Thursday, May 29, 2008

The nature of God

A meme snagged from The Velveteen Rabbi:

1. if the nature of god is omnipotent, benevolent, and anthropomorphic (that god is a person, who sees suffering as wrong, and can change all of it), why does god not act to relieve all suffering, or at least the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest amount of people the greatest amount of time?
2. if you were god, and you were omnipotent and benevolent, how would you respond to suffering?
3. if this is not the nature of god, what is the nature of god, that allows suffering in the world?
4. if these are the wrong questions to ask, what are the right ones?

1. My personal view of divinity does not admit omnipotence, however I believe the Gods have so much power over us and so much knowledge, that it is practically omnipotence. I also do not necessarily agree that divinity is benevolent. My experience with the Gods shows them to be largely benevolent, but sometimes they do things that I do not understand, and that seem less than benevolent. Regardless, my answer is the same.

I prefer to see the Gods as parent figures. While this is not exactly true, it is close enough to use as a decent metaphor. A good parent never removes all danger and suffering from her child's life, because to do so would be to remove all chance of growth and success on the part of the child. The Gods give us opportunities to learn, to grow, to help one another, and to become better people (and better humans, as a whole!). If all the "negatives" were taken away, magically, how would we learn about our true natures? We would stagnate, and that certainly doesn't seem the point of humanity. There is a saying that "God never gives you more than you can handle," which appears to be very true.

We need to grow as a race. We can see that growth (and some steps back) if we look back on our history, and what we know of pre-history. Humans have grown and expanded both knowledge and love, and it is my belief that this is the reason that God doesn't stick fingers into every pie that isn't baking quite right.

2. If I were god, and were omnipotent and benevolent, I would react much in the same way that I react when one of the two year old twins falls and hurts herself, or discovers that actions lead to reactions. I would do my best to comfort, but not mask the results of what my "children" had done. I would send messages, warnings at times, or pointers, to show them where they were going wrong, or even where they were about to go wrong. But anything that didn't kill them as a race... I would have to keep myself separate from. As a god, I would have to look at the larger picture of humanity as my creation, as opposed to a single entity or person or child. You can't save them all, because if you did, you'd destroy their free will and their chance to become better.

3. The nature of divinity is that of a loving parent, in my opinion. I see divinity as having created us as a way of exploring It's self. If God were everywhere to begin with, God could not perceive itself, because to perceive, one must be *outside*, and there WAS no outside. So God created human beings, in order to explore God's potential and expanse. Not only does God (imo) have no interest in ruining the exploration God is doing, I believe in the parent analogy. We are more than just rats in a maze - the Gods care for us, intimately. Sometimes, they connect with one person or another, and have a special relationship with that person. Often, it comes as a result of the ability of that person to open up to God in some form or another. It is a give-and-take situation.

4. I think the "right" question to ask, is what WE can do to end suffering. If suffering is around us, and we see it, what are we doing with it? If we don't fix it, how can we have the gall to expect God to do so? That is akin to the toddler who demands a parent to produce a dead grandparent or a far-off aunt, NOW. We must learn to do for ourselves, in order to connect better with God. God meets us half way, but we must do our share of the work.

The Golden Rule

In cleaning out Gray's various papers and files, I found an article called "The Golden Rule." It contains "maxims" of a different sort than I was writing before.

All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them;p for this is the law and the prophets. -- Christian (Matthew 7:12)

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. -- Buddhist (Udana-Varga 5:18)

Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. -- Taoist (T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien)

What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. -- Jewish (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. -- Brahman (Mahabharata 5:1517)

Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have done unto you. -- Confucian (Analects 15:23)

That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself. -- Zoroastrian (Dadistan -i-dinik 94:5)

No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. -- Islamic (Sunnah)

Such beautiful words, and from so many religions. I can add the Wiccan "Three Fold Law" to that, that what you put out comes back to you. The Hellenic religion doesn't have a statement like this, per se, but the entire religion revolves around the basic idea. It is a part of arete'.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More on the FLDS from American Thinker

Cycle of Abuse: The FLDS Raid

by Eileen McDevitt and Larrey Anderson

"The raid on the West Texas compound of the renegade Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) had a precursor.[i] The McMartin daycare abuse tragedy blazed a trail.

"In 1983, Judy Johnson, an alcoholic paranoid schizophrenic, told police that a daycare provider's adult son had molested her two-year-old son. Among other things, she claimed that her infant son had been sodomized, had been forced to drink the blood of a murdered baby, and had been raped in a health club by an AWOL marine and three models."

This article is very good. It says a lot of what I've been trying to say, and it does so very succinctly. There are a number of pieces of information in it that really struck home with me. I don't want to repeat what the article said - it said it better than I have been able to.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pastoral Counselling Assignment

My blog-friend, The Velveteen Rabbi, is in pastoral school to become a full Rabbi. She posted up one of her assignments today, which I found very inspiring. Her response was very inspiring, and made me think. Her view is the Jewish one, from the perspective of a Jewish leader at a Hebrew school. Being pagan in general, and Hellenic in particular, I think differently from her, but our goals are very similar. This is my take on her assignment.

The assignment:

Imagine a dirty bomb set by terrorists has gone off in the closest major city to where you live and work, but not in your city of residence/work. Religious school happens to be starting in a week’s time – how will you change the opening week’s programming/classes to integrate this incident in a healthy way? Please write up a memo to parents and faculty describing procedures and program plans, recommendations for how to handle the situation with students/children, etc.

My answer:

Dear Parents and Faculty:

The terrorist attack on Baltimore city last week has frightened and shaken all of us. There are many rumors going around about the bomb and what it means for those of us living in Harford County, only a few scant miles north of Baltimore. It is the opinion of this school that we need to address those fears directly, and aim to help parents, students, and faculty alike in dealing with the issues brought up by this attack.

This week, all of our instructors and administration staff will be attending an educational conference explaining the result of this dirty bomb's explosion. It is our intention to make certain that all faculty are as knowledgeable as possible, so that they are able to answer the questions and concerns of both parents and students.

On the first day of school, we will address some of these concerns. Rather than assembling in our usual classrooms, we will meet in the gymnasium for a group welcome to this school year. Parents are welcome to attend, and we encourage you to come with your child that first day. We will talk about health concerns, and discuss any special needs brought about by the attack on Baltimore. We plan to have an expert from the National Radiation Commission join us to answer questions.

The following day, classes will start. The usual subjects will be covered, and we will attempt to present the students with a semblance of normality. Counselors will be available to help any students who need it, and parents are also welcome to contact them.

While our religious beliefs vary greatly, we are a strong community of like-minded people. I want each of you to feel comfortable coming to myself or to counselors or teachers for advice, or even a shoulder to cry on. Some of you have suffered great loss and we will do our best to keep that in mind as we begin this year's journey of learning. Let us keep in mind that death is but another point on the circle of life.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

In honor of my ancestors, and those I love, and also for those who have given their lives so that I can remain a free and growing person, I dedicate this poem.

The Unsung Dead

Thousands lie in fields the world around;
Some have names in stone, and honors there.
These are not to whom we sing this prayer.
It is for those who have no family found.

In unmarked graves, no flowers at their head,
They lay in ordered rows to left and right,
Or scattered randomly at end of fight.
For them, we sing, the hallowed unsung dead.

He might have been a grunt, or a marine.
Does it matter? No, it never does.
Dead is dead; we cannot change what was.
Past marches into present, still unclean.

War, we ask, what is it ever good for?
But "nothing" is not true. Soldiers are chained.
Freedom is not free; it must be gained
Through hard work earned, and earn'st vows swore.

The unsung dead, they gave for us their lives.
The least that we can do is spend a day
Taking time to honor mem'ries gray
Of men who in our song now do survive.

(c) Allyson Szabo, May 26th, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

From my other journal

Original entry date: February 26th, 2008 / 9:40pm

O my God and God of my ancestors, save us today and every day from anger, our own and that of others; from bad people, from wickedness in our friends, our companions, our neighbors; from the internal adversary within each of us; and from harsh judgments, our own and those of others, whether they are part of our community or outside our community. -- attributed to Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi

I was reading through some stuff this evening, and this popped out at me. It's apparently from the Talmud, which is a Jewish holy book. They're not certain if Rabbi Yehudah wrote it, but they're "mostly sure." It's an incredible piece of information.

Save us from anger, ours and others. Damn. Yes, save me from my anger, that bubbles up so fast and hard that sometimes, I can't seem to stem the tide. Save me from what occasionally, in anger, spews from my mouth before my brain can fully engage. Save me from the anger of others, in times when they, too, are struggling to keep mouths shut despite anger.

Save us from bad people, and from wickedness in friends, companions, and neighbors. Please, my Gods, save me from friends who turn bad, for whatever reason. Save me from burning bridges over minor things, too, and to accept apologies when they are offered to me. Save me from neighbors who peep in windows and play Mrs. Grundy too often, and who feel it's their right to get all the "dirt" on my unusual family.

Save us from the inner demons. Oy, I need help with that. It's so hard to exorcise the demons that were spawned and live within us because of family, because of people in places of authority over us. It's painful and agonizing, trying to get the demons out, trying to excise them from my life, so that I can be the good person I *want* to be.

Save us from harsh judgements, ones that we make and ones that others make, both in and out of our local area. I plead for this, too, knowing that I am prone to judging people from a very high standard, and prone to disappointment when they cannot live up to that high standard. Save me from those who would look at me and claim I am abused, even though no bruises adorn my body, and for the first time in my life, the bruises on my soul are healing. Save me from the bigots and the idiots, from the ignorant and from those who "know everything," for they would like to see my family destroyed. Save me from those who can't see the joy our family has.

In the name of all the Gods, everywhere, I pray for this. Save us all..

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Oh My Gods! comic strip

LOL... I just had to share this one!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thanks to the Gods

After 3 weeks of white-knuckle concern over whether sis's pregnancy was viable, we went in yesterday for the first ultrasound. The results are marvelous! Everything seems to be going very well, which is a huge relief. To the left, you can see the ultrasound pic. The little lima bean shaped thing is the new baby. We're 7 weeks 5 days along (as of today), per the doc.

I had done some long and serious prayer to my Gods, over this. While I would not have chosen to have a new baby in the house right now, the timing isn't bad, per se. And now that a life has been started, I'd be loathe to lose it. So I asked Hera, Rhea, Hestia, and Hecate to protect the child, keep it safe, and cradle it with love. I promised offerings if the child was healthy and viable, and last night, I paid on my debts. Gladly!

I offered wine, flowers, and incense. The incense, especially, is an "expensive" gift from me, because offering incense means I have to basically fumigate my room before Gray gets home. He's so allergic that I might even have to forfeit a night with him, because of it. Therefore, it seemed a fitting return on the important thing that was granted to us, so graciously.

It wasn't a long ritual, but it was definitely a heartfelt one. My room warmed up by about ten degrees in the 15 minutes or so that I spent on ritual. I didn't sing praises or recite epic poetry, but I did say grateful thank you's to all the Gods, and especially to the four Ladies I had specifically asked for help.

This morning, the offerings went out into the remains of our garden, which just got spread with grass seed. We promised to return that part of the lawn AS lawn when we moved out, and so I spread the grass seed good and thick, and have extra to leave behind if it doesn't come in even. It seems so strange, thinking of other people living here. I do hope the landlords find people like us, and not another band of rowdy Mexicans (the ones before us spend their evenings throwing glass beer bottles into the bank parkinglot!). We've put so much love and work into this house that seeing its walls bare of photographs and the bookcases all packed away is kind of sad.

But... with new arrivals there are always deaths, too. That is the way of life. The old clears out for the new. And this is the start of a new adventure! In a year and a half, we could be living on a homestead in New Hampshire, with mostly "pioneer" type gear to keep us going!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dreams and Oracles

I'm not prone to random spiritual dreams. Mine usually follow a pattern, having largely to do with what's going on in my life. This time is different...

I dreamed, two nights ago, that I was in some sort of underground room or stone room. It could have been a hewn cavern, or a building with stone walls and no windows, but I'm not sure of the details. It was lit up dimly (shadows in the corner) and was "warmly" colored, meaning it was yellow or orange or something along those lines. Again, I didn't pay attention to the details at the time. There were no candles or torches or other sources of light, that I could see.

As I became somewhat aware of my surroundings, a woman came out of the shadows opposite me. She was wearing a "Hollywood" style Egyptian outfit (see image): white pleated dress, gold tie at the waist, big neck gear with lots of blue and gold on it, bare feet but adorned with jewels, and a scarab on her head, a kind of crown or hair piece. Her skin was not dark, the way most people depict Egyptians, though. It was WHITE. Not white as in Caucasian, but white like the absence of color, perhaps like she was albino. However, her eyes were dark, that limpid brown that reminds one of cows or small children. Her hair was the jet black shiny type with lots of corn rows, and was about shoulder length. Other than some sort of jewels on her feet, she wore no other jewelry. Her face was very... unmoving.

Really, if she hadn't been walking toward me and making gestures, I would have thought I was seeing one of those marble statues done in exquisite detail. But she WAS moving. She was walking toward me slowly, gesturing with her hands in some sort of sign language that I didn't understand. She didn't speak, didn't open her mouth, and her face never showed any emotion. Her eyes were very emotive, but that could have just been my interpretation of what I was seeing.

So that's the whole dream. I don't remember anything else, other than that I was trying to understand her and was very frustrated that I couldn't. I did a meditation last night, briefly, in an attempt to get her to come back and speak in English or ASL, but nada.

Then a friend of mine who does oracle sessions contacted me with some private (and unsolicited) information. It was... interesting, to say the least. I am wondering if the dream and the oracle communication are connected. They could be, in a few ways, but I'm not understanding at this point. I am hoping to come up with some clearer information soon.

Perhaps I should ask someone to do a tarot reading for me...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I was silent...

I was reading an article this morning from the American Chronicle. A couple of things caught my eye. This poem is one that's been on my mind since the whole FLDS thing started.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

by Martin Niemöller

It is our responsibility to speak out about the abuses heaped on the FLDS. If we don't, we essentially give up our franchise, and cease to be a democratic republic. From the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

It is my opinion that our Founders made only one small error in that statement. They said that it is the "Right of the People" where they should have made it stronger by saying "the Responsibility of the People." They were working under the assumption that people were naturally going to be responsible, though, as that was the norm in their society. It never occurred to them that people would require reminders that they are responsible for their own government.

So much about the FLDS raid is wrong. Surely Warren Jeffs was involved in abuse, and either turned a blind eye to it or encouraged it, but that doesn't mean the entire community was involved. He was one man, even if he was the prophet, and he couldn't be everywhere at once. There seem to be many hundreds of people who have come forward to comment how things changed under Jeffs, and how they would not and DO not put up with abuse. Why should we punish the innocent?

Worse yet, why should we punish all those innocent children and many of the innocent adults, before they've been accused of a crime? If there's no crime of abuse, and no charges have been leveled yet, then all those children are being traumatized for the ego trip of the governing Texan bodies.