Faith is consequential — but it is NOT about immortality — faith is about finding peace within oneself

 

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Faith is consequential, but it is not about immortality   –  faith is about a choice to live with the right attitude — fulfilling/at peace with oneself.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/faith-is-living-as-if-all-the-choices-are-ours-175131501.html

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Religion invites us to have faith. Thus, for most people, the idea of faith is a choice. We can have faith or not have faith. From this perspective, there are people of faith and people without faith. It’s all pretty simple and clear cut.

But, if you pull the word “faith” out of its traditional religious confines and place it in a wider, existential view, it’s no longer an invitation. It’s unavoidable. Non-negotiable. You can’t not have faith. That is, it’s impossible not to live as if something is true. Every last one of us shapes and chooses a worldview. We decide what’s essentially true about this life, and then we live out that truth.

Joseph Campbell (1904-87) said it this way: “Choose your myth, and live it with passion.”

Faith is “living as if.” As if what? Well, that’s the point. You get to fill in the blank. No one can do it for you. Not ultimately.

Sure, as children your first tenants of this faith (that is, your worldview) were supplied for you by parents and family. As you watched your parents love one another … or not. As you experienced the competence of your parents’ steady care and nurture of you … or not. As you and your family experienced the particular whimsies of joys and sufferings that unfolded for you. Out of these formative experiences you collected ideas about what was true about your life and life itself.

But, sooner or later, as you moved to adulthood, it occurred to you that not everything delivered to you as truth was necessarily true. You had options – social, theological, existential, philosophical, academic.

See my list of all the reasons to quit/ Not smooth enough, tough enough, inferior fit/ And all the voices saying, “Why don’t you just step aside”/ “How dare you dare to reach so high,” they’re asking for my suicide/ One hand open, the other a fist/ I guess I’ll have to live as if/ See me tearing up my list.

The choice is not whether to have or not have a worldview in which you place faith. The only choice is whether we are willing to be conscious of that worldview. To choose it with intention, clarity and commitment. When our deepest beliefs about self and life are conscious, then we have choices.

See my beloved and me in a bitter rift/ Trying to remember why this love is such a gift/ I want to fly away and find me something easier/ I don’t feel much in love right now, what did I ever see in her/ What do we hold on to while we search for what we missed/ I guess we’ll have to live as if/ I think we’re called to live as if.

Faith is “living as if.” All the choices are ours. We can live as if there is an inherent goodness in the human heart deserved of our seeking. Or we are free to live as if no one can or should be trusted. We should in every moment protect ourselves at all costs. We can live as if it is our very birthright to be loved and respected. Or we can live believing deeply that we are far too flawed and broken to rightly expect love and respect. Perhaps maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain is life’s most noble pursuit. Then again, perhaps you prefer to subordinate equations of pain and pleasure, passing comfort or discomfort for the very different goal of commitment to a beloved’s best interest.

Absurdity, anomaly, a sand that always shifts/ All the evidence says life is meaningless/ I’ve tried to face reality, to live my life the way life is/ So now I’ve seen reality but I’m not sure how real it is/ I’m left with this bit of foolishness/ I prefer to live as if/ I will try to live as if.

As if it matters that we live/ As if it matters when we love/ As if it matters when we offer something beautiful/ Stand against some ugliness/ Endure the days of emptiness/ We can live as if we’re loved.

Faith is “living as if.” Perhaps you’ve heard people say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere.” To that I say “yikes.” It matters very much what we believe. The worldview in which we have faith is consequential for us and everyone around us.

What do you believe deeply? The next question is, how do those beliefs serve you? And, then, the $24 million question: Is it time to believe something else?

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Einstein’s opinion    —

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If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.

Immortality? There are two kinds. The first lives in the imagination of the people, and is thus an illusion. There is a relative immortality which may conserve the memory of an individual for some generations. But there is only one true immortality, on a cosmic scale, and that is the immortality of the cosmos itself. There is no other.

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Too much obsession about how one will spend the afterlife prevents people from spending enough time on making this life more livable for themselves and for others.

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http://atheism.about.com/od/einsteingodreligion/a/Immortality.htm

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/einsteins-god-particle-oops/

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nigel-barber/einstein-god-letter-auction_b_1959154.html?utm_hp_ref=science

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Einstein’s Religion as Weakness Supported by Science

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As a 1954 Einstein letter goes up for sale on eBay, the contempt he expresses for conventional religion therein is hard to miss. The buzz surrounding the letter is remarkable considering that the distinguished physicist had been saying essentially the same thing for decades. His idea of religion as a response to vulnerability is supported by recent science.

What Einstein had to say

As a public figure, Einstein took seriously the responsibility of a public person to educate the public. We know more about his religious views than those of almost any other leading scientist in recent history.

Einstein’s willingness to share his detailed opinions about religion seem to have created the rather misleading impression that, unlike most other leading scientists, he was open to common religious views. He was also fond of peppering his writings with the word “God.” He felt that God did not play dice with the universe, but this turns out to have been a fairly loose statement of his objection to the uncertainty inherent in quantum physics. He wrote: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

If religious people have often made the mistake of taking comfort that Einstein was one great scientist who was a believer — one of them — they probably shouldn’t.

Indeed, if all religious people believed as little as Einstein, religion would soon go out of business. It is quite clear that Einstein did not believe in a personal God, did not believe in heaven and hell as payments for good or bad lives, respectively, dismissed freewill, and did not believe that the soul survived death. That doesn’t leave very much for any formal religion to work with.

Now, his 1954 letter reveals a certain impatience, even hostility to conventional religion: “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive, legends.”

This hostility is nothing new. In a 1930 New York Times Magazine article, he writes: “With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions — fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death.” Then religion becomes more involved in social problems and education — more Unitarian, so to speak.

Einstein’s view of religion as motivated by weakness, fear, or vulnerability has been taken seriously by social scientists — and it has been thoroughly evaluated by scientific tests.

What the relevant science has to say

The worldwide picture of religion and atheism is fairly clear. One finds that the weakest countries, places that are miserably poor, where life is difficult, often violent, and brief, are the most religious. In sub-Saharan Africa there is almost no atheism. Belief in God declines in more developed countries and atheism is concentrated in Europe in countries such as Sweden (64 percent nonbelievers), Denmark (48 percent), France (44 percent) and Germany (42 percent). In contrast, the incidence of atheism in most sub-Saharan countries is below 1 percent. This unmistakable pattern is sometimes referred to as the secularization thesis. It used to be controversial but is now accepted by all reasonable scholars based on the strength of the empirical evidence.

Why are wretched countries deeply religious whereas atheism blossoms in countries enjoying the best standard of living? It seems that people turn to religion as a salve for the difficulties and uncertainties of their lives. Religious rituals and practices actually counteract stress. In social democracies, there is less fear and uncertainty about the future because social welfare programs provide a safety net and better health care means that fewer people can expect to die young. People who are less vulnerable to the hostile forces of nature feel more in control of their lives and less in need of religion.

Churches may also lose ground in developed countries because there is such a variety of alternative “feel-good” products that may be replacing formal religion. They include anti-anxiety drugs, psychotherapy, yoga, and entertainment. Even sport spectatorship may be replacing religion as it produces similar psychological benefits and is on the rise in countries where religion is in decline.

Einstein certainly didn’t get everything right but his intuition that religiosity is a response to distressing circumstances was certainly on the money. That insight is worth having but it may not be worth the $3 million of the opening bid.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mario-livio/the-fate-of-the-universe_b_1970126.html?utm_hp_ref=science

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The Fate of the Universe

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There are many opinions about who first said: “It’s hard to make predictions–especially about the future.” As far as I can tell, it may have been the Danish writer Robert Storm Petersen (and not Yogi Berra). In any case, predictions are indeed notoriously difficult to make, even when they concern the near future. Yet, it is instructive to examine what our current best guess is, as to the universe’s very far future (based on existing observations and cosmological theories).

First, there is essentially no doubt that in about 5 billion years our Sun will die, swelling up a few hundred fold, and in the process, extinguishing all life on Earth. Probably even before that, about 4 billion years from now, our Milky Way galaxy will collide and merge with the Andromeda galaxy. The solar system will most probably be thrust away from its current location (even though individual stars will not collide), and find itself at a new spot in a coalesced elliptical galaxy. Other groups of galaxies that are gravitationally bound will also merge to form single giant galaxies.

What about the universe at large? The evidence points to a cosmic expansion that will be perpetually accelerating. While they are not entirely conclusive, observations suggest that the dark energy that is currently propelling the expansion of the universe to speed up will continue to do so. If, as existing observations indicate, dark energy is indeed the energy associated with the physical vacuum, then neither the stars nor the giant galaxies themselves will expand. However, the space between those galaxies will increasingly stretch.

Cosmic repulsion will overwhelm the ever-weakening strength of gravitational attraction, and will disperse the galaxies until none will be left within view of each other. In addition, all the galaxies will become intrinsically dimmer and dimmer, as they will run out of hydrogen gas–the fuel for forming new bright stars. As the population of stars ages, it will consist either of the dead corpses of previous generations–dim objects such as white dwarfs or neutron stars and black holes–or of slowly evolving, faint, low-mass stars. For an observer (if one would exist) in a given galaxy, the sky would grow increasingly darker. In fact, observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and with ground-based telescopes tell us that the universe is already declining in terms of its global rate of forming new stars (Figure 1). Even black holes, those extremely compact objects, some formed through the collapse of very massive stars, others via the accretion of matter at the centers of galaxies, will not enjoy eternal life. Through a quantum process known as Hawking radiation, black holes are expected to lose energy and evaporate. This will not happen any time soon. A black hole formed via the collapse of a massive star may live for some 1066 years before evaporating. But remember, if there is one thing that an ever-accelerating universe has in abundance, it is time.

2012-10-16-hs201237sm.jpg
Figure 1. Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF). Using deep images of the universe, astronomers have been able to determine the history of the cosmic, global star-formation rate, from an age of about 500 million years to the present (13.7 billion years). The James Webb Space Telescope will enable a determination of the birth rate of new stars at even earlier times. Credit: NASA and ESA.
Although the seventh film in the James Bond series was called Diamonds are Forever, strictly speaking, this title is incorrect. According to present particle physics theories, protons, and therefore atoms, should decay. This again is not an imminent danger. Experiments put the lifetime of protons at longer than some 1034 years, but in an accelerating universe decay would eventually happen.

So it appears that our universe will end its life, after all, not with a bang but a whimper. Following black hole evaporation and proton decay, all that would be left is radiation, and pairs of electrons and positrons (the latter would eventually annihilate into radiation, too). For those searching for a “point” or a “purpose” for the universe’s existence, this may sound disappointing, but it shouldn’t. There is no reason for the universe itself to suggest a purpose for its existence to us. Just as humans and stars die, so can the universe. Everyone should search for a purpose in her or his own life. And by the way, in my opinion, attempting to understand the workings of the cosmos and predicting its future is a pretty worthy purpose.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-raeburn/newsweek-heaven-cover-story_b_1958795.html?utm_hp_ref=science&ir=Science

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Scientific ‘Proof’ That Heaven Is Real?

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If you’ve been wondering, you can now put yourself at ease: Heaven is real. 

That comforting end to a discussion lasting thousands of years comes not from an evangelical group, not from a pastor, not from a mystic or a saint — but from the cover of this week’s Newsweek and its online counterpart The Daily Beast.

The story wastes no time telling us the author of the story, Eben Alexander, is a neurosurgeon at Harvard, and the son of a neurosurgeon. “I grew up in a scientific world… and had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.” Their “strange stories… didn’t mean they had journeyed anywhere real.” No religion or mysticism for him, in other words: He’s a scientist

But his interpretation of those out-of-body journeys changed in 2008, when he slipped into a coma for seven days after contracting bacterial meningitis. During those seven days, he had an out-of-body experience of his own. And that gave him “a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.” He is telling the story, he says, with “the logic and language of the scientist I am.”

Here’s his scientific argument for the existence of an afterlife:

While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.

That’s it for the science. No tables, charts or graphs, no data, no publications in scientific journals.

Having proved his case, Alexander then goes on to describe the experience. The highlight was a message about the secret of life, delivered in an unearthly language by a young woman with high cheekbones, deep-blue eyes and golden tresses. I know if I kept you in suspense you’d just skip ahead, so here it is, in Alexander’s words:

The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”

“You have nothing to fear.”

“There is nothing you can do wrong.”

I have kept you in suspense about one thing. As you might have suspected, this is an excerpt from a forthcoming bookProof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, to be published later this month by Simon & Schuster. At this writing, it’s No. 5 on the Amazon bestseller list, and it’s not out yet.

Neither Simon & Schuster nor Newsweek/Daily Beast provided much information about Alexander, but his LinkedIn page identifies him as chief science officer at Eternea, in Lynchburg, Va. Eternea’s website says it is a “research, educational and outreach organization” and its “mission is to advance research, education and applied programs concerning the physics of consciousness and the interactive relationship between consciousness and physical reality (e.g. matter and energy), and to enhance the understanding of spiritually transformative experiences.”

I have no quibble with others’ religious beliefs. Those who choose to accept Alexander’s interpretation of his experiences are welcome to do so, as far as I’m concerned. 

But I strongly object to Alexander’s, and Newsweek/Beast’s and Simon & Schuster’s collusion in dressing this up as scientific evidence for heaven, golden-locked lasses, and out-of-body experiences. There is nothing scientific about Alexander’s claims or his”proof.” We are all demeaned, and our national conversation is demeaned, by people who promote this kind of thing as science.

This is religious belief; nothing else.

I wouldn’t bother to argue science with creationists who believe the world was made in six days; their beliefs are unshakeable. But the editors at Newsweek/Daily Beast and Simon & Schuster should know better. I have no doubt that all of the parties involved will make a large amount of money from this project — money that will not, I suspect, be accepted as legal tender in their glittering afterlives.

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This said, here now I present a contrarian view   –

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/psychology-research-suggests-that-belief-in-the-supernatural-acts-as-societal-glue-and-motivates-people-to-follow-the-rules-further-belief-in-the-afterlife-helps-people-grieve-and-staves-off-fears-o/

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/science-god-biology-astronomy-physics-deity_n_1894010.html?utm_hp_ref=science

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Psychology research suggests that belief in the supernatural acts as societal glue and motivates people to follow the rules; further, belief in the afterlife helps people grieve and staves off fears of death.

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Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science. 

Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there’s good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.

Carroll argues that God’s sphere of influence has shrunk drastically in modern times, as physics and cosmology have expanded in their ability to explain the origin and evolution of the universe. ”As we learn more about the universe, there’s less and less need to look outside it for help,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries.

He thinks the sphere of supernatural influence will eventually shrink to nil. But could science really eventually explain everything?

Beginning of time

Gobs of evidence have been collected in favor of the Big Bang model of cosmology, or the notion that the universe expanded from a hot, infinitely dense state to its current cooler, more expansive state over the course of 13.7 billion years. Cosmologists can model what happened from 10^-43 seconds after the Big Bang until now, but the split-second before that remains murky. Some theologians have tried to equate the moment of the Big Bang with the description of the creation of the world found in the Bible and other religious texts; they argue that something — i.e., God — must have initiated the explosive event

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However, in Carroll’s opinion, progress in cosmology will eventually eliminate any perceived need for a Big Bang trigger-puller.

As he explained in a recent article in the “Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), a foremost goal of modern physics is to formulate a working theory that describes the entire universe, from subatomic to astronomical scales, within a single framework. Such a theory, called “quantum gravity,” will necessarily account for what happened at the moment of the Big Bang. Some versions of quantum gravity theory that have been proposed by cosmologists predict that the Big Bang, rather than being the starting point of time, was just “a transitional stage in an eternal universe,” in Carroll’s words. For example, one model holds that the universe acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates over and over under its own steam. If, in fact, time had no beginning, this shuts the book on Genesis. [Big Bang Was Actually a Phase Change, New Theory Says]

Other versions of quantum gravity theory currently being explored by cosmologists predict that time did start at the Big Bang. But these versions of events don’t cast a role for God either. Not only do they describe the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang, but they also account for how time was able to get underway in the first place. As such, these quantum gravity theories still constitute complete, self-contained descriptions of the history of the universe. “Nothing in the fact that there is a first moment of time, in other words, necessitates that an external something is required to bring the universe about at that moment,” Carroll wrote.

Another way to put it is that contemporary physics theories, though still under development and awaiting future experimental testing, are turning out to be capable of explaining why Big Bangs occur, without the need for a supernatural jumpstart. As Alex Filippenko, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a conference talk earlier this year, “The Big Bang could’ve occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universes.”

Parallel universes

But there are other potential grounds for God. Physicists have observed that many of the physical constants that define our universe, from the mass of the electron to the density of dark energy, are eerily perfect for supporting life. Alter one of these constants by a hair, and the universe becomes  unrecognizable. “For example, if the mass of the neutron were a bit larger (in comparison to the mass of the proton) than its actual value, hydrogen would not fuse into deuterium and conventional stars would be impossible,” Carroll said. And thus, so would life as we know it. [7 Theories on the Origin of Life]

Theologians often seize upon the so-called “fine-tuning” of the physical constants as evidence that God must have had a hand in them; it seems he chose the constants just for us. But contemporary physics explains our seemingly supernatural good luck in a different way.

Some versions of quantum gravity theory, including string theory, predict that our life-giving universe is but one of an infinite number of universes that altogether make up the multiverse. Among these infinite universes, the full range of values of all the physical constants are represented, and only some of the universes have values for the constants that enable the formation of stars, planets and life as we know it. We find ourselves in one of the lucky universes (because where else?). [Parallel Universes Explained in 200 Words]

Some theologians counter that it is far simpler to invoke God than to postulate the existence of infinitely many universes in order to explain our universe’s life-giving perfection. To them, Carroll retorts that the multiverse wasn’t postulated as a complicated way to explain fine-tuning. On the contrary, it follows as a natural consequence of our best, most elegant theories.

Once again, if or when these theories prove correct, “a multiverse happens, whether you like it or not,” he wrote. And there goes God’s hand in things. [Poll: Do You Believe in God?]

The reason why

Another role for God is as a raison d’être for the universe. Even if cosmologists manage to explain how the universe began, and why it seems so fine-tuned for life, the question might remain why there is something as opposed to nothing. To many people, the answer to the question is God. According to Carroll, this answer pales under scrutiny. There can be no answer to such a question, he says.

“Most scientists … suspect that the search for ultimate explanations eventually terminates in some final theory of the world, along with the phrase ‘and that’s just how it is,’” Carroll wrote. People who find this unsatisfying are failing to treat the entire universe as something unique — “something for which a different set of standards is appropriate.” A complete scientific theory that accounts for everything in the universe doesn’t need an external explanation in the same way that specific things within the universe need external explanations. In fact, Carroll argues, wrapping another layer of explanation (i.e., God) around a self-contained theory of everything would just be an unnecessary complication. (The theory already works without God.)

Judged by the standards of any other scientific theory, the “God hypothesis” does not do very well, Carroll argues. But he grants that “the idea of God has functions other than those of a scientific hypothesis.”

Psychology research suggests that belief in the supernatural acts as societal glue and motivates people to follow the rules; further, belief in the afterlife helps people grieve and staves off fears of death.

“We’re not designed at the level of theoretical physics,” Daniel Kruger, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan, told LiveScience last year. What matters to most people ”is what happens at the human scale, relationships to other people, things we experience in a lifetime.”

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/american-anthropological-association/ritual-is-power-religion-as-a-revolutionary-concept-or-an-evolutionary-advantage_b_1973622.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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Ritual Is Power: Religion as Revolutionary Concept or Evolutionary Advantage?

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Since the Age of Enlightenment leading social scientists have proposed that symbolic rituals, sacred practices and theological treatises are products of the past. In fact, for the last century, secularization has been considered a revolutionary step in the transformation of agrarian societies into modern industrial nation-states. However, one must only open a webpage to a media outlet or look at a newspaper headline to realize that the modern world is as religious as it ever was, and in some places more so than ever.

Consider the backlash against the most recent inflammatory anti-Islam video or the impact that Mitt Romney’s faith may have on his chances of winning the U.S. presidential election. In contemporary human society, religion and politics often collide — sometimes with catastrophic results. There are many who believe that the modern world is on a downward spiral and that God is the answer. Nevertheless, terrorist attacks, toppled governments and warring factions heralded in the name of religion are not a modern phenomenon. Neither is religion’s impact on human society always an entirely negative one. Such shifting social currents have a long history in human society and religion has often been responsible for dramatic cultural transformations.

Religion played a major role in the emergence of cultural complexity in the ancient world. For example, 5,000 years ago along the north central coast of Peru ancient inhabitants constructed the earliest public architecture in the New World. Within a small stretch of Peruvian coastline, 30 ceremonial centers with large-scale monumental architecture appeared over a 1,800 year time frame known as the Late Archaic Period (3,000-1,800 B.C.). Archaeologists have labeled the Late Archaic Period as the “cradle of Andean civilization” (Haas and Creamer) and many cultural characteristics of Andean archaeology have been attributed to the cultural developments of this time. Recent archaeological excavations at one Late Archaic site, Huaricanga in the Fortaleza Valley, have revealed that ritual practices were intimately linked to the emergence of incipient leadership and served as a base of power. Moreover, control over religious knowledge likely cemented the hold of early leaders over ancient populations by promoting a sense of group membership that facilitated the mobilization of labor forces to construct monumental architecture.

But does religion’s pull on humanity have even deeper roots? I argue that ritual serves as a mechanism for promoting cooperation among members of a religion in order to achieve a common goal. Ritual practice, as a form of communication, signals to others that you identify with a particular set of beliefs. The subsequent trust that is built between those individuals provides the social glue necessary to accomplish common goals.

To understand the evolutionary importance of communication through ritual it is valuable to look to animal behavior for correlates. In the natural world it is often advantageous to send a dishonest signal. In other words, animals will fake their size, strength or overall vigor to scare away predators, to intimidate other members of the group, or to attract mates. However, the only signals that can be believed without a doubt are those that are too costly to fake, what evolutionary biologist Amotz Zahavi (1997) calls “handicaps.” These behaviors may actually have a selective advantage. For example, springbok antelopes may jump up and down in one spot when encountering a predator. While it may seem more intuitive to simply run, by jumping in place the antelope signals to the predator that it is indeed strong enough and fast enough to escape. In most cases the predator will believe this communication because the signal is simply too costly to fake since dishonesty could result in death.

In a similar way, religious behavior is too costly to fake. The obligations placed on some religious practitioners such as abstaining from certain foods or self-mutilation serve as monitoring mechanisms that indicate a common purpose or set of beliefs. If this is the case, one might surmise that religious groups that impose the greatest demands will elicit the highest levels of devotion and commitment.

Several studies have shown that in the United States the most demanding religious groups have the largest number of committed members. In other words, those religions that place the most stringent obligations on its members experience higher attendance rates. Within the last 30 years, the Mormon Church, Seventh-day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witness congregation have experienced striking rises in their numbers. While these sets of beliefs restrict caffeine, sex and sugar from their members, the more liberal Protestant religion has been experiencing a steady decline (Note: For this comparison scholars are considering proportional relationships, not overall membership numbers). Moreover, since the reforms in the Roman Catholic Church associated with Vatican II, American Catholics have cut their attendance in half. In the late 1950s, 75 percent of American Catholics attended weekly Mass while more recently that number dropped to only 45 percent (Finke and Stark). The biggest decline occurred in the 1960s when reforms to the religious practices made the Mass more accessible — the liturgy was translated from Latin to English, the priest faced the congregation instead of the altar, and the participants could hold the Eucharist in their own hands.

I argue that religion and ritual serve as a social lubricant to promote collaborative action by establishing trust, belonging and commitment among individuals. Ritual, as a form of communication, signals intents and desires to other individuals. By grounding religion and ritual in a deep-rooted past supplemented by evidence from animal behavior studies, it is clear that religious practice has an adaptive advantage that has greatly impacted human history. As revealed by contemporary events religion still greatly impacts our social milieu. Perhaps we should once again consider ourselves Homo religiosus?

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Bibliography:

  • Finke, Robert and Rodney Stark, “The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in our Religious Economy.”
  • Haas, J. and W. Creamer, “Crucible of Andean Civilization: The Peruvian Coast from 3000 to 1800 BC”
  • Zahavi, Amotz, “The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle”

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/how-does-prayer-meditation-affect-brain-activity_n_1974621.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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Study Shows How Prayer, Meditation Affect Brain Activity (VIDEO)

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How do prayer and meditation affect brain activity? Dr. Andrew Newberg, MD, is the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomson Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College, and he has studied the neuroscientific effect of religious and spiritual experiences for decades.

In a video that recently aired on “Through the Wormhole” narrated by Morgan Freeman on the TV channel Science, Dr. Newberg explains that to study the effect of meditation and prayer on the brain, he injects his subjects with a harmless radioactive dye while they are deep in prayer / meditation. The dye migrates to the parts of the brain where the blood flow is the strongest, i.e,. to the most active part of the brain.

The image below compares brain activity at rest and while the subject (a Presbyterian minister is shown in the video) is in deep prayer.

prayer meditation brain

The red part indicates greater activity, and in this case, increased activity is observed in the frontal lobes and the language area of the brain. This is the part of the brain that activates during conversation, and Dr. Newberg believes that for the brain, praying to God in the Judeo-Christian tradition is similar to talking to people. “When we study Buddhist meditation where they are visualizing something, we might expect to see a change or increased activity in the visual part of the brain,” Dr. Newberg said.

While observing atheists meditating or “contemplating God,” Dr. Newberg did not observe any of the brain activity in the frontal lobe that he observed in religious people. The image below compares brain activity at rest and while the subject is in deep meditation.

prayer meditation brain

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Dr. Newberg concludes that all religions create neurological experiences, and while God is unimaginable for atheists, for religious people, God is as real as the physical world. “So it helps us to understand that at least when they [religious people] are describing it to us, they are really having this kind of experience… This experience is at least neurologically real.”

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Try a little tenderness, baby      —-

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7Ic6cT8zSQ&feature=related

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yes, you, all the darlings in the world        ;-)              —

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmqEnEhjFp0

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“All those moments [of life] will be lost in time  — time to die” [for me, time to deal with myself alone facing death/mortality]    –

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOW4QiOD-oc

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blade_Runner#Interpretation

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These thematic elements provide an atmosphere of uncertainty for Blade Runner‘s central theme of examining humanity. In order to discover replicants, an empathy test is used, with a number of its questions focused on the treatment of animals—seemingly an essential indicator of someone’s “humanity.”  The replicants appear to show compassion and concern for one another and are juxtaposed against human characters who lack empathy while the mass of humanity on the streets is cold and impersonal. The film goes so far as to put in doubt whether Deckard is human, and forces the audience to re-evaluate what it means to be human.    Yes, the bad guy/unwanted huli’au actually might be the good guy.

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The power of  love  –   a decade  anniversary of a truly great movie –

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.I._Artificial_Intelligence

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In 2104, global warming has led to melting polar ice caps, flooded coastlines and a drastic reduction of the human population. There is a new class of robots called mechas, advanced humanoids capable of emulating thoughts and emotions. David (Haley Joel Osment), a prototype model created by Cybertronics, is designed to resemble a human child and to display love for its human owners. They test their creation with one of their employees, Henry Swinton (Sam Robards), and his wife Monica (Frances O’Connor). The Swintons’ son, Martin (Jake Thomas), was placed in suspended animation until a cure can be found for his rare disease. Although Monica is initially frightened of David, she eventually warms to him after activating his imprinting protocol, which irreversibly causes David to project love for her, the same as any child would love a parent. He is also befriended by Teddy (Jack Angel), a robotic teddy bear, who takes it upon himself to care for David’s well being.

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A cure is found for Martin and he is brought home; a sibling rivalry ensues between Martin and David. Martin convinces David to go to Monica in the middle of the night and cut off a lock of her hair, but the parents wake up and are very upset. At a pool party, one of Martin’s friends activates David’s self-protection programming by poking him with a knife. David clings to Martin and they both fall into the pool, where heavy David sinks to the bottom while still clinging to Martin. Martin is saved from drowning, but Henry in particular is shocked by David’s actions. Henry persuades Monica to return David to Cybertronics, where David will be destroyed. However, on the way Monica decides to abandon David in the forest (alongside Teddy) to hide as an unregistered mecha instead of being destroyed. David is captured for an anti-mecha Flesh Fair, an event where obsolete mechas are destroyed in front of cheering crowds. David is nearly killed, but the crowd is swayed by his realistic nature (David, unlike other mechas, pleads for his life) and he escapes, along with Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a male prostitute mecha on the run after being framed for murder.

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The two set out to find the Blue Fairy, whom David remembers from the story The Adventures of Pinocchio. He is convinced that the Blue Fairy will transform him into a human boy, allowing Monica to love him and take him home. Joe and David make their way to Rouge City. Information from a holographic answer engine called “Dr. Know” (Robin Williams) eventually leads them to the top of the Rockefeller Center in the flooded ruins of Manhattan. They use a flying submersible vehicle called an amphibicopter they stole from police, who are still chasing Joe. David meets his human creator, Professor Hobby (William Hurt), who excitedly tells David that finding him was a test, which has demonstrated the reality of his love and desire. It also becomes clear that many copies of David are already being manufactured, along with female versions. David sadly realizes he is not unique. A disheartened David attempts to commit suicide by falling from a ledge into the ocean, but Joe rescues him with the amphibicopter. David tells Joe he saw the Blue Fairy underwater, and wants to go down to her. At that moment, Joe is captured by the authorities with the use of an electromagnet. David and Teddy take the amphibicopter to the fairy, which turns out to be a statue from a submerged attraction at Coney Island. Teddy and David become trapped when the Wonder Wheel falls on their vehicle. Believing the Blue Fairy to be real, David asks to be turned into a real boy, repeating his wish without end, until the ocean freezes and his internal power source drains away.

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2,000 years later, humans are extinct and Manhattan is buried under several hundred feet of sea ice.  Mechas have evolved into a highly advanced alien-looking humanoid form. They find David and Teddy and discover they are functional mechas who knew living humans, making them special and unique. David is revived and walks to the frozen Blue Fairy statue, which cracks and collapses as he touches it. Having received and comprehended his memories, the advanced mechas use them to reconstruct the Swinton home and explain to David via an interactive image of the Blue Fairy (Meryl Streep) that it is not possible to make him human. However, at David’s insistence, they recreate Monica from DNA in the lock of her hair which had been saved by Teddy. Unfortunately, she can only live for a single day and the process cannot be repeated. David spends the happiest day of his life with Monica and Teddy, and Monica tells David that she loves him and has always loved him as she drifts to sleep for the final time. David lies down next to her, closes his eyes and goes “to that place where dreams are born.”

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7MRjbAatv4&feature=related

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A 12-year-old Mongolian boy- Uudam (乌达木 Wudamu in Chinese) who lost his parents at the age of 8 in a road accident singing the song-”Mother in the Dream” (梦中的额吉) to his mother in heaven. He seldom talks about his story but when he misses his mother, he will sing this song. Besides, he always dream about his mother, sitting beside him.

The song is in Mongolian, therefore, not everyone can understand the lyrics. However, his singing touched every judge and the audience in the hall without the understanding of the lyrics. He sang out all his love and thoughts to his mother.

A touching song, performed by a boy who got a sad story behind, a voice comes from far Mongolia sending his thoughts to his mother in heaven. A great performance by a 12-year-old boy! He got an interesting and beautiful dream which is to invent a kind of ink that just needs a drop to drop on the ground, the whole world will cover with green grass. one more thing to add, his mother wished to see his singing on the stage when she was alive.

the translation of lyrics as below:

In the stillness among the vast lands I dream of Mother praying for me She looks afar and gives precious milk to the heavens As offering for my well-being My Mother, so far away. Stars twinkle above the grasslands while In my dream I see Mother’s caring face As she prays to the heavens to wish me godspeed My Mother, so far away.

In my dream I see Home basking in golden sunbeam While Mother softly sings an enchanting melody There in the grasslands lies my everlasting home My dearest Mother, wait for my return. My dearest Mother, wait for my return.

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also,  …  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elephant_Man_(film)

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 That night, back at the hospital, Merrick thanks Treves for all he has done and finishes his model of the nearby church. Imitating one of his sketches on the wall—a sleeping child—he removes the pillows that have allowed him to sleep in an upright position, lies down on his bed and dies, consoled by a vision of his mother, Mary Jane Merrick, quoting Alfred Lord Tennyson‘s “Nothing will Die.”

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Yes, Stephen Hawking & atheists correctly say that we have only one chance  — our mortal lives — to make a difference for the better for all living things.   Correctly make the best of it.   

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And that if we happen to be martyrs/exemplars [e.g. Holocaust victims] for the good side of humanity by being disincentives to human barbarism/savagery, at least we take comfort in manifesting the olive branch to avert recurrence of the evil/indifference/selfishness inherent in us all  [olive branch being creation of State of Israel].  

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Life also is a challenge regardless of our evil human condition  –  nature’s calamities beset us all on this earth  — so that Hawking & atheists correctly say to minimize the risks of injury/death via our inherent good cognition and to tough it out as best as we can.    Such risks are facts of life, so to speak.   

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I like my alltime hero Steven Kalas’ soothing thoughts   – 

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Mercy is a sublime human virtue. Becoming human means putting a bridle on the animal instinct to attack vulnerability. It means that, when our antagonist has dropped his sword and shield, bows before us and asks for another chance, we give a “thumbs up.” We allow sincere remorse to gentle us instead of provoke us to increased aggression

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/by-accepting-i-m-sorry-we-show-our-sublime-humanity-136899918.html

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63 Responses to Faith is consequential — but it is NOT about immortality — faith is about finding peace within oneself

  1. Pingback: left to figure things out myself | Curtis Narimatsu

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  3. Pingback: Mancia Brothers’ Ohana Martial Arts — Progressing forward via converging the traditional arts of self-defense | Curtis Narimatsu

  4. Pingback: Myth is what is eternally true, dear pilgrim — in tribute to our greatest heart-tugger Ron Mallett | Curtis Narimatsu

  5. Pingback: Not “Who am I?” but “Whose am I?” And this radical/gestalt changes everything!! — from sage Steven Kalas born 1957 | Curtis Narimatsu

  6. Pingback: Himno al amor — in tribute to the great Corina Harry | Curtis Narimatsu

  7. Pingback: Society blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness — sage Viktor Frankl | Curtis Narimatsu

  8. Pingback: Dostoevski said once, “There is only one thing I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” – sage Viktor Frankl | Curtis Narimatsu

  9. Pingback: No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people tell him to do (t

  10. Pingback: No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people tell him to do (t

  11. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person — Frank’

  12. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person — Frank’

  13. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; “Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person” —

  14. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; “Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person” —

  15. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; “Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person” —

  16. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; “Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person” —

  17. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; “Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person” —

  18. Pingback: “Having been is the surest kind of being” — extraordinary sage Viktor Frankl; “Only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person” —

  19. Pingback: The choice is not whether to have or not have a worldview in which you place faith. The only choice is whether we are willing to choose with intention, clarity, & commitment. — sage Steven Kalas | Curtis Narimatsu

  20. Pingback: I often think of Buddhism as “the shadow side” of Christianity (in the Jungian sense of The Shadow.) Not a negative thing at all. Rather, as the necessary counterbalance. Christians talk of attachment and striving. Their religious practice is

  21. Pingback: I often think of Buddhism as “the shadow side” of Christianity (in the Jungian sense of The Shadow.) Not a negative thing at all. Rather, as the necessary counterbalance. Christians talk of attachment and striving. Their religious practice is

  22. Pingback: I often think of Buddhism as “the shadow side” of Christianity (in the Jungian sense of The Shadow.) Not a negative thing at all. Rather, as the necessary counterbalance. Christians talk of attachment and striving. Their religious practice is

  23. Pingback: I often think of Buddhism as “the shadow side” of Christianity (in the Jungian sense of The Shadow.) Not a negative thing at all. Rather, as the necessary counterbalance. Christians talk of attachment and striving. Their religious practice is

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  25. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

  26. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

  27. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

  28. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

  29. Pingback: sage Wrary Herbert: We all know that when someone dies, their “agency” dies, too. They are no longer active in the world in the same way they were. Even children get that when grandpa is gone, he’s gone. Even so, our intuitive sense of t

  30. Pingback: sage Wrary Herbert: We all know that when someone dies, their “agency” dies, too. They are no longer active in the world in the same way they were. Even children get that when grandpa is gone, he’s gone. Even so, our intuitive sense of t

  31. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  32. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  33. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  34. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  35. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  36. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  37. Pingback: What’s the lesson in your narrative? — Kare Anderson | Curtis Narimatsu

  38. Pingback: A practicing Catholic, Stephen Colbert asked record-breaking author Dan Brown, “Did you write this to familiarize yourself with where you’ll be when you die?” | Curtis Narimatsu

  39. Pingback: am not concerned if you believe in the resurrection. But I challenge you to practice resurrection. What within you aches to be reborn?Who around you desperately needs renewed hope, a new word of encouragement, a new perspective, a new lease on life?Or as

  40. Pingback: am not concerned if you believe in the resurrection. But I challenge you to practice resurrection. What within you aches to be reborn?Who around you desperately needs renewed hope, a new word of encouragement, a new perspective, a new lease on life?Or as

  41. Pingback: I am not concerned if you believe in the resurrection. But I challenge you to practice resurrection. What within you aches to be reborn?Who around you desperately needs renewed hope, a new word of encouragement, a new perspective, a new lease on life?Or a

  42. Pingback: Jesus’ death becomes even more powerful when this particular messiah also carries your personal projections. That is, the celebrity’s life mirrors important pieces of your own psychic journey. Your own life dramas. Jesus did this for me with h

  43. Pingback: Like most writers, I use bits and pieces from my life in my writing. I start with character because that’s the crucial part. I base my characters on bits and pieces of people I either knew or know now. I do that, realizing we’re all capable of

  44. Pingback: I draw water from the well of my life’s work, and create stories. — Mark Rubinstein | Curtis Narimatsu

  45. Pingback: Then Jesus cleansed the temple of everything evil about us — then in typical mob hysteria, we “cleansed” ourselves of Jesus via His Crucifixion | Curtis Narimatsu

  46. Pingback: In praise of nickname Stoner’s bridging the proverbial age gap — from Stoner age 43 to Peter age 66: “You are not an uptight jerk” (like other ultra-judgmental old farts!!) | Curtis Narimatsu

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  48. Pingback: Jesus’ mind-blowing “huli ‘au” (upside down) overturning of this world of our flesh — Jesus violated every conceivable tradition when it came to His associations with the marginalized of Jewish society. He infuriated the Phar

  49. Pingback: Mind-blowing Jesus stands inexplicably before us, and Jesus turns common-sense ideas upside down/”huli ‘au,” confounding us all! Dedicated to authentic Ri-in!! | Curtis Narimatsu

  50. Pingback: Life is full of reversals of expectations, baby!! Dedicated to my little girl Staycie age 40 — my separation anxiety from my baby girl when she turned 18 & left home to live on her own turned out to be her greatest crossover to independence R

  51. Pingback: Hawaii’s greatest modern wayfinder Rev. Hung Wai Ching (1905-2002) alter ego Rev. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) — Niebuhr’s immensely popular Serenity Prayer: “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

  52. Pingback: Hawaii’s greatest modern wayfinder Rev. Hung Wai Ching (1905-2002) alter ego Rev. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) — Niebuhr’s immensely popular Serenity Prayer: “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

  53. Pingback: Hawaii’s greatest modern wayfinder Rev. Hung Wai Ching (1905-2002) alter ego Rev. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) — Niebuhr’s immensely popular Serenity Prayer: “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

  54. Pingback: Hawaii’s greatest modern wayfinder Rev. Hung Wai Ching (1905-2002) alter ego Rev. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) — Niebuhr’s immensely popular Serenity Prayer: “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

  55. Pingback: Hawaii’s greatest modern wayfinder Rev. Hung Wai Ching (1905-2002) alter ego Rev. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) — Niebuhr’s immensely popular Serenity Prayer: “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

  56. Pingback: Calvinism, we keep being reminded, was the faith of the Puritans who settled most early American colonies, and its teachings are reflected in founding documents. Since the U.S. Constitution is so preoccupied with checks and balances, some old-timers found

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  58. Pingback: To love and be loved are what life is all about | Curtis Narimatsu

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  62. Pingback: To love and to be loved are mystical desires a la Carl Jung’s archetypes (Jung’s forebearers were mystics Plato, Apostle Paul, & Augustine) | Curtis Narimatsu

  63. Pingback: The young man with terminal cancer was going to die quicker than he thought, and he was very depressed about this. And of course he hadn’t gotten to make his mark, and he had this conversation with this young woman. And the young woman said, “No,

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