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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mystery & Spirit

Since we use the word "church", people will expect us to have some ideas about spirituality. Well, we don't have an official position about this subject. Each individual member is free to have whatever point of view they choose.

My personal point of view is that yes, something exists outside of what is studied by science, and you may use the word "spiritual" to describe it, but no one really knows anything about it, other than their own personal experience. I think these personal experiences should be respected, without forgetting that they are personal experiences. But that's just my personal viewpoint.

If our church needs a point of view, I recommend the acceptance of
mystery. As I see it, each of us is surrounded by mystery, we are
immersed in it, swimming in it. Most of the time we don't think about it, but we don't really know or understand why the world is the way it is, or what causes it, what lies behind it. Science provides us with a great deal of information about the physical world, but it cannot answer these fundamental questions. It's important to point out that traditional religion is also unable to provide satisfactory answers. When you say: "God made the universe.", it immediately suggests the question: "How did God come to be?". Whatever answer you give to that question could simply be applied to the first question, without bringing in the God hypothesis.

We might also recommend certain practices that are often associated with spirituality, such as meditation. I meditate fairly regularly. I do it because it seems to help me to function better, and also as an attempt to be in direct contact with the mystery.



Monday, September 17, 2007

What's in a name?

Shakespeare's Juliet said: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Thus our organization could be the same irrespective of it's name. However, in practice, most people are not as wise as Juliet, and names do have an influence, especially when a new organization is being built from scratch from the ground up. A few of our members have objected to the word "church". I sympathize with them; I'm not a fan of churches in general, but we have not found a better word. We need an organization that can grow very large if we want to influence governments and corporation to take good care of our biosphere. And we probably need to impact people's world view, because materialism and the dedication to economic growth is a key part of the problem.

There are problems with any name. I googled on Earth Fellowship
and found several organizations using those words in various
combinations. The ones I looked at were all associated with pagan
and/or Wiccan beliefs, which is somewhat different than what we are into.

Some of our members are Humanists, and many humanists are atheists, with a strong anti-religious bias. But "humanist" does not automatically imply a strong anti-religious attitude. I consider myself a humanist, but I'm not opposed to all religious beliefs. I'm opposed to any kind of fundamentalism, including dogmatic, devout atheism. The truth is that there is a lot that we don't know, and probably a lot that we are incapable of knowing. I like the quote from J.B.S Haldane: he said something like "The universe is not only stranger than we know, it is stranger than we CAN know."

Einstein was a humanist, yet he had a religious view, in the broad or
general sense. He was in awe of the universe. He often used the word
"god". He seems to have believed in god as a mysterious unknowable
permeating the the universe. I suppose you could say he was a
pantheist. I would have no trouble calling myself a pantheist. Many
famous scientists have had views similar to this. And of course many
were Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, or Buddhists or Hindus.


P.S.: On Oct 10 we changed our name to "Earthchurch". (From "Church of Earth")


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Confession & Brief Book Review

I recently finished reading "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. Excellent and very unusual book! It's about the human race and the biosphere, but not a detailed prescription of what to do or not do. It's about the story that the human race is enacting. This story is explained to a human student by a genius gorilla!

The confession is that, in my previous blog article, I took credit for the idea that mankind is waging war on the biosphere. Well, I actually got that idea from the book, Ishmael. It's the war analogy that's new. Prior to reading Ishmael I would have said that man is fouling his own nest, or something similar.

Anyway, I found the book inspiring, entertaining, and consciousness
raising. I don't want to say more for fear of being a spoiler. I suggest
you read the book first without reading more about it. But if you want to read reviews there are lots of them already on the internet. Just google "reviews of ishmael".



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

At War with the Biosphere

The biosphere, AKA Gaia, is the blanket of living things that covers the planet earth. It consists of trillions of organisms, of millions of
species of plants, animals, fungi and microbes that permeate the soil, the air, the water and the land surface.

It occurred to me recently that humankind is at war with the biosphere. This is a really dumb thing for us to be doing, because we are part of the biosphere, and we depend on it for survival. It MIGHT be possible for us to survive after eliminating most of the biosphere, but that's not at all certain. At present, green plants supply the oxygen that we breath, and that we use to burn our fossil fuels. We eat living things, plants and animals, although not many wild ones, except for seafood. But we need bees to spread pollen for many of our crops. We need earthworms to loosen and aerate the soil for them. And there are many other interdependencies, not all of which are even known.

Even if we can manage to survive without an intact biosphere, our lives will be much poorer without it. Imagine a planet where the only place to see the plants and animals that were formerly wild is in parks and zoos. These places of course will be extremely crowded with people, so you might have to wait an hour to see a deer in a pen. Except for the parks and zoos the land surface of the planet will be covered over with farms, solar collectors, windmill generators, and cities.

The waters will be worse. Forget about fishing, you won't be able to catch anything besides jellyfish and ugly sea creatures. The fish that we eat will all come from tanks. The worlds oceans will be full of algae.

We are waging this war primarily with 3 types of weapons of mass destruction. Fire is one, used deliberately to clear forests for planting. This is not done in the advanced countries, but is still widely practiced in the 3rd world. The second is chemical warfare. Farm runoff, mine effluent, pesticides, herbicides, smokestack emissions, and industrial chemicals are steadily polluting the air, soil and water of the planet. The third weapon is earth moving machinery, used for logging, forest clearing, mining, road building, etc.

If we want a good future for our children and grandchildren, mankind needs to change our ways.