Monthly Archives: January 2011

Healthy Scepticism?

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by Alex Petric

I started my first year of university as a Chemistry major, largely due to the good experiences I had with chemistry in high school. I soon found that the combination of early morning class, an error-prone professor whose accent was impossible to understand, and an endless list of practice questions (all coupled with the stress of living away from home for the first time in my life) made Chemistry seem like a rather unpleasant career choice. I then explored philosophy for a year before finally settling on pursuing a degree in Math and Computer Science, which I have continued towards since then.

One of the greatest struggles I had with Chemistry was the idea that we would have to take errors into account for everything. They told us that we couldn’t know anything for certain, and that we could only know a general range for an actual result. However, (while I haven’t yet rekindled my love of chemistry) the more I think about it, the more I feel that this attitude is necessary in some areas, specifically when talking about religion. I feel the key to religious harmony, and likely to higher truths, is to recognize that there is no religion that is perfect or has complete authority on what the “truth” is. Perhaps some are closer to the truth than others, but we should not absolutely equate religious organizations and customs with God.

I feel it is also important to, at some point, question our beliefs and what we are taught, not so that we may disprove them, but so that we may find out for ourselves why we actually believe them. I think it is better to ask and wonder, and come to a conclusion, than to blindly believe something, especially if there is ample evidence against it. While I feel faith with the support of reason or faith in absence of reason is good, I cannot justify to myself having faith contrary to our own reasoning.

As well, I think one of the reasons examining our beliefs is most needed is to ensure that we are following the path we want to. If we accept the idea of evil forces in the world, then we should at the very least check that we are not mistakenly following evil instead of good.

Having said this, I think it is also important not to be cynical and question everything we see or are told. Some things cannot be explained in the end, and if we continuously ask “Why?” of every answer we are given, we will end up questioning fundamental aspects of life and axioms of morality that ultimately require our own faith in them.

In the end, I feel we should remember the timeless proverb: “Follow those who seek the truth; run from those who claim to have found it.”


What does it mean to be a good person of faith?

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by Joshua Cadieux

Growing up as a Catholic I was taught that you should go to church on Sunday and pray to God on a regular basis. I know that those are just the basic ground rules that are made to teach children good morals and values to live their lives by. As I went from my childhood into my teenage years and even now into my early twenties, I have had a sort of disconnect from God and the church itself. Even though I do not attend church or pray as often as I should, I consider myself a good person, I treat people with respect and I would never knowingly do something that would harm someone else. I have never done any drugs in my life and I rarely ever drink even though I am of age. The Bible says that you shouldn’t pray and do things for recognition and that god is always listening, so does it really matter where I pray?

On the other hand I have a friend who is in a relationship with a guy who claims to be very in touch with God. He attends church regularly and his father is even a preacher. His actions do not match what he preaches though; he is living an almost bi-polar life. He smokes pot, has been caught sending inappropriate text messages and pictures to another girl and he verbally abuses my friend. Whenever he is in the wrong he just turns the story around and makes her feel that everything is part of God’s plan.

I know that these are two polar extremes but I always feel like I get slack from people because I don’t go to church enough. I know that if I tried hard I could make time to attend mass more often, but does it really make me a bad catholic? I treat others the way I would like to be treated, and often get treated like garbage from those same people. I live my life in a very good way. I feel like being a good person is more important than attending mass, am I wrong to believe so?


Truth, Faith & Hope

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by Aubrey

For me, truth is a reality; that all things discovered, past, present, and future, would need no further exploration. It is the reality that everything has a purpose, plan and ultimate state; that, from the edges of heaven and earth, whatever said about anything would never be wrong. Truth, for me, is a very divine thing, something only God could know or experience. The idea of someone, or something, other than God, knowing or acting in truth is hard for me because of this. Therefore, trusting in anyone but the one who created truth is flawed, because their knowledge of the truth is always less than God’s. That being said, I do not trust or believe…but only have faith.

Faith has many Hebrew words to describe it: aman (amen), batah, mibtah, rechats, etc. These all mean things like trust, believe, or know for certain. But, one of the words in Hebrew describes faith as the only way I see it: Yachal, or Hope. For me, faith is hope and all belief, trust, and acts of truth, in this world, are only based on hope; the true human condition, the lack of the knowledge of truth. I cannot believe, trust, or know for certain in anything, because the world exists in faith and the truth is with God. The world is, instead, in a constant state of hope.

For me, there really isn’t much truth in our world, or even in our religions; only faith…just hope. I wish more people would realize that.


God Loves You

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by Justin Teeuwen

In our fast-paced, consumer-driven lives here in the western world, it is easy to become consumed by our own needs, desires and wants.  Television appeals to our basic instincts, drawing us in towards a deeper thirst for the short-lived.  We yearn to have the best things life has to offer: the best house, the best car, the best stereo, the best body, even the best friendships and the best relationships.  I’m reminded of the quote from Matthew 6: 19-21: “Do not store riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are.”

Everything that we have here on Earth is impermanent. Most of us are aware of this but what has been awakened for me lately is the realization that our relationships with others are also impermanent. At some point, we are all taken to become one with all of creation.  Moreover, our concept of love for each other is flawed: we love others and oftentimes have expectations of what that love should bring to us. There is inevitably a selfish component to our relationships, and our love. I’m not advocating that people become purely selfless. Although this would be ideal, many would end up in relationships where they were hurt or abused, and this is of course not what a relationship with another is supposed to be.

However, I am reminded of God’s selfless love for us. No matter how much someone loves you on Earth, God’s love for you is eternally greater.  God loves us unconditionally – we are free to be who we are, like what and who we want, do whatever we like, and God will love us just the same.  Further, God doesn’t love us in spite of our flaws; God loves us because of them.  Our flaws, which are an intrinsic part of our humanity, give us the opportunity to rise above them.  God loves us especially when we fail to rise above our flaws, because it is at this time we are needed to be loved the most.

This realization has come to me at various times.  Most recently, it came to me when I had felt lonely despite being in a crowded room full of people.  I felt like no matter where I went there were conditions for which love was given.  It was then that I felt an overwhelming presence, a silent reminder from God perhaps, that I am loved, and we all are loved, in a deep, intimate and personal way.  Let us not forget that love, and keep it close to us in the brightest, and darkest, times in our lives.


In nomine Patris

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by Jeffrey Drake

What is the purpose of the mass? I have enjoyed a few in my time here at university. I am not a believer, yet I still enjoy it. I hope to analyze what it is, from my perspective. The mass is many things to many people, so how I feel about it may not be how you feel about it or what its original purpose was.

I observed an evening mass from the loft above. From up here it is a community coming together in celebration. Why do they come here? It could be to reinforce their faith, or come together to pay homage to God.

I am told that a well performed ritual will cause the participants to be absorbed into it. I know of two specific times when this was obviously true, where you have to interact with people around you. The other times participation could be spotty.

No matter what church you go to, you will often hear the clergy give a speech in response to a reading from scripture. At this mass, the theme was reconciliation. This theme was important because the conversation was about relationships. Every interaction we have is a relationship. Notice I said conversation, this was not strictly about being talked to in a speech, questions are asked that cause people to reflect.

The two main interactions are the wishing of peace to your neighbours and receiving communion. Wishing your neighbours peace has a very powerful effect, it is feels like receiving peace in your heart. Receiving communion looks like people lining up at a banquet. But instead of receiving food for energy, you are receiving a food for your soul.

I think it is important to talk about the doctrine of transubstantiation. For those who do not know, it is the belief that the wafer and wine turn into the flesh and blood of Christ. Comparisons have been made to cannibalism, but that is an unfair comparison. In a spiritual context, while the wafer and wine are still a wafer and wine, its substance is believed to be changed to be a part of Christ. So they are not receiving meat, they are receiving the spiritual body.

Regardless of whether you believe in transubstantiation, it is a very beautiful conclusion to a religious ceremony. People leave some how greater than when they came.

A Chance.

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by Kishan Parekh

Let me begin by introducing myself, my name is Kishan Parekh and I am in my 2nd year of Computer Science with Software engineering. I was born in India, but have been living with my parents in Zimbabwe (yes, that’s right, in Africa) ever since we moved in 1991. Using my extraordinary mathematics, that gives me a good 17 years in that problematic, yet beautiful country; the remaining 2 years in Canada of course.

I am a somewhat religious Hindu, with some interesting views I will share later on as I write. I was always raised as a Hindu by my more devout parents, but went through very Christian (Anglican) schooling. Apart from trying to explain to the class why Hindus have so many gods when I was only in 5th grade (and stuttering embarrassingly with no answer), I have never had the chance to express my views on the religion I follow. I guess that’s the reason I am now writing for this blog.

It was always assumed in my previous school that everyone who was enrolled was a Christian, and that meant knowing all the church activities. Being the only Hindu in my year didn’t help at all when I went for my first ever Sunday Mass, another awkward encounter. But that was also one of many experiences that helped me better understand how my religion allows me to be more accepting of others.

As a Hindu, I believe I am able to comfortably coexist with and respect people of other religions, race and colour, and at the same time follow my religion. I have started to perceive my religion as more of a set of moral values that are common to all, a religion that gives you the freedom within these values to act as you may. No restrictions, no commandments, just belief in the existence of a sovereign power over us all.

So with much more knowledge and confidence, I can now answer the question of why we as Hindus have so many gods. The biggest mistake to start with is that they are not gods, but all deities – manifestations of the Supreme Being we call Brahma or Bhagwan (God). All these deities are aspects of Brahma, and ultimately lead to the same thing. Think of it as the sun and its rays, we cannot experience the full power of the sun, but through its rays we can feel the warmth and light from it. In the same way, all these deities are like the rays, we pray to them to reach Brahma. The many different deities are basically what people have perceived the image of them to be.

I cannot say much more than that at this stage because I still have much more to learn. Hinduism is ancient and many people spend years trying to understand it as a religion, but as one of my very close friends once told me, it’s a lifestyle not a religion. I hope to share more in the coming posts I write, but for now, I will leave it at this.

Cheers

Life is Abstract to Me

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by JC Girard

I’ve decided to share a poem I wrote ions ago. It is my view on strength and weakness. The reason I like poems is because they can be interpreted in any fashion. I see it as Faith-filled and almost a philosophy on life; but, any interpretation is a good interpretation. I just wanted to share because honestly, life’s situations seem to be like a molecule of water.

Water by JC Girard – December 2nd 2007 (translation from French to English, July 5, 2007)

Alone,

I am but a molecule

Alone,

I am nothing

I am pushed by the wind

I am hit by the rocks

Together,

We are an ocean

Together,

We are big and strong

We have killed many

We have saved more

Alone,

I am but a molecule

Alone,

I am nothing

Together,

We are an ocean

Together,

We are big and strong

Alone,

I am calm, I am gentle

Together,

We are mean, we are wild

I may seem harmless alone,

But I do have the power to betray you…

We may seem fearful together,

But we do have the power to help you…