Showing posts from 2010

Jesus as Goddess Advocate

by Karen Tate I asked Karen to write this guest blogpost. She calls herself a "recovering Catholic" and that’s not the only reason her perspective has value. In hindsight, it is telling that I gave little thought to Jesus until I was no longer Catholic. Growing up in the Bible Belt of New Orleans, a conservative Christian region of the southern United States, I was not encouraged to question religious authority, much less express dissent, but instead I was to accept as fact whatever was preached from the pulpit on Sundays. When I actually identified with a spirituality that inspired my sincere mind and heart connection with the Divine, it was Goddess Spirituality, and it was as a Goddess Advocate that I began to really think about Jesus, Christianity and the institution that I’ll loosely call The Church. Thinking back, Jesus was little more than that sad and suffering figure on the cross at the front of the church, or that little baby in the manger at Christmas time, whil

Jesus, a sun god

Of all feasts, Christmas may have the greatest potential for linking us with other spiritual traditions. It started when Christian leaders in the third century borrowed a popular idea from rival pagan religions, a solstice feast honoring the birth of the sun. Before the earth was known to be a revolving sphere, Christians and pagans alike wondered in awe over the sun’s daily course—disappearing in the west every evening, following some mysterious path below earth during the night, then reappearing in the east every morning. It inspired myth-making. The Goddess enveloped the sun in her body every evening and sent it forth in the morning. The Greek sun god Helios traversed the heavens from east to west in a shiny chariot, descended to the nether regions, and according to the poet Horace was "born anew every morning." Literature devoted to Helios shines with religious fervor and high artistry: Helios, eye of the world! Joy of the daytime! Loveliness of heaven! Darling of nature!

More preaching to priests

WHY NOT YAHWEH ( December 8, 2010 ) In my Sermon to Catholic priests I referred to the discrepancy between their benign intentions and their poisonous words. I wish priests could hear women voice their feelings about sitting in church and hearing Spirit consistently limited to a male individual—“HeHimHis.” Herewith some comments. Aletha: What does annoy me is the reference to God as He or Father. God is neither male nor female; God creates all things; how God does this is of course a Mystery. Some of God's creations on earth can reproduce without sex and what we refer to as the advanced forms of life have been given bodies (by God) that use sex in order to reproduce. What is so difficult with saying "God" (or "Yahweh") each time one refers to God? Some years ago, Jews made an issue of Christians speaking and writing about “Yahweh” because Jewish tradition holds the name of what we call God so holy as to forbid saying or writing it. The Hebrew Scriptures (

Sermon to Catholic priests

( November 28, 2010 ) What you don’t realize is that you contribute to sex abuse every time you say Mass. How? By reciting typical liturgical God-talk. I realize your predicament. Because of the Vatican thought police, you’re not free to use truly enlightening language, but you wouldn’t have to stick in a “Lord” or “Father” at every turn. These nouns make some of us want to scream. And those who don’t mind? The less they mind, the more they’re harmed. Steadily, incessantly, the dominant-male language drips into minds, insidiously planting inequality and domination as the primary frame of human relationship, of all relationships—humans with each other, with Divine Source, with animals, with the earth. You think “Father” is a nice image? Then why not mix it with “Mother”? You see. It’s the exclusiveness. The male dominance. The inequality. A good replacement word might be “Spirit” but you’d want to stick a “Holy” in front of it and then many would think of a particular deity in the sky.

Sacred Feminine

Last evening, on Thanksgiving eve, I was interviewed on Voices of the Sacred Feminine . You can listen to this Internet Radio program while performing other tasks. I feel good about the information I gave on progressive Christians. I just noticed that Karen Tate, the interviewer, tripped over my title, saying, “God is not 3 gods in the Sky.” Others have made that mistake—I’ve caught myself doing it—and I don’t mind because it also expresses my message.

I'm a pro-choice Catholic

To the question, “Are you pro-life or pro-choice?” I answer, “Both.” What has been missing in the pro-life stance is nuance and common sense. Well, also on the pro-choice side, but I suspect few of my readers sympathize with that side and already know that. Charles Curran gets respect for his sound moral theology and for openly dissenting from official Catholic moral theology. I’ve admired him for years. Not surprisingly, the Vatican, led by Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, has forced his removal from Catholic teaching posts for a number of years, but Curran is at it again and again drawing fire for it, this time from the U.S. Catholic bishops whose stance on abortion he challenges. His challenges to the bishops iterate my concerns. Forty years ago I wrote a letter to liberal columnist Ellen Goodman, who strongly argued for abortion rights. I argued that, because we don’t know when human life begins, abortion is wrong. Curran also points to our ignorance about the moment of ensoulme

Stephen Hawking, Sam Harris, etc.

On Friday, November 5, NPR’s Ira Flatow hosted a discussion on Science & Morality by four philosophers and scientists. One of them was Sam Harris, best known for his book, The End of Faith . As readers can see in my previous posts, I agree with much that he says, but Friday’s discussion pitted science against religion with science coming out on top. I never heard the word “spiritual,” although I admit I didn’t hear the beginning of it. What I heard reinforces my opinion that the gap between believers and non-believers in “God” could be narrowed if both sides distinguished between religions and spirituality and if both sides spoke about spiritual reality instead of “God,” which carries negative religious baggage. The four indicated their disdain for religion when they answered a listener’s question: “How can science and religion inform each other?” Their answer: Religion cannot inform science—it’s a one-way street. Scientists take pride in their discipline providing factual proof,

Stephen Hawking

At a Women & Spirituality conference I presented a power point distinguishing between science and spirituality. Its content follows naturally after the posts on Sam Harris. One of the most respected scientists living, Stephen Hawking, concludes that the creation of the universe did not need a divine force, that it was the inevitable consequence of physical laws. He thinks we can write God out of physics as Darwin wrote God out of biology. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to . . . set the universe going. But science can’t explain humans relating to Infinity—a universal occurrence. And it can't explain the complexities of people relating to each other—the interpersonal dynamics, the I-Thou relationships deeper and more complex than can be expressed in words, in logic, in numbers. Science deals with facts, which it gathers by measurements and linear reasoning. I

Sam Harris

This weekend I presented “Science & Spirituality” at the Women & Spirituality conference in Mankato, MN and just now I saw my points repeated in Newsweek . Lisa Miller quotes Sam Harris, the hero of atheists, who, she says, “shuns the label” of "atheist." For good reason. Sam Harris believes in God and expresses his beliefs in language similar to mine. I can’t say I’m surprised because I often agree with atheists who distinguish spirituality from religion. I'm struck by the words of Harris that could be mine: We can live moral and spiritual lives without religion. See my blogposts indexed under “ Spirituality free of religion .” For Harris, the answer to the question “Do you believe in God?” depends on what you mean by “God.” Find this exact point in my post Does God exist? Wrong question! Harris doesn’t believe in “a supernatural power.” I concur in my post God is not supernatural . Harris doesn’t believe in “a personal deity who hears prayers.” I quote Einste

Women’s apostolic succession

It is well known that the Vatican, led by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has forbidden the ordination of women in modern times. Less well known is its rationalization for this stance. The institutional answer to the fact of women priests—clearly they exist; we attend liturgies at which they preside—is to argue that they’re not really priests because the sacrament of ordination cannot be performed for a woman and that Jesus intended only men to be ordained. In fact, Jesus of Nazareth ordained no one and he didn’t found the religion of Christianity. Roman Catholic leaders claim that women have never been ordained. This is false. Most Catholic priests probably are in the dark, but surely the scholars at the Vatican know that women deacons, priests, and bishops existed in the early centuries of Christianity. There's a word for a deliberate falsehood—a lie. One scholar who has unearthed evidence of the truth is Dorothy Irvin, Catholic theologian and field archaeologist. She prese

Channeling & reincarnation

Coming out of a blanketing Catholic upbringing and intellectual life, I habitually try to reconcile new information about spiritual reality with my Catholic background. It’s what I do now, but I haven’t always been so open. Catholicism harbors biases against channeling and against reincarnation, although neither conflicts with Christian doctrine and reincarnation was accepted by the early Church. I still quake a little at openly admitting them into my belief system. But the common sense in what I’m reading now! The psychological insights! They speak to my soul. Many, many years ago I read about Edgar Cayce and, while having no reason to doubt the message, I set it aside because it was too different from my cultural surroundings—secular writings, church language, and so on. Now I’m reading Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation . Christians think of channeling as flaky, bogus, even dangerous to faith. It belongs to the world of the occult, which smells bad to people. I

Consciousness in animals

(August 21) Zack tells a story that grabbed me: Hello Jeanette, Highland cattle evolved naturally in the rugged highlands of Scotland, with minimal interference from humans affecting the breed. I grew up with Holstein and Hereford cattle and think the Highland cattle are more intelligent and more intuitive. They seem to sense things. I've allowed my Highland cattle to live in a herd, not separating the calves from their mothers and allowing the mothers to wean them in their natural cycle. I don't castrate the young males, and I cull the young bulls, selling them as grass-fed beef. Cattle are a "herd" species. There's an alpha female who watches over the herd. I've observed interesting behavior, such as a bull licking and grooming his young calves (1 to 4 months); the distress sounds of a calf when it feels threatened and all the cows rush to its rescue; the courtship (an hour or so) between a bull and cow at breeding time; how young calves frolic and pla

Mind or matter?

All that is comes from the mind; it is based on the mind, it is fashioned by the mind. The Pali Canon c. 500-250 B.C. Contrary to the Pali Canon, Tule wrote in a comment to Reign of God , We have no verifiable experience of consciousness apart from that arising from a physical brain. He and other atheists (some, not all) think that physical stuff—atoms, cells, molecules—create thoughts. But Sondra Lewis quotes the Pali Canon and writes, Physical reality is an effect of consciousness, not the cause of consciousness. Consciousness comes first. We sometimes tend to get things upside down, thinking that matter came first and somehow, out of dead, inert matter, consciousness suddenly burst onto the scene. Here we have the “Mind versus Matter” debate at its most basic level. On a less basic level, the question in this debate only asks whether mind or matter has the bigger impact on events. But the above sides disagree on this basic question: What is the source of everything? How we answer

Post-Christian spirituality

Emerging Christianity, a movement disillusioned with the institutional church, contains diverse strands about which I won’t bother here. I suppose I belong to the movement with my God Is Not 3 Guys in the Sky and my blog, but I didn’t hear about it until after my book was published. And I go way beyond Emerging Christianity as these Excerpts show. Readers who poke around in my blog ( Click on titles in my index ) will find themes resembling those of Emerging Christianity— • freedom from hierarchical control, • respect, dignity, and equal authority for women, • valuing people more than institutions. With Emerging Christians I share respect and affection for our tradition, but I’m not comfortable with their exclusively Christian focus. It’s too narrow, too much a rehashing of the same old same old. I emphasize these break-away ideas: • focus on Jesus as way-shower rather than idol to be worshiped, • admit openly that our way of describing the Source we call God is not definitive, • res

The power of consciousness

Physical reality is an effect of consciousness, not the cause of consciousness. . . . Objective reality is a product of inner reality. . . . an extension of our mind. We are meant to look at the objective conditions we are creating and use it as feedback on the state of our inner world. (Sondra Lewis) At this time in my life I consider it my assignment to prod people past the strictures of a particular religion to a larger spiritual vision, one that includes all religions and more. Sondra’s information about the power of consciousness can help us to do that. These are thoughts I jotted down after her talk at my house, the subject—Our Thoughts Shape our Lives. She wrote qualifiers to my statements (bolded here): ** Energy=Matter=Consciousness—3 forms of the same thing. ** Consciousness is primary—all we see is the result of Consciousness. ** If we don't guide our thoughts intentionally, we create a reality we don't want by default. Not exac

The pope & the ritually unclean

Women religious are the best thing the Catholic Church has going for it—their effective ministry in schools, hospitals, inner-city and third-world neighborhoods, parishes, colleges, and spiritual centers stands in obvious contrast to the botched management of the sex abuse crisis by male clerics. A National Catholic Reporte r editorial asks readers to Speak up for our women religious as they are being harassed in two separate Vatican investigations, 1) the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on doctrine, and 2) women religious communities on how they live. What’s eating the Vatican? It must be that women religious avoid mindless conformity to its directives, that they think for themselves. It wants control. The Vatican is “assessing” three areas of “doctrinal concern” in the Leadership Conference: 1) ordination of women, 2) homosexuality, and 3) the primacy of the Catholic faith. The last doctrine Pope Benedict XVI reasserted just a few weeks ago, saying that other Christian chu