Autumn traditions for 2014 – 1: Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

The sun did not yet go under for the Summer 2014 or Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas), Sancta Claus, the Santa, and all Winter presents were already to be found in the shops. In Flanders in May we had already a garden centre which presented a huge Christmas show, with all the new decoration gadgets for December 2014. That month there was also lots of protest having to be confronted as consumer with the Christmas period, whilst Summer had yet to start.

Intocht van Sinterklaas in Amsterdam

Sinterklaas and his servants in Amsterdam

In the Low countries we for centuries do have a children festival where on the night of 5 December presents are brought by a so called saint Nicolas and his servants who are called “zwarte pieten” “black guys” (often translated in English as Black Peters or “Black Pete“, thinking a Piet is the name of a Peter or Pete instead of the slang for a worker or guy, a toff, a bigwig or “Johnnie”). This labourer who helps to make, transport and delivers the presents by going through the chimneys, by which he becomes so black, has been the dispute already since 2012, but got in real high discussion last year. We thought we had seen it all, but this year many communities bear the consequences from the zwarte Piet” (“Black Pete”). They are afraid to have black persons standing next to Sinterklaas on the ship or on the road, on horses close to Sinterklaas risking to receive a fine or to be put in jail. Those against the colour of the ‘black petes’ have clearly forgotten that the white bishop had worked in Turkey and brought his helpers from there en from Spain, where he found Moors or Moroccan people who were willing to help him to bring goods to the poor and need, plus to the small children who could be made happy with a surprise.

Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan had to hear in July that the Amsterdam District Court found the character of Zwarte Piet a racist caricature.. He was advised to reconsider his licensing of the annual Sinterklaas parade where the Saint enters the city on a boat with several balck sevants on the deck. In August van der Laan got back to them and said that the character of Zwarte Piet would change over the next four years; the black paint, red lips and afro wigs would be ‘toned down’.

On television several shopkeepers declared even not willing to sell black greasepaint these months, because it could be associated with them liking a Black Pete, and as such being ‘discriminating black people’. What those people against the black Pete do not want to see is that the blackness of the person has nothing to do with discrimination or by preferring black slaves. Zwarte Piet or Black Pete is a helper and not a slave of Saint Nicholas. Either on the 5th of December (in Holland) or the 6th of December (Holland and Belgium -except some parts of Flanders, Holland, North France and German districts, where they have Sint Maarten on the 11th of November in) several children in the Low Countries look forward for  Saint Nicholas’ Day (6 December) where they can have a day where they can play freely with their presents of ‘the holy man’.

The whole situations seems to get out of hand when we do hear that even people are receiving death treats on both camps. In August the judicial advisor to the anti-Zwarte Piet movement, Frank King, removed himself from the judicial process around the issue after receiving several death threats, the Algemeen Dagblad reported. In an interview with the AD, King says that his heart is still in the case, and that he may get involved again some time.

“If the topic makes it to the European Human Rights Court, they can call me”,

King tells the AD.

Every one should have to have the right to have a defence layer or professional advisor, not having to mean that this adviser totally agrees with the person he talks for. from Leiden is done. Frank King believes that there is some kind of schism between what he thinks he is doing, and what others think he’s doing.

“I seem myself as lawyer of the counter-movement against Zwarte Piet. But the supporters see that differently. They now see me as the face of the counter-movement. And are directing their anger at me.”

Recently, the lawyer has received threats and abuse on all levels of communication. He receives the worst by mail. He is threatened, and he is abused because he has parents from Suriname.

“One mail said that I should have been put on a 17th century slave ship, just like my ancestors.”

King has had enough of the abuse, as well as the case, which is taxing in time. Though King does emphasize that he is proud of his involvement, and proud of the progress made.

Geert Wilders and his followers do have a problem with coloured people and made it that several Dutch people have become weary about the black coloured people and traditional black figures. In Belgium and Holland or the Netherlands we even do not know any more what we are allowed to say for a person with an other skin than the Caucasian race. There was a time we were not allowed to say ‘zwarte’ (‘black’) any more and had to say ‘neger’ (niger) but then this was not as seen as polite any more so ‘negro type’ and ‘negroïde’ were introduced. After a while this was not done any more and we had to use “immigrant” (“immigrant”) but soon this was considered to be a sobriquet and was to be replaced with “allochtoon” (foreign, alien, allochthonous), which is now also nearly becoming a nickname or giving a sign of ‘giving the other person the stigma’ of being a ‘profiteer’. This really indicates in our regions we are getting a real race problem.

Sinterklaas en ZwartePiet

Classic drawing of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (Saint Nicholas and Black Pete) every young person in the Low Countries formerly grew up with

For centuries at schools across the country, children sang songs referring to the skin tone and character of the black servant “…even if I’m black as coal I mean well…”, “Saint Nicholas, enter with your black servant”, etc,. Many object that in some old songs about Zwarte Piet, he is presented as not being a very clever boy, even  being a little bit stupid, a little bit clumsy, more akin to a child than an adult, the same generalisations previously applied to black people, but which can no longer be made explicitly.

Now nothing may be black any more or it would be associated with denigration. As a joke in 2012 already a funny video was introduced where a “zwarte piet” was presented as a worker you could hire or buy to do all the little and harder works in the household and at the office or could even be used as you masseur or “puppy” or “doll” in bed.

The whole situation became so ludicrous that several funny video’s turn up and even companies are making advertisement spots, like we could see one, last night for fund recruitment for cancer treatment, where we could see a “Zwarte Pieten” training school in Africa which had lost so much money because nobody wanted a black Pete any more, they nearly could continue working but a solution was found having new recruits with white bold children wanting to learn for ‘piet'[(Sorry no video available of this (yet)].

Concerning supermarkets not willing to present anything any more which refers to ‘Zwarte Piet’ a satirical video was already placed on Youtube. It was first presented on The PowNews of October 9, 2014: The Albert Heijn wants Zwarte Pietwegjorissen” (take them out of the picture), but the helpers are not pleased with it and do not want to give up their job, which they like very much. Therefore a boycott was set up before the Alber Heijn supermarkets by the helpers of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in Appie, Oostzaan.

  • Geert Wilders wants mandatory blackface at Dutch festival (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
    If Wilders wants to ban changing songs’ lyrics, then he will have very much work to do. Throughout history, old songs have been adapted with new lyrics. Protestant churches in the Netherlands and elsewhere have changed the lyrrics of their hymns and psalms frequently. Does Wilders want to jail the Protestant dignitaries responsible for that? He can’t jail all of them, as most are already dead. The Belgian national anthem’s lyrics have changed many times.
  • Santa’s helper is a racist caricature (newint.org)

    It’s been a month since Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan announced his decision to cancel Christmas. Or at least that’s how Anneka Hendriks laughingly describes it to me. Hendriks is one of the hundreds of people in Amsterdam who enjoy painting their faces black, donning afro wigs and gold hoop earrings, and celebrating the festive season by masquerading as Zwarte Piet (Dutch for ‘Black Pete’).

    ‘Hundreds’ is a conservative estimate; it’s probably more like thousands or tens of thousands when the rest of the Netherlands is taken into account.

  • The Netherlands plan a nationwide consultation on the controversial Black Pete tradition (independent.co.uk)

    The Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands has announced that he will be organising a consultation on the role that ‘Black Petes’ should play during the festive opening of the Sinterklaas season this year.

    Minister Lodewijk Asscher plans to bring relevant parties together to discuss possible changes to the controversial tradition ahead of the televised event on 15 November. The talks will include the national broadcaster and the council of Gouda, the host town.

    Asscher says: “Last year things were very polarised. Everyone should be able to enjoy the festivities again.”
    +
    The Dutch have indeed taken a clear stance in defence of their beloved Pete. The Prime Minister Mark Rutte reflected the feelings of the majority of the population when he responded to criticisms by saying: “Black Pete, that already says it, he’s black. We can’t change much about that”.

  • Dutch ‘Zwarte Piet’: Innocent Holiday Tradition or Inadvertent Racism? (ny.thedailydigest.org)
    When I was a little kid (“little” being ages 10 through 17), I lived in the Netherlands Antilles and in the Netherlands. That was back in the 50s.
    +
    I remember them (sometimes there were dozens of them) running and clowning around with their burlap sacks — scaring the daylights out of some little kids might be a better term — in parades, shopping centers and, as legend had it, coming down the chimney while you were sleeping.
  • Dutch ‘Zwarte Pieten’: Innocent Tradition or Inadvertent Racism? (themoderatevoice.com)
    going back 60 years, Zwarte Pieten were white adolescents with painted black faces (supposedly from the soot picked up scaling down all those chimneys), thick, painted-on, bright-red lips, lots of frizzy black hair, many other “ornaments” such as big gold hoop earrings…and beautiful Dutch blue or green eyes. (No colored contact lenses in those days).

    They were Sinterklaas’ knechten (servants) who would help Sinterklaas deliver sweets and gifts to those kids who had behaved throughout the year and would leave only a lump of coal for those children who had not been very nice. Legend and rumor also had it that they would stuff kids who had been naughty and bad into their burlap sacks and haul them back to Spain, or Morocco, or Turkey or wherever current folklore had it that the Zwarte Pieten came from.

  • The Dutch Christmas with Zwarte Pieten in Blackface (usslave.blogspot.com)
    From Forbes, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Piet-ing: Dutch Santa’s Blackface Elves,” by John Giuffo (Contributor), on 4 December 2012 — Christmastime in Amsterdam has a special kind of magic, and a unique kind of controversy.
     +
    White lights slide down buildings and arch across shopping streets, multiplying their twinkle in canal reflections. No garish multi-color, animatronic ego contests anywhere. You will hear Christmas music, but you’re not assaulted, and dreams of restraining orders against Bing Crosby never fill your head (unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of his children). No one is trampled in shopping frenzies, no one gets arrested for assaulting line-cutters, and the gift giving comes in early December, separate from the more low-key holiday of the 25th. Family members write sardonic poems for each other. Poems! Glühwein – a sort of hot Christmas sangria – warms hands and bellies. And Sinterklaas arrives not on a reindeer-pulled sleigh laden with loot, but on a white horse, accompanied by a small cohort of his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes – white revelers coated in blackface.
  • Virtual Advent Tour & Giveaway: The Dutch Celebration of Sinterklaas (leeswammes.wordpress.com)
    Sinterklaas has been a tradition in the Netherlands for hundreds of years. Originally, this bishop came to bring money to the poor, but these days it’s a children’s celebration.
    +
    Just like lots of children all over the world believe in Santa Claus, in the Netherlands it’s Sinterklaas they believe in and usually stop believing in around 7 or 8 years’ of age.
    +
    Zwarte Piet has sweets in his bag (although in the old days he would use his bag to transport naughty children back to Spain!), notably pepernoten, which are small, slightly spicy biscuits (cookies). Usually Zwarte Piet will throw these around and kids collect them from the floor (when outdoors they get a fistful in their hand).

    Pepernoten

  • Sinterklaas, A Historically Correct (But Politically Incorrect) Children’s Tradition (urbantimes.co)
    The Dutch picture the character of ‘Zwarte Piet’ (translated Black Pete) as helper with a controversial black African look: blackface, curly wig, red lips, sometimes Creole earrings. The outfit is colourful, topped of by a cap with feathers and a ruffle like a Renaissance page.
    +
    This year, the usual discussion has been overrun by the decision of the former Dutch colony Suriname to ban Sinterklaas completely. Up until now Sinterklaas had been celebrated in Suriname the same way as in Holland: with a white priest coming from Spain on a boat with his black helpers… Evidently, this custom doesn’t fit in a country where white people only account for 5% of the population.
  • be what you want to be (piadrent.blogspot.com)
    The helpers are called ‘Black Petes’ and they are funny and a bit stupid.

    This may have been fine half a century ago, but in today’s day we find that discriminative and offensive. So there is a restyling movement for Black Petes happening right now. First, we will be calling them Petes, and second, their skin tone is becoming more flexible.

Depression, Anxiety, Pressure and megachurches

Big churches with many dreams but also with anxiety

In the church world many say because they are the biggest church they must be the church closest to the truth and the right church.

In the United States of America you may find lots of Mega Churches and Holland is not doing bas getting also more people in churches where all sorts of happenings attire lots of people with entertaining services. In those mega churches we also often find preachers who seem to be obsessed with religious rules and legalism and who try to make their flock afraid of what they do. Everywhere seems to be the devil looking around the corner. They preach about the Satan going to destroy them if they do not turn away from him and come to Jesus.

Those preachers are more obsessed with the sins and shortcomings of others and make it their obsession to point out their faults.

Preachers like Perry Noble, are known more for what he attacked rather than what he built up! But by Noble some change took place after he had taken a sabbatical year.

Perry Noble

To his mega church where he ministered for 12 years for a congregation which drew around 16,000 people every weekend, in 2012 he made it clear to them that he was committed to NewSpring, which he founded, and that he wasn’t leaving to figure out if he’s supposed to stay. His goal was to lead the church for another 20 years until age 60. That is when he wants to pass the baton to the next generation.

“In order for me to lead this church well for the next 20 years, there’s got to be some changes in me,”

he told his congregation in 2012 when he preached his final message before his break.

Layers to be peeled

“I noticed the closer you get to Jesus, he just peels back another layer on your life of something that you’ve got to work on.”

Noble has not shied away from admitting his weaknesses and how “screwed up” he was to his church. He was open about having battled depression just a few years ago.

“I’m not the perfect person but I am trying my best to pursue Jesus,”

he said.

Men of God and Burn out

That pastor may have been very passionate in what he was doing and had to face a burn out. A few thousand years ago, the prophet Jeremiah also suffered burnout. Decades of pronouncing judgement on an unrepentant Israel wore him down. In the book named after him, he begs for release from this horrible work, but God forbids him to leave it. Jeremiah’s battle against burnout reveals who he really is as a leader – a mixture of character traits and weaknesses we can all appreciate.

The man in the old times we can imagine, got very frustrated, having to speak about the bad things people do and having to pronounces only destruction.  Other prophets get to speak of magnificent future events but Jeremiah is confronted with a stubborn people (the Israelites) who could see what God had done already for them, but where not appreciative for it, and were not interested to change their way of living, so that the prophet also could not change his message.

Losing sight and falling in a pit

"The Prophet Jeremiah" (1968)

“The Prophet Jeremiah” (1968) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great prophet demands to know why God has allowed him to fall into this pit. Years of throwing himself into his work without any results or reward has left him burned out and resentful. The problem, God tells him, is that he has forgotten his calling. Jeremiah must return to the original vision that launched his ministry.

Today, in the churches all over the world we also can find lots of people who have lost sight of the reason why they were called. Many when they were young were really looking for God, but found a stable home, were they could feel at ease by a certain church denomination. In that church they were comforted they could have a living and do not have to worry about their income, nor have to make steps themselves on their own to build places where they could preach and worship God.

To stay fresh and focused, many like to make sure that they have certain getaway rituals. By many ministers the attraction of a growing church, having lots of people coming to listen to them, brings them to put on shows or to present some sort of entertainment which can attract more people. They start losing track of their real purpose and do think it is best for church to have many people joining in. Most of them do prefer to control everything themselves; They forget that the body of Christ is one of many people doing different jobs in that body, the church. they themselves start thinking they have to do it all. They count on themselves (instead of on God) to do everything what is needed to make a big church, to solve the many problems, build products with too many features, and often they can not say ‘no’ to lots of thing of which they should be able to say “no” or “I can not”.

They forget that if they include every decent idea that comes along, they’ll just wind up with a half-[baked] version of their product.

Outside world

Prophet Jeremiah, Russian icon from first quar...

Prophet Jeremiah and the Scriptures – Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we say yes to all outside influences, including everyone else’s expectations, opinions, and criticisms, we shall end up with a half-baked, burned-out version of ourself.

Perry Noble made it his goal to catch people doing something wrong and condemn them and perhaps forgot to see the person he himself really was.  Instead of reaching out to them with compassion and a genuine concern he became judging them.

We also have to be careful not to judge others, and we certainly can damn them or threaten them with places of torture for indefinitely. According to the Scriptures no such place exist. The hell being spoken off is just the grave where we all shall end up. Even Jesus, who never sinned landed up in hell for three days.

Faith, Correctness and discussions

Today we may find many who do not like to associate with anyone or any group that does not acknowledge that he or she is completely correct in his or her view and for religious people this concerns also their interpretation of the Scriptures. On the internet but also in real life we see can  hear heavy discussions going on … and, if the other person does not want to think or see just like him he would attack and malign them as often as possible. (Kind of goes against what Jesus said in John 13:34-35)

Perry Noble admits he fell also in such a trap. He also remembers the very first time he ever had to deal with someone who told him they were struggling with anxiety and depression. He did not understand and could not relate-so, he told them what he thought was the typical “Christian” answer to all problems … they should pray more, read their Bible more and memorize more Scripture.

Instead of lessening the load he was unintentionally adding to it.

The person mentioned, their doctor had told them about going on a certain type of anti-depressant, to help out with their struggle, and so they asked his opinion.

He says now:

In a completely illiterate and uneducated manner I told them that people with “weak faith” are the ones that needed such meds, that godly people did not struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression and that taking such medication would essentially be screaming to God, “I don’t trust you.”

Coming through the storm by learning

He himself also got into a terrible state of not seeing any more where he could go. Through a series of situations in his life that needed to be changed, along with some intense and excellent Biblical counselling he was able to come through the storm that had dominated him for so long. From what he learned at his time of depression, many others can also learn. Today he is willing to share his experiences so that others can learn from it and avoid coming into such a mess he came into. For today’s believers it is not made easy either, because they are tossed about by every wind of “doctrine” because so few preachers seem to be preaching absolute Truth and sound doctrine. They also see what lots of those ministers or priest do in their daily life, not according to what they are preaching or demanding that their churchgoers would have to do.
So many people have become so frightened by other people, instead of knowing that human beings can not totally destroy an other person. He might kill him or her, but that will not solve the problem for the killer. For the one killed he might not have pain any more so the worldly problems would be solved.  A Satisfied Spirit does not have to fear. Most people also want to have the right in their hand and want to believe they are right in everything. In case they would be more humble and come to see that not one person can be right in everything, life would be easier. We should give each other much more “the right to be wrong about everything” and allow ourselves also to have mistakes and getting to learn form our mistakes.

> Please do continue reading about Depression and Anxiety, in:

  1. Searching for fulfillment and meaning through own efforts, facing unsatisfaction and depression
  2. Depression Is and When
  3. Anxiety’s Hold
  4. Believe What You Will
  5. When feeling sad, not sure of there being a Divine Creator
  6. Be an encourager
  7. Duty of encouragement

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Additional reading:

  1. When discouraged facing opposition
  2. Words to push and pull
  3. No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation
  4. Christendom Astray The Devil Not A Personal Super-Natural Being
  5. Satan the evil within
  6. Does God exist?
  7. Our relationship with God, Jesus and each other
  8. Many forgot how Christ should be our anchor and our focus
  9. Jesus Christ being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion
  10. Jesus three days in hell
  11. Parts of the body of Christ
  12. The task given to us to love each other
  13. Reasons to come to gether
  14. Testify of the things heard
  15. How should we preach?
  16. Good or bad preacher
  17. Who are you going to reach out to today
  18. Attitude to others important for reaching them
  19. Many churches
  20. Who are the honest ones?
  21. Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church
  22. Greatest single cause of atheism
  23. What’s church for, anyway? (by Marcus Ampe)
  24. Knowing where to go to
  25. Democratic principles for the church of today
  26. Church is a Hospital for sinners
  27. Jehovah’s Witnesses not only group that preach the good news
  28. God is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him
  29. The Spirit of God brings love, hope and freedom
  30. Love for each other attracting others
  31. Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair
  32. Holiness and expression of worship coming from inside
  33. Doctrine and Conduct Cause and Effect
  34. Being Religious and Spiritual 8 Spiritual, Mystic and not or well religious
  35. Be humble like Christ
  36. Faith and trial
  37. A Living Faith #4 Effort
  38. Caricaturing and disapproving sceptics, religious critics and figured out ethics
  39. Some one or something to fear #3 Cases, folks and outing
  40. Raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair
  41. If you want to go far in life
  42. Remember that who you’re being is just as important as what you’re doing
  43. We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace
  44. Abhor evil. Adhere to goodness
  45. Kill the messenger
  46. Work with joy and pray with love
  47. Act as if everything you think, say and do determines your entire life
  48. Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience
  49. You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind
  50. No good thing will he withhold
  51. Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?
  52. Problems attracting and maintaining worshippers

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  1. Should Christians Take Medication for Mental Illness?
  2. 5 Practical Things to Consider Before Taking an Antidepressant
  3. One of the Most Powerful Leadership Principles I’ve Ever Learned
  4. The One Thing That Holds Most Leaders Back
  5. Why Are So Many Churches Hearing So Little of the Bible from Their Preachers?
  6. Preachers of L.A. Dressed to Impress, But Is Jesus Pleased?
  7. #PreachersofLA: As Real as It Gets
  8. Preachers Of LA’s Bishop McClendon Says He Was Set Up
  9. What if Modern Preachers Preached What Jesus was Preaching?
  10. A Plea for Sharp and Polished Preachers…
  11. In Have You Seen the Viral Videos of the ‘Pint-Sized Preachers’ Yet? (theblaze.com) you can see how children can be exploited and which impression some people have about “teaching” and “preaching” and what certain people do call a “sermon”.
  12. TD Jakes Disses Preachers Of LA
  13. Strange Fire Conference: Preachers or Witch Doctors?
  14. church oh church1
  15. Debating with theologians and preachers and their somewhat constricted views….
  16. Can Faith Ever Be Rational?
  17. Political Correctness and “Bashing”
  18. The one religion that’s not part of my spiritual quest
  19. Word Power
  20. The Right To Be Wrong About Everything
  21. A Satisfied Spirit Fears Not

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  • Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism? (blackchristiannews.com)
    The emergence of the megachurch as a model of metropolitan ministry is one of the defining marks of evangelical Christianity in the United States. Megachurches — huge congregations that attract thousands of worshipers — arrived on the scene in the 1970s and quickly became engines of ministry development and energy.
    Over the last 40 years, the megachurch has made its presence known, often dominating the Christian landscape within the nation’s metropolitan regions. The megachurch came into dominance at the same time that massive shopping malls became the landmarks of suburban consumer life. Sociologists can easily trace the rise of megachurches within the context of America’s suburban explosion and the development of the technologies and transportation systems that made both the mall and the megachurch possible.
  • Joel Osteen’s message of hope connects faithful, churches (ocregister.com)
    Osteen, senior pastor of the 50,000-strong Lakewood Church in Houston and nicknamed “the Smiling Preacher” for his toothy grin, travels with a crew of 30. Many in the audience Friday seemed to connect with the preacher’s observations, delivered in a lyrical Texan drawl, his interpretation of Scriptures and most of all, his positive energy.During his sermon, Osteen drew quite a bit from personal experience in his message about “redeeming time,” or making the most of our time in this world. He broke down as he talked about his mother’s valiant and victorious fight against liver cancer. He reminisced about the first time he met Victoria, his wife of 27 years, at a jewelry store while shopping for a watch battery.He told how the tragic death of his father, John Osteen, who founded the church at the back of an old feed store with 90 members, pushed a behind-the scenes guy into the limelight – as a preacher. In the last 15 years, Osteen has grown a congregation of 6,000 to the nation’s largest megachurch.
  • Has the Megachurch Lost Its Luster? (juicyecumenism.com)
    In the future, the 1990s and early 2000s may well be called the “Megachurch Era” by ecclesiastical historians. Suburban commuter culture, television broadcasting, the Internet, the book publishing industry, the rise of self-help gurus, digital media technology, and the contemporary sounds of Jesus People music all provided essential ingredients for enormous churches with a plethora of programs. All that the ingredients needed were men with the vision, initiative, and charisma to muster together like-minded individuals for a common purpose: planting, building, and increasing a congregation (well beyond the previous conceptions of a “large congregation”).
  • Huge Money Stolen From MegaChurch, But That’s Not The OMG Moment (crooksandliars.com)
    The Young Turk’s Cenk Uygur discusses the recent robbery at Joel Osteen’s megachurch, and the incredible amount of money they’re raking in there every single week.
  • How to Run a Megachurch: T.D. Jakes, Marvin Winans, and Others Provide an Inside Look (blackchristiannews.com)
    On just about any Sunday, as many as 10,000 people may fill the pews of Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Dallas-area megachurch. Some believers say he has an uncanny way of connecting with his audience anyway.

    “It doesn’t matter about the size,” says Faith Johnson, a 13-year member. “It’s almost like nobody else is in that church, but me.”
    It takes some help for leaders of the largest megachurches and national ministries to make believers reject the idea that a smaller church is more intimate and personable. A big staff of associate pastors and elders is indispensable.
    +

    Pastor Matthew Cork knew he’d have to rely more on his leadership when his nearly 6,000-member Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., committed to building 200 schools in India over the next 10 years for dalit children, who are part of the country’s lowest caste. He’s also promoting a book and movie about the number of dalits who end up being trafficked as sex slaves.
    “We have a teaching team, so I’m not teaching every week, which gives me freedom to do some of the other things that I do,” said Cork, who speaks about twice a month at his church. “It’s worked great for me and my schedule.”
  • Fort Lauderdale Megachurch Pastor Resigns Over ‘Moral Failing’ (miami.cbslocal.com)
    “Bob Coy resigned as Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life…Pastor Bob will be focusing his full attention on his personal relationship with God and his family. The governing board of the church is providing counselors and ministers who will help guide him through the process of full repentance, cleansing and restoration.”+
    “There should have been more accountability at Calvary Chapel,” he says.  “Pastor Bob shouldn’t have been put on such a high pedestal and he should have never had so much power. Whenever there is that, it’s a formula for disaster.”The popular church boasts over 20,000 members, has 10 campuses, and 1,000 employees.“You know he did a lot of good,” said Mitch Guertler a church member. “He helped out a lot of people and I’m just really sad but like he always said up on stage—don’t follow him, follow Christ. So, you know, he’s a sinner like the rest of us and it’s just too bad.”
  • Arguing over trifles while the world burns: Megachurch pays millions to leave nation’s biggest Presbyterian denomination – major rift over ‘Who Jesus is’ (sott.net)
    A California megachurch has voted to officially leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a Christian denomination that is the largest in the nation.Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, Calif., one of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s largest congregations, made the choice despite facing a $8.89 million cost for the church’s property and membership fees, Religion News Service reported.With 4,000 members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Menlo Park’s decision is a major development in the lifecycle of a denomination that continues to experience ideological infighting over its more liberal stances on controversial issues.
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    In a document published by Menlo Park last year, leaders described their reasons for seeking a split with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), noting that the church’s “evangelical identity around who Jesus is and our understanding of the authority of scripture are increasingly out of alignment” with the denomination as a whole.

    Specifically, the church expressed concern that many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders do not believe in the deity of Jesus, nor do they embrace salvation through Christ. These are central tenets of most mainstream Christian churches, leading to a difficult ideological splintering.

  • Amazingly Elaborate Hoax Targets Megachurch Pastor (newser.com)
    Somebody has put a massive amount of work into a hoax claiming that pastor Joel Osteen has renounced his faith and is resigning from the Texas megachurch his father founded, the Houston Chronicle reports. The hoax includes a fake Twitter feed, a YouTube video from “ChristianityNews” containing mockups of news websites trumpeting Osteen’s loss of faith, and a fake website that looks similar to the pastor’s own site.
  • Dallas Megachurch To Encourage ‘Tweeting’ For Jesus During Sermons (dfw.cbslocal.com)
    You could call it “facebooking” for Jesus. One North Texas mega-church could soon be encouraging its congregants to keep their cell-phones on instead of turning them off during Sunday service.
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    “We have a pretty young congregation — the median age is 33 — and so many of them I deal with them on social media as much as I do in presence of them,” says Liberatore. “I just think this is a different way for people to connect with each other, to share their faith — and I think Jesus would make use of it.”
  • Study: Megachurches can trigger false spiritual highs (alanrudnick.org)
    worshipers at megachurches experience a greater release of oxytocin, thought to add to a sense of euphoria. That would lead us to believe that these types of megachurch worship experiences can trigger a false sense of a spiritual high.
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    like a rock concert, there is a degree of psychological multiplication that can be added with a shared emotional experience with light shows, loud music, and a celebrity presence. Perhaps megachurches can add this additional element to worship that causes this “spiritual high”.
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    So, is the spiritual high that Christians experience in worship just a chemical response or is it a part of the worship of God? Does worship in a megachurch lend more to a shared emotional or perceived than other types of Christian styled worship?
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Science, belief, denial and visibility 1

In the previous article we talked about doubt which can be around the believer and non-believer. We have seen in the previous articles that many people have questions about life and surrounding. They wonder if knowledge of science would stand in the way of their belief. Sometimes people may find themselves dangling at the edge of belief not able to take the plunge.

In case you are feeling like that know that “you are not alone”. If  you are ashamed to ask questions or have reservations that seem insurmountable, “you are not alone”.

Some may consider religion “like a merchant selling its own knockoff of the real thing”.  They prefer to look at it as a “similar imitation, but not the authentic product”.

As recognises in 3 Ways Religion Has Failed Us is that it are human beings who made a concoction of religion. He writes:

the problem with religion: it is manmade and lacks the integrity of the real thing. Religion offers the “good enough” instead of the “best.”

But the right religion shall always present the best of what is available at that moment and shall never be satisfied with just offering something which might be “good enough”. In case that is so you are probably looking at the wrong religion.

Churches nearby or far away from home

Percentage of state populations that identify ...

Percentage of state populations that identify with a religion rather than “no religion”, 2001. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those Americans who live in the Bible Belt where most people go to a church in their neighbourhoods may be called lucky that they are able to find a church very near by. In certain countries people have to go far for their service in a church. For example our ecclesia its services make that people have to travel between 40 and 360 km to come to the Breaking of the Bread, having our services taking place in Nivelles/Nijvel, HeverleeLeuven, Mons and Paris. This also makes that we do not have many people wanting to join, or to come regularly, because everybody just wants to have their church at the doorstep.

In Belgium the Catholic church shall have to face the distance problem also from now, because most Catholic churches shall become closed from 2014 because there are not enough priests and not enough churchgoers. Five to ten parishes shall be concentrated to one place from now on. We wonder if those Catholics shall travel such one way of 20 km to go to mass. In protestant circles this has not been strange over the years, so they are used to cover some distance to go to church.

The 26 years old, student, writer, sceptic and worshipper (of … ?) says:

Many people are walking away from God.

Faith and religions are some of those things people get confused with. Also the matter if it has something to do with a god or the True God. Strangely enough several people are searching the internet to get something to know about what “religion is.” The young writer finds that our look at religion and its painful presentation of God may be outdated. He writes:

The truth is, religion missed the bus into the 21st Century and now we are faced with an unpopular decision: starting over or being left behind.

and he has good reason to think so. Many churches did not see how time passed but also how times changed. God, Who is One, does not change, but they wanted to create their own pictures of their god how they wanted to see him fitting their age and time and making up their church according to their denominational construction. Most churches do not want to follow the way church has to be formed according to God, but do want to fit it in according their idea of how church should look like. And that is where church went on the wrong track or got on the line of deviations and delays.

English: A map showing the Norwegian Bible Bel...

A map showing the Norwegian Bible Belt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several churches, certainly in the United States wanted to make science the enemy of religion. In Holland several churches got blinded by the American Mega churches and having more than three hundred television channels to choose from, most home-stayers got pulled away by reality shows, series and some by those television preachers which promise all the gold you can think of. In Belgium, just a few, but also too many, found their way to those television churches, which make it easy to sit at home and say you watched a service, so you have done your Sunday duty.

The fight between science and religion.

We have all the seen the ugly fight between science and religion. Whether it has been in a classroom, a courtroom, or a Sunday morning sermon, we all have heard why one is right and the other is wrong.

continues the writer of 3 Ways Religion Has Failed Us, where he suggests this is just not the case and says he does not believe science is the enemy. He has good reason to believe that science and faith can co-exist and even work together.

In America it is possible, like in Holland to go to schools where they do not want to accept the world evolved. the author of the above mentioned article also was taught in high school that evolution was silly because of all the “missing links.” but did they get deeper into the subject of how the world could have been going on for millions of years? He does not tell. But we can see here at the European continent that more fundamentalist Christian churches and Christian schools want to give their youngsters an idea of the evolution of the world which is not according the real Bible teaching nor according to findings many scientists and archaeologists made.

Also at the television churches they mock with all scientific findings and ridicule archaeologists and other scientists.

Luckily the young writer who graduated in 2006 has seen new discoveries.

He came to understand that science can teach us where we came from and how the world as well as humans are evolving.

But I also believe that there is a certain point where science (logic and reason) are limited and this is the place faith takes over. Science cannot and will not explain everything, but neither can religion.

It has never been the aim of Christian religion to do this. It is wrong to think that the Bible would or should have to be a scientific explanation book and scientific instruction book. God provided a Guide for everybody whatever schooling they might have had or even also for those who did not get the chance to get an education.

God His Word had to be available and understandable for everybody. You do not have to be a theological scholar to understand God’s Word; That is one of the biggest misunderstandings and the biggest cause of having ‘religious institutions’ having deformed God His Words and having them made dogma‘s many people just took over, because they believed they had to believe what those theologians said, because they could not understands such ‘godly and divine matters’. Lots of people also wanted to have religion co-inside with their traditions and as such found it acceptable to have a three headed god for example. The Trinity made it also possible to have something mystic or something special ‘attractive’ because incomprehensible. It also made that they continue to worship pictures and have many saints or people where they could pray to. Otherwise they only had to count on One Something, Who was not a man but a Spirit, and could not be seen or pictured, because the God of Abraham can not be seen and may not be pictured.

So What Now?

One of the greatest tragedies in life is when people hold on to something when they know it has failed. The denial of carrying a corpse around can be a tremendous burden.

The problem with getting people to come and see about the different ways of religion and how the God of the Bible wants to have people around Him, is that people do not want to break with the past, with the attitudes of their ancestors and with the traditions of the region where they are living. It often takes a move to an other country before people would take over … some other traditions …

Or are people willing to come to the facts? Or do they only want to have faith in something they can grasp?

Spirit or person, reality or tradition

To get people to decide for their own, taking the words for what they are and how they are written down in the Bible is very difficult. When we do our preaching and read parts from the Bible, lots of people continue to bring into it always their background of their trinitarian teaching. when there is written “this person” does this or that, they consider that there is also said that “that person” does this or that, instead of willing to take the “this” person where is written “this” and the “that” person where is written “that”. And as such they keep mixing figures but keep also not seeing clear.
That way we also do find Christian denominations which say God is a woman because God is Wisdom and the Bible talks about “her” and “she”. Also others say God is a woman because God is Love and love is feminine and the Scriptures talk about “She” when it describes that love. Others say God is a man because He is a warrior, or something else which is masculine. But God is none of them because He is a Spirit.

” (24)  “Elohim is Spirit, and those who worship Him need to worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 The Scriptures 1998+)

People should try to accept that there can be a Supreme Being that is not like them or does not fit their images. God can not be pictured, except that we know He has some elements of us because we are created in His image. Because nobody has ever been able to see God, we also can have no real picture of Him in our mind and we may not make a picture of Him in our life.

” (1)  And Elohim spoke all these Words, saying,  (2)  “I am יהוה {Jehovah} your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim, out of the house of slavery.  (3)  “You have no other mighty ones against My face.  (4)  “You do not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of that which is in the heavens above, or which is in the earth beneath, or which is in the waters under the earth,  (5)  you do not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, יהוה {Jehovah} your Elohim am a jealous Ěl, visiting the crookedness of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  (6)  but showing kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and guard My commands.” (Exodus 20:1-6 The Scriptures 1998+)

” (19)  And He said, “I shall cause all My goodness to pass before you, and I shall proclaim the Name of יהוה {Jehovah} before you. And I shall favour him whom I favour, and shall have compassion on him whom I have compassion.”  (20)  But He said, “You are unable to see My face, for no man does see Me and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20 The Scriptures 1998+)

” (17)  Now to the Sovereign of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, to Elohim who alone is wise, be respect and esteem forever and ever. Amĕn.” (1Ti 1:17 The Scriptures 1998+)

” (16)  who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or is able to see, to whom be respect and everlasting might. Amĕn.” (1Ti 6:16 The Scriptures 1998+)

Visible or invisible

How many people are wiling to accept that God the Immortal King of the King of kings is and was invisible? In case Jesus was God than nobody could have seen him and stayed alive. Many people saw Jesus of whom the Father in heaven declared that it was His son. In case God twisted His words and the above verses would not be true, nor that what God said from heaven was totally true than people could and should consider God a liar. But God does not tell lies. Though many churches of the Christian Faith made Him one who was not telling the truth or not keeping His words. Those who think Jesus is God should question if Jesus told the truth when he was asked if they could sit next to him or when he would return or when the end times would come. Every time Jesus told them it was not given to him to decide who was to be seated where or when he would come back. He told them he did not know such things. But God does know everything, so those who do not accept Jesus as the son of God but make him the god son are making God into a liar. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony or witness in himself; he who does not believe God, has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony or record that Jehovah the God of heaven and earth has given concerning His son.

” (10)  The one who believes in the Son of Elohim has the witness in himself, the one who does not believe Elohim has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the witness that Elohim has given concerning His Son.” (1 John 5:10 The Scriptures 1998+)

Denial

Religion Stencil

Religion Stencil (Photo credit: murdelta)

Atheism brings the denial of the existence of God or gods, but those who have faith in the Creator should know that the God of gods exists and that man still make many gods today.

It is narrow-minded to reduce a naturalist’s worldview down to its negative component of atheism, just as it is narrow minded for a Muslim to consider a Christian anti-Muhhamad.

Theo • philogue writes in Can A Theist Appreciate Baggini’s Atheism? :: Book Review of Julian Baggini’s book Atheism: A Very Short Introduction:

Such reductionist labeling can feed into prejudices and hinder mutual respect and productive dialogue.  On the other hand, … I don’t necessarily think the argument Baggini advances in order to accomplish his redefinition of the word “atheism” is sound.

But he also warns:

It seems to me that evangelicals who hold to exclusivists positions ideologically (i.e. that only Christianity is true and all other religions false) have no choice but to admit with Baggini that human beings in general are not good at interpreting their experiences — especially religious experiences.  How can Muslims be so skeptical about the religious experiences of Christians (or vice versa), but be so confident in their own?

Scientific understanding having more continuity globally than religious understanding

According to the Bible when people die they are just death and can do nothing or think anything. But there are religious people who think their soul is some extra element in their body which shall go out of it. In such an instance, when there would be a soul leaving the body, able to think and do things, this ‘soul’ should remain fully conscious after death. When this would the case you should wonder why the soul does not retain memories for those with brain disease, dementia , Alzheimer, etc..

Here it seems that views of consciousness after death are problematic in light of the dependency relationship established by science between consciousness and brain activity.  This area of science is forcing some evangelicals, for example, to rethink their interpretation of biblical language about souls to accommodate the scientific data. {Can A Theist Appreciate Baggini’s Atheism? :: Book Review of Julian Baggini’s book Atheism: A Very Short Introduction}

Several people say there is strong evidence for consciousness after death by the “testimony of mediums, supposed appearances of ghosts, and near-death experiences.” First of all they forget the near death experience is an experience the person had when he or she was not death but alive. It is an experience of a ‘living soul’, being the ‘being’ of a person.

Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard: a symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening.

In the Bibletranslations we do find the Hebrew ne′phesh and the Greek psy·khe′ in certain languages being translated as “soul” and “psyche”. It is not about Psyche (/ˈsk/, Greek: Ψυχή, “Soul” or “Breath of Life”) or Eros the mythical figure which fell in love with Cupid or Amor. It is about the Psyche (psychology) which is the totality of the human mind, conscious, and unconscious.

When we look at the different texts in the Holy Scriptures we can see that it was God Who placed His Breath in the first human beings, plus in the animals,  and as such the person or animal came into a living being. When spoken about a soul, this person or animal was meant. The soul is the life that a person or an animal enjoys and it does not mean an immaterial or spirit part of a human being that survives the death of the physical body. The Bible tells us that when God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life that after that action man became a living soul.

“(7)  And יהוה {Jehovah} Elohim formed the man out of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils breath of life. And the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7 The Scriptures 1998+)

It does not say that man was given a soul but that he became a soul, a living person.

“(5)  “But only your blood for your lives I require, from the hand of every beast I require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I require the life of man.” (Genesis 9:5 The Scriptures 1998+)

The “blood of your lives” or the blood of your souls” is not the blood of something different than the normal body we can see. When we see the same word in the original text we should translate it the same or when we use once ‘soul’ and the other time ‘live’ or ‘body’ in the same translation we should know that it is all speaking about the same thing ‘the corps’ the being of something or someone’. The Greek word translated in 1 Corinthians 15:45 for “soul” in many translations is the accusative case of psy·khe′. KJ, AS, Dy, JB, NAB, and Kx also read “soul.” RS, NE, and TEV say “being.”

” (45)  And so it has been written, “The first man Aḏam became a living being,” the last Aḏam a life-giving Spirit.  (46)  The spiritual, however, was not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.  (47)  The first man was of the earth, earthy; the second Man is the Master from heaven.  (48)  As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.  (49)  And as we have borne the likeness of the earthy, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly.  (50)  And this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood is unable to inherit the reign of Elohim, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:45-50 The Scriptures 1998+)

When something happens with people the Bible says this or that happened with the souls.

“who before were disobedient, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, while the ship was being built. In it, few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” (1 Peter 3:20 HNV) (NHBESY, NKJV, RNKJV, RV,Sawyer, WORNT,
“eight, souls were brought safely through water.” (WPNT); “eight souls, were delivered through water” (NET)
eight souls, were saved by water (RHB)
“wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (KJV, BRG, LEB, LITV, a.o..)
“Those who in the past were disobedient; and in the days of Noah, when the Spirit of God had patience, he commanded an ark to be made in the hope of their repentance, but only eight souls entered into it, and were saved by it floating upon the water.” (1 Peter 3:20 Lamsa NT ) “which were formerly disobedient, in the days of Noah, when the long suffering of Alaha commanded an ark to be made, in hope of their repentance; and eight souls only entered into it, and were kept alive in the waters.” (1 Peter 3:20 Re. Murdock);  “a few folks” (JMNT)
“those who disobeyed long ago in the days of Noah, when YHVH in extreme patience, commanded an ark to be made, hoping that they would amend their ways, but only eight people entered it and survived the water during the flood.” (1 Peter 3:20 ToY+ )

In several places, like in Joshua 11:11 we can find that those “souls” could be “stricken” or “killed” or could fall under the edge of the sword.Theo Philo writes:

It seems impossible to contest that the traditional Christian anthropology of body-soul dualism is problematic because it requires one to believe that “non-material thinking souls exist along side brains and somehow interact with them, and that, further, the dependency of consciousness on brain activity miraculously disappears at death, when the soul lives on without the body”

But according to the Bible there is no body-soul dualism at all and when people fall asleep, leaving the world of the living they shall be death and will not be able to do anything with what they collected in their life nor shall they be able to think something or do something, except having their body decaying or to dust or in the incinerator coming to ashes. When life comes to an end it is the breath of the person which goes out the person but not to live somewhere else. The breath is the transfer of air caused by breathing or by being alive.

” (2)  While I live I praise יהוה {Jehovah}; I sing praises to my Elohim while I exist.  (3)  Do not put your trust in princes, In a son of man, in whom is no deliverance.  (4)  His spirit goes out, he returns to his earth; In that day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:2-4 The Scriptures 1998+)
” (5)  For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know naught, nor do they have any more reward, for their remembrance is forgotten.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5 The Scriptures 1998+)
” (9)  See life with the wife whom you love all the days of your futile life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of futility. For that is your share in life, and in your toil which you have laboured under the sun.  (10)  All that your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 The Scriptures 1998+)
” (14)  I know that whatever Elohim does is forever. There is no adding to it, and there is no taking from it. Elohim does it, that men should fear before Him.  (15)  Whatever is has already been, and what shall be has been before. But Elohim seeks out what has been pursued.  (16)  Then again I saw under the sun: In the place of right-ruling, wrongness was there. And in the place of righteousness, wrongness was there.  (17)  I said in my heart, “Elohim judges the righteous and the wrong, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.”  (18)  I said in my heart, “Concerning the matter of the sons of men, Elohim selects them, so as to see that they themselves are beasts.”  (19)  For the event of the sons of men is also the event of beasts – one event befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Indeed, they all have one breath – man has no advantage over beasts. For all is futile.  (20)  All are going to one place – all came from the dust, and all return to dust.  (21)  Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the beast, which goes down to the earth?  (22)  So I saw that man could do no better but to rejoice in his own works, for that is his portion. For who would bring him to see what shall be after him?” (Ecclesiastes 3:14-22 The Scriptures 1998+)

For us will happen the same as the animals. Our penalty for the sins we have done shall be paid by our death, where we shall end up breathing, thinking, speaking or being able to do anything. For that which happens to us happens also to animals. Even one thing happens to both of us, man and animal alike. As the one dies, so the other dies. Yes, they have all one breath; and man has no advantage over the animals: for all is vanity. There is no evidence at all for life after death and the Holy Scriptures tells us what is going to happen to our body (our souls). We shall all return to dust. Decay shall come over human beings as it comes over plants and animals. We better believe in the stronger evidence for human mortality than in evidence for immortality of human ‘souls’ being some extra spiritual being in man.It is the philosophical ideas of the early writers and of later fantasts which made people dream of adventures lives in some strange after-life worlds or underground-worlds, or several heaven-levels (be it 8 or 12 heavens according some worldly writers).We can not see any different soul than the souls running around on this planet, the masculine and feminine beings, called man and animal. No scientific X-rays or special screening could prove there would be some alternative ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit’ in the human beings. What is scientifically proven is the aura or a sort of temperature change around each living being. The aura appears by humans but also by animals and plants. so that also does not proof any existence of an extra spirit in the human beings which would be an other ‘soul’ than the ‘soul’ spoken of in the many books of the Bible where it is meant the persons.

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Next: Science, belief, denial and visibility 2

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Please do find additional reading:

  1. Faith
  2. Bible a guide – Bijbel als gids
  3. The Trinity – the Truth
  4. Idolatry or idol worship
  5. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. #1 Creator and His Prophets
  6. Self-development, self-control, meditation, beliefs and spirituality
  7. Edward Wightman
  8. Dying or not
  9. What happens when we die?
  10. The Soul confronted with Death
  11. Dead and after
  12. Destination of righteous
  13. Destination of the earth
  14. Sheol or the grave
  15. Soul
  16. The Soul not a ghost
  17. Is there an Immortal soul
  18. Human Nature: What does the Bible teach?
  19. Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid
  20. How are the dead?
  21. The soul has no rainbow if the eyes have no tears
  22. Let not sin reign in your mortal body
  23. We will all be changed

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Also of interest:

  1. 3 Ways Religion Has Failed Us
  2. Direct Faith & Belief
  3. Can A Theist Appreciate Baggini’s Atheism? :: Book Review of Julian Baggini’s book Atheism: A Very Short Introduction

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  • No religion ‘is the new establishment’ (christiantoday.com)
    Two surveys conducted by YouGov reveal that out of 8,455 British adults polled, 38 per cent – 3,199 in total – said they have ‘no religion’.

    This is most notable in younger generations, with almost half (48 per cent) of those under 30 identifying themselves as having no religion, while only 27 per cent of over 60s said the same.

    Furthermore, for the first time ever, ‘no religion’ has become the identity of the absolute majority of those aged 18 and 19.

    It is important to note that ‘no religion’ is not synonymous with ‘atheist’.

  • UK Supreme Court: Religion Does Not Require God (clrforum.org)
    Last week, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom–since 2009, the highest court in the UK–handed down what looks to be a significant decision on the meaning of “religion” in English law. The decision suggests that, for legal purposes, religion does not require a belief in God.
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    Lord Toulson made clear he was not announcing a categorical test for all circumstances–Scientology qualifies as a religion. The court ordered the government to certify the couple’s church as a place where valid marriages could take place.
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    Religion is inherently communal, and some of the most important benefits the state derives from religion–for example, greater civic participation–depend on religion’s being a group activity. In America, some people have begun to argue for a very individualistic definition of religion, one in which a sole practitioner, following her own inner voice, can qualify as a religion for legal purposes. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court rejected this view, and there are good reasons to do so. I’ll have more to say about all this is a forthcoming paper, to be published next month by the European University Institute. I’ll post more on this subject then.
  • New Statistics: the religious make-up of America (skeptical-science.com)
    The Washington Post has published a rather detailed breakdown of religion in the US … alas statistics, so yes it can indeed be potentially quite dull stuff, I’ll skip a lot of details and cut to the chase of what it is of interest – non-belief is rapidly increasing.
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    40 per cent of people in Boston have no religion at all, and it’s more than half in many counties. As for the 47 per cent of Bostonians who are Catholic “participants” – well, there isn’t much participation going on come Sunday morning. We’re talking about 17 per cent Mass attendance these days –and it was only 20 per cent before the clergy scandals broke. The story is the same in many other supposedly Catholic cities – fewer than one in five Catholics go to church regularly. Compare that to the 70 per cent in the 1950s
  • Ask an Atheist: The Usual Questions (csgroome.wordpress.com)
    I am not 100% certain. I am certain beyond reasonable doubt, enough to state that I see no reason to think supernatural beings exist. Any academic and self respecting atheist who embraces science and reasoning would always leave their opinions open for change and new evidence. This is where Atheism differs from religion, because we are not certain and would change our views if given evidence, but we are convinced by the lack of evidence and by all rational argument, that appealing to myths from intellectually dark parts of human history can not even begin to give us answers to any questions, even moral or epistemological ones.
  • Haunting the chapel: my thoughts on heavy metal and religion. (seanmunger.com)
    Is heavy metal inherently anti-religious? Having been virtually a lifelong metalhead, I can say from experience that many people, both within and without the scene, believe that it is, or should be. Critique of organized religion or aspects of it has been a common lyrical and thematic element in metal for decades.
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    Even without analyzing the long history of Satanic themes in metal, the music itself has always celebrated nonconformity. Its heavy and dissonant tones, developing beginning in the 1950s, by their nature challenge the normal, the usual and the mainstream. Religion, especially orthodox or fundamentalist religion, is the ultimate conformity. It certainly didn’t help that some religious organizations and people, especially evangelical Americans, made metal music a target in the 1970s and 1980s, blaming it for causing suicides, school shootings or indoctrinating kids with Satanism. Against this background, the heavy-handed anti-religiosity of figures like Glen Benton (Deicide) seems more like retaliation than provocation.
  • Visible Religion: Beliefs permeate life in Indonesia (indonesiaful.com)
    Students praying in West Java. (Elizabeth Kennedy/Indonesiaful)

    Students praying in West Java. (Elizabeth Kennedy/Indonesiaful)

    Indonesia has six accepted religions: Islam, Catholicism, Christianity (which really means Protestantism), Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. It is not acceptable, however, to be atheist, agnostic, or Jewish. The first pillar of pancasila, Indonesia’s guiding political policy, is “belief in one God,” which has enough room in it to accept Indonesian versions of Hinduism and Buddhism, but definitely not the lack of any God at all.

    As a result of “knowing” that everyone has more or less similar beliefs, religion takes a highly visible role in everyday society here. My school’s flag ceremony alternates every other week with school-wide prayer, which is separate for Muslims, Christians, and Catholics. There are different uniforms for Muslim girls (long skirts and sleeves for girls, with headscarf) and Christian girls (short sleeves and knee-length skirts). All students take classes in their own religions, and each school has rooms for each religion.

  • Religion and Young People: The Lost Generation? (collectionofclancy.wordpress.com)
    I know of many relatives, friends and people I’ve met in general who are either agnostic or atheist and I don’t judge them for it. However what kills me is that their status gives me the feeling that they are the smarter and more enlightened people. But on the other side, the church gives me the feeling that because I have more liberal beliefs means I cannot truly be as good as the devout. A rock/hard place moment.
  • Does Religion Shape a Person? (meesh14102.wordpress.com)
    My Catholic education and religious family background influenced me to be a devout Catholic; no doubt about it. I attended Church every Sunday, received the sacraments, prayed every night, etc. I was a firm believer in God, heaven, and hell. However, as I matured in my college years, I began to have a few doubts about my religion. There was no traumatic life event or epiphany to lead me to these doubts, I just simply began to question. I began researching different religions, asking people of different beliefs their opinions on God (or lack there of) and finally I read a book. I was assigned to read, “God No!” by author Penn Jillette during my Communication Ethics course.
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    I don’t need a God to influence a good and honest behavior. My mom told me to never speak of my new belief (or lack  there of) ever again and to Never tell my father. I respected these wishes and continue to keep my thoughts about God and religion to myself. I believe a persons’ inner self shapes their character. I do not believe religion is what influences a good or bad character.
  • Religion? (lordmontello.wordpress.com)
    The cause and effect of religion leads to nothing but groups of different beliefs that have waged war on each other for not accepting their beliefs. Without religion their would be no blood shed by religious cults and will prevent mass war between other civilizations belifs.
  • The False Compatibility Of Religion And Science (amitoben.com)
    Religious counterparts will often point out that many scientists are religious, and that most, if not all, scientists in the past were religious as well. This claim is often propped up by such big names as Kepler, Galileo and Newton, and is commonly capped off with a challenge to nonbelievers that takes the form of “Who are you to claim to be smarter than those great religious scientists?”.
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