Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts

December 22, 2016

Thanks to Obama The law Protects Religious Freedom but Also Non Believers

When President Barack Obama signed an update to U.S. law protecting religious freedom late last week, one provision drew special attention: U.S. law now recognizes non-believers as, in essence, a religious group.

Obama's signing of amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act on Friday wasn't widely noticed — except among the community of atheists, agnostics and others who categorize themselves as "humanists."

For the first time, the law — which was originally passed in 1998 — specifies that "the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs and the right not to profess or practice any religion."

Among other things, the main amendments to the law promoting religious liberty around the world:

Allow the United States to target “ ntities of particular concern" (that is, groups that aren't sovereign countries, like ISIS and Boko Haram).

Set up a way to track religious prisoners overseas.
Require that all foreign service officers undergo training in religious liberty.
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, walk back to the White House after attending St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington in October 2009. AP
The addition of protections for non-theistic or even non-existent beliefs wasn't even mentioned in many news reports. But for Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the nonprofit American Humanist Association, the change is a historic cause for celebration.

"That non-theists are now recognized as a protected class is a significant step toward full acceptance and inclusion for non-religious individuals, who are still far too often stigmatized and persecuted around the world," Speckhardt said.

"Legislators are finally recognizing the human dignity of humanists and granting the non-theistic community the same protections and respect that have been given to religious communities," he said.

In its 2016 annual report (PDF), the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal panel that was created under the original 1998 law, highlights numerous instances of persecution of atheists and other non-believers.

The report plays no favorites, singling out important U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, where the poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death last year for "apostasy" — specifically, for spreading atheism. The sentence was reduced in February 2016 to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.

Regulations enacted in 2014 by the Saudi Interior Ministry, in fact, classify "calling for atheist thought in any form" as terrorism.

The report also harshly criticizes Egypt, which convicted Mustafa Abdel-Nabi, an online activist, to prison in absentia in February for "blasphemy" after he published posts about atheism on his Facebook page. A year earlier, another Facebook user, Sherif Gaber, was sentenced to prison for discussing his atheist views online.

"Religious freedom for all people, theists and non-theists, is an American value we must protect," said Matthew Bulger, legislative director of the American Humanist Association.

But it's not just humanist groups that are applauding the revision.

"Protecting non-theistic beliefs and requiring increased religious freedom training for our foreign service officers emphasizes our shared value of religious liberty for all people across the globe," said J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Freedom, a coalition of more than a dozen Baptist denominations.

“We are pleased that religious liberty still finds broad bipartisan support," Walker, an ordained minister, said in a statement to The Baptist Standard, a publication devoted to the Baptist faith.


October 20, 2016

All of a Sudden The Religious Right Believes Morality is Not Important

Throughout its history as a distinct political group, members of the so-called religious right have always made it a point to say that personal morals were important to political leadership. Thanks to Donald Trump’s becoming the Republican Party’s nominee against Hillary Clinton, however, it appears that white evangelical Protestants are changing their opinions.

Just five years ago, in 2011, a mere 30 percent of white evangelicals agreed with the idea that people who commit unethical acts in their personal lives could still behave ethically in their professional capacities, according to a study released today by PRRI, a nonpartisan research organization. Now, with Trump as the GOP standard-bearer, a huge majority — of 72 percent — do.

That immense shift in opinion means that the same types who made up former “Moral Majority” now comprise the religious group most likely to agree that public and private morality can be separate.

People of all demographics have moved toward this opinion since 2011, according to the study, with a majority of white mainline Protestants, Catholics of any race and the religiously unaffiliated all accepting the premise. With just 58 percent agreeing with this notion, Catholics are the group least likely to sign on to a distinction between personal and public ethics.

The opinion shift among regular evangelicals described in the PRRI poll seemingly reflects public statements from religious right activists who have been nearly uniform in their acceptance of Trump despite his long history of personal peccadillos.

“We hired the best lawyers, accountants and financial management we could find without regard to whether they shared our faith, just like a parent would search for the best doctor for their desperately sick child,” he wrote in an op-ed in January. Falwell also seems to view Trump as a penitent man who has walked away from his sinful past.

“He’s been through a change in the last four or five years,” Falwell said earlier this month in a CNN interview.

“He’s been influenced strongly by his children, by his grandchildren,” he said. “And I don’t think he’s the man he used to be.” Falwell also added that he would still be willing to support Trump even if the women who alleged that he sexually assaulted them in the past are telling the truth.

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, has also continued to stand by the Republican nominee, saying that he shares the same political concerns as Trump but not the same personal values.

“I can guarantee you what we’ll have under Hillary Clinton — it will not be a government that evangelicals and other Americans who love their freedom will enjoy or prosper under,” he said in an Oct. 9 Fox News interview.

Not all Christian conservative leaders agree with this sentiment. One such person is former Red State editor Erick Erickson, who argued in a Washington Post essay that “while I think Clinton will do long-term damage to the country, I believe Trump will do far more damage to the church, which must be my chief priority.”

October 3, 2016

Pagans in NYC and is Not the Trumps

December 14, 2015

Christianity as a Religion-What it is and its Core



The History of the Christian Church

When you ask people that identify as Christian to spell out what the doctrine is you get all types of different answers. In many instances you get what it means to them in some spiritual personal way but they are not able to describe it in a way that makes sense as the religion that it is.  A religion that is over 2000 years old with a history of blood, sweat, persecution  and then the reverse by persecuting and making others pay with their blood and tears. This is a religion that is gone from the followers being persecuted and hiding out in catacombs fasting to death with having times reverse themselves and seeing them in the crusades and the spanish inquisition as the ones doing the persecuting and the killing for those who wont convert or the ones suspected of sins which only death could wipe them clean before god. I am sure that it most seem so strange to current members that have joined the religion by a raising of hands at church or visit by a Minister or Priest in a house and they would just have to say yes and confess that they are a sinner but they are not being done in with a sword on their heads even though it is being done with a certain level of a promise to burn in hell if they don’t do it at least the promise is spiritual now a days in the western world not physical like it was before.

After the world progressed enough to not kill people that would not convert still it shunned people as low down sinners  referring to those that refused Christianity or a branch of it as pagans.

The Christian church went through a kind of civil war when one of their most respected members a german Priest and teacher in Canterbury had an encounter with passages of the bible as he translated it as for the first time as it was being printed by a machine invented by another german by the name of Gutenberg. Now the bible instead of being talked about in broken passages in Latin by the priest and their bishops, now the compiled book made up from many books was put on a single documents with different chapters with the name of the king that ordered for its translation on it. As a result people who had never seen these books but only heard of them and of the head of the church said you most do this because it says so in the good book, then you had no way to go and see if it was true.

 Now a very religious man name Luther was having a hard time getting together what some priests were doing like selling pardons from purgatory as something biblical when the bible did not authorized such a thing and it was clear this and other similar fund raising schemes were not just in the good book but were anti biblical altogether.

He (Luther) gathered all these abuses as he called them and nailed them to the german church for all to see. People that read these either believed and were outraged or simply were outraged at Luther. One day he was arrested, taken to Rome and  excommunicated by the pope and put in jail.

As a result of this disagreement between the church in Rome headed by the Pope and which listed to what the Pope said as the word of god and now the Lutherans were against Rome and the Pople saying that the Pope was the one living in sin. and was a Pagan himself. This was the split of Christianity which has lasted until present day. As a matter of fact the Protestant Christian church has not finished splitting up into hundreds if not thousand of different denominations having only in common the name of Jesus Christ.


Below I will give you the main belief of the church which includes both the Roman Catholic and the German Protestant. Protestant is the name given to Luther’s followers since they protested to the church in Rome with the objections that Luther nailed to the Church in Germany.

Most people have no idea where the Protestant came from and how is it that you have two major wings of a religion that do things so different yet they follow the same three gods or deity as it is called.

Below is the part I have picked directly from catholic and protestant websites and have given it a layman’s term so everyone can understand. There is no criticism just explanations of what these two religions differ only in the highways it followed to be what they are.

Christianity: It’s beginnings and it’s maturity today.

*Like most religions, Christianity is defined differently by different people. Here are some of the ways it has been defined traditionally, and some of the modern alternatives.

*Most agree that Christianity developed in the context of first-century Judaism. The faith of Christians is centered on Jesus, a Jewish rabbi who, after three years of teaching, died in c. 33 C.E. at the hands of the Romans, but what happens next?

*Over the centuries, most Christians agreed that the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were the authoritative accounts of Jesus' life, death, and, most importantly for Christians, what happened after his death. What did Christians conclude about the Jesus story?

*In the early centuries, most Christian leaders agreed on a handful of central documents that expressed the core of their faith. These are called creeds, and they include most importantly the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

*The creeds declared that Jesus was the Son of God who, being born of a virgin, lived a human life that culminated in a short ministry of teaching, miraculous healings, and finally crucifixion. The story doesn't end there though...

*Jesus' followers insisted that God raised Jesus from the dead and that his death-resurrection had decisively changed the nature of human relationships with God.

*The creeds, the books of scripture (including ancient Jewish texts, the Gospels, and the early church writings by the apostles), and key leaders/writers/thinkers shaped Christian communities called the Church.

*In thinking about who Jesus was and how he talked about his relationship with God, Christians began to teach that the One God had three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They called this the Trinity.

*Traditional Christians believe that humanity has a fundamental problem, called sin, that shatters relationships with God and with one another.

*Traditional Christians teach that God offers both forgiveness and a remedy for this sin-problem through faith in Jesus Christ.

*Over the past five centuries, many of these Christian teachings have been disputed. The rise of modern science and the influence of Enlightenment thought, along with various other social and cultural developments, have redefined Christianity for many people. 

*Some Christians today do not believe in the miraculous stories of the Gospels, including the virgin birth or the resurrection.

*For some, being a Christian means following the teachings of Jesus, which should lead to social justice, but not necessarily believing certain things about him.

*Some Christians today argue that the creeds and teachings of the Church have misled people about the nature of God and the meaning of Jesus.

*Some Christians dispute the gravity of sin, the need for divine forgiveness, and the possibilities of judgment.

*Some Christians believe the Bible is more of a human perspective than a divine revelation.

*Others—like Mormons, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah's Witnesses—say they too are Christian though they have some very different doctrines than traditional Christianity.

*If you are a Christian, where do you fit?
adamfoxie*blog International, Adam Gonzalez, (Publisher, Protestant Theology graduate and History Student)
One of the main sources:

April 25, 2015

A Religious President has 2nd Thoughts about Religion


I never publish old stories but this one is history that still lives with us because the man that wrote this is still alive and the events that caused him to write this are still fresh and still very much in play.

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.
 At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.
In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.
The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.
It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.
 I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.
The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."
We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

January 20, 2015

Will Religion Disappear from the Earth?

A growing number of people, millions worldwide, say they believe that life definitively ends at death – that there is no God, no afterlife and no divine plan. And it’s an outlook that could be gaining momentum – despite its lack of cheer. In some countries, openly acknowledged atheism has never been more popular.
“There’s absolutely more atheists around today than ever before, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of humanity,” says Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author of Living the Secular Life. According to a Gallup International survey of more than 50,000 people in 57 countries, the number of individuals claiming to be religious fell from 77% to 68% between 2005 and 2011, while those who self-identified as atheist rose by 3% – bringing the world’s estimated proportion of adamant non-believers to 13%.
While atheists certainly are not the majority, could it be that these figures are a harbinger of things to come? Assuming global trends continue might religion someday disappear entirely?
It’s impossible to predict the future, but examining what we know about religion – including why it evolved in the first place, and why some people chose to believe in it and others abandon it – can hint at how our relationship with the divine might play out in decades or centuries to come. 
(Getty Images)
A priest in Ukraine holds a cross in the ruins of Kiev's Trade Union building earlier this year (Getty Images)
Scholars are still trying to tease out the complex factors that drive an individual or a nation toward atheism, but there are a few commonalities. Part of religion’s appeal is that it offers security in an uncertain world. So not surprisingly, nations that report the highest rates of atheism tend to be those that provide their citizens with relatively high economic, political and existential stability. “Security in society seems to diminish religious belief,” Zuckerman says. Capitalism, access to technology and education also seems to correlate with a corrosion of religiosity in some populations, he adds.
Crisis of faith
Japan, the UK, Canada, South Korea, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, France and Uruguay (where the majority of citizens have European roots) are all places where religion was important just a century or so ago, but that now report some of the lowest belief rates in the world. These countries feature strong educational and social security systems, low inequality and are all relatively wealthy. “Basically, people are less scared about what might befall them,” says Quentin Atkinson, a psychologist at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
(Getty Images)
Yemeni girls show their hands decorated with traditional henna designs as they celebrate the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)
Yet decline in belief seems to be occurring across the board, including in places that are still strongly religious, such as Brazil, Jamaica and Ireland. “Very few societies are more religious today than they were 40 or 50 years ago,” Zuckerman says. “The only exception might be Iran, but that’s tricky because secular people might be hiding their beliefs.” 
The US, too, is an outlier in that it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but also has high rates of religiosity. (Still, a recent Pew surveyrevealed that, between 2007 and 2012, the proportion of Americans who said they are atheist rose from 1.6% to 2.4%.)
Decline, however, does not mean disappearance, says Ara Norenzayan, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and author of Big Gods. Existential security is more fallible than it seems. In a moment, everything can change: a drunk driver can kill a loved one; a tornado can destroy a town; a doctor can issue a terminal diagnosis. As climate change wreaks havoc on the world in coming years and natural resources potentially grow scarce, then suffering and hardship could fuel religiosity. “People want to escape suffering, but if they can’t get out of it, they want to find meaning,” Norenzayan says. “For some reason, religion seems to give meaning to suffering – much more so than any secular ideal or belief that we know of.”
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In the Philippines, survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession (Getty Images)
This phenomenon constantly plays out in hospital rooms and disaster zones around the world. In 2011, for example, a massive earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand – a highly secular society. There was a sudden spike of religiosity in the people who experienced that event, but the rest of the country remained as secular as ever. While exceptions to this rule do exist – religion in Japan plummeted following World War II, for instance – for the most part, Zuckerman says, we adhere by the Christchurch model. “If experiencing something terrible caused all people to become atheists, then we’d all be atheists,” he says.  
The mind of god
But even if the world’s troubles were miraculously solved and we all led peaceful lives in equity, religion would probably still be around. This is because a god-shaped hole seems to exist in our species’ neuropsychology, thanks to a quirk of our evolution.
A rabbi reads during Purim festivities (Getty Images)
A rabbi reads during Purim festivities (Getty Images)
Understanding this requires a delve into “dual process theory”. This psychological staple states that we have two very basic forms of thought: System 1 and System 2. System 2 evolved relatively recently. It’s the voice in our head – the narrator who never seems to shut up – that enables us to plan and think logically.
System 1, on the other hand, is intuitive, instinctual and automatic. These capabilities regularly develop in humans, regardless of where they are born. They are survival mechanisms. System 1 bestows us with an innate revulsion of rotting meat, allows us to speak our native language without thinking about it and gives babies the ability to recognise parents and distinguish between living and nonliving objects. It makes us prone to looking for patterns to better understand our world, and to seek meaning for seemingly random events like natural disasters or the death of loved ones.
An Indian Sikh lights candles during Bandi Chhor Divas, or Diwali (Getty Images)
An Indian Sikh lights candles during Bandi Chhor Divas, or Diwali (Getty Images)
In addition to helping us navigate the dangers of the world and find a mate, some scholars think that System 1 also enabled religions to evolve and perpetuate. System 1, for example, makes us instinctually primed to see life forces – a phenomenon called hypersensitive agency detection – everywhere we go, regardless of whether they’re there or not. Millennia ago, that tendency probably helped us avoid concealed danger, such as lions crouched in the grass or venomous snakes concealed in the bush. But it also made us vulnerable to inferring the existence of invisible agents – whether they took the form of a benevolent god watching over us, an unappeased ancestor punishing us with a drought or a monster lurking in the shadows.
Similarly, System 1 encourages us to see things dualistically, meaning we have trouble thinking of the mind and body as a single unit. This tendency emerges quite early: young children, regardless of their cultural background, are inclined to believe that they have an immortal soul – that their essence or personhood existed somewhere prior to their birth, and will always continue to exist. This disposition easily assimilates into many existing religions, or – with a bit of creativity – lends itself to devising original constructs.
An Indian Hindu devotee a day ahead of the Chhat festival (Getty Images)
An Indian Hindu devotee a day ahead of the Chhat festival (Getty Images)
“A Scandinavian psychologist colleague of mine who is an atheist told me that his three-year-old daughter recently walked up to him and said, ‘God is everywhere all of the time.’ He and his wife couldn’t figure out where she’d gotten that idea from,” says Justin Barrett, director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and author of Born Believers. “For his daughter, god was an elderly woman, so you know she didn’t get it from the Lutheran church.”
For all of these reasons, many scholars believe that religion arose as “a byproduct of our cognitive disposition”, says Robert McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not. “Religions are cultural arrangements that evolved to engage and exploit these natural capacities in humans.”
Hard habits to break
Atheists must fight against all of that cultural and evolutionary baggage. Human beings naturally want to believe that they are a part of something bigger, that life isn’t completely futile. Our minds crave purpose and explanation. “With education, exposure to science and critical thinking, people might stop trusting their intuitions,” Norenzayan says. “But the intuitions are there.”
Azerbaijani Muslims pray at the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)
Azerbaijani Muslims pray at the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)
On the other hand, science – the system of choice that many atheists and non-believers look to for understanding the natural world – is not an easy cognitive pill to swallow. Science is about correcting System 1 biases, McCauley says. We must accept that the Earth spins, even though we never experience that sensation for ourselves. We must embrace the idea that evolution is utterly indifferent and that there is no ultimate design or purpose to the Universe, even though our intuition tells us differently. We also find it difficult to admit that we are wrong, to resist our own biases and to accept that truth as we understand it is ever changing as new empirical data are gathered and tested – all staples of science. “Science is cognitively unnatural – it’s difficult,” McCauley says. “Religion, on the other hand, is mostly something we don’t even have to learn because we already know it.”
“There’s evidence that religious thought is the path of least resistance,” Barrett adds. “You’d have to fundamentally change something about our humanity to get rid of religion.” This biological sticking point probably explains the fact that, although 20% of Americans are not affiliated with a church, 68% of them say that they still believe in God and 37% describe themselves as spiritual. Even without organised religion, they believe that some greater being or life force guides the world.
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Buddhist monks file towards a ceremony at Sampov Treileak pagoda in Cambodia (Getty Images)
Similarly, many around the world who explicitly say they don’t believe in a god still harbour superstitious tendencies, like belief in ghosts, astrology, karma, telepathy or reincarnation. “In Scandinavia, most people say they don’t believe in God, but paranormal and superstitious beliefs tend to be higher than you’d think,” Norenzayan says. Additionally, non-believers often lean on what could be interpreted as religious proxies – sports teams, yoga, professional institutions, Mother Nature and more – to guide their values in life. As a testament to this, witchcraft is gaining popularity in the US, and paganism seems to be the fastest growing religion in the UK.
Religious experiences for non-believers can also manifest in other, more bizarre ways. Anthropologist Ryan Hornbeck, also at the Thrive Center for Human Development, found evidence that the World of Warcraft is assuming spiritual importance for some players in China, for example. “WoW seems to be offering opportunities to develop certain moral traits that regular life in contemporary society doesn’t afford,” Barrett says. “People seem to have this conceptual space for religious thought, which – if it’s not filled by religion – bubbles up in surprising ways.”
The in-group
What’s more, religion promotes group cohesion and cooperation. The threat of an all-powerful God (or gods) watching for anyone who steps out of line likely helped to keep order in ancient societies. “This is the supernatural punishment hypothesis,” Atkinson says. “If everyone believes that the punishment is real, then that can be functional to groups.”
A devotee at Thailand's Vegetarian Festival (Getty Images)
A devotee at Thailand's Vegetarian Festival (Getty Images)
And again, insecurity and suffering in a population may play a role here, by helping to encourage religions with stricter moral codes. In a recent analysis of religious belief systems of nearly 600 traditional societies from around the world, Joseph Bulbulia at the University of Wellington, New Zealand and his colleagues found that those places with harsher weather or that are more prone to natural disasters were more likely to develop moralising gods. Why? Helpful neighbours could mean the difference between life and death. In this context, religion evolved as a valuable public utility.
“When we see something so pervasive, something that emerges so quickly developmentally and remains persistent across cultures, then it makes sense that the leading explanation is that it served a cooperative function,” says Bulbulia.
Finally, there’s also some simple mathematics behind religion’s knack for prevailing. Across cultures, people who are more religious also tend to have more children than people who are not. “There’s very strong evidence for this,” Norenzayan says. “Even among religious people, the more fundamentalist ones usually have higher fertility rates than the more liberal ones.” Add to that the fact that children typically follow their parents’ lead when it comes to whether or not they become religious adults themselves, and a completely secularised world seems ever more unlikely.
Enduring belief
For all of these reasons – psychological, neurological, historical, cultural and logistical – experts guess that religion will probably never go away. Religion, whether it’s maintained through fear or love, is highly successful at perpetuating itself. If not, it would no longer be with us.
And even if we lose sight of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu gods and all the rest, superstitions and spiritualism will almost certainly still prevail. More formal religious systems, meanwhile, would likely only be a natural disaster or two away. “Even the best secular government can’t protect you from everything,” says McCauley. As soon as we found ourselves facing an ecological crisis, a global nuclear war or an impending comet collision, the gods would emerge.
“Humans need comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and many need to think that there’s something more after this life, that they’re loved by an invisible being,” Zuckerman says. “There will always be people who believe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they remain the majority.”  

January 17, 2015

Being Gay, buddhist

George Takei Gay Buddhist Star Trek LGBT Lion's Roar Japan Interment Camps Stonewall California Social Media Brad

The actor, author, and undisputed King of Social Media reflects on his fascinating personal history: his childhood and his family’s internment during World War II, his life as a gay man and activist, how far we’ve all come, and why we must press on together.

I was born to a Buddhist family — my father was Zen and my mother was Shin, and both were rather casual about it. Before Internment all I remember of Buddhist temples are the funerals and the weddings.
Then the Internment came. It was a very chaotic time. I don’t remember much religion except that my mother had created a tiny altar in our little barrack room.
But she didn’t chant every day like my grandmother did before the war, so there wasn’t much discussion of Buddhism until we came out of camp. A volunteer from Senshin Buddhist Church would come and pick my brother, my sister, and me up and take us to the temple (although my mother belonged to Nishi Hongwanji and my father belonged to Zenshuji Temple), and there I was exposed to the teachings of Buddhism. I particularly remember Roy and Terry Nakawatase, a young, personable, actively engaged couple who were teachers of the Sunday School. I remember Roy using the metaphor of the vastness of the ocean: we are all part of it, we belong to this vast oneness, and that made a lot of sense for me—that I am really one with everybody, with the whole, and that we can play a part in making that whole healthier and more understanding.
By the time I’d come out and had met my partner Brad, my father had passed. My coming out to my mother has been a little difficult for her, but only because she’d wanted me to provide her with grandchildren. She’d known Brad as my buddy from before, and she wasn’t saddled with any stereotypes of what being gay meant anyway. When she got ill with Alzheimer’s and couldn’t take care of herself, I asked Brad, “Can my mother move in with us?” and he said, “Of course.” For Brad, an understanding of oneness seemed to come easily.
When the Supreme Court of the State of California ruled for marriage equality in 2008, we seized the opportunity. Having founded the Japanese American National Museum (I’m still a trustee on the Board there), we wanted to have our wedding there, in the “Democracy Forum” building. It was, after all, democracy that made our formal union possible. And Brad too had embraced Buddhism by now, so it could be a Buddhist wedding. We chose Rev. Briones of the Nishi Hongwanji Temple to be our officiant because he personifies Buddhism’s diversity, being that he’s a Mexican American Buddhist minister.
Walter Koenig, who appeared on Star Trek with me, as Chekhov, is a particularly good friend so we asked him to be the best man. Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on Star Trek, was to be the Matron of Honor — but she didn’t like the word matron. “If Walter can be the best man,” she asked, “why can’t I be the best lady?” And so our best man was Jewish American, our best lady was African American, and our guests in the Democracy Forum were greeted by a gifted player playing traditional koto music—with a bagpipe piper leading us out onto the Museum Plaza across to the Pavilion building and the Great Hall for our wedding dinner. It was a joyous occasion, a very diverse one, and singularly a Buddhist wedding.
I was a child when we were incarcerated, so I really didn’t understand it. When I became a teenager and started reading books about government, I found nothing about that period in my civics books and history books. That was completely contrary to the ideals of our democracy and so I engaged my father in long discussions after dinner. Sometimes things got very heated—I was an idealistic young teenager inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, with many friends who were active in the Civil Rights movement. I challenged my father and said things that I’m sure were quite hurtful to him, but he accepted all that and shared with me his wisdom. He said that ours is a people’s democracy, and that it can be every bit as great as we are — but also as fallible. It is vitally dependent on good people who believe in the ideals of democracy: that all people are created equal and have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those are the people, he said, that we need to be actively engaged in our democratic process.
One Sunday afternoon he took me downtown to the Adlai Stevenson for President Headquarters and volunteered me. I was introduced to the electoral process and got a real understanding of how our democracy works. First of all: it’s a lot of fun. I’m a social person and loved to engage people, over the phone or on the sidewalk, in discussions about Gov. Stevenson and all the good things that he’d done. Stevenson didn’t win, but I learned another lesson: you do not give up. I got involved in a U. S. Senatorial candidate’s campaign, and then a gubernatorial candidate’s campaign. And while neither of those would be “Happy Days Are Here Again,” I got involved with the Tom Bradley for Mayor campaign in Los Angeles and the happy days came: he was a good candidate and a great mayor (the only L.A. mayor to serve five terms), and was the first African American to be mayor of Los Angeles. So that kind of exciting thing became a part of my life. I became an activist for social justice, involved in the Civil Rights campaign, the peace movement during the Vietnam War, the Redress campaign when it began to gain momentum in the ’70s. I testified at the Congressional hearings and I watched as President Reagan, on behalf of the people of the United States, formally apologized for the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese Americans. So I was part of the workings of our electoral politics. But I was silent throughout it all about the one issue that was closest to me.
I was gay. But I was a fledgling actor and it would have been career suicide for me to be “out” and so I was quiet about it.
From about age 9 or 10, I knew I was different — in ways other than just my Japanese face. Other boys would huff and puff: Monica’s so hot, or, Sally’s really cute. Well, I thought Monica and Sally were nice, but it was Bobby who really got me excited. That’s not the way the other guys thought, though, and I wanted to be part of the gang. So I acted like Monica was hot and I huffed and puffed with the other guys and even started dating female friends. I’d go out on double dates with my buddy, but actually I was more interested in him than in my date! So I was living a double life in my teenage years. I felt I was the only one.
When you grow older though, you see that you’re not the only one. You find that you’re not so alone, that there are places where you can let your guard down, gay bars where you can relax with others who are friendly and are like you. Now, though, another idea terrorized me. I began to hear about raids on gay bars — that police would march clients out, load them up on paddy wagons, drive them down to the police station, fingerprint them, take their pictures, put their names on a list. If that was exposed, your life could be over. You could lose your job; some, even, their families. It was bullying and intimidation of the worst kind. Soon, a gay bar was no longer a place where I could let my guard down. I’d immediately look for all the exit signs so I could slip out if there was any word of a raid.
By 1969, things started to change – for the nation, and for me. I had been working for three seasons on a television series called Star Trek but now we had been canceled, and I was unemployed. That same summer, all the way on the other coast, at a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, there was a raid staged. The Stonewall Inn was a place where a diverse clientele gathered, young people and older gays and lesbians. There were tough, leather-wearing lesbians and drag queens alike there, and when the police raided the place this time, all the customers had already had enough. They started throwing everything that they could get their hands on at the police — cocktail glasses, beer bottles, full beer bottles, whiskey bottles. It was fierce. The police retreated and they called for reinforcements, but inside the bar phone calls were made to supporters in Greenwich Village. People came pouring out of their buildings and by the time reinforcements came, the street was filled with angry lesbians and gays. When the police tried to take control again, they were met with much more than bottles. This time it was bricks and stones and trash cans. The police had to retreat again and call for still more backup. This continued for five nights straight and marked the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement.
It was very difficult; I shared the anger my peers had. But I was still pursuing my acting career, still silent, gritting my teeth. And life continued that way for years—until in 2005 something extraordinary happened in California: Both houses of our Legislature—the Senate and the Assembly—passed the Marriage Equality bill.
Massachusetts already had marriage equality but that came through the judicial route; it was the courts that granted marriage equality. Here in California, it was the people’s representatives who voted for marriage equality. All that bill needed for it to become law was the signature of our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had campaigned for office by saying, “I’m from Hollywood, I’ve worked with gays and lesbians, some of my best friends are gays and lesbians.” Some of our gay and lesbian friends bought that rhetoric and voted for him, but when the bill actually landed on Schwarzenegger’s desk, he played to the right-wing extremists of his base and vetoed it. Brad and I were both raging. It was an outrageous hypocrisy on his part to deny LGBT people equality that was passed by the people’s representatives.
That night, we were watching the late-night news and saw young people pouring out onto Santa Monica Boulevard venting their rage at Arnold Schwarzenegger. And here we were: at home, silent. We talked about it and agreed, “We’ve been living that silent double life for a long time and we have to be more public now.”
That was when I talked to the press for the first time as a gay American and I blasted Arnold Schwarzenegger, and since then I have been out there, blasting left and right.
It is amazing how far we’ve come. Change is afoot. In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States came down with rulings that allowed for marriage equality in states where the state government has sanctioned it. Nineteen states now have that and a number of states are awaiting appellate court decisions yet to come.
And it’s an exciting time to be a Buddhist as well. There are more people discovering Buddhism, more who have chosen Buddhism and studied it deeply.
As a nation I think we’ve come a long ways in sharing equality for all because when America was founded, women had no rights. They couldn’t vote, they couldn’t own property, they didn’t even have rights over their own children and yet because determined women and fair-minded men challenged and debated and marched for equality for women, today we have three women on the Supreme Court of the United States. A woman astronaut has led a team of astronauts into space. We’ve had three women who’ve served as U.S. Secretaries of State, and many agree that one of them will likely be one of our next presidential candidates, and a viable one at that.
When this nation was founded, our ideals were articulated by great men, our founding fathers, but they kept other human beings as slaves. It’s because those slaves hungered for freedom and justice and they struggled for it and because their children and their grandchildren and the generations that followed maintained that struggle through the Jim Crow years and through the years of the Civil Rights movement, that today we have an African American as a President of the United States.
We can all bring about change. We can bring about greater equality for all, and that, I feel, is part of the mission of Buddhism — to embrace diversity, to embrace the oneness that we all share.

We’d like to offer special thanks to George and Brad Takei, Julie Yumi Hatta, and the Buddhist Churches of America for their help in producing this piece.

December 23, 2014

My Husband Is Attracted to men but he is Not Gay


TLC's upcoming reality special My Husband's Not Gay plans to teach us about how gay men live faithfully as Mormons.
The show's trailer, which hit the Internet on Friday, features four men, three of whom married women and one bachelor who "want[s] to marry a woman, but [doesn't] know how to work out these feelings." All four are all devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.
Given the Mormon church's profession to "love the sinner; hate the sin," the trailer is full of awkward moments as these Mormon men explain how they reconcile their sexual orientation with their faith.
But as entertaining as the premise of the show might be, it propels a narrative that is deeply hurtful to the LGBT community: that you can — and should — overcome your sexuality.

Each Mormon believes faith can help him overcome his homosexuality. He just must "live a little differently" than the rest of those within the church. But overcoming this entails a lot of ambiguity, intonation and innuendo. "I like to say I've chosen an alternative to an alternative lifestyle," one man explains, while another rationalizes his lifestyle by saying, "I'm interested in men — I'm just not 'interested' in men."
Their confusing lifestyles reflect church doctrine, which states while "same-sex attraction is a sensitive issue which requires kindness, compassion and understanding," sex and marriage should only occur between a man and a woman:


The Mormon church has remained steadfast in its stance, even though, as ThinkProgress notes, itsposition has "softened somewhat since 2008, when the fight over California's Proposition 8 led some to complain the church was too intolerant for a modern society." Yet the church still has fought arduously against same-sex marriage legislation in Utah, as well as vehemently refusing to support anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT citizens.
This show, which will premier in January, is perpetuating a damaging narrative. It embodies everything wrong with how religious institutions treat homosexuality. By differentiating between the act (the "sin") and the person (the "sinner"), the church intimates that sexuality is a choice. As the men on the TLC special show, a devout Mormon has little choice about how to live his life. Faith requires "sacrifice," as Josh Weed wrote in his viral 2012 piece, "I'm a Gay Mormon Who's Been Happily Married for 10 Years":
"One of the sad truths about being homosexual is that no matter what you decide for your future, you have to sacrifice something. It's very sad, but it is true. ... If you are Mormon and you choose to live your religion, you are sacrificing the ability to have a romantic relationship with a same-sex partner. If you choose a same-sex partner, you are sacrificing the ability to have a biological family with the one you love... I chose not to 'live the gay lifestyle,' as it were, because I found that what I would have to give up to do so wasn't worth the sacrifice for me."
To some extent, Weed is correct. We all make choices in our lives to pursue certain desires and goals while abstaining from others.
While we certainly can't judge these four men for prioritizing their faith over their sexual orientation, we can expose how religious institutions unfairly force those choices on people and prevent them from living the lives they desire.

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