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Rich… in spirit only?


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Merry Christmas!

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (1304-06, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To celebrate Christmas I worked on a tune that started out as an exercise in exotic scales. There’s an app at Reaper.fm, the digital workstation that I use, that has countless scales. Probably more than anyone could ever use. So I picked a few that sounded good, tried to blend them together, and soon after realized that it was turning into an unconventional Christmas Story (musically speaking).

Just tonight on Christmas Eve I was watching a show about the flight into Egypt. How Joseph and Mary had to flee from the paranoid King Herod, who was killing all the firstborn because he got wind from the Magi that a King had been born. After a while, sitting in front of our Christmas tree, I felt that this tune sort of captured the flight.

Unconventional, yes. But then, so was Jesus Christ, who continues to be more radical (in a good way) than any other figure to have walked this Earth.

Merry Christmas to all who wish to celebrate this hallowed holiday. The lights and gifts are great. But they’re just symbols of something far greater.

Enjoy!

–Michael Clark


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Here’s My Take

God created us and gave us free will; then he watched as we continued to kill and hate and realized we were indeed capable of totally annihilating His creation!

Source: Here’s My Take


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Homosexuality and the Church

Portal of the Church of Pilgrims, in Washingto...

Portal of the Church of Pilgrims, in Washington, DC, with a LGBT banner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Homosexuality has continued to be a highly controversial topic that has proponents on both sides speaking out for and against it. As it has evolved within society, what once was a topic that was considered taboo, has now become more of an accepted societal norm. It continues to dominate headlines and receive much backlash from the Christian community. Homosexuality preexisted before the birth of Jesus. Its origins have been difficult to pinpoint by Theologians and scientists to determine what causes it. One of the biggest questions surrounding homosexuality is whether or not someone is born predisposed to it because of birth or hormonal defects or if it is a conscious decision that is made later in one’s life. According to the Bible, homosexuality is… Read full article

Remember, Earthpages is about dialogue and keeping an open mind. That means we publish and link to material that we don’t necessarily agree or disagree with. All too often people simplify complicated realities, make up their minds, and close themselves off to thinking any further on a topic. Not us!


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Purging daily demons: what’s behind the popularity of exorcisms?

English: Jean-Martin Charcot Series inspired b...

Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) used hypnotism to treat mental discomfort – from “Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière”, Charcot, 1878 (via Wikipedia)

Joseph P Laycock, Texas State University

At Texas State University, I teach an honors course called “Demonology, Possession, and Exorcism.” It’s not a gut course. My students produce research papers on topics that range from the role of sleep paralysis in reports of demonic attacks to contemporary murder cases in which defendants have claimed supernatural forces compelled them to commit crimes.

In fact, talk of demons isn’t unusual in Texas. The first day of class, when we watched a clip of an alleged exorcism at an Austin Starbucks, many of my students said that they’d seen similar scenes in the towns where they’d grown up.

In 2014, an exorcism took place outside of a Starbucks in Austin, Texas.

A few students even admitted their parents were nervous that they’d signed up for the class. Maybe these parents worried their kids would become possessed, or that studying possession in the classroom might make demons seem less plausible. (Perhaps it was a mix of both.)

Either way, these parents aren’t a superstitious minority: a poll conducted in 2012 found that 57% of Americans believe in demonic possession. Nonetheless, demons (invisible, malevolent spirits) and exorcism (the techniques used to cast these spirits out of people, objects or places) are often thought of as relics of the past, beliefs and practices that are incompatible with modernity. It’s an assumption based in a sociological theory that dates back to the 19th century called the secularization narrative. Scholars such as Max Weber predicted that over time, science would inevitably supersede belief in “mysterious forces.”

But while the influence of institutionalized churches has waned, few sociologists today would claim that science is eliminating belief in the supernatural. In fact, in the 40 years since the blockbuster film The Exorcist premiered, belief in the demonic remains as popular as ever, with many churches scrambling to adapt.

Exorcism’s golden age

So why has exorcism made a comeback? It may be that belief in the demonic is cyclical.

Historian of religion David Frankfurter notes that conspiracy theories involving evil entities like demons and witches tend to flare up when local religious communities are confronted with outside forces such as globalization and modernity.

Attributing misfortune and social change to hidden evil forces, Frankfurter suggests, is a natural human reaction; the demonic provides a context that can make sense of unfamiliar or complex problems.

While Europeans practiced exorcism during the Middle Ages, the “golden age” of demonic paranoia took place in the early modern period. In the 16th and 17th centuries, thousands were killed in witch hunts and there were spectacular cases of possession, including entire convents of nuns.

A 1788 painting by Francisco Goya depicts Saint Francis performing an exorcism.
Wikimedia Commons

The Protestant Reformation was a key contributor to these events. The resulting wars of religion devastated Europe’s population, creating a sense of apocalyptic anxiety. At the same time, exorcism became a way for the Catholic Church, and even some Protestant denominations, to demonstrate that their clergy wielded supernatural power over demons – something that their rivals lacked. In some cases, possessed people would even testify that rival churches were aligned with Satan.

But by the 19th century, medical experts such as Jean-Martin Charcot and his student Sigmund Freud had popularized the idea that the symptoms of demonic possession were actually caused by hysteria and neurosis. Exorcists came to be seen as unsophisticated people who lacked the education to understand mental illness – a view that made exorcism a liability for churches instead of an asset. This was especially true for American Catholics, who had long been disparaged by the Protestant majority as superstitious immigrants.

The Exorcist effect

By the time William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist was published in 1971, the secularization narrative had gone mainstream. In 1966, Time magazine had run its famous cover asking “Is God Dead?” In 1970, Gallup found that 75% of Americans claimed religion was losing influence – the highest percentage in the history of the poll, which was first conducted in 1957.

The April 6, 1966 issue of Time Magazine.
Time

Blatty’s protagonist, Damien Karras, is a Jesuit psychiatrist-priest who has lost his faith. At the end of novel, Karras lies dying from his battle with the demon Pazuzu. He cannot speak, but his eyes are “filled with elation” – presumably because he now has positive proof that demons and, by extension, God, actually exist. Through the character of Father Karras, Blatty captured a widespread feeling of longing for the supernatural in a disenchanted age.

While the Jesuit-run magazine America panned The Exorcist as “sordid and sensationalistic,” Blatty proved that Americans were not dismissive of the idea of exorcism. In 1971 and 1972, the novel spent 55 weeks on The New York Times bestseller lists. The film adaptation grossed over US$66 million in its first year. In 1990, as part of homily given in New York City’s St Patrick’s Cathedral, Cardinal John O’Connor even read from The Exorcist in order “to dramatize the reality of demonic power.”

A demonic renaissance

Today a significant segment of the population reports belief in demons.

According to a 2007 Baylor Religion Survey, 48% of Americans agreed or strongly agreed in the possibility of demonic possession. And in a Pew Research Survey conducted that same year, 68% of Americans said they believe in the presence of angels and demons.

While the surveys can’t reveal what exactly people mean when they say they “believe in demons,” it’s clear that these people don’t constitute a superstitious minority. Rather, they’re a normal part of today’s religious landscape.

People have historically used evil spirits to explain any number of misfortunes, whether its a physical illness or routine bad luck. But today, demons are frequently used to interpret contemporary political issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Since the 1970s, Protestant deliverance ministries have offered to “cure” gay teenagers by casting out demons. This practice now has corollaries in Islam – and even in Chinese holistic healing methods. When the state of Illinois legalized gay marriage in 2013, Bishop Thomas Paprocki held a public exorcism in protest. Politically, the bishop’s ritual served to frame changing social mores as a manifestation of demonic evil.

Similarly, Catholic exorcists in Mexico held a “magno exorcisto” in May 2015 aimed at purging the entire nation of demons. The mass exorcism was partly motivated by the drug wars that have devastated the country since 2006. But it was also in response to the legalization of abortion in Mexico City in 2007.

During one Mexican exorcism, a demon (speaking through a possessed person) confessed that Mexico had once been a haven for demons. According to the four demons identified in the exorcism, hundreds of years ago, Aztecs had offered them human sacrifices; now, with the legalization of abortion, the sacrifices had resumed.

Divided over demons

In the Baylor Religion Survey, 53% of Catholics said they either agree or strongly agree in the possibility of demonic possession. Twenty-six percent disagreed or strongly disagreed, and the rest were undecided. Progressive Catholics still regard exorcism as an embarrassment, and there are also increasingly vocal atheists and skeptics eager to cite the practice of exorcism as an example of the absurdity of religion. But in countries like Italy and the Philippines, there is active demand for more Catholic exorcists.

Pope Francis blesses a boy in Rome.
Tony Gentile/Reuters

Church authorities are keenly aware that if they do not provide the spiritual services these people need, Pentecostal deliverance ministries will. In the past, the Church had much more ability to tailor its message to its audience. But in an age of Twitter and cellphone cameras, an exorcism performed in one country will be witnessed by the entire world.

Pope Francis seems especially skillful at navigating the question of demons. While he has inspired progressive Catholics with his stances on climate change and social justice, he has also emphasized the reality of the devil. In 2014, the Congregation of Clergy formally recognized the International Association of Exorcists. This is a group of conservative priests that has existed outside the Curia since 1990, and has lobbied for recognizing and normalizing the practice of exorcism. Founding IAE member Gabriele Amorth has even attributed the group’s sudden success to Pope Francis.

Perhaps the greatest example of Francis’s demonological savvy occurred on May 13 2013, when he placed his hands on a young man in a wheelchair after celebrating mass in St Peter’s Square. (This young man was, in fact, the same Mexican parishioner believed to be possessed by four demons.) Video shows the boy heaving and slumping forward under Francis’s unusually long embrace.

To those who feel the Catholic Church ought to take exorcism seriously, this was a clear example of Francis performing a public exorcism. But to those who regard exorcism as a relic of the Dark Ages, Church authorities can plausibly claim that this was only a blessing, perhaps lasting just a little longer, due to the pontiff’s sincere compassion for the young man.

For a church with over a billion followers, it’s a tough – but necessary – balancing act.

The Conversation

Joseph P Laycock, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Texas State University

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


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Do not be the partakers of others sins!

Image – ArticlesBase

By Shaila D Touchton

Sin is breaking the Law of God (1John 3:4). World is full of sinners. As a sinner, we are separated from God (Isaiah 59:2). Jesus Christ came to the world (1 John 4:10) died to pay for our sins on the cross. Sin is like disease that corrupts the body same as Sin corrupts the soul to become evil. It brings calamity to all those who participate in it. Gods word gives us warning not to associate those who do evil “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11).When we rebuke a person who lives in sin, he will hate us or he might defend himself by twisting the scriptures according to his sinful desires. Truth always offends those who are living in sin and darkness. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s Table, and of the table of devils.”1st Corinthians 10:21.

There are many people around us that even though they may not commit sins but directly or indirectly they consent or endorse with those who sin (Romans 1:29-32)Eg. of some excuses to partake in people sins are by defending the sinner by arguments, or saying one was tempted. Some may even partake in another’s sin by simply not condemning the sin by calling it as an occasional thing, or social things, or cultural thing, or everyone does it or its good for health. The people who are partakers of sins often see things that are sinful, but they dare not to rebuke the sinner, but they encourage the wicked. Ezek 13:22,1Tim 5:20,2 Tim 4:2 says be not partakers with the wicked,” but “be partakers with the righteous.

Even though we may think we are good enough, even one sin disqualifies us from being in the presence of God. David was an adulterer and murderer. Moses was a murderer, Abraham was a liar and coward, Jacob was a deceiver Yet, they were all considered righteous because they repented from their sinful ways and had a proper relationship with God. God forgave them and loved them. The unsaved person cannot understand God, nor His Word nor his commandments, because he is not born without the Spirit of God in his soul, because he is spiritually blinded. God’s word says “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1st Corinthians 2:14)
Scripture clarifies this:

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels contain...

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels contains the incipit Liber generationis of the Gospel of Matthew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Proverbs 11:20 – Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord, But the blameless in their ways are His delight.

Luke 17:3 – If your brother sins, rebuke him ( Matthew 18:15).

2 Timothy 2:24-26  – The Lord’s servant must correct those who have been taken captive by the Devil.

James 5:19-20 -We should seek to convert those who go into sin and error.

1 Timothy 5:22 -Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

2 Cor 6:17–Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you ” .

Ephesians 5:11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

The Bible declares in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such one not to eat. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

God loves us and He will forgive us if we are humble before him by confessing of our sins to him and to each other by putting our trust in Jesus, by walking in his commandments and asking Him to forgive us of our sins by our genuine repentance.

May God bless you as you seek to serve and obey Him!

About the Author

Shaila D Touchton was born and raised in a well educated family in India and has completed her Bachelor of Electrical & Electronics… (show bio)


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God and the Ancient Egyptians

English: A Grave mask of pharaoh Amenemope of ...

A Grave mask of pharaoh Amenemope of the 21 st Dynasty of Egypt. (Cairo Museum).(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Most knowledgeable people acknowledge that one of the biggie Biblical tales details God’s relationship with Pharaoh and the firstborn in Ancient Egypt. Does this relationship put God in a favorable or an unfavorable light? What follows arises out of a debate I had with an Accidental Metaphysician which I’ve edited for, hopefully, sake of clarity. It should come as little surprise that I argue that God is not shown in a favorable light in this Biblical tall tale. In fact if Egypt were to conduct its version of the Nuremberg Trials, God would now be dead in the dock.

Regarding God & Egypt

Power corrupts; absolute (omnipotent) power corrupts absolutely. Judging from the Old Testament, not even God is immune from being absolutely corrupt when wielding His absolute power! Just ask the Egyptians!

God behaved unjustly with the Egyptians. God only had an issue with one and only one Egyptian – an unnamed Pharaoh.

Okay, God had an issue or a dispute with the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh. It was the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh who refused to “let my people go”. So what does the God of justice do, punish the whole lot of the Egyptian people (and the innocent animals) with the icing on the cake being the smiting all the first-born who were 100% innocent of any possible wrongdoing. God had an issue with the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh; not with the Egyptian populace. So God behaved unjustly with the Egyptians. This is what is known in the trade as logic.

By the by, the unnamed Pharaoh was more likely as not a first-born too, so how come he didn’t get snuffed out?

To repeat the bleeding obvious, God did NOT have an issue with the Egyptian population in general. He didn’t send Moses to talk to the Egyptian people. He was directed to talk to this mysterious unnamed Pharaoh.

Now, regarding God versus Pharaoh and the first born: If you have a beef with me you don’t go around punching out the lights of my friends, neighbors, work colleagues, etc. You go toe-to-toe with me and only with me. The same principle applies with God’s beef with Pharaoh. God doesn’t go punching out of the lights of the first born.

Now let’s revisit the issue of God killing the Egyptian first-born as related in Exodus. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God had an up close and personal beef with the local Egyptians who happened to have been first-born through no fault of course of their own. You’re totally innocent of where you happen to be born in your family’s hierarchy. So God’s killing the first-born was just an easy means to an end, or, as well all know, the ends justify the means. Wasn’t that the reasoning behind Germany in World War Two? Germany had a “problem” and so Germany invoked a “solution” – an extermination policy of the innocent.

English: Depiction of Joseph reading to the Ph...

Depiction of Joseph reading to the Pharaoh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about the Livestock?

And God certainly didn’t have any issue with the animals who equally got shafted! It was also the first-born of all of the Egyptian livestock that was done away with by God. Why? What’s the point? What was God’s ‘beef’ with the livestock? It makes God a laughing ‘stock’ IMHO. I’m laughing at God. Actually animal cruelty is no laughing matter and God should be absolutely ashamed of Himself. What an idiot! It’s all nonsense if you’re not one of the true believers.

God the Omniscient?

That little incident also puts the BIG LIE to God’s all-knowing abilities since He had to have His people (the Hebrew people) mark their homes with blood so God would pass over them when He did His smiting. An all-knowing God would know which house housed who. So God’s omniscient abilities are nonsense in that a really all-knowing deity would know who was and who wasn’t devout and obedient without the need for blood markings. It’s all such a load of rubbish.

Speaking of being all-knowing, If God is all-knowing, then God knows in advance when and where the next major and deadly earthquake, tsunami, bushfire, hurricane, etc. is going to be. God however will give no warning to the innocent nor interfere with the event happening. So, any claim about God’s mercy or morality is a load of pure bovine fertilizer.

God the Omnipotent?

Besides, if God is so all-omnipotent, He could have just floated up His Chosen People* and wafted them gently across the wilderness to the Promised Land. Nobody need have suffered, no blood need have been shed, and no one need gotten snuffed out. But we know how much God loves to cause suffering and death and destruction since He’s done an awful lot of it.

God the Omniscient and the Omnipotent

A truly all-knowing and all-powerful God wouldn’t kill the innocent. Being all-knowing, He’d know who was naughty and who was nice way before-the-fact. Being all-powerful, He could, should and would (?) act accordingly. This is also what is known in the trade as logic! Alas, He didn’t! My conclusion is that God is not omniscient nor omnipotent, or else God just doesn’t plain give a stuff.

Defending the Indefensible

But of course those true believers, like the Accidental Metaphysician; those who advocate that God can do no wrong, gross over this entire episode. IMHO they are trying to defend the indefensible. God killed people without any justification and the case of the first-born isn’t the first cab off the rank. Not all of the flood victims were wicked. Ditto Sodom & Gomorrah. Even if some of the first-born, or those drowned in the flood or who were present when Sodom and Gomorrah got nuked were wicked, God still committed at best mass murder, at worst genocide. God’s punishment did NOT fit the crime. God Himself has committed crimes against humanity. God can no more morally kill His creations than human parents can morally kill their creations (i.e. – children). God is Evil with a capital “E”. But we don’t want actual morality to get in the way of good Biblical tall tales now, do we?

Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem

Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Observations on Historical Reality

But in reality the above story is nonsense because there is not one single shred of independent historical or archaeological evidence that the events in Exodus ever happened, especially the events in Egypt. It’s a nice story, but it is absolute make-believe.

The proof of that pudding: isn’t just amazing though that there are no Ancient Egyptian records that any of this ever happened. There’s no records of any person called Moses. There’s no record of any Hebrew slaves.

Why wasn’t the Pharaoh (of the Exodus) named? If you are writing an historical novel, you don’t name actual living persons AND have them do things they didn’t do. That’s a good way to get into trouble. You either invent a fictitious name (King Jones; Pharaoh Jones; President Jones) or not name them at all. The very fact that the Pharaoh’s name goes unrecorded is in itself a pretty good indication that this is all pure fiction, but leaving that aside.

Assuming the Exodus was true as described, from just one ancient historical document other than the Bible an associated texts, can true believers show that Moses was a real historical figure. I’m betting they can’t do it.

As to the notion of wandering around the wilderness for 40 years, well that’s a joke. I mean if you walk one mile a day, heading in a constant direction (say the rising Sun), you’ll exit any wilderness region anywhere in the world in way, way less than 40 years.

However, assuming the Exodus was true as described, the Maximally Greatest Being (i.e. – God) so beloved by the Accidental Metaphysician should be crawling on His hands and knees into Cairo to beg the Egyptian populace for their forgiveness for the crimes against humanity that God committed. His Maximally Greatest Being is maximally great all-right, great at being the greatest mass murderer that’s ever been recorded in human history. He makes Hitler look saintly in comparison. I’m sure true believers don’t worship Hitler, so why they give a stuff about their SOB of a Maximally Greatest Being is quite beyond me.

Conclusion

Now either this Biblical tale is tall, in which case no one should believe a word of it, or else it is a true historical story in which case no one should worship this ancient day version of Hitler and Stalin (and dozens of equivalents) all rolled into one nasty and unsavory ball of wax.

No matter how you slice and dice things, if God exists as described in the Old Testament then God has adopted a double standard when it comes to murder (He can; we can’t) and I personally cannot abide entities that have a philosophy that is central to their worldview along the lines of “do as I say, not as I do”. In any event, since we’re all God’s ‘children’, God should set a good example for us just like we expect parents to set a good example for their brats, oops, sorry, their ‘little darlings’. Further, since it is morally wrong to murder your children after they get dumped or thrust unceremoniously into this great wide world, by analogy it should be morally wrong for God to murder His ‘children’. And isn’t one of the main selling points for religion receiving moral instruction?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, with ‘friends’ like God, who needs enemies!

*That’s another strike against the concept of a Maximally Greatest Being. He discriminates. He is just the “God of Israel”. Others can go take a long walk off of a short pier for all God cares. God is NOT a god for all of humanity otherwise we’d all be His Chosen People.

About the Author

John Prytz – Science librarian; retired. 

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