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The Origins of Easter

April 17th, 2011 No comments
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No doubt this time of year is celebrated by the vast majority of us, Christian or otherwise. While many who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ will be celebrating something sacred during the season, others will be indulging in a more commercial spin to this holy holiday.

I’m referring to the popular Easter egg hunts and giving of chocolate bunnies and spring themed gifts. So, what the heck does a giant bunny have to do with the death of a revered prophet? The below video courtesy of the History Channel does an adequate job of explaining the origins of Easter.

Clearly, whatever you call this week, a common theme is present. This time of year represents new life, rebirth, and fertility. From the resurrection of Jesus to images of bunnies (known for their high fertility) to baby chicks to eggs – it’s clear that we’re all celebrating life. One doesn’t need a book or ancient myths to realize the significance of the season. Merely taking a walk outside and observing the natural world in its splendour is evidence enough of the perfection of this time of year. That is all the reason I need to celebrate the season.

Happy Big-Easter-Bunny-Egg Day to you and yours! M. xo

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Categories: Religion Tags: , , ,

So, you’re thinking about going back to school?

April 16th, 2011 No comments
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It’s been awhile since I perched here to chirp, but now that school is done and I’m finding myself with some free time, I’m sure I’ll be fluttering by these parts more frequently.

Speaking of school, I’ve heard of a few folks I know talking about returning to the academic world. I thought I’d write a bit about my experiences with returning to school. A bit of background could probably set the stage here.

Immediately after high school I entered college and pursued an Advertising and Public Relations degree. My thoughts, at the time, were that I wanted to make lots of money and I figured that something creative in the business world would allow me to fulfill my desire to make money, while pursuing something that didn’t bore me to death. I’m sure it was amusing for my then classmates to see me enter those business classes all decked out in my goth gear (yes, I was one of those). To make a long (and rather tumultuous) story short – I quickly realized that I wasn’t meant for the business world and left that two year program (after two years) by flunking out in my last semester (aside from the A I pulled off in Video Broadcasting – apparently I had a knack for film… go figure). So, there I was with two years of post-secondary education and absolutely nothing to show for it. It was what I dubbed, my “almost” diploma – sans four credits.

After several months of floating from retail job to retail job, I eventually landed in Toronto where an event registration company hired me. I quickly became immersed in the event marketing world and there I remained for almost 15 years. I spent numerous years working as a freelance event marketer and when the jobs started drying up, I started to think about going back to school. My biggest reason was because I honestly wasn’t happy “working for the man”. I felt stifled, bored and like I wasn’t doing something that was meaningful to me.

I started researching going back to school and I can say without a doubt that it was one of the most daunting experiences. It’s a lot of information to wade through and finding the answer to a simple question can be a frustrating endeavour. I eventually learned that it was much easier to find one or two key contacts in administration and just email them directly, instead of trying to decipher institutional lingo in pages and pages of documentation.

It was a long process, but after filling in all the application documents, contacting every school I had ever attended for transcripts and writing an essay about why I hadn’t successfully completed my Advertising & Public Relations program, I submitted my application and then waited.

The rest is history, as they say. I’ve been studying part-time, primarily through distance education (DE) for about seven years now. I completed my three year general psychology BA in 2010. I studied year round, one to four courses a semester, and managed to finish in a respectable amount of time.

So, how does DE work? First, most of your courses are available online, where you watch lectures, submit assignments, interact with other students, and take tests. Midterms and final exams are usually done at a school in your hometown on a given date or through a proctor you hire to supervise your examination.

It’s not a mode of learning for everyone. You have to have a lot of discipline to make yourself stick to a routine of studying and completing assignments. It’s pretty easy to get sidetracked. There’s also a huge social component that is missing. You don’t get the face-to-face interaction with professors and other students. Instead this is supplanted with online communication that can sometimes be hard to interpret. Group work is also a bit awkward because you essentially are working with other students who are on their own study schedules as well. So you are often waiting for days for a reply to a question that could be answered in 30 seconds in face-to-face meetings. Finally, the breadth of courses just isn’t the same for DE. You just don’t have the same variety. So, while registering you may see this really cool course that you want to take – but you won’t be able too because it isn’t offered via DE.

There are a number of benefits to DE. You get to study on your own schedule. So that means you can fit studying around work, family, and your social life – you just have to fit it in some time. For me, I’m a morning person so I spent every morning studying and then I had the afternoons to catch up on other things. I’ve known other students who are night owls and they study after putting their kids to bed. You also have the advantage of being able to pause, rewind, and re-watch lectures. When I first started I had no idea how to take notes during a lecture, and I often found myself pausing the lectures to frantically write down every word the lecturer spoke. Finally, you can study from just about anywhere. I can remember taking my school on the road numerous times. As long as I had an Internet connection I could get my studies done.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, a degree/diploma through DE is no different than one obtained from on-campus studies. In some ways, it’s more difficult to complete a program via DE because you are responsible for structuring your class time and study time. It’s an added component that many students don’t have to deal with when studying on campus, but it certainly allows you more control over your academic career.

I am a big advocate of continuing education. I also believe that it’s never too late. Here I am, a thirty-something chick who is still in school and I’m not sure when I’ll be done. I returned last fall to pursue a combined honours in psychology and religion and the plan is that I’ll make my way into a Masters program in religion. I still study online, but I also have to go on campus now because most schools have residency requirements for upper-level degrees. So, I’m combining the two, until they won’t let me any longer.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, I say go for it! It’s an amazing experience! It opens new worlds and changes the way your perceive the world around you. Happy Studying! Cheers! M. xo

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God is so… what?!?

March 14th, 2011 4 comments
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I struggled with whether to share this video via my blog because frankly I don’t think ignorance like this should be acknowledged; however, this is exactly the kind of cancerous commentary I have been blogging about that is infecting religious and spiritual dialogue.  Make no mistake, tamtampamela is clearly not representative of the majority of Christians.  She’s in the same category as the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of our society.  In my opinion (and I’m sure many others would agree), these apocalyptic doomsayers have perverted and distorted an ideology that for all intents and purposes was founded on love, compassion and community spirit.  I hardly think that Jesus had this kind of message in mind when he was prophesying  to his disciples.  Further, I find it unfathomable that any G-d, or creator, would destroy and cause the suffering of thousands of innocent souls merely to prove some sort of divine point, despite what might be written into many religious myths/legends.  Clearly, the woman has a pretty skewed vision of God – made all the more dangerous by a self-righteous ideology that has little to do with love, compassion or community spirit.

I realize that attempting any type of dialogue with this breed of religious fundamentalist is pointless, but this kind of fanaticism is exactly what is fueling the poisonous discussions that perpetuate ignorance and misunderstanding among different religious/non-religious adherents.  These discussions often escalate into verbal assaults and in some cases violent attacks on the “other” group.

And one final comment – let’s not start labeling this as a problem with the religion itself.  This kind of hatred isn’t indicative of the religion, but rather of an ignorant human being who clearly has a distorted view of what it actually means to be human.   It certainly ruffles my feathers when I come across this kind of unenlightened discourse, but more than anything it makes me very sad that one person can be so callous toward the plight of fellow human beings in a time of great tragedy.  Using the events in Japan as propaganda for a holy war is just inhumane…

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UmotTE-VlY

 

Source: YouTube

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Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Which Kill More Birds, Oil Sands or Wind Turbines?

February 20th, 2011 No comments
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Lately, I’ve been becoming more interested in policies surrounding environmental issues – in particular the idea that we can reverse climate change. There have been many scientists suggesting that government policies surrounding climate change are based on flawed data. Those policies are costing us money – lots of money – so, I’m naturally going to be curious as to how the government is spending my tax dollars.
For example the notion that we can somehow reverse climate change seems like a bit of a daunting, if not impossible task. We’d be right in that assumption because the climate has and always will change – that’s the one thing that’s constant about our climate. We don’t and can’t control it.
We’ve also been led to believe that clean sources of energy are better for us and our environment, and well, that doesn’t entirely seem to be the case either. Wind energy is being touted as a renewable, clean, and safe source for us. Turns out there’s questions about the health implications to humans, and implications to birds and other avian animals. Who knows what the real cost will eventually be to us? Sure, the oil sands may not be the best solution for our energy needs, but if the below video is any indication, I’m not sure that wind turbines are the better alternative.
Clearly, we have some more research to do before we start investing billions of dollars into energy sources designed to lower our carbon emissions. Understanding the science behind why these initiatives need to be undertaken, in addition to the real cost to us, is of paramount importance. We may discover that those choices lead us to different issues that cost us far more.

Warning: video is not meant for the squeamish.

Source: FrontierCentre

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Sacred Exemption Revisited

February 19th, 2011 3 comments
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Last week I posted some questions on whether religion should be exempt from critique and satirical commentary. My Facebook status update generated some interesting comments. The overall consensus was, yes, religion is fair game for critique, satire and debate. Now in all fairness, I suspect that most of the discussion was generated by folks who are not part of some organized religion. I’d be curious to hear from those who are members of a specific religion.

There were two discussion points that I found particularly poignant. The first was the idea that both the staunchly religious AND non-religious could be equally hostile and stubborn when defending their beliefs. Each side seemingly claims to know a certain truth and will unabashedly vocalize to the other side the folly and error of thinking otherwise.

The second was that there needs to be discussion/debate surrounding religion, especially in light of growing multi-faith societies and ever increasing global connectivity. As a religious scholar, I’ve visited many Web sites of both a religious and secular nature and the comment boards are often the most insightful sections of the site. If many of the comments are an indication of the state of religious discussion in mainstream society, then we’ve got a lot of work to do. Clearly, there are some huge misconceptions and sweeping generalizations that are poisoning these discussions.

As Rabbi Adam Jacobs summed up in his An Open Letter to the Atheist Community “We still have a lot to discuss. Let’s do it with a caring heart, and open mind and a spirit of appreciation for our shared humanity”.

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Categories: Religion Tags: ,

Sacred Exemption?

February 12th, 2011 2 comments
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I was always told to avoid talk of religion.  It seems that most people avoid the topic, as if lightening were going to strike them. Clearly, religion creates some huge divides among us. You’d expect, given that we’re a “civilized society”, we’d be able to engage in discussion about those things that make us different.  Groups coming together to discuss their differences often find that they have a lot more in common than what separates them.

What’s my point?  I think we need to have these discussions – not debates – discussions.  Let’s leave the debates out of it because that inherently implies that a side aims for victory.  Discussions give us an opportunity to understand another perspective, even if we don’t necessarily agree with it.  New understandings can only serve to make us wiser.

So, I ask:  Should the sacred and holy be exempt from critical engagement?  What about satirical commentary?

Here’s some ideas to think about:
– Is there a difference between critique and satire? Is it okay to question religion, but not mock it?
– Can we really talk about offending or challenging a specific religion when within each religious tradition there is much diversity among its adherents?
– Is criticism of belief any different than criticism of non-belief?
– Are we able to draw a line around what is open for critical engagement concerning religion – and if so, is that line arbitrary?

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve added some images below to really get those gears grinding. Seems the religious debate is alive and well on the highways and streets…

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Categories: Religion Tags: ,