Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Religion Failed Us—but we Still Need It.

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

from Samuel Kronen’s excellent essay:

To live a religious life, we must engage in a spiritual practice. I don’t think there is any way around this. To remain in contact with that what is beyond ourselves, beyond the domain of our individual thoughts, we must find some way of continually remembering that this connection exists and is always possible to attain.

This can be achieved in many different ways, from charity, to meditation, to some form of deep contemplation, and so on. What is necessary is engaging in whatever practice we choose on a daily basis or something close to it—otherwise we are susceptible to falling astray and moving away from this essential connection.

Try to remember that life is infinitely wondrous and beautiful, and do everything in our power to live in a way that serves this remembrance. This is the foundation of a holy life.

We don’t need to buy into religious lunacy to be close to God. We simply must allow ourselves to be active participants in the grace and artistry of the universe, rather than merely being passive observers in a purely material world.

In reminding ourselves that there is more to life than what we think, we become present to the immediacy of life itself, and in my experience, this expands our capacity for love.

Love is at the core of a truly religious life.

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A Growing Movement Of ‘Death Doulas’ Is Rethinking How We Die

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

“All I can tell you is that from where I have sat there has been a calmness and a sense that I want to be nowhere else but by that person’s side,” Levine said in an interview with HuffPost.

Levine is part of a growing movement of nurses, social workers and volunteers who are pushing for greater compassion and companionship for people who are dying. Borrowing language from the birthing world, they’re called death doulas, end-of-life doulas, death midwives and palliative care doulas.

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This vision of the world reduces everything to a battle between good and evil, between God and Satan.

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

From Pope’s Confidantes Pen Blistering Critique Of Steve Bannon’s View of Christianity:
Spadaro and Figueroa accused this group of misinterpreting verses in the Bible to fit their own political stances on a wide range of topics ― from war-mongering to climate change to the idea of America as a “promised land” that is to be defended against all odds.

The authors wrote that these evangelicals and Catholics “condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.”

………………“Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes,” the pair wrote.

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Bannon, Deconstruction, v. meaningful readings of texts and life

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Steve Bannon’s love of Deconstructionism has got me thinking that a good dose of traditional sign theory, which dominated Western culture for centuries, would be in order, even if people are not believers. It argues that we can make sense of texts by careful readings, believing that they–and by extension, our lives–have meaning.

When I was earning my Ph.D. in English in the late 70s and early 80s, Deconstructionism was one of the big literary trends that many Miltonists eschewed because it reads every text as essentially meaningless, for all signs ultimately cancel each other out. Those who practice this theory are great at the intellectual gymnastics that such readings require. However, the alternate reality/facts, if you will, that such readings search out and concentrate on, are ultimately destructive to every text (and life itself). Nothing has meaning or purpose in this system, for there’s always chaos and war over dominance.

That, as my study, Perversions, Originals, and Redemptions in Paradise Lost, now an acclaimed book, is not at all true to the traditional semiotic approach of the Great Western tradition, first set forth by Augustine, the first and foremost sign theorist in the West. This system is essentially monistic (not dualistic, as some have thought), for all begins and ends in God. All signs must be read by the signs that God has embodied in both the Old and the New Testaments. Satan who separated himself from Heavenly communion and took many angels and humans with him then mimic, and pervert God’s words, deeds, and actions, forming, you might say, alternative facts and reality throughout the timeline–till the very end, when God steps in and becomes All in All, his monistic system restored. We are required by life itself to learn to read signs correctly and embody the truths of them in our lives if we are truly members of God’s City. If we choose to follow Satan and His opposing City, The City of Satan, or Man after the Fall, we never enjoy the Communion of Heaven, and will end in Hell (according to Augustine). There, nothing truly exists, for existence requires grounding in God, the source of all reality and being, but subsists. Milton, takes the Jewish and more logical tack that Satan and his City will ultimately be dissolved so that God will fully be All in All, his original monism restored throughout the universe (a notion again signifying oneness).

I think a discussion of Augustinian sign theory, while not the only reading of what’s going on politically, would be fruitful in today’s world. Even if one isn’t a believer, the notion that we can discover competing systems, which relate constantly to each other and provide insight into the characters enacting them, is exciting. It seems important to add that my work looks at patterns. I’m not dogmatic or doctrinaire myself, because I think most spiritual systems that I know of look for meaning based on Oneness and Unity with creation and would give value to such patterns. This lies beyond dogma, in my view.

Here’s a link to the study on Amazon. You can look inside to what it’s all about. You can also order a copy, or you can order a copy here (http://www.thomasrameywatson.com/editing/). Many academic libraries will have it too. https://smile.amazon.com/Perversions-Originals-Redemptions-Paradise-Lost/dp/0761837825/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488228034&sr=1-4&keywords=thomas+ramey+watson

Most of my books, take up traditional sign theory in one way or another. I knew my novel, Reading the Signs: A Paranormal Love Story, just published but without much notice so far, was particularly timely, centering on the corruption that infects so many of our institutions, where power and control have become the norm. Such power mongering is embodied in someone who hasn’t hesitated to abuse those beneath him in every way necessary to get and maintain such control, including misuse of sex. Alternate realities, competing narratives, which Trump and company constantly practice, riddle the novel in which my protagonist and his love are trying to survive by reading the signs rightly and moving on. My popular memoir, Baltho, The Dog Who Owned a Man, also refers to Deconstructionism and traditional sign theory.

New Year’s Thought

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

A big culprit in so many thorny issues facing us is religious dogma that keeps people from really seeing and from there getting ourselves and others in balance. As long as we remain dogmatic, locked in manacles of the mind, as the poet William Blake termed it, we make everything worse, not just for others but for ourselves.

I was thinking the other morning on my way home from yoga of the Two GREAT COMMANDMENTS, which, as Jesus said, are the summation of the Law and the Prophets: 1. Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind. And, 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. To love others rightly we must also love ourselves. Many people do not. To get right we must sort ourselves out with love and kindness, and wisdom.

That’s where good books, and good counsel, can really help.

I’ll end the year with this poem from my collection, The Necessity of Symbols,

20/20

Threading from spool to spool
to spool, frost spins
old stories out
over my windows.

Shrunken cherries left by blackbirds
who’ve read the signs and fled
lie discarded on the lawn.
Like motors, hearts turn—
and turn again—
but refuse, make noise—
absolutely refuse
to start.

Ice covers the city
like a freezer-burned pie.
The fruit trees—no matter their kind—
bear only ice.

Oh stabat mater—Jesus—
stoop—
take the cobwebs from the gashes.
Let wounds brighten.
Let us bear fruit
fit for golden bowls.
Thomas Ramey Watson

“We’re still part of the whole, the web of life, of all that is–God, if you like.”

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Yesterday I had another of my unusual encounters with an animal. More important than anything in life is my experience with the soul realm. When such things happen, I always feel wiser, stronger, better centered in ultimate Reality.

I attended a monthly Reiki Shares session at the Samadhi Yoga Center on East Colfax in Denver. As I walked past the friendly young woman sitting at the counter, I noticed that she had a very happy black and white dog under her bare feet. It was lying on his side as she massaged it with her feet.

I laughed and said, “Hi Dog–you look happy,” then walked on.

Inside the Reiki room, I heard the dog talking to me. “I want to see you,” he said. I listened further. I’m not good at picking up gender. Actually I’m still not sure about hearing the voice of an animal I don’t know. After Hattie died I became more confident about hearing the voice of one of my companion animals.

I listened.

“I was abused,” he said, “but I’m very happy and grateful now. I’m loved.” I was pretty sure the dog was male.
The words returned while Reiki was performed on me. “I still have trauma about it,” he added.

When I walked out of the gathering room, I moved to the woman at the counter. She had a very sweet, open face, with the creamy complexion of a redhead. Her dog got up and came over to see me. He seemed both friendly and anxious. He kept wanting me to pet him, then backed off, and returned, sniffing at my shoes and legs. I sat down on a chair so I’d be more at his height.

“You smell my dog and cats and all the other animals I hang out with, don’t you?” I said petting him.

“He’s kind of afraid of men,” the woman said.

I asked his name.

“Josko,” she answered.

I told the woman what Josko had said. “He told me how much he loves you and is happy to be yours. He also said he’s been abused.”

The woman shook her head. “No, I’m sure he wasn’t. I got him as a puppy of 6 weeks old. He’s been with me ever since.”

I thought, “I must have been wrong.”

“He was rescued from a hoarder.”

“Early pethood experiences are just as important as early childhood experiences for us,” I assured her.

We went on to talk of the importance of bonding.

“To do that we have to open ourselves, make ourselves vulnerable to the greatest joy–and the deepest pain–imaginable,” I said. A collage of faces of people I knew who just couldn’t do that flashed before me. “I think that’s one of the gifts that our animals give us. They’re easier to bond with than many humans.”

The woman agreed. “We don’t do it very well.”

“It’s the most rewarding, as well as painful thing, we’re called to do,” I added. “It means being open to losing everything, especially the beloved. And the threat of losing ourselves in the process.”

“I think that’s what we’re meant to do” the woman said.

“From that we gain a much deeper, truer sense of self,” I added. That’s the main difference between Western Religious Traditions and Eastern Religious Traditions. “We’re still part of the whole, the web of life, of all that is–God, if you like.”

How Do We Lift Up Love Over Hate in This Angry Election Season?

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

From Jim Wallis, who typically is very insightful:

For those of us who are people of faith and moral conscience, how do we lift up love over hate in this angry election season? How do we point to justice instead of revenge? How do we love our neighbors as ourselves — which all our religious traditions tell us to do — and vote that way? And if our faith traditions also tell us that a society is ultimately judged by how it treats its most vulnerable people, how do we best vote for the concerns of the most vulnerable in this coming election?

These will be matters for prayerful discernment and courageous action in this critical election year.

Jim Wallis

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The Surprising Benefit Of Going Through Hard Times

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

The phenomenon of art born from adversity can be seen not only in the lives of famous creators, but also in the lab. In the past 20 years, psychologists have begun studying post-traumatic growth, which has now been observed in more than 300 scientific studies.

The term post-traumatic growth was coined in the 1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun to describe instances of individuals who experienced profound transformation as they coped with various types of trauma and challenging life circumstances. Up to 70 percent of trauma survivors report some positive psychological growth, research has found.

Growth after trauma can take a number of different forms, including a greater appreciation for life, the identification of new possibilities for one’s life, more satisfying interpersonal relationships, a richer spiritual life and a connection to something greater than oneself, and a sense of personal strength.

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The physical rebuilding of a city that takes place after an earthquake can be likened to the cognitive processing and restructuring that an individual experiences in the wake of a trauma. Once the most foundational structures of the self have been shaken, we are in a position to pursue new—and perhaps creative—opportunities.

The “rebuilding” process looks something like this: After a traumatic event, such as a serious illness or loss of a loved one, individuals intensely process the event—they’re constantly thinking about what happened, and usually with strong emotional reactions.
It’s important to note that sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety, of course, are common responses to trauma, and growth generally occurs alongside these challenging emotions—not in place of them. The process of growth can be seen as a way to adapt to extremely adverse circumstances and to gain an understanding of both the trauma and its negative psychological impact.

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Spiritual tourism has travelers asking the big questions

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

They’re among a fast-growing number of travelers doing more than lying on beaches and roaming through museums. They’re seeking spiritual encounters, from private healing ceremonies with a shaman in Peru and Sufi meditation sessions in India to monastery stays in northern Thailand and Christian pilgrimages to Fátima and Lourdes.

Travel companies report that the number of people taking “faith-based” vacations is up as much as 164 percent in the last five years, even at a time when surveys show that the fastest-growing religious category in the United States is no religious affiliation at all, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“In the absence of belonging to an organized religion, I still think there’s a universal desire for people to connect with deeper things,” said Ben Bowler, the Australian founder of Monk for a Month, which offers Westerners long stays in Buddhist monasteries in Thailand. “They’ve already been to the beach on holiday. So when they get the time and resources, they think of doing something more meaningful.”

In addition to that search for a higher purpose — especially among retiring baby boomers — observers speculate that all kinds of factors are driving this wave of spiritual tourism, including anxiety caused by economic and political uncertainty, the popularity of Pope Francis, the looming 500th anniversary in 2017 of the Protestant Reformation, and the once-in-10-years Oberammergau passion play that will be staged in 2020.

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Josh Duggar’s Hypocrisy Is Part of a Much Larger Cultural Problem

Monday, August 31st, 2015

From MATTHEW ROZSA’s article:

The researchers discovered that individuals who identified as “highly straight” but had latent impulses for sex with other men were far more likely to favor anti-gay policies. In addition, those men were also more likely to call for stricter punishments against gay people who commit petty crimes. “Not all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions,” explained Dr. Richard M. Ryan to The New York Times. “But at least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves, having themselves been victims of oppression and lack of acceptance.”

The explanation is pretty similar when talking about heterosexual sex scandals, such as the one involving Duggar. One study found that residents of highly religious and politically conservative states spent more money on Internet pornography than their less religious and conservative counterparts. And the states which banned gay marriage had 11 percent more porn subscribers. There is a solidly-established statistical correlation between social conservatism and higher rates of abortion, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases — and nations that have more liberal views on sexuality generally have fewer sex-related health problems than countries that are more repressive.

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All of this is because, as Dr. Christopher Ryan explained at Psychology Today:

If expression of sexuality is thwarted, the human psyche tends to grow twisted into grotesque, enraged perversions of desire. Unfortunately, the distorted rage resulting from sexual repression rarely takes the form of rebellion against the people and institutions behind the repression… Instead, the rage is generally directed at helpless victims who are sacrificed to the sick gods of guilt, shame, and ignorant pride.

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Thomas Ramey Watson is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University's College of Professional Studies. He has served as an Episcopal chaplain (lay), trained as a psychotherapist, done postdoctoral work at Cambridge University, and was named a Research Fellow at Yale University.

In addition to his scholarly writings, he is a published author of poetry and fiction.

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