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Category Archives: Pantheism

Dennis Andrew from Poole says ‘I am Druid’ – Somerset Live

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:52 am

Dennis Andrew doesnt participate in human or animal sacrifices – in fact the retired engineer is really normal.

To put the lie to myths perpetuated by some TV series and films, the retired engineer, cheesemaker and author has written a book entitled I am Druid.

We have fire festivals but not sacrifices, he said.

Knowlton Church and earthworks – a ruined Norman church between Wimborne and Cranborne which stands inside a late Neolithic Henge constructed in 2,500 BC – was the ideal place to meet so that he could explain his beliefs.

Knowlton is one of my favourite places; I sense things here. You can feel ancestry calling, its a spiritual place, said Dennis, who said he has been a Druid for most of his life.

My mother was a Christian and my father a pagan.

So what does it mean to be a Druid?

We dont have a corporate authority – there is no book of Common Prayer. It is a faith not a religion. We worship the divine in nature. Everything in nature is a temple. There is a god in a bird or a tree.

He added that Druids dont tell people what to believe and that they celebrate diversity.

Im as happy in a Christian church as in a Hindu temple, Dennis said. I feel thankful that in this country people are free to explore their faith.

He is a member of Dorset Grove, which numbers between 40 and 60 Druids. They meet at Knowlton Church eight times a year to celebrate – twice at the solstices, twice at the equinox and four times on cross quarter days.

Anyone can come to these rituals, he said. We dont preach or evangelise.

In addition they meet every fortnight in woodland areas.

We are modern druids, which means that our culture goes back no more than 250 years. In fact up to 50 years ago, there were Christian Druids such as Sir Winston Churchill.

Druidic membership extends to a cross section of society.

We have bankers, nurses, ex police officers and shop workers, he said.

If you want to know the definition of the five isms of Druidry – Animism, Pantheism, Polytheism, Monotheism and Dualism, just read Denniss book, I am Druid, which is available from Gullivers Bookshop in Wimborne as well as from http://www.iamdruid.tk.

Report and photos by Marilyn Barber

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Unitarian Universalism and Pantheism World Pantheism

Posted: August 13, 2017 at 1:59 am

Pantheism and Unitarian Universalism: A harmonious match

Unitarian Universalism is based on the shared values of the Seven Principles, such as peace, democracy, tolerance and justice. However, it does not promote any particular answers to the ultimate questions about human existence is there a God or gods? Are our souls separate from our bodies? Do we have personal afterlives? Is the Universe a projection of a collective consciousness?

Most people need answers to ultimate questions, and most UUs add in these answers from some other source, such as Humanism, Buddhism, Paganism, Christianity and so on.

Scientific Pantheism is extremely compatible with the Seven Principles of UUism. If you love nature and are science-minded in your outlook, you may find that it provides a nice complement to UUism.

Many World Pantheist Movement members belong to Unitarian Universalist congregations and some are UU ministers. They tell us that perhaps a third or a half of Unitarian Universalists are probably strongly sympathetic to Pantheism.

The essence of Pantheism is a profound reverence for Nature and the wider Universe and awed recognition of their power, beauty and mystery. Some Pantheists use the word God to describe these feelings, but the majority prefer not to, so as to avoid ambiguity.

From this feeling flows the desire to make the most of our present life in our bodies on this earth, to care for nature, and to respect the rights of humans and animals in general. We choose to focus on the vibrant and urgent here and now, rather than on invisible realms, spirits, deities or afterlives.

We feel that Nature and the wider Universe are the most appropriate focus for our deepest reverence, rather than supernatural beings or afterlives. We believe that everything that exists is a part of Nature and tend to be skeptical of supernatural phenomena.

We believe that mind and body are an inseparable unity, and so we do not expect personal survival after death. Instead we look forward to a natural persistence of our time on earth, in the actions and creations we leave behind, memories people hold of us, and recycling of our elements in Nature.

Many people who have these feelings dont call it Pantheism they may call it atheism plus wonder and awe, they may call it religious humanism, spiritual humanism, religious naturalism or some other variant, or they may not have a name for it.

A related tendency often found in Unitarian Universalist congregations is Panentheism. Panentheists hold that God is present in and throughout nature and humans, but also transcends them and is much greater than them. By contrast Pantheists consider that God is identical with Nature and the wider Universe, and use the term (if at all) primarily to express their own feelings towards Nature.

Basically Panentheism is a form of belief in a creator God, while Pantheism is not. Panentheism is fully compatible with traditional Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but Pantheism is not.

The two organizations complement each other neatly. World Pantheism shares the values of the UU Seven Principles. We are strongly committed to religious freedom, separation of church and state, religious tolerance and the teaching of science free from religious interference. We filed afriend-of-court brief in the US Supreme Court case, opposing the under God wording in the Pledge.

We have collected more signatures for UNESCOs Manifesto for Peace and Non-Violence than any other US voluntary organization.

We are signatories of the Earth Charter. We endorse and greatly expand on the Unitarian Universalist seventh principle Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Active care for the environment is a central part of our ethic, along with human and animal rights. We aresaving rainforest via EcologyFund faster than any other religious or environmental group.

Many Unitarian Universalists, including ministers, are members and friends of the World Pantheist Movement. WPM members who belong to UU churches in some cases run courses on pantheism or pantheist services or regular small group meetings of pantheists. The WPM offers manyresources for Unitarian Universalists interested in pantheist services or groups.

Unitarian Universalism is a context where you meet sensible sociable tolerant people with varying religious philosophies for shared spiritual exploration and social action. But Unitarian Universalist congregations are focused more on broad spiritual exploration and social justice, and UUism in itself does not offer answers to lifes ultimate questions. Many people need both a social context AND a belief context in order to feel comfortable with their place in the universe.

With its special focus on Nature and Naturalism, World Pantheism can be considered as one of the main flavors of Unitarian Universalism, such as UU Buddhism, Religious Humanism, Unitarian Universalist Paganism and so on. If you consider yourself an atheist or humanist with spiritual feelings and a deep love of nature or if you are a pagan who enjoys nature-oriented celebration but does not believe in the literal reality of gods, spirits and magick then World Pantheism may be the spiritual context you are looking for.

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Gratitude So Burdensome? – First Things

Posted: August 11, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Anthony Kronman thinks that Christianity contains the seeds of its own undoing. A born-again pagan and former dean of Yale Law, Kronman argues that the Incarnation, which seems to link God with the world in unimaginable intimacy, ends up separating us from God.

Kronmans critique, presented in the opening chapters of his mammoth Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan, turns on the Christian understanding of gift and gratitude. God saves by giving the infinite gift of his Son, and that infinite gift demands a return of perfect thanks, as limitless as the gifts of love he bestows upon us.

At the same time, Christianity insists that we are wholly incapable of offering a fitting return gift. In fact, the very thought that we might be able to make an adequate return is an act of pride, humanitys original sin. To imagine that we can smooth over the asymmetry between divine Giver and human recipient only adds to our misery. Christianity evokes the desire forand demandsinfinite gratitude, only to frustrate that desire.

In this respect, Christian gratitude functions differently than does gratitude in social life. I cant make a gift of equal magnitude to repay my parents for what they have given me, since they have given me life itself. But I can make a return of equal value with a gift of comparable value to those who follow me. I can pay it forward, partly by having children of my own, and so balance the books with Mom and Pop.

Christian gratitude also differs from gratitude in the other Abrahamic religions. Ancient Israelites knew they were infinitely less powerful than Yahweh, yet he had bound himself by covenant, which put the Israelites in the position of being able to complainas they often didthat their partner had forgotten them or was neglecting his duties. The Incarnation raises the stakes, rousing intense feelings of dependence on Gods undeserved love while eliminating the possibility of a satisfying response.

Unrequited gratitude stirs us to rage, envy, and rebellion. To preserve the primacy of Gods gift, theologians make God vanish into a faceless Kantian transcendental. As God retreats from the world, we take over his earlier role as creator and savior. Christianity gives birth to humanism, then to nihilism, a contempt for this world that arises from wistfulness for an other world that, we eventually learn, never existed. Beyond Christianity and nihilism lies paganism, Kronmans Spinozist pantheism.

Theres an internal contradiction in Kronmans account of gratitude. He distinguishes sharply between entitlement and gift, linking the former with rights and the latter with undeserved love that reveals our abysmal dependence. Armed with rights, I can argue for fair treatment. Love, however, has no arguments at all. I have no claim on anyones love and no right to complain that Ive been deprived of what is mine if I dont get it. Its a peculiar idea of love: Does my wife have no grounds for complaint if I have an affair? And it contradicts what he says about gratitude: If a gift is an expression of love, how can it impose any obligation of gratitude? Where does the giver get his arguments?

Beyond that, the Christianity Kronman describes isnt the Christianity taught by generations and practiced by millions. According to Kronman, God cannot have a body or a face. Orthodox Christians confess that God has shown himself in the human face of Jesus. In Kronmans Christianity, the idea of analogy between God and creation is a brief Augustinian aberration; in fact, however, analogy is a central theme of theology from the patristic age to the present. Kronman writes of the psychologically unbearable demand that we acknowledge our complete dependence on God, but for Christians its so easy a yoke that its not a burden at all.

Kronman stresses again and again that the central meaning of the cross is that I can never measure up to [the gifts] he has given me. He cites no theologians to support this characterization, and no wonder. Its flat wrong. Jesus bears burdens. The cross is, in David Bentley Harts lovely phrase, a gift exceeding every debt. Its the Sons perfect human return of thanks.

To assume that we have to respond to God with an equal gift is already to resent that God is the source of being. Kronman claims to show that the unbearable burden of Christian gratitude produces envy toward God. In reality, Kronmans account begins from envy, from the Nietzschean dictum, There cannot be a God because if there were one, I could not believe that I was not He. And, as a born-again pantheist, Kronman can say what Nietzsche couldnt: I am He.

Peter J. Leithart is President ofTheopolis Institute.

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Staying power: a poet’s place in God’s agenda – National Catholic Reporter

Posted: August 10, 2017 at 5:55 am

Milosz’s poems suggest that he leaned towards Lithuania’s mix of magic, pantheism and Christian mysticism. He was especially close to his maternal grandmother,Jozefa, who spent hours in prayer. Milosz later learned that her piety was blended with superstition.

Writing his first poem at 13, he published approximately 25 books, ending withAbout Journeys Through Time, a book of essays. Three other books were issued posthumously, includingNew and Collected Poems: 1931-2001, which was reprinted in April 2017.

Milosz was highly regarded for his many prose works, such as his autobiographical novel,TheIssaValley, his spiritual biography,The Land ofUlro, his reflections on literature,The Witness of Poetry, and his collection of essays refuting totalitarianism, The Captive Mind, which, he said, originated in a prayer.

Milosz wrote prose and poems about the devastation he experienced during invasions by Czarist and Soviet Russia as well as by Poland and Germany. He lived through both world wars, and afterward, his homeland was carved up and given over to the Soviets. Then, in the1990s, he witnessed the rise of the Solidarity Movement and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Through it all, he was sustained by his wife, brother, friends and faith. AsFranaszekquotes from one of Milosz’s essays: “Had it not been for the Catholic faith and [being] able to pray in adulthood, I would have perished. I believed that I have a place in God’s agenda, and I asked for the ability to fulfill the tasks awaiting me.”

Milosz was friends with luminaries like Thomas Merton and Pope John Paul II, the latter of whom corresponded with him. Another friend, Lech Walesa, said that Milosz’s poems inspired the Solidarity Movement. Ultimately, Milosz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980 for clearly expressing “man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts.”

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This World as Philosophically Necessary – Patheos (blog)

Posted: at 5:55 am

In this post, I am going to consider the necessary property of God. God is often claimed to be philosophically necessary, with all other created things deemed to be contingent. I am going to challenge this prevailing idea.

First, let us consider what both terms (necessary and contingent) mean.

As mentioned, God is deemed to be necessary the fundamental foundation to reality. What might we understand by a logically necessary entity? As wiki explains:

The concept of a metaphysically necessary being plays an important role in certain arguments for the existence of God, especially theontological argument, but metaphysical necessity is also one of the central concepts in late 20th centuryanalytic philosophy. Metaphysical necessity has proved a controversial concept, and criticized byDavid Hume,Immanuel Kant,J. L. Mackie, andRichard Swinburne, among others.

Metaphysical necessity is contrasted with other types of necessity. For example, the philosophers of religionJohn Hick[2]andWilliam L. Rowe[3]distinguished the following three:

While many theologians (e.g.Anselm of Canterbury,Ren Descartes, andGottfried Leibniz) considered God as logically or metaphysically necessary being, Richard Swinburne argued for factual necessity, andAlvin Plantingaargues that God is a causally necessary being. Because a factually or causally necessary being does not exist by logical necessity, it does not exist in all logically possible worlds.[4]Therefore, Swinburne used the term ultimate brute fact for the existence of God.[5]

To me, there is a distinct potential, here, of confusingthe map with the terrain. We love to use logic and words as means to describe reality, but this does not mean they necessarily (no pun intended)arereality. After all, Christian philosophers have tried to use this technique to logic God into reality and existence, to much controversy.

Lets grant God as necessary, for the sake of argument. He is a necessary entity, existent in all possible worlds (itself a controversial idea).

Okay, so we have a necessary God with necessary properties. One must really assume that his properties are also necessary otherwise the term God as being necessary is really meaningless. We then get to some form of classical theism (the properties of which I roundly criticise in my ebookThe Problem with God: Classical Theism under the Spotlight) whereby God has the necessary ideals of perfect, or maximal, power, knowledge and love.

If God, then, as a necessary being, has necessary properties, and these properties necessarily cause a decision to create in a particular way the most perfect (since all of Gods decisions must be perfect) way then Gods decision to produce this world must also be necessary. It was the perfect choice (I cant, given the constraints on God in this way, see him being able to produce all or multiple versions of creation unless these be seen as perfect in some way) to create this world.

God, in his necessary perfection, chose to create this world. And remember, without time (before the creation of spacetime) any decision to create would not be temporal or deliberative (since deliberation takes time) and would thus be instantaneous (for want of a non-temporal term). Therefore, it really does look like creation springs necessarily from a necessary god.

Ergo, this universe is also necessary.

I cannot think of a way that the universe is contingent upon God since it would exist simultaneously with God. There would be no spacetime, so God would exist in not even a temporal sense, and the universe would coexist as a necessary extension of Gods properties.

This universeisevery possible world. Or, if there are multiple worlds within the perfect creation scenario, thentheyexist in every possible world.

In a sense, arguably, if you have a necessary God, you have some form of pantheism or panentheism where the created is merely a sort of necessary extension of God.

I will formalise this into a syllogism in my next post.

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About | Pantheism.com

Posted: August 6, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Etymology: pan[Greek ] + theos[Greek] = ALL is GOD

Pantheism: Everything is Connected, Everything is Divine

Pantheism essentially involves two assertions: that everything that exists constitutes a unity and that this all-inclusive unity is divine. Alasdair MacIntyre, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Pantheism 1971

The belief in or perception of Divine Unity Michael Levine,Pantheism: A non-theistic concept of deity

Pantheism the belief in the divine unity of all things is consistent with some of the earliest recorded human thought. But modern day pantheism goes well beyond the wonder of our pre-historic ancestors. Today, it is much more a tangible resultant of the action and reaction between Science and Religion than the ghost of speculations past. Discover the history of Pantheism, from 3500 year old Vedic poetry to our current scientific quest for a Theory of Everything, here.

Pantheism.com is a place for freethinkers worldwide, providing information, news, groups, and connections to those who in any way relate to a philosophy of oneness. Celebrate your views, discuss the nature of Nature, learn about the history and flavors of Pantheism (there are many!), find or start a local event, and in general, hang out with fellow travelers. Click to learn more about the people who keep the lights on around here.

Organizations:

Universal Pantheist Society, est. 1975 by Harold Wood

World Pantheist Movement, est. 1998 by Paul Harrison

Ayahuasca Pantheist Society, est. 2003 byRegis A. Barbier

The Paradise Project, est. 2004 byPerry Rod

Spiritual Naturalist Society, est. 2012 by DT Strain

Writers and Doctrines:

Biopantheism, by Poffo Ortiz

Panmeism, by Guyus Seralius

Not Two, by Waldo Noesta

Fays of Life, by Fay Campbell

Evolution of Consent, by William Schnack

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Star Wars’ religious imagery is more than just coincidence – Catholic Herald Online (blog)

Posted: August 5, 2017 at 6:06 am

Darth Vader and Stormtroopers at a Star Wars display during the Disney D23 EXPO 2015 held at the Anaheim Convention Center (Getty Images)

The franchise is a tale of love, sacrifice and fatherhood against hate, domination and tyranny

In our look at prominent anniversaries in 2017, the 40th anniversary of Star Wars bears noting as a significant cultural moment. The series is the most commercially successful movie franchise ever. Later this year, four decades after the first film was released in May 1977, the ninth major motion picture will be released. Its called Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. In any case, it wont be the last film, not by a long shot.

Why has it lasted so long, this series which for generations of children has provided the fantastical architecture of their imaginary play? Despite mediocre writing, it has hosted enduring stars James Earl Jones, Sir Alec Guinness and launched others, such as Harrison Ford.

From the beginning, many fans noted the religious imagery in Star Wars, far too abundant to be accidental. Sir Alec Guinness wore the garb of a monk in his turn as the elderly Obi-Wan Kenobi; Luke Skywalker, when he finally makes it as a Jedi, dresses like a young priest. Darth Vaders helmet is a stylised mitre, all the better to evoke the corrupt bishop he has become. The wicked emperor carries a staff and is attended by a court that includes attendants decked head-to-toe in cardinalatial red. The Jedi temple is a mosque-and-minaret construction. The Force itself is pantheism made palatable for a secular generation that likes to pretend that it is spiritual but not religious. Now, as the saga nears its (supposed) end, the physical setting is actually Skellig Michael, the redoubt of the Irish monks who saved civilisation.

Star Wars endures because it is an ancient story about the deepest human dramas a tale of love, sacrifice and fatherhood on the one hand, and the tragedy of hate, domination and tyranny on the other. It tests which account is a more authentic description of the path to human flourishing.

The central character is Anakin Skywalker, a young boy of preternatural abilities who has no father. The mystery of fatherhood, natural and spiritual, therefore marks the entire saga. The Jedi present the boy with the ideals of honour and duty and sacrifice in which those who have been given much are required to serve the good of all.

As a young man, Anakin rejects his Jedi masters, and the evil Emperor Palpatine offers a different vision to Anakin: those who have been given much have the power to seize more even the ultimate power to create life and cheat death. It is the way of domination, not sacrifice.

Star Wars thus poses a Hegelian question: is the primordial reality the one of the master and the slave? Does man have to choose between being dominant or dominated, in which case the purpose of life and the engine of history is the struggle between those who would be masters and those who would be slaves?

That is the way of the Dark Side, in which the desire to avenge ones own pain fuels the lust for power. Power is the only remedy for pain to hurt others before they can hurt you. In Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the Emperor attempts to seduce Luke Skywalker, Anakins secret son, to the Dark Side. Luke is invited to kill Vader and take his place at the side of the all-powerful Emperor. It is the Hegelian dynamic of master and slave again. The slave either remains a slave to be destroyed at the masters command, or he kills the master and takes his place. It is the way of the gun or, if you will, the lightsaber.

Show no mercy is the first lesson the Emperor teaches Anakin-cum-Vader in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. There is no room for mercy in the Hegelian master-slave telling of the human story. Kill or be killed it is: the new Lord Vader massacres the innocent younglings in a slaughter that echoes the biblical figures of the Pharaoh and King Herod. Eventually the Emperor makes the same offer to Luke: kill Vader and take his place or be killed. But Vader is Lukes father, so the master-slave dynamic meets the father-son relationship.

It is striking that for a saga saturated with violence, Luke Skywalker survives into this third trilogy because of mercy and the witness of suffering. It is the suffering of the son that inspires the conversion of the father, and Vader turns against the Emperor and destroys him, at the cost of his own life. The show no mercy domination of the tyrant is finally defeated only by the medicine of mercy and the power of filial suffering to move the paternal heart.

St John Paul II observed in Crossing the Threshold of Hope that the only alternative in human relations to the Hegelian master-slave dynamic is the father-son relationship. Either the powerful oppress the weak, as tyrants oppress slaves, or the powerful one sacrifices himself for the weaker, as a father will give his life for his son. This clash of archetypes is at the heart of the Star Wars mythology.

The revelation of the Trinity teaches us that the father-son relationship is more powerful for it lies at the heart of reality. Thus the radiation of fatherhood in St John Pauls words touches all creation, even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Fr Raymond J de Souza is a priest of the Archdiocese of Kingston, Ontario, and editor-in-chief of Convivium.ca

This article first appeared in the August 4 2017 issue of the Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here

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Senryu pries open ‘The Jaws of Life’ to explore death on latest … – Maryville Daily Times

Posted: August 3, 2017 at 10:01 am

It took six years and approximating death for Wil Wright to make another full-length Senryu record.

The band, which celebrates the release of The Jaws of Life Saturday night at The Pilot Light, has been a part of the East Tennessee music scene for nearly 17 years more than half of Wrights life, ever since he started it in 2000 with percussionist Steven Rodgers, the only remaining original member of the bands lineup. In that period, Wright and Rodgers have grown up, fallen in and out and back in love, entered into marriage (Rodgers earlier this year, Wright later this month) and cobbled together a band thats been solid for nearly seven years now: brothers Andres (a multi-instrumentalist) and guitarist Dan McCormack, and bassist Zac Fallon.

I dont remember a time before Senryu, Wright told The Daily Times recently over brunch at Petes Coffee Shop in downtown Knoxville. I ring at rock n roll records. For me, its just about keeping my brain hungry, about feeding it to help make records I can stand behind and be proud of. And weve made so many Senryu records that doing it a song at a time doesnt really work. The only reason to keep making records is to explore concepts that are interesting to me.

Which brings us to death. Hes spent the past several years thinking about it, ruminations brought on by the natural rate of attrition to the circle of family and friends of a man whos racing toward the apex of life expectancys bell curve. At the outset, Wright said, he felt certain he had it figured out, which in the beginning dictated a different sort of concept. The album was going to be called Perfect Nothing, he added.

I thought I was going to make a real upbeat record about how nothing happens after you die, because thats so much more uplifting, he said. But then I started reading about pantheism and the science behind seeing the tunnel, and what I found was that writing a record about death and finding inspiration is tough. If youre here to talk about it, then you didnt die, so its difficult to do the research. So I started digging into preexisting theories, and I started to imagine a record about the last moments before you die, and the first moments after.

His research eventually led him to a sensory depravation experience in Asheville, N.C., where he was enclosed in a vault containing roughly 1,500 pounds of salt in, at most, 2 feet of water. Completely dark and soundproof, is was the closest to approaching death and the absence of the body as he could find.

Thats as close to nothing as you can get, because once you get settled in, your body vanishes, he said. Your eyes stop working, and everything physical goes. You stop feeling, you stop being aware of your breathing, your eyes stop working, your ears go. Its quiet for a minute, and then it gets really, really loud, because you just become your mind. Reducing it to the ghost in the machine, to the spark to me, thats what I believe death is.

And it left me completely baffled and more clueless than ever. What I figured out is that I dont know s—, but its so much better to admit you dont know and to just be alive.

And so the context of the record began to change. Its meditative and contemplative, which is most certainly the bands wheelhouse; with the McCormacks, Rodgers and Fallon, Wright is given a canvas on which to explore grand ideas through intricate, delicate instrumentation, and if lovely is an acceptable descriptor for Senryu, then it applies to Night of the Twisters, the albums lead-off track. But the band sheds whatever emo tendencies it may occasionally flirt with on songs like Heaven Can Wait, Dream of Nothing and the howling maelstrom that is Summer Death March, a too-painful-to-look-away tale of madness and breakdown. Wright has never flinched away from documenting his emotional turmoil through song, and while his other projects LiL iFFy and Skeleton Coast, to name a few have been personal ones, none have allowed him to document the journey of his own existence like Senryu.

This was a three-year album making process, and when the title changed, the record stopped being about the stopping and became more about the continuation, he said. The body is the wrecked car, and the end pulls whatevers left out and keeps it going. Over the course of this record, I experienced a personality death six or seven times; I was getting my perspective rocked about the death of self and rebirth, and the constant through it all was, Im making this record.

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Is Your Christian Worldview Cohesive? – Cape May County Herald

Posted: August 2, 2017 at 9:03 am

Two weeks ago, we introduced the concept of a worldview, our set of assumptions about the way that the world works, explaining that all worldviews answer the following questions:

What is the nature of the world around us?

Why can we know anything?

How do we determine right and wrong?

What is the meaning of human history?

Last week, I analyzed the Naturalist worldview, explaining that how you answer question number one will determine how you answer question number two and so on and so forth.

I encouraged our readers to have a cohesive worldview because what we believe shapes how we live.

This week, I want to answer the above questions from a Christian perspective.

Christianity defines the essence of reality as coming from God. God always has been and always will be.

He is infinite and transcendent, completely separate and uniquely different from everything else (this is what the word holy actually means), yet at the same time, he is personal.

In the Bible, God is pictured as intimately breathing life into humanity. He is all knowing, all powerful, all present (which is different from being in all things as Pantheism embraces) and is in control of all things (sovereign).

Ultimately, He is good. Every time God creates in the first chapter of the Bible, he proclaims that his creation is good. Only a good God could make good things.

The nature of the world around us is one of a created order. God is outside of our box and has spoken, without ingredients, our existence into reality. He created everything from nothing. Additionally, He is orderly. In Genesis 1, He creates canisters and then fills canisters.

He creates the sky before filling it with birds. He creates plants before creating animals so that they have something to eat.

This underscores that he is wise, orderly, powerful, generous and good. Since God created, He is outside of our sandbox yet involved within it.

This means that the supernatural is possible. At any time he can put his finger in the sand and swirl things around.

Humans are created in Gods image. This means that we share in his characteristics which are able to be shared.

Since God is Creator, we can be creative, being called to create art, culture, language and so much more. We are personal, just like our God is personal and intimate.

We share in some transcendence, being separate from other types of the created world. We can learn, we can know right from wrong, we desire community and so much more. These attributes exist in us because they exist in God.

According to the scriptures, underscoring the reality that by chapter three of the first book in the Bible mankind rejects God and willfully enters into rebellion against him, upon death we either eternally enter into perfect relationship with him or are eternally separated from him.

This is a byproduct of our relational status with God, which is only established by faith in the God provided rescuer, Jesus Christ.

We can know anything at all because we are made in the image of an all-knowing God.

Because of Gods goodness and character made manifest through his creation, we can learn through empirical research, discover new concepts, invent new machines, and so on and so forth. Still, we cannot discover all things.

There are secret things, which belong to God, and we can only know in part (Deuteronomy 29:29).

As such, God reveals to us what he wants us to know. Since he is outside of our sandbox, he has to reveal certain things to us, and there are still some things that we will never know.

Ultimately, God has given us a glimpse past our own deductive abilities through his special revealed knowledge, revelation, which is found in Jesus Christ and in the Bible.

As created beings, we are subject to a created order and absolute standards of morality and ethics.

Gods good character is the standard of ethics, not our emotions or what we believe is good for society.

God knows best, yet we routinely reject his revealed path and his revealed ethical standards in exchange for our own ideas and design. This is what led to mankinds rejection and rebellion in Genesis 3, where the first humans did not want to go to God for the definition of good and evil but wanted to craft it for themselves.

All of that said, history is not accidental nor is it aimless. It is a linear, sequential, unfolding story of God. and it is leading towards a specific aim and purpose.

History is meaningful because it is Gods story, ultimately pointing to Jesus Christ, the one who came to rescue humanity from itself, and to the redemption of Gods people.

Do you have a question about life, family, or faith for Pastor Bill? Email RevolveNJ@gmail.com with the subject Ask Pastor Bill and your question.

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Is Your Christian Worldview Cohesive? – Cape May County Herald

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‘Heretics!’ Illustrates the Contentiousness Surrounding Philosophy – PopMatters

Posted: August 1, 2017 at 5:59 pm

(Princeton University Press) US: Jun 2017

The period of European modern philosophy covered in this clever and informative new book was unusually fertile. From roughly 1600 to 1700, significant philosophical positions were articulated by the likes of Rene Descartes, Bento (Baruch) Spinoza, Gottfried Liebniz, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, and many others. Barring the birth of philosophy in ancient Greece, this might be the most intellectually fruitful era in all of philosophy.

In this telling of the story of modern philosophy, esteemed historian of philosophy Steven Nadler, who has previously authored or edited academic books on Spinoza, Leibniz, Descartes, Nicolas Malebranche, Antoine Arnauld, and Jewish modern philosophy, teams with his son, illustrator Ben Nadler, to turn these complex theories into a visual journey through the history of ideas. The focus here tends to be on the scientific (Bacon, Newton, Galileo) and the epistemological/ metaphysical (Leibnizs monads, Spinozas pantheism, Cartesian knowledge and mind-body dualism) although some of the most significant developments in ethics and political philosophy (including Hobbess theory of government, Spinozas views on democracy, and Lockes influential views on property) get some coverage as well.

This story of modern ideas unfolds in the style of a comic book, with chapters (usually centered around a thinker and his critics) divided into panels on each page. The panels are generally limited to six or fewer per page, with each panel featuring expository passages and/or dialogue between these characters from the period.

Ben Nadlers art is colorful and expressive, and he has taken some pains to make these figures look like their classic depictions from historical art. Leibniz, for example, is drawn with impressively poodle-like hair and a prominent nose, much like the Christoph Bernhard Francke portrait from the early 1700s. However, Nadlers art softens their stern features and makes them more approachable and fun. By adding in plenty of humorous moments to their livesfrom Descartes , a thinking thing by definition, with a giant brain (26) to a Cartesian mind-body picnic (39) echoing the Bart Sells His Soul episode of The Simpsonsthe reader gets to laugh at some of these clever intuition pumps and thought experiments.

The anachronistic Disco Malebranche (109), for example, offers an explanation for the notoriously counter-intuitive theory of occasionalism, the view that God is the only cause and that all other apparently self-directed things (like a leisure-suit bedecked Malebranche in a disco) are moved only by the occasional decision of God to move them. Im not sure how many professors have ever used disco dancing to explain occasionalism, but it is a clever and resourceful way to present an idea that students usually respond to with blank stares and open mouths.

The combination of comic art and complex ideas is particularly helpful with some of the more arcane and confusing theories presented here. Take, for example, Leibnizs metaphysical monadology, always a head-scratcher for intro students (95-99). In the care of Nadler and Nadler, the puzzle of corporal substances and Leibnizs solution, windowless monads, is presented in a clear, visual manner that includes a cat, a volcano, a shark, and Leibniz himself. It sounds puzzling, but it makes sense, with brief and deft explanations paired with eye-catching illustrations. Spinozas solution to the mind-body problem, and the pantheism (or panentheism) that is entailed by it on pages 58-63 is another case where the illustrations serve to illuminate an often puzzling theoretical view, tying Spinozas view to Hamlets pondering of fate and free will. Its skillfully explained and depicted, and in five short pages, the view that led Spinoza to be branded a heretic is laid bare.

One of the more interesting questions this book leaves open is a meta-textual one: who or what is the intended audience? It crosses the borderlines between popular philosophy, general introduction, and academic text. It might, for example, serve as a useful introductory text (supplemented by some of the source works) for a course in modern philosophy, particularly for students with no background in philosophy at all. Its an excellent text for a non-academic audience, although the ideas and concepts discussed probably require at least a little knowledge of religious and political history. It might, with some scaffolding, be useful for younger readers who are trying to wrap their minds around the development of philosophical views in general.

The narrative arc of this story of modern philosophy is bound up in Spinozas abominable heresies and monstrous deeds (as the Herem against him claimed) and the so-called heresies of many of these modern philosophers, who shared both intellectual endeavors and a willingness to challenge the status quo. Conflicts and challenges between these figures, including bad blood between philosophers, schisms between iterations of faith, and political upheavals, dot the terrain of modern philosophy. Almost all of these figures had at least one view that was considered a heresy in the eyes of some other key figure or institution, and this willingness to put forth challenges to the prevailing views is part of the identity of philosophy in the modern era.

Given the heretical arc, it is very fitting that the book ends with an epilogue focused on Voltaires Candide. Voltaires brilliant satire took the intellectual gymnastics of modern philosophy, particularly that of Gottfried Leibnizs famous Best of All Possible Worlds theodicy, to the woodshed and gave them a beat-down. This is not to say that Nadler is trying to jump into the frayhis portrayal of these philosophical views is tempered and charitable, but also critical and questioning. Voltaire took philosophers to task, but Nadler gives them their due.

They might be heretics, but we owe them (and ourselves) the intellectual honesty to take their ideas seriously before moving on to those ideas that are less threatening and more comfortable. Its a lesson sorely lacking in our current intellectual culture, and this lovely introduction helps to present it in a historically relevant way.

Rating:

Eric Rovie teaches high school AP English in suburban Atlanta. He has also contributed to The A.V. Club and to several Chunklet publications. In his previous iteration, he was an academic philosopher and he might have edited a book and published a few articles. Originally from the Twin Cities, he worships at the altars of The Replacements, Hsker D, and The Hold Steady, as any good son of the Cities should. He re-reads The Catcher in the Rye at least once a year, but he has never tried to assassinate anyone.

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‘Heretics!’ Illustrates the Contentiousness Surrounding Philosophy – PopMatters

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