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Pope Francis Visits A Declining Catholic Church

English: Percentage of Catholics in the World

Percentage of Catholics in the World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

A new Pew Research survey of 5,122 U.S. adults, (including 1,016 self-identified Catholics) finds that the Catholic church’s share of the religious marketplace is down from 23.9 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in the new survey, conducted in May and June of 2015.

The new survey goes beyond the standard tally of how many people say their religious identity is Catholic. It asks many questions that Pew has not asked before.

Pew found that in addition to the 20 percent who are Catholics, 9 percent of U.S. adults are “cultural Catholics”. Reared as Catholics they no longer identify themselves as Catholic. However, they still consider themselves somewhat Catholic by culture, ancestry, ethnicity or family tradition.

Pew also identified another 9 percent of Americans as ex-Catholics — “lapsed” or “fallen-away” Catholics — who were reared in the church but have turned their backs on it. This would mean that almost one quarter (9 of 38) of cradle Catholics are no longer Catholic.

“We see enormous differences between cultural Catholics and ex-Catholics,” said Greg Smith, associate director of religion research at Pew.

“Cultural Catholics exhibit a significant degree of openness to the church,” he said, “whereas ex-Catholics have cut their ties. Asked directly, ‘Could you see yourself ever returning’ to a Catholic religious identity, 4 in 10 cultural Catholics say yes, but 90 percent of ex-Catholics say no”.

Many of the ex-Catholics have become evangelical Protestants; or Conservative or Reform Jews (almost half of all converts to Judaism are former Catholics).

While the Roman Catholic church is getting smaller, those who remain within the church are stronger in their faith: 7 in 10 U.S. Catholics say they cannot ever imagine leaving the Catholic Church, no matter what. That means that in the future losses should be less.

The Pew survey found that most remaining Catholics align church teachings they consider “essential” to what it means to be Catholic. Leading the list: 68 percent cite a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; 62 percent list helping the poor and needy; 54 percent cite receiving the sacraments and devotion to Mary.

But only a minority see addressing climate change (29 percent) or opposing abortion (33 percent) as “essential” to their Catholic identity. Catholics are evenly divided over whether it is sinful to spend money on luxuries without also giving to the poor. Neither do most see it as a sin to use energy without concern for the impact on the environment.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com


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Why natural is not necessarily good but you are sacred

Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, c. 1334 copy in A...

Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, c. 1334 copy in Arabic, describes medicinal features of cumin and dill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By: Andy Pakula

Before I became a Unitarian minister, I was a scientist – a Ph.D. biologist. Ministry and science is an interesting combination – two fields that sometimes conflict and sometimes make for the most wonderful of synergies. I know a great deal about how living things work – about the chemistry and mechanics that life uses to sustain itself. I know a lot about how living things interact with one another.

The fact that this is in my background may make you feel that you can trust what I say about the world a bit more or it may make you feel more distrustful. The confidence we once had in scientists and science has vanished. Hostility and fear have largely taken its place.

There was a time when society was enraptured with the potential of modern technology. As we saw diseases cured that had for millenia brought human misery, there was a sense that we – through the intelligence of humanity – could be our own saviours – we imagined that our science and technology would allow us to create a world of universal peace and prosperity. The horrors of the 20th century shattered this vision as we saw our technology turned to more and more effective means of killing and oppression.

The pendulum seems to be swinging to the opposite extreme now. Science and technology are often seen as evils today. As West argues, many of us have adopted a sense that what is natural is necessarily good. Anything else is bad. The word “unnatural” has come to mean wrong, dangerous, and perverted. West would clearly like to refute this extreme notion that identifies natural as good and anything that does not occur without human intervention as bad.

So would I.

To quote author and fellow Unitarian Kurt Vonnegut “If people think that nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.”

Vonnegut’s take is a bit extreme. Nature is not our enemy. It is filled with beauty and wonder and our tradition has long understood the natural world to contain the image of the sacred, perhaps more than anywhere else. And yet, there can be no doubt that nature is not entirely benign.

As a scientist, I learned about thousands of dangerous natural substances. One of the most potent cancer-causing agents in the world is a chemical called aflatoxin. It is not produced in some shiny chemical plant. It is not a by-product of industry. It is produced by a naturally-occurring kind of fungus that likes to grow on grain. Eating food contaminated the natural fungus that makes natural aflatoxin causes cancer.

Aflatoxin is a particularly extreme example, but it is not at all unique. Many plants, mushrooms, and animals are, of course, toxic. Even some foods we eat regularly, such as parsnips and potatoes produce their own toxins – probably as a way of protecting themselves from insects or microorganisms.

And finally, I must mention comfrey. You may know comfrey as a tall perennial plant with lovely little flowers. It is commonly used as a vegetable and made into a tea. For more than 2,000 years, comfrey has been used as an herbal medicine. It has been used to treat broken bones, ulcers, congestion, inflammation, and wounds. It is just the sort of thing that is popular today, where natural remedies tend to be trusted over something the doctor would provide. 2,000 years of experience – that has to count for something.

Well, whatever else comfrey may or may not do, it also damages your liver and contributes to the development of cancer. Comfrey is natural and it has a very long history of use. It is not, however, safe.

Synthetic drugs are tested using an incredibly exhaustive and expensive serious of chemical, animal, and human studies. Synthetic drugs are pure and guaranteed to be almost exactly the same every time you take them – no matter who makes them or which chemist you buy them from. Natural drugs are complex mixtures that can be very different in every batch. They undergo almost no testing.

I am very concerned about the natural food and medicine phenomenon. Sometimes, it is harmless to take a herbal medicine. Sometimes, though, we do irreparable damage to ourselves either because of side-effects of these natural potions or because we forgo a synthetic drug that could really help us because we have been led to be afraid of anything “unnatural.”

It is appealing to believe that natural is necessarily good. I understand myself to be a part of the natural world and I have a strong sense that all life is connected in some deep way. I sometimes find myself thinking that, because of this great communion, nature would not be in any way threatening. Indeed, it should be nurturing and restorative. It should provide a remedy for all of my ills. It is a comforting and deeply spiritual notion.

If we believe a traditional religious story of the origin of the world, God would certainly have made plants to suit our needs. In a more scientific world view, we might imagine that we would have a special relationship with plants that were around as we evolved. They might have adjusted to suit us and we to suit them. Mutually beneficial relationships do occur in the natural world. Some insects and flowers have developed such intricate and interdependent relationships that neither can live without the other! The plant could not be pollinated without its special insect and the insect would starve without its special plant.

But the reality is that we don’t benefit the plants and they did not evolve to benefit us. All of the drugs found in nature, such as penicillin, aspirin, some anticancer and cardiac drugs – are made by plants that evolved to produce them for some other purpose – usually to repel or kill some kind of invader – and we are just lucky that they have beneficial effects for us.

Just as natural materials are not necessarily good, unnatural ones are not necessarily bad. Synthetic medicines, as West points out, have extended our lives dramatically. They have literally transformed the nature of human life. Unless we are walking naked through an untouched primordial forest –we are making use of something or many things that are unnatural.

Patrick West says that we worship nature. He claims that we do so because we can no longer worship the traditional God and because we no longer trust scientists and doctors implicitly.

There is some truth to this claim. Human beings crave a simple organising principle. The world is immensely complex and becoming more so every day. Scientists and engineers dream up new things faster than we can keep track of them, much less know how to evaluate their safety. In response to such a complex and dynamic reality, some turn to fundamentalist religion and use scripture or religious dogma to help sort the things into categories that are easier to manage. Others turn to different simplifications, including the notion that nature is pure and good.

The duality of natural and unnatural is applied not only beyond us, but within us. Is the human character innately good or evil? This is a question that has been argued for centuries.

Today, a common notion has emerged that our character is intrinsically good – that it is by nature pure and true. Evil comes in only by that which is artificial and imposed upon us. As long as an aspect of our character is natural, this thinking would say, it is good.

I am reminded of when my son Jacob was very young. My wife and I were absolutely determined to keep him free from the contaminating influences of our culture’s violence and shallow values. There would be no telly in our home. The toys would all be wood – no artificial plastic stuff for this child. And most of all, there would be no weapons of any kind.

It was not long at all before our darling, pure, innocent Jacob was making anything and everything into a weapon. “We don’t have weapons in this family” we said, as we confiscated the toast he had bitten into the shape of a gun. “We don’t have weapons in this family” we said as he shaped his fingers into a gun and blasted away at us. “What are you going to do” he countered, “take away my finger?” At that point, we realised we were fighting a losing battle – not just against him, but against something that is hard-wired into us.

Human nature, I am convinced, is not purely good. Nature does not bestow upon us infinite goodness. Just as in the world beyond us, nature provides a complex mix of harmful and helpful, good and bad, constructive and destructive attributes and impulses.

It is human nature to be compassionate. It also appears to be human nature to fight one another. I believe that a sacredness, a goodness exists within each of us – call it dignity, call it soul, call it Atman, call it God – whatever you call it, it is there to be found in every heart. But the goodness is not all there is. We are innately capable of good and evil.

There will be no simple measuring stick for us to show us good from bad or right from wrong. Categories such as natural or scriptural that create simple black and white dualities will not be adequate signposts to show us the way.

Mary Oliver, in her poem, “At the Lake,” speaks rapturously of a natural event – a fish leaping through the air. She speaks of holiness and identifies it with the natural world.

The point is not the simple one that everything natural is holy and everything unnatural is not. It is more subtle. She writes:

“This is, I think, what holiness is:
the natural world,
where every moment is full of the passion to keep moving.”

The holiness of the natural world lies not in its naturalness alone, but in its motion. It is in the process of life – its exuberance and energy, its determination – that holiness is found. Goodness is to be identified in everything that shows us our unity, brings us together, creates understanding, and grows the living force of love in the world.

Dualities are for the solitary and untrusting. It is when we are alone that we must measure and determine for ourselves – when we turn to simplistic categories to guide us. It is when we can not trust others to carry out their roles responsibly that we must suspect everything and turn to simplifying dualities.

In community, we turn to one another. It is here, inspired by vision and bound together by love, that we learn what creates understanding, what creates trust, and what reveals our unity.

It is here that we begin to create the world we long to see.

About the Author:

Andrew Pakula is the Minister of the Newington Green and Islington Unitarians, a rapidly-growing, radically-inclusive, spiritual community in north London. He directs UKSpirituality.org, a not-for-profit association of quality providers of spiritual events, programmes, and workshops.

With a Jewish background and influences from many other religious traditions, his is a particularly open and eclectic approach to spirituality. Andrew believes that authentic spirituality provides a way of living deeply, meaningfully, and with connection, and that it offers an essential antidote to the busy, individualistic, materialistic culture in which we live.
http://www.ukspirituality.org
apakula@gmail.com

Article Source: Why natural is not necessarily good but you are sacred


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Embracing the Shadow – Inner Peace Tip by Catherine VanWetter

iconic void by Gisela Giardino via Flickr

by Catherine VanWetter

Debbie Ford, who wrote the book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, has finished a movie called “The Shadow’. It was released June 26, 2009 and is available for purchase. It is a movie well worth watching.

I have been following Debbie’s work for years and had the opportunity to meet her at the Chopra Center in LaJolla, California, and again at the Coronado Hotel in California.

Debbie’s workshops focuses on that part of ourselves that we push away and that we are ashamed of. It’s that part of our self that we don’t like and try to hide. The shadow is sneaky and can show up as a sarcastic remark, as judgment, or in criticism. When uncovered, it often laughs, as if to soften the edges of being dishonest, cruel or unfaithful.

Carl Jung, a psychoanalysis, coined the phrase shadow to describe those places in us that are often buried deep in our unconscious. The parts of our self that we try to forget about and hope that no one sees it. Everyone has a shadow. Whenever we are not in love, joy or light, we are in the shadow.

I work with individuals and groups who want to uncover their shadow thus shedding some light onto it. They have come to a place in their life where the shadow part of them brings them so much grief and pain, that they want to get to the core of it. It takes courage to do this depth of work because we often go into those places in us that we would just as soon ignore but that keep coming up, reminding us of their existence. It’s like having a thorn in our side. We’re aware that it is there and yet it is illusive and shows up as addictions, distractions, anxiety and depression, to name just a few.

Between Shadows by loquenoves / Pía

Between Shadows by loquenoves / Pía via Flickr

Throughout my years of training and self-healing, I have begun to come to a place of peace within myself, and my shadow. My sense is that the shadow’s initial intention was to protect us. One of the ways that the shadow did this was to help us feel that we were connected to those around us and that we had something in common with others. We could talk negatively of someone, gossip, and “puff” ourselves up because we thought that we were better than the one that was being ridiculed. Yet, that part that we didn’t like in someone else often was a part in us that we didn’t like. This is where the ego plays a huge part in the shadow. If we are proven wrong, the ego expands, and if we are successful in hiding our shadow it expands as well. Often people who begin to get in touch with their shadow may have the dark night of the soul or several, where the parts of them that are no longer working show up in the middle of the night as they are trying to sleep. It’s that anxiety attack that seemingly comes out of nowhere waking them from a deep peaceful slumber.

As one begins to notice the shadow and shed compassion light on it, then the true work of resolving that part can occur. Until we have compassion for that part of our self and become aware of it, as a witness, we will not be able to embrace it. The shadow shows us duality. With the dark is the light. There are saints and there are sinners. This duality allows us to see the contrast that we walk in everyday. It’s finding the balance and honoring all of our self, especially the shadow. By doing this we can heal that shadowy part that has kept us from our pure essence of light, love and joy.

St. Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow 00.jpg

St. Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The times that we are in are challenging and as a result are activating many people’s shadows. It’s showing up as road rage, pervasive anxiety, violence, corruption, and betrayal. The shadow is appearing in ways that is evasive and often sneaks up on us when we are not conscious, when we’re stressed out or tired. To become aware of our shadow and how it shows up our life is to begin noticing it. It’s in the noticing that we can begin to come to terms with it, and to begin to heal that part of our self that has been deeply wounded. Give yourself permission to begin this sacred healing through gentle noticing and deep awareness. You may be very surprised at the gems you find deep within your shadows.

About the Author:

Catherine VanWetter is a Holistic Family Healing Practitioner trained in a variety of healing techniques that help people find Inner Peace Through Generational Family Healing. She invites you to be gentle, compassionate, and courageous as you put down your weapon of choice and step into a field of Grace. Additional information on this and similar topics are available at Catherine’s website, blog and radio program “Inspirations of the Heart”. Catherine invites you to a complimentary copy of her Morning Meditation, Welcoming A New Day. All may be found at http://www.ToTheHeartOfTheMatter.com.

Article Source: Embracing the Shadow – Inner Peace Tip by Catherine VanWetter


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Biotechnology in Renewable Energy Resources

By Edward Hunter

Alternative energy is defined as energy that comes from a natural source and is renewable or naturally occurring. Alternative energy typically does not produce pollution and comes from such sources as the sun, wind, and water.

There have been many recent innovations to alternative energy as a result of expanding alternative energy technologies.

Alternative energy technologies have made it possible to do much more research on how to use the alternative energy sources that we have more effectively to generate the most power out of the various sources.

Alternative energy technologies have also been instrumental in discovering new ways to produce heating fuels, such as bio-diesel, methanol, and ethanol from bio-mass for energy consumption.

It is imperative that companies who are dedicated to alternative energy options continue to develop their alternative energy technologies to keep up with the demand to make alternative energy more readily accessible to a larger amount of people as the dwindling supply of fossil fuels and concerns over our dependence on foreign oils drives many more people towards considering alternative energy sources.

In recent years alternative energy technologies have propelled bio-mass and bio-deisel into the fore front of the alternative energy movement. Biotechnology has become an extremely important area of research and development as a result of the record high gas and heating fuel prices.

Biomass is organic material made from plants or animals that originates from agricultural and forestry residue as well as municipal and industrial wastes and terrestrial and aquatic crops. Through the use of alternative energy technologies bio-mass has been able to be transferred into usable fules such as methane, ethanol, dio-deisel, methanol and biocrude.

These products are viable and readily available alternatives to pertroleum and gasoline. Through the use of alternative energy technologies bio-mass has also been found to be a source of biopower. Biopower uses biomass to produce electricity using alternative energy technologies such as direct firing, co-firing, gasification, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion.

The direct firing method biomass is burned to produce steam. The steam drives a turbine that turns a generator to convert power into electricity. Without alternative energy technologies it would be much more difficult to develop new ways to use the resources that are available naturally.

Alternative energy technologies also make it possible to discover new ways to develop alternative energy and make it more user friendly and efficient in usage and installation.

Alternative energy technologies truly are changing the face of the alternative energy movement and creating more innovative ways to use natural resources as well as providing new products that rely on alternative energy as their source of power.

About the Author:

Learn more about alternetive energy at Energy4Freedom.com


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Reagan’s 1987 UN speech on ‘alien threat’ resonates now

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Steve Hammons

(This article was featured 7/26/15 in “Knapp’s News” on the Coast to Coast AM radio show website. “Coast” has the largest late-night radio audience in the U.S. Award-winning investigative journalist George Knapp of KLAS-TV News in Las Vegas is a popular “C2C” host.)

On Sept. 21, 1987, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave an address to the United Nations General Assembly. In an often-quoted section of his speech, Reagan asked rhetorical questions and commented about the nations and cultures of the world uniting in common efforts to live in peace and avoid wars and bloodshed.

“Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity,” Reagan said.

“Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond,” Reagan proposed.

“I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”

In these statements, Reagan seems to be noting that in addition to the diverse cultures and societies around the world, we should also keep in mind the larger human culture. And despite conflicts and wars throughout human history to the present day, this larger human culture has many unifying elements.

UNIFIED HUMANITY

Among these are the major accomplishments of humanity, including the survival of our human species on this planet over hundreds of thousands of years. The development of agriculture, language, education, art, music and technology are common to most human cultures.

Reagan urged us to see the big picture – “how much unites all the members of humanity.” He warned us to take the long view instead of “our obsession with antagonisms of the moment.”

Of course, the nations of the world already engage in significant cooperation on many levels. These include efforts to improve trade and economic prosperity, share cultural resources and viewpoints, protect global public heath, and respond to disasters and humanitarian challenges.

Yet, there is room for significant improvement in how nations and cultures interact, and how individual humans treat one another.

These conflicts, of course, are not just between countries and cultures. Within the many nations and cultures on Earth, we often see internal conflict and strife when people within a society are divided and angry about real or perceived injustice, oppression, ethnic and religious differences or some other cause.

In his address, Reagan theorized that these many sources of discord and conflict around the world “would [quickly] vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” And, he put forth the idea that, “Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond.”

Was Reagan correct? Would certain adverse developments help bring the human race together? Would the human race unify in the face of a devastating impending meteor strike, severe global disease pandemic, worldwide natural disaster or other threat?

THREAT OR BREAKTHROUGH

Reagan appeared to hold an optimistic view of humanity. He seemed to indicate that he felt the human race would pull together in greater unity in the face of a larger danger. As a result, a greater awareness about what we have in common as humans would help us overcome the perpetual wars, death and destruction that have been a large part of the experience of the human race on Earth.

Implicit in his speech, the former president told us that we have the potential to transcend these destructive behaviors and seize opportunities to focus on unifying instincts, developments and events.

Would it really require “an alien threat from outside this world” for the people of Earth to make significant progress toward peace and prosperity instead of perpetual conflict?

Or, might we stumble on this truth without an impending disaster? Can we reach a tipping point when it becomes evident and obvious that our “universal aspirations” are more important and fundamental than war and destructive competition?

Instead of “an alien threat,” what if a positive kind of development emerged? Such a development could include scientific discovery of a remarkable nature or a change in global human psychology and consciousness.

Instead of Reagan’s concept of an “outside, universal threat,” what might happen if there was an inside, universal breakthrough that takes the human race on to the next levels of our development?

About the Author

Steve Hammons is the author of two novels about a U.S. Government and military joint-service research team investigating unusual phenomena. MISSION INTO LIGHT and the sequel LIGHT’S HAND introduce readers to the ten women and men of the “Joint Reconnaissance Study Group” and their exciting adventures exploring the unknown.

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Spider Medicine (Arachnid Arcanum)

Originally posted on Shamagaia:

 Spider_web_Luc_ViatourImage source: Wikimedia Commons

Awkward Beginnings

Meeting a new animal spirit guide is always a deeply cathartic experience, and my recent introduction to a spider spirit guide was no exception. Relationships with animal spirits are in some regards like the ones we have with people. Trust takes time to develop in both parties. There may be reluctance at first, and this was the case with my spider spirit guide and I.

I met her peripherally at first, within my psychic safe space, which consists of a lush Australian bush grove with a stream fed by a waterfall. I journey here and ground myself upon a rock in the middle of the stream to meditate and clear my mind as I await interactions with various inter-dimensional beings.

However, on this particular occasion, I felt compelled to retreat back into the dark rocky recess behind the waterfall, which serves as my…

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“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking

Originally posted on Stuff Jeff Reads:

BriefHistoryTime

This book has been on my list for a while and I finally got around to reading it. I had high expectations for a couple reasons. First off, I am fascinated by theoretical physics. Wormholes, black holes, quantum mechanics, string theory, all that stuff I find intriguing. But more importantly, as a technical writer, I am very interested in how other writers of scientific and technical information are able to present complex ideas in a manner that is digestible for the lay person. From this perspective, Hawking excels in communicating deep and complicated ideas in a clear and concise manner that we commoners can grasp.

There is a lot of deep information and I could not do the book justice by trying to summarize it. So instead, I will cite a few quotes that sparked some thoughts and questions for me. The first one concerns event horizons associated with black…

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