Selling the sacred cow

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WHILE India bans the slaughter of cows, its beef exports are growing. What gives?

It’s true that 20, out of 29 states in India now completely ban cow slaughter. But although the population of India is 80 percent Hindu and so largely non-beef eating, India is the second-largest exporter of beef in the world after Brazil.

The 1.89 million metric tons of beef India exported in 2012-2013 were derived largely from herds of the native water buffalo Bubalus bubalis. This beast is beef, according to the United States Department of Agriculture and the global meat industry, but in India it is known as “buff” and doesn’t count as forbidden flesh. The new slaughter ban laws apply only to Indian cows and bulls.

One consequence of the general taboo is that bovine flesh is often one of the cheaper forms of protein around, and a staple for many underprivileged communities

Cattle are still valued as a source of manure and draught power, and are left to reproduce freely at pasture. Restrictions on slaughter mean that herds in India are not culled as in countries with regulated beef industries, contributing to a large surplus of animals, particularly older males.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/26/opinion/cow-mad-in-india.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0

Heaven on Earth is possible

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HELEN Keller, deaf, blind and mute from an early age, inspired millions with her writings about recognising the divine on earth.

“I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work and my God,” she wrote.

In March, 1887, Helen Keller was first introduced to her teacher and life mentor Anne Sullivan. With the help of Sullivan, Keller, went on to become the first deaf-blind person to graduate from college.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. ” she said.

Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov, wrote of one of his dispirited characters waking from a dream, transformed by a glimpse of heaven.

Something buried in his heart burst forth and he walked out into the night to see the stars.

The silence of the Earth, wrote Dostoevsky, “seemed to merge with the silence of the heavens, the mystery of the Earth touched by the mystery of the stars.

‘IT was as if threads from all those innumerable worlds of God all came together in his soul, and it was trembling all over, touching other worlds.”

There is a story told about ancient monks who searched earth looking for the door to heaven. Finally, they found it, the place where heaven meets earth. When they opened the door, they were back at their monastery, where they lived their daily lives.

Bach to the future.

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NEXT tuesday is the 330th birthday of J.S. Bach.

Musicians around the world this month are giving listeners the gift of music with free performances in public spaces – including subways – of some the Bach’s greatest works.

Johann Sebastian Bach is considered one of the greatest and most prolific composers of all time. He crosses the barriers.

He had 20 children. spent a month in prison for angering a boss – and composed “Book One” of the “Well-Tempered Clavier” while there. At the age of 14, Bach received a scholarship to the famous St. Michael’s school in Luneburg near Hamburg, Germany. He reportedly walked the more than 175 miles from his home to the school.

A new music video dubbed “I Want You Back/Bach” shows The Piano Guys performing a mashup of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and several pieces composed by Johann Sebastian Bach

Glimpses of Heaven

FRENCH scientist and mystic Theilhard de Chardin said our lives would change if we realised we were not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

And if we’d only just stop for a minute, we could hear the God of the universe whisper: “I love you.”
That has an otherworldly ring about it.

We are living on the edge of eternity, but it’s sometimes hard to get glimpses of heaven in this world. It’s easier to glimpse hell on a planet seemingly fuelled by anger, greed, lust and ignorance.

French poet and playwright Jean Cocteau was once asked what he thought about heaven and hell.

“Excuse me for not answering,” he said. “I have friends in both places.”

Who can’t relate to that?

Mark Twain said he wished to go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.

Earth is an in-between world, touched by both of the other venues.

Our profound human predicament is that we only occasionally dream beyond our earthly existence.

When good things happen, we may think we are in heaven; when bad things happen, we are in hell.

The fragmentary nature of our experience shatters us. One minute the world is full of lightness, then suddenly full of darkness.

No wonder we want to cry.

God says that when we get to heaven, he will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

But that’s in heaven.

The writer Mary Antin had a theory that we are not born all at once, but by bits. First comes the body, then the spirit, slowly and often painfully. Our recognition of heaven on earth is not automatic.

Oklahoma is banning atheists (and others) from getting married

THIS week the US state of Oklahoma has seen fit to restrict marriage to people of faith.

A bill that would restrict the right to marry to people of faith and require all marriage licenses to be approved by a member of clergy was approved by the Oklahoma state House .

House Bill 1125, which would effectively ban all secular marriages in the state, was passed by a Republican majority and will now go to the state Senate for consideration.

“Marriage was not instituted by government. It was instituted by God. There is no reason for Oklahoma or any state to be involved in marriage,” said one of the bill’s Republican supporters Rep. Dennis Johnson, though marriage is a legal contract.

It seems this bill isn’t fuelled by a desire to segregate atheists however but is a thinly-veiled attack on gay marriage. By restricting the issuing of marriage licenses to the clergy and not judges and court clerks, the bill would make it harder for same-sex marriages to take place.

Troy Stevenson, head of the LGBT advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma, said that the community would ‘fight back’ against the ‘discriminatory legislation’ – but added that there was a silver lining.

‘There are… 160 members of the clergy who have publicly declared their willingness to marry LGBT people [in Oklahoma],’ he said.

Religion And Science Are Not In Conflict

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The sociologist who busted myths last year with her study finding that the majority of scientists are religious, not God-denying atheists, is at it again.

Elaine Howard Ecklund, director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program, said 70 percent of self-identified evangelicals “do not view religion and science as being in conflict.”

Now, the myth that bites the data dust, may be the one that proclaims evangelicals are a monolithic group opposed to the scientific view of human evolution.

Last year, at an AAAS’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, Ecklund presented the first wave of data that examined the beliefs of self-identified scientists. It was drawn from a survey of 10,000 U.S. adults that claims to be the largest study of American views on these issues.

The headline then was that 76 percent of scientists in the general population identify with a religious tradition.

This year, the news from the second wave of data in the study was the high degree of science acceptance among evangelicals. The study found:

Overall, 85 percent of Americans and 84 percent of evangelicals say modern science is doing good in the world. The greatest areas of accord were on the pragmatic side of science such as technology and medical discoveries that can alleviate suffering.

However, Ecklund also noted a finding that may make the evidence-based science world uneasy: 60 percent of evangelicals said scientists “should be open to considering miracles in their theories.”

(FROM RNS)

Pope Francis: ‘All I want is to go out for a pizza!’

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Pope Francis has given a lengthy — and fascinating — interview to a Mexican television station, to mark the second anniversary of his election.

Speaking to the program “Noticieros Televisa,” Francis displays his usual candor, dishing details about the secret conclave that elected him, talking about how he senses his papacy will be short, how the church must get tough on sexual abuse, and how all he really wants “is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza.”

Here are some of the highlights based on Vatican Radio’s English translation and the original Spanish:

On whether he likes being pope:

“I do not mind!”

On what he does not like about being pope:

“The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza. … In Buenos Aires, I was a rover. I moved between parishes and certainly this habit has changed. … It has been hard work to change. But you get used to it. You find a way to get around: on the phone, or in other ways.”

On how long he thinks he will be pope:

“I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief: four or five years; I do not know, even two or three. Two have already passed. It is a somewhat vague sensation. Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed, and if he wins, is happy. I do not know. But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more. … But it is a feeling. That’s why I always leave the possibility open.”

On criticisms that he talks too much, and too spontaneously:

“I talk the way I talk, like a parish priest, because I like to talk that way. I’ve always spoken that way. Always. For some it’s a defect, I don’t know. But I think the people understand me.”

On how voting works in the conclave:

“The phenomenon of a conclave vote is interesting. There are very strong candidates. But many people do not know who to vote for. So six, seven, names are chosen that are a kind of depository, while people wait to see who to definitively vote for. This is how people vote when the group is large. I was not the recipient of definitive votes, but provisional ones, yes.”

On his surprise in being chosen on the second afternoon of voting:

“Something happened, I do not know what. In the room I saw some strange signs, but … they asked me about my health … and stuff. And when we came back in the afternoon (after lunch) the cake was already in the oven. In two votes it was all over. It was a surprise even for me.”

On whether popes should retire at 80, as cardinals are required to do:

“I do not really like the idea of ​​an age limit. Because I believe that the papacy is a kind of last instance. It is a special grace. For some theologians the papacy is a sacrament. … I do not think so, but I want to say that it is something special. To say that one is in charge up to 80 years, creates a sensation that the pontificate is at it’s end and that would not be a good thing. Predictability.”

On preventing sexual abuse by clergy:

“Just one priest abusing a child is enough to move all of the structures of the church to confront the problem. Why? Because a priest has the obligation to help a child grow, in sanctity and in his or her encounter with Jesus. Whoever abuses destroys the encounter with Jesus. One must listen to those who have been abused. And I have listened to them here. … The interior destruction they have suffered. They (the abusers) are cannibals. In other words, it’s as if they have eaten these children up. They destroy them, no? Even if it’s just one case, it’s enough for us to be ashamed and to do all that we can do. In this, we must go forward, we cannot take even one step back. To destroy a child is horrible; it’s horrible.”

FROM RNS

The myths and legend of St Patrick

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FEW of the Catholic saints are more celebrated than the fiery St Patrick.
On March 17 – St Patrick’s Day – the death of the Apostle of the Irish will be marked with huge parades through cities including Tokyo (pic above), Moscow, Mumbai, Oslo, Singapore and Buenos Aires.
The man credited with banishing snakes and paganism from the Emerald Isle, was not Irish.
Historians have labored for years to uncover St Patrick’s roots. Some believe he was born about 390 in Glasgow. Others have insisted on Cumbria, Wales, Northhampton and even France.
Respected British archeologist Nicholas Fuentes claimed St Patrick was born in a Roman town that is now known as Battersea in London.
His real name wasn’t even Patrick. It was Maewyn Succat.
But no matter.
He impressed the wild Irish with inventive teachings – he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the doctrine of the trinity – and miracles supposedly supported his words
St Patrick probably died about 460 but the place of his burial is unknown.
When he started his mission, Ireland was one of the few countries not under Roman rule. Pagan traditions, such as sun worship, the quick divorce, polygamy and slave hunting, were rampant.
Irish missionaries sent far and wide by St Patrick were credited with bring-
ing Europe out of the Dark Ages.
These few facts about St Patrick have been embellished by his biographers.
Thus we have an unconfirmed story that St Patrick cleared Ireland of snakes.
The story goes that one old serpent resisted him so he made a box and invited the snake to enter it.
The snake objected saying it was too small, but St Patrick insisted it was large enough.
Eventually the serpent entered to prove the box was too small. St Patrick slammed down the lid and cast the box into the sea.
It’s traditional to wear green on St Patrick’s Day. But in Ireland the color was long considered to be unlucky. Irish superstition holds that green is the favorite color of leprechauns, who are likely to steal people, especially children, who wear too much of the colour. Why did green become so emblematic of St. Patrick that people began drinking green beer, wearing green and, of course, dyeing the Chicago River green to mark the holiday he inspired? The association probably dates back to the 18th century, when supporters of Irish independence used the color to represent their cause.
St Patrick’s Day celebrations have been , naturally, always big in Ireland.
But until the early 1970s, successive governments had banned alcohol on St Patrick’s Day in all areas of Dublin except the annual Dog Show.
Not surprisingly, the attendances at this event were huge.

How An ‘Angel’ taxi Driver Saved This Former Addict’s Life (VIDEO)

You never know how a few kind words from a stranger can change the trajectory of a person’s life. Ester Nicholson, a former drug addict, learned this firsthand when a cab driver showed her compassion when she needed it the most.

Nicholson grew up in a mentally and physically abusive household where she was repeatedly told by her mother that she was a “mistake.” Drugs and alcohol provided a brief escape, but her habit soon turned into a crippling addiction. As a teenager, Nicholson became pregnant and gave birth to Shawntee, a baby girl. Not able to provide her daughter with the care she needed, Shawntee was taken away from her. Though it was a wakeup call, it wasn’t enough to stop Nicholson from using.

In the above clip from “In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod,” Nicholson opens up about the moment things finally changed. Though she says she hit a “million” rock bottoms, one time was different.

“My mouth started watering,” she says. “I got that urge, that thing that happens when an addict is in the midst of an obsession. And I ran out of my house with no shoes on and I hopped in a taxi.”

After driving Nicholson for about a mile, the cab driver pulled over and turned around. “He looked at me in my eyes and he said, ‘Young lady, please don’t do it. You don’t have to live this way anymore. Don’t kill yourself. God loves you. I love you.'”

If Nicholson had carried on with her plans to buy more drugs, she now feels certain she would have died that day. “A demoralizing death,” she says.

“I believe that the only reason that this taxi driver, out of the blue, turns around and talks to me is because it was divinely ordained,” Nicholson says. “And an angel showed up as a taxi driver.”

Nicholson is now 25 years sober and the author of Soul Recovery: 12 Keys to Healing Addiction. She continues to work on rebuilding her relationship with her daughter and breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect.

Israel’s Chief Rabbi Backs Down On Christmas Tree Ban In Hotels

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has backed down on its long-standing prohibition against placing Christmas trees in the country’s hotels, as well as other rules related to the Jewish Sabbath and holidays.

The Chief Rabbinate’s new regulations came in response to a petition from Hiddush — Freedom of Religion for Israel, a nongovernmental organization that fights religious coercion. The group filed the petition with Israel’s attorney general and the Ministry of Religious Services.

The former regulations stated that hotels that included “references to gentile holidays” would lose their kosher food licenses, a step that would make it impossible for observant Jews to stay at the hotels.

The regulations also stated that events taking place on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays must comply with strict Jewish law. That meant a ban on filming, shooting photographs, playing music or offering laundry and ironing services. In addition, any exchange of money would have to be given “covertly” to “gentile cashiers.”

Hiddush argued that the Chief Rabbinate, the sole arbiter of Jewish law in Israel, was overstepping its authority by linking kosher certification to other rules that have no bearing on whether food is kosher.

“The importance of our victory is twofold,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, president and CEO of Hiddush.

“First, it will finally give the numerous Jewish and non-Jewish groups that visit Israel the freedom and respect which has been denied them by the Rabbinate’s extortionist demands. And second, it is an important lesson in the development of the rule of law in Israel, which emphasizes that the Chief Rabbinate is bound by Israeli law and is not above it.”

(RNS)

Religion still has a prayer in the US

American religion is on the ropes, but it has a prayer.

A record-low share of Americans attend church regularly, affiliate with a religious faith and see themselves as religious, according to a major survey released this week.

The findings from mark a continuation of a decades-long departure from the pews along with a growing share who profess loyalty to no religion at all. But whatever Americans’ hang-ups with weekend services and denominational ties, they haven’t stopped praying on their own.

Fully 57 percent of respondents said they pray at least once a day, little different from 54 percent in 1983, when the question was first asked on the survey. Three-quarters of respondents said they pray at least once a week, while 1 in 4 pray less often or never.

The national survey is the broadest study of attitudes in the United States. It has been conducted at least every two years since 1972 by the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

The stability of prayer contrasts sharply with erosion on other measures of religious commitment.
The resilience of prayer reflects a broader shift in Americans’ understanding of religion, according to Christian Smith, a professor of sociology who leads the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society.

“Religion is gradually becoming more personal, private, subjective in practice” and “less public, institutional and shared,” Smith said. “People still believe religious things and practice religion ‘in their heads,’ as in prayer, but are less institutionally connected and engage in fewer public, institution-centered observations.”

Many who have shed affiliations or seldom attend services continue to pray regularly, according to the survey. Roughly 1 in 4 Americans who report no religious preference say they pray at least once a day, as do about 3 in 10 of those who never attend religious services.

Get over yourself

LIFE is unpredictable, no matter what we do or how we live. It’s too short to be preoccupied by the small stuff. Spiritually, we often need to get over ourselves.

Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life begins with the line “It’s not about you” – an unusual and daring opening for a self help book. The book goes on to explain how the quest for personal fulfillment, satisfaction, and meaning can only be found in understanding and doing what God placed us on Earth to do.

It is the first basic step to spiritual consciousness.

“Love yourself” is a popular cultural message, but it is not found in the Bible. Selfishness seems to be at the core of most of our problems.

The antidote for this, suggests Rabbi Harold Kushner, is a clear sense of humility, not the false humility that might mask a large ego, and not what the dictionary describes as meek, deferential and submissive, but the simple and hard-to-face recognition that we are not God and we don’t run the world.

Life is sometimes unfair. Sometimes people get what they deserve, and sometimes not. And we can’t really do anything about that.

Another wise rabbi, Mordecai Kaplan, said, Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are an honest and virtuous person is like standing in a field and expecting the bull not to charge at you because you are a vegetarian.

Virtuous or not. we are destined to cry and die, but the gospel message is that creation will one day be redeemed from all the pain.

One day, the world of terrorist attacks, poverty, billion dollar bailouts and stimulus deals and own little worries will pass away. They will all seem like small stuff in comparison to the vast love of God. So don’t sweat the small stuff.

God grant me serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference - Serenity Prayer

Faith, Aspergers and God

A writer with Aspergers talks of faith

I was asked one day, “if you see everything so black and white, how can you believe in God?” My answer dumbfounded the inquiring person : I said “because everything IS black and white, how could I NOT believe in God?”

Yes I live in a literal world. No doubt that I do not work in subtleties. So I can understand asking how can I have faith. Isn’t faith believing in something you can’t see?

To me faith in God as related to Aspergers has three elements: logic, hope and acceptance.

Let me insert my honest disclaimer here before we begin. I am not one of those self-righteous people who thinks I am better than everyone just because of my faith. I am actually quite the sinner. I can cuss a sailor out of the room, I smoke, I am FAR from perfect. This post isn’t about how you should save your souls (although I hope you do!) It is about the perceived conflicts between having Aspergers and having faith in Jesus Christ.

Being an Aspie, there is a down side to my faith; I don’t communicate my emotions well. You won’t find me jumping up and down screaming Praise God and Amen in church. That used to bother me. I just couldn’t be like that. Did that make me less o a Christian? Now I am comfortable with how God made me. Now I know how my Aspergers works. So its no big deal to me.

My faith in Jesus has always been easy because I CAN see things logically. I think it is my logical brain that helps me see better than most NT’s. When I see payers get answered I don’t try to second guess if it was really an answered prayer or coincidence. I watch NT’s do that a lot.

As an Aspie, there are questions that can only be answered with God. Watch a baby come into this world. A billion things had to happen to get to the point of birth. How can something that complex happen by accident?

I love when people argue the Big Bang theory. They can be so passionate about their believe of the creation of the universe. For the record I believe in the Big Bang as well. However they can’t explain what made the Big Bang happen. I can; God.

Evolution? What about dinosaurs? I say what about them? Noah didn’t bring any on the ark. Duh (sic).

Then people go after the big question: ‘where did God come from?’ I like to pick this apart. The people who ask that question are the same ones who love science fiction stories of space and worm holes and time travel, but refuse to admit that God is not bound by time as we understand it.

To my Aspie Brian, that is the only logical answer.

There is so much LOGIC to God. Let me give a few examples-
If the dinosaurs didn’t die we would not have oil. Logical.

The intricate process of the food chain. That delicate balance can’t mathematically happen by chance.
There is almost a mathematical formula to everything. Even to following the bible. When I gladly pay my tithe, I have no money troubles. When I don’t pay my tithe thus keeping that extra money, it seems I always have money trouble.

So logically looking at the odds, the bible is right.

What is faith if it isn’t hope?
As an Aspie, I take comfort in my faith. I have hope for a future and my place in this life. I hear some Aspies saying they don’t fit in. Why me? Whine and cry… I never really feel that way. God gave me gifts. I have this gift to see things clearly. I tend to be smarter than most people. I don’t panic. And most importantly I have hope; I know I have a purpose to my life.
I am so thankful for all that I am! Thankful for all that I have. Thankful for hope. Life as an Aspie is awesome.

If you can say the universe is just one big accident, then you can say that I am just an accident. And if I am nothing more than an accident, I serve no purpose. In the words of Spock “illogical”.

Then there are my personal selfish reasons for my faith. I like to feel loved and accepted. Who doesn’t? Yes, we Aspies spend most of our life being judged and misunderstood by NT’s. Yet I am never judged by my ‘church friends’ they always accept me for who I am. We don’t always agree, but I am always accepted. I love that feeling of acceptance and I always have.

If you are the parent of an Aspie child, consider ways to give him or her that hope and acceptance.

The question isn’t How can I have faith? The question is How can I not?!?

http://aspiewarrior.com/2012/08/19/faith-aspergers-and-god/

Cardinal Pell slammed for ‘lavish’ spending

POPE Francis’ finance czar has defended the expenditures of his office following leaked reports it had racked up a half-million euros ($575,000) in bills in the past six months.

Australian Cardinal George Pell’s office has been insisting on a spending review elsewhere in the Vatican.

A spokesman for the Secretariat for the Economy, in a statement, said the expenses were normal for a new operation and below budget.

Italian newsweekly L’Espresso recently detailed opposition within the Vatican to his financial reforms, and cited receipts for expenditures including the salary and housing costs for his Australian aide and clerical tailor’s bill for more than 2,500 euros ($2,800).

The paper said he also spent about $6650 on kitchen-sink fittings, paid an assistant a $21,600-a-month salary and has chosen to fly business class.

While Pope Francis is known to live modestly, Cardinal Pell is reportedly spending $5100-a-month on rent for an office and apartment, including $87,000 on new furniture

Happy birthday George Harrison

George Harrison would have been 72 today,

Harrison once said his biggest break in life was getting into the Beatles, and that his second biggest break was getting out.

Meanwhile in news today, the George Harrison memorial tree in Los Angeles, ironically killed by beetles, is to be replaced .

in George’s honour we bring you this…Here Comes The Moon (one of his lesser known but beautiful songs)

If there is no God

If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true , but rather because of a series of chemical reactions… … Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.

–Douglas Wilson

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HERES a simple question then: why are we here? And where do we go from here?

CT scan finds mummified monk inside 1000-year-old Buddha

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A CHINESE statue of the Buddha has been discovered to contain the entire mummified body of a monk, folded into the same position.

The Buddha, exhibited at the Drents Museum in The Netherlands last year, was taken to the Meander Medical Centre in Amersfoort, where it was subjected to a full CT scan and had samples taken with an endoscope.

The mummy inside the statue — the only one of its kind ever found — is believed to be a Buddhist master named Liuquan of the Chinese Meditation School, who died around 1100 AD.

The CT scan and endoscopy revealed more than just the mummified remains of Liuquan. Samples of a material that has yet to be identified were taken from the thoracic and abdominal cavities, and something else extraordinary was discovered: in the spaces once occupied by organs, the team found scraps of paper scribed with ancient Chinese characters.

The team believes the mummy may be an example of self-mummification in order to become a “living Buddha”, a gruelling process that involved a life of extreme austerity.

Practiced mainly in Japan, self-mummification was a grueling process that required a monk to follow a strict 1000-day diet of nuts and seeds in order to strip the body of fat. A diet of bark and roots would follow for another 1,000 days.

At the end of this period, the monk began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Japanese varnish tree, normally used to lacquer bowls and plates. The tea caused profuse vomiting as well as a rapid loss of bodily fluids, possibly making the body too poisonous to be eaten by bacteria and insects.

A living skeleton, the monk was then placed in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, which was equipped with an air tube and a bell.

Never moving from the lotus position, the monk would ring the bell each day to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the monk was presumed dead, the air tube removed and the tomb sealed.

After another 1000 days the tomb would be opened to check whether the monk had been successfully mummified. Of the hundreds of monks that tried this horrifying process, only a few dozen actually became self-mummified and venerated in temples as a Buddha

Atheist group threatens suit over ‘angels’ on memorial to beloved teacher

JOANN Christy’s 26-year career educating children at Ravenswood Middle School in the US came to a tragic end in 2004, when she died in a car accident. But her loved ones and the community she had served sought to remember her with an engraved, stone memorial decorated with angels near the school’s entrance.

But more than a decade later, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the memorial gone, claiming its presence on public grounds violates the First Amendment. The foundation criticized the display as a promotion of religion that infringes on students rights.The foundation wrote a letter to the school requesting an investigation into the memorial and the “multiple Latin crosses” near the school’s entrance.

Christy’s family, apparently in an attempt to resolve the situation, reportedly agreed to the removal of the crosses, but left the angels in memory of Christy, who had a collection of angel figurines.

The legal threat did not sit well with some in the community, who said the memorial is merely a remembrance of a teacher, not an endorsement of Christianity.

Charles Hicks, the pastor at Christy’s church, remembered her as a devoted Christian who died in a car crash after a Bible study meeting at the church.

“It is a remembrance of who Joann Christy was,” Hicks said. “And it is hard to separate the good that she did and her devotion to her Christian faith.”

A local TV station pointed out that the atheist group did not have an issue with the school’s mascot: a red devil.

No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia

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MORE than 1000 Muslims have formed a human shield around Oslo’s synagogue, offering symbolic protection for the city’s Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend.

Chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” Norway’s Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen last weekend.

“Humanity is one and we are here to demonstrate that,” Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the protest’s organizers told a crowd of Muslim immigrants and ethnic Norwegians who filled the small street around Oslo’s only functioning synagogue.

“There are many more peace mongers than warmongers,” Abdullah said as organizers and Jewish community leaders stood side by side. “There’s still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.”

Norway’s Jewish community is one of Europe’s smallest, numbering around 1000, and the Muslim population, which has been growing steadily through immigration, is 150,000 to 200,000. Norway has a population of about 5.2 million.

The debate over immigration in the country came to the forefront in 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people and accused the government and the then-ruling Labor party of facilitating Muslim immigration and adulterating pure Norwegian blood.

Support for immigration has been rising steadily since those attacks, however, and an opinion poll late last year found that 77 percent of people thought immigrants made an important contribution to Norwegian society

MEANWHILE…WHAT WALKING FOR FIVE HOURS AS A MUSLIM THROUGH AN ITALIAN CITY LOOKS LIKE

“Taliban!” one woman shouted as Hamdy Mahisen walked past her on a Milan street.

“Shit, have you seen the ISIS?” asked another passer-by.

Mahisen, a student of Egyptian descent, walked around Milan as part of a “social experiment” conducted by Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Wearing a traditional Islamic outfit and holding a Quran, Mahisen silently strode around the Italian city for five hours as the reactions his presence elicited were surreptitiously filmed.

As the video below shows, Mahisen drew distrustful stares and nasty comments from people on the street.

“Look, he’s got the Quran,” said one man, according to a La Repubblica translation. “Think if he’s got a gun under his tunic.”

Anti-Muslim sentiment is reportedly on the rise in Italy following the deadly extremist attacks in France and Denmark. The country is also currently on edge over the threat of an ISIS invasion via Libya.

WHAT 10 HOURS WALKING IN PARIS AS A JEW LOOKS LIKE

Earlier this week, Jewish journalist Zvika Klein was recorded walking through Paris for 10 hours wearing a kippah, or yarmulke, to show what it’s like to be a Jew in the French capital.

“I got spit at, cursed and threatened,” Klein wrote on Twitter of the experience.
The video has garnered more than 1 million views since being posted to YouTube

Odds of Jesus returning soon

According to Sportsbet the odds of Jesus Christ returning soon are 501/1

It’s all too obvious that, even if Jesus returned this year in clouds of glory, there would be those who wouldn’t acknowledge him.

The author John Updike said if Jesus did return sometime soon the event would be cut down to size by the TV evening news. It wouldn’t be the lead item.
“Our brains are no longer conditioned for reverence and awe,’’ he said.

Years ago, acclaimed US broadcaster Edward R Murrow caused a bit of a fuss when he observed: “If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.’’

If Jesus was on his earthly mission today, he might be cited by the AMA for practicing medicine without a licence, the Liquor Licencing people for making wine without a permit, the Department of Health for opening graves without a permit, the Equal Opportunity folks for practicing discrimination and PETA for sending demons into a herd of pigs. Not to mention the interfaith movement for declaring that one way is right.

The miracle is that Jesus’s mission and message remain relevant and widely heard despite the attempts over centuries to tone them down.

Jesus continues to challenge conventional ideas of what’s right and wrong, to cut through hypocrisy, to inspire protest against injustice, assure the oppressed that they are loved and valued, and to instil hope that another kind of community is possible,

Whether that’s possible all hinges on whether Jesus was, as he said, the Son of God, human but divine and capable of saving us all.

There will always be those who try to downplay Jesus as just a social reformer, or a long-haired peace activist.

But a mere hippie or moral teacher could not have made this unique impression on mankind.

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. When Jesus returns this time, we’ll all know it.

India’s PM appalled by temple built to worship him

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was appalled that some of his fans had built a temple to deify him, adding that such an act contradicted tradition.

Hundreds of his followers in the western city of Rajkot donated funds for a temple that features a seated statue of Modi and is topped out with a wind gauge shaped like a lotus, the symbol of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I was appalled,” Modi said. “This is shocking and against India’s great traditions. Building such temples is not what our culture teaches us.”

Modi’s reaction unnerved some of those involved in the temple project, who plan to replace the statue of the prime minister with the idol of a Hindu god, but others were unfazed.

“We love Modi and worship him because he is the finest leader we have ever had,” said Paresh Rawal, an edible oil trader who donated the land for the temple.

Modi, the former leader of Gujarat state, where the temple is located, swept to power last year in the biggest national election victory in three decades, and has since led his party to a string of state poll wins.

Happy Valentine’s Day

VALENTINE’S Day yet again. A time for exchanging tacky chocolate hearts, trinkets, mushy cards and flowers and dinner where we all pretend to ignore the over-priced set menus.

You might not be able to put a price tag on love, but you sure can on all the accessories.

The subversive truth is that love can be everything it’s cracked up to be.

Where there is great love, there is always the possibility for great miracles to occur in our lives.

So let’s celebrate this one day but know there’s much more to love than Cupid, Eros, heart-shaped balloons and chocolate.

And a word of advice – turn off the Iphones and pay attention to your loved ones. That’s what they really want.

And just for fun here are 20 love songs in strange new styles

Cracks in the atheist edifice

Excerpts from a recent story in The Economist
http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21629218-rapid-spread-christianity-forcing-official-rethink-religion-cracks

CHRISTIANITY is hard to control in China, and getting harder all the time. It is spreading rapidly, and infiltrating the party’s own ranks. The line is blurring between house churches and official ones, and Christians are starting to emerge from hiding to play a more active part in society.

The Communist Party has to find a new way to deal with all this. There is even talk that the party, the world’s largest explicitly atheist organisation, might follow its sister parties in Vietnam and Cuba and allow members to embrace a dogma other than—even higher than—that of Marx.

Any shift in official thinking on religion could have big ramifications for the way China handles a host of domestic challenges, from separatist unrest among Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs in the country’s west to the growth of NGOs and “civil society”—grassroots organisations, often with a religious colouring, which the party treats with suspicion, but which are also spreading fast.

It is hard even to guess at the number of Christians in China. Official surveys seek to play down the figures, ignoring the large number who worship in house churches. By contrast, overseas Christian groups often inflate them. There were perhaps 3m Catholics and 1m Protestants when the party came to power in 1949. Officials now say there are between 23m and 40m, all told. In 2010 the Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, estimated there were 58m Protestants and 9m Catholics. Many experts, foreign and Chinese, now accept that there are probably more Christians than there are members of the 87m-strong Communist Party. Most are evangelical Protestants.

Predicting Christianity’s growth is even harder. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world.

Some Chinese also discern in Christianity the roots of Western strength. They see it as the force behind the development of social justice, civil society and rule of law, all things they hope to see in China. Many new NGOs are run by Christians or Buddhists. There are growing numbers of Christian doctors and academics. More than 2,000 Christian schools are also dotted around China, many of them small and all, as yet, illegal.

One civil-rights activist says that, of the 50 most-senior civil-rights lawyers in China, probably half are Christians.

Religious leaders’ plea for Indonesia death row pair

Senior religious leaders in Australia have called on Indonesia to show mercy to two men on death row in Bali, as Indonesia’s top diplomat in the country said their executions would go ahead.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were arrested in 2005 on the holiday island of Bali and sentenced to death the following year for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

The pair, members of an Australian drug-smuggling gang dubbed the “Bali Nine”, recently lost their final appeals for clemency despite arguing that they had rehabilitated themselves in prison.

One of the judges who sentenced Sukumaran to death has told News Corporation that she never wanted to give him the death penalty and has regretted it every day since.

Indonesian authorities are pushing ahead with the planned executions, which are expected to be carried out this month.

Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammad called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to save the men, who are both in their early 30s.

“Our request today is for clemency or a commuted sentence for Andrew and Myuran so as to allow them to be further rehabilitated,” the religious leaders said in a joint statement.

“To execute would prematurely end these lives, robbing both of them and our communities of the opportunity for ongoing repentance and rehabilitation.”

But Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema told reporters in Canberra the duo’s legal appeals had already reached the “highest level”.

“I think all the efforts, all the legal efforts have reached the highest level now and Indonesia has notified the government of Australia that we will execute,” The Australian reported him as saying.

The Great Atheist Contradiction

Atheist Richard Dawkins has declared, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”

But Dawkins doesn’t act like he actually believes that. He recently affirmed a woman has the right to choose an abortion and asserted that it would be “immoral” to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. According to Dawkins, the “right to choose” is a good thing and giving birth to Down syndrome children is a bad thing.

Well, which is it? Is there really good and evil, or are we just moist robots dancing to the music of our DNA?

Atheists like Dawkins are often ardent supporters of rights to abortion, same-sex marriage, taxpayer-provided healthcare, welfare, contraceptives, and several other entitlements. But who says those are rights? By what objective standard are abortion, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, taxpayer-provided healthcare, and the like, moral rights? There isn’t such a standard in the materialistic universe of atheism. So atheists must steal the grounds for objective moral rights from God while arguing that God doesn’t exist.

http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2015/02/06/atheists-steal-rights-from-god-n1953525