanities researchers should state their personal biases at the outset of a study instead of presuming they’re objective observers.

These days, the whole idea of objectivity is under fire, and rightly so. Any academic or scientist worth their salt will admit we can’t escape bias. The sciences have emerging concepts like “confirmation bias” and “experimenter bias.” And spiritual persons believing they’ve had a divine revelation should step back and ask if their apparent truth belongs within a given context. Is their revelation merely one that is appropriate for a given moment? It may be powerful. But it is universal? The highest?

This much said, and in keeping with my classmate’s prescription, I’ll tell a bit about myself to illustrate where I’m coming from.

English: Catholic church in Tehran

Catholic church in Tehran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before converting to Catholicism in 2001, I had little interest in organized religion. Childhood summers were spent enjoying the natural environment of Georgian Bay’s eastern shores. In winters I downhill skied at a resort overlooking the south side of Georgian Bay. So, in a sense, the great outdoors was my religion.

As for religion, itself, I was baptized in the Anglican church but never attended regular services. Weddings and funerals, that was it.

Like many kids, I asked the big questions. Why are we here? What is infinity? I never really got any answers but I kept on asking.

Eventually, I went to university and had summer jobs to help defray the cost. By that time I’d gravitated toward Freud, Jung and sociologists like G. H. Mead and Emile Durkheim. Later, I studied East-West philosophy, New Age and non-Christian religions. In 2001 I became a bona fide Catholic. But a free thinking one.

Since then I’ve met many critics of Catholicism. Instead of ignoring their views, I’ve talked with those honest enough to say what they really think. And from this I have a pretty good picture as to why some folks dislike Catholicism.

yesterdays_6

High Rock Island, Georgian Bay

Before writing this article, I told a Catholic friend about my plan to do so. She suggested I call it “Why people like Catholicism.” But I feel that dislike is the better term, because I’m mostly responding to the critics. And I’m not trying to put a positive spin on the all-too-human side of the Church. God knows, there are many issues in the Catholic Church.

Despite its real and pressing problems, I continue to experience the holy within the Church. And it’s not just because I was brainwashed as a kid. As mentioned, I wasn’t even a Catholic, and as a Protestant, I never went to church. I skied. I swam. But church? Nahhh.

Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014.

Part – 2


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Is Atheism Scientific?

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Richard Aberdeen

No one knows for certain who designed Stonehenge or the pyramids of Egypt or, exactly how they were constructed.  Yet, no archaeologist or historian has ever proposed they appeared on their own, without input from designers or builders.

Such universal assumption is the most likely conclusion given the known evidence and, much of what science ‘believes’ is based on similar assumptions.  Even though people can create things that can repair and even create other things by themselves, all known evidence indicates no finite living being or object can exist without a creator.

Descartes first principle of philosophy, science and reason states:  ‘Accept nothing as true that is not self-evident’.  The history of science tracing prior to ancient Greece on into the present, is a history of the most likely conclusion based on the current known evidence.

Just as all evidence indicates for every action there is a re-action, likewise all evidence indicates nothing can be in motion by its own volition.  All known evidence indicates a universe filled with ‘zillions’ of complex parts within ever greater complexity of parts and, containing intelligent finite beings of conscience and conscious awareness, requires Creative Intelligence.  Thus, the correct postulate of true science is ‘Eternal Creator(s)’ until proven otherwise.

Pretending that ‘science’ is somehow different than belief in God is an obvious lie.  Just as scientists ‘believe’ in black holes and invisible light based on mirrored evidence, much more so, mirrored evidence of a Creator(s) is overwhelmingly self-evident.  And, just as if someone claims the earth is cube-shaped or, A2 B2 does not equal C2, the burden of proof remains on atheists, because all known evidence indicates the opposite conclusion.

According to Jesus, as well as many historical scientists and sages of note, basic to wisdom, education and survival itself, is to attempt to sort out what is actually true, from whatever fiction the cultures and religions we are born into claim is true.  As Jesus implied, if we do not know what is true, we have no hope of being free.

Believing the earth is square doesn’t change the reality of the shape of the earth.  What is true about the earth remains the same, regardless of what we believe or, fail to believe.  Whether we categorize something as ‘science’, ‘religion’, ‘history’ or anything else, what is actually true remains the same.

Someone can’t just assume a steel ball and feather will fall at the same rate of speed and call it a ‘scientific theory’, without significant supporting evidence.  There is nothing more unscientific and irrational than pretending there is no God, because all known evidence indicates the opposite conclusion.

If someone says they do not know if there’s a God, perhaps they just need to get out and smell the roses once in a while.  However, if someone says there is no Creator, they are by all scientific and  other rational default, plainly a liar, because there is no evidence to support such an absurd position.

Is atheism scientific?  You decide.

Link to footnotes and documentation for this article:
http://www.freedomtracks.com/500/atheism.html

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/spirituality-articles/is-atheism-scientific-1334976.html

About the Author

Richard Aberdeen

Nashville author, songwriter and homeless advocate.

www.RichardAberdeen.com


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Elements of prophecy – reflections and new directions

The Sibyl (1891), Paul Ranson via Tumblr

Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi film Minority Report (2002) is soon to be re-imagined as a TV series by Fox.

In the original Minority Report three clairvoyants called Precogs (precognitives) spend their days in deep meditation, afloat in water. Their job is to predict murders that could take place in the future. Tom Cruise, a good and honest cop, relies on the Precogs to arrest would-be criminals just before they commit a homicide.

Minority Report puts an interesting twist on the idea of precognition because, in real life, individuals claiming to possess this ability are often treated with suspicion, even derision. But the Precogs’ abilities are highly valued and they are given a kind of eerie reverence.

True and False

As the administrator of Earthpages.org, I’ve met many complex and fascinating seekers, on and offline. Some claim that spirit beings appear or speak to them. Others believe they have seen objects, places or souls during their astral travels. Several allegedly read minds; and some say they’ve had a vision of Christ or the Holy Trinity. And like the PreCogs, others claim to foresee the future.

Dealing with alleged psychics and mind-readers is both rewarding and challenging. If psychic abilities are real, it seems there’s no guarantee they’ll be applied ethically. For instance, those who haven’t dealt with personal pain could take a compensatory turn toward self-aggrandizement.¹

Clearly, some folks do take a wrong turn in the spiritual life, and a few might be repeatedly deceived and paranoid. Interior perception is an exacting process and not everyone does it well.

Leading writers on mysticism like Evelyn Underhill say that sincere mystics strive to be humble and analytical in order to avoid deception by the imagination or by negative spiritual influences (traditionally viewed as “demons,” “tramp souls” and “ghosts”).

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym ...

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym of Thomism. Picture by Fra Angelico (c. 1395-1455). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this is the ideal. In reality, many alleged psychics and prophets seem pretty out to lunch. They speak in such roundabout terms that their predictions could mean a thousand different things. And when flat wrong, some of them just fudge it. False prophecies are quickly swept under the rug or recast as “symbolic” predictions.

Philosophers call this the ad hoc hypothesis or possibly ex post facto reasoning. Rather than openly admitting mistakes (as an honest researcher would) sham mystics do their best to cover them up.

Christian Response

Christian theologians say that genuine prophecy is revealed or infused from a supernatural source. They also tend to believe that God is omnipotent. This means God could use weak and sinful personalities for genuine prophecy, even for a short while. According to this view, one doesn’t have to be a holy guru to be a prophet. For Christians, no one is perfect. And to claim otherwise is misguided.

In Catholicism, personal revelations are called private revelations. Private revelations occurring after the time of Christ are said to add nothing to the faith as defined by the Church. But private revelations declared authentic may have inspirational or cultural value.

Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”²

New Directions

Of course, many modern people question the authority of a traditional religious body that, in he past, has proved to be just as susceptible to temptation and error as anyone else. Historically, the Catholic Church has made gruesome mistakes, only to apologize hundreds of years later.

It’s also entirely possible that even the best of prophets distort their revelations through their unique personalities. That is, they interpret according to who they are at a given moment in history. According to the view, much of the Bible is laced with cultural bias and political infighting. That hardly sounds like the “Word” of God.

Guercino, The Persian Sibyl, 1647-48 via Tumblr

So where does this leave us? And by what standard do sincere seekers judge interior perceptions?

I think the answer might be found in a cross fertilization of psychology and spirituality. Einstein once said “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”³  Perhaps we could adapt that to something like, “psychology without spirituality is superficial, spirituality without psychology is questionable.”

Only then can we move forward to a spirituality suitable for the 21st century and beyond.


¹ Many saints say that vanity and jealousy figure prominently in the spiritual life. The more we open to spiritual realities, the more vulnerable we are to temptation and deception.

² Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 67. Catholic theology looks at prophecy in its own unique way. St. Thomas Aquinas is often cited in Catholic discussions about prophecy. But we’d do well to remember that after having a direct encounter with God, toward the end of his life, Aquinas apparently said his writings were like a “house of straw.”

³ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

Copyright © Michael W. Clark 2014


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Hindus ask Australian museums re-examine procurement process of Hindu collections

Colombo-temple hindu

Colombo-temple hindu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to Earthpages.org

Hindus are asking all the museums and art galleries of Australia to exhaustively re-examine the procurement process and the provenance of their Hindu art collections, and if proved stolen, return to Hindu temples these originally belonged.

Rajan Zed, who is based in Nevada (USA), welcomed Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s gesture of returning back to India on September five about 900-years-old bronze Shiva Nataraja and granulite Ardhanarishvara statues stolen from temples in India, which were worth millions of dollars.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that when acquiring new Hindu artifacts in the future, Australian art institutions should make sure that these were not looted from Hindu religious centers and should follow strict due diligence procedures and have transparent provenance. Pillaging of Hindu temples and archeological sites for mercantile greed was not okay, Zed argued.

Rajan Zed pointed out that Australian art institutions should adhere to the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The panels conducting the examinations of existing collections should include internal and external art specialists. He or other Hindu scholars would gladly assist if needed, Zed added.

Zed further said that devotees had been worshipping these images of Hindu deities for centuries and, if confirmed as stolen, the world should respect their feelings by making arrangements to respectfully return to the religious institutions these plundered antiquities rightfully belonged to before being stolen.

Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.


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Spiritual Growth: a Paradigm of Modern Times

Paradise: Ascent of the Blessed

Paradise: Ascent of the Blessed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kaz Domagalski

We are all spirits inside a body. To enable us to realize this great truth is to believe in the opposite that has been taught for years, specifically that we are bodies with a soul. Explained in a different way, we are all souls, being of spirit that have utilized bodies so that we may grow.  To grow spiritually is to recognize these interconnections. The difficult part is to understand that to grow spiritually in a world enveloped by power, money, and influence is a mammoth task. Modern amenities such as electronic apparatus, gadgets, and tools as well as entertainment media through television, magazines, and the web have cultivated us all to confine our attention mostly to physical needs and desires. As a result, our perception of self-worth and self-meaning are at best confused. How can we even begin to strike a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of our lives?

To grow spiritually we need to look within ourselves.

Soul-searching goes beyond recalling the events that happened in a day, week, or month. You need to review intimately and reflect on your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and motivations. Periodically examining your experiences, the choices you made, the relationships you encourage, and the events you engage in provide useful insights on your life goals, on the good habits you sustain and the bad habits you need to abandon. Furthermore, it gives you suggestions on how you should act, react, and conduct yourself in the midst of any given situation. Like any skill, self-examination can be learned. It does take a degree of courage and willingness to seek the truths that lie within. Strive to be objective, forgiving of yourself, and focus on  areas for improvement.

To grow spiritually is to evolve.

Our understanding of spirituality change as we come to see others as potential teachers. Religion and science have conflicting views on matters of the human spirit. Religion regards people as spiritual beings temporarily living on Earth, while science views the spirit as just one dimension of an individual. Mastery of the inner self is a recurring theme in both Christian (Western) and Islamic (Eastern) teachings. The requirements of the body are recognized but positioned under the needs of the spirit. Values, morality, rules, beliefs, experiences, and good works provide the master plan to ensure the growth of the spiritual being. When you have fulfilled the basic physical and emotional needs, spiritual or existential needs emerge next. Achieving each need leads to the complete development of the individual. Perhaps the difference between these two religions and psychology is in the meaning of self-development. Christianity and Islam believe that self-development is a means toward serving God, while the psychologists view is that self-development is an end by itself.

To grow spiritually is to search for interpretation.

Religions that believe in the existence of God such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam presume that the purpose of human life is to serve the Creator of all things. Several  psychological theories submit that we ultimately give meaning to our lives. Whether we believe that life\’s meaning is pre-determined or self-directed, to grow in spirit is to recognize that we do not merely exist. We do not know the meaning of our lives at birth, but we gain knowledge and wisdom from our relationships with people and from our actions and reactions to the situations we find ourselves in. As we discover this meaning, there are certain beliefs and values that we reject and some we affirm.  Our lives have purpose. This purpose puts all our physical, emotional, and intellectual capabilities into use. It sustains us during trying times giving us something to look forward to, perhaps a goal to achieve or a destination to reach. A person without purpose or substance is like a rudderless ship drifting out at sea.

To grow spiritually is to recognize relevance.

Religions stress the concept of our significance to all creation and as a result we call other people ‘brothers and sisters’ even if there are no direct blood relations. Likewise, divinity centred religions such as Christianity and Islam speak of the relationship between humans and a higher being. On the other hand, science clarifies our link to other living things through the evolution theory. This relevancy is clearly seen in the concept of ecology, the interaction between living and non-living things. In psychology, connectivity is a characteristic of self-perfection, the highest human aspiration. Recognizing this paradigm makes you more humble and respectful of people, animals, plants, and things in nature. These beliefs and attitudes towards a particular dimension in your life makes you appreciate everything around you. It moves you to go beyond your comfort zone and reach out to other people, a necessary shift before you can grow spiritually and succeed at whatever you are trying to accomplish.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/meditation-articles/spiritual-growth-a-paradigm-of-modern-times-7068763.html

About the Author

Kaz Domagalski has been involved with internet business development since 1998 and resides in the UK. He is passionately aware of the need to coach and help people who are ready to discover their internet path to abundance and prosperity, helping to solve the obstacles to your success. Get more free reports at http://www.cloudnineprofits.com


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Failure Changes Us, But Sometimes We Fail to Change

Image via Blogger

By PK Christian Writer

I am a slow learner. All the basic things in life that a boy my age is supposed to know, I learned them quiet late.

Basic bathroom rules, tying shoes laces, drinking milk in a glass instead of a baby bottle, and so on.

I was not the physically proficient as well, as far as sports were concerned.

Why am I talking about all this today? Because I feel the need to put some things in perspective. The mind can process only so much information, and hence it is better to write it down.

Life is not going smooth. As time passes, I am realizing that it isn’t supposed to go smooth. And yet we are expected to stay calm and keep moving forward.

I still remember the day when I woke up during the school holidays and sat at the breakfast table. As I was eating, my parents broke the news that they collected my result from school, and that I had failed the 9th grade.

I didn’t know to how respond. Neither did my parents. This mutual numbness (for a lack of a better term) continues to this day whenever we are faced with bad news.

It was sad to have flunked, but even worse was the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to understand the situation. Was I supposed to apologize, grieve, or hurt myself? I couldn’t  bring myself to open up emotionally, and hurting yourself physically requires courage, which I obviously lack.

But then the best thing happened to me. I was born again.

To cut the long story short, I was experiencing a change in life as started my personal journey in the Christian faith.

I found something that gave direction to my life and I was able to push myself through school, while also managing to get couple of other personal issues resolved .All the while, I engaged in worship, research, debate, and fellowship.

Things went on like this for another 5 years, and then I woke up one day to realize that we are going through a financial crisis. Once again, I did not how to react. The numbness returned.

Anger and frustration started boiling inside, and eventually it all burst out. My emotions got the better of me, and this changed my relationship with the people closest to me.

Today, I have put on more weight than I had when I started my life in Christ, even though the Bible calls gluttony a sin. I also experience occasional bouts of anger and depression. I am also exhausted, both mentally and physically, which is why you may notice some typos despite the fact I did proof-read the article.

It as if failure once changed me for the better, but now I have failed to change myself.

But there are other things that happened in this same period:

  • I developed a personal collection of books on topics like evolution, astro-physics, comparative religion, history, poetry, psychology, and of course, Christian theology. Currently I am reading Jacobo Timerman’s The Longest War and The Greek Myths by Robert Graves.
  • Still an undergraduate, I am earning more than $400 per month in a country marred by unemployment, and where the minimum wage is around $120.

What is the moral of the story? At 22, I am too young to make a learned comment on what pattern a person’s life takes. But what I do know is that as my faith changes me for the better, I have not grown immune to failing. New challenges will influence me, but God will continue to make his presence known.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I also started this blog around the same period, and today is it’s 2nd anniversary. In the coming weeks, I will not only post new articles, but also translate some selected posts into Urdu.Click here to subscribe.

About the Author

Suleman, M. John – I am a writer who creates content for clients (and myself as well). I think, read, and surf a lot, but my strong areas of research and writing include religion, history, literature, and online content creation (especially ghostwriting).

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