Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Toward a Pluralistic Middle East? – Jewish Ideas Daily   2 comments

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Toward a Pluralistic Middle East? – Jewish Ideas Daily.As the Middle East lurches through the present confusion of civil war, revolution, and mass protest, decent people everywhere wonder about the chances of a more pluralistic and democratic order emerging. One way of measuring progress in that direction will be to track the treatment of minorities like the Berbers and the Jews.

Posted March 17, 2011 by dmacc502 in History, religion, social

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Saluting a pillar of buddhism   Leave a comment

The Sakyamuni Buddha, by Zhang Shengwen, c.117...

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How a true Buddhist lives

Seeking to draw up a code of conduct which would define what it means to be a true follower of the Buddha,  a group of concerned Thai Buddhists and educators sought the advice of Phra Brahmagunabhorn (P.A. Payutto).  The venerable monk has proposed the following guidelines:


[1] To develop toward human excellence: with self-training through education, one can achieve even the Buddhahood.

[2] To look up to Buddha and try to follow his examples of how to cultivate wisdom, purity and loving-kindness.

[3] To abide by dharma or truth, integrity and virtue in one’s actions.

[4] To build a society starting from one’s own family as a sangha with a sense of unity that nurtures collective creativity.

[5] To strive for success by doing good deeds with diligence and heedfulness.

Illustrations were designed by Phra Chaiyos Phuttiwaro and reproduced from Phra Brahmagunabhorn’s Siamsaamtri .


[1] To regularly pay respect to the Triple Gems (Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha), one’s parents, teachers and other respectable people.

[2] To follow the five precepts and refrain from all vices.

[3] To perform regular chanting or the reciting of Buddha’s words and to try to understand the meaning of what the Buddha has said at least once a day.

[4] To train one’s mind, for five to 10 minutes daily, to be calm and fresh through meditation as well as by expressing one’s intention to do wholesome deeds.

[5] To perform appropriate acts on holy days such as offering alms to monks, reciting the loving-kindness chant for every being, listening to dharma or reading dharma books. These acts can be performed with other people at home, in the temple, at school or in one’s place of work; they do not need to take up more than 15 minutes of your time.

[6] To be economical and share one’s savings with charities at least once a week or do charitable work such as helping those in distress or supporting some good people/activities.

[7] To do a good act at least once a week, such as paying tribute to the Triple Gems, one’s parents, teachers or ancestors.

[8] To visit temples with a nice ambience and join in religious activities on holy days and other important days for one’s family.

[9] To exercise moderation and balance in one’s consumption.

[10] To perform one’s duty, take care of one’s belongings and work on what should be done in life by practising until one develops the necessary skills.

[11] To set a limit on the entertainment programmes one watches on TV and to not let oneself drift into all the alluring vices; there should be an “entertainment-free day” at least once a month.

[12] To have something that one pays respect to which will remind one of the Triple Gems and one’s commitment to Buddhist principles.


via Saluting a pillar of buddhism.

Posted February 15, 2011 by dmacc502 in health, History, religion

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ON THE DEVIL- Pope John Paul II   Leave a comment

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagoni...
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In his discourse at the general audience of August 13, 1986, the Holy Father commented at great length on the fall of the angels. This was an eminently pastoral allocution:

Satan wishes to destroy life lived in accordance with the truth, life in the fullness of good, the supernatural life of grace and love. . . .

“As the result of the sin of our first parents, this fallen angel has acquired dominion over man to a certain extent. This is the doctrine that has been constantly professed and proclaimed by the Church, and which the Council of Trent confirmed in its treatise on original sin (cf. DS, 1511).

“In Sacred Scripture we find various indications of this influence on man and on the dispositions of his spirit (and of his body). In the Bible, Satan is called the `prince of this world’ (cf. Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and even the `god of this world’ (2 Cor. 4:4). . . .

“According to Sacred Scripture, and especially the New Testament, the dominion and the influence of Satan and of the other evil spirits embraces all the world. . . . The action of Satan consists primarily in tempting men to evil, by influencing their imaginations and higher faculties, to turn them away from the law of God. . . . It is possible that in certain cases the evil spirit goes so far as to exercise his influence not only on material things, but even on man’s body, so that one can speak of ‘diabolical possession’ (cf. Mk. 5:2-9). It is not always easy to discern the preternatural factor operative in these cases, and the Church does not lightly support the tendency to attribute many things to the direct action of the devil; but in principle it cannot be denied that Satan can go to this extreme manifestation of his superiority in his will to harm and to lead to evil.

“To conclude, we must add that the impressive words of the Apostle John—‘The whole world lies under the power of the evil one’ (1 Jn. 5:19)— allude also to the presence of Satan in the history of humanity, a presence which becomes all the more acute when man and society depart from God.


Posted January 17, 2011 by dmacc502 in History, religion

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Colorado scientist’s research finds spot for parting of the Red Sea —   Leave a comment

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The results were that a wind of 63 mph, lasting for 12 hours, would have pushed back waters estimated to be 6 feet deep. That would have exposed mud flats for four hours, creating a dry passage about 2 to 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide. As soon as the wind stopped, the waters would come rushing back, UCAR said.

“There are a number of details (in Exodus) like the duration of the wind and the direction of the wind that support the computer model,” Drews said. “The fact that bodies washed up on the Eastern shore where the Israelites were able to see them — details like that were confirmed by the ocean model.”

From a theological standpoint, the timing of the Red Sea parting when Moses and his people needed to cross shows the miracle, Drews said.

via Colorado scientist’s research finds spot for parting of the Red Sea —

Posted January 16, 2011 by dmacc502 in environment, History, religion, Uncategorized

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Rabbi Adam Jacobs: Understanding Prophecy: Moses vs. Nostradamus   Leave a comment

Most of the world’s religious systems attempt to add gravitas and authenticity to their tenets by claiming them to be the products of a deeply enlightened seer or prophet. This person, by virtue of his or her advanced state of consciousness, pious life and transcendental awareness, is thought to possess the ability to tap into hidden stores of information that reside in a plane of ephemeral existence higher than our own. By and large, religions are established by a single individual claiming prophetic insight such as Jesus, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, et al. By contrast, Jewish tradition claims 1.2 million prophets throughout the approximately 900 year span of the first and second Temples. Across the board, the rabbinic authorities held that the prophecy of Moses was qualitatively unique within this huge group as Maimonides recorded in his 13 Principles of Faith: “I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him, was true — and that he was the greatest of the prophets — both those that preceded him, and those who followed him.”

Let’s do a little comparison. Let’s look at a few of Moses’ predictions to see if we believe that they actually came to pass and then contrast them with the perennially popular 16th century French prophet Nostradamus. There are two criteria that need to be employed to authenticate a prophecy — a true prediction must have both specificity and non-predictability to be viable. So saying something like “a great king will arise in the West” would be disqualified due to both its vagueness and relative likelihood, while something like “Dweezil Zappa will become Secretary of State in 2016” would be a home run.

Leviticus 26:33 states:

“And you, I will scatter among the nations, I will unsheathe the sword after you, leaving your country desolate and your cities in ruins.”

The Torah predicts here that the Jewish people will be exiled from their land. Does the prediction seem clear? It does. And how about the likelihood factor? Interestingly, exile was a rare phenomenon in the ancient world (less than 10 in recorded history) as the conquering nations preferred to tax and work the vanquished population. In short, this prophecy is quite specific and was not likely to occur.

Here’s one from Nostradamus (Prophecies 1:8):

“From the Orient will come the African heart, To trouble Hadrie and the heirs of Romulus: Accompanied by the Libyan Fleet, The Temples of Malta and nearby islands shall be deserted.”

Ummmm, OK. I did my best to make sense of this but it’s obviously extremely vague and to the best of my knowledge, no clear world historical event is associated with these words. As the blog commenters say: fail.

Back to Moses in Deuteronomy 30:1-5:

“Then the Almighty will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you; and He will return and gather you from among all of the nations where he has dispersed you. If your dispersed ones will be even at the ends of the heavens, from there God Almighty will gather you and from there He will take you. And God your Lord will bring you to the land that your fathers inherited and you shall inherit it.”

Once again, extremely clear, and extremely unlikely to have transpired. No other people has even so much as survived an exile, let alone returned to reestablish their historical homeland. In fact, the Jewish people have done this twice — once at the hands of the Babylonians and later by the Romans. What Average Joe author would have been dumb enough to predict an outcome that was so exceedingly unlikely to ever come about? Unlikely to be exiled and impossible to come back — not a very good wager, especially considering the world could now easily proclaim your book worthless. Better to stick with vague and meaningless Nostradamus-type musings like:

“From the three water signs will be born a man, Who will celebrate Thursday as his holiday: His renown, praise, rule and power will grow, On land and sea, bringing trouble to the East.” (Prophecies 1:50)

Ah yes, those powerful, aquatic, 5th Day People. They were always giving the East hell. I think we’re all on the same page when I say: gong!

Now just permit me to pre-defend myself from the inevitable charges of “cherry picking.” I have discussed here only two of many. It’s important to note to that many of these Mosaic prophecies preclude the others from coming about. That is, if one happens, it makes it less likely for the others to come about. For instance, the Jews are told that they will be an eternal nation (Genesis 17:7, Leviticus 26:44 ). Already very unlikely, but all the more so considering the exile we discussed. On top of this we are told that we will always remain few in number (Deuteronomy 4:27), which is certainly a hindrance to eternality. So perhaps we’ll be small but so universally loved that the world will always take good care of us? Alas no. Indeed, the Torah predicts that we will be very unpopular in our host countries (Deut. 28:65-67). And there are more.

So what say you dear reader? I can see some of you you rushing to pick up your King James’s to school me with some prophecy that did not come to pass (as some of them have not yet) or others that seem vague and general to you and therefore not one iota better than our man in France. I’d love to hear it all, but let’s try to focus on the ideas presented here. Were they accurate predictions or not? It’s not tenable to suggest that out of hundreds of inaccurate ones, I just plucked the two or three that worked. It’s not the case. If you feel yourself drawn to the “cherry picking” defense, consider that it may be because you (as of yet) have no way to logically explain it. If these examples are accurate and conform to our “likelihood index,” what conclusions can be drawn about the book, its author and its information?

“Delve into it and delve into it, for everything is in it.” –Mishna

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Posted January 12, 2011 by dmacc502 in religion

Cop who ticketed Brooklyn rabbi on Sabbath for jaywalking transferred   Leave a comment




Jewish law prevents observant Jews from writing or forming any meaningful characters on the Sabbath.


via Cop who ticketed Brooklyn rabbi on Sabbath for jaywalking transferred.

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Posted December 22, 2010 by dmacc502 in global, religion

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Weekend readers' pictures: Religion | Life and style | The Guardian   Leave a comment

Berni Martin: “Colourful tiles from India, ­depicting the three main religions that live side by side there: ­Islam, Hinduism and Christianity”

Posted December 10, 2010 by dmacc502 in religion

Weekly Dvar Torah: Chayei Sara by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks   1 comment

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...

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One of the most striking features about Judaism in comparison with, say, Christianity or Islam, is that it is impossible to answer 
Lot, who assimilated, was scorned. Abraham, who fought and prayed for his neighbours, but maintained his distance and difference, was respected.
the question: Who is the central character of the drama of faith? In both of the other Abrahamic monotheisms the answer is obvious. In Judaism, it is anything but. Is it Abraham, the founder of the covenantal family? Is it Jacob, who gave his name Israel to our people and its land? Moses, the liberator and lawgiver? David, the greatest of Israel’s kings? Solomon, the builder of the Temple and the author of its literature of wisdom? Isaiah, the poet laureate of hope? And among women there is a similar richness and diversity.

It is as if the birth of monotheism – the uncompromising unity of the creative, revelatory and redemptive forces at work in the universe – created space for the full diversity of the human condition to emerge.

So Abraham, whose life draws to its close in this week’s parasha, is an individual rather than an archetype. Neither Isaac nor Jacob nor anyone else for that matter is quite like him. And what strikes us is the sheer serenity of the end of his life. In a series of vignettes, we see him, wise and forward looking, taking care of the future, tying up the loose ends of a life of deferred promises.

First, he makes the first acquisition of a plot in the land he has been assured will one day belong to his descendants. Then, leaving nothing to chance, he arranges a wife for Isaac, the son he knows will be heir to the covenant. Astonishingly, he remains full of vigour and takes a new wife, by whom he has six children. Then, to avoid any possible contest over succession or inheritance, he gives all six gifts and then sends them away before he dies. Finally we read of his demise, the most serene description of death in the Torah:

Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. [25: 8]

One is almost tempted to forget how much heartache he has suffered in his life: the wrenching separation from “his father’s house,” the conflicts and aggravations of his nephew Lot, the two occasions on which he has to leave the land because of famine, both of which cause him to fear for his life; the long drawn-out wait for a son, the conflict between Sarah and Hagar, and the double trial of having to send Ishmael away and seemingly almost to lose Isaac also.

Somehow we sense in Abraham the beauty and power of a faith that places its trust in G-d so totally that there is neither apprehension nor fear. Abraham is not without emotion. We sense it in his anguish at the displacement of Ishmael and his protest against the apparent injustice of the destruction of Sodom. But he places himself in G-d’s hands. He does what is incumbent on him to do, and he trusts G-d to do what He says He will do. There is something sublime about his faith.

Yet the Torah – even in this week’s parasha, after the supreme trial of the binding of Isaac – gives us a glimpse of the continuing challenge to his faith. Sarah has died. Abraham has nowhere to bury her. Time after time, G-d has promised him the land: as soon as he arrives in Canaan G-d says:

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” [12: 7]

Then again in the next chapter after he has separated from Lot:

Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” [13: 17]

And two chapters later:

He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” [15: 7]

And so on, seven times in all. Yet now he owns not one square inch in which to bury his wife. This sets the scene for one of the most complex encounters in Bereishit, in which Abraham negotiates for the right to buy a field and a cave.

It is impossible in a brief space to do justice to the undertones of this fascinating exchange. Here is how it opens:

Then Abraham rose up from before his dead, and spoke to the Hittites, saying, “I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”
The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Hear us, my lord. You are a prince of G-d among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Abraham signals his relative powerlessness. He may be wealthy. He has large flocks and herds. Yet he lacks the legal right to own land. He is “an alien and a stranger.” The Hittites, with exquisite diplomacy, reply with apparent generosity but deflect his request. By all means, they say, bury your dead, but for that, you do not need to own land. We will allow you to bury her, but the land will remain ours. Even then they do not commit themselves. They use a double negative: “None of us will refuse . . .” It is the beginning of an elaborate minuet. Abraham, with a politeness to equal theirs, refuses to be sidetracked:

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

He takes their vague commitment and gives it sharp definition. If you agree that I may bury my dead, then you must agree that I should be able to buy the land in which to do so. And if you say, no one will refuse me, then surely you can have no objection to persuading the man who owns the field I wish to buy.

Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

Again, an elaborate show of generosity that is nothing of the kind. Three times Ephron says, “I give it to you,” yet he does not mean it and Abraham knows he does not mean it.

Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.” Ephron answered Abraham, “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between me and you? Bury your dead.”

Far from giving the field away, Ephron is insisting on a vastly inflated price, while seeming to dismiss it as a mere trifle: “What is that between me and you?” Abraham immediately pays the price, and the field is finally his.

What we see in this brief but beautifully nuanced passage is the sheer vulnerability of Abraham. For all that the local townsmen seem to pay him deference, he is entirely at their mercy, he has to use all his negotiating skill, and in the end he must pay a large sum for a small piece of land. It all seems an impossibly long way from the vision G-d has painted for him of the entire country one day becoming a home for his descendants. Yet Abraham is content. The next chapter begins with the words, “Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in all things” [24: 1].

That is the faith of an Abraham. The man promised as many children as the stars of the sky has one child to continue the covenant. The man promised the land “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” [15: 18] has acquired one field and a tomb. But that is enough. The journey has begun. Abraham knows “It is not for you to complete the task.” He can die content.

One phrase shines through the negotiation with the Hittites. They acknowledge Abraham, the alien and stranger, as “a prince of G-d in our midst.” The contrast with Lot could not be greater. Recall that Lot had abandoned his distinctiveness. He had made his home in Sodom. His daughters had married local men. He “sat in the gate” of the town [19: 1], implying that he had become one of the elders or judges. Yet when he resisted the people who were intent on abusing his visitors, they said: “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge!” [19: 9].

Lot, who assimilated, was scorned. Abraham, who fought and prayed for his neighbours, but maintained his distance and difference, was respected. So it was then. So it is now. Non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism. Non-Jews disrespect Jews who disrespect Judaism.

So, at the end of his life, we see Abraham, dignified, satisfied, serene. There are many types of hero in Judaism, but few as majestic as the man who first heard the call of G-d, and began the journey we still continue.


Posted December 9, 2010 by dmacc502 in History, religion

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IVAN THE TERRIBLE Also: Ivan IV, Ivan Grozny 1530-1584 CZAR OF ALL RUSSIA 1547-1584   Leave a comment

Ivan IV of Russia ("Ivan the Terrible&quo...

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Ivan IV, know as Ivan the Terrible, is most known for his brutal ruling, centralised administration of Russia and expantion of the boundaries of the Russian Empire. He was born in Moscow on August 25, 1530, the oldest son of Vasilij III.

Ivan was only three years old when his Father, Vasilij III died. Ivan’s Mother, Yelena Glinskaya was leading Boyar (Noble) Family established a regency, but it soon degenerated into intrigue, denuncation and wild violence as rival boyars disputed the dominance of Glinsky Family. Yelena died in 1538 and misrule continued. Ivan had a poor health, he was largely ignored and his education was neglected.

Ivan the Terrible assumed the throne in 1547 at the age of seventeen and immediately proclaimed himself “Tsar” (Czar) , instead of Grand Duke. In the same year Ivan married Anastasia Romanov. When Anastasia died in 1560, he remarried. Among his wives are Marie Tscerkaski (1561) and Maria Sobakina (1571).

Ivan justly deserved his reputation as a tyrant and his reign was peppered with battles with foreign invaders. Kazan was finally wrestled from the grasp of the Tartars in 1552 and St. Basil’s Cathedral was built on Red Square to celebrate the occasion. Ivan seized Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea two years later, and having repelled the Tartars completely, he looked west to the Duchy of Livonia, which he invaded despite protests from Poland and Sweden.

Painting by Repin - Ivan the Terrible killing his sonIn 1560 the Tsar was devastated by the death of his beloved wife Anastasia and turned on his once favored courtiers and nobles, blaming them for her death. Although Ivan abdicated in 1564 in protest, he was urged back to power and began a rule of terror never before seen in Russian history. He divided the country into two clean-cut spheres, the one (the oprichnina) encompassing his personal domain, and the other (the zemshchina) representing the rest. Ivan broke the power of the Muscovite boyars, exiling thousands of them to Siberia, and created a new militia. These hand-picked oprichniki, as he named them, were devoted to his orders and were encouraged to rape, loot, burn, kill and torture in the Tsar’s name. They spread terror throughout Russia, culminating in the atrocious massacre of Novgorod in 1569, when as many as 60,000 citizens were tortured to death for supposedly plotting to side with Poland.

In 1571 the Tartars raided Moscow, burning much of the city and taking thousands of citizens away as slaves. Ivan fled to Yaroslavl, where he spent much of his remaining decade in power plotting to usurp the Polish throne. In 1581 a combined Polish and Swedish invasion prompted the Tsar to concede Livonia to the Poles.

In 1582, in an attack of unexplained rage, Ivan had killed his eldest son, Tsarevich Ivan, by striking him with an iron rod. He died on March 18, 1584. Although the transition from Ivan to his son and successor, Feodor I, was relatively easy and quiet, Moscow was, according to most observers, on the verge of anarchy as a result of Ivan The Terrible’s policies.

Posted December 7, 2010 by dmacc502 in culture, government, history, politics, religion, violence, war

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Dead Sea Scroll scans to be published online | World news | The Guardian   Leave a comment

Jordan, Amman, Dead Sea Scroll 4Q175

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Dead Sea Scroll scans to be published online | World news | The Guardian.

via Dead Sea Scroll scans to be published online | World news | The Guardian.

High-resolution images of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls are to be published on the internet, it was announced today.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), custodian of the scrolls that shed light on the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus, said it was collaborating with Google’s research and development centre in Israel to upload digitised images of the entire collection.

Advanced imaging technology will be installed in the IAA’s laboratories early next year and high-resolution images of each of the scrolls’ 30,000 fragments will be freely accessible online. The IAA conducted a pilot imaging project of a similar nature in 2008.

“The images will be equal in quality to the actual physical viewing of the scrolls, thus eliminating the need for re-exposure of the scrolls and allowing their preservation for future generations,” the IAA said in a statement.

It said the new technology would help to make clear writing that has faded over the centuries, and would promote further research into one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century.

The scrolls, most of them on parchment, are the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible and include secular text dating from the third century BC to the first century AD.

For many years after Bedouin shepherds discovered the scrolls in caves near the Dead Sea in 1947, only a small number of scholars were allowed to view the fragments. But access has since been widened and they were published in their entirety nine years ago.

A few large pieces of scroll are on permanent display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


Posted October 19, 2010 by dmacc502 in global, media, photography, religion, science

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