Category: Spirituality

AP Has Strange Notions of What Constitutes Religious News

My primary base news source online is the Associated Press. I use their iPad app every morning to grab the highlights of what’s going on in the world and find them, for the most part, to be pretty good judges of what’s important and decently objective in their reporting. I also use Google News almost daily as well.

ap_logoOne of my main news interest categories is religion and spirituality. When it comes to this topic, however, AP is bewilderingly bizarre in its selection of news it categorizes. Most of the time, the stories it publishes in this subject area are religious violence pieces. But other news pieces it shares as religious are just…not.

Take today’s coverage. Here’s a list of the stories, in the order they appear:

  1. Shiites on procession kill 7 Sunnis in Pakistan. Religious violence
  2. NYC commissioner: Mayoral candidates pandered. The story is about the police commissioner accusing politicians of pandering on the city’s stop-and-frisk law. The religious angle is tangential at best, incidental in all likelihood.
  3. Pope out with cold, cancels morning audiences. OK, you can question whether that’s news, but at least it’s got a religious angle.
  4. Filipino sailors struggle for news of home. Not a single religious mention, reference or relevant idea.
  5. Egypt’s ousted president in solitary confinement. Huh? The fact that Morsi is a Muslim isn’t a main feature of the piece and if every story about a person doing something or having something done to him was religious if he or she has a religion is, obviously, ludicrous.
  6. Attacks against Shiites in Iraq kill at least 41. Religious-based violence again.
  7. Pope shuns presidential escort for state visit. Again, news? But at least it has a slightly religious angle.
  8. Officials: Suicide bomber targets Shiites marking religious ritual in eastern Iraq, killing 22. Religious-based violence. One more time.
  9. Catholic fringe disrupts Kristallnacht ceremony. Good religious tie-in. One of Pope Francis’ favorite events being disrupted by members of his church.
  10. Vatican to put St. Peter relics on display. Again, decent religious tie-in.
  11. Flannery O’Connor prayer journal published. Good religious piece on famed writer’s personal struggle with religion.
  12. Euroskeptic leaders unite, aim for parliament bloc. No religious connection other than that one of the parties, in addition to being anti-EU, is also anti-Islam.
  13. Bishops elect Louisville archbishop new president. Legitimate religious news.
  14. Kosovo Muslin leaders to youths: Don’t go to Syria. Marginally religious, more political, but at least it’s not a stretch.
  15. Triple bombing kills 8 Shiites in eastern Iraq. More violence.
  16. Buddhists in Myanmar protest OIC’s visit. Not violence this time but conflict between Buddhists and Muslims. Again, not clear how much is actually religious and how much political.
  17. Despite ruling, Egypt holds off on ending curfew. Absolutely political. No real religious tie-in.
  18. Biden to push immigration at naturalization event. Nope, no religion here, folks. Just move along.

So here’s my informal tally:

  • 18 total stories
  • 5 on violence and conflict
  • 7 with no or almost no religious connection
  • So 1/3 of the coverage is legitimately about religion or has a legitimate religious angle. Of those, all are about Catholics and Catholicism.

My conclusion: the AP needs a real religion editor.


Life is an Amusement Park Ride: Comedian Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks was a very funny man. He died about 20 years ago too young. Whatever that means. In this clip, he summarizes the philosophy of life, the spiritual path if you will, I’ve been on for the past 15 years or more. He says it so well, so succinctly, that it is decidedly worth sharing.

If you don’t want to view the clip, know this: Life is an amusement park ride. There is nothing to fear, because you can change the ride any time you want, any way you want. You will see it when you believe it!

BTW, I got this link from my Upworthy subscription, one of my best sources of amusement and inspiration. If you’re not subscribed, I strongly suggest you do so.


Why Are We Surprised When We Change Things With Thought?

I was having a conversation with a very good friend recently and he raised an interesting question. “I see it in my life fairly often that what I think changes, or seems to change, events, circumstances and objects in my surroundings. I cannot deny this reality, but I wonder what is the mechanism that brings about such seemingly spooky changes? How is it that what I think changes not just what I experience but the actuality of the world around me?”

Here is how I answered him.

The lines of distinction between consciousness and the physical sciences are being blurred all the time, both by experiment and by experience. It seems to me that the cosmological implications of Einstein’s work have been peeking gradually into view for some decades now and are still not yet fully realized by all but a tiny fraction of physical scientists.

Energy flowing between human hands

If, as Einstein asserted and others have demonstrated, there is only one substantive thing in the Universe and if that one thing must be either matter or energy, then it seems to me to be unarguably true that everything is energy. I say this because it is clearly in the nature of things to evolve toward complexity, at least until they reach some level of complexity where the very intertwingled nature of things causes them to begin to experience entropy. All forms of energy of which we are aware are comparatively simple in their non-structure (wavicles) even though their behavior can be quite intricate. So it seems to me we start with energy which then becomes sensible energy (what we humans then choose to label “matter”).

One thing we are certain about is that when energies encounter one another they can combine or undergo a mutual transformation. Of course they can also have no effect on one another. In fact, if we posit that at the beginning there was only energy (and indeed perhaps only photons in the view of many), the only way for new forms of energy to arise is by the combination of existing forms. This is then not proof but a strong indication that energies influence and change other energies.

Given that, it should come as no large surprise that we can use our energies to transform the energies of things around us. In fact, we do so automatically and unconsciously all the time. When we breathe air, we change its composition. When we pass through a space, we disrupt the energies there — temperature, pressure, wind motion and many others — in largely measurable ways.

It follows, for me, that if everything is energy and if energies have the capacity of modifying other energies when they encounter them, it would be most unusual if we were not able to use thought energy to change energetic entities.

And as if that logical flow weren’t convincing enough for me, my own personal experience — and yours, as you say — demonstrates repeatedly the ability to make conscious choices that change the energies around me. I was once surprised by this. Now I am intrigued by it.

All of this of course sidesteps the question of consciousness, which is also a form of energy and may be the vehicle or the medium through which these energetic transformations flow. But that’s a subject for a different article.

So I think, anyway.