Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Belief #2 - Power of Prayer

As I study various religions throughout the world, there are many things that seem to be consistent with all of them. The obvious one tends to be that their religion is the only way, and all others are doing it wrong. The second most common thread is that of prayer.

Each religion calls it something different, or goes about it in unique ways, but when it comes right down to it, whether your chanting, dancing, singing, or speaking to your god/goddess, you are attempting to tap into some unseen mystical force to affect a change. For this article I will call any of these ways various religions use to join their thoughts together as prayer.

It’s interesting to me that all religions have the belief that there is some invisible energy that they know is out there, but they can’t explain. They know that if they all get together and think the same thing that sometimes they can make a difference. Or can they?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you have heard about the power of prayer. Are we really affecting things with prayers? Can we change our lives, or the lives of others, through some intangible force of nature? My thinking is not really.

What prayer does for people is gives them hope. Prayer provides the necessary vehicle to focus our subconscious mind on the good things in life. By praying we bring those things to the forefront that we want to occur in our lives, and push the bad thoughts deeper down inside of us.

When a large group of people gather together, and all pray for the same thing, it reinforces these thoughts and strengthens the belief that whatever is being prayed for will happen. It’s the old saying that there is strength in numbers.

The human mind is both weak and powerful. Its weakness comes from the susceptibility to be influenced and controlled subconsciously. Things happen to us daily that change our actions. Bad habits are formed from our inability to sometimes control our own actions. The power of our minds pretty much comes from the same source. It is our subconscious that keeps us safe, and throws up warning flags when danger rears its ugly head.

The subconscious, a curse, and a blessing..

A lot of what we do is based on instructions received from our subconscious while our minds are on autopilot.

This is why placing a message to yourself someplace that you will see it every day, such as on the bathroom mirror, is the method used by many to obtain their goals. Reading this message several times a day will implant it into your subconscious so that unknowingly to you, your mind begins working behind the scenes to make happen what you are trying to achieve.

We can pray for someone to get better, but the plain truth is, we’re not helping him or her a bit unless they are actually in the room hearing our prayers. If they are present, all of the emotional and positive thoughts may very well improve their ability to heal. Not by some religious force, but by affecting their subconscious and strengthening their belief in their own ability to get better.

Sometimes the physical ailments are beyond our prayers, and no matter the amount of soul strengthening our prayers do, the person will not get better. It isn’t because God does not care, it’s because the sick person cannot fight the ailment mentally.

Doing a dance to the gods so that rain will come, or the crops will grow, will never work. If it rains soon after the dance, we will assume our prayers were answered. If the rain stays away, then the gods must be angry. Our prayers cannot affect the weather, because it has no subconscious to affect. It simply is nature, and will flow as it was designed, and not by the whim of a bunch of scantily clad loonies prancing about a campfire.

In order for prayer to work, and in this I mean the subconscious altering power of it, there needs to be a strong belief and a focus. In the Christian faith, that focus is God, and his son Jesus. Because everyone has the belief that God is real, and a part of them, they all focus their collective prayers onto God. This strengthens their focus, and gives everyone a central conduit through which to channel their emotions.

Wiccans know that there needs to be a focus also. It’s interesting that in the Wiccan faith they will tell you they believe in a god and a goddess, but it seems to me that they don’t really believe in this the same as Christians. To Christians, God is a real entity, floating somewhere in the heavens and playing with our lives here on Earth.

To a Wiccan, the god and goddess represent the Yin and the Yang, male and female, the basics of the natural order of things. Many Wiccans pick and choose which god or goddess to focus their energies and prayers to. It could be Thor, the god of thunder from Norse mythology, or it could be Isis, the goddess of love from Egyptian mythology. Which god or goddess is not the point of the exercise, it’s merely a means to the end result.

For a Wiccan, it’s the focus of the prayer, not so much that they think that Isis is really sitting on a cloud listening to the prayer. In this respect, Wiccans are not fooling themselves into thinking there is some mystical being that controls our lives.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it in the future. It amazes me that followers of a religion can laugh at other religions, such as the old Greek or Native American religions, yet steadfastly believe that their mystical hocus pocus belief is real. The truth is, in another couple hundred years I believe that most of the religious hold outs today will be forgotten and amused about over a dinner table in the future.

So belief #2 is The Power of Prayer. I believe that there is indeed power in prayer. The power to help each other through hard times, the power to achieve a strong focus on the positive things in life while moving the negative things into a lesser spot in our subconscious minds. Prayer is a good thing, and it should be embraced and used whether or not you believe in a higher power.

It’s more important to believe in yourself, and in the goodness of those around you. If you require a focus to strengthen your belief, then utilize the one that works for you. Whether it is God, Jesus, Thor or Isis, choose a focus you are comfortable with.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Flu Shot Induced Alzheimer’s?

It’s the end of the world, as we know it. Or at least it seems that way if you listen to all of the hype recently about the shortages of flu shots. Thank goodness they have bought more! So what if it isn’t the correct one to fight the current flu strain that is making everyone feel like crap. It’s still a flu shot dang it!

What about these rumors going around that the flu shot is actually bad for you? It’s slowly poisoning our brains and could even cause Alzheimer’s. Let’s dig a little deeper into these mysteries of the flu shot and see if we can’t find some answers…

Now before I get to involved, you need to understand that I am not a medical person. My medical background stops at basic first aid with a little CPR thrown in for good measure. The information found here is by doing a little research, and trying to put together some spread out pieces of a puzzle. As with all my articles, the information found within them are my opinion, and nothing more scientific then that.

So read on with the knowledge that the person serving you this dish is not the cook, but merely the waiter.

I’ll spare you the details of just what exactly influenza is. It should be sufficient to mention that it’s a virus that changes each year so that it’s never really the same year after year. In fact, since it takes about two years to ramp up the flu shots, the companies that provide them are taking a shot in the dark (pun intended) on whether or not the ingredients in this years flu shot will be the right mixture.

Speaking of ingredients, do you realize what they are injecting you with? Let’s take a look at this modern day witches brew and see if it gives you the willies just as it did me.

Thimerosal (Mercury disinfectant/preservative)
Aluminum (additive to promote antibody response) (implicated as a contributor to Alzheimer's, seizures, fatigue, mental problems)
Formaldehyde (disinfectant) (incidentally, it's what aspartame converts to at a mere 86 degrees F)
Ethylene Glycol (anti-freeze)
Phenol (disinfectant)
Benzethonium Chloride (antiseptic)
Methylparaben (anti fungal, preservative)

The vaccine is prepared with chicken embryo fluid, inoculated with the living flu strains, then treated with formaldehyde to inactivate the virus. The other chemicals are used to preserve and disinfect the fluid. Since animal cells are used for this process, animal viruses are sometimes introduced into the vaccine, undetected. This has happened as recently as 1995.

Personally, I’ll take my chances on getting the flu! If Dr. McCoy were alive today he would be aghast at what we are injecting into our bodies to avoid the sniffles.

I realize that many people die each year from influenza, and we shouldn’t make light of this fact, but does injecting ourselves with these potions really help?

Not according to Dr. Monte Kline, PhD. of the Pacific Health Center. He says that,

“Many studies cast considerable doubt on the efficacy of flu shots. For example, a Dutch article about a home for the elderly noted that in spite of 2/3 of the residents getting flu shots, 49% developed severe flu and 10% of them died. Among those who were vaccinated 50% got the flu, versus 48% on the non-vaccinated. There was essentially no difference in flu incidence in the vaccinated or unvaccinated population!

"At a similar situation for the elderly a significantly lower rate of morbidity (37%) and death (3%) was noted. The only difference was that these people did not receive flu shots! A French study of people age 60-69 found 14% of those vaccinated got flu versus 13% who did not get vaccinated.”

Did you read that last paragraph correctly? Less people got the flu and died then those that were vaccinated against it!

Dr. Kline also brought up a good point when he said that claims of getting a flu shot would lesson the flu symptoms cannot be proven. How would anyone know, much less be able to scientifically prove, a statement like this?

Now I don’t want to scare you completely, especially if you already received your flu shot this year, but there is a long list of potential problems with getting a flu shot. Things like Alzheimer's, Respiratory Infections, Leukemia, Allergic Reactions, etc… Things you might expect from injecting toxins into your body.

I’ve been reading several experts that have said that the best way to avoid the flu is to do the things you already know to keep yourself healthy. Eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest, and take some vitamins.

If we stay healthy our bodies are designed by nature to fight off viruses. Instead of eating fast food daily, becoming a sofa spud, and getting 2 hours of sleep a night, take care of yourself better, and your body will take care of you.

Will you ever get the flu if you do these things? Certainly, the point is that you should be less likely to get the flu, and more likely to fight the virus quicker with a healthy body. Not-to-mention, a healthy body will help you recover easier from just about anything medically from broken bones to surgeries.

Certainly there are groups that a flu shot might benefit, such as both ends of the age spectrum. Those of us in the middle should be fine. I’m not saying never get a flu shot, nor am I saying that what I have uncovered here is 100% accurate. Only you can decide for sure what is best for you and your family.

Personally, I find no reason to inject more garbage into my body then absolutely necessary. Now if I can just stay away from fast food and the couch!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Who’s the Fat Guy in the Red Suit?

Ah Christmas time. It brings warmth to your soul just thinking about the season doesn’t it? We all have fond memories of family and friends, Christmas gatherings and giving and receiving gifts.

Where did it all begin?

Christmas is celebrated throughout the world by almost every culture in one form or another. There are winter stories told as long as stories have ever been passed down from generation to generation.

Here in America Christmas has a decidedly Christian flare, but it wasn’t always that way. Did you know almost every Christmas tradition predates the Christian religion?

This sort of talk always makes Christians angry, because it infringes on “their holiday”. At the risk of making even more Christians dislike me, and this web site, let’s take a brief look at one Christmas icon, Santa Claus, or if you’d prefer, Father Christmas.

The figure of Santa Claus, which we can all relate to, is actually an amalgamation of several gods from time gone by. The “Reader’s Digest Big Book of Christmas” relates that Santa’s origins stem from the Norse king of gods, Odin. He certainly looks the part as the father of Norse mythology, a larger-then-life figure with a full white beard.

Although Odin looks the part his son, Thor, may have had a hand in creating some of the legend as well.

You see it’s been told that Odin’s son, Thor, rode through the skies in his chariot being pulled by two magical goats named, Tanngrísnir (Tooth-Gnasher) and Tanngnjóstr (Tooth-Grinder). Hmm, yelling, “on Gnasher, on Grinder” doesn’t sound as nice as the current reindeer names do they?

The Christians added their own entry with stories of a kind man named Nicholas, who was very giving and in one instance dropped three bags of gold down a chimney so that their father could afford their dowry and they could marry. The gold just happened to land in each of the girl’s stockings that were being hung by the fireplace to dry.

Nicholas the gift giver became St. Nicholas, and a feast for him was celebrated on the 6th of December. When the church stopped celebrating different days for different saints, St. Nicholas merged into the December 25th celebration of the birth of Christ.

What is more fascinating is that many cultures had their own twist on a kindly old gentleman who brought gifts during the time of winter celebrations. In Germany it was Christkind (meaning Christ Child) or Kris Kringle, the Dutch had Sinter Claas, a shortend form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for St. Nicholas) who would place gifts by the cinders of a fireplace.

Santa Claus didn’t really take off as the striking figure he is today until Clement Clarke Moore wrote, “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" in 1822, which later became, “The Night Before Christmas”. In his poem Moore describes St. Nicholas as a “right jolly old elf” with “a little round belly”, who had a “miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer”. Rudolph wasn’t with him in those days.

Describing St. Nicholas as an elf brings into the mix the stories from the Norse and Germanic peoples who tell of a Yule Elf that brought them presents on winter solstice if they left offerings of porridge. This brings us back to Odin, who was a Norse god, and identified as “Jolnir”, the “Lord of the Yule”.

As an elf, Santa is also linked to the faerie folk. Did you know that bringing Christmas trees inside, and other evergreen decorations such as wreaths, were originally to give the faerie folk a place to come in and stay out of the harsh cold of winter? If you provided these magical creatures a temporary haven from the winter weather they would bestow upon your home their favor and blessings for the year ahead.

Elves seem to get most of the press, and are the workforce for Santa, and why not? Elves love little shiny things such as toys and lights, and enjoy being little tricksters. Being related to these little people, Santa is a bit of a trickster himself. After all, if you’re naughty you will get a lump of coal.

Be thankful you didn’t live in some European towns long ago. It was known there, that St. Nicholas traveled with a helper called, “Black Peter” who carried a sack of switches. If they visited a home with naughty children Black Peter would beg St. Nicholas to let him punish them. Luckily, St. Nicholas was so kind that he would almost always intervene and give all the children presents anyway.

Guess a lump of coal isn’t so bad after all.

Do I believe in Santa Claus? You bet I do. To me, Father Christmas shows that the spirit of Christmas is caring for each other. It’s giving to others, whether gifts to loved ones, or to those less fortunate then we are. He’s the ambassador to “Peace on Earth and Goodwill”.

In my heart, Santa Claus exists. Every year he magically enters our home, eating our carefully prepared cookies, and washing them down with milk. His reindeer also get a much-needed snack after pulling the little fat cookie addict all over the world in his sleigh.

Our home is decorated with evergreens, and little lights to please the faerie folk, and with any luck they will bless on our home this coming year.

More important, Santa Claus instills magic in the hearts of our children, and a twinkle in their eyes as they wander around taking in every sight of this wonderful time of year. When they go to bed they dream fantastic dreams, and anxiously wait for the day when they are visited by a kind and gentle man, letting them know that they have been good enough for his treats yet again.

How can you not believe in Santa Claus if he has the power to have this much impact on the children of the world?

It’s time for me to wrap this article up, and head off to bed. Perhaps I will dream of Christmas, the faerie folk, and Santa. I can’t imagine a world without the image of St. Nicholas, and I feel sorry for those who deprive their children of the magic of the Christmas season.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Belief #1 - An it harm none, do what you will

This is the first article in an attempt to lay the groundwork for my beliefs. Because I enjoy discussing religion and other belief systems, many people want to know just where exactly I stand in this whole religion thing.

So here it goes.

As you follow along with this article, and those that will certainly follow, you will discover that my beliefs are not necessarily anything new. In fact, many religions cover the same ground. The big difference is, that I have yet to find one single religion that believes exactly as I do.

Many religions tend to clutter up their basic edicts with all manner of ceremony and mysticism. They focus on telling you why you should believe as they believe, instead of why they believe what they believe.

Organized religions are structured for the purpose of gaining members, and keeping them. Many religious folks have a kind and trusting heart, and truly believe they are keeping with their faith by being good little sheep. After a while, these people are so conditioned to follow that they stop thinking about it.

Let’s pick on the Christian religion for a bit. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but because it will reach the most people for the discussion.

Many Christians are Christians because that is what the majority of the people in our country believe. Their family has Christian roots, and going to church is what they have always done. You’re taught early on that you don’t dare question your faith or you’ll be on an elevator ride to hell.

I talk with Christians and find out that they have dedicated their lives to Christianity, gone to church all their lives, and are shocked by anyone who is not Christian themselves. They have memorized Bible verses, volunteered for good causes, and pray at the dinner table.

Then, I start asking basic questions about their religion, such as, “Do you know how the Bible was written? Who wrote it, and where it came from?”

Very few people can answer that question, yet they will beat you over the head with it as if it is written in stone. If you truly research how the Bible was written and translated, it would scare the snot out of you.

Don’t get me started with the somewhat darker parts of the Bible. Go to the “Forums” on this web site if you’d like to really know some interesting things that the Bible says.

As usual, I’m digressing in a big way. I can’t help myself sometimes. Let’s get back on track.

The point to the past few paragraphs is that religions tend to overindulge with a lot of extra clutter. Many of them also come from a time that is so old that it takes years just to understand most of it. We hire other people to try and explain the teachings from a long time ago, and put some modern perspective on the whole thing.

When the day is done, we find as many different interpretations to religious history as there are people doing the interpreting. Yet the guy you follow on Sunday knows just how it is. Praise the Lord, and pass the Kool-Aid!

I have elected to not buy into the organized religious route. My belief is in myself, and my ability to think independently. Sure I listen to what others have to say, I read the Bible, and I learn what I can from the religious world around me. Then, now here’s the real clincher, I make up my own mind about who to follow and what to believe.

That being said, belief #1 comes to us from the Wiccan religion, and in a lot of ways from many other religions as well. Am I Wiccan? Hardly, I just feel that the Wiccans have summed it up nicely. Straight and to the point.

Belief #1 – An it harm none, do what you will.

What this is saying, is you can do anything you'd like, believe anything you wish, just don't hurt anyone else in the process.

This is central to my belief, and the foundation on which all other parts of my belief system are firmly built. You could say that it goes hand-in-hand with freedom. With belief #1, there is no need to explain that people have certain freedoms.

Lincoln said it best, "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 first belief does not conflict with the Christian teachings many of us have been raised on. Unless of course you’re somewhat fanatical in your Christianity and believe that if you’re not Christian, then you need to die.

So there it is, belief #1. Any thoughts on this first volley into my religious outlook on life? I’d love to read your thoughts.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Merry Christmas Mr. President

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, good news arrived from the desert. It wasn’t the star showing the way to Bethlehem, but it was triumphant news.

Saddam Hussein has been captured!

Although this is great news for President Bush, it is even greater news for the entire free world. Being able to go to sleep knowing that one more evildoer is now off the streets. Just the fact that Saddam was at large was enough to make people wonder what he was going to orchestrate next? Those fears have been lessened now.

In the history of this country the United States has had its ups and downs. The mother of all ups was when we gave the King of England the finger and basically said we’re not taking your crap any more. We were tired of being an oppressed people. Since that time we have boldly stood against all manner of nasty that has tried to tread on us, or other freedom loving people in the world.

Presidents of this country have directly contributed to the roller coaster that is our history. Many have sat on their laurels, waffling around trying to make everybody happy and like them. These were politicians first, and presidents second. They are the presidents who we don’t really remember, or who were so insignificant in our history that they don’t get many monuments, or space within our schoolbooks.

Then there is the group of presidents who made a lot of noise, but never really followed through. They did some saber rattling, posturing, and fluffing of their tail feathers, but in the end, they did more harm then good. It has the same effect of telling your child they will be grounded if they do something, and then you don’t ground them when they misbehave. It tells the other countries of this planet that the U.S. is all bark and no bite. That we have somehow become so mired in our own political battles that we couldn’t afford to look bad doing something in the world theatre.

Finally there are those presidents who make us proud to be Americans! This is the category that our current President Bush falls into.

9-1-1 could have been handled multiple ways, depending on the type of president that was in power at the time it occurred. Luckily, it was the type that was not going to stand by while the rest of the world watched us get bitch-slapped by a bunch of thugs.

We had reached a turning point on the world playground, and all the rest of the kids were watching to see if we would cower before a schoolyard bully. As much as we hate war, it is necessary at times. The actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were not only needed, but also required for us to remain who we are as a nation, and as a united people. It was a message that needed to be sent out across the planet that the United States is still on the playing field, and we remain strong, and willing to defend our beliefs with our blood.

America is the shining example of a free country, and we believe in that freedom so strongly that we are not afraid to face great opposition. Not just in the form of one country, but even when other powerful countries try to defend the evil ones. Our president had the strength to stand before his country, and the world, and lead us into the battle we so desperately needed to wage.

Sure we were worried, but most of this country knew it had to be done. And thank goodness we had a strong leader to be there for us all. President Bush continues to take abuse daily by people who would like to see him fail. Other countries, and sadly, people in our own country who would like to see America come out of this beaten and scared. These are the true politicians.

Politicians who would rather put their own needs in front of those of the country. Politicians who have spent all of their time trying to undermine our president. Politicians during times when strength in unity would be a better goal, try any way they can to attack the president and destroy his every decision. These are the same politicians who are an embarrassment to our country in the eyes of the world. And these are the politicians who are climbing all over one another trying to get your vote.

Mr. President, congratulations on the capture of Saddam Hussein. Thank you for your strength, courage, and conviction on our behalf. Thank you for being the punching bag of the world, and of the lesser Americans in our own country. Thank you for taking the time to fly over and bolster the troops moral on Thanksgiving, thank you for landing on the aircraft carrier to show your support for our military.

We still have a long road to haul for Peace on Earth, but thanks to you President Bush, we are one step closer.

Merry Christmas Mr. President, and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Culture Shock

Have you noticed that the web site has been a little quiet lately? Have I run out of opinions? No such luck.

My wife and I went to Cancun Mexico for a much needed vacation. While we were there, we do what we usually do and went to a Mexican fiesta. The dancers of the fiesta performed some Aztec and Mayan dancing, as well as dancing from other various areas of the country and times of Mexico’s history. While watching these people keeping their history alive, and sharing it with us, I was reminded that people from all countries have roots that run deep.

Recent events have caused us to dwell on the negatives of other countries and cultures. It’s easy for people to hate those that are different then they are. I think that if you focus on the basics of any culture it all boils down to one thing. People of every country want the same thing, to be able to raise their families how they see fit.

Even though different belief systems tend to make us think that everyone else is bad, and we are the only ones who know what is right, this is not the case. War is usually waged by one government against another government. Unfortunately a side effect of these differences of opinion is that an entire country can be labeled as the enemy.

Every one of us has a lineage that take us back to other countries and other cultures. Our histories are rich in tradition. Native Americans, Mexicans and Iraqi’s have their pride, right there along with the English, the French, the Germans and the Russians. You all have seen movies, read stories, or have visited other countries and saw their heritage and culture.

In this world we truly need to find a way to get along with each other, while recognizing that the history of everyone is the history of our world, and ultimately, every one of us. We are all human beings, related in the grand scheme of things. We are all brothers and sisters if you trace our roots back far enough.

When you look upon Iraqi’s, don’t view them as enemies, but as the unfortunate victims of a ruthless dictator. Have the compassion to realize that they are now trying to recover from a terrible history of oppression.

It’s true that there are still those out there that view freedom loving people as their enemy. Don’t misunderstand me, these wacko’s are still our enemy, and must be dealt with by using extreme force, and anything that is within our power to protect our people. We will also protect those who require our assistance to obtain their own freedom.

When we talk about Mexico and those who illegally cross our borders, we need to temper this with the understanding that not all Mexican people are illegal aliens in our country. Mexico is full of hard-working people that are trying to provide for their families and country the best way they know how.

Many of the illegal Mexicans that come into our country send much of their meager earnings back to their families still living in Mexico. Does this mean we should look the other way when our borders are violated? No, only that we should guard against hardening our hearts toward every Mexican. As members of the world family, the Mexican people are welcome, proud of their heritage, and a great culture to embrace.

Just as every German you meet is not responsible for the régime that was the legacy of Hitler, every white man is not responsible for the slavery that took place in the United States. People must truly learn to get on with their lives and look to the future, not dwell in the atrocities of the past.

This does not mean to forget our past, our traditions, our people and our cultures. We can embrace our origins, while teaching our children to work hard to achieve great things in their lives. After all, it is ultimately what one generation passes on to another that will shape this world.

People who teach hatred and intolerance to their children, whether wrapped in the sheep’s clothing of religion or not, are breeding a generation of war. Those who teach tolerance, forgiveness and love, will truly be the examples that others should emulate.

The day that all members of the world family understand that differences do not equate to enemies is the day that the phrase, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Man.” will become the mission statement of mankind.