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A Religious Man

Being Religious

Pope Francis is a religious man in a way that I admire. His papal leadership and care are for the truly poor in this world and for the world’s environment itself. That’s being religious. For many, religion means believing in God (ever elusive in definition) as felt within or taught by various religious traditions. For me, religion means relating well with reality.

The word religion comes from the old words religio and religare, basically meaning, “to bind back to the root and become whole again.” The root from which we have grown estranged is our bodies and environment. The goodness and glory of these are ignored, taken for granted and even disparaged by too many religions. We may be more than our bodies (born of and supported by our environment) but we are at least these. Relating well with our bodies and environment, and by entanglement, our society – is religion.

I remind us of this definition because I’m at the end of the month and haven’t addressed any of the glaring offenses of the month. We claim to honor the truth and the law but Julian Assange remains locked up for telling the truth (guilty until proven innocent!) while Donald Trump runs for president even though he’s a blatant lying lawbreaker. We claim to honor the environment yet the Supreme (ly corrupt) Court is allowing the defilement of our wetlands to benefit rich industrialists and a Supreme (ly corrupt) Court Justice’s wife. We claim to abhor war yet ramp up NATO worldwide to intimidate and taunt Russia and China. We claim to love children yet excuse a policeman who let them be mutilated and killed for an hour while he hid in indecisiveness.

I could go on but won’t. Instead, I’ll merely paste here some of the comments I’ve made online this last month, adding further commentary in italics.

BBC Says in June of 2023

On June 5th to Religious News Service about Taylor Swift and stirrings of some so-called religious types wanting to kill her and other witches:

Possibly a relative of mine, Martha Carrier was hanged as one of the last so-called witches. Her children were pressured to testify against her.

Irrational and zealous group thinking can infect whole communities. We are not immune in our advanced society from such danger and tragedy.

This is true. I’ll be exploring her and her husband Thomas’ life in a climate story I’m preparing. Both stories deserve to be told as warnings.

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On the 10th to a Cleantechnica article on the manufacturing boom taking place, specifically endorsing a comment there that our government should buy ads promoting its successes. I bemoan how critical and undermining we citizens have grown towards the government that should be ours to run well:

Government has become the whipping boy of all the disgruntled gripers too passive to contribute anything as citizens other than to gripe with self-righteous arrogance.

Reagan’s “Government is the problem,” is the problem – of a people unwilling to make our government become “us, cooperatively taking care of ourselves and each other, acting nobly in the international sphere.”

Unrelenting ridicule and numbing cynicism are spiritual/psychological problems eroding whatever hope and progress we should be enjoying.

To review the Declaration and the Bill of Rights and see how ignorant blow-hards blow them off in favor of stochastic negativity and unrelenting ridicule makes me ache. Too much MAGA – Making America Groan Again.

Fcfcfc replied:

It’s what CW (concentrated wealth) does, which is the only end result in a currency-based world. It just takes a while sometimes. Money and profit over EVERYTHING.

So I replied:

CW (Concentrated Wealth) benefits from anti-government griping. The less powerful the government, the more powerful the corporate CW manipulation of labor, consumers, and the environment.

But it’s more than that. It’s our brains and how the negativity bias flourishes in many, a sort of high, suspecting the worse and attacking with defense.

The amygdala reigns despite conscience, community, and creative ideas. Some are just plain hateful, and others work that to their advantage and our government’s undermining and dysfunction.

Manager of the Cleantechnica newsletter Zach replied:

Ha, so true!! Superbly said!!!

I’ve started reading “Everybody Knows – Cynicism in America” by William Chaloupka towards exploring this problem. Cynical sniping at each other and our government is leading to even more dysfunction.

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On June 13th I contributed to theologian John Cobb’s Forum on Micology and Whitehead:

Trees feed themselves.  Via photosynthesis, they gather carbon from the air and move it into leaves, branches, and roots.  At season’s end, they drop the leaves on the ground, building the soil they then live in.  Contrary to assumptions that entropy is a losing system, the trees participate in a community of life, each living while augmenting others.  Order and complexity are magnified, not reduced and lost.  Life grows and diversifies despite the gloomy conclusion of seeing entropy as an ultimate loss system.

Then again, later,

Micophilia (love of mushrooms) is alive and well here in Oregon where psilocybin journeys will soon be legally permitted while being shepherded by ‘sitters.’  Questers and sitters need not be psychologically sick or credentialed, just people taking care of each other aided by mushrooms.  As with cannabis, humans are selecting certain plants to flourish.  This leads to a co-evolution of both. 

Entropic equal ness and loss of energy at every energetic event is a bummer idea. Life is anti-entropic. Mushrooms are somewhere between plants and animals. We’ve only begun to discover what they can do for our soils and psyches.

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That same day, I responded to Mark Tyrrell’s (hypnotherapist in the UK) idea of asking Chat GBT about doing psychotherapy:

Perhaps such AI could satisfy a huge need: affordable therapy.

As with medical knowledge in general, I start by assuming doctors use the knowledge they don’t own. Humanity uses the knowledge others have accumulated. Instead of delivering the benefits of such knowledge, it is secreted away and doled out to those who can pay.

Harry Tiebolt (who I knew at the U. of Illinois, Urbana) once defined professionals as “those who conspire to withhold goods, information, and services from the public.” Cynical? Descriptive?

Too much, expensive schools teach doctors and therapists to themselves be expensive, doling out their niche piecemeal. Too much, I see lonely, depressed, riled, troubled people go without attention or aid, especially in the realm of mental health. It’s a Kafkaesque realm of mysterious acronyms, titles, and insurance restrictions that even savvy people have a hard time navigating.

Don’t take it personally, therapists. You’ve invested your life in this effort and, I assume, you do what you can as you go. No insult is intended here, but the human community needs more.

I wonder if AI could construct interactive programs that help guide people to relief and health for cheap or free. Could governments or non-profits launch such programs, and could they provide what now goes neglected?

I say this as a 77-year-old former UU minister who would invest in training to be a counselor were I to have the money and find a school that teaches what actually works. Too many therapists claim authority, success, and income that doesn’t seem to work that well. Could AI do better for less?

This is an idea that’s been brewing in me for decades. Why don’t we have a user-friendly WikiMed site that allows people to investigate their own condition? It would be structured from the simplest level catering to those with no medical knowledge to increasing levels of exact and researched answers. It would often allow people to understand their condition and treat it with home remedies (hot or cold water, salt, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, etc.) or know what medicines or medical attention to seek. It gripes me that medical knowledge appears to be owned by doctors who restrict access to it via jargon answers and no answers. Such a site would steadily be improved and expanded as it went, much as Wiki has for general knowledge. If governments don’t launch such a user-friendly mechanism, perhaps a non-profit or religion could. Is anyone interested in this?

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On the 23rd I replied to a tweet of Acyn on attractive lawyer Hubba “explaining” and excusing Trump’s leaked “off the record” comments:

She speaks gibberish to the befuddled. Her red coat and hairdo make it so.

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Same day to Cleantechnica Steve Hanley’s article on his recent savings because he’s using a Bolt electric car, also commenting on US restrictions on smaller, more affordable Chinese cars:

So, at that rate, you now have about a thousand dollars annually to spend locally. Similarly, I now save about a thousand dollars a year by using my electric bike around town instead of my old heavy V-6 Taurus, which I used to use regularly.

The old way of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars had us polluting as we went while exporting our money to Houston or Saudi Arabia or wherever, depleting not just our individual wallets, but our local economies.

Multiply your and my savings by the thousands of other drivers switching from ICE to EVs, and the impact on both our common environment and local economies is significant. Individually and collectively, both cleaner and wealthier are the results.

Hanley replied: Well said.

The savings of individuals add up to savings for local communities. If we stop exporting our dollars to fund ongoing pollution via fossil fuels, we’ll have more money to spend locally. This is a significant consequence that goes mostly unnoticed. If I’m saving a thousand dollars a year and many others do so, my town is that much wealthier besides being cleaner.

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That same day, I reply to Morgan on a Religious News Service thread on UUism’s revisiting identity values at the 2023 gathering.  My concern wasn’t so much about UU (I’ll write about this scandal later) as Henry’s dismay that some religions care to confront and fix Global Warming as if that’s not tending to morals.

Nice summary, Morgan. Yet many, such as Henry, treat this transnational, transhistorical assault on our once reliable weather as if some trite distraction in favor of tilting at “revolting moral pollution.”

Global Warming is global moral pollution, us farting in the face of Mother Nature and the faces of our grandchildren with the effluent toxics of our cheap consumerism and misregulated technologies. [Henry’s] “Perhaps we could encourage market forces,” is a pretty feeble response to a collective ethical challenge. Just because fossil fuels helped make our modern world isn’t reason enough to keep using them now that we know they’re wreaking havoc on us and our descendants. There are better, more ethical ways.

I’d prefer that those so concerned with theology here apply such relation to our common home. Want scripture? Want to know what’s good? How about applying Genesis One, where God as Creator not only generates six stages of an evolutionary cosmos (culminating on earth as humans, males and females), He or She or It declares all of natural creation as “good,” and then, taken all together, as “very good.” I agree with those values.

In that the word religion comes from the etymological roots of religio and religare, meaning “to bind back unto the root and become whole again,” A healthy world, our environment, bodies, minds, and society is the root from which we are somewhat estranged and could be whole again with. I would have this world’s religions, be they theistic or humanistic, treat this world with respect and care. How good could life on earth get for all were we to care and try? My faith is that as we find the will, we will find the ways.

For instance, we can now propel our cars and heat and cool our homes from clean, renewable sources such as sunshine and wind. This significantly lessens the harms of our former ways and points us toward a cleaner, healthier, wealthier future.

So you see how I apply my understanding of religion as “relating well with reality” to electric cars and wind and solar generation. It equally applies to boats.

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On the last day of June, I sent this to Ashland.news regarding three large new boats just helicoptered into Crater Lake:

The reprint of a Rogue Valley Times article about the three so-called “larger, quieter, more eco-friendly boats,” even if given native names, is disappointing news.  It isn’t just the vague “six-figure” cost for each, it’s that they won’t be as quiet and eco-friendly as electric boats would have been.  

This would have been an excellent opportunity to use totally quiet, totally clean electric boats which would be mostly, and often entirely, charged by sunshine.  Hauling down expensive, polluting fossil fuels to run the two engines in each boat perpetuates an old world-injuring technology that could and should be abandoned.  

That pristine lake and our park service deserve quiet, clean renewable boats, not muffled polluters. 

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Finally, on that same day to Cleantechnica about Florida being 16th in terms of solar per resident despite ample sun. The forum considered various reasons for the relatively slow adoption of solar in the US as opposed to many other countries.

Fossil fuels are a long-established industry with deep pockets wealthy enough to buy political power to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), preventing progress. Clean renewables are just getting going. In addition to creating a new industry, they don’t have the money to buy politicians and publicity.

Investing in solar and wind is far more intelligent in economic and environmental terms, but Floridians and other Americans are just starting to realize it. Hope lies with early adopters and advocates like here at Cleantechnica.

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There you have it, dear readers. I’m of a religion that touts “Deeds, not Creeds” even if it’s recently not just creedal, but dogmatic about it. (That’s a topic for a future essay.) I don’t believe there’ll be “pie in the sky when we die.” (Yet, I’m open to finding out “there’ll be pi in the sky when I die.”) Meanwhile, let’s take care of ourselves, each other, our society, and our environment. That’s being religious.

Oh, and I mailed a love letter to Pope Francis. When he replies, I’ll let you know about it.

Byron has been using his writing and public speaking to engage, challenge and inspire audiences for over 40 years. Reverend Carrier's mission is to rescue and revive our earthly Eden, including our human worth and potential. If you enjoy his work, consider supporting him with Patreon.

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George
George
8 months ago

Earthly Religion can be better of without all the religions on planet earth! Stay with recycling & helping the planet thrive instead, using alternative means. How about a religion that replants the earth with trees? Our oxygen on earth is lower than ever. We need more oxygen to get healthy. Our rainforests are stripped to the bare land in Amazon only to bring more cows instead of vegetables on our table. Vegetarians and vegans are better, they do not contribute to meat production that cause more methane pollution in our atmosphere, caused by the meat industry. I like your writing… Read more »

Jim-el
Jim-el
8 months ago

I’m heartened by your suggestion to establish a WikiMed for self-diagnosis and non-pharmaceutical treatment, along with recommendations for seeking professional advice. It’s clear that the medical establishment would object vehemently, because it would be a threat to both their monopoly over “health” and, of course, their extreme incomes.

Such a service would be an ideal application of AI technology … but again, would challenge professional medical authority. Maybe crowdfunding would be a way to get the ball rolling — I’m sure the concept would be popular among the public.

Vernon
Vernon
7 months ago
Reply to  Byron Carrier

It isn’t the medical doctors who are making American medical care unaffordable! Medical doctors are leaving private practice in droves due to their frustrations with the Affordable Care Act and the power insurance companies have over medical care. Read Steven Brill’s best seller America’s Bitter Pill. Obama basically allowed the pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, medical device makers, and hospitals write the Affordable Care Act. Most medical doctors (and their patients) got screwed by the Affordable Care Act.

Teja Ray
Teja Ray
7 months ago

I like that “pi in the sky”…. good one, Bradley!

Yes, deeds not creeds is good…. Like George, I say Plant Trees and Eat Plants!

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