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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.

 Protests, Parties, and Sports Games All Fill the Same Human Need (nymag.com)

 marx’s ideas keep coming back with a vengeance (3quarksdaily.com)

 Politics as an opium of the masses (rappler.com)

 New Depeche Mode Video: Where’s The Revolution (wxrt.cbslocal.com)


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All you need is love… and maybe a little wisdom

This morning I replied to a Tweet that said the important question is whether a person is “alive” before death.

I suggested that it might be more fruitful to talk about being “awake” before death because to imply that someone isn’t alive – i.e. dead – seems a bit judgmental and final.

“Awake” and “asleep” are softer terms than “alive” and “dead.” And rarely do strong proclamations or insinuations do any good in helping ourselves and others.

So afterward, I walk to my local parish. And funnily enough the theme (and wording) for today’s Mass was about the soul not dying!

It made me think…

What did Jesus really say? The Bible has so many additions, glosses, translations, contexts, versions, and deletions that sometimes we can’t be sure. Even scholars and linguists quibble over the precise meaning of biblical terms (probably partly why I never bothered to learn Hebrew and Greek).

Dead Awake

Dead Awake (Photo: Wikipedia)

After a short while I came to the tentative conclusion that we’re all different and have unique roles to play in the grand scheme of things. So even someone who seems spiritually “dead” could be doing something vital. And even someone who seems spiritually “alive” could be out to lunch on other important issues.

Instead of a “this or that” approach, I think it’s more realistic to view people as complex, evolving creations. This involves a multi-dimensional or, if you like, a multi-factorial model of consciousness instead of a binary one.

With a multi-model we would be less inclined to judge and more open to finding out the inherent strengths in others. And more importantly, we might be better disposed to love, even if the “dead” or “sleepers” irritate or harm us.

Now let me be clear. I’m not talking about being a doormat. Nor am I suggesting we don’t defend ourselves or speak out against perceived injustices. I’m just talking about making practical instead of ultimate judgments.

For sure, I steer clear of people if I have reason to believe they’re borderline and possibly violent. You get people like that in big city churches. But I don’t hate them. And I don’t think they’re hell bound or simply going to disappear at death.

Loving people who have insulted or hurt us is not always easy. It might take a while to work through our own resentment. But I find that choosing to love usually works best for everyone, provided it’s done with discernment.

Discernment is a Catholic term with two related meanings. On the one hand it means finding out God’s will for us. On the other hand, discernment is learning to recognize the good and evil influences acting on our souls. Like anything, sincere seekers tend to get better at this over time.

So what will you choose?

Related articles

 We gather together to share our faith (helpfulinspirationalblog.wordpress.com)

 Sermon: It Finally Happened, Acts 2 (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)

 Be a Good Steward (danpolecheck.info)

 New Bible Study, “Dynamic Studies in Hebrews” by Fred Scheeren, Helps Readers Who Long to Live a Life More Pleasing to God (prweb.com)

 6th Sunday of the Year: Choosing the Lord with all our heart (studyprayserve.com)

 We Were Made For Something Greater (faithandfootsteps.wordpress.com)

 God Hates Pride (challies.com)

 We’ve handed over Buhari’s death wishers to God – Community leader (vanguardngr.com)

 Overcoming Your Fear of Death (pakalertpress.com)

 Scripture Verse Of The Week ‘Philipians4 Verse 4’ (mylordmyfriend.com)


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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

 Records: Undercover FBI Agent Was Near Gunmen Before Garland Terror Attack (dfw.cbslocal.com)

 Prophet Muhammad and the Full Moon (paulsarmstrong.com)

 Georgetown professor defends Islamic slavery and ‘non-consensua’l sex (americanthinker.com)

 American sentenced 30 years for aiding Islamic State (bostonherald.com)

 What Donald Wants to Ban: (brothersjuddblog.com)

 Denmark to pursue first blasphemy case since 1971 against man who burned Koran (hotair.com)

 Phoenix man gets 30 years for helping plot Texas attack (stripes.com)

 ISIS was grooming child soldiers in a Mosul orphanage (businessinsider.com)

 Borno women react to Emir Sanusi’s ‘one-wife-for-the-poor’ proposal (vanguardngr.com)

 ‘Radical’ Muslims? The History of Salafists (livescience.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

 Campaigners call six-month jail terms for animal abusers ‘laughable’ when fly-tippers get five years (telegraph.co.uk)

 A San Francisco Law Makes Rescue Dogs And Cats A Priority (newsy.com)

 The 10 Safest States for Your Pet (people.com)

 Florida men attack Navy veteran, beat turtle to death (stripes.com)

 3rd person sentenced in scalding of cat in Mississippi (bostonherald.com)

 ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ filmmakers accused of animal cruelty (rappler.com)

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 Man charged after video shows him dragging dog behind scooter (wdtn.com)

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


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EP Rewind – A Forum To Restore The Earth

One of my favorite free article sources, Articlesbase.com has recently disappeared. Articlesbase permitted 100 reprints at any one time. I didn’t delete any additional articles that would have pushed Earthpages.org over the 100 article limit. Instead, I made them private posts.

Now that Articlesbase is no more, I think it’s fine to bring these private posts forward. (If any authors disagree, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll happily remove your work asap).

Here’s the first “EP Rewind,” originally published on 2009/11/16. — MC

A Forum To Restore The Earth

Green Weed Cove

Green Weed Cove by Brent Pearson via Flickr

By Adolphpaul

The Green Revolution is here! Many are concerned about saving the planet and restoring it to its pristine glory.

Is it a movement just for the elite?

The green movement is currently a lifestyle choice that people can embrace if money is available to buy organic food and hybrid cars. It is important that it should become main-stream if it is to have any real influence on all of us.

The green solutions prescribed by pundits are expensive and many are not able to afford them. How many of us can afford to install solar- powered panels on the roofs of our homes? These are expensive consumer choices. However, it goes without saying that environmental concerns are the topmost priority.

What is a sustainable blog?

A sustainable blog brings out ideas from different sections of the society to lessen noxious emissions and suggest ways to use clean and green technology that is simple and accessible. For instance, instead of throwing away plastic bottles, why don’t you give them away to the factory to make polyester? Polyester garments are an eco-friendly option.

Its importance in the virtual world

  • Global warming is not something that is going to happen ten or twenty years from now. It is already happening.
  • Unfortunately, governments and industries have been slow in waking up to this fact.
  • Blogs and online communications are an excellent way to keep the pressure on the state for concrete action and measures to minimize the effects of climate change.
  • These are advocacy tools by means of which extensive and broad campaigns can be conducted by environmentalists and the civil society to save the planet from further destruction.
  • Everybody has a stake here and a significant role to play.
  • Eco-themed blogs from around the world discuss issues on the current eco crisis and the measures to tackle it by sustainable means.
  • You would be able to know about clean technology in the UK, climate change concerns in Italy or green farming in Canada.

It is important that an economy has to evolve from green technology and provides a sustainable life to us. A sustainable community would suggest ways to minimize our negative impact upon the planet. There has been a growing awareness among environment and sustainable groups to ensure that the existing resources on the planet do not get wastefully depleted.

The future generations should not suffer for the negligent actions of the past and present communities. Sustainable living is not an option. It is a necessity.
Overpopulation and a fierce battle for resources have wrecked havoc on the fragile eco-system of our planet. It is imperative that you should be conscious of your actions in conserving the planet by eco-friendly methods and limit over-consumption.

About the Author

Commoncircle.net is a social networking site where you can post and share your reviews, information on sustainable blog.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.comA Forum To Restore The Earth


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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.