From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Minerva: Goddess goes to college

Minerva   (Mosaic by Elihu Vedder)
Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom.  She also dabbled in medicine, poetry, music, crafts, commerce, magic and weaving.  After all, wisdom encompasses a little bit of everything.

These liberal-arts leanings make Minerva ideally suited to the world of academia.  It is therefore only natural that a Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) project has been named after her.

According to its website, Minerva Project is “the organization providing technology, infrastructure and student services” to the Minerva Schools (“an accredited, four-year, undergraduate degree program”).

Key features of the Minerva Schools include the following:  reasonable tuition ($10,000 per year), seminars consisting of no more than 19 students, faculty that is especially proficient in student instruction, a curriculum that is “based on the science of learning,” and a global-immersion focus (with students living in major international locations such as Mumbai, Hong Kong. Sydney, Buenos Aires, Cape Town and Berlin).

The Minerva Schools embrace "the latest advances in information technology.”  “Live, video-based Acting Learning Seminars” ensure that “everyone is visually engaged.”

By no means, however, has Minerva ever been satisfied with just one project.  Her name also appears in conjunction with a host of other higher-education institutions (Yale, Berkeley, Heidelberg, Bryn Mawr, just to name a few).


Copyright September 29, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Nazi gas chamber reveals grisly contents

2007 Road to Sobibor  (J. Lahitte)
As part of the world’s ongoing efforts against genocide, an archaeological excavation of Sobibor (“an infamous Nazi death camp”) has been taking place.

For the past eight years, excavators have been digging deep within the woods of what once was “German-occupied eastern Poland.”  Their efforts recently yielded the discovery of “well-preserved” gas chamber walls.

Along with this discovery came such grisly findings as “a wedding band next to the gas chambers…”  The entire site has been described
as “a mess containing human bones, human ash, glass, pieces of metal and a lot of waste.”

During the long-term course of the excavation, “personal items of the Jews who died at Sobibor” have also surfaced.  Such items include “pendants, earrings, jewelry, perfume bottles and medicine cases.”

All telling evidence that this Holocaust did indeed occur…  It is also a vivid reminder that the horrors
of genocide should be avoided at all costs.


Copyright September 28, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 27, 2014

'Thorn Birds' growing thornier

Rose 'Thorns'  (by JJ Harrison)
Those with a penchant for unrequited love may fondly remember The Thorn Birds, as both a novel and a mini-series.  It told the gripping story of an ambitious priest, the girl he left behind, and their… son.

Many such real-life scenarios are now being brought to light.  In a Washington Post article titled “Priests’ mistresses and wives remind the Vatican: Don’t forget about us,” Josephine McKenna explains that “the women sometimes dubbed ‘God’s rivals’ are no longer willing to remain silent.”

Therefore, 26 Italian women who are intimately involved with priests have written to Pope Francis, “urging him to relax the Roman Catholic Church’s mandatory position on clerical celibacy…”

When Pope Francis didn’t respond to this letter, some began to go public with their plight.  One of these women, Anna Ferretti, “told RNS that she has been with the priest she married for more than 40 years and they now have four children.”

Although Ferretti’s husband “gave up celebrating Mass and hearing confessions” long ago, he has
“never formally renounced his vows.”  Ferretti stated:  Celibacy is not a dogma…


Copyright September 27, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 26, 2014

Atheist: Just what does that mean?

Greek atheos   (Public Domain)
The world is abuzz with reports about Stephen Hawking’s recent confirmation that he is an atheist.

Being the scientist that he is, Hawking went on to explain just what that means to him. Calling his previous references to God “metaphors,” Hawking concluded, “…if there were a God, which there isn’t.”

As part of this same interview for Spain’s El Mundo newspaper, Hawking also stated, “In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind.” He had previously written in The Grand Design that “the origin of the universe was becoming so well known that God was no longer necessary to explain it.”

So this is how Hawking has weighed in on atheism.  Nevertheless, the term “atheist” has been used long before such scientific knowledge existed.  Wikipedia explains that “arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches.”

Some atheists do not believe in a creator god, but do believe in “other god-like entities.”  Some cite Occam’s razor, a “problem-solving principle” which states that “among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”  These atheists think that believing there is no god entails fewer assumptions than believing that there is one.

When it comes to assumptions, however, atheism seems to be at least on par with theism.  Assuming that there is no god, and that the human mind can piece it ALL together, seems to be a huge leap of, er, faith…


Copyright September 26, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Worship nearby? Heavenly real estate

Hamburg Church (AlterVista)
With so many neighborhoods going to you-know-what, it’s refreshing to read a report about the heavenly real-estate value of homes near worship centers.

Stefanos Chen of The Wall Street Journal dubbed it the “halo effect” when one study concluded that “houses within a certain distance of places of worship sell for 4.8 percent more than others.”

This Hamburg, Germany study found that the ideal real-estate distance from a worship center was “between 100 to 200 meters, or 109 to 219 yards.”  The effect was basically the same regarding proximity to “churches, mosques and temples.”

Although some real-estate clients deliberately choose homes that are near to their houses of worship, many are more interested in the secular
offerings.  These offerings include “community programs for children and the elderly.”

Homeowners also enjoy viewing these often-graceful buildings.  The Hamburg, Germany study participants were fond of their city’s “beautiful, centuries-old churches.”

And the hourly bell ringing?  Even that is part of the charm.

Copyright September 25, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt: Religious tolerance

Theodore Roosevelt   (Public Domain)
Although many people equate religion with adhering staunchly to a particular denomination, Theodore Roosevelt apparently did not.

Raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, Roosevelt considered it to be his “home base.”  Nevertheless, he often attended Episcopalian churches, sometimes when there was no Dutch Reformed Church nearby, and often because this was his wife’s affiliation.

The following TR quotation indicates his religious flexibility:  When I first came to Washington, I did not know there was any Dutch Reformed Church there, and went with my wife to the Episcopal Church… explains that Roosevelt was also a champion of overall religious freedom.  In a 1908 letter defending Taft’s family ties to Catholicism, Roosevelt wrote:  To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular Church… is an outrage against the liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life. 

Roosevelt also supported interfaith rights.  In his 1904 State of the Union Address, Roosevelt condemned Russia’s treatment of the Jews and “called for tolerance and equality of all races, religions and creeds.”    


Copyright September 24, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jesus on toast? Perfectly normal

(Photo by Elf)
An Ig Nobel Prize (i.e., “a spoof of the Nobel Prize” which celebrates “unusual, imaginative and humorous scientific achievements”) was awarded this year to the leaders of a study titled “Seeing Jesus in toast: Neural and behavioral correlates of face pareidolia.”

Not sure what “face pareidolia” refers to?  The Canadian Press reports that this is a phenomenon “where individuals report seeing well-known faces in bread, clouds, smoke or rock formations.”

You know, like seeing Jesus on a burnt English muffin (butter and jam optional)…

Lead author of this winning study, neuroscientist Kang Lee, reassures the public that this type of visual experience is “normal.”  His exact words:  “This is OK for you to see Jesus on toast.”  

Lee's scientific explanation has to do with “how the brain interprets and makes sense of visual stimuli.”

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned miracles? I guess they went the way of good old-fashioned muffins. 

The kind that melted in your mouth straight from the oven and never even needed toasting…


Copyright September 23, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved