Moral choices

I posted this in The Facebook, and got one response - from my sister. Maybe nobody else saw it, maybe nobody wanted to comment, maybe it upset some. I'll tweak and repost. 

There was this article, from the CBC -  Survivors, faith leaders call on Catholic Church to take responsibility for residential schools.

"The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. said last Thursday that preliminary findings from a survey of the grounds at the former residential school in Kamloops revealed the remains of 215 children — some as young as three years old."

These were schools for young native children, taken from their families. The schools were run by various church groups, mainly Roman Catholic,  from 1831 to 1996. The intent was to assimilate them into Canadian (non-native) society, by force if necessary. Abuse was common and has been well documented. 

"The Roman Catholic Church was responsible for operating up to 70 percent of residential schools, according to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS). United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches were among those operating the remainder. In the years since, the Roman Catholic Church is the only one that hasn't made a formal apology."

Continue reading "Moral choices" »


Santa and Jesus

First a warning - I am an atheist so this might clash with some of your views.

Religion is a human construct and a vital part of a society. And as long as its impacts are positive, as long as it causes no harm, I'm certainly fine with it. For many, it provides a common cultural identity, helps define and enforce their values and ethics, and provides an explanation and purpose both to life, and death. There can be a god, or many, some immortal, some all-knowing, some good, some evil, watchers or meddlers, human-like or not. It is an institution based on belief, and can be accepted by its followers without the necessity of logical factual proof of any of its tenents. With the added benefit of then being able to appeal to their imagination by adding elements beyond the realm of science.

Speaking 0f mythology, the concept of Santa promotes the values of kindness, of gift-giving, of celebration of family and friends, of consequences when rules are followed (or not). Because he is always watching. Or those elves. Flying in a sleigh, squeezing down a chimney, all can be accepted on the basis of just believing. 

So what do we say when our children ask about Santa? Do we say he is just a belief, with a positive impact on our lives, and leave it at that? What do we say when they ask about Jesus, or other gods? 


Aliens - are they Catholics or Rastafarians?

I tweeted a fair bit yesterday (again), and added text to some of the items when they auto-forwarded to FaceBook. Some piqued my interest enough for a post in here, such as ...

The Globe and Mail (and many others) reprinted an Associated Press article about a conference the Vatican hosted recently, to study the possibility of alien life in the universe and the implications for the Catholic Church. The Vatican Observatory's chief astronomer, Father Funes, ventured that there may be other alien races out there, also created by God, but perhaps following a different religious path. In a statement last May, quoted by the Catholic News Service, he said "God became man in Jesus in order to save us. So if there are also other intelligent beings, it's not a given that they need redemption. They might have remained in full friendship with their creator." In other words, just because we blew it, that doesn't mean other alien races did too. Encouraging. He does seem to assume we would all share the same creator, there's no mention if the various galaxies in the universe were divided up between various deities or maybe contracted out, or whether the concept of multiple universes includes multiple God's.

It is interesting that the Vatican is willing to explore this topic, as there could be many twisted paths of logic/faith to go down. Were these other intelligent races, and their religions, all created at the same instant in time? What about the whole "man in his own image" thing, was that just for us? Some aliens may look like they really need to be instead part of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, made in the image of a differnt god. Would we want to eventually send missionaries to these distant planets to convert their heathens to the one true faith - as in whichever faith gets there first? Maybe a distant planet will beat us to it, appearing in our midst with one hand raised in benediction, the other holding a collection plate. Maybe they already have been here, touring various galaxies, stopping off on a small back-water planet and inadvertently inspiring our religions before wandering off again. If so, we're lucky they were benevolent, humankind has justified many activities in the name of religion - some nice, some very nasty. These celestial visitors may not just ring our doorbell with copies of the Watchtower in hand and smiling kids in tow - what if we meet a race on their own crusade, hell heaven bent on saving the universe and in search of perfection through Borg assimilation of our uniqueness?   

Continue reading "Aliens - are they Catholics or Rastafarians? " »


Leap-of-faith healing

Interesting story in the Globe and Mail. The sub-headline is "One-third of U.S adults have experienced or witnessed a divine cure of an illness or injury, study shows". The study was a U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which polled more than 35,000 U.S. adults.

Mormons were especially likely to say this (69%) as were half of those from evangelical churches and 54% of those from historically black churches. In addition, the numbers showed that 71% of Americans are "absolutely certain" of God's existence.

The article surmised that us Canadians would be less likely to believe in divine cures, partially due to less church attendance compared to our southern neighbours- 20% vs their 39%. Healing is part of our native tradition, but my impression of the approach is of being more earth centered, shared as part of a group working together - not the whimsical intervention of a superior being.

Those numbers are a little scary,especially with the state and church so closely intertwined in America. But maybe that's a way to reduce the health care crisis there -just encourage the spread of this belief in divine healing. 

Continue reading "Leap-of-faith healing" »


The Meaning of Christmas

As opposed to the Meaning of Life - which we all know is 42.

(For all my non-Christmas oriented readers - please substitute your own significant event marked by crass commercialism, guilt, and over-indulgence)

I was trying to remember all those Christmas at the Walton's moments a good family is supposed to have, and drew a blank. I wondered if it was because I was senile or just didn't have a lot to remember. I called my sister to check, she doesn't remember us having a lot of traditions all together as a big happy family either. Which of course resolves the issue - either we are both senile or there's just not a lot there.
I suspect the latter, which is sad in a way, but I've managed to grow up slightly strange perfectly normal in spite of it, ignore the voices in my head, and build my own traditions. Even after I first separated and the kids were at their mom's over Christmas for the first few times- we just had it a week early at my place too. Then I went to my sister's and had a great time. Another year, alone at Christmas, I bought my own stocking stuffers, woke up "surprised" and was just fine.

I guess my point is rather simplistic. The meaning of Christmas is whatever we want to make it - there's no "correct" answer. And if you don't have a lot of traditions already - start some. They're the glue that binds together the generations in a family, whether it's singing carols together, pulling silly wind-up toys out of the stocking, or deciding who gets the Pope's nose.