Historian Knocks Claims that Atheism is a Modern Belief


ATHEISM  has its roots in the ancient world and is not a recent modern phenomenon, according to the author of a new book, Battling the Gods.

Tim Whitmarsh, professor of Greek culture at Cambridge University, lays out his case that atheism existed in polytheistic ancient Greece.

Whitmarsh says the book is “an attempt to excavate ancient atheism from underneath the rubble heaped on it by millennia of Christian opprobrium.”

“Atheism is not a modern invention from the western Enlightenment, but actually dates back to the ancient world,” he told The Guardian newspaper.

However, the author’s objective was dismissed by Rodney Stark, co-director of The Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University and distinguished professor of the Social Sciences.

“I don’t know of a serious scholar who thinks atheism is modern–they have been observed in preliterate societies and may well have existed among the Neanderthal,” Stark, who has authored 38 books, told CBN News.

“I fail to see how that has significance for the hardwired thesis, which would surely assume that a few in any generation would be not be wired properly–and in all eras atheists are scarce,” he said.

Whitmarsh told The Guardian that “the growing trend towards seeing religion as ‘hardwired’ into humans is deeply worrying.”

“I am trying to destabilise this notion, which seems to be gaining hold all the time, that there is something fundamental to humanity about religious belief,” he said.

Stark disagreed that the “hardwired” theory is even relevant.

“Personally, I am not inclined to accept the ‘hardwired’ thesis, since there are fully adequate reasons for humans to believe in God,” he said.


What do you want?


THE shelf life of the average church sermon is probably about 20 minutes after it’s delivered. The transforming words of Jesus are recalled 2000 years after he spoke them.

Jesus only directly answered three of the 183 questions he was asked, according to the gospel accounts.

Sometimes he put the question back on the inquirer. Sometimes he just remained silent.
His own unnerving questions seemed designed to make people think; to challenge their image of God or the world.
As author Richard Rohr pointed out, Jesus’ style was “almost exactly the opposite of modern televangelism’’.
“Jesus is too much the Jewish prophet to merely stabilise the status quo by platitudes or euphemisms.
“He much more destabilises the false assumptions on which the entire question or one’s world view is built.’’
Jesus was the one with all the right questions. He asked people what they wanted and what they believed.
He told wonderful parables, created tension through antitheses and then asked the listeners whether they believed in the message.
“Who do you say I am?’’ he asked several times. “Who do you seek?’’

His critics were undone by his logic rich in subtleties. He was the master of the unexpected twist.
At the start of the gospel of John, right after he was baptised, Jesus was followed by two men, later to become disciples.
When he noticed these two followers, Jesus turned around, looked them in the eye and asked, “What are you looking for?’’
He knew the answer but asked anyway.
Those first disciples were caught off guard. So they asked Jesus a question. “Where are you staying?’’ And Jesus welcomed them into his life with a challenge. “Come and see,’’ he said. How could they resist?

Pope calls for end to death penalty worldwide


“I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty,” he told tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican..

“The commandment ‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty,” he told the crowd.

The 1.2 billion-strong Catholic church allowed the death penalty in extreme cases for centuries, but the position began to change under the late Pope John Paul, who died in 2005.

The pope added there was now “a growing opposition to the death penalty even for the legitimate defence of society” because modern means existed to “efficiently repress crime without definitively denying the person who committed it the possibility of rehabilitating themselves”.

“All Christians and men of good will are called on to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve prison conditions so that they respect the human dignity of people who have been deprived of their freedom,” he said.

In the past, the pope also denounced life imprisonment, calling it “a hidden death penalty”. He said more should be done to rehabilitate even the most hardened of criminals.

Thanks for the music, Mr Edison


WAY before CDs, iPods, and digital music there was the phonograph.

On this day in 1878, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.

Edison created many inventions, but his favorite was the phonograph. While working on improvements to the telegraph and the telephone, Edison figured out a way to record sound on tinfoil-coated cylinders. In 1877, he created a machine with two needles: one for recording and one for playback.

Recalling his astonishment when his tin-foil phonograph first played back his voice recording of Mary Had A Little Lamb, Edison said: “I was always afraid of things that worked the first time. Long experience proved that there were great drawbacks found generally before they could be got commercial; but here was something there was no doubt of..

“Which do I consider my greatest invention? … I like the phonograph best … because I love music. And then it has brought so much joy into millions of homes all over this country, and, indeed, all over the world. ”

The ability of a machine to capture the human voice was an astonishing thing to people of the time. The real significance of the early phonograph was that it transformed the way people listened to music. Where once music was a unique, live performance, experienced in a public place with a group, now it was heard privately in the home and it was possible to hear the same “performance” over and over.

On the 50th anniversary of his invention, Edison recorded again the nursery rhyme on his original phonograph. Hear it here

Old St Patrick’s Day myths

st pat

Happy St Patrick’s Day



  1. St Patrick single-handedly converted the Irish people to Christianity
    The truth: Historians believe that there were already Christian believers in Ireland by the time Patrick arrived. Ireland also had strong trading links with the Roman empire, and the religion is likely to have been spread.
  2. St Patrick defeated the pagan druids
    The truth: This story is now believed to have been invented by a cleric, Muirchú, who lived two centuries later.
  3. St Patrick droves the snakes from Ireland
    The truth: Well, there are no snakes in Ireland now (apart from those kept in zoos and as pets), but this is may be because there never were any. Another theory is that the last Ice Age was too cold for snakes to survive and then the Irish Sea stopped them from breeding in Ireland.

St Patrick may have been named Maewyn Sucatt but changed his name to Patrick when he became an archbishop.

He may be thought of as Irish now, but his exact birthplace is unknown. It was most likely in England, Wales or Scotland.

In his teens, he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was put to work as a herdsman.

After six years, he managed to escape and possibly fled back to his home. He became a Christian priest before returning to Ireland as a missionary in the mid fifth century.

He spent the next 30 years establishing schools, churches, and monasteries across the country.

Patrick was later appointed as successor to St Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland.

He is said to have died in the year 461.

Happiness is Living in the Moment


IN 1963, American inventor Harvey Ball was hired by an insurance company to come up with a symbol to help improve company morale.

In about 10 minutes Bell came up with the now-famous yellow circle with dots for eyes and a big curvy grin.

Soon his little face was emblazoned on bumper stickers, coffee mugs, and, most famously, boxer shorts.

The symbol for happiness even ended up on a postage stamp.

Bell never copyrighted the symbol and sold it for $45 to the insurance company, so he didn’t make another cent, but that never bothered him.

He said: “Hey, I can only eat one steak at a time.”

Now there’s a wise man who understood that  money cannot buy real happiness.

The great psychologist Carl Jung talked about the instinctive hunger of humans to live as they are meant to live, to know they have used their time on Earth well and not wasted it.

To know the world will be different for their having passed through it.

We will always have unfulfilled dreams, hungers that will never be satisfied and frustrations at our own inadequacies.

If wealth cannot bring happiness, what can? Intelligence?

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know,” said the ultimately sad author Ernest Hemingway.

And several studies confirm that.

Author and priest Ron Rolheiser said we often ask ourselves the wrong question in our quest to find happiness.

The question should not be: Am I happy? Rather the questions should be: Is my life meaningful? Is there meaning in my life?

“We need to ask the deep questions about our lives in terms of meaning rather than in terms of happiness because, for the most part, we have a false, over-idealised, and unrealistic concept of happiness,” he said.

C.S. Lewis said that happiness and unhappiness colour backwards: If our lives end up happy, we realise that we have always been happy even through the difficult times.

And if our lives end up unhappy we realise that we have always been unhappy, even during the pleasurable periods.

Where we end up ultimately in terms of meaning will determine whether our lives have been happy or unhappy.

Jesus told men and women how to be happy by giving, not in getting.

In compassion rather than acquisition.

“The kingdom of God is within you,” he said.

Understand that and you find the joy that passes all human understanding.

Rabbi Harold Kushner said it was not dying that frightened people, it was the fear of dying with the sense we were never really alive. He said the secret was realising happiness did not derive from wealth, power, learning, indulgence or even religiosity, but from living fully in the moment, and risking the pain of giving ourselves to what really matters – understanding that we are loved creations.

Rabbi Kushner wrote that too many people believed in Murphy’s Law that anything that could go wrong would.

“At the divine level there is another opposite law: anything that should be set right sooner or later will,” he said.

Rebels with a cause


If you think you’re too much of a rebel for God to love, think again….

” I have come to know a God who has a soft spot for rebels, who recruits people like the adulterer David, the whiner Jeremiah, the traitor Peter, and the human-rights abuser Saul of Tarsus. I have come to know a God whose Son made prodigals the heroes of his stories and the trophies of his ministry. ”

Philip Yancey

The black doll/white doll experiment

black doll

IN the 1940s, psychologists asked a group of black American children which of two almost identical dolls they liked most. The only difference was colour.

One was white and the other black. The black children invariably picked the white doll.
Asked which doll was good, most children again picked the white one. And most described the black doll, the one that looked more like them, as “bad” or “ugly”.

The psychologists concluded this was proof of internalised racism. Perhaps a sign of the times.

But a more recent study came up with the same results. Filmmaker Kiri Davis recreated the experiment with 21 black children in New York.
In her powerful seven-minute documentary, A Girl Like Me, Kiri presented the children, 4 and 5, with two almost identical dolls — a black and white one.
Their conclusion was the same as the children in the 1940s.

“These children, even though they are four and five years old, they’re kind of like a mirror and they show exactly what they’ve been exposed to by society,” Ms Davis said.
We are bombarded with messages about what it means to be beautiful, good and likeable. We see ourselves through the perception of others.
And often we are not happy about the verdict. We often want to appear different.

C.J. Walker, the first African-American millionaire, hawked skin lighteners and hair straighteners to blacks at the turn of the 20th century.

One of the most popular products in contemporary India claims to make black skins look whiter.

Nothing is so commonplace as the wish to be considered attractive.

Millions of men and women, uncomfortable with their body images, turn to plastic surgery and hair implants.

The pharmaceutical companies make millions selling drugs to numb self-doubters while motivational speakers work hard to convince us we are OK.

It is an endless and futile struggle to think well of ourselves by pretending to be what we are not.

The well-worn messages of the self-help industry seek to elevate our ordinary narcissistic impulses into a religion.

Finding our true selves is realising we are made in God’s image.

God sees each of us as a precious treasure: beautiful beyond our imaginations.
Understanding that, we can begin to change.

God loves us the way we are, but too much to leave us that way.. We can come to know that beauty isn’t always pretty.

It can be revealed in the perfection of a Michelangelo sculpture, but also in the wrinkles of an old woman or old man on the street; in the smile of a homeless person or in the people the world sees as plain and ordinary.



You say: It’s impossible. God says: All things are possible (Luke 18:27[\

You say: “I’m too tired.” God says: I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)

You say: “Nobody really loves me.” God says: I love you. (John 3:16 & John 13:34)

You say: “I can’t go on.” God says: My grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: “I can’t figure things out.” God says: I will direct your steps. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say: “I can’t do it.” God says: You can do all things. (Philippians 4:13)

You say: “I’m not able.” God says: I am able. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

You say: “It’s not worth it.” God says: It will be worth it. (Romans 8:28)

You say: “I can’t forgive myself.” God says: I FORGIVE YOU. (1 John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say: “I can’t manage.” God says: I will supply all your needs.(Philippians 4:19)

You say: “I’m afraid.” God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear.(2 Timothy 1:7)

You say: “I’m always worried and frustrated.” God says: Cast all your cares on ME. (1 Peter 5:7)

You say: “I don’t have enough faith.” God says: I’ve given everyone a measure of faith.(Romans 12:3)

You say: “I’m not smart enough.” God says: I give you wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

You say: “I feel all alone.” God says: I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

Australian churches offer sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation

TEN Churches and cathedrals in Australia are offering sanctuary to asylum seekers who have suffered trauma and abuse to prevent their return to Nauru.

On Wednesday the high court ruled Australia’s offshore detention regime on Nauru had been lawfully established.

The decision means that up to 267 asylum seekers on the mainland could be sent back to the island nation, where a large number of serious sexual assaults have been reported. A Senate inquiry also raised serious concerns about conditions on Nauru, where infant children are being held.

The right to sanctuary, while not now recognised under common law in Australia or other jurisdictions, is a biblical concept that had legal basis during the middle ages.

The Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, said he was prepared to be charged with an offence for obstruction by trying to prevent federal authorities from entering the cathedral grounds.

“We offer this refuge because there is irrefutable evidence from health and legal experts that the circumstances asylum seekers, especially children, would face if sent back to Nauru are tantamount to state-sanctioned abuse,” he told ABC Radio National on Thursday.

There is an offence under Australian law for “concealing and harbouring non-citizens”, which could potentially be used against the heads of churches seeking to prevent asylum seekers from being deported.

Other Anglican churches and affiliated chapels offering sanctuary are:

  • St Cuthbert’s Anglican church, Darlington, Western Australia
  • Wesley Uniting church, Perth
  • Gosford Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pilgrim Uniting church, Adelaide
  • St John’s Uniting church, Essendon
  • Paddington Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pitt Street Uniting church, Sydney
  • Wayside Chapel, Sydney

Scientists On The Possibility Of God

The astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei was famously convicted of heresy by the Roman Catholic Church for supporting the theory that the planets revolved around the sun. In private letters, he confirmed that his beliefs hadn’t changed.


Known as the founder of the scientific method, Sir Francis Bacon believed that gathering and analyzing data in an organized way was essential to scientific progress. An Anglican, Bacon believed in the existence of God.


Charles Darwin is best known for his theory of evolution. On the question of God, Darwin admitted in letters to friends that his feelings often fluctuated. He had a hard time believing that an omnipotent God would have created a world filled with so much suffering. But at the same time, he wasn’t content to conclude that this “wonderful universe” was the result of “brute force.”



Maria Mitchell was America’s first female astronomer and the first woman to be named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was born into a Quaker family, but began to question her denomination’s teachings in her twenties. She was eventually disowned from membership and for the rest of her life, didn’t put much importance on church doctrines or attendance. Instead she said she was a seeker,




Marie Curie, a physicist, was brought up in the Catholic faith, but reportedly became agnostic in her teens. She went on to become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Both Marie and her husband Pierre Curie did not follow any specific religion.



Albert Einstein, one of the most well-known physicists of the 20th century, was born into a secular Jewish family. As an adult, he tried to avoid religious labels, rejecting the idea of a “personal God,” but at the same time, separating himself from “fanatical atheists” whom he believed were unable to hear “the music of the spheres.” 


Astronomer Carl Sagan is best known for hosting the TV series “Cosmos.” He rejected the label of “atheist” because he was open to the possibility that science would perhaps one day find compelling evidence to prove God.


Francis Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In a 2007 book about the intersection between science and faith, Collins described how he converted from atheism to Christianity and attempts to argue that the idea of a Christian God is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution.


Martin Luther King Predicted the Decline of the Mainline Church


FIFTY years ago this April, Martin Luther King, Jr. sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama and wrote a letter to moderate clergymen in white mainline churches. In it he expressed his disappointment in the church’s inability to be a people formed more by a vision of Jesus than by fear of cultural rejection.

Luther King wrote:

 If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning..


Musing on the mystery


THE Greek philosopher Xenophanes, writing 2500 years ago, said if horses had hands, they would surely paint God in their own image.
Xenophanes noted that Ethiopians of his time painted their gods black, while some northern Europeans painted their divine images with red hair and blue eyes.
“Mortals deem that the gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes, face and form like theirs,” he said.
Early 20th-century historian Wilhelm Schmidt suggested the belief in one God — the Sky God — was a primitive notion long before men and women began worshipping a number of gods.
The Sky God, believed to govern human affairs from afar, became so distant and exalted that he disappeared, says Schmidt. He was replaced by lesser but more accessible and more easily depicted gods.
History reveals that when one perception of God has ceased to have relevance, it is discarded and quietly replaced.
Most of our descriptive notions of God are, and have always been, man-made.
The major world religions have agreed it is impossible to describe God in normal conceptual language.
Jews have always been forbidden from pronouncing the sacred name of God, and Muslims are banned from depicting the divine in paintings.
French philosopher Rene Descartes said it was natural for humans to have “more admiration for the things above us than for those on our level and below”.
He railed against painters depicting clouds as God’s throne and depicting God Himself as sprinkling dew on the clouds or hurling lightning against the rocks.
Descartes said clouds, wind, dew and lightning were mere physical events and no cause of marvel or belief in God.
He was more interested in his God of the philosophers.
The three monotheistic faiths — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — claim God is the supreme reality; a personal being, bodiless, omnipresent, creator and sustainer of the universe.
The theory is that if the physical universe had a beginning, as most religions believe, God caused the beginning. But if not, God kept the universe in being for all past time.
The argument of God’s omnipotence supposes He can do whatever He chooses.
But could He change the rules of logic to make two and two equal five for instance? Or change the past, or make something exist and not exist at the same time?
Descartes considered these possibilities and concluded that although God could probably do such things, he would not.
Thomas Aquinas wrote a pamphlet entitled How the omnipotent God is said to be incapable of certain things, and listed around 20 such things.
Other unanswerable questions that have occupied great minds through history include: does God have a body? If not, then how can you have a “personal” relationship with a God who seems invisible and silent?
THE great Arabic philosopher Averroes (1126-1198) searched for a comprehensive definition of the divine.
He said simple-minded believers would say God was in heaven. A man “of trained mind”, knowing God could not be represented as a physical entity in space, would say God was everywhere.
But Averroes said that formula, too, was likely to be wrong.
“The philosopher more adequately expresses the purely spiritual nature of God when he asserts that God is nowhere but in Himself; in fact, rather than saying God is in space, he might more justly say that space and matter are in God.”
Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, said: “Think of a heart that contains all your hearts, a love that encompasses all your loves, a spirit that encompasses all your spirits, and a silence deeper than all your silences, and timeless.
“It is wiser to speak less of God, whom we can not understand, and more of each other, whom we may understand. Yet I would have you know we are the breadth and fragrance of God.
“We are God in leaf, in flower, and oftentimes in fruit.”

Who is really successful?


IN an age of great freedoms and affluence, the most common psychiatric problems have shifted from guilt to depression.

Secular societies judge only by results and those who fail by societal standards, who are not productive and successful, or athletic enough, are often deemed failures.

But success often seems to contain the seeds of its own failure. The rich are not any happier than the poor. Nor the famous and powerful any more self-assured than the unknown.

And the truth is that God of the Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims does not care who wins a football game or an Olympic gold medal.

The Lord’s Prayer says nothing about “winning the game”, and winning at Who Wants To Be A Millionaire will not make life worthwhile.

True spirituality is concerned with filling a natural hunger in the soul for meaning.

English philosopher Jeremy Bentham said the identification of what makes us happy was easy. An action’s tendency to promote happiness could be determined simply by adding up the amount of pleasure it produced and subtracting the pain.

John Stuart Mill thought this crude and recognised that happiness depended not only on the quantity but also the quality of pleasures, including the higher pleasures of the intellect and “moral sentiments”.

Aristotle linked happiness with ideas of fulfilment and self-realisation. They all still judged happiness by human standards.

Jewish author Rabbi Harold Kushner has a different outlook on success and failure.
“If people only see what is measurable and visible, God sees into the heart. He sees successes where no one else does, not even ourselves.

“Only God can give credit for the angry words we did not speak, the temptations we resisted and the patience and kindness long forgotten by those around us.

“God redeems us from the sense of failure and fear of failure because He sees us as no human eyes can.”

Thomas Merton wrote 30 years ago that life was one great unity, brimming with meaning for those who allowed themselves to co-create with God.

He recognised the coming age of the New Age “be yourself” cults that would encourage followers to achieve individual success without offering any spiritual substance.

“It seems to me that when one is too intent on being himself, he runs the risk of impersonating a shadow,” he said.

“In any case, there is little chance of us being anyone else. We all live somehow or other and that’s that.”

Say hello to your cousins, Donald Trump


MATHEMATICAL studies of genealogy suggest everyone alive probably is related to Mohammed and Henry VIII.
And all of us are 40th cousins, at least, say computer scientists at Dublin City University and statisticians working independently at Yale University in the US.
If the theory is right, Donald Trump and the Muslim refugees are all related. So were Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon. So were Hermann Goering and Mother Teresa, Hitler and Gandhi.
The researchers suppose that the most recent common ancestor of every living person was someone in Europe about 600 years ago.
The theory is that 80 per cent of the population in 1400 were direct ancestors of all of us.
Such is the dense interconnectedness of the human family.
Scientists also believe that particles of air breathed by Cleopatra, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha still circulate.
Albert Einstein once said a human was part of the whole “called by us universe, a part limited in time and space”.
Martin Luther King Jr said injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality — tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, directly affects all indirectly,” he said.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat.”
He’s right, but that does not mean we all believe in the same ways.
The difficulty in interconnectedness is establishing some kind of genuine and lasting brotherhood in a world of religious and cultural pluralism.
In a few decades, Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Congo and the US are tipped to have 100 million Christians or more. The leading centre of Christianity will be Africa and Latin America..
By 2050, almost 20 of the 25 largest nations will be predominantly or entirely Christian or Muslim. The rest of the world is likely to be a smorgasbord of religions, or devoted to secularism.
And what of Australia? Surely it will be a land where Buddhist and Islamic temples will increasingly share streets with Christian churches. Living in religious isolation will be impossible.
We probably will be encouraged to express non-judgmental attitudes towards other faiths.
The official line may be that all religions are true. But it is more accurate to say most religions contain some elements of truth.
It is not true that God is revealed more or less equally through all religions. There are vastly contrary views of the universe and God in the Koran and the Bible, for instance. Hinduism has a plethora of gods and most branches of Buddhism ignore God.
Former US vice-president Al Gore expressed the problems of plurality when he said the roots of the global environmental crisis reflected the world’s inner spiritual confusion.
“We must heed the lessons of the past to build a better future,” said former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“We must speak the truth always, not compromise to spare another’s feelings. But we must also remember always to enhance the humanity of the other.”
Eastern philosopher Ram Das expressed hope amid pluralism.
“Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not,” he said. “Our actions and states of mind matter, because we’re so deeply interconnected.”

World marks Holocaust Remembrance Day


JANUARY 27  is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the date the United Nations has chosen to commemorate victims of the Holocaust during World War II. Six million Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazi regime, along with 5 million non-Jews who were killed.

The anniversary, marked each year since 2005, falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland by the Russian army in 1945. One million people died there.

The president of the European Parliament has warned of rising anti-Semitism as Holocaust Memorial Day is marked around the world.

The Parliament held its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day with the European Jewish Congress on the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

It came as Auschwitz survivors travelled to the camp in modern day Poland to lay flowers and remember those who were murdered by the Nazis.

Speaking at the memorial day event in Brussels, Mr Schulz warned that many Jews across Europe still do not feel safe.

He said: ‘Jewish life is part of our culture and our identity. Without the Jews, Europe would not be Europe. Therefore it hurts that in today’s Europe, Jews again live in fear.

He added: ‘Our collective memory of the Holocaust is fading fast, but if we allow the horrors of the past to fade into history, we are doomed to make the same mistakes again.

‘We need more that just ceremony and commemoration. When anti-Semitism is on the rise, when Jews are once again fleeing Europe.

‘When a murderous Islamic extremist ideology is threatening our existence, we need action as well as words.

‘It is time for our leaders to commit to a robust, unified and coordinated approach to tackling anti-Semitism and Islamic extremism.

‘We must all stand against hate refuse to allow history to repeat itself, making ‘never again’ a reality.’



Now that’s grace


YOU’D think God would care most for those who acknowledge him and follow the rules. You’d expect him to give the greatest sinners a swift clip over the ears every now and then.
But what does God do? He blesses even those who break the rules, as well as the uncouth, people who don’t bother to attend church and those who don’t seem very nice at all.
It seems so unfair. But God has always acted that way. He makes friends with some odd people.
The movie Amadeus makes the point pretty well.
It tells of a pious and righteous 17th century composer, Antonio Salieri, who desperately prays God will give him the gift to create immortal music.
Instead, the gift is given to Salieri’s contemporary — the brattish, arrogant and ungrateful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
God blessed Moses, a murderer, who led his people to freedom. And King David, an adulterer, whose liaison with another man’s wife resulted in the birth of the wise Solomon.
It’s because God’s grace is a gift that falls on all who will accept it. No one can earn God’s love or blessings. We don’t get to heaven by being good.
Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve and mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we deserve.
Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace, says grace contains the essence of the gospel as a drop of water can contain the image of the sun.
“It is Christianity’s best gift to the world, a spiritual nova in our midst exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism and stronger than hate,” he said.
Grace, when it happens, usually takes us by surprise.
Yancey said we lived in an atmosphere chocked with the fumes of ungrace.
Yet grace is everywhere, like the lenses that go unnoticed because you are looking through them.
He tells the tale of a young and innocent teenage girl who leaves home on a whim and ends up as a prostitute and drug addict.
After a year, the child decides to go home, but worries her parents will reject her.
She leaves a message on their answering machine and jumps a bus to home.
On the way she prepares a little speech to her father: “Dad, can you forgive me. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. It’s mine.”
Finally the bus arrives and she gets off, wondering whether anyone will be there to greet her.
And there stand 40 people aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends; all wearing goofy hats and blowing noise makers.
Out of the crowd comes her father. Through the tears, she begins her speech: “Dad, I’m sorry . . .”
He interrupts her as he takes her in his arms.
“Hush child,” he says, “We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.”
Now that’s grace.

Sixty-two people have the same amount of wealth as half the world, says Oxfam


JUST 62 people own as much wealth as the poorer half of the global population, a new report reveals, as the widening of the gap between the rich and poor accelerates.

As the business elite converge on Davos for the World Economic Forum, an Oxfam report shows wealth is becoming further concentrated, with the number of people owning the same amount as the bottom half of humanity falling from 388 to 62 in five years.

It says a “broken” economic model underpinned by deregulation, privatisation and financial secrecy has seen the wealth of the richest 62 people jump by 44 per cent in five years to $1.76 trillion.

In that time, the wealth of the poorest 3.6 billion people plunged by 41 per cent
“The big winners in our global economy are those at the top. Our economic system is heavily skewed in their favour. Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate,” the report said.

Oxfam acknowledged that efforts to tackle inequality had seen the halving of the number of people living below the extreme poverty line between 1990 and 2010

“Yet had inequality within countries not grown during that period, an extra 200 million people would have escaped poverty. That could have risen to 700 million had poor people benefited more than the rich from economic growth,” it said.

Oxfam said the growing problem of tax avoidance and use of tax havens was a prime example of how the economic system was “rigged” in the rich’s favour and must be stopped.

It is also calling for workers to be paid a living wage rather than the minimum, for the end of the gender pay gap, for the influence of the powerful with vested interests to be kept in check, and for the tax burden to be shifted away from labour and consumption and towards wealth and capital.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/sixtytwo-people-have-the-same-amount-of-wealth-as-half-the-world-says-oxfam-20160116-gm7h6y.html#ixzz3xZTFr3y3

Behind the death of David Bowie


A thoughtful and interesting take on all those tributes for the Starman.

So those who were happily singing “Imagine there’s no heaven” a few months ago are now telling everyone that David Bowie is in this heaven that they imagine does not exist? And those who want to say something nice and believe that everyone goes to heaven, think that Bowie is up there along with Lemmy, Hendrix and of course Stalin, Hitler and Jack the Ripper. That is, after all, the logic of their position. And again I have not looked, but I am sure that in the bloggersphere somewhere, there are some ‘Christians’ who are taking the opportunity to tell everyone he is in hell and how as a bisexual rock star drug addict he is a warning to us all. And there will be those who are writing about how he was converted on his deathbed and they can tell this because of a) something Bowie said, b) a dream they had or c) a very reliable source, a friend of a friend, who is ‘in the know’.

Read more here:


Breaking the rules


Christianity is not a matter of rules and regulations. Or jumping through the right hoops to please God.

Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)—without a liquor license or a park permit, and that wine was most likely served to people under the age of 21. Modern day politicians would have thrown Jesus into jail for making alcohol without a license, distributing alcohol without a permit, and serving to under-aged children

Richard Dawkins praises Christianity (sort of)


In a text that is coursing about on social media, professional atheist Richard Dawkins begrudgingly admitted that Christianity may actually be our best defense against aberrant forms of religion that threaten the world.

“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings,” Dawkins said. “I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.”

In a rare moment of candor, Dawkins reluctantly accepted that the teachings of Jesus Christ do not lead to a world of terror, whereas followers of radical Islam perpetrate the very atrocities that he laments.

Because of this realization, Dawkins wondered aloud whether Christianity might indeed offer an antidote to protect western civilization against jihad.

“I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse,” he said.

Although the text originated in 2010, it has taken on a second life, being sent to and fro on Facebook and Twitter and providing fodder for discussions, even among atheists, of the benefits of Christianity for modern society.

Church bells ring out Space Oddity in David Bowie tribute

David Bowie’s death has  sparked a multitude of tributes, including this unique one.

Bells at a 634-year-old church tower in the Netherlands rang out the tune of his 1969 classic “Space Oddity” .

The Gothic-style Dom Tower is the Netherlands’ tallest church tower, standing at 368 feet. It was built between 1321 and 1382,and its 13 bells weigh 800 to 18,000 pounds.

Living in the middle of a riddle


IT’S  hard to let go of our preconceptions. It’s unsettling. But we have to experiment with letting go because life is all about paradox.

Sometimes we look at ourselves and think we are worthless. Yet somehow we are precious in God’s eyes.

We know we are from this planet, but we don’t really belong here.

Poet and storyteller Steven James describes us as “skin covered spirits with hungry souls”.

We are both Hitler and Gandhi, Genghis Khan and Martin Luther King, nurse and terrorist, lover and liar.

Humility is another paradox. The moment you think you’ve finally found it, you’ve lost it.
Anyway, humility seems risky.

It’s not always clear in this world who’s on our side and who isn’t.
We don’t know the plan.

It’s humbling and exhilarating to live in the middle of a riddle.

God can seem illogical, unreasonable and yet somehow unmistakenly true.

The sooner we understand “the uncommon sense” of belief in God, the better.

Defending our faith doesn’t always mean providing people with answers.

Jesus didn’t bring answers. He brought mystery wrapped in love.

When we accept ourselves just as we are, then we can change for the better.

Christianity isn’t about becoming better than anyone else, or about looking good to others, or getting your act together. No one’s act is together. That’s one of the core teachings.

It’s about entering the story of God and realising that even when we fail and fall, God still cares about us. Still loves us.

Vatican newspaper denounces ‘woeful’ Charlie Hebdo cover

A man takes a copy of the latest edition of French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo with the title "One year on, The assassin still on the run" displayed at a kiosk in Nice, France, January 6, 2016. France this week commemorates the victims of last year's Islamist militant attacks on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket with eulogies, memorial plaques and another cartoon lampooning religion.      REUTERS/Eric Gaillard  - RTX218G7

The Vatican’s newspaper has criticized French weekly Charlie Hebdo for manipulating faith in the magazine’s latest front page, which depicts a blood-soaked God armed with a Kalashnikov.

The controversial cover commemorates a year since the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo’s Paris headquarters, which left 12 people dead and led to a global debate on religious extremism and freedom of speech.

“One year later, the assassin is still on the run,” reads the black and white front page, with a cartoon depicting a violent God.

The Vatican turned to its daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, to blast Charlie Hebdo’s decision with an  editorial titled “Manipulated faith.”


“The French weekly once again forgets what religious leaders of every affinity have been repeating for some time, to reject violence in the name of religion,” it said, describing the move as blasphemous.

“The choice of Charlie Hebdo shows the sad paradox of a world increasingly more careful of being ‘politically correct,’ to the point of being almost ridiculous … But that doesn’t want to recognize and respect the faith in God of every believer, whichever religion they practice,” L’Osservatore Romano added.

The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo stands in stark contrast to the edition published in the aftermath of the attack, featuring a crying Muhammad under a headline reading “All is fogiven.”


Two gunmen stormed the magazine’s offices on Jan. 7, 2015, shooting staff in an attack that was later claimed by Yemen’s al-Qaida branch.

After that attack, Pope Francis said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” and stressed that killing in the name of God was an unacceptable “aberration.”

But he also took issue with Charlie Hebdo’s anti-religious stance.

“You can’t provoke, you can’t insult the faith of others, you can’t make fun of faith,” he told reporters during an Asian tour.


Travel Lightly into The New Year


ENTERING a new year is like taking a holiday to some place foreign and uncharted. You never know what to expect.

It’s like turning up in a distant city without pre-arranged accommodation. It sharpens the senses.

There’s a joy in jumping into the unknown, where we can delve into the more essential parts of ourselves.

As Oliver Cromwell once said: “A man never goes so far as when he does not know where he is going.”

A travel writer friend said the great joy of travelling to unknown parts was leaving all his beliefs and certainties behind.

He said the clear difference between a tourist and a traveller was that the latter left assumptions at home, and the former did not.

Life is always a trip and it helps if you travel light and with a little trust in your heart.

There are fewer distractions; more time to consider the bigger picture.

Facing the new year, pursuing true love or searching for spirituality have something of the feel of journeying to foreign lands where the language is at first unknown and the terrain unfamiliar.

Our fears are often baseless. After all, more people are said to be killed annually by donkeys than by planes falling out of the sky.

And more people are killed each year by falling coconuts than sharks.

Whether religious or not, we travel a spiritual path. Every day we make choices that affect the direction in which we are headed.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus spoke of the two ways open to all of us, each with its own beginning, and each with its own end. He said one way was heavily populated; the other travelled by few.

He sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and told them: “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”

The message was clear. Don’t load up the donkey with tons of stuff, tons of preconceptions and angst. Just let go and let God do His job. Travel light.


A Religious Forecast For 2050: Atheism Is Down, Islam Is Rising


By the end of the century, Muslims could outnumber Christians for the first time in history, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center.

“Another way of thinking about it is Christianity had a seven-century head-start on Islam, and Islam is finally catching up,” says Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at Pew.

Christianity is currently the world’s largest religion, making up a third of the world’s population with 2.2 billion adherents. Pew research shows that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. The religious group will make up 30 percent of the world’s population by 2050, compared to just 23 percent of the population in 2010. That means the number of Muslims in the world will nearly equal the number of Christians by 2050.

If Islam’s growth spurt continues, Pew data shows, Muslims could outnumber Christians soon after the year 2070.

That’s not to say that the total number of Christians is decreasing; Christianity’s growth rate is just not as fast as Islam’s. While the number of Christians will increase from about 2.1 billion to 2.9 billion by 2050, Muslims will jump from 1.6 billion to 2.8 billion.

This growth has to do with the relatively young age of the Muslim population as well as high fertility rates. Other religious groups have aging populations. Among Buddhists, for example, half of adherents are older than 30 and​ the average birth rate is 1.6 children. By contrast, in 2010, a third of the Muslim population was under 15. What’s more, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, while the average for Christian women is 2.7.

The Pew research revealed two other interesting shifts in world religious perspectives, Cooperman says.

Atheists, agnostics and those who do not affiliate with religion will make up a smaller percentage of the world’s total population by 2050 — even though the group is growing in the U.S. and Europe. The decline is primarily because those who are unaffiliated religiously have low fertility rates, with women bearing an average of 1.7 children in their lifetime.

Between now and 2050, the hub of Christianity will also shift — from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2010, the majority of the Christian population — 25.5 percent — lived in Europe, but sub-Saharan Africa will become home to nearly 40 percent of the world’s Christians by 2050. Fertility rates are also behind this change. Christians living in sub-Saharan African have the highest fertility rates among Christians worldwide: Each woman has, on average, 4.4 children.

Cooperman emphasizes that a lot could change between now and 2050.

“We’re not saying that this will happen; it’s if current patterns and trends continue,” Cooperman says. “We do not know what’s going to happen in the future. There could be war, revolution, famine, disease. These are things no one can predict and that could change the numbers.”


Merry Christmas


History reveals Jesus from Nazareth was a historical reality. Born during the Roman occupation, he stood at the crossroads of an empire.
He could have become an underground terrorist with the Zealots, a monk with the Essenes or a collaborator with the Jewish priests.
Instead, He chose a strange road and claimed to bear all human burdens for past, present and future.
Celebrate Christmas however you want.
But this year, consider the real reason for all the celebration. Sometimes reality lies in what is not instantly obvious.

Thoughts at Christmas

all i want

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep … You are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace …
You are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness …
You are more blessed than a million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation …
You are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death … You are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than …
Over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

If we eat out at a restaurant, this Christmas we probably will spend more than the average monthly income in Nicaragua or India without thinking.

If we buy a soft drink and a Tattslotto ticket, we probably spend what is a day’s wages for many humans.