Earth Hour

Diana and I did Earth Hour last Sunday, like many others did (I hope). We turned off all the lights, unplugged all of our power strips and lighted several candles throughout the house.  For an hour we sat at her table playing cards and talking. It was a wonderful experience! It brought the two of us closer to each other and the thousands of others who participated that day/night. Talking about it afterwards we thought it would be nice to do on a regular basis, maybe once a week. We aren’t religious people but I feel we are spiritual and at the moment we don’t have an outlet for that emotion, we felt that we could turn Earth Hour into a time to share with each other, our neighbors and our greater community, the plants, animals, soil, that surround us and which we spend so little of our time thinking about or recognizing. Taking an hour out of our busy schedule to reflect on this, while giving a little back just seems right to us.

Thoughts on Atheism and being Alone.

I’m an Atheist and so I believe that the universe and this planet were not created especially for us humans, and that it moves on unaware of us and uncaring. Indeed it can’t do either as it isn’t a person and doesn’t have any intelligence. I was raised a Christian and I sometimes miss the wonderment and mystery that theology brought me, feelings I believe every faith brings to its followers. Let me explain:

I’m going to talk about Christianity first as it is the most popular religion in the USA, the modern Church doesn’t talk about it much, they like to play down the supernatural parts of their religion, for some reason they’re still trying to compete with Science which is a game you can’t win, but anyhow. There is all sorts of magic and mystery to the Christian faith. All types of angels, legions of demons, lesser gods, demi-gods, earth spirits, witches, the mystery of blood sacrifice, the mystery of communion, saints… On and on. A Christian world is one full of invisible and powerful forces working for and against you, forces that can be controlled or turned to your will! That’s pretty amazing! The same goes for the worlds that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and every other theistic or supernatural inclined person lives in. The world I live in is empty, vast and completely indifferent to my struggles, furthermore it is indifferent to the struggles of everyone and everything. Humanity is alone in it. If we are not alone we are separated from anything else by such vast lengths that we will never know them and they will never hear from us. So yeah, a materialistic view of the universe can be full of wonder and mystery but it is a distant, uncaring one.

As a human I instinctively want the world and the universe to care about me. Narcissistic? Yeah, but that’s Humans for you. Religion answers that need, it makes you feel safe and cared for… I miss that sometimes…

Two More Books off the List… Oh, look there’s still a Library here…

Yesterday I finished reading The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy by Two Guys. I didn’t finish the book but I am done with reading it. I should have just picked up the original article these two wrote. I don’t need a 400 page, immaculately researched, and backed up book to tell me that Israel gets a free pass here in the United States. Turn the news on and you see it does. As do all our other brutal but anti-terrorist friends in the world.  Is this going to change anytime soon? Probably not, the book quotes innumerable politicaians and organizations that all say the same thing, “The Israel Lobby is the most powerful in Washington”, and “They control the public discourse relating to Israel and the Middle-East in this country”. That is a depressing thought, it is also depressing to think that even bringing up the topic of a bias in American discourse towards Israel gets you immediately labeled a new anti-Semite. So I guess that is what I’m going to be looking forward to, when I say that Carter is right and what is going on in Israel and along the West Bank is Apartheid and there is no excuse for it in a democratic country. There is also no excuse for anyone who thinks that it is okay to do so, regardless of the reasoning behind it. Racism is Racism, Hate is Hate. You don’t get rid of it by building walls around it, or killing it.

Enough of the depressing, soul wrenching dump we call the Middle East.

I also just finished Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. I liked the book, but then Buddhism appeals to me Zen in particular because there is no religiousness about it. It’s a practice and it’s solely concerned with the here and now, this existence. If more people were doing that instead of getting weepy eyed and hopeful about what might happen after were dead, the world would be a better place. I didn’t need all the talk about the punk scene in the 80’s but that’s Warner’s life and this is his book… So he can do what he wants. Stripping all the bull out of practice though, I liked that. Also the talk about Godzilla rocks, he needed more of that and less of Ultraman, who likes Ultraman?

In conclusion, if you’re interested in learning about Zen Buddhism without all the ritual and formula and tricky words, without all the baggage you should pick up a copy of the Hardcore Zen.  If you need all the references to back up what you already knew about American foreign policy towards Israel pick up the first book and flip to the back, there is pages of it. Oh, and pointing out the truth doesn’t make you a bigot. Some people just don’t like the truth… Screw them.

You just joined the Jedis

I don’t have to tell anyone that religion has been around for a long time. Artifacts and red dust found at Neanderthal archaeological sites have been interpreted by Scientists as having a religious purpose. Every human society known to science has had some form of religion, so for whatever reason it has been with us. In recent years religion has been taking a beating from what has been dubbed by the media and others as “the new atheists”, fellows like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett who have recently released a number of books that attack religion, faith, and spirituality itself as evils that have outlived their usefulness to Mankind. Their books and rhetoric have drawn the ire of Religious leaders and believers, creating a whole new genre of youtube video.

While traditional religions have been losing their faithful and clout for the last 50 years (though this is a very relative term, as fundamentalism and religious activism have increased in proportion) interest in “new age” faiths, pagan beliefs, eastern religion, and other esoteric sects and belief systems. Most of these “new age” religions at least purport to be the distillation of age old secrets and beliefs, or at least a new revelation from a traditional deity. There are of course totally new home grown religions appearing, the Church of the Sub Genius, Pastafarians, innumerable others as well (think the hale-bop cult, heaven’s gate, etc., etc.). At the bottom of this sad scale of religious belief is believers in faiths that were created whole-cloth from the minds of people who pretend for a living and here we find such sad people like Jedis and Scientologists (who, I am only half joking, will send me some sort of nasty email form their lawyers). These are people so desperate for a belief system that they actualize the fictional religions of others, this is only half true with Scientology it was fiction but Hubbard was cashing in. Wired Magazine has a small article in their October issue about this group here, I couldn’t bring myself to read all of it. Of course what Jedis stood for in the Star Wars movie was mostly a good thing, but you can do what they do without investing it with anything supernatural.

The world is fascinating enough without creating magic, and omnipotent bearded men in the sky, or alien invaders from the deep past who destroyed prisoners in volcanoes on earth with nuclear devices… Take a break, step outside and enjoy the beauty of existence for what it is, not what you wish it was.

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