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EP Today – In the dark or the light?

This morning I was reading Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ and came across these two quotes (tweeted above).

It made me think about how the spirit can influence our outlook. A church, for instance, might look like a silly, rigid place if we are not able to appreciate the presence of God within its walls. But if our hearts and minds are open, that physical space is literally transformed, as we ourselves can be.

And so it probably is with Jeremiah and Cicero’s wildly different takes on ancient Jerusalem. On the one hand, we have a great prophet in touch with God. On the other hand, an intelligent, well-meaning Roman statesman who writes about the ancient Greek and Roman gods.

Cicero via Wikipedia

Cicero goes down in history as a good man who was generally respected by the early Christians. But what about those people who appear to be obsessed with the dark side?

I try to stay open-minded about people seemingly obsessed with evil. Artistically representing evil in a healthy way may be one thing. But sometimes I wonder if something is bothering some people fixated on evil.

Mind you, some Christians give off horrendous vibes. I try to avoid them because I just can’t afford the pain – literally – of associating with some of them.

With both Christians and obsessively “dark side” people, we have to look for the human heart underneath the layers and influences and try to nurture a person’s authentic self. Hopefully over time we all learn how to tell the difference between darkness, lesser lights, and the true light.

For some it might take many years, even a lifetime. But we have to remember that Jesus didn’t always hang out with holy people. He came to help those in the dark. And in our limited capacity, so should we.

¹ https://youtu.be/boX8zNyhaL4

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EP Today – Making society better by ignoring the top shelf?

I recall sitting in a gym writing my final exam for sociological theory. It was an undergraduate course but the professor was waaay above average. He covered the “Big Three” classical sociological theorists (Karl Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim) along with some lesser lights and the cultural climate in which they all lived.

So this morning I remember what it might be called when someone confuses spirituality with social effervescence. Durkheim came up with the term effervescence:¹

According to Durkheim, a religion comes into being and is legitimated through moments of what he calls “collective effervescence.” Collective effervescence refers to moments in societal life when the group of individuals that makes up a society comes together in order to perform a religious ritual. During these moments, the group comes together and communicates in the same thought and participates in the same action, which serves to unify a group of individuals. When individuals come into close contact with one another and when they are assembled in such a fashion, a certain “electricity” is created and released, leading participants to a high degree of collective emotional excitement or delirium. This impersonal, extra-individual force, which is a core element of religion, transports the individuals into a new, ideal realm, lifts them up outside of themselves, and makes them feel as if they are in contact with an extraordinary energy.²

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim (Wikipedia)

Durkheim, as innovative as he was (in 1897 he was the first to use statistics and method to try to understand and improve society),³ is guilty of vulgarizing spirituality. Spirituality is not some kind of electric force generated by bodies in close proximity. It comes from above and brings a higher purpose to life.

Spirituality may permeate bodies but to confuse social excitement with spirituality is, imo, sadly inadequate. It’s like chimps trying to figure out algebra. It just won’t happen.

¹ Durkkheim wrote in French. See this discussion about two different French terms for power, puissance and pouvoir.

² http://www.iep.utm.edu/durkheim

³ As far back as the ancient Romans, census data was collected but this was to facilitate ruling and tax collection. In his 1897 work Suicide, Durkheim tries to link social data with four different types of suicide. Something like a doctor of society, he tries to “diagnose” social problems rather than using stats for ruling and taxation.

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Is Islam Anti-Judaism?

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan (il...

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan – illustration by Gustave Doré via Wikipedia

By Rabbi Allen S Maller

The Koran is the only book of revelation that includes within itself a theory of prophethood which includes other religions. There have always been (since the days of Adam) people inspired by Allah who urged their society to avoid destruction by turning away from its corrupt and unjust ways and  turning to the One God who created all humans. The Koran mentions 25 prophets by name (most of them known to non-Muslims too) and Muslims believe there were one hundred twenty four thousand others, whose names are now unknown.

Of the 25 mentioned by name in the Koran only five revealed books of sacred scripture, and only Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad revealed books of sacred scripture that are the bases for three religions that still flourish today.

According to the Koran, every nation in the world receives at least one prophet who speaks to it in its own language. However, one nation, the Children of Israel, has received a great many prophets. The Koran doesn’t explicitly tell us why so many prophets arose within the Children of Israel but a careful reading of the Koran reveals the answer.

This was what I learned from a profound and enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn in a book entitled Jewish-Muslim Encounters edited by Charles Selengut (Paragon House 2001). The book is a collection of 11 papers given at a conference in Cordoba, Spain sponsored by the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace.

Almost all prophets, according to Kahn, are like Hud who was sent to Ad or Salih who was sent to Thamud to warn them of their impending destruction due to their corrupt and immoral ways and to call them to repentance. However, the prophets of the Children of Israel are somewhat different. First, Abraham is the only prophet we know of, whose two sons, Isma’il and Ishaq, are also prophets. Indeed, Abraham’s grandson Ya’qub and great grandson Yusuf are also prophets. Thus starting with Abraham Allah established a family dynasty of prophets.

English: English translation of hebrew version...

Map of the twelve tribes of Israel, before the move of Dan to the North – Wikipedia

With Joseph and his brothers (the tribes) the extended family became the 12 tribes of Israel or as they are usually called the Children of Israel/Ya’qub. The Children of Israel were blessed with many prophets inviting them to stay firm in their faith to God; this is expressed in various places in the Qur’an “When death approached Ya’qub, he said to his sons, ‘Who will (you) worship after I am gone?’ They answered, ‘We will worship your God, the God of our forefathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, the One God. Unto Him we will surrender ourselves.’” (2:132)

Second, when Moses/Musa is sent by Allah he comes not primarily to warn or rebuke the Children of Israel (his own people) but he is sent “to Pharaoh” ( 20:24, 51:38, 73:15 and 79:17), “to Pharaoh and his chiefs” (al-mala) (7:103, 10:75, 11:97, 23:46, and 43:46) “to Pharaoh and his people” (27:12). Musa is sent to Pharaoh to warn him of the destruction that will fall on Egypt if he doesn’t stop setting himself up as a God and doesn’t let the Children of Israel go free. Musa comes to rebuke Pharaoh and to rescue the Children of Israel.

Only when the Jewish nation is free from Egyptian bondage do they receive the Torah from God, by the hand of Moses without any mediation of an angel. This very enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn stimulated me as a Reform Rabbi to realize that the evidence from the Qur’an shows that Islam praises the unique place of the Children of Israel among other nations as opposed to the accusations of some who blame the Qur’an as being antagonistic toward Jews.

From Abraham’s descendants comes a religious community based not just on belief but also on family and tribal ties. Converts to Judaism, who usually marry into the Jewish community, are like adopted children. This is why Judaism, although it welcomes converts from any people, has never engaged in a determined large scale missionary enterprise.

The principle that God makes a covenant with a whole people and not just with the faithful believers helps me understand a powerful verse in the Koran. At Sinai, when Allah gives the Jewish People the Torah, He makes a covenant with the Children of Israel. Allah raises the mountain above the whole people saying, “Hold firmly to what We have given you (the Torah) and remember what is in it.” (2:63) The whole nation’s fate stands under the shadow of mount Sinai, and this explains the miracle of all Israel agreeing to the covenant. This may be the reason why Musa is the only prophet whose book comes not from an angel but directly from Allah.

Isaiah via Wikipedia

Isaiah via Wikipedia

Individuals who hear a prophet may choose to believe or disbelieve, but when God Himself makes ‘an offer that you can’t refuse’, everyone is in for all generations to come, and then has to struggle with living up to the deal. The many prophets that address the Children of Israel are teachers and guides more than rebukers because the covenant between God and the Umma of  b’nai Israel is for all generations.

Thus the covenant is not just for the community of the faithful; but for the whole community of Israel, which includes some whose hearts are like rocks that spring forth streams, while others only yield water when split, and others sink for fear of Allah.(2:74) It is this last segment of the Children of Israel that Prophet Muhammad refers to when he rebukes the Children of Israel.

The Koran correctly understood doesn’t attack all of Israel. Every community, including the Muslim umma contains groups of faithful believers and a party who disbelieve. All the prophets of Israel opposed the same kind of religious hypocrites in their day, as Prophet Muhammad did in his day.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com

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EP Today – When teachers get creepy

eptoday-copyWay back, when Earthpages was a website instead of a blog, the main page had a feature called “EP Today.” Some of my early web pals might remember this.

I’ve decided to go back to that name for commenting on current news and general interest stories.

So here it is. Our first reinstallment of EP Today!

Today I’d like to briefly touch on the (imo) silly idea of the perfected being. The more I get into the spiritual life the more I recognize the importance of humility. Also, to think that someone is more evolved or pure than another may carry potential dangers. Some gurus and charismatic figures can really disrupt family relations.

I remember living in a small town about 100 miles out from Toronto. A group of local devotees would drive every weekend, abandoning their spouses and children, to be with a high profile NYC guru. That’s a pretty long drive to make every weekend!

At a gathering designed to welcome and orient potentially new disciples, some devotees’ family members showed up and openly spoke out. They said the guru was stealing the hearts and minds of their loved ones. I was surprised. The concerned family members seemed almost angry. And I must admit, back then at my young age, I leaned toward the side of the devotees whose manner suggested that their families just didn’t quite get it. They weren’t enlightened enough to understand…

But about 25 years later, I can empathize with the complaining family’s perspective. Imagine if your wife or mom was rushing off every weekend to be with a NYC guru? Wouldn’t you be a bit concerned? I would.

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The difficulty, as I see it, is this:

Most gurus claiming to be perfect often emanate some kind of soupy, numinous power. It’s not clear like the Holy Spirit. But it’s still there. A buzz, if you will. And sensitive but naive followers pick up on that buzz and are impressed. They’ve never encountered numinosity (spiritual power) before. Or perhaps they’ve never experienced anything better. So they believe, mistakenly, I’d say, that the guru’s ‘light’ is ultimate.

To me, true spirituality isn’t hero worship or getting spiritually drunk or stoned. Instead, it involves realizing that we carry each other, and on many levels. Healthy spirituality is not a one-way street with some pampered, contented teacher at the top, supposedly raising up disciplines who are far beneath them. No. The dynamic is multidirectional. And anyone who says otherwise is probably naive or, if they’re squatted at the top of an unhealthy guru-disciple relationship, an egotist and possibly a mind-abuser.

So many sham gurus and questionable spiritual leaders seem like bullfrogs posing as kings and queens. They rule from tiny little mudponds, like that creepy turtle in Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle. And until an oppressed turtle speaks up, the kingpin or Queen Bee will keep scamming cash and mental energy from the gullible and inexperienced below.

Would anyone in their right mind really want to have anything to do with that?

 People Theorize What It Would Be Like If Dr. Seuss Wrote Erotic Novels and Now Our Childhoods are Ruined (cheezburger.com)

 Health and Technology (forwardthinking.ashford.edu)


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EP Rewind – Free Speech Harming the Speechless

This post originally appeared on 2009/11/03. The related articles at bottom are current.

By Abigail Taggart

Peace for Animals by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Peace for Animals by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Ten years ago Congress put into place a federal law to make illegal video depictions of animal torture and murder that were made to appeal to “crush fetishists” among others. Crushing is a sexual fetish which generally shows women, often clad in high heals or dominatrix style clothing stepping on small animals or bugs. They occasionally also depict other forms of animal abuse.

In the years since its being put on the books, the law has only been called upon only three times, including the case being heard, United States v. Stevens. While the law was written to crack down on the “crush videos”, all three times its use has been applied to prosecute manufacturers of videos of dog fights. In Stevens, the defendant was convicted of selling recordings of a dogfight that he had made in Japan. His lawyers argued that, as dog fighting is legal in Japan, Mr. Stevens has not broken any law.

The first amendment is a complicated thing. It very clearly asserts our freedom of speech, but since its inception, the courts have added multiple clauses limiting this right. The most applicable to this issue are Miller v. California and New York v. Ferber. In Millier, the court ruled that a work could be banded if it was considered obscene and the standard for judging obscenity would be based on the current societal standards of decency and whether or not the work or statement had merit of a literary, political, scientific or artistic ilk. Ferber made an additional exception. Child pornography would be not be allowed to be produced or possessed in any circumstance. The Court ruled that society’s duty to protect children was of greater importance than protecting freedom of expression. Only the most staunch civil liberties advocates could argue that possession of such filth should be allowed and the majority of society would write these individuals off as overly zealous wackos. Why then is a nation, that is so universally committed to protecting children who are unable to protect themselves, not willing to extend this protection to other living things desperate for care?

It is my sincere hope that when the Court rules on Stevens (which won’t happen for several months) that they will choose common sense over party lines or personal opinion. Crush videos and the like are obscene; that anyone would argue otherwise is appalling. Showing the brutalization and victimization of innocent, and often helpless, animals cannot be seen as art and should not be available to satisfy certain individual’s depraved cravings. Videos that exploit animal cruelty for profit are also obscene, and therefore do not have to be afforded the protection of the first amendment. The Supreme Court should behave responsibly and rule against Stevens in this case. Such a decision could prevent the suffering of more animals at the hands of profit hungry monsters.

About the Author

Abigail Taggart is one of the founding members of Kristag Design. Her creative spirit is behind much of the work that ends up as the finished product. Abby did her undergraduate work in English and uses her talent for expression for both commercial and non-profit institutions. She is a strong advocate of animal rights and has used her talents to support the efforts of proactive organizations that help this important cause.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.comFree Speech Harming the Speechless

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Read more about EP Rewind and why the Articlesbase links don’t work.


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Today’s Top Tweet – Armchair psychologists doing more harm than good?

I’m using a really old computer tonight, waiting for more RAM to come in the mail. Rather than carry my newer laptop up and downstairs all the time (which has plenty of RAM), I thought I’d just copy a quote from Today’s Top Tweet instead of using highly.co (which really only works with a half-decent computer). 🙂

People have a tendency to make accusations of mental illness against someone if they’re angry with the person, or if they sense that the person is acting differently from what is normally expected.


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Hindus dismayed over Bank of England’s blatant refusal to withdraw beef-laced banknotes

five-pound-note-1775774_640Special to Earthpages.org

Hindus worldwide are upset over Bank of England’s blunt refusal to withdraw £5 polymer banknotes which reportedly contained traces of tallow, despite the serious concerns raised by the Hindu community.

Bank of England (BOE) detailed statement, issued on February 15, said: Bank has concluded that it will not withdraw the current £5 polymer banknotes from circulation and will proceed with plans to withdraw legal tender status of the £5 paper banknotes on 5 May 2017; continue with the proposed launch of the new £10 polymer banknotes in September 2017, using the existing polymer substrate.

It also stated: …it would be appropriate to keep the £5 polymer note in circulation and to issue the £10 polymer note as planned, in September.

Rajan Zed said that it was shocking for the Hindus world over that BOE refused to respect the hurt feelings of the Hindu community and decided to continue with objectionable polymer banknotes.

Most of the large companies world over did extensive consumer research before launching a new product. BOE should have been wise and literate enough to look into the religious sensitivities of its consumers before investing so much money and effort into the production of polymer banknotes, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out.

Image - Max Pixel

Image – Max Pixel

It appeared that Hindus did not matter to BOE in its public sector equality duty, otherwise how it could justify the negative impact the Hindu community faced with this decision of BOE. Moreover, what happened to BOE claim—“Equality, diversity and inclusion are important to the Bank, and essential to the delivery of the Bank’s business strategy,” Rajan Zed asked.

BOE was the one who made this unwise decision of launching polymer banknotes without researching their impact on the society and now BOE was trying to justify their misadventure by saying that it would impose significant financial costs on the Bank to take these out of circulation, Zed indicated.

Rajan Zed urged BOE Court of Directors Chair Anthony Habgood and Governor Mark Carney to reconsider the BOE decision and stop the circulation of £5 polymer note and halt the production of £10 and £20 polymer notes.

Zed also urged United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Theresa May and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to intervene.

The £5 polymer banknote, featuring Sir Winston Churchill, was launched on 13 September 2016. The Bank has also announced that the £10 polymer banknote, featuring Jane Austen, is due to be launched in September 2017 and that the £20 polymer banknote, featuring JMW Turner, is due to be launched by 2020.

Products from tallow (rendered form of beef or mutton fat) were reportedly used in the manufacture of the polymer substrate for the £5 and £10 polymer banknotes.

Consumption of beef is highly conflicting to Hindu beliefs and it is certainly banned from entering Hindu religious centers. Cow, the seat of many deities, is sacred and has long been venerated in Hinduism.

London headquartered BOE, founded in 1694, is the UK’s central bank, whose mission is “to deliver monetary and financial stability for the British people.”