Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Is There Anybody There?

PD*13992296The existence or not of god has been an on going subject of debate among scientists for many years the latest and most substantial attempt being British biologist Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion. which attempts to disprove the existence of god using using the logic of hard science. Now, however we have two other scientists Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, suggesting that God may be the reason the large hadron collider in Geneva keeps having problems.

They have suggested that the Higgs boson, the particle that physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be “abhorrent to nature”, and its creation in the future would ripple backwards through time to stop the collider creating it in the first place. Its the application of the time travel conundrum whereby you go back in time to kill your grandfather and thus instantly disappear as you could never have been born, a common thread of the Terminator trilogy of science fiction films. In this case, however, its suggested God is at work not an Austrian body builder.

For those of us with less scientific minds and a more limited intellect such suggestions are baffling. My own question is why would God want to remain an ethereal being? Why would a divine being prefer to be the subject of pure faith and not hard evidence? But, then again, we have recently been told by Dr. Andrew Newberg, neuroscientist and author of ‘Why We Believe What We Believe’, we are “hard wired for faith”. As the collider hits a temperature lower than outer space and is due to be switched on this November we might just get a answer to the question ‘Is there anybody there?’ unless, of course, God does not want us to know the answer.

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When Opposites Just Won’t Attract

gazaThe Middle East crisis lumbers on as usual with no end in sight and not even a hint that talks may start soon. The Palestinian leaders will not come to the table until Israel stops the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel refuses to include East Jerusalem in any talks and has just approved the further developments of 500 houses in the Wast Bank.

Whether these are just posturing statements by both sides its not clear, but the intransigence of both does not bode well for the future. It would seem neither side has lost sufficient of their own people to this war to think that winning is impossible and talking and compromise the only solution left.

Even the West has failed to act as a go-between and broker some agreement on the start of talks. Mind you, the fact that both sides have repeatedly ignored UN resolutions demonstrated just how impotent any outsider is at trying to influence the situation. I fear there will be continued bloodshed until either or both nations realise the number of dead is too high a price to pay for a war neither side can win.

Making the West Safe At The Cost Of Women’s Rights

afghanistan_womanAfghanistan is classed as the fourth poorest country in the world but one of the biggest opium poppy growing countries in the world. Since 1978 a civil war has raged in Afghanistan almost continuously, even the intervention of Russia for the first ten years failed to solve the problem, they withdrew defeated in 1989. The Taliban in Afghanistan are continuing to fight for an Islamic state against the biggest and most powerful nations in the world with home made bombs.

Afghanistan is a study in the problems that occur when the East meets the West, the extremist view of Islam dose not fit with free thinking democratic western views. Its a clash to which there is no answer other than total separation. In light of the increasing deaths among British solders we are told by Defence secretary Bob Ainsworth the Afghan war is one we can and are winning. It will bring security to the west and democracy to the Afghan people.

If that is what we are sacrificing our solders for why has the Afghan government introduced a law that allows Shia men in Afghanistan can legally rape their wives and starve them if they to not respond to their sexual advances at least four times a week. How is that democratic? Where are the government ministers shouting disgust at the Afghan president. Could it be a case where so long as the west gets its security we don’t care what happens to the women of this troubled nation.

A Right To Land And Respect

Uluru“You can’t go climb on top of the Vatican, you can’t go climb on top of the Buddhist temples and so on and so forth.” Those are the words of Vince Forrester an Aboriginal leader from the Mutitjulu township in central Australia. He was responding to questions about the proposed ban on people climbing Uluru, formally called Ayers Rock. Uluru is a sacred site and features in the Aboriginal belief of creation.

The rock was given back to the Aboriginals in 1985 but remains a huge tourist attraction with over 350,000 visitors each year. Almost a third climb the rock as a challenge and to view the surrounding scenery from the 348 metre high peak. The aboriginal people have been badly treated in the past and at one point there were moves to eradicate them entirely by forcibly placing aboriginal children with white colonial families.

Australia has given back land to the Aboriginals and enacted anti discrimination legislation but the indigenous people are still third class citizens in their own country. The are many Australians who see them as being spongers and wastrels who spend their days drinking. Its a great shame that when the opportunity arises to put right a simple wrong the conservatives move to deny the Aboriginals their basic rights to religious respect and full control of their land.

Hand Up For A Better Life

churchFor some unknown reason I started to attend Pentecostal Church services at a local old folks home. I think I was eight or nine at the time. The joyousness of the Sunday morning services really hit home, as did the captivating words of the reverend. I remember a sense of warmth and friendship was so strong, when the congregation was asked if anyone wanted to fully embrace Christ my hand shot up almost involuntarily.

The few of us who had responded to the invitation were blessed and praised by everyone present. The joy in that room was overwhelming and I left filled with so much enthusiasm it took some time before I calmed down sufficient to tell my mother of the events of the morning. Although she had been brought up in the catholic faith she had become greatly disillusioned by the actions of the church when she was young and the way it dominated her family’s life.

Her reaction to my embracing the Christian faith in such an open way was quite pragmatic. She took the view that we should all decide for ourselves whether we believe in a god and which faith we think is the one, if any, we wish to follow. Clearly she knew as an eight year old I was too young to full understand the consequences of my actions that Sunday morning. Today I may not be wholly convinced there is a single unifying power, but I strongly believe in the creed of peace and tolerance to all.

When Beliefs Collide

The architecture of St James’s Church in Antwerp is an illustration of how some religions have distanced themselves from their followers. Originally a classic baroque church, St James’s has been embellished with Gothic chapels many of significant opulence. This lavish investment is a contrast to the frugality of most eastern religions and one reason why followers are turning away from a creed that puts more value on the material than humanity.

Church officials have a vested interest in maintaining their life styles while bemoaning the lack of support and lack morals of society. Bishops live in lush palaces with every need cater for by a host of servants and staff. The Church of England clergy have a job for life and cannot be sacked. The church invested millions in hedge funds and short selling (before the practice was banned by the Financial Services Authority) while criticising the finance industry for its lack of morals.

Contrast this to the eastern religions where the officials rely solely on their followers for succour and place the emphasis on human life and theology not ornate embellishments. It’s not surprising these belief systems are well supported and are growing in size. Among the Christian sects the Pentecostal churches and Charismatic Movement are seeing the highest growth rates. These sects put a greater emphasis on worship and a personal connection with God. Religion is seen as an experience not just a belief system managed by a hierarchy that is becoming increasingly out of touch with its followers.

A Darwinian Dilemma

The hundredth anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth has brought the debate on evolution verses creation to the fore. Several programmes and features have rerun the arguments raised at the time the Origin of the Species was published. The TV series ‘The History of Christianity’ dedicated a whole programme to the relationship between science and Christianity and raised some interesting points and modern thinking on the subject.

At one extreme is the biologist Richard Dawkins who’s book The God Delusion sets out to prove the non existence of a divine creator. At the other extreme are the creationists who believe explicitly in the Bible and state the world is barely 6,000 years old. Between the two are a whole range of views, many well argued and reasoned. There are scientists and members of the religious community who see no incompatibility between the bible creation and evolution and believe both are true. They seem to achieve this act of faith by saying each subject is either independent of the other or one is just an alternative way of describing the other.

However, one suggestion did catch my imagination as it reflected a view I have considered in the past. Over time we have developed the ability to intellectualise the world around us. This has allowed us to develop a deep understanding of how much of the world and universe works. Clearly there is more to learn but progress is surprisingly fast and scientific discoveries are pushing back the boundaries all the time. I believe the factor limiting progress is the limitations of our own ability to understand the emerging world of subjects such as quantum mechanics. Until we have evolved a greater mental capacity the answers to many fundamental questions, including the issue of a divine being, will elude us. Give it a thousand years or more and we might just find out which view of the spiritual world was correct.