Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Norton Anthology of World Religions

The Norton Anthology of World Religions 

The Norton Anthology of World Religions by Editor Jack Miles is a massive work of six religions, viz., Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  It introduces the reader to art, play, and the comparative study of religion.  Words from poet Todd Boss set the stage on entering Templar halls and museums, chambers of churches to admire the beauty, remembering the graveness, understanding the liturgy, feeling holy in the gallery, and reminiscing is enough to come just so far.

Next the question is asked, “can religion be defined?’  It was realized that this couldn’t be done to everyone’s satisfaction.  But the six contributors to this anthology examined the primary texts for framing and contextualizing this question.  There was therefore no attempt to impose a general theory.  Then there was the question of “believers” and “unbelievers” concerning where they will fit in this discussion.  Religion was therefore approached as a practice, that isn’t identical to each faith.  So the text is presented showing how these religions developed.  This process has its complexity and there’s some overlap of the various faiths.  So religion was engaged more as a practice rather than a belief, with each tradition having multiple versions over time.

An explanation followed concerning how Christian Europe learned to compare religions.  The process was euro-centric.  Every discovery was viewed from a European perspective.  Much of this perception was determined by missionaries that the colonists they encountered in non-Western societies.  There were basic strands that became apparent, viz., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and secular humanism (Paganism).  This was the four-cornered medieval map of religion that they happened knew.  But the Renaissance ushered in different thoughts about religion.    There was a revival of classical Greek and Latin.  This all led to comparative Christianity during the Protestant Reformation.  Theologians like Martin Luther, Calvin, and Erasmus became famous, and they brought about unprecedented religious change in Europe.

A new map of comparative study of world religions began to dawn with the Peace of Westphalia.  In the 17th century an epochal reference guide was born.  It was entitled, Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All the Peoples of the World by Jean Frederic Bernard and Bernard Picart.  This was the precursor of the Norton Anthology of World Religions, and included all the religions of the world that covered far-flung places that were explored and evangelized by Europeans.  The 17th, 18th and 19th century saw the broadening of the scope of religions with peoples of the Artic and Oceania, Japan, India, China, Russia, North and South America.  Missionaries mastered Chinese, Sanskrit studies were launched in the West, the “Semitic languages and religions” became known; Charles Darwin arose on the horizon along with the Age of Enlightenment and the scientific revolution.  The first world’s parliament of religions was held at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Concepts of the Afterlife

Concepts of the Afterlife

In World Religions and Beliefs
And its concepts of the Afterlife
Are diverse
And shrouded in mystery 

Every faith has its own beliefs
That range from bodily resurrection,
The survival of the soul, judgment,  
Merging of consciousness,
Heaven and hell, reincarnation
Of animals, insects, and plants;
Moksha, or salvation in Hinduism,
Enlightenment, and nirvana in Buddhism 

The Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity,
And Islam believe in the resurrection,
Judgment, heaven, and hell;
While the Indian faiths –
Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism,
And Sikhism believe in karma,
Some form of rebirth,
Or transmigration as the Samara doctrine
Of the cycle of life and death

“Primal Essence, enable us to grasp the mysteries of the Afterlife.  Help us to understand more fully its many beliefs.”
@ (Dfurstane) Website


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Influences of the Religious

Influences of the Religious

“The Anglican Diocese of Guyana is one of eight within the Providence of the West Indies.  Its cathedral is St. Georges Cathedral, Georgetown.  The diocese came into being on August 24, 1842, when William Austin was consecrated the first bishop.”

Wikipedia, July 5, 2017

It was at St. Georges Cathedral I was confirmed by Bishop Alan Knight (19371979), who later became Archbishop of the West Indies (19501979).  As a teenager what intrigued me most about this process was the time I had spent studying the Gospels.  Communicants had to present the notes on the Anglican teachings to our priest.  On the day of my confirmation Archbishop Knight arrived for this ceremony at the church.  Gathered were members of families, guests, and other attendees for the Mass.  It was at this service I was initiated with prayers, hymns, laying of hands, and received Holy Communion as a full-fledged member of St. Georges.

After this rite I continued attending Sunday school classes and became a choir boy.  These were commitments that continued through my high school days.  But by the time I was at the Guyana Teachers’ College (GTC) my attendance at St. George’s came to a halt.  I still prayed for Gods guidance, but felt I wasnt missing anything being absent from church.  However, once I emigrated to the United States to pursue studies on the mass media I never attended another church in Oregon.

For two years I was engrossed in my studies while at the University of Oregon, Eugene.  Just before graduation as I started dating my wife Mary, I got to know her uncle Father Joe Beno, who was a Catholic priest.  Fr. Joe was a rather interesting religious personality, and became one of my role models.  Fr. Joe graduated from Scappoose High School, worked two years at Bonneville Power Administration, before serving in the U.S. Army in the European Theatre during World War ll.  When he was discharged he enrolled at the University of Portland where he earned an undergraduate degree.  Having felt the called to a religious life he entered Mt. Angel Seminary, and in 1957 completed his studies at St. Edward's Seminary.  On May 18, 1957, he was ordained by Archbishop Edward Howard at St. Marys Cathedral.  The following day he said his first Mass at St. Wenceslaus Church in Scappoose.  Fr. Joe later served the Archdiocese of Portland either a Pastor or Assistant Pastor in parishes throughout the Archdiocese at St. Josephs Salem, St. Marys Eugene, St. Michaels Oakridge, St. Henrys Dexter, Sacred Heart Medford, and St. Monicas Coos Bay before retiring in 1993.

Fr. Joe had a passion for traveling, was proud of his Czech heritage, a lifelong learner, and led international pilgrimages.  He loved a party and was gifted with a positive outlook.  One of his favorite sayings even when he was retired at the Blessing House in Tigard, Oregon, was “Everything is beautiful.”  He died peacefully on May 6, 2017.

Another priest who also made an impact on my life was Father Michael Ferguson.  Father Ferguson was an Episcopal priest at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Virginia Beach, where my wife Mary and I attend church.  After 30 years he retired as a Captain from the U.S. Naval Service.  He was married to his wife Carolyn for 57 years, and was previously a priest at St. Annes Episcopal Church, Appomattox, VA.  It wasnt only Fr. Mikes sermons that were enlightening, but he was a gifted administrator, who cared for his parishioners.  So in 2016, when I was admitted to Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, suffering from a Unitary Tract Infection (UTI), he visited, prayed, and anointed me.  On June 11, 2016 Fr. Mike passed away peacefully.  His memorial service was held at Galilee Episcopal Church, Virginia Beach, and his inurnment with military honors was at St. Annes Episcopal Church.

Fellow parishioners of the Church of the Holy Apostles have supported and blessed our family.  They do so while serving in their various ministries.  But Mary and I do our part in social ministry, where we shop for manna, and mail exam boxes to college students, and provide for the homeless at our churchs shelter in the summer.  But since early 2019, I no longer consider myself a Christian at our church.  I have discovered being a religious naturalist more akin to my spiritual goals as described in my published monograph Dfurstane’s Spiritual Beliefs (2020).

@ (Dfurstane) Website

Erwin K Thomas   

Sunday, May 24, 2020

In Honor of the Service Men and Women

In Honor of Service Men and Women

On Memorial Day let us be mindful
Of the battles fought and won for freedom
Let us bow down and kiss the ground
Where the fallen were put to rest

By this way we honor them
For a job well done
They were the brave ones – men and women
That fought to defend the rights of nations
And paid the ultimate sacrifice
These precious souls live in our memories.

By the grace of God let us take heed
Of the devastation of wars inflict,
Countless sufferings, brutality, pain, and death
But what are people to gain from such miseries?

Let’s pray that victories in foreign lands
Not only bring peace but prosperity
With goals that citizens live up to the supreme task
Of letting peace reign, and banishing wars from all lands

“Divine Savior, for such ultimate sacrifice we pray, ‘Eternal Spirit - be with our resolve.’”
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Be a Happy Giver

Be a Happy Giver

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there will be food in my house.  Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I may not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
—Mal. 3:10

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
—2 Cor. 9:10

Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), a government official and religious leader wrote, “Our parents deserve our honor and respect for giving us life itself.  Beyond this they almost made countless sacrifices as they cared for and nurtured us through our infancy and childhood, provided us with the necessities of life, and nursed us through physical illnesses and the emotional stresses of growing up.”  As Proverbs 11:25 stated, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”  Henri Nouwen (1932–1996), a Dutch Catholic priest said, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”  This is what we could expect from loving families and friends.

Acts of Kindness
Matthew 6:2 reminded us: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”  But how should people view acts of kindness?  Paul Bloom (b. 1963), a Canadian American psychologist said, “We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on long-term moods.  The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community.”  A lot of this goodness could come from simple acts.  Rosa Parks (1913–2005) did just that.  She wrote, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true.  I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”  Parks’ actions came to have unbelievable social consequences.

A philanthropist Ron Conway (b. 1951) said, “I believe we all have a responsibility to give back.  No one becomes successful without lots of hard work, support from others, and a little luck.  Giving back creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful.”  Was that the best in us that Colonel Sanders (1890–1980), a businessman was talking about?  Sanders was referring to his gifts in this process when he wrote, “No hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me.”  Simon Sinek (b. 1973), an author said, “The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares.  Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when.”  Sinek saw love as important in a relationship.
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Religious Naturalist's Views

A Religious Naturalist's Views

I’m not concerned about how I’m living my life.
I often try my best.
I say my prayers to the Universal Spirit.
And take good care of myself.
I try to eat the right foods.
Exercise and have some fun.
Read and think about life.
But you may never know what perplexes me?

You see I work hard to better myself.
I could surely say that I’ve grown spiritually.
For a great deal of my earthly life I’ve overcome.
But a great mystery lies beneath everything I do.
Some may say live life by doing your best.
And when you die you’ll be rewarded.
They place their hopes in a heavenly abode.
But with me it’s a different story.

I no longer hold the Christian belief about the afterlife.
Neither do I believe in the Eastern concept of reincarnation.
So where do I stand?
I’m a religious naturalist?
So what happens when I depart this world?
I’ll just fade away and become One with the Universe.
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

True Liberty

True Liberty

It is freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
—Gal. 5:1

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
—Rom. 6:22

An English philosopher and physician John Locke (1632–1704) said, “All mankind… being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”  Locke’s views were echoed by Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), a founding father and president of the United States who wrote, “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.”  This is the essence of freedom.

Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), a social reformer and women’s rights activist said, “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.  And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men.”  Anthony’s beliefs were supported by W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963), a sociologist and civil rights activist who wrote, “I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and their souls, the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine, and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of beauty and love.”  Anthony’s concern was with having equal rights of women, while Du Bois’ focus was on African Americans.

Freedom & Equality

B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956), an Indian jurist and politician said, “My social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: liberty, equality and fraternity.  Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution.  I have not.  My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science.  I have derived them from the teachings of my Master, the Buddha.”  Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), a founding father of the United States elaborated on this dimension of freedom when he wrote, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”  But John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), president of the United States uttered a warning about the survival of freedom when he said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”   That was the will of Kennedy for Americans.
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Reflections of Our Homeland

Reflections of Our Homeland 

Rex Lucas’s Reflections of Our Homeland is a photographic journey of the Republic of Guyana, an English-speaking nation on the mainland of South America.  The photographer Lucas presents a book with captivating images of the capital city Georgetown, Essequibo, Bartica, Mazaruni, Potaro, and Kaieteur.  In capturing one people, one nation, and one destiny, Lucas showed the country’s indigenous peoples, afro and indo-Guyanese, as well as Europeans, and Chinese.  There is a picture of the first pre-service batch of student-teachers (1963–1965), and Roman Catholic and Anglican Schools, and many smaller villages.  There was extensive picture coverage of local homes, churches, mosques, and temples in the countryside.

Images adorn its pages of the poor and poverty-stricken in the streets of Georgetown.  Readers could see the landmark buildings, and other local structures including, the Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry, Victoria Law Courts, City Hall Complex, and the National Insurance Building in Brickdam.  Other sights included the Square of the Revolution, a Statue of Queen Victoria, and Independence Arches in La Penitence, the Kissing Bridge, Seven Ponds, and the Band Stand at the Botanical Gardens on Vlissengen Road.

Color pictures showed tropical trees on Lamaha and Main Streets, benabs – gathering places by the seawall, Georgetown YMCA, statue of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow on the premises of the Public Building, Guyana State House, president David Granger, politicians and ambassadors, and the popular Stabroek Market Square.  There are beautiful flowers depicted from Linden, Essequibo, and Bartica, a variety of colorful birds, lots of animals, and the raising of Guyana’s flag at midnight on May 26th, 2016 when the country became Independent.  This photographic manual will serve as an excellent reference to the historical, political, social, and cultural aspects of the country.     

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Mother's Day Prayer

Mother’s Day Prayer

For Moms on Mother’s Day
To all mothers, grand-mothers, and great grand-mothers
You’re special in our eyes
You’re the ones who bore the children of nations
You’re the women who undertake the brunt of the responsibility in our homes
In nurturing, loving, and shaping us to become the people we are
You’ve dedicated your lives to the tasks of raising us to be the best
And you pursue these goals with an all-encompassing love

The Universal Spirit has blessed you with the “Special Gifts of Motherhood”
You walked with your children in confidence raising us in the world
So the Eternal Spirit has graced you with teaching us what’s right from wrong
And to be assets to the societies in both great and small nations
You’ve raised children in every land of different faiths -
Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Daoists
Yet, although diverse, they live according to the Golden Rule
Yes, they are to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Great Spirit, you’ve gracefully blessed the mothers of our lands
And guided them to be the best parents
For such blessings husbands and children say,
“Thank Divine Protector for your loving blessings of our outstanding mothers from the bottom of our hearts.”
@ (Dfurstane) Website     

Friday, May 8, 2020

Healing in Life

Healing in Life

Do you have constant headaches, low energy, and aching limbs?
Are you nervous with colds and sweaty palms?
Do you have clenched jaws and grind your teeth?
Do you suffer from palpitations and anxiety attacks?
Are you prone to violent outbursts?
Do you have a mental problem, an eating disorder, or are you obese?
Then you might be worn out with the demands of the world.

You could have a lack of appetite, addicted to alcohol, or nicotine.
Maybe you are pacing the floor, fidgeting, and unable to settle down.
With such a behavior you are unable to focus on your work.
You might even be suffering from some other chronic ailment.
But you just can’t sleep at night, and have no sexual interest.
Your condition could be due to the rat race in the work place.

From childhood you were taught to be competitive.
“Be your best! The sky is the limit!”
You never knew it, but you were coerced to join the band of competitors.
Now you are running on overdrive and hooked on a computer.
You just can’t find the time to relax and enjoy life.

But you could correct this negative course by embracing positive changes.
Be sure to check with your doctor about your impending problems.
It will take is a change in your lifestyle before it’s too late.
Make time to eat right, get a good night’s sleep, relax, and exercise to alleviate the stress.

“God, help us with our health problems.  Give us the insight to deal with these problems so that we would be able to be healthy again.  And grant us the peace of mind to enjoy work.”
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Jefferson Bible

The Jefferson Bible 

2020 marked the 200th anniversary when Thomas Jefferson published the Jefferson Bible known as “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”  This Bible that first appeared in 1820 was different from his original attempt in 1804, when he created a single copy of “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth.”  While in Washington at the White House Jefferson used a knife or razor cutting up an original Bible to formulate the latter.

But the 1820 version was formulated in his later life at the age of seventy-seven by once again revisiting his earlier work, and using Greek, English, French, and Latin editions of the Bible to accomplish his second edition.  Jefferson was an original, who wanted to present his own understanding to Scripture.  He saw Christ’s teaching as an extraordinary moral compass provided to mankind.  He reasoned that to return to the original precepts of Jesus’ teaching he had to remove the superstitions and fabrications of the biblical text.

What therefore evolved was the Jefferson Bible without the Virgin’s birth, no miracles like Jesus walking on water, multiplication of loaves and fishes, healing of the leper, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, nor that of Christ’s resurrection.  What remained in Jefferson’s second text were morals and Jesus’s teachings - the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and the Lord’s Prayer.  Jefferson thought the men who had compiled the Bible were ignorant and illiterate, and he wished to give Scripture its true perspective.  It was however hard to classify his religious beliefs.  Some thought of him to be a deist, others a Unitarian, evangelical, or even an agnostic.

In 1957, Frank Church a newly elected senator from Idaho used the Jefferson Bible to take the oath of office.  Senator Church later gave this Bible to his son Forrest, who later became a prominent Unitarian Universalist minister, and the editor of an edition of the Jefferson Bible.