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Islam and Christianity share ‘idea of conquest’, says Pope Francis


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“Do we all worship same God?”—a multi-faith discussion to be held in Nevada

View of Reno, Nevada, with the University of N...

View of Reno, Nevada, with the University of Nevada, Reno campus in the foreground. (ca. 1982–1993) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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South Reno United Methodist Church (SRUMC) in Reno, Nevada, is hosting multi-faith discussion on the topic of “Do we all worship same God?” on June 12; involving Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha’i, Native American and Atheist leaders.

Interfaith advocate Rajan Zed, who is producing the event for SRUMC, points out: In view of various conflicts around the world arising because of differing approaches/ideas about God, we are planning to bring diverse religious leaders and community together to openly, honestly and friendly discuss the issue—Are we, as different religions, worshipping the same God or does each religion worship an altogether different God?

Per Oxford Dictionary of World Religions: God cannot be described in language, since God is far apart from humanly apprehended categories in time and space…anything which is said about God is approximate, provisional, corrigible, and mainly wrong…The logic of God, therefore, remains, that if God does indeed turn out to be God, it is God that God will turn out to be.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI reportedly stated on September 14, 2012: Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe in one God, the Creator of all men and women. What about the God of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Daoism, Baha’ism, Shinto, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, etc.?

Dr. Kenneth G. Lucey, Religion Professor at University of Nevada, will be the moderator. All are welcome to this free event to be held at SRUMC, which will take questions from the audience also.

SRUMC, whose tagline is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”, which is “rooted and grounded in love” and whose website states:”God is doing amazing things in and through SRUMC”; was officially chartered in 1989. It also runs a faith based preschool and Dawn M. Flower and Becky J. Stockdale are the pastors.

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UCLA study endorses yoga to reduce Alzheimer’s risk

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University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) “study finds that yoga and meditation can help minimize cognitive impairment”, according to UCLA release issued on May 10.

To reduce risk for Alzheimer’s, skip Lumosity (games claiming to improve memory, etc.) and get onto the yoga mat, this study by UCLA-led team of neuroscientists and funded by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, adds in the release.

It further says: “If you or your relatives are trying to improve your memory or offset the risk for developing memory loss or dementia, a regular practice of yoga and meditation could be a simple, safe and low-cost solution to improving your brain fitness.”

Rajan Zed called the UCLA looking into the usage of multi-faceted yoga to combat Alzheimer’s “a step in the positive direction.” Zed urged all major world universities to explore various benefits yoga offers.

Yoga, referred to as “a living fossil,” is a mental and physical discipline for everybody to share and benefit from, says Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism. He says yoga can be traced back to around 2,000 BCE to the Indus Valley civilization.

Zed further added that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, is a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga is a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.

According to US National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. According to a recently released “2016 Yoga in America Study”, about 37 million Americans (which included many celebrities) now practice yoga; and yoga is strongly correlated with having a positive self image.  Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.

UCLA claims to be “known worldwide for the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletics programs.”


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British Museum & Google develop online Lord Ganesha exhibition

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British Museum (BM) has developed an online exhibition “Celebrating Ganesha” with Google Cultural Institute (GCI).

Its tagline includes “Explore the imagery and symbolism associated with Ganesha and gain an insight into some of the most popular stories surrounding him.”

It shows a Ganesha sculpture (1200), Ganesha painting (1600), Ganesha on a swing painting (1800, Maharashtra), Ganesha in procession painting ((1780-1820, Tanjore style), Ganesha on his rat mount painting (1800)—all from BM, and a video on “The making and worship of Ganesha statues in Maharashtra.”

It explains about the background of “Why does Ganesha ride a rat?”, Ganesha’s elephant head and Ganesha’s broken tusk.

Rajan Zed, commending BM and GCI for this joint venture in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged world museums and multinational technology companies to undertake projects to explore the rich philosophical thought and wisdom offered by Hinduism and Hindu scriptures.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, appealed to major art museums of the world; including Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay of Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Los Angeles Getty Center, Uffizi Gallery of Florence (Italy), Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern of London, Prado Museum of Madrid, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, etc.; to frequently organize Hindu art focused exhibitions, thus sharing the rich Hindu art heritage with the rest of the world.

In Hinduism, Lord Ganesha is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking.

BM, headquartered in London and founded in 1753, is claimed to be the first national public museum in the world. It now comprises over 8 million objects spanning the history of the world’s cultures: from the stone tools of early man to twentieth century prints. Sir Richard Lambert is Trustees Chairman, while Dr. Hartwig Fischer is the Director as of spring 2016.

The GCI claims to bring “together millions of artifacts from multiple partners, with the stories that bring them to life, in a virtual museum.”


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ETs – We are not alone… or are we?

I think the biggest problem with stories like this is that they assume ET life would be like ours… both in terms of (1) chemical makeup / physical needs and (2) means of communicating.

Many psychics, introverts and mystics claim to be in contact with ETs. The biggest problem with THAT idea is that we can’t really confirm nor deny their claims. They are probably sensing something. But is it their imagination? Or might they be deceived by unfriendly spiritual powers (along the lines of the Christian notion of the discernment of spirits)?

The more I listen to popular talk shows about ETs, the more some sound like cheesy fronts or covers to me. Or maybe just sheer entertainment hucksterism. I can’t be sure, of course, but it seems like the same old types of somewhat clever/somewhat goofy characters keep reappearing on these broadcasts and podcasts, telling the same kind of kooky stories: Long-winded tales about cattle mutilations, bright overhead lights on the highway, etc.

I think ETs could exist. But not necessarily in the anthropomorphic way they’re often portrayed.


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How cults exploit one of our most basic psychological urges

Sigmund Freud saw all religion and the belief in God as a kind of cultic approach to life. However, Freudian lore suggests that toward the end of his days Freud said he would focus on parapsychology if he could do it all again.  Image – Amazon.com (This image and comment added by earthpages.org and is not part of the original article sourced from http://www.theconversation.com)

Lou Manza, Lebanon Valley College

The new Hulu TV series “The Path” – described by Time as the streaming service’s “best show yet” – centers on a cult-like faith, Meyerism, whose adherents seek fulfillment under the guidance of their leader, Cal.

As pure entertainment, the show seems promising. But as someone who studies human cognition and why people believe scientifically dubious claims, I’m more interested in the real-life versions of Cal – specifically, the needs that leaders of cult-like faiths tap into that make them so attractive to certain people.

The illusion of comfort

An answer to this question can take a variety of forms. One that has gotten a considerable amount of attention over the years is the emotional comfort cults can provide.

California Institute of Technology psychologist Jon-Patrik Pedersen, in attempting to explain why people are drawn to cults, has argued that the human desire for comfort, in the face of fear and uncertainty, leads us to seek outlets that can soothe our anxieties.

In and of itself, the urge to quiet internal demons is not a negative trait. I’d argue that, to the contrary, it’s an effective adaptation that allows us to cope with the stressors, big and small, that bombard us on a regular basis.

However, cult leaders meet this need by making promises that are virtually unattainable – and not typically found anywhere else in society. This, according Pedersen, could include “complete financial security, constant peace of mind, perfect health, and eternal life.”

Beyond exploiting human desire for emotional comfort, cult leaders don’t always have the best intentions when it comes to the mental health of their followers.

Psychiatrist Mark Banschick has pointed out that cult leaders employ mind and behavioral control techniques that are focused on severing followers’ connections to the outside world.

These methods can actually deepen members’ existing emotional insecurities, while encouraging them to become completely reliant on their cult for all their physical and emotional needs. At the same time, they’re often told to sever ties with any friends or relatives who are not part of the group.

Hulu’s new series ‘The Path’ is about a fictional cult group called the Meyerist Movement.
Hulu

This can result in physical and psychological isolation, which actually exacerbates many of the problems, like anxiety and depression, that attracted people to the cult in the first place.

The anxiety and depression can become so overwhelming and feel so insurmountable that the followers feel trapped.

It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to truly tragic consequences, such as the well-documented 1978 Jonestown Massacre, when over 900 people died in a mass murder-suicide carried out under the supervision of cult leader Jim Jones. Then there were the Heaven’s Gate suicides in 1997, when 39 individuals, including cult leader Marshall Applewhite, willingly overdosed on phenobarbital and vodka in the hope of being transported to an alleged alien spaceship flying behind the (real) Hale-Bopp comet.

The case for reason

So just how can one face his or her fears, but avoid the potential danger of cult-like groups?

In a word: rationality.

Seeking reason-based solutions for emotion-focused conditions is by no means a new concept. Unfortunately, rationality is not as intuitively appealing as remedies that simply exploit sentimental cravings.

Sigmund Freud, in his 1927 text “The Future of an Illusion,” argued that religion was a mere mental trick constructed to comfort believers and help them overcome insecurities – even though their acceptance of dogma was irrational. While Freud’s position was focused on mainstream faiths, his highlighting of the emotional comfort central to them is analogous to the role that this element plays in cults.

His solution? Replace religion (or, in the present case, cults) with rational guides for living that deal with problems directly. Are you anxious about your appearance? Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Stressed about relationship problems? Talk directly to your partner in a clear and honest manner to arrive at mutually agreed-upon resolutions.

One could certainly argue that Freud, by highlighting religion’s negative elements, was ignoring the potential positive outcomes correlated with spirituality such as stable relationships, moral grounding and life satisfaction.

But there is no denying that emotions can cloud judgment and result in poor decisions.

For example, Gerd Gigerenzer, a German psychologist who studies decision-making, illustrated the very real consequences of favoring an emotional response over a more data-driven one. In his 2004 analysis of highway fatalities in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, he pointed out how people became afraid of flying in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Many who still needed to travel ended up driving instead of flying in order to reach their destinations.

However, this influx of cars on the road led to approximately 350 more people dying in automobile accidents from October to December of 2001. As Gigerenzer noted, these deaths could likely have been avoided “if the public were better informed about psychological reactions to catastrophic events.”

It’s not easy to simply “use reason over emotion.” The fact that cults continue to exist – and that people continue to play the lottery despite the minuscule chance of winning, or insist on subjecting themselves to unproven cancer treatments such as urine therapy – is a testament to the potency of emotions as behavioral motivators.

Furthermore, this should not be taken as a directive to surrender our emotions, which can enhance human experiences in many ways.

But it’s important to be vigilant, and recognize the value of approaching decisions using logic, especially when emotion-driven choices can lead to negative, life-altering outcomes.

Which of these paths will Cal and his Meyerists pursue? My guess is emotions will win the day. In the fictional world of television, that’s OK.

But for those of us viewing their exploits from our living rooms, perhaps it’s an opportunity to think about our choices, and whether or not our feelings had the final say.

The trailer for ‘The Path.’

The Conversation

Lou Manza, Professor and Department Chair of Psychology, Lebanon Valley College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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The science behind monogamy

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