Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: religion

“The Varieties Of Religious Experience” ~ “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”


Here we are at the Friday Behind The Scenes of Notes from An Alien post.

This is where I reveal my own thoughts and feelings about my short novel, answer your questions, and share scenes that weren’t in the published edition.

Some of these posts have spoilers (this one does) and, if those trouble you, grab a free copy of the novel and take the relatively short time to read its 90-some pages :-)

Last week’s Friday Behind The Scenes was, The Corporate Education of Children and revealed unpublished scenes of a boy growing up on the totally corporate World, Anga.

Today’s post is a set of scenes about a boy growing up on the totally religious World of Anla.

The first quoted phrase in the title of this post is part of the title of a book by the psychologist William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience: A Study In Human Nature.

The second quoted phrase is the title of a Spaghetti western film that has nothing to do with this post, though the words have much to do with the boy’s experiences

As an intro to the new, unpublished scenes, I offer these quotes from William James:

“Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.”

“It does not follow, because our ancestors made so many errors of fact and mixed them with their religion, that we should therefore leave off being religious at all.”

No matter what your feelings are about religion, I hope you enjoy the following scenes

~~~~~~~~~

He was born just before sunrise.

He didn’t know his parents. They may have been involved somewhat in his early upbringing, or not—that was the way of things.

Everything was shared, no one could claim ownership or possession.

His basic needs were met but just barely.

He would grow into a cautious, untrusting young child.

~~~

By the time the boy had reached the age of five, he had become completely dependent on the small clan of children he’d been lodged with.

They were a cohesive band of stunted souls—permitted to wander the main city of the Lord’s Army—given no special notice by the adults.

The most striking event of this period of his life was the Gift to God ritual he observed.

He’d fallen and cut himself many times and cried a bit over it—the people being offered as a Gift to their God were completely silent—blood pouring from the cuts made in their skin—slumping and dying without a sound.

He would wonder long about why they were so willing to die but he would not lose the sealed determination in his heart—they would never do that to him

~~~

By the time the boy had reached the age of ten, he was the secret leader of his small band of children.

The priests were intelligent enough to notice the small preferences the other children rendered him and administered extra lessons—periods of repeating the words the priests uttered—repeating many times—accepting silently the blows to his body when he misspoke the chant.

His lack of ability to bend to their wishes eventually had them deciding his banishment—unprecedented for one so young—necessary for the ordering of things

~~~

His early time in the Unholy Lands was a trial of wits—a strengthening of clear thought—a life of evading contact with the other sinners

He wondered why these were called the Unholy Lands—such lush fields of crops—never a worry over food—surreptitiously observed people who laughed a lot and never hit each other

He slowly evolved a plan—took a few years to gain the courage to implement it—capturing one of the sinners and questioning them.

~~~

It was his fifteenth birthday when he began his interrogation of the sinner—a sprightly  blond woman who hadn’t resisted his manhandling of her, had said lovely things to him as he tied her up, made him feel guilty for the first time in his life

“Woman, be quite!”

She stopped her litany of sweetness.

“Tell me why this is called the Unholy Lands.”

“May I stop being quite?”

“Tell me!”

“You must have escaped from the Lord’s Army territory.”

“They threw me out!”

She had the most melodious laugh. It nearly stunned his senses.

“Forgive me for laughing, we’ve only met youth who escape. You must be a very special person to have earned their expulsion at such a tender age.”

“Expulsion?”

“Throwing you out

He stared at her.

She stared back

She finally said, “You are welcome to our Lands, oh most unholy boy.”

His stare began to melt into tears.

~~~

When he was twenty he met the newly arrived Prophet, Akla—the “Promised One” of these people.

He’d worked up seven questions to ask the Prophet—questions to test his authority.

As he entered the hut, his limbs suddenly weakened and the Prophet helped him to a chair.

He was given a cool drink and a cloth to wipe his sweat.

After he was settled, Akla said, “Your first question is why should anyone believe what a Prophet says.”.

He shuddered and began to cry, very softly

Akla’s next words would stay with him for the rest of his life.

“Never believe a Prophet’s words until you’ve subjected them to your best scrutiny. Use the mind and heart God gave you.”
~~~~~~~~~
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“The Fog of Religious Conflict”


Religion is not often discussed with rationality.

There’s a quote in the article I’m going to share that gives an eloquent reason:

Religious ideas have the fate of melodies, which, once afloat in the world, are taken up by all sorts of instruments, some of them woefully coarse, feeble, or out of tune, until people are in danger of crying out that the melody itself is detestable.
George Eliot

I decided to do this post to give writers who may be considering including religion in their stories something to think about

In my short novel, Notes from An Alien, I worked to include characters with false religions, those with rational religious sentiments, those who had no patience with religion, and even folks who saw no compelling reason to be religious but respected those who were.

No matter your personal beliefs concerning religion, I think you can agree that it needs a pretty thorough examination, with a cool head and a humane heart?

Not addressing it personally is opening oneself to the prejudice of others

To set the stage for what’s to come, I’ll offer a quote from Shoghi Effendi.

In 1941, he said:

“After a revolution of well nigh one hundred years what is it that the eye encounters as one surveys the international scene…

“A world that has lost its bearings, in which the bright flame of religion is fast dying out, in which the forces of a blatant nationalism and racialism have usurped the rights and prerogatives of God Himself, in which a flagrant secularism—the direct offspring of irreligion—has raised its triumphant head and is protruding its ugly features, in which the ‘majesty of kingship’ has been disgraced, and they who wore its emblems have, for the most part, been hurled from their thrones, in which the once all-powerful ecclesiastical hierarchies of Islam, and to a lesser extent those of Christianity, have been discredited, and in which the virus of prejudice and corruption is eating into the vitals of an already gravely disordered society.”

I must thank my friend on Google Plus, Barney Leith, for linking to an article by David N. Hempton called, The Fog of Religious Conflict.

In the article by Mr. Hempton, he brings up three categories of religious coverage in the media:

“…the seemingly endless supply of bad-news stories about religious and ethnic conflicts throughout the world.”

“…religious good-news stories, which are mostly a bit quirky, but sometimes also quite endearing.”

“…the apparently endless feuds between conservatives and liberals in many of the world’s great religious traditions.”

After some personal reflection on what shaped his perspectives on the topic, he give his “eleven reflections on religious and ethnic conflict”:

1. Religious and ethnic conflicts are more complicated than you think, and are often more complicated than so-called experts also think.

2. Religious and ethnic stereotyping are powerful agents in sustaining ethnic and religious conflicts.

3. Violence radicalizes people.

4. Religious and ethnic conflicts put enormous pressure on the law and legal processes.

5. Many people inside conflict zones see the conflict as a zero-sum game; few outside see it that way.

6. It is easy to be wise after the event.

7. Living in conflict zones requires individuals to make moral choices on a regular basis.

8. Social and economic misery stokes conflict and makes peacemaking much more difficult.

9. Leadership matters.

10. Peacemaking is a process, not a result.

11. History makes you pessimistic; but very occasionally, the human desire for peace and justice surprises you.

He gives more of his thoughts for each point in the full article.

There’s one paragraph I need to quote here because, to a certain degree, it echoes what I tried to do in my novel:

“This past summer I toured many of the working-class districts of Protestant and Catholic Belfast. The old divisive murals, flags, and emblems are still there, provocatively declaring ownership of territory, but there are also some new murals paying homage to concepts of social justice, the dignity of labor, community pride, and human rights. These concepts have not triumphed, but at least they are visibly there.”

He raps his argument up with this quote from Seamus Heaney:

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

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We’re Infected by Materiality . . .


Our last post, was a setup to prepare for a series of posts dealing with the tragic split between Body and Soul.

If for some technological reason you can’t scroll down to read that post (and, I hope you have read that post before you continue with this one), it’s also right here.

I usually write these posts in a way that can include the perceptions and sentiments of most people. Today, I must be rather specific in my offering and I may lose a few readers

It began in earnest around 600 years ago. Science, in it’s newest garb was “born”.

It took a little while, since the earliest “modern” scientists still held metaphysics to be an important part of their mental equipment, but a war broke out between the entrenched and materialistic religionists and the new breed of rational explorers.

If the proponents of religion back then had been able to be more rational, science and metaphysics could have had a very fruitful marriage and we might not have inherited metaphysical practices that are completely irrational and scientific establishments that are more concerned with prestige and money than the honesty of actually submitting their “theories” to the rigor of experimentation.

Perhaps you don’t know that much of “science” these days is an orgy of mathematical computation that feeds speculation into the equations then uses the resultant answers as proof.

Perhaps you don’t know that much of religion and metaphysics is floating free of rational thought, lost in a fog of self-importance that preys on people’s fears and insecurities.

“What the heck does any of this have to do with Reading, Writing, and Publishing??

All three of the raisons d’être of this blog depend on words and words are what we think with and respond to emotionally.

In a culture that has hobbled any appreciation for what lies beyond the merely physical and has become attached to a priesthood of materialistic scientists who have abandoned their own best practices, words have their meaning warped–words, too often, are used to attack and befuddle rather than enlighten and comfort.

How would most present-day scientists define the word “value”? What are their thoughts on the word “moral”? Can they, without clear and precise language, think rationally about the forces that effect us but can’t be seen–like gravity?

How do most present-day religionists expect us to respond to a world ordered on the principles of production and consumption of material goods? Shall we shun our bodies? Should we just pray and wait to die? Should we kill other religionists for the sake of our “God”?

I want to quote one of the most practical yet mystical men I have ever read. He uses the word “religion” in this quote but, due to the extreme opinions about that word in our culture, if you need to substitute the word “spirituality” to have it make sense, feel free:

“Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism.”

~~~ Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 143

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and ask my readers to tell me what this post really has to do with words and their use in reading, writing, and publishing.

Care to comment?
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Controversy ~ A Recent Attempt To Quell It . . .


In the recent post, The Writer & Controversy . . ., I broached the subject of Global Peace; mostly because my novel, Notes from An Alien, is about a civilization growing from greed and war to lasting peace…

The comments were a mixture of hopes for peace and not a lot of certitude that it can happen.

Even in my book, one of the characters (a woman from another star-system) says:

“I can’t say I have high hopes for your World’s progress toward Peace. There are too many variables and, bottom-line, it depends on a sufficient number of you making the heart-felt decision to work for peace, in every interaction of every day of your lives.”

I read a news release today that surprised me. A group of representatives from a diverse set of religious persuasions has sent a message to the G8 and G20:

~~~~~~~~~

BORDEAUX, France, 31 May 2011 (BWNS) – A call for the G8 bloc of nations to take bold action on the interconnected crises faced by humanity.

‘[Representative of the Baha’i, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto and Sikh faiths], as well as members of interfaith organisations, [gathered] at the Religious Summit in Bordeaux to deliberate on matters related to the agendas of the G8 Deauville Summit and the G20 Cannes Summit, scheduled for 3-4 November 2011.

“Summit Moderator His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, Co-President of the Council of Churches of France, told participants that they were face-to-face not just as religious leaders but as representatives of humanity, speaking with one voice to the leaders of the G8 and G20 countries.

“That voice was heard in a unanimously agreed statement drafted at the meeting and later presented to the Secretary General of the G8.

“In addition to recommendations on five major themes–reforming global governance, the macro-economic situation, climate change, development, and investing in peace–the statement called for representatives from the African continent and the Middle East to be included in the G8 and the G20 meetings.

“‘Our diverse backgrounds and experience enriched our consultation’, the statement said.

“‘The trauma of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster described by our Japanese colleagues, the experience and aspirations of our friends from countries in the Middle East and the deep concern of our African colleagues at the continued marginalization of their voice underlined the urgency of the issues under consideration.’

“The statement concluded by urging the G8 and G20 ‘to continue to expand and strengthen the needed global response to global challenges’.”

“‘We–leaders of diverse religious communities throughout the world–re-commit ourselves to working together across religious lines for the common good and with governments and other partners of good will. We remain convinced–each in accordance with the teachings of their tradition–that justice, compassion and reconciliation are essential for genuine peace’, the statement said.

“‘The participants in this Summit demonstrated a sincere desire to find a way to translate the spiritual principles that inform their worldview into concrete and practical recommendations that would assist G8 leaders to address the challenges facing humanity’, said Baha’i representative Susanne Tamas from Canada.

“‘The genuine respect and keen interest with which people listened to one another and sought to deepen their understanding of complex issues was very impressive’, said Ms. Tamas.

“Fellow Baha’i delegate Barney Leith, from the United Kingdom, agreed.

“‘The spirit of unity that infused the gathering was deeply moving’, he said.

“‘There was a strong sense in which all those at the Summit understood themselves to be part of a single human family and to be utterly committed to reminding leaders of powerful nations of their moral commitment to reducing human suffering.’

“The G8 Religious Leaders Summit was held in Bordeaux on the 23-24 May. It was the seventh in a series of interfaith gatherings aimed at identifying areas of moral consensus among religions. Previous Summits were held prior to each G8 Summit in the United Kingdom (2005), Russia (2006), Germany (2007), Japan (2008), Italy (2009) and Canada (2010).”

~~~~~~~~~

To me, this is a rather stunning story. I’m not sure the G8 or G20 leaders will respond appropriately but, if a variegated group of religious leaders can find points of unification, there may be more hope than the character in my book thinks

What are your thoughts and feelings?
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Global Issues ~ Notes from an Alien


I spend a significant amount of time in a virtual world, Second Life. I’m the Events Manager for a place called Book Island and I’ve been having live readings every Thursday of chapters from my soon-to-be-published book, Notes from An Alien (get a free copy with the link over there in the side-panel).

Well, I finished reading the chapters and will be changing the format of my weekly event next Thursday, the 28th of April.

We’ll be having consultations about the various issues the book raises.

On a recent read-through of the manuscript, to assure myself that I actually had a final manuscript, I made a listing of the major issues.

If this is your first exposure to what my book is about, here’s my elevator-pitch:

Notes from An Alien is a Documentary Novel about an alien civilization’s rise from

greed, corruption, and war to enduring peace.

If you’re not the kind of person who can appreciate having a discussion in a virtual world, I also have a forum where the issues raised in the book can be discussed.

Here’s a listing (by no means complete) of various issues the novel raises, along with the chapters having significant action related to the issue:

Corporate Greed – 1, 2
Corporate Control of Populace – 1, 2, 4
Religious Wars – 1, 2, 3
Prophetic Predictions – 1, 3, 5
War-Just/Unjust – 1, 10
Constant Expansion As A Solution – 1, 2, 11
Non-Religious Religions – 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 13
Military Control of Populations – 2
Rational Religion – 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11
Corporate Ecological Damage – 2, 4, 5
Material Realm/Spiritual Realm – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 19
Science and Faith – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15
Spiritual Practice – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11
Costs of War – 3, 4, 5, 10, 11
Governance – 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14
Oneness of All People – 6, 7, 8, 14, 16, 19
Economic Issues – 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13
Altruism and Sacrifice – 7, 9, 11, 17
True Peace – 11, 12, 17, 18, 19

I’m sure I’ll learn one heck of a lot about how to facilitate discussions and keep them from turning into arguments :-)
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