Ash Wednesday – a Pagan perspective

Christians have Lent, Jews have Yom Kippur, and Muslims have Ramadan. All are seasons of prayer, fasting, and introspection. At their best, their purpose is purification and simplification; they are a time to set aside the mundane and focus hearts and minds on the spiritual and the sacred.Does Paganism need its own season of introspection? I think the answer is “yes.” Even those of us who have established consistent daily practices find it too easy to get into a mundane rut. We need spiritual anc … [Read more...]

The Meaning of Unitarian Universalism

“The Meaning of Unitarian Universalism” is the rather ambitious (but appropriate, on a couple of levels) title of yesterday’s sermon by DUUF Minister Emeritus Rev. Don Fielding. And while I don’t intend to review or critique Don’s sermon, he did have a couple good ideas that I want to expand on.Don is a Religious Naturalist. I still remember the forceful conclusion to his retirement sermon in 2003: “there is only the natural world, and it is enough.” Yet while he’s firm in his beliefs, he has a c … [Read more...]

Religious Freedom and its reasonable limits

Via WitchVox, here’s an amusing story from my hometown of Chattanooga. The bad news is that some Pagans were behaving in a rather irresponsible manner. The good news is that the cop who responded had some knowledge of what he was dealing with and wasn’t interested in a religious argument.Some of the comments on the Chattanooga Pulse site and on WitchVox are saying “this is why I’m a solitary.” Certainly, morons like this are an embarrassment, but that just motivates me to do an even more prof … [Read more...]

The Prayers of Presidents

Most of us don’t know about it or choose to ignore it, but each Saturday the President gives a radio address, a fairly short speech on what’s going on in Washington and what he thinks the priorities should be.Last Saturday, President Obama ended his address with a quote from President John F. Kennedy:“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.”Substitute “work magic” for “pray” and you have a very good Paga … [Read more...]

The Dangers of Sacred Texts

Gus diZerega keeps a Pagan blog on Beliefnet. In an entry inspired by a wider debate on abortion and the Bible, he discussed the limitations and dangers of sacred texts. As always, I encourage you to go read the whole thing for yourself.diZerega basically says that sacred texts have two flaws. The first is that writing freezes a tradition at the point at which it is written down – it becomes an artifact and ceases to evolve with the culture from which it grew. The second is that the reader may t … [Read more...]

How Your Brain Creates God… or Maybe Not

New Scientist magazine has an interesting article titled “Born believers: How your brain creates God.” I encourage you to go read it – it’s not particularly long. Here are some excerpts with my commentary:It seems that our minds are finely tuned to believe in gods.Religious ideas are common to all cultures: like language and music, they seem to be part of what it is to be human.That’s pretty obvious. But why are humans innately religious? Why do we believe in God or Goddess or gods and goddesses … [Read more...]

The First Word

I just finished reading The First Word by Christine Kenneally, which was a birthday present last month (thanks, Cynthia!). It’s an excellent summary of the state of knowledge and the on-going debates in the study of language evolution, a relatively new field where most of the work has been done in the past 15 years or so. If you’re interested in the subject, I highly recommend you read it yourself. I also recommend The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker and Evolving God by Barbara King (though Ki … [Read more...]

Metaphorical Gods vs. Reality/God

Rev. Michael DowdEvolutionary Evangelist Michael Dowd has a very good essay titled “Metaphorical gods vs. Reality/God” and I encourage you to go read it. Understand that he is mainly writing for Christians and he is primarily trying to show that evolution is not incompatible with their religion (unless, of course, you’re a fundamentalist who insists on reading the Bible literally – then there’s no hope for you).I’ve found Michael Dowd’s books and presentations to be enlightening, interesting, and … [Read more...]