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?   

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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. 

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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.

Evangelical Right

Well, that's both Bush's backing, and the fervour of his convictions.
Although whenever he speaks he seems to have that bewildered look on his face - like he's waiting for the voices to start again in his head so he can continue. He SEEMS to get impassioned, but it doesn't look real, just well rehearsed. Not a big deal, if he was an intelligent and reliable leader I'd cut him some slack on it.
Anyways, it looks like Bush didn't worry about winning part of the middle, but focused on winning ALL of the Evangelical Right - and did so. It's a very well organized, cohesive, rich, focused group - a massive machine that saw an opportunity and mobilized. So he owes his re-election to them - and the next 4 years will be pay-back time. His brief speech talked about family and faith values, and moving forward with confidence and faith. Every second sentence seemed to mention faith.
I'm an atheist myself, or more likely an agnostic, I don't feel any need for religion or god(s) in my life. Don't need it to explain how we got here, or what we're doing here. Or to tell me what is right and wrong, if I'm doing good in my life or not. Or to pass the hat for money or bang on my door shaking a bible in the air. I have developed my own set of values, they seem to work well for me, I am quite happy with my life and a positive influence (I hope) on those around me. I help others because I want to - not as an indulgence to get me out of purgatory faster. I raised my kids to be open minded about it, and helped them to also develop a good set of values - to make their own choices. They did go to various churches as they were learning - neither attend now. They may later - as long as it helps them, but is not a crutch, I wouldn't mind.
Religion seems to be spreading in the US, and it's an effective partner. It's an easy way to rally people, you can do things based on faith rather than facts, and if things are tough - well, there's always the hope of a happier afterlife.
Bush has promised to reunite a divided America. He said that 4 years ago, and for whatever reasons, it's divided even more - this was a vicious and polarizing campaign. But he only has two years to do so now.
This is because as we saw the campaign leading up to an election takes two years - when the party is focusing on defining themselves in a strong position, racking up all the brownie points they can, and dissing their opponent at every turn. Plus, he's not running again, so doesn't care as much to build those bridges, leaving the rest of the Republican party busy promoting the next wide eyed zealot.
As for the Democrats - might be Kerry, I doubt it. And they seem to have less of a definite platform, other than being anti whatever Bush was doing. So they make take more than 4 years to become a serious challenger.

Maybe there's hope - Nixon showed if you really screw up you're out. But the only way Bush could do that is for the American economy to go down the tubes, massive terrorist attacks within, and anarchy in the Middle East. Hmmm - maybe that's not as much hope as I thought.