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MBA and Christianity?

21st century capitalism through a 1st century worldview!  

It simply amazes me that with all our progress and all our magnificent universities of learning that have no comparison throughout history, the majority of humanity is still bound by the ancient beliefs from a time when humanity knew very little about anything!  

Perhaps the reason is that we do not have a solid explanation for these basic questions and therefore invent stories to comfort us against the terror of simply not knowing?  
 
1.)  Where am I from?
2.) What am I?  
3.) Where am I?  
4.) What does the source, the origin of all creation?  

So what spurned this post?  We’ll this advertisement I just saw on Facebook.  

MBA Christian Worldview

 

Being rather familiar with Christianity, I have a hard time reconciling true Christianity with an MBA.  An MBA is learning how to best increase profits, nothing more.  True Christianity is divesting yourself of all you own, your family, friends and following Christ.  I fail to see how the two are compatible.  

This world I live in seems to get more ridiculous as time goes on.   

Just for the record I wonder how Christians would react if they saw an advertisement for an MBA with a Muslim worldview, or a Jewish worldview?  This just shows that the people who created this add live in a bubble and know very little about the rest of the world.  Therefore, why value is their “worldview?”  It would be like asking a child their opinion of a college course!  

 

 

 

Dream as Reality, Reality as a Dream

At 36 years of age, I have come to a concrete realization that this world I live in is completely absurd.  

It is similar to a lucid dream, where the dreamer becomes aware of the improbability and often outright impossibility of his surroundings and thus realizes he is dreaming while inside of the dream.  

I have had the good fortune to travel the world, learn languages and delve deeply into the mindsets of other cultures.  These fortunes enabled me to escape from the fishbowl of a small environment and see the enclosure from the outside, as well as compare it to all the other enclosures I have been recently exploring through language study and travel.  Through these studies I found such a sense of freedom and excitement that I have never been able to stop or quell my desire for more information, more learning.  I found freedom from established traditions, mindsets, beliefs and biases.  I found great excitement for the unknown, the new, the exotic, the blasphemous, the feared and the heretical.

Recently however, time, money and obligations have limited my actual travel but in its place have come books, magazines and a need to devour more knowledge.  A great discovery I’ve recently made is Lapham’s Quarterly.  This publication pulls the golden nuggets out of history and complies them in a neat publication according to a central theme.  I have decided to pay much less attention to the daily noise of the news, the gossips and the outright stupid splashed along the T.V. screens.  Instead I have turned my focus to books, mostly historical nonfiction, and anything similar to Lapham’s Quarterly that really adds to my knowledge and gives me a greater understanding of this world I currently occupy.

Through these studies, travels and continual quest for more knowledge and in order to simply make sense of my surroundings, I’ve come to the conclusion that this world I live in is absurd.  Now that I’ve given my introduction let me put down some examples from the silly to that which has changed the course of the world.  

1.  High Heels


-   Once cannot venture outside without seeing multitudes of women wearing the most ridiculous form of footwear that while being extremely uncomfortable, also causes grotesque foot problems such as bunions.  The high heel was designed in 17th century Persia as a riding shoe so that the rider could stand up in the stirrups and maintain balance while shooting his arrows.  

After I learned this I can no longer look at women in high heels the same way.  I do not find them as an attractive addition but rather as an absurdity akin to one wearing over sized clown shoes.  

2. The suit and tie

We men did not escape this evolutionary comedy of the fashion trend either.  The origin of the tie is that it was essentially a bib worn to protect the shirt from stains.  The bib has just gotten smaller.  The suit on the other hand came out of military uniform fashion.  The military is regimented, disciplined and serious.  The businessman being formal in all his dealings must give an air of seriousness and formality and thus what a better fit than the military uniform without the military trappings?  So here we are, men running to our office to sit in our cubicles typing away in a modified military uniform and small bib.  

Once you know the origins of why things are the way they are life becomes completely bizarre.  

3. Wars 

I have recently been reading books on WWI and II as well as checking the facts on many historical wars through Wikipedia.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that war is absurd.  What is even more absurd is how quickly a leader can convince the people about the “just” reasons for the war.  

World War I is the most raw example of this.  In brief, a rather significant regional assassination happens and then due to country alliances we end up with millions dead.  It is as if monkeys wrote the framework of this play and gorillas carried it out.  We do not retain the right to consider ourselves separate from the animals.  The absurdity of the reasoning behind the war combined with the very real consequences are simply incomprehensible.  

As for the absurdity of reasoning for war, this has happened very recently in my country.  The slogan is “defending freedom.”  Now whenever war or soldiers are mentioned this is what a good portion of the population mindlessly blurts out.  Need to start a war?  Just have the leaders say we are “defending freedom.”  This slogan has had some wear and tear but still has at least another decade of durability before it is worn out. 

My conclusion is that humanity is still very primitive and that this period in our evolution will be looked upon millennia from now as just branching off from the animals.   For any reason, any reason what so ever millions and millions can still be convinced that extinguishing the life of another is the appropriate solution for whatever ideology, belief or passing issue of the day holds sway.  

It is as though we are not fully conscious.  For if we were fully conscious then the fibers of creation should tear apart while everyone screams in writhing agony for the atrocity, the unnatural, the unthinkable that has occurred.  

4.  Religion – Christianity

I hold no qualms with the overall spirituality and trying to connect ourselves with that which is unknown yet pervades everything including our own existence.  I also am inclined to give a bit of a pass to those that need religion, a set framework to tell them exactly what to do since the majority of adults are unable to discover a spiritual side on their own.  Most adults no longer advance mentally/intellectually and thus how could anyone expect them to make progress with that which cannot be seen, experienced directly or understood?  

To get straight to the point here, after all my travels, experiences, studies, meditations, reflections and so on, I can definitively say that Jesus was just a man.  I have extricated myself thoroughly from the fairy tale, the bedtime story that we use to sooth our fears about that which we do not know but which we pretend to hold every answer (unless it is a mystery of course *inside joke for those raised Catholic*).  

To stand up against 2000 years of history which has reshaped the world, billions of believers and an institution which has outlasted governments and call it nonsense is frightfully empowering as well as bewildering.  This belief, that a simple peasant is the son of the unknown which in our feeble minds we call God.  This God, the soothing blanket which keeps us warm and secure against that unknown void, that veil behind which nobody has seen yet everyone must go is a creation of our own imagination.  It is my opinion that we cannot even conceive of the true nature of the Great Spirit, الرحمن,  יהו   or whatever we have decided to call the unknown.  

I have been connecting the dots for some time now and the tapestry is complete.  Now, explaining exactly how I’ve arrived at this point would fill up a book which one day I may write but one can find clues in my previous posts from the past.  But let us just say that a good many things in the Bible have turned out to be fabrications, metaphors, or just plain wrong.  The world was not created in 7 days, humanity didn’t start with Adam and Eve, Jesus had brothers and was married and many of the miraculous acts happened in other cults/pagan beliefs long before Jesus.

If Christianity were a corporation it would have gone out of business a long time ago.  Anyone who puts their money and belief in a corporation that has been so wrong so often throughout history would be an investment opportunity for the slow witted.  

So why do so many people believe?  The reasons are as varied as the stars but I would say the main reasons are tradition, security and the need to believe there is something more than the disappointment that is often found here in this existence.  

The ship guiding my belief out of Christianity set sail a very long time ago and has visited many ports.  I recently read a book which seems to me as my final bill of lading summing up what I already knew and putting it in a well researched, organized intellectual format.  That book is called “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan.  

Jesus was just a man and I feel as though I’m in a dream when I see so many clinging to this fabricated story even though we have more universities and more learning than at any other time in the history of the world.  

The old religions die hard.  

5. Reality

Most people at this point will either have stopped reading or want to know what my own opinion on creation/reality may be.  People are so eager to know the opinions of those they disagree with not so they may consider the idea but rather to have the opportunity to defend their beliefs.  One cannot readily do this until they know the beliefs of the other.  

In any case, here is my belief.  

I have no idea where I am, what I am or where this environment came from.  All I know is that I have thoughts.  These thoughts come and go and I do my best to control them.  

This “I don’t know” is a very thought out, deep, reflected upon statement.  It is just as probable to me that we are in a computer program designed by a highly advanced civilization as it is that this universe is some advanced biology student’s creation and we sit upon a shelf in a small jar surrounded by millions of other universes in small jars.  The reader of this post may scoff but I have not said that I know we are in a small jar, I’ve said the opposite with a very clear “I don’t know.”  The jar example is one possibility out of infinite possibilities the majority of which I believe I cannot even comprehend.  

The book that really got me thinking about this was “Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story ” by Jim Holt.  He interviewed the brightest minds as well as researched the major philosophers in trying to discover the answer.  Obviously the book never comes to the supreme truth and Jim’s own opinion is hidden in an unrelated paragraph in just one sentence in the middle of the book that most people might miss.  

I enjoyed reading all of the theories but one of my major takeaways was the realization that I cannot comprehend these theories the way the men who created them can.  Any one of them would take me years of study and even then I know I do not have the raw intellectual fire power to get there.  

So all I can do is continue to explore and be completely fascinated as well as a little terrified at not having the answer.  All I know are what my senses, studies and inquiries have gathered.  Here we are, talking monkeys on a biological rock flying through space where only a fraction of us are trying to figure out what is going on while a good majority are quite certain they know the secrets of the universe, the divine and everything in between already.  

This dream began with my birth and will end with my death.  The longer the dream persists the more bizarre it becomes.  The best I can do is to be nice to my fellow dreamers, help those having a nightmare and try as hard as I can to fly.   

 

Christianity and its non-Christian Origins

I saw this post on Google + and it was so good I had to borrow it.  I have re-posted here so that I’ll always have it.  

Written by:  Yonatan Zunger – from Google +

Since I’ve heard that there’s some kind of religious festival going on this weekend, I thought it might be an interesting time to write something about the history of how Christianity came to have such a blend of non-Christian origins in it. There’s actually a very interesting history to this: in essence, it isn’t so much that Christianity absorbed external elements, as that through the tumult of the first six centuries CE, a bunch of European religions mixed and combined, and the Christianity we know today was the result of that — it got its name on the label, so to speak.

To realize how big the difference between what came out and what came in is, just pick up the Christian Bible and read through the discussions between Jesus and the Apostles. This was, originally, a Jewish reform movement, responding to the particular skews and corruptions that had shown up in the (Pharisaic) leadership, concerned with economic reform, (e.g. Luke 12) a hard shift away from ritual towards personal piety, (e.g. Matthew 15) and a serious mystical trend. (Largely cut out of the “canonical” texts, but very present in the Egyptian texts) The first radical change came with Paul, who was interested in converting outsiders — something that the earlier “followers of the Way,” as they called themselves, had very little interest in. But if you compare even Paul’s early churches with (say) medieval Christianity, or even most modern branches, you’ll see very little in common. How did this happen?

Let me start by setting up a few bits of history. We’re in the Classical Roman Empire, say around the year 100 CE. Rome is expanding everywhere; there’s a well-practiced routine when a new barbarian tribe is encountered. The Romans make offerings to the gods of that tribe, saying that they will build them a temple in Rome if they let this tribe be joined to the empire; then they go to war, win, and start to fold yet another tribe into the center. The erection of that temple isn’t something accidental: it’s part of what’s called the “Pax Deorum,” the peace of the gods, and what it really is is a public statement that these new people are being folded in to the society. These conquered barbarians aren’t at quite the same level as true Roman citizens, but they’re part of the Empire now, and light-years above those barbarians outside the gates. The physical mechanisms of the Empire are backed by a deep civic notion of “Romanitas;” to be a Roman is to be part of this great thing, to have a particular relationship to the outside world: we will conquer you and you will join us. And to be part of Romanitas is to have the weight of the Empire behind you.

And then it stopped working. Hadrian makes it halfway up Britain and builds a wall; and the Romans start to realize that they’re at the logistical endpoint of where they can conquer. A climate cycle drops food production down and leads to widespread famine and disease across Europe. Worse climate cycles to the east start to push nomadic tribes further out in search of resources, and they start to hit an already-weakening Empire. Without the constant influx of resources from conquered tribes, the underlying lack of planning in the Roman economy (and system of succession) starts to show; and from about 180 to 280, the Empire essentially collapses into an infinite sequence of famines, plagues, civil wars, and barbarian incursions. The last of these wars, the War of the Seven Emperors, is ended in 287 when Diocletian personally executes his last rival, and sets up a new regime. 

Diocletian’s empire was very different from Caesar’s in a lot of interesting ways, but the one I want to talk about today is that notion of “Romanitas.” Once, to be a Roman meant that you were ready to conquer everyone that you met; but the later Roman Empire was in no state to do such a thing. The central question of civic identity — of what it even meant to be a part of this empire — didn’t have a good answer, and with it, the whole question of what held the Empire together at all was up in the air as well.

Now switch over and look at the religion of the time. If we rewind back to the year 100, the Latin word religio had a very different meaning from what we think of today: it was the set of public rituals that the society participated in. These were tremendously important in a lot of ways. First of all, they were a key economic glue. Roman society didn’t have a notion of “taxation” in the modern sense; but instead, leading citizens were expected to regularly have sacrifices to the Gods to honor their good fortune in various things. At a sacrifice, animals would be killed, their first fruits given to the Gods with various prayers, and what followed is what we would today call a “big damned barbecue.” A Roman could expect to go to a sacrifice every week or so on the average, and this was the primary access that most Romans had to meat. (So when I say “key economic glue” I mean “a major part of how the society got access to food.”) Second, they were the way in which people defined their civic nature. Today, we define our nationality in terms of things we learn in school, what we read in the papers and discuss in the media — all things which didn’t exist in Rome. The expression of nationality was the common rituals that people went to. (And this, incidentally, is why the cult of the Emperor was so important: by sacrificing to the Emperor, you were indicating your loyalty to the Emperor and the Empire) Public actions were the main way that people communicated their thoughts.

One thing you may notice is missing from that list is anything which resembles our modern notion of “faith.” This wasn’t an unfamiliar concept, but it wasn’t considered to be part of “religio.” People had household gods with which they had a personal relationship, and actual priests had relationships with their gods, but nobody was generally expected to have a deep and abiding religious faith in each god that showed up through the gate. But the urge for deeper religious experiences was certainly there, and ever since the time of Alexander the Great (around 300BCE) one of the main ways this manifested was in “mystery cults.”

Mystery cults were the religious secret societies of the ancient world. You could join some of them by simply walking in the door, and for others you had to know someone, but what they all had in common was that you would be initiated, participate in secret rituals, gradually learn more and more of the secrets of this god. These cults often taught a combination of mysticism, philosophy, and theology; they offered a chance to see into the world beyond; and they offered a close confraternity among the members. And they were quite separate from “religio” proper, bearing it about the same relationship that gentlemen’s clubs in Victorian England bore to Parliament. 

There were a few categories of mystery cult which were becoming particularly popular in the first few centuries CE. The first was the cult of Magna Mater, which was basically the worship of Isis gradually transmuted into a pan-European religion. Consider that ancient Egyptian religion was already extremely, incomprehensibly ancient: the pyramids are a great work of the late Stone Age, as much older than the Romans as the Trojan War is older than us. The knowledge of hieroglyphs had already passed out of the world, but the infinite number of mummies and inscriptions and magical practices were still very much there. Add on to this that, even thousands of years earlier, Egyptian religion had highly favored spectacular, awe-inspiring temples where people went for rituals, healing, miracles, surrounded by fire, strange smokes, talking statues — and that this tradition was still very much alive — and you have a great factory of religious beliefs which were immensely popular in the Roman world.

Second was Mithraism, a religion that we still understand relatively little. Mithras was a warrior-god, of Persian origin; he has many similarities to similar warrior-gods spread across the Near East, not least the version of Yahweh worshipped in the western Levant which later became a core part of Judaism. In Rome, his worship became very popular among the army, starting with soldiers who had served in the east. The rituals were very secret, part of the brotherhood of joining the Roman Legions; underground caverns, secret dances, sacrifices, rituals that we know very little about today because they were actually fairly good at keeping their secrets, and quite deliberately didn’t write many things down. 

The third was ascetic monasticism, something which never really caught on in Europe but which was a huge deal in Egypt for hundreds of years. There was a tradition of hermits retreating off into the desert to pray, fast, and generally mortify themselves, and these hermits were considered to be avatars of purity itself, holy, powerful, capable of great magics, and mad as a bag of clams. (As a side note, The Book of the Fathers, a book on how to be a good monk written in fragments from the 4th through 10th centuries, has lots of examples of the stories of early monks, who were basically Christian Egyptian ascetics. Something like two thirds of these stories end with either “and then he/she starved to death” or “and then he/she died in a sandstorm.” These guys werehard-core.

And Christianity — Paul’s Christianity, the kind that wanted to spread — joined in to this mix. This early Pauline Christianity worshipped in secret, because it was defiantly anti-religio; this was honestly a holdover from its Jewish roots, with the Jews being rather famous for their (often violent) unwillingness to sacrifice to other gods. But it had many other familiar features: secret meetings in (literally) underground churches, intense personal faith, mystical healing, close confraternity between the followers. Unlike many of the other mystery cults, it was built fairly strongly around concepts of morality — another holdover both from its Jewish antecedents and from Jesus’ own focus on reforming Judaism towards personal religiosity. 

These religious traditions competed with each other pretty openly. If you read Apuleius’ The Golden Ass (arguably the first novel), you’ll see all these conflicts show up in people’s daily lives. Laws were passed banning Christians from serving in the army — it would destroy unit cohesion, you see, and the men might feel uncomfortable. (Le plus que ça change…) And they also combined: Christianity became popular in Egypt, and people combined it with both Egyptian asceticism (to form the seeds of monasticism) and Manichaeanism, another Persian import from which Christianity got its notions of the duality of God and the Devil. The healing magics of Magna Mater stayed popular across the board, and Christians found themselves doing basically the same things. 

(There’s a whole history here, too, of how these religions related to the earlier Roman political order.)

And around the year 300, these religious and political trends started to come together. The political order of the old religio made less and less sense: giant, formal, public rituals to the gods of old Rome didn’t pull people together the way they once did. But the underlying needs behind them, both civic and economic, were still there. By the time of the civil war that followed Diocletian’s retirement (a very interesting story in its own right), Mithraism was in a bit of a downturn, apparently not providing quite enough mysticism relative to simple brotherhood; Christianity had folded most of the magical elements of Magna Mater into itself, and had done a better job of conversion through its strategy of focusing on women, and soldiers, many of whose mothers had been converts, started to use it as their secret brotherhood ritual. Against this background, Constantine (one of the warring emperors) made it the quasi-official religion of his army, and soon after won control of the Empire. 

What happened here was that a religious trend of secret societies, previously illegal in many situations, which thus tended to forge close relationships among the practitioners, suddenly became an official Thing which people realized they could further their careers by converting to. Many is the Roman nobleman of this period who went to bed one night, a contented pagan, and woke up the next morning a bishop, and a few hundred thousand solidi poorer. (That was the going rate for a bishopric) But this new religious system had communal identity baked so deeply into it, and held people together well enough (after all, that’s one of the big things Constantine used it for!) that it started to become a substitute for this now-missing identity.

Several things happened over the next hundred years which reinforced this, but perhaps the most dramatic was the sack of Rome in 410. It’s hard to express how world-shaking this was: imagine if, on 9/11, rather than destroying the Twin Towers in New York, the Taliban had simply marched in to New York City andsacked it, and the government was powerless to do anything about it. That’s roughly what happened then. And yet: the Goths who sacked Rome left the churches untouched — they, too, were Christians. Augustine used this as the jumping-off point for his book, The City of God, which crystallized the ideas that had been building up over the years: Christianity united its believers in a sort of world-spanning empire. This notion of Christianity as a social identity, rather than as a religious faith, became the cornerstone of European society for the next thousand years.

This answered the question of “how do we deal with those barbarians?:” If they were Christians, then you could use this common language of Christianity to establish relations with them. If they weren’t, you could convert them or kill them — or point your own friendly barbarians their way. It also provided a new social glue for the society, so long as everyone came over and converted.

And what you might notice is missing, again, from this picture is the modern notion of “faith.” It was important that everyone be a Christian because that was part of being part of the Empire, but the details weren’t quite as important. So the common variety of “conversion” in the Late Antique Empire went something like this:

A priest shows up in a village. The village is generally having some kind of major problem or another, whether it be a failed local irrigation system, or a famine, or a plague. The priest calls people together in the name of his god, and fixes the problem: either by prayer, or by getting people together to fix the well, or by pulling in external resources. (Most of the time, incidentally, the priest didn’t successfully fix the problem, in which case he simply would move on to the next village and try again) On success, the village praises God and converts. They have to give up “pagan rituals” — i.e., they have to adopt the forms of Christianreligio rather than whatever they did locally. But the underlying importance of the sacrifices (economic, civic, etc) was still there, so what was important was to do them in a Christian way. Do them in a church, not a cemetery. Praise a saint rather than a god, and so forth.

And then the priest would move on to the next town, racking this up as yet another successful conversion. But nobody was left behind in this town who actually had a particularly deep understanding of Christian doctrine; and in fact, owing to how bad travel was in the Empire at this point, it was often 100 yearsuntil the next priest would reach a particular village! So Europe “Christianized” by adopting a shared set of practices and religious language, but not a shared religious faith in the modern sense of the word. 

The results of this weren’t fully appreciated until nearly a thousand years later, during the Counter-Reformation: in response to the rise of Protestantism, the Catholic Church started to try to root out “heresy” in its own world, and discovered (much to its shock) that the average Christian had absolutely no ideawhat the religion was supposed to mean. (A truly fascinating account of this can be found in The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, which studies the record of the heresy trial of some random schmuck who was grabbed by the Inquisition. The title comes from his attempt to explain just how the world was created.) 

So when we talk about a “Christian syncretism,” what was happening wasn’t that Christianity deliberately or accidentally took on bits of other religions. Rather, most of the conversion of Europe — and very similarly, most of the conversion of other parts of the world later on — happened very quickly, with groups of people agreeing to take on the structural forms of Christianity, praying to saints in churches and so on, but with very little emphasis on constructing a shared “faith” in the modern sense.

In fact, this modern notion of faith came largely out of the Protestant reformation. The Protestants started out with a notion that people should have a direct, personal familiarity with scriptures and a much more personal relationship with God: ideas which hadn’t really entered much into the Christianity of the preceding millenium. The Catholics, in response, tried to “purify” their own faith and make sure that everyone was on the same page, using much the same techniques which they had developed for ensuring that there were no secretly practising Muslims or Jews in Spain after the Reconquista. (Yes, I know. You were expecting that the Spanish Inquisition would show up in here at some point.) Several centuries of spectacular bloodshed later, it was a commonly accepted idea in all branches of Christianity that Christianity was, first and foremost, about individual faith, and a common understanding of doctrine was what bound Christians together. But this hadn’t actually been a feature of Christianity ever since the days of Paul, and the Christianity of the 19th century is a very different beast from that in too many ways to count. It was a new thing.

So today, when people tell you about how Christianity has “borrowed” ideas from non-Christian religions, or that this or that holiday is actually a pagan festival in disguise, your surprise isn’t coming from the fact that Christianity ever was really a common religious language rather than a unified faith: it’s coming from the fact that, over the past few hundred years, Christianity has deeply rewritten its creed, and largely forgotten its own history. These things aren’t alien to Christianity at all: they’re the deepest part of its origins.

For more information, some places to start:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybele
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraic_mysteries
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I_and_Christianity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_God_(book)

The best sources of all on this subject are books. Peter Brown’s The Cult of the Saints or The Rise of Western Christendom give an excellent snapshot of the Late Antique transition and can get you started looking for other things. Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms is a great way to see what ground-level faith in the sixteenth century looked like.

Consciousness and Emotional Intelligence

Once again, it has been a very long time without a post.  It is not that ideas have ceased to run through my head but rather, I feel that blogging has become more of a chore than something I really want to do.

Actually, that is not the case.  I think I have a complex in knowing that people will read it thus I must be careful with the words and ideas that are typed out onto this screen.  It would be much easier if I could just let the ideas flow and my fingers press the buttons.  Then I think too much and decide not to post.

Luckily, a perfect moment has arrived where I’m alone and I simply do not feel like doing anything else but writing.  I do not want to read, nor watch Netflix, nor play any games and I surely don’t want to venture onto any social networks.  I just want to venture into that familiar trance where the rest of the world slips away and I’m alone with my thoughts.

And speaking of thoughts, one of the main ideas that has been racing through my head is this idea of Consciousness.  I have come to the conclusion that we are not fully consciousness   It is like being only half awake or like walking in a fog.  How did I come to realize this?

I’ve found that there are short flickering moments where I look around and really appreciate the beauty of the world around me.  For a brief instant I understand the true value of friendships and the wonderful feelings that connecting with others truly brings.  It is as though I am in contact with the true essence of consciousness, of life, of mind and of all that surrounds me.

Perhaps, living in this beautiful town by the coast I experience these moments a bit more often than most.  Or perhaps, I have simply inundated my brain with so much wine, tea and then exercise that it has short circuited somewhere and thus redirects my focus to the joys of being alive a bit more than usual.

I believe we all have these moments and with a bit of practice such as with meditation can have them with more frequency.  It seems to me that this increased “consciousness” would be a major step forward in human evolution.

As I look around at the world today I do not see this.  I see people walking around in a fog.    They go about their daily routines as though they are programmed.  People live in a closed environment, and this environment is closed by their own choosing whether they realize it or not.  For all this talk of “going social” on the internet I find that most people are not inherently social at all.  If you simply say hello to a stranger these days it would seem more of a shock than a nice pleasantry deserving of a response.

Or perhaps I am more acutely aware of this because I am in the sales profession.  It is my job to connect with people and I’ve become very good at it.  I know how to say the right words, give the right facial expression and how to adjust to different personalities.  I can easily draw people out of their shell and get them to interact.

I think it is possible to develop one’s mind to a higher level of consciousness.  One exercise in which I do not have much experience is meditation and is something I’m very curious about.  I’ve found that I cannot rest my mind for more than 8 seconds before it wanders off onto some common topic or daily activity.  I actually tried to think of nothing many times today only to find myself thinking about certain things the day was going to bring.

And speaking of wandering I believe this post has done just that.  A higher level of consciousness happens when someone dies.  For a few hours or maybe even a few days we really appreciate our loved ones and recognize their value.  But sure enough, these feelings slowly melt away as we return to the daily monotony.

Standing on a mountain with a beautiful view and to realize that we are just organic, self aware beings living on a rock that is flying through space in a universe of perhaps infinite size is a grand thought indeed.  I wonder why we cannot hold onto these thoughts and use them to really appreciate being alive?  How is it that religion has distilled the magnificent into repetitive drudgery and simple fairy tale stories that 95% of the population easily accepts?

Yes, most of us are asleep and I feel that in this moment of time only a select few can make that leap forward.  They are those that can “think freely” and release themselves from all the mental programming they received in their early years.  To truly be a free thinker is a difficult and uncommon thing indeed!

In regards to emotional intelligence I’ve recently realized that most people are not good at this at all!  Perhaps I am being too harsh as it seems to be a skill and thus would take practice.  Being a sales person I have plenty of practice at this as I must do it daily.  But I do believe it is something I’ve always been relatively good at by the simple fact that I like people and I care about others.  Maybe I am just selfish in that by making others feel good I myself feel very good.

Briefly glancing at the definition I can confirm that put simply, Emotional Intelligence is simply being able to recognize the other persons emotions even if they show no obvious outward signs.  Or perhaps I am deluding myself as it is a combination of minute signals that betray the feelings inside.  In any case, I am glad I can read them.

Now for something I cannot understand.  The idea of murder, of killing, no matter the circumstances (war, freedom, whatever you want to call it) is so repulsive and horrible to me that I do not like to read about it, do not like to see it in the movies and sure as shit do not support it no matter what the government says.

Yet, I find that a very high percentage of my countrymen are readily willing to accept murder of others so long as the reason given is plausible.  The only conditions are that they take place far away and to people they have no connection to.

I think that if someone walked into their living room and shot the visiting neighbor in the head (even if they were a bona fide terrorist) than their willingness to accept murder might drastically change.

Yet, when it is far away and for “freedom” then all of a sudden everyone is for more missile strikes.

And this my friends is the reason I do not believe that most people have enough “consciousness” and almost no emotional intelligence.  They walk in a trance, willing to believe almost anything.  Even if that “thing” is the opposite of what the mainstream are believing.  It is as though people need to join others in their opinions and beliefs.  If people were to truly think freely then would it not follow there would be an almost limitless amount of opinions and beliefs in the world?

But no, we have liberal vs. conservative.  Catholic vs Protestant, vs Buddhist vs. Muslim.  And you know what?  My opinion and belief is the correct one while yours is wrong.  Yes, with all the education and seemingly endless list of colleges most of the arguments come down to our own belief being right.  And we KNOW it is right because it was what was taught to us.

How mundane, boring and completely stupid.  Consciousness?  We only receive flickers from time to time.  Emotional Intelligence?  It has been dashed against the rock of cable tv and a couple of generations that only understand two words.   I and me.

 

Embassy Attacks

I just wanted to write down a few thoughts about the embassy attacks that are occurring.

The first is that I find it completely despicable that Romney has used the events to score political points. That was a very stupid move which all the pundits pointed out the day after he made it. I just heard on the news this morning that some are starting to agree with him as the attacks continue to spread.

They say that the Obama policy has made America weak and these attacks are proof of that.

How completely idiotic can we get? The reason that the USA is unpopular in Muslim countries is due to the support of Israel and the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are the two principal reasons (bar none!) and even though they are 100% apparent it is something you will not hear much on the news here.

And guess who started the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

George W. Bush – Republican

Who has supported Israel? – Well every single administration has so no blame there. Obama has in fact taken steps to stand up to the Israeli lobby unlike most of his predecessors.

After reading the above, a Republican would think me an apologetic liberal. Keep reading and you will see this is not the case.

My second thought is how far the Muslim world has fallen from their days of glory with the Ottoman Empire and occupation of Spain. Spain is what I know and I know that the Muslims brought science, math and much learning to the rather uncivilized Christians of the time.

My how things have changed.

I try hard to come up with reasons for these attacks and can only guess that they may be related to the following.

1. Unstable Governments – These countries really have no or very rule of law at the moment
2. Thugs and terrorist groups have more leeway now that the dictators are gone and can run amok.
3. Due to the dictators, their societies have really not progressed in the past 40 years or so and have actually digressed.

On one hand I understand that a society needs time to adjust and terrorist groups would take advantage during time of weak government.

But in the end, these reasons and excuses have to stop. Much of the Muslim world needs to take a hard look at themselves and yank their societies into the 21st century.

To put this into very blunt perspective let us look at this example.

The most notable achievement of one society is that it has just put a robot on Mars to conduct scientific analysis.   The most notable achievement of a few other societies are that they go berserk at something offensive on the internet (imagine that!), burn buildings and kill people while screaming about God.

The people (young people especially) of those countries are going to have to fight their own terrorists in order to drag their societies into the 21st century.

The internet is full of offensive material. I can assure you it is not just Muslims for those of you who have never used the internet before.

Just had a thought pop into my head. I wonder if the TV reporter in Egypt was just being careless with this story and didn’t realize how much havoc it would create or if it was done on purpose.

——-

*9.29.2012 – Update – Well, had some issues with the blog and this post got erased.  Trying to put it back as it was but the story in Libya also keeps changing.  Apparently it was a terrorist attack by various religious zealots.  So, as of 9.29.2012 I only have two comments.

1.  It looks like regular Libyans are grateful to the USA for helping them get rid of Gaddafi.  I was highly encouraged by these two articles.

1.  Hundreds of Libyans hand over their weapons – USA Today
2. After Quaddafi – Foreign Affairs

And finally, I still find this extremely funny:

Following Cultural Awareness Class, Marines Burn Down Own Embassy

History is Alive

In my short 35 year life I have had the great fortune to travel a good portion of the world and experience a great many things. Most of these travels occurred during my twenties but it was not the travels alone that contributed to these fantastic experiences. It was the study of language that gave me very deep insights into the various cultures and changed me forever.

Find here the music which sets the tone for this post:

Once you have enjoyed the music you can find the historical reference here

These languages which changed my life were Spanish, French and Japanese. Spanish and French gave me unique insight into the history of Europe and gave me confidence. That is to say, I thought I actually new something after becoming proficient in these languages. Yet, it was the study of Japanese that really humbled me and taught me that the more I learn, the less I realize I actually know. With Spanish and French I had only learned about the European part of the world. With Japanese I made a small splash into a completely different and wonderful world known as Asia. I was amazed by the insights learning Japanese gave me. It was then I realized that language can really open up a different way of thinking and change how one views the world. I now knew four languages but out of the 6800 or so languages in the world I could only comprehend the mindset of very few.

Furthermore, I never felt as though I mastered any language other than my native English (and that is debatable as well!) No matter how good you think you are at a language, the natives are better.

This post however is not a biography on my experiences and discoveries. Rather, it is something that carries a bit of the same magic that one can experience in their own home without setting foot in another culture.

Almost.

There is nothing that will take the place of travel and learning other languages. One gains so much insight that it is near impossible to explain to others who have not had the same experience.

But, one can come close.

This post is about Netflix and the historical entertainment it offers us. Never in the history of mankind have we had such access to history portrayed as entertainment. Yes, yes, the plays and theatre of old are spectacular yet, those performances were never on demand, starting at the push of a button. Never have the masses as a whole had the access that they do now to rather accurate historical entertainment.

Unfortunately, even though such entertainment is now available, I wonder how many of the “unwashed masses” actually pay attention. There are so many other shows (of rather stupid subject) that history and historical fact now have to vie with the vulgar prancing around hoping to draw even more attention.

Forgive me, I continue to be extremely upset that even though we have more access to knowledge than ever before in the history of mankind, my brethren choose to entertain themselves with the equivalent of a Cockney lass with huge boobs who just happens to dance or sing surprisingly well. This cockney lass comes not from East London but from Jersey, the new one.

That was cruel. Some are actually very talented. My anger, nay, my disappointment stems from the seemingly endless support for current wars when most of the population do not understand history and choose not to educate themselves, preferring to watch henceforth mentioned Cockney Lass equivalent from Jersey, the new one.

Makes me upset. People are getting killed and the only people that could stop it choose to watch dancing and singing.

I digress. As you know I rarely stay on point and enjoy the frequent side-tangents. :)

Regarding Netflix, it has given me access to a lot of history that I can use to supplement my previous travels. In fact, it brings it alive!!

Yes, I know it is entertainment, but being a big fan of history, I use my Iphone to check the accuracy on Wikipedia.

*Sidebar – I wrote an argument Wikipedia Inaccurate? when many were calling it inaccurate back in 2006. Just wanted to give props to myself in that my judgement seems to stand the test of time in this case. :)

So I check Wikipedia and see that the historical truths match up pretty well with what I am seeing on Netflix.

So what am I watching on Netflix? Enough of my rambling already, lets get to the good stuff!!

The shows I’ve recently watched are the following. I thought a Youtube trailor might be able to give you a better impression than my simple explanations.

1. The Tudors

2. The Borgia

3. Rome

4. The Virgin Queen

I think four examples are enough to show how efficiently this new service called Netflix can really bring the past alive!!!

I would imagine there are two schools of thought on this. The first being those that prefer not to study at all and simply watch a show and believe they know something. A show is just a show and does not really confer any knowledge. Well, maybe a little knowledge but it really helps to read a quick biography and historical account about the show to really know what is going on

The second school would be the detractors. Those that believe they understand too much and will not give any standing to some theatrical performance infringing on their focus of study.

Not being an expert myself, I would imagine that the screen writers and movie studios employ enough financial firepower to employ those that do have expert knowledge in these historical matters and thus keep the story pretty accurate n’est pas?

So, for a plebeian such as myself, albeit a rather well traveled pleb and one who knows how to use his Iphone, I am inclined to believe these historical shows so long as they match up with what I read in Wikipedia.

What this does for me is absolutely brings the past alive!!!!!! The past was never brought alive for me in school as it entailed simple words on a page, ideas, places, people that meant nothing to me and were simply things that I must memorize to pass a test.

This changed of course when I actually visited such places.  However it was never brought alive as much as it has with Netflix!

It is now time for picture sharing.

Welcome to the Tower of London.  I did visit, I took the tour and I payed attention to everything my “Beefeater” guide said.  I also read my “Let’s Go” book to inform myself about the history.  Yet, the history of the place never came as alive as it did with the Tudors series and Elizabeth the Virgin Queen.  I could read a thousand historical books and I believe nothing would leave as deep an impression on me as these various TV (Netflix) series.

I think it was Ben Franklin, although I could be completely wrong, but one of the founders predicted that with the invention of the moving pictures books would no longer be necessary.  I have it in my head that it was Franklin but of course I could be completely stupid on this one.

My point is, I visited the tower of London, I tried to feel the ghosts there, I tried to feel the history.  I understood what happened and I tried to let it in.  I didn’t feel anything. It really didn’t come alive for me.

The only time I ever felt “ghosts” and the sense of history completely washing over me was in Toledo, Spain and I described the ghost part rather clearly in my post Ghosts.

So where else could I find “ghosts” and a real sense of history?

No, I didn’t feel anything in Rome.  I experienced neither Cesar nor the Borgias in Rome.  I just experiences ruins and various vagrants trying to seal my wallet. The glory of Rome has indeed vanished.

Actually, I did enjoy meeting a lot of young Italians at Piazza di Spagna but that was a rarity.  There were more opportunities for bad people to take my wallet than for me to meet the young vibrant youth of Rome at that time.  :(

Well, as you know my posts are never long and I grow tired after a few short paragraphs.  I guess the lesson for this post is that after watching so many shows about medieval Europe I can now more clearly understand the roots of Catholic vs Protestant, English vs France vs Spain and so on. By understanding the origins, I am able to much better understand the present.

***Quick mind dump ***

I grew up Catholic, a descendant of the Irish who were long oppressed by the English.  Why did I grow up this way?  Well my ancestors escaped the potato famine and came to the USA.  The English on the other hand used to be Catholic but Henry VIII decided to not be Catholic anymore because he wanted to marry another.  Throw in a bunch of politics and England didn’t want to be under the Pope anymore.  The Pope had gained his authority from an ancient “Cult of Christ” from long ago Rome that never really went away.  It was the religion that like the Duracell battery refused to die.  Since it was the only one that stood the test of time people took it as the truth.  And oh yea, it was the one that had the most military force behind it, so if you didn’t convert, bad things happened.  But even before bad things happened most were convinced bad things would happen after they die if they didn’t believe.

So anyway, our friend King Henry the VIII didn’t like the pope telling him what to do.  Some people agreed (Protestants)and over time these people eventually came to America.  These are the same folks that become our Presidents.  Well, except for JFK but he got shot.  After that we had more Protestants. Now we have Barack Obama who many believe is Muslim (lol).  The Republicans are still crazy incensed that he got elected and have now gone off the rails.  Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann?   For God’s sakes, all you supporters of them should never be allowed in a gentleman’s club again. Wait, the GOP is no longer a Gentleman’s club you say? It is full of idiotic hillbilly Jesus freaks you say? Boy, I really miss the old GOP. The heathens and unwashed are not only at the gate but have been invited in to sit down to dinner! >:(

I’m sorry, I’ve gone off the rails again.  I’m terrible.

I’m also tired and become tired of this post.  I really should write a book but am absolutely sure it would offend so many that it would stand no chance of being published.

No matter, I live in my own world and prefer to keep it that way.

I guess I’ll end this post with the truth that there is so much to learn. The trick is to keep it interesting which is something these shows and Netflix is very good at! They bring the past alive and make learning about history much more entertaining!

Eternity

As usual it has been a long time since my last post.  There is no specific reason other than I have been too lazy to set my thoughts down on the computer screen.

Tonight however, I’ve had a very profound thought that I felt worthy of a quick post.

I’ve been watching a lot of religious documentaries lately and have been giving a lot of thought to religion and spirituality in general.

Rather than writing a lengthy build up to my main point, I thought I’d just cut quickly to the chase.

The idea of ‘eternity’ has always scared me very much.

As adults, I believe 99% of us have forgotten the thoughts we used to have as children.  These thoughts are intense and do not necessarily fit within the parameters of “adult thought.”  As adults, we have been training our minds how to think for a very long time and rarely deviate from these set patters.  (No wonder thinking “outside the box” is so hard to actually do.)

As children however, we have some grand thoughts.  I like to think these thoughts come from one of the following.

a.) Our brains are new and not set into any specific pattern, therefore can create some grand realities and ideas.

b.)  We are spiritual beings and can still remember, even only for an instant of a second, the spirit world, before we became human.

Now, whichever it may be, one thought that has always caused me absolute terror whenever I think about it deeply, is the idea of “eternity.”

On the surface and through simple stream of consciousness, it is a nice idea.  However, for those that can think deeply, those that can really comprehend what “eternity” means, I have found that this idea is absolutely terrifying.

To never ever end, our conscious just continues and continues, forever.  This strikes fear into my very soul.

It is almost as though I’ve pulled this thought from a dream-state where thoughts can be so intense and so deep, that we awake in a sweat and try to shake the last remnants of that idea from our heads.  This idea however has never left me.

I sometimes like to extrapolate the spiritual thought into various scenarios.  Perhaps I was just a spirit floating in the void for many eternities yearning for the chance at a different reality when I had the luck to finally fall into this reality?  Perhaps in the spirit world I’m terrified of continued existence so seek distraction by living relatively short experiences in different worlds such as the current one?

Maybe, I’ve been sent here to learn and develop my soul?

Well, if that is the case, I should probably move to Tibet or something because the consumerist / solipsistic culture I’m living in is not helping the spiritual journey.  Turning on prime time television probably sets me back a few millennia in terms of soul development.

Or perhaps all I’ve said is just fantasy.  Perhaps I’m just a wacko.  In that case, my apologies, I shall go eat flesh, drink blood, grow the hair around my temples and make women cover themselves entirely in a black cloth so I can be considered “normal” in this realm.  No need to pick and choose among the major religions, I’ll just follow all their traditions just to be safe.

Especially the drinking wine/blood part.

In Vino Veritas!

;-)

Religion – What defines a cult?

I just read the article from the BBC “Park Romney: Why he turned against the Mormon Church“.

If you read this blog with any frequency then you know I like to talk about religion.  I like to talk about the historical aspects, the origins, customs and ceremonies etc.  Religion has impacted humanity more than any other institution and will continue to do so.  Given the enormity of organized religion and its profound influence, perhaps these are reasons organized religion is my favorite subject to attack.  Seems a little like David and Goliath.  Here I am armed with my experience, learning, travels and studies.  Goliath being the billions of believers, the 2000 years of history, the institutions which have been built up throughout the world and traditions which have been ingrained in almost every society.  I stand in front of all this and call it false.  I attack.

I know a little something about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aka. Mormons.  I should start off by saying that they really are pleasant people and the town is very clean and orderly.  I used to call on them for work, always enjoyed my visits and really enjoyed the hospitality.  They also have a sense of humor as I saw “Mormon chicks are hot” t-shirts in the mall.

What they are not humorous about however is the beer.  Apparently it is 3/2 beer and you have to order food if you drink more than two.  I learned this at an Applebees near my hotel.

Regarding the religion, I was invited to take a tour while walking back to my car from the main headquarters.  The main headquarters I should tell you is the most enormous building in all of SLC and thus just goes to show the importance of The Church in that town.

Before I go on, I should probably explain why Mormonism is so important in Salt Lake City.  From what I understand it is because Mormons founded it.  You will notice that Utah is pretty much a wild wasteland.  Can’t even drink the water in the lake since it is salty, thus, SALT LAKE CITY!  The Mormons were persecuted from state to state until they ended up in Utah and there really were not many people there.  Thus, they decided to stay and settle so as not to be persecuted anymore.

Well, enough of the history lesson, let’s get to the important parts of this article.

1.  Freedom of Religion

“There’s compelling evidence that the Mormon Church leaders knowingly and wilfully misrepresent the historical truth of their origins and of the Church for the purpose of deceiving their members into a state of mind that renders them exploitable,” says Park.

Such accusations are rarely heard in the US, a nation founded on the principle of freedom of religion.

“It’s not something you’re supposed to talk about,” says Prof Robert Putnam of Harvard Kennedy School.

I for one do not see why we’re not supposed to talk about it but Prof Putnam is correct.  There is an old saying “Don’t discuss politics or religion,” and this saying used to hold pretty true here in the USA.

However, the Right Wing threw the first part about not discussing politics right out the window.  According to them you are now supposed to not only discuss but to continually/consistently attack any idea, rule or person on the Left.  If you listen to their talk shows it is your duty as an Amurican to verbally accost any and all people who seem like Liberals.

The second part of that statement, the one about religion, pretty much holds true here in the USA.  We’re just not supposed to discuss it with others unless they are of the exact same faith as us.

Well, now that I think about it, the Right has pretty much broken that rule too.  But all in I would say that religious remarks remain very few, even including Limbaugh and his ilk.  Statistically,,, probably 97.9% politics vs. 2.0% religious remarks.  I’ve saved .1% for the times they say something intelligent.  :-)

I’ve gotten a little “off track” as the Right likes to say about America.  But before I go back on the “right track” …….
*****Does the Right use this analogy so often because you cannot be on the “Right Track” without using the word ‘Right‘???   :O ************
Before I get back on the ____ track let me just say that I’ve made another error.  For the sake of simplicity and that I’ve confused myself already with my sidebars, let me just state the rules.

Cannot Criticize
1.  Jewish Faith  (Never.  Very bad if you do)
2. Christianity  (Mostly never.  Some evil liberals do though *for which they will go to hell for all of eternity*)

Can Criticize
1. Muslim faith (always always always, please make a sign, put it in your yard, always)
2. Mormons (Most of the time.  People are still confused about it though, not sure exactly how to criticize since Mormons never do anything bad……. except sometimes have more than one wife)

So Prof Putnam, in the end I disagree.  You can criticize religion, it just depends which religion you are talking about and how powerful the individual in question is.

2.  Religion – Weird?

“But a certain function of reminding voters who might have some predisposed notion about Mormonism that maybe it is strange, maybe it’s weird.”

I think I’m just going to cut to the chase here.  People might believe Mormonism is a bit strange simply due to the fact that it is………..  a bit strange.  Let’s just lift a small paragraph from Wikipedia about it.

Joseph Smith Jr. said that when he was seventeen years of age an angel of God, named Moroni, appeared to him,[10] and said that a collection of ancient writings, engraved on golden plates by ancient prophets, was buried in a nearby hill in Wayne County, New York. The writings described a people whom God had led from Jerusalem to the Western Hemisphere 600 years before Jesus’ birth. According to the narrative, Moroni was the last prophet among these people and had buried the record, which God had promised to bring forth in the latter days. Smith stated that he was instructed by Moroni to meet at the hill annually each September 22 to receive further instructions and that four years after the initial visit, in 1827, he was allowed to take the plates and was directed to translate them into English.

I could ramble on about how it is a bit improbable that people came from Jerusalem to the American continent 600 years before the birth of Jesus.  I could discuss the plates, the seer stone and Egypt but I don’t want to do that.

What I do want to point out is how weird all religions are!  To be brief, I’ll just use my personal favorite, the one I know the best and consequently the one that is most popular in the USA.  Let’s have a round of applause for CHRISTIANITY!!

For a person like me, the above statement seems a little like the pot calling the kettle black.  You see, most people do not understand their own faith.  They only follow it because it is what they were taught to do, it is what their neighbors and friends do, it is a tradition in their family and so on.  It seems that perhaps 90% never inspect the various aspects and really analyze why they do the things they do in religion!

Let me just point out a few “weird” aspects of Christianity (specifically Catholicism since it is the KING of all those other offshoots)

1.  Communion
Belief – The bread and wine physically become “flesh and blood.”  That is to say all those nicely dressed people are eating skin and hemoglobin, or at least they believe they are.
Why? –  Sacrifices have been common since ancient times.  Christianity just follows this tradition to a degree.  In the modern day sacrificing a goat would get messy and the congregation would probably be appalled.  So, over the last 2000 the sacrifices became watered down and easier to perform.  Yes, yes they say that it is what Jesus tells them to do, but the reality is that the books and what Jesus actually said has also been changed, revised, deleted and so on throughout the millennia.

There also might be a link with old beliefs in that you gain the powers of an animal/person/plant/whatever by eating it.  I’m not too familiar with this tradition but am sure it comes from the dawn of humanity until we as a species finally understood that it was just plain gross. ……..  But now that I think about it, you can pick up some pretty gross foods in Asia that are supposed to give you special powers.

2. Relics

Many people may not know, but there is an actual dead person’s (Saint) bone in the alter.  Seems pretty harmless now but back in the Middle Ages it would not be uncommon to have an entire skull placed where people could see.  They did/do this just to show reverence to the Saint (or martyr) who died.  Ideally you want to have a bone chip of the actual saint for which the church is named after.

 

 

3. What makes a Cult?

I had an idea of what constitutes a cult but it was nothing more than that; just an idea cobbled together from various people calling various religions “cults.”

So I looked it up.

Cult:
1.  A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
2. A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.  

Well, isn’t that interesting.  Given these definitions every religion in the world could be considered a cult.  I just pointed out above that the most popular here in the USA does some pretty strange things but I don’t hear many people in the US calling Christianity a cult!  (Well except in those hippy enclaves up in Berkeley maybe)

So getting back to the BBC article we have one of the Elders saying the following.

“The allegation that the Church is a cult, made by Park Romney and other ex-Mormons, is denied by Elder Holland.
“If that is what they believe, it’s probably a good thing they leave, because we’re not a cult.”  

Sorry Elder Holland, a good amount of people find Mormonism pretty darn strange and by the definition of “cult” it looks like Mormonism fits the bill.

BUT TAKE HEART!

Every other religion fits that bill too.  Therefore, it would be prudent to redefine the world cult as it is currently being used today.

Cult:
1. A religious institution or group whose practices the majority of people in a given area find strange/sinister regardless of their own religious practices also being quite strange/sinister to majorities outside their defined area.  *#
*Majority rule on what is defined as strange regarding religion
#The jester calling the clown silly.  

So what is the point of this post?

NO POINT, but I’d rather have Park Romney running for President than his brother Mitt.

 

Catholic Contraception Debate

It is interesting how quickly the topics shift in national politics.  One day we are talking about war and the next we are talking about sex.  You’ve got to admit, at least American politics isn’t boring!  

I felt I should chime in on this Catholic contraception debate because as usual, the media portrays the extreme sides and there isn’t very much thoughtful debate, usually just a bunch of sound bites and splashing the word faith around.  

I find this debate interesting because it isn’t about Evangelicals for once but the mild mannered, hardly roused Catholics.  These are the people that faithfully go to Church on a weekly basis but are just as likely to disregard doctrine they find outdated. 

I also find it interesting because I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school for 12 years and yes, was even an ALTER BOY!  

So needless to say, I know how things work in the Church.  Even though I no longer consider myself a member, it is still part of my background and the experience remains part of who I am.  

Even though I would side with the Liberals on most social issues I have to say they are not correct this time.  As Santorum pointed out, it is about “Economic Liberty,” and the Catholic run institutions should not be forced to provide something that goes against their doctrine.  

However, I would say that most Catholics I know have or continue to use birth control.  In my High School where everyone I knew was Catholic this was not an issue at all.  You see, Catholics my age aren’t exactly considered “Fundamentalist.”  The difference between Evangelicals and Catholics is like night and day.  

The claim has also been made that Catholic students might actually be more sexually active than public school students!  I don’t know about that, but I can tell you there was a lot going on in just about every Catholic High School when I was a student.  

So let’s look a little more deeply into why the Catholic hierarchy are so against this.  I would say that it is not the contraception itself they are against but instead, having sex before marriage that is the real problem.  On this point, a good number of regular Catholics still agree (not in my High School of course and almost none of my age agree).  

You cannot have sex before marriage and even after one has married, the official belief is that it is only for having children.  That is the official stance.  But as I said before, Catholics in the US rarely pay attention to any of this.  

There was one or two cases in my High School where girls did get pregnant right before graduation and even though most of my classmates knew, we had to keep it secret from the administrators because they would have been suspended and not allowed to graduate.  So we did keep it a secret and they did graduate.  

Contraception would have definitely been useful for the two girls involved but it was very hard to get (unless you were brave enough to go to the Quickie-Mart).  It’s ironic that contraception is not allowed but if they become pregnant then they get suspended!  This just goes to show that the real issue is sex before marriage and the Church believes providing contraception would encourage this.  

As this issue starts to wrap up, I like seeing the Nuns take a stand yet again and make themselves heard.  If you want some good moral yet reasonable opinions you always have to go to the Nuns, never the Priests or Bishops.  The Bishops and Pope live in a world of outdated, stale doctrine whereas the Nuns can apply and bend the doctrine a bit to fit the needs in the REAL world.  

I liked seeing the Nuns take a stand for Obama’s healthcare bill when it first came out in direct contradiction to their superiors (they would hate that categorization of being inferior to Bishops).  This splashed out in the media and many many Catholics cheered them on.  

This time, it looks like they have mediated quite nicely by having contraception be provided by individual insurers while still keeping in line with the doctrine.  Well done sisters, well done.  I would like to nominate Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the Catholic Health Organization for POPE!  

She says the compromise “protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.”  

She is correct, the government shouldn’t tell the Catholic church what to do, especially when it goes against their doctrine.  But it is in what she does not say that it a master stroke and I would bet that she is not against contraception in itself but does not encourage sex before marriage either.  However, being a realist she wouldn’t be against having it provided for those that ask.  That is just my hunch.  

Finally, I wish that Boehner and Santorum would handle this issue a bit more gracefully and not make it look like Catholics are akin to Evangelicals in being all fundamentalist about this.  Most Catholics (of the younger generation) use birth control and ignore what those bishops say.  But again, the government shouldn’t tell the Catholic church what to do as yes, it does go against doctrine, as stupid as that doctrine can be.  

Constantine’s Sword

Just watched the documentary “Constantines’s Sword.”

It is the journey of one man who upon leaving the Catholic priesthood examines the dark ugly side of the church with respect to it’s persecution of Jews.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSQWHqBLrSo[/youtube]

Although I had never considered being a priest, I also left the Catholic faith. The main reason is perhaps that I had learned too much. I felt betrayed by what I was taught in elementary school, simple childlike stories, and the realization that the story changes the farther you dig into the Church.

The pivotal moment came after my studies in Spain which remains a very Catholic nation. I learned about the inquisition, I saw what Spain and yes, the Catholic faith did to the Native Americans. I learned about the power struggles within the Vatican and its corruption.

I was left disillusioned.

In the movie, he makes the point that Hitler had the tacit approval of the Pope to deport the Jews who were only 300 feet from the center of the Vatican. Then, Pope John Paul tries to make amends by visiting a concentration camp. This is fine and good but then they erect a cross to commemorate the visit, which is right in front of the concentration camp where thousands of Jews were killed.

The first thing I thought was that I had seen something similar to this before.  

This is a cross erected for the thousands of dead Salinan Indians who where made to come to Mission San Miguel near Paso Robles California to be converted.  Unfortunately for them, they did not take well to being imprisoned at this mission, forced to work and killed off by mistreatment and disease.  

So what does the Catholic faith do?  They erect a cross which is the main symbol of the religion that wiped out their civilization.  

Now, my point here is not to attack Catholicism.  My point is to repeat a message I once heard from a Dominican priest who chastised his congregation by saying “Study your faith people!”  

The Catholic Church must come to grips with the atrocities it committed in the past.  Unfortunately, this is not happening under Pope Benedict.  

What really baffles me however is the majority of people who question nothing regarding their religion.  In the film he shoots clips from some youth mega church in Colorado where they all gather together to sing songs, cry and pray.  

To me, this is the worst type of faith.  The unthinking kind which resembles more of a cult than anything else.  These people know nothing of history, nothing of doctrine and nothing of the atrocities that faith of all kinds has perpetuated as far back as historical records go.  

In short, these are the people who would believe anything so long as all their neighbors do.

I am further perplexed at adults in general.  These are people who have studied, who are professionals in business, politics whatever, but when it comes to religion are as docile as sheep.  Perhaps there is a good reason that congregations are often referred to as a “flock.”

I wonder if they have ever questioned the symbols, the traditions and the reasons they do things in church every Sunday.  Do they know the meanings behind them?  I learned from this documentary that the cross was not introduced as a main symbol until the year 300.  I learned that it was a great way to spread anger at the Jews to constantly remind them that they “killed Christ.”  

The cross in itself is a symbol of death.  As Jesus never used it himself it was thus invented as a symbol by man and therefore has no power (if you believe in that sort of thing.)  Yet, millions of people around the world carry this symbol in their house, on their necklaces and so on.  

But enough with symbols and rituals, let’s just get right to Jesus himself.  

If you dig deep enough you will ask about his brother and will wonder what happened to him.  You will wonder about the Gospel of Mary and what happened to that.  You’ll learn that many parts of the bible were not written until many hundreds of years after Jesus’s death.  

You’ll keep going and keep studying and you will wonder if all your belief is wrong due to the inconsistencies that keep piling up.  

But then this would be too much.  It would be preferential to simply not think about it at all and go on living a life in a religion that may just be entirely made up by man.  

As this post will probably offend an innumerable number of people let me offer some comfort.  

My opinions are insignificant.  I am just one being going through this existence and I look to persuade no one.  I am simply putting down in a post what has gone through my mind when watching this documentary.  My opinions do not matter.  

Of course, all I have said could be completely wrong.  I only know what I have experienced and although it is substantial in comparison to most people it is actually very little in terms of all that could be experienced in this life.  

What comforts me is the saying that “The wise man understands he knows nothing.”  

I keep an open mind, I continue to learn and I realize that all I think I know may be wrong.  

I have come to a point in my life where I am very comfortable with this.  

 

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