belief

Weekly Choice: on a Story, Spirituality without religion and please go on Booksurfing

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Over 100 MOOCS Getting Started in September! Enroll in One Today!

MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) provides many interesting, illuminating courses in different areas.  The courses are free and also can be a smart way to procrastinate. Summer craziness is over, take your chance today! For further information take a look on MOOC list below.

http://www.mooc-list.com/?gclid=CjwKEAjwp7WgBRCRxMCLx8mMnDMSJADncxS263plTIjBvwfqKNB635tU6xdaPvj7G9DhCOjnBImE5BoCAgnw_wcB

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TED’s Best Of The Week! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

Chimamanda comes from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. In an extremely articulated talk, she speaks about generalizations. Are generalizations helpful? Can we function without them? Is that a default in the way we think and perceive the world? If this TED talk she posit on this issue in a curious and enlighten way. Thus far she manages to capture the attention of more than seven million people, who will be next?

“I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove. What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.”

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Legal murder. Legal abuse.

When someone would tell me to think of animals I would probably imagine a warm picture of myself cuddling my dog, giving her a bath and the good time I have with her. However, when one is removing her pink sunglasses, reality is quite different. What is happening? Humans are using animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and for scientific research.  In the US alone around 75,000 dogs (like mine and yours) and 22,000 cats dying every year from vivisection, many of them not even for a life saving medication but for shampoos, mascara and condoms. There are many accessible books and articles written on this subject, but until we witness it with our own eyes it’s all just dry and distant theory. Facebook is a great conscious buster about animal cruelty but is it enough (usually the sympathy doesn´t go beyond a short “it´s terrible” comment. We share the planet with animals, but instead of living with them we exploit, torture and abuse them in various ways, and all of that is today most gruesome Legal Murder, legal slavery, and rape.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKaCFyGdazo

If you are interested wish to learn more about this issue, here’s a link to “Earthlings”, an eye-opening documentary directed by Shaun Monson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7cxmFugZMA

Here’s how to you too can do something about it:

– Don´t eat meat everyday

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics_of_eating_meat

– If you see an abuse report it

http://www.pet-abuse.com/database/

– Avoid buying and using testing brands

http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Buying-and-Using-Animal-Testing-Brands

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Waking Up: a guide to spirituality without religion

“I once participated in a twenty-three-day wilderness program in the mountains of Colorado. If the purpose of this course was to expose students to dangerous lightning and half the world’s mosquitoes, it was fulfilled on the first day. What was in essence a forced march through hundreds of miles of backcountry culminated in a ritual known as “the solo,” where we were finally permitted to rest—alone, on the outskirts of a gorgeous alpine lake—for three days of fasting and contemplation.

waking up

I had just turned sixteen, and this was my first taste of true solitude since exiting my mother’s womb. It proved a sufficient provocation. After a long nap and a glance at the icy waters of the lake, the promising young man I imagined myself to be was quickly cut down by loneliness and boredom. I filled the pages of my journal not with the insights of a budding naturalist, philosopher, or mystic but with a list of the foods on which I intended to gorge myself the instant I returned to civilization. Judging from the state of my consciousness at the time, millions of years of hominid evolution had produced nothing more transcendent than a craving for a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.”

This is how the new book of Sam Harris begins. To read/listen to

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/chapter-one

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Recommendation of the week, BookSurfing!

A new social experiment

 “More intimate than a book club, less process-y than group therapy, and more focused than a cocktail party! Book surfing is a unique way to get to know people, and get exposed to a lot of interesting ideas and texts.

Bring something to read to a small, intimate group (6-8 people), some of whom you don’t know.

The format has been distilled over time into 5 simple rules:

  1. Everybody present (6-8 people) reads aloud a text of their choice. (Bring two texts: if time permits there is a second round of readings).
  2. Any text is suitable: it can be Shakespeare, or your diary
  3. Texts read must not exceed 450 words. (Yes, it’s Twitter-like, but it’s proven a good length.)
  4. There has to be at least one newcomer to book surfing.
  5. There have to be some participants who don’t know each other.

booksurfing_There is a moderator who organizes and runs the meeting, and makes time available for discussion after each reading.

Simple rules, but they seem to guarantee an interesting experience!”

If you are interested in this social experiment follow the example of Book Surfing Seattle on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/booksurfingseattle/info

Medieval crusades and the 21st century conflicts

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History has such an inspiring effect, don´t you agree?

This post is the result of an interesting conference I assisted recently relating the Crusade as a conceptual use in thought and public discourse today.  Crusade (cruzada in Spanish) is a concept which actually was first used long after the physical action started (to be precise about two hundred years after). If the first official crusade was around 1095 (ordered by Pope Urban the IInd), the concept itself did not appear before the 13th century. Common concepts in the context of military expeditions and conquests with religious ties usually were and still accompanied by phrases like ‘war of justice’ or ‘Just War’ (Guerra Justa), ‘Holy War’ (Guerra Santa), ‘Pilgrimage’ (peregrinaje) etc. With regard to Christianity, there are also terms such as Campaign or Journey of the Cross, (Campaña de la cruz, Latin: expeditio christus). Yet, a different denomination reminds the more economical side talking about the Jesus Christ’s Affaire or Business (el negocio de Jesucrito, or negotium christus in Latin).

In those times the land ownership was of the feudal lord. As this method of taxation was already very common in two thousand years, a successful pyramid method had considerable economic value. Thus, with the growing threat, it became important for the feudal lords to adhere to a much larger confederation. Therefore, it seems to be justified to annex and occupy lands beyond the border stationing loyal governance as the land’s sovereign. In particular, when land ownership interest is between the Church and Muslims, the sworn enemy of the Christians all through the Middle-Ages and beyond. And so it was that thousands of people, mostly peasants, step out to defend their faith and to bring wealth and fortune to themselves and for their mother church. Those brave soldiers became with time the known soldier priests (monjes soldados), devoted men or opportunists who joined the different Orders of the Crusades under oath of priests with the divine mission to shed the blood of the enemy and to conquer and expand its reign territory (not to confuse with colonialism).

There were different Orders at the time of the Crusades, distinguished by the goal, violence, and the various competences as well as the diversity of their origin (country, culture, etc.). Probably amongst the more known Orders today is that of the Knights Templar (with the Red Cross logo).

templerThe idea of Just War is all too familiar. For many centuries people are fighting in the name of their sovereign, whether divine or not, and the name of Christ religion was not very different. The end justified the means, they say, yet while that can be perceived as right for a divine reason, is it also true for simple conquering land and slaughtering the habitats for more wealth and power? In fact, the use of the term just war was used since early ages. The ancients Greeks fought the Barbarians (all that were strangers and didn´t speak their language) with that same devoted approved violence. In trispectivist view, it is when an individual all wants to become universal all, while the way to achieve such an aspiration is by violent interaction. The aspiration of power is to create certain parts of your identity equal to the majority.

And so, the Just War can be compared the concepts mindset to a famous maxim: “If someone is coming to kill you, rise against him and kill him first” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72:1). Indeed a famous saying and can claim to be “right” but without a specific context, anyone can use it to his advantage and always be sure that… he’s right.

In brief, we can resume three main reasons to defend oneself under the spiritual context:

1 – The first and perhaps most important is the economical reason. Church Goods means many assets all over the world. Every Christian has the duty to donate his church 10% of his earnings in addition to more sporadic donations during prayers, buying products and special personalized prayers etc. As such, the more believers and subjects or local officials who must appear in churches, the more profit and political power you will have. The human resource means the accumulation of lands and many properties that are an integral part of the organization (residential seminary, houses of worship, public spaces, etc.).

2 – Many towns and villages were under different sorts of beliefs that began to dissipate slowly with the globalization of occupying large scale monotheist beliefs. From the other hand, Christendom was in awe in front of the rapid conversion to Islam in the Middle East and Northern Africa, as to how two centuries of roaming villages and individuals had become a victorious empire under the banner of the half moon (6th centuries 8th). Therefore, conquering all lands between the Christian Europe and the Holy Land meant strengthening the status and pushing back the enemy from the heart of Christianity (in Italy and Southern France).

3 – To deal with segregation and local political problems, you need a common enemy. This may be one of the known effective strategies against uprisings in the kingdom. And if possible, a common enemy from afar, strong enough to be a worthy adversary who will make it a Holy war with endless praises and glory.

For the Muslims the Just War is what is called Jihad. Although it is not part of the five most important pillars of Islam (to believe (creed), to pray, to give alms, to fast and pilgrimage) but it is, no doubt, repeatedly mentioned by the messiah Muhammad as essential for the expansion of Islam (6th century AD). Each warrior of a Holy War is recognized as a martyr and his place in heaven is assured. Moreover, the spiritual level of the ones who fight for the cause is considered elevated and much stronger than the pacifist, docile believer.

During the Crusades, the same idea of ​ martyr was also widely used among Christians. Therefore, the warriors who conquered and ransacked villages on their way east in the name of Jesus their God, were extremely regarded and popularized.

bush-crusaderIn our era, the Just War continues to be part of the daily speeches, whether in the third world with poverty and lack of education as in the so-called developed countries. Nixon in 1973 and President Carter six years later used the same idea of ​​going to war in Asia and the Arab countries out of fear of the enemy’s control of what was already back then the most important raw material of our time. In 2001, George Bush Junior had a slip of the tongue in a post 11-S speech in which he mentioned a Crusade against the enemy to restore order in Iraq and world peace. This happens year after year in every country regardless of the political situation, spiritual and educational level of its habitats, as it seems, human beings are not as changed as we sometimes want to believe.

As well-known, this perspective of Just War is not unilateral, meaning, we can easily find the multiple use of fighting the infidel, protection of our faith from the Muslim side. Suleiman Abu Ghiz, the spokesman of Al Qaeda, made a clear parallelism between the conquests of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs by saying that they will not allow the tragedy of what happened in Al – Andaluz (Andalucía, the Spanish autonomy where Granada is located) to repeat in Palestine. What he meant was that they will not give up a key geographical strategically important point, to fall into the enemy hands. Strike your enemy before he strikes you.

 crusade

And while we are talking about hundreds of years of history of people and about beliefs of hundreds of millions of people, it’s impossible not to think about its future implications. One of which is the improvement of warfare technology that can only lead to automated war, as “Just” as they may seem now. As the Crusaders, even though they started with a noble and trust worthy cause in the first Crusade (as romanticized and idealized by the likes of Sir Walter Scott), by the fourth one, they were nothing more than mere mercenaries. Their need of gold had them ride from Venice to Constantinople as swords for rent, fighting and killing for the highest bid, draining the European resources… again.

What really is “Just” and what is Fear?