by Douglas Brode, TheNewsTribune.com, 02/08/10
"The "pro-environmentalist" theme is present. But what's wrong with that? Why do so many contemporary "conservatives" recoil in horror from principles of "conservation" when those two terms derive from the same word? This wasn't always the case: former President George H.W. Bush proudly stated, "I'm a conservationist. Always have been. Always will be." Another Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, initiated our environmental policies.----------------------------------------
So! If Disney's "Pocahontas" (1995) were released today, would it likewise come under scrutiny for projecting the same supposedly "liberal" themes?
Speaking of Disney, in its Florida resort area sits a 500-acre site called Animal Kingdom, a theme park dedicated to "nature and conservation." On its opening day, sign-wielding demonstrators from the left massed to complain that animals were exploited there. Yet this modern zoo and rehabilitation center for harmed beasts has no bars. Should those protesters now be replaced by rightists, angry about efforts made there to protect the natural world?
The epicenter of Animal Kingdom is The Tree of Life, 14 stories high, 50 feet wide. Visitors resemble the indigenous blue creatures in "Avatar" who gather around their own, similar tree. This brings up the most heated attack on "Avatar" - i.e., that Cameron's film is "anti-religious." Is there any truth to that? Actually, answering "yes" or "no" depends on how an individual defines the term "anti-religious."
Positive symbolic use of the tree does run directly against the grain of the JudeoChristian Bible. Those anonymous figures who set down the moral fables of Genesis set out to reverse the meanings of pagan icons, which celebrated nature in general, the tree in particular. With roots burrowing down into the earth and leaves that reach toward Heaven above, the tree was worshipped as a natural bridge between here and there."
Local religions answer the question: Who is God?
by Lisa Larson, St. George Daily Spectrum, Feb 6, 2010
"It's a word uttered by many - religious and non. At times it is shouted in anger and other times whispered in prayer. It represents a person to some and an idea to others so the answer to the question: "Who is God?" is as varied as the people who respond.----------------------------------------
"I don't know that I would answer it," said Melanie Cottam, a neo-pagan of Cedar City. "Being pagan there is no set person to worship or celebrate."
That said, Cottam does have a concept of deity, but the god - or goddess in her case - depends on the needs of the person seeking help, the season of the year, or the phase of the person's life.
There are hundreds of gods and goddesses, said Cottam, adding that she thinks of these beings more in a spiritual realm. "I can call upon them to give me strength for what I'm needing, similar to how Christians will pray."
"I pray but I just don't pray to the same person every day," she said.
For Warren Wright, lay leader with Unitarian Universalists in St. George, this is something that remains a great mystery of life.
"For me, it's an unknown. It's not knowable," Wright said. "I've always felt it would certainly be nice to know what relationship we may have with our creator. But whether God, or the creator of us all, has any interest in us as individuals, I don't know. I think that's questionable."
Wright describes himself as an agnostic, though people who gather with the Unitarian Universalists come from a variety of theological backgrounds. When it comes to the idea of God, Wright said the agnostic approach seems to be the most honest.
"You just don't know," he said. "When you think about the concepts of god around the world, to limit it to one approach seems very difficult to swallow."
If a person chooses to believe in one of these concepts, Wright said it is important to have a balance of masculine and feminine attributes in the expression of God.
"A lot of people, not just Unitarians, would argue against the emphasis on the masculine part of God," he said.
Cottam said she prefers to focus on a feminine deity because she grew up in a patriarchal house.
"I'm kind of done with that. I need more of a matriarchal house," she said.
Cottam said her knowledge of the pagan gods came after a lot of study as well.
"I think the most important thing for people to know is they have the freedom to choose what makes them happy. When it comes to religion, they need to follow their heart," Cottam said. "As long as they're not hurting anyone and doing what makes them happy in life, they're going to find that peace in their life.""
Saluting Darwin, Biodiversity
by Warren D. Allmon, The Ithaca Journal, February 8, 2010
"The diversity of life is truly staggering: approximately 1.7 million species have been described so far, and estimates of the total range from 10 to 100 million. Everyone should know three things about this mind-boggling panoply:----------------------------------------
* It really matters. For example, biodiversity mirrors and enhances the overall health of ecosystems, and therefore ultimately of human communities, and all those species provide abundant ecological "services" such as pest and flood control. They are also treasure troves of genes and chemicals that we can use for medicine, agriculture and other important purposes.
* We are losing species at a rapid and quickening pace, due to human activity. Between one quarter and one half of all species on Earth will likely be gone within the next two centuries, amounting to a mass extinction of a size not seen since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
* Finally - and back to Darwin - all of these species are the unique and irreplaceable products of millions of years of evolution. Because they were evolved, and not created, once they are gone they are gone forever. They may eventually be "replaced" by evolution, but this will take hundreds of thousands to millions of years, and we will be long gone by then. Evolution, in other words, should encourage us to value and protect the biodiversity with which we share the planet, because it is all we're going to have."
Will you be my Valentine?
Thaindian.com - Shobha Shukla February 9th, 2010
"In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and to Juno, the goddess of marriage, as well as to Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.----------------------------------------
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or luperca. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat’s hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with them. Roman women welcomed this, as it was believed that the strips would make them more fertile. Later in the day, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. This custom lasted until the 1700s when people decided their beloveds should be chosen by sight, and not by luck.
Today Valentine’s Day is a popular observance around the world and has been increasing in popularity in India too, in recent years. Despite complaints from fanatic religious groups that it is a western phenomenon, destroying Indian culture, Valentine’s Day has now become a widely recognized and celebrated day with the Indian youth.
Similar is the situation in some other countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan , where the hardliners forbid any romantic relationship, dubbing it un-Islamic, unless the couple is married. Nevertheless, the occasional heart-shaped gift, stuffed animals with love messages and flowers sneak their way in the shops, and the Day is becoming increasingly popular among young people.
We must remember that Valentine’s Day is not a day of debauchery, as made out by religious fanatics. It is a day that celebrates love and romance, and the only ritual performed is when a guy sends flowers or candy to his sweetheart. We should not let it become a consumer driven holiday, which fills the coffers of the rich. Let it remain a celebration of love and hope, as it was meant to be.
In a world full of hate and discord, let the true meaning of Valentine’s Day be embraced by all cultures. Valentine’s Day should be the ultimate ecumenical observation. What religion or culture could possibly be against love?"
Region caught up in witchcraft and war
Great Yarmouth Mercury, UK, 08 February 2010
"THE turmoil of the 17th century will be explored during a series of public lectures starting at the University of East Anglia this week.
The 17th century witnessed war, revolution and profound social change.
East Anglia was caught up in these life-shaping events: its population divided by the English civil wars; the region experienced periodic witchcraft trials; and the enclosure of common land drove many poor people to the brink of desperation.
Entitled 'The Turbulent 17th Century', the lecture series has been organised by the Centre of East Anglia Studies, based in the School of History. Experts in the history of the region from the universities of East Anglia, Essex and Warwick will present cutting-edge research into the revolutionary changes experienced by people during this time.
On Thursday, Prof Steve Hindle (Warwick) will talk on 'Work, reward and labour discipline in 17th century England', while 'Popular politics and seditious speech in early 17th century Norwich' is the subject of Dr Fiona Williamson's lecture on February 18.
Dr Alison Rowlands (Essex) will give a lecture entitled '17th century witch-hunts in comparative context' on February 25, and Prof John Walter (Essex) will present 'Swearing oaths and subscribing petitions: East Anglia gets ready for war' on March 4.
All lectures take place in Lecture Theatre 2 at UEA. Admission is free and all are welcome."