May 16 2011

May 2011 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters

Religion and Violence  :  What is the connection ?

Donald Feist opened up discussion by outlining the argument of a recent book:  “In the Name of God”  by John Teehan.     Teehan writes:
“The position I will defend is that violence done in the name of religion is not a perversion of religious belief, as many apologists would like us to believe, but flows naturally from the moral logic inherent in many religious systems, particularly monotheistic religions, and that this moral logic is grounded in our evolved psychology…..”.

Most of the book is devoted to tracing the way in which human moral systems have evolved.  I propose to give you a quick account of how Teehan presents this evolution, so that we can then focus discussion on the teaching of the Church and the actual behaviour of “Christian” countries concerning violence;  and whether, or how much, and why,  this might be different from the teaching of Jesus.

We’ve decided to simplify how we pay for what we eat at 5.15 and contribute to the rent and the heating at Maori Hill.   In future, as set out above, we will ask for $5.00 for as much as you want to eat, plus tea/coffee, plus the rent and heating.   OR $2.00  towards rent and heating if you come for the meeting only.

Tell a friend  …
Do you find it hard to explain to your friends what “Sea of Faith” is on about?  Perhaps showing – or emailing – last month’s Newsletter, with its range of “back of a bus” summaries of what we think is important for us, would be a good way to explain, to indicate the range of opinion among us, and perhaps also to create some interest.

A gift ? or a glitch ?

“Imagine, one day, you receive a bank statement.  Just before you push it to one side, you notice the balance, it reads “$1 million”.   There must be some mistake, you think, and you call the bank.  They check and recheck.  But no, everything is in order. There is no mistake.

You can reach one of three conclusions.  The first is that the money is a gift from an unknown benefactor. The second conclusion is that the new balance is the result of a glitch, though now the money is certainly yours.  A third option is to remain unsure of what happened: it could be luck or it could be a gift.

The believer is like the first person. Life is like the money that suddenly appears –  pure, extravagant gift.   The atheist is like the second person – life is a glitch in the vacuum of the cosmos, a bunch of stuff that suddenly, like the money, pops into existence.    As for agnostics, they are not sure where the money has come from.   What they can decide to do, though, is spend some of it trying to find out whether there is a benefactor.  After all, the balance feels like a gift, and perhaps it is.”
[I’ve quoted this from an article sent me by Jim Neilan, who spoke to us in February.  It comes from the English magazine “The Tablet” and is by Mark Vernon, author of  “How to be an Agnostic”.]

Spiritual Practices:
At our April meeting, Lyn  Baab spoke about spiritual practices, starting from her own experience of living in Israel, experiencing the Sabbath, and  the effect of this religious practice, not her own, widely observed in the community.   Recognising the value of the ritual and purposeful change of rhythm in the week, she and her husband adapted it for themselves and have observed a Sabbath  – a rest from routine activity for one day in the week – ever since.   She moved on to speak of other spiritual practices observed by different faiths and in different cultures.
She then asked the group what religious practices or disciplines we observed.    Some were widely recognized rituals and disciplines including meditation, routine and purposeful abstinence from routine, the mutually re-inforcing effect of observing both fasts and feasts, the use of techniques such as controlled breathing, of objects such as candles, of music and reading,  being moved to wonder  –  at everything from constellations  to compost heaps.   The discussion covered moments of insight, wonder, relationships, through chosen practices, to attentive and intentional disciplines. The common element seemed to be the experience of being connected – with nature, with other people, with our sense of the holy.    It was a lively and enlightening evening.
[Margaret Feist]


Chair: Marjorie Spittle – Phone 481 1418 – Email: Marjorie
Newsletter Editor: Donald Feist – Phone 476-3268 – Email: Don
or: 16 Pioneer Crescent, Helensburgh, Dunedin 9010

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