"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Why Religions Really Do Matter

There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.
George Bernard Shaw

view from the Saffron Monastery
in East Turkey south towards Syria
Someone had written "They Don't" under the title on the front cover of the book.
I looked at it with a touch of sadness. I wondered if the person who had written that had actually read any of the book to find out why religions do indeed work? Because the "work" in the title, Why Religions Work has three different meanings: first to reflect all the amazing good work that religions do in the world,  thereby cancelling out many times over the negative aspects of religions (because of course anyone can find the negative in any thing that they themselves have no time for.)
The fact is that religions are social capital writ large. 
Secondly, religions do all of this because it is within their teachings to do so; to care for creation and each other, for example.
Thirdly, and somewhat subtly,
they "work" in the sense that they satisfy a spiritual need that is inherent in the human condition and in the sense that science is perhaps beginning to show us some of the reasons for some of our religious beliefs.
If there were no religions established to worship a "Being" mightier than ourselves then we would have to invent one. And there is exciting science emerging that helps us to understand some of the beliefs the religious among us hold dear: discoveries about the nature of consciousness, the way the brain works, and the existence of empathy neurons, for example; together with mystical experiences and evidence from near death and out of body experiences of another existence beyond this one, even evidence for a "soul." These give us ideas as to why religions "work" in that sense.

St Albans Cathedral UK
In this book Why Religions Work: God's Place in the World Today, I wanted to approach the God and religion argument from this new and challenging angle. I wanted to address the lack of respect for religions, particularly in the Western world. I wanted this to be a serious yet accessible contribution to understanding why we all need to support religion as well as spirituality. I wanted to explore the global spiritual awareness we are now beginning to see, that comes with an appreciation of spiritual human inter-connectivity and shared responsibilities. Are ideas of spirituality and advances in the scientific understanding of empathy and consciousness closing the gap between science and religion, between spirituality and religion? Could these same ideas help us find better inter-religious and interdenominational understanding? Perhaps so. 
Such questions matter for the future of our world 
and I try to answer them in the book.

So I could have called the book Why Religions Matter. But that would not have conveyed fully what the reader will find within its covers. Religions WORK. And there are very many reasons why they do!

So I hope that person comes back and reads the book. But I fear he won't!

From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truths,
O God of truth, deliver us.

sunset over the canary islands

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Wounded Healer: Healing This Wounded Earth

People so often ask me what inspired me to write my book Healing This Wounded Earth, so here goes - adapted from the Preface:

Aktamar Island Lake Van Eastern Turkey 
"The idea came to me while on holiday in Turkey in 2004. I was in the middle of a long process of healing following a devastating mental breakdown and burnout that for a while had turned my life upside down. I was receiving excellent professional help for mind, body, soul and spirit, and to supplement this healing I had turned to the contemplative books by the Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, including his short bestselling gem, The Wounded Healer.

These books became such a valuable and reliable source of comfort and support in my pain. So I was lying by the swimming pool at that Turkish villa reading Michael Ford’s The Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J.M.Nouwen. As I thought more about what I was reading it seemed to me that the compassion and vulnerability of the Wounded Healer could have a significance for healing our dangerously fractured world far beyond the realms of the pastoral and medical professions, where it is primarily researched and understood as a means of healing and where most of the literature is to be found. And I had one of those Eureka moments!
Where else, I was thinking, can we find the Wounded Healer in our lives? 
How, I thought, could we hope to heal this world when so many of us have our own unhealed spiritual and mental wounds, and so much of our destructive behavior is because of those wounds; when for so many of us it is not regarded as appropriate in our working lives to show too much compassion, let alone vulnerability.

I really never gave a thought to just how big this project was going to be as I started on my research and this took me deeper and wider into so very many other fields. It was all so fascinating. Meanwhile the wounds of the world become ever more serious and the healing needs more urgent. It took me five years of research, and numerous abandoned drafts along the way, before the final carefully crafted version went to the publishers.

In this book I address all those who over the years have bemoaned the state of the world and asked ‘But what can I do?’

Any bias towards Anglican Christianity is simply a reflection of my own faith but the book is written for all those who are ‘of good faith,’ those of any faith or none who have the honesty of intention to work alone or together to help heal the world. 

This week in the UK is Interfaith Week, and never have spirituality and faith and the ancient wisdoms of all the great religions been more relevant than in today’s fractured world (I tackle this subject in more detail in Why Religions Work).

We need to appreciate these in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding. More than that, I believe there is an urgent need to integrate ancient spiritual wisdom and philosophy with modern scientific endeavors and rediscover the spiritual in all our material experiences. This is our responsibility and we have no choice if we are to halt the destruction all around us. This is a matter of faith for many and an obligation for all humankind.

I hope you enjoy the book!

Beautiful Turkey - view across Lake Van from Aktamar Island 

By the way, I am now working on my latest book, on A Spiritual Journey through Depression, and on the experiences of our pilgrimage through Eastern Turkey this year, the subject of my current blog over at Why Religion: The Wisdom of  Tolerance.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Litter, trash,garbage, rubbish, refuse, junk: Revisited

The city of Bangkok is amazing - vibrant, colorful, noisy, chaotic, and wonderful in many ways. All the street food vendors, the Buddhist shrines everywhere, the flood water when the monsoon rains fall, the traffic, the taxis which always seem to take you to the wrong place, the tuk-tuks, and the street food! There is fast food everywhere, cooked at the pavement, eaten at rickety tables sitting on sometimes tiny chairs. People seem to be living on top of one another. The population density per Wikipedia is said to be 5300 per km2, pretty much the same as London. (OK I know that we can debate which area of a city is used for these calculations, but for the sake of argument let's take these figures to be pretty roughly comparable.) Why then is Bangkok so clean? And London so dirty?
I am talking mainly about litter. Of course in Bangkok the street food avoids the plastic wrapping that is so much a part of fast food London and its suburbs. But surely there is something more to this? Is it the pride that people take in their home town? Of course you see plenty of rubbish in the streets of Bangkok, but it is largely the piles awaiting collection by the public services or whoever takes this away for them.

Albany in Western Australia is so clean. Litter really is a minor problem. And the whole place is clean. The pavements are clean. The bus stops are clean. The parks are clean. And people get annoyed with other people who leave cigarette butts at beauty spots -they leave notices - and butt-bins - and clean up after them!

a besmirched mosaic in the Oxted subway - disgusting!
Oxted in Surrey UK is filthy. And it has a real litter problem as well. Population? Albany has 281 per km2, not that far different from Oxted with c. 330 per km2. So how can Albany be so clean, Oxted so dirty? Is it simply that Albany cares?

Come on UK. Let's start having a little more pride in how we look.

And this is chewing gum all over the pavements in Oxted.  Disgusting? Yes!!

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


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