Arash's WorldArash's World
Philosophy with a twist of humor and a penchant for the absurd.
The Anti-Thesis of the Finite Ego: A Review of Baker's ?Eat my Dust, Martin
After my own bookish call for celebration, I would like to draw attention to another book by and in a kindred spirit, namely Jeffrey Baker's ?Eat my Dust, Martin Luther!? which comprises 96 essays on American mysticism, beating Luther's originally posted bullets by one. When I was approached for a book review, I initially felt both reluctant (what if I have nothing good to say about it and hence waste all our collective time, energy and resources) and curious (Martin Luther, warts and all, I like, mysticism I like too, but how to feel about dust?). It turned out that Baker does not only share my philosophy (or rather I his) but that we use the panacea of humor to give our worldview an amusingly absurd twist around the ears. There are parts of this book that made me smile although I wanted to laugh, but in certain situations (especially an exam invigilation) laughter may not be the most appropriate reaction. I will share my favorite bit in which Baker muses about a s...
Sympathy for the Down-trodden Loser
Lisa Simpson As a child I almost always cheered for the ?bad? guy. When watching He-Man, I wanted Skeletor to win; I could not stand Tweety Bird or Jerry Mouse, or the Road Runner, for that matter; I always preferred the ?mean? cats and the ?wild? coyote. This is also why I never really enjoyed James Bond except in those films where the special-agent showed his vulnerable side, such as On her Majesty's Secret Service (Lazenby's first and only foray) and Casino Royale. Why? Because I find the good guys generally boring. They are too perfect and not all that human in my view, so I cannot fully relate to them nor find them interesting in any discernible way. At least, the bad guys have some weaknesses - if you want to call being evil a weakness, that is - and more importantly, they more often than not lose out. This sympathy for those who show signs of weakness can be extended to various areas of life. For example, Nietzsche's idea of the Superhuman, the ‹bermensch, I fi...
Gratitude of Bookish Proportions and How One Thing Leads to Another
Things have come wonderfully, miraculously together in full circle. Years ago in a place then referred to as West Germany, a shy, somewhat reclusive child wished upon a star to see one day his name on the cover of a bound book, and recently, the now less shy but still somewhat reclusive (albeit for different reasons now) individual living on the West Coast of Canada has had his first book printed by a German publisher. Not only was his very first writing as well as dreams of becoming a writer in the German language, but so is his publishing house. It is interesting how, at least symbolically, past and future create a continuous arc. To add to the wondrous aspect of it is the fact that the same person (by now you may have surely guessed that this post is graphically autobiographical) had spent, over the span of a few years, his wits and energy to get published but received form (rejection) letters from agents and publishing houses. As a result, he decided to let this year (2012) ...
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The Secret Mantra to Success: Why Timing is Everything
Railway Station Clock by Petar Milo?evi? So much of life depends on proper timing. If you happen to be at the right place at the right time, if you say or do the right thing at the appropriate moment, you can get the job or the girl / boy you want. Your joke, plan or marriage proposal won't fly unless it is delivered at the most propitious time and circumstances. I find it indeed amazing how some people seem to have a knack for timing, while others are always completely off, sometimes by five minutes or so. I do not know if timing can be achieved or improved through conscious effort, if it is inherited, if it is about education or upbringing, or even if it can be studied and practiced. One thing I do know, however, is that timing is a necessary secret ingredient for success. I do not claim to have particularly good timing myself. Yet one thing that I have noticed -- in perfect 20 / 20 hindsight -- is that most of the time when I trust my instincts and intuition, the t...
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The Problem of Evil Revisited
Ary Scheffer "The Temptation of Christ" The problem of evil has had serious logical implications for the existence of God. The argument that if God is good and all-powerful, how come He allows evil to exist is a pointed and powerful attack on monotheistic religions in general. The free will response is often used, but it presupposes that humans indeed do have free will, that we are able to make choices on a completely independent and voluntary basis. However, considering the combined influences of genetic make-up, karmic cycles, behaviourism, evolutionary psychology and personal experience make this idea seem rather far-fetched and a fairy tale we try hard to believe in. I am proposing a compromise for the existence of God and a possible solution to the problem of evil. The emphasis lies on the word compromise, which in our case means that we have to part with or rather redefine some of the cherished characteristics of the traditional Western God. Curiously enough, my data may...
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Gethsemane: Fears and Doubts of Jesus Christ
Gethsemane by Carl Heinrich Bloch Gethsemane was a crucial point in the life of Jesus . He was finally and irrevocably faced with the consequences of his actions; it was the summation and culmination of his deeds, of his life. He was looking death squarely in the eye. But he had a final chance. This was it. He could take it or leave it. He had the opportunity to call it off or to accept the consequences. It was the most important night and prayer of his life. In Gethsemane, he knew as a fact, clearer than ever, what was awaiting him. He realized that his years of hard work and ?campaigning? had brought him there. He felt he had been guided by an invisible hand up to that point. He was aware that to become a realized man one has to fully face one's destiny. But as it is with such decisions, they have to be taken willingly, otherwise they lose their value. Yes, Jesus was betrayed, but it was a betrayal that still left him options. He was not poisoned or stabbed in the back (at least...
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Is Sport a Religion? Praying for your Team to win the Cup
Nowadays, most people are sports-crazy, one way or another. Whether it is the Soccer World Cup, the Superbowl, or the Stanley Cup, sports-fans all over have their favorite teams to fret and craze over. They take their games quite seriously; in fact, sometimes even more so than the team members themselves. You can see face paints, waving flags, jerseys and caps, and cheers and jeers everywhere. A win of your team can elevate your confidence, while others have entered a state of depression because their favorite team lost a significant match. The unfortunate side effect are also riots that can bring about in its extreme cases even death and destruction. Can we claim that sport is a modern-day religion? When we look at martial arts, religion and sport, in fact, seem to make a perfect union. Martial arts is as much a philosophy as it is a contact sport. Yoga is meditation practice while exercising your body at the same time. Wrestling was seen by the ancient Greeks as a form of combi...
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The Difference between Pride and Arrogance
There are certain words that have a hard time shedding off their negative connotations. For example, the word ?stubborn? or its equivalent ?pig-headed? are generally not positive traits yet they can easily turn into ?steadfastness? or ?personal integrity? if you look at the other side of the coin. Certain words distinguish themselves by degrees, such as ambitious which has mainly positive connotations until it reaches its extreme point in terms of being overly ambitious. In Spanish, ?ambicioso? is mainly a negative trait denoting a money-driven person who will stop short of almost nothing. What about the words ?pride? and ?arrogance?? How are they similar, what are their connotations, and in what ways are they negative? We can easily classify ?arrogance? as a negative trait. Arrogant people are condescending and believe themselves to be superior, whether in looks, knowledge, wisdom, or all of the above. It is also often part of an illusion ? or rather delusion ? about one's own ...
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Suckcess, Wu Wei or Why the right Attitude goes a long Way
D.A. Pennebaker's film "Don't Look Back" What is success? How is it measured? Is it related to having a fat bank account? Fame? Power? True love? Unlimited Sex? A Family? All of the above? Many will say, in true existentialist fashion, that it depends on the individual and that everyone makes their own choice. But the truth is that success is almost always about what one doesn't have. The poor dream of money, the rich of true love, while the famous envy us and want to be like us, ordinary people with a simple life. Often success becomes the phantom that we haunt and that in turn haunts us. People can get obsessed over it. The drive for self-improvement or, in its impossible form, the quest for perfection can be applied to pretty much any part of our lives, be it our personal trials and tribulation or those at work. At the latter, it is the sought-after promotion that goes, more often than not, hand-in-hand with a raise. As your money in the bank inflates, so does your pride. ...
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The Implications of Chaos and Order ? Political, Psychological and Otherwis
There are various types of personalities out there and each of them tends to have their own approach toward organization. There are those who are messy, whose rooms look like the aftermath of a tropical storm, whose hair is generally disheveled and whose shirts are ironed only on very rare occasions. They have a distraught and sometimes lost look on their face; they may temporarily forget on which planet they live. They can be found among the creative professions, such as the field of poetry and / or higher education. Then there are those who are spotlessly clean and kempt from head to toe. In fact, every single hair is taken into account and is accounted for. Aside from the fact, they never seem to have had a bad hair day in their whole life (not even in childhood!); their shirts are ironed and starched and their color-coded clothes match perfectly. Everything about their demeanor shows deliberately calculated order. These people are meticulous in their plans and hate events that a...
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The Insecurity behind Macho Behavior and the Sensitive Man
Man is obsessed with manhood. The idea of the supermacho, be it Rambo, GI Joe or its android equivalent of Terminator is a source of fascination for the testosterone-driven, fast and furious macho-macho man. And this idea has somehow managed to skip and hop across borders and cultures making us wonder if it is a case of really well-executed marketing or -- God forbid -- a DNA defect on the Y-chromosome. Unfortunately, the Judeo-Christian tradition has also given the ?benefit of the doubt? to women, both sexualizing, i.e. demonizing woman, while at the same time making her an eternal symbol of impossible purity, the case of virginity even beyond childbirth. This comes from a tradition that sees adultery as a man-given privilege, one of the first recorded instances of a double standard. A man could have intercourse with any unmarried woman but he was not allowed to have sex with another man's wife, which was considered a sin. On the other hand, a woman was not allowed to have sex wit...
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The God Factor: Using the Almighty as Pretext for Death and Mayhem
Now that we are entering what is deemed the last year according to (certain morbid interpretations of) the end of the Mayan calendar, I decided to post less on the fact that Doomsday is near (it is and has always been near since time immemorial or like the truck in your side-view mirror, it is nearer than you may think) but more on the fact that God has been used for many inexcusable and shameful acts since the existence or invention of religion. It is most interesting that the sixth season of Dexter dealt with a Doomsday killer who, as the serial-killing protagonist Dexter Morgan himself proclaims, used God for killing people rather than what in the Doomsday killer's perturbed mind was mandated by God Himself. Although this particular season offered alas one of the sloppier writings in the history of the series, this conclusion is worth taking note of. Now let us backtrack for a moment and take a look at Abraham. He was told by God to sacrifice his only begotten son. And let us d...
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On Beauty, Personality and the Influence of Confidence
Although I fully subscribe to the idea of beauty being in the eyes of the beholder, there are still cases where beauty cannot be seen, no matter how hard you look, and how permissive and easygoing the beholder may be. There are people who are simply not beautiful, not by any classical or modern standards. Of course, the question may arise what exactly is beauty, and we might get into a discussion of geometrical proportions, including symmetry, shapes and sizes. And many may cry out how beauty is relative and subjective, and I fully agree with you, but notwithstanding all that, we do, more often than not, agree on what is deemed beautiful and by exclusion what is not. So what if you happen to score low on the beauty level? So what if you are not certified to be among the sexiest men and women alive? Exactly, don't despair. You still have a go at beauty because there is still the matter of personality. Personality is another shady area though. The main problem of personality is that ...
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Zat you, Santa Claus? Letter and Questions for the Ho-Ho-Ho Man
Dear Santa , I am writing to you despite the fact that I do not officially believe in you. In fact, I believe that it is more likely that there are aliens out there than the possibility of your existence. Despite all that, you do exist; you exist in the hearts and minds of many children, and I will gladly foster this same belief in my own child. You see, when my son saw one of your incarnations at your self-named parade, his face glowed with joy. He clasps his hands in awe whenever he sees you on TV, and he is following my own childhood tradition of counting down to Christmas with a chocolate-filled calendar. I want to say thanks. The innocent bubbles of childhood will burst sooner or later, a victim of temporal circumstance, and we will get more cynical, but, at least, there used to be magical moments once upon a time. We can tap into it every now and then and hopefully at least once a year for memory's or nostalgia's sake. Actually, dear Santa, I never had the privilege of bel...
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Keeping it Real and Being against the Art of Flattery
Sta?czyk by Jan Matejko They say that if you want a job nowadays, it is all about the contacts you have. Although education is important (and beneficial) and although your resume may be bolstered by hands-on experience, it will be much more difficult for you to land the job unless you do a little bit of networking on the side. Or as they also say, it is not what you know but who you know. Despite my belief that merits should speak for themselves, I can see how personal characteristics can be vital in the job market. The employer who either directly or from hearsay can vouch for the job-seeker's personality will choose you because personality goes a long way. Sure, the employer can always check and verify your references but it would save them a lot of time and hassle if you are at least somewhat familiar to them. I do not doubt that personality should be a major factor in hiring decision. Someone who has education and experience but has a lousy temper or lacks professionalism in ...
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Different Meanings of Possession
There are many things we can possess, ranging from the tangible, such as property, cars, shoes, and jewelry to the intangible, such as status, reputation, success, and ideas. There are other things that are a little bit of both, for example, a bank account with money in the form of numerical statements, credit card bills or electronic money and credits. But we are led to believe that we can possess all of these things and much more. Regardless of whether it is tangible or intangible, to possess is an active verb. It denotes ownership, that something is mine and that it is, at least conceptually, in opposition to ideas of any notion of "shared" ownership. One may possess "part" of something, say a shared business venture or you may even ?share? your possessions with your wife and family, but at its core most of us prefer sole ownership and we may even extend this idea to people, such as possessing a family inclusive of wife and kids. But we refrain from using the verb possess here...
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Being a Father ? Three Years Later: The Question of Discipline and Authorit
As I continue jotting down some of my personal perspectives on the progressive stages of fatherhood, I must say that there is so much happening at any given time period that I will not be able to do the subject justice. Yet it goes with the common piece of wisdom that you do not really know what it is like until you experience it yourself. And, in fact, these are my personal experiences and observations yet they will tend to be universal among many fathers out there. At the same time, this is not meant to sound in any way superior or haughty on my part but I am simply stating that two fathers who truly care about their offspring will understand each other with a simple glance. My son never ceases to amaze me. The fact that communication has become much less of an obstacle and that there are a host of topics to talk about is only part of the matter. He can string full, and for the most part grammatically correct, sentences, but it is rather more amazing that he has begun to rea...
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God as a Piece of Heavenly Cake
Religious debates will go on for all eternity and it is as rare as a blue moon that religious authorities come to a consensus or see eye to eye. In fact, more commonly there will be splits and rifts within a religious body. Whether it is Buddhism with its small and large spinning wheels and vehicles or the debate over the legitimacy and authority of the Pope and the use of confessional booths or even delicate and controversial questions concerning the Holy Book, disagreements abound and little consensus is reached. Religion seen globally and historically is filled with instances of conflicts and quarrels. But why? If we look at the main world religions, they have actually more in common than they would dare to admit. Indeed Christianity, Islam, Judaism believe in a God that has very similar characteristics, while in Hinduism there may be many gods but they are, when all is said and done, manifestations of a unifying divine spirit. As to Buddhism, they may have a slightly different d...
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What it might feel like when Epiphany kicks in
Insight, epiphany, understanding, sudden realization ? it comes under a variety of names, shades and classifications. In short, they are moments when something (or everything) suddenly comes into focus and you grasp it better. It is the camera lens that zooms in and gives us a crystal-clear image of what is really going on within and without us. But once you are lucky enough for this realization to kick in -- and in my opinion it is a matter of time and effort -- what will be your reaction? There are two possible types of reactions I can think of when the moment of realization takes place. The first one would be that reality was all a sham. It is suddenly realizing or perhaps being told that life has been not only an illusion, but actually a kind of cosmic joke. It's like an episode of ?Punk'd? or ?Candid Camera,? where the host (God? An angel? The devil?) points towards the secret hidden camera. When that moment arrives, there are two kinds of reactions. You may feel frustrated...
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Chris Hedges and the Dilemmas of the Liberal Christian
Chris Hedges There is often a strong imbalance when it comes to the media and its coverage of religion. The media mostly focuses on the more sensational and often downright outrageous events and claims and is not so much interested in showing a balanced perspective. This is not necessarily out of vicious or deliberate intentions but rather because news must sell and the best kind of news is of the sensational type. As a result, religion, a highly personal and controversial topic, is given ample treatment but predominantly of its most extreme aspects. In such cases, Islam becomes willy-nilly intimately tied with Islamicism and Christian ity with the fundamental Christian right movement hence ignoring a large part of both Christian and Muslim communities that are more liberal and tolerant in their views and attitude and that continuously promote peace and understanding. Just to give one example on the Christian side, based on the media coverage one can get the bloated or distorted im...
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Religion, Law and the Need and Desire for Justice
Triumph of Justice by Hans von Aachen Throughout history, people have been drawn to religion for a variety of reasons. Religious belief and practice often fulfill social, psychological and philosophical needs. Therein included are also the big existential questions like the purpose and meaning of life, the question of the afterlife, and a strong need, desire and longing for justice in a seemingly ambivalent world. The meaning of life is ultimately a highly subjective question and in this case I subscribe to the existential and multifarious trend of choosing the best path for the given individual or, to dress it in colloquial jargon, the unobtrusive and egalitarian ?whatever floats your boat? philosophy. When it comes to existence after existence, I have blogged about the mystery of the hereafter to a limited extent in my questions about the afterlife post. Here I would like to focus mainly on the need and desire for justice. As a child, we rely on our parents as the ever-present ...
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Columbus as Brave Explorer or Grave Murderer
Christopher Columbus (or rather Cristobal Colon) is often celebrated as a hero and has been assigned his own personal day alongside truly remarkable people like Martin Luther King Jr. Columbus defied many obstacles and managed to sail halfway around the world. His bravery and determination led to one of the most significant discoveries in world history. Christopher Columbus brought us sugarcane and the land of great dreams and promises that the American continent has ensured for centuries since. Upon reading Howard Zinn, I saw a completely different facet to this account of history. Previously, I was aware that Columbus' main motive and driving force were stacks of gold and that his discovery was sheer luck based on serious miscalculation. At the same time, he was also religious to the bone, and he was planning to bring his own message of salvation to any primitive people he might run into along the way, whom he collectively and erroneously referred to as ?Indians.? In fact, his ...
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Maya and the Physical versus the Metaphysical
Erasmus Darwin's The Temple of Nature Maya, I have claimed elsewhere, can be approached from two different perspectives. One builds on the assumption that everything ?out there? is Maya. Everything we encounter in daily life is illusion, regardless of whether it causes suffering or joy. The second approach is that everything could be real but our minds distort them and turn them into unreal images. In that sense, a cleansing of vision and mind is necessary, the same way a dirty or broken mirror cannot give off an accurate or valid reflection of objects. Here I want to approach the phenomena of Maya from a slightly different angle. Maya is similar to the first view in that physical objects are not real. Anything that is material is impermanent, so it decays according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Our body, for example, falls into the same category. Moreover, one can claim that physical objects are not what they seem. On a subatomic level, they are merely atoms moving in s...
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Fascist Governments and the Freedom and Self-Expression of the Arts
Any fascist government, regardless of ideological background has been wary or downright hostile toward the arts. Whether it is the Nazis burning books, the Communists banning and prohibiting works, or any other government or organization that actively censors works of art on the grounds of ideology, art is seen as a subversive threat to their hegemony, while the artist and intellectual are the marked and targeted enemies of such societies. Nonetheless, such governments have used the value of art for their own sake as a tool of propaganda. They ensure tight control on materials, their hand poised over the censorship button to select what kinds of messages may be transmitted, at the same time ensuring that their own standpoint is presented in a clear and visible manner. In other words, they take away the original and creative expression of artists and use the same method to fabricate their own brand of stifled and limited art to win over or rather to brainwash and lull the hearts of m...
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How Teaching is Similar to Directing
The Schoolmaster by Adriaen van Ostade It has been one of my life-long dreams to become a movie director, seconded by a career in writing. In terms of directing I had my first taste when I made a short film alongside a friend of mine and the experience was wonderful and rewarding. At the same time, I got to sense some of the difficulties that may come with this line of work. Anyhow, I ended embarking upon a teaching career. In fact, there are a few similarities between the two professions. The idea came to me when I realized that apart from every teacher having their own style, quirks and trademarks, the same lesson plan can have completely different outcomes, the same way two directors with identical scripts will not produce identical movies. One of the decisions film-makers must make is the pace of their work. Does or should the movie follow a deliberately slow or an action-packed fast pace? Is the film able to consistently keep the interest of the viewer? Pacing is the rhy...
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Christianity, Karma and the Culture of Prosperity
Jacob Riis, Children sleeping in Mulberry Street (1890) In medieval times, the knight considered himself a holy warrior fighting in the name of God. He would justify not only the means of violence and brutal slayings of the so-called infidels, he also strongly believed that God was on his side. Such belief systems that God will be on the side of the victor and punish the opponent was widely held in those times. When there was a duel or battle between knights, it was said that the one favored would gain victory by divine will and right. The outcome would often be a form of justice and restoration of order ordained by God. Constantine, for example, attributed his victory to the divine aid and interference of the Christian God and, as a result, embraced and promoted Christianity for his kingdom. Nowadays, many people tend to judge result and outcome on similar criteria. It is based on the simplified karmic belief that if you do good, you will have positive results but those who do b...
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Why is it Difficult to Give Peace a Chance
Although most of us know both consciously and instinctively that peace is the best and most commendable of states and outcomes, we often do the opposite at the micro and macro level. In everyday life there are problems that can be solved in a peaceful manner, yet we frequently resort to conflict-ridden solutions. In politics, diplomacy is often fraught with limitations and difficulties, even equated with weakness, while force and war are chosen as the more ?effective? resolution. There may be two reasons for such a preference or proclivity. Both are based on human nature but different aspects of it. The first one is an issue of gender and gender-related actions. Society portrays and enforces the stereotype of the strong testosterone-driven masculine force, whereas the caring, intuitive and peaceful attitude is attributed to the meek and soft image of the female. This has repercussions on various actions of society and in most cases, religion has been used as a means to propagate s...
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Different Selves and the Phantom of Personal Unity
One of the most difficult questions anybody could face is the following: Who are you? Most people will come up with the superficial, uninspired or lazy answer that they are so-and-so. Imagine your name is actually John Doe. There goes any hope for individuality. But if John Doe answers that he is John Doe, what if one day he decides to legally change his name to Jack Smith? Would he be a completely different person simply because he switched names? Names feel comforting, and they do give us a sense of continuous identity. People call us by our names, and we tend to refer to ourselves in the same manner. Sometimes nicknames are prompted but they are only a slight addition to the repertoire of names. We cling to our names because they give us stability and even John Doe will get a sense of comfort and will attach a certain relevance and gravity to his name. But the other problem is that names are given, not chosen or selected. We are born into a certain family whose surname w...
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The Quaker Way: Silence, Peace and Democracy
William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania Some of the most known distinguishing characteristics of Quakers may be their clothes, especially the wide-brimmed hats, and the supposed trembling or quaking before the power of God. Others may know them for their contribution to breakfast cereals and chocolate (Cadbury is a Quaker trademark). Still others may confuse them with some of the other more traditional Christian denominations that have consciously turned their back to society or that breed within their own confines. As with most Christian groups, the Quakers or Friends have also had their share of disagreements over the years and there are distinct parts and parties to Quakerdom. Although they mostly share the main Quaker tenets, there are still vital differences among them. I will discuss here what seems to me the most original aspects of the Quaker belief and lifestyle of its most liberal and, in my view, most influential branch. Quakers generally believe that everybody has a bit o...
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Orthodox Dogma and the Problem of HeresyMore articles from this author:
Jan Hus at the Stake What is heresy? In many traditions, it is that which contradicts or denies a certain religious dogma. For example, if you claim that there is no God in a society where the belief in God plays an important role in its social and political structure, then you will possibly face certain consequences for your aberrant belief. The important point to stress here is that there are two conflicting views, one considered orthodox, the other heretical or perhaps revolutionary. In a world where the orthodox belief is that there is a God, you may suffer consequences for not believing in Him. In either case, it is a self-protecting mechanism. Dogma is generally not bulletproof as it is mainly based on faith and it will sometimes not be able to sustain pressure or criticism. Dogma or rather orthodoxy is telling us what and how things are; they represent so-to-speak the rules of the game. You cannot make up your own rules as you go along but must embrace a given or estab...
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