Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging | Taxing Relatives

It's Friday ... and time for Friday Pet Blogging at Prophet or Madman. Mrs. Brainwise recently received a copy of Wine Dogs from her sister who has a small winery in Napa Valley. Sis couldn't resist including a few pics of her own dogs, Karly and Jake. Here is Milo checking out his "cousins" of the canine persuasion:

"They're adopted, right?"

And for a treat, we have a special set of photos showing off Otis' affinity for taxes. Click the image to see the full set as a slide show:

"I think I'll deduct that paper right from the table!"

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Quotable | Relative Math

Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore. -- Quoted in P A Schilpp's book, Albert Einstein, Philosopher- Scientist     (Evanston Illinois, 1949)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Quotable | Mother's Day

Mother is the name for god on the lips and hearts of all children. -- William M. Thackeray 

I first heard this quote in, of all places, a little movie called The Crow. This 1994 film featured Brandon Lee in his last role (he died before shooting ended in an accident on set). The Crow was an adaptation of Jamie O'Barr's brilliant comic book series of the same name. I offer up the quote today in honor of my own mother, and in honor of mothers (and mothering souls) everywhere. Mom, you're amazing!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging (Early Saturday Edition)

Thanks to new photos by Mrs. Brainwise, we can return to Pet Blogging at Prophet or Madman. First up, we have the oh-so-darned-cute Milo, who is sitting very pretty:

"Oh, how cute am I? Go ahead and count the ways."

And that Otis is just a tangle o' feet as he sleeps on the couch. (In Mrs. Brainwise's seat, natch).


And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

May 9: Day of Remembrance for Guthroth
Guthroth was one of the minor kings in Norway who spoke out against the tyranny of Olaf Tryggvason (Olaf I of Norway) and urged others to resist him. Tryggvason, a fanatic who was proclaimed king of all Norway in the year 995, killed people who did not want to convert to the new faith of Christianity. (Okay. By the late 900's, most of Western Europe had been Christian for centuries, but Christianity was still fairly new to Norway, which consisted of a group of small kingdoms that were politically separate and pagan). When Guthroth was captured, Olaf had his tongue cut out.

Olaf is considered significant not because he was the first to unite Norway or espouse Christianity but because his rule was a turning point away from Norway's isolated past and toward becoming a member of the European Christian community.

Guthroth, on the other hand, is considered a martyr of Asatru. On this day, he is remembered by speaking or singing in honor of the right to worship the old Gods of the North.


    Monday, May 07, 2007

    International Year of Polytheism

    Have you heard of the International Year of Polytheism? It's an interesting project, and they have an entertaining site. In their own words, the International Year of Polytheism:
    ... wants to overcome the epoch of the monotheistic worldviews (and its derivatives such as "The West" and "The Arab World") through the reconstruction of a polytheistic multiplicity in which countless gods and goddesses will eventually neutralize each other. Polytheism is democracy, Monotheism a dictatorship, even in its pseudo-secular form. Freed from the servitude of monotheism and the fraternal strife of the trinity, the world would be redeemed in a chaotic baptism of multiplicity. Besides, we believe that polytheism is the most suitable form of religion for a modern, dynamic and cosmopolitan young culture. Improve your C.V. with polytheism. Create your own heavens and hells. Or try it out yourself with our special Gods/Goddesses trial subscription. Our qualified operators are standing by to take your calls!
    Intrigued? I was, too. Click the logo to visit their website: Belated thanks to Letter from Hardscrabble Creek.

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Inter versus Non

    My friend Siobhan recently posed the following query to me:
    In my hospice training class last night someone asked what, if any, difference there was between a church that was non-demoninational versus one that claims to be inter-denominational. 
    I thought I remembered from a lecture at the School of Sacred Ministries that the UU (Unitarian Universalist) Church was considered non-denominational and that they took a more socially-activist approach to faith. Of course, with my own involvment at Pebble Hill Interfaith Church, I see inter-denominational as honoring many paths, especially during holidays or rituals.
    Sounds like good fodder for a blog post, eh? Yeah, I thought so, too. The non-demoninational vs. inter-denominational debate is a fine exercise, but one that is nearly futile to resolve. I have found that one can ask five different people whether a particular church or organization is inter- or non-denominational, and the result will be a tie with three votes on each side. Yes, that is six votes came from only five people, and it has actually happened! I kid you not. For starters, "denomination" is a loaded word. It has two very strong meanings in Western, English-speaking societies (at least colloquially): The first is associated with a Christian (usually Protestant) church, and the second is money. Once one gets past the loaded nature of the word, there is still the fact that people misuse, or simply misunderstand, the actual definitions when applied to religious institutions. So lets look at the definitions.

    First we have the following definitions for non-denominational:
    • Not restricted to or associated with a religious denomination. (American Heritage Dictionary)
    • not restricted to a particular religious denomination; "a nondenominational church"
    • A non-denominational church (usually Christian) is a religious organization which does not necessarily align its mission and teachings to an established denomination. It is also often done to allow the church to govern themselves without interference from the policies of a regional, national or multinational organization, in regards to budgets, memberships, policies, formal standards, and public image. ...
    Then we have these definitions for inter-denominational:
    • Of or involving different religious denominations (American Heritage Dictionary)
    • occurring between, involving, or common to different religious denominations.
    • interchurch: occurring between or among or common to different churches or denominations; "interchurch aid"; "interdenominational cooperation between Methodists and Presbyterians"
    • Interdenominational Churches built for the purpose of bringing together Christians of different denominations are often referred to as united and uniting churches. This sometimes leads to doctrinal and stylistic compromises, leading to the idea that there are "primary" and "secondary" issues in faith. Primary issues describe those about which there can be no disagreement, whereas secondary issue can be compromised upon. Christian faith-based organizations which act independent of church oversight are called interdenominational or parachurch organizations (para, is Greek for beside, or alongside). They are typically Protestant or evangelical.
    So, to sum up those definitions, non-d means "not part of a larger, governing body" and inter-d means "cooperation between groups." Given these definitions, I would say that Pebble Hill Church, from Siobhan's question, is non-demoninational with respect to the fact that it used to belong to the Reformed Church in America, but was pushed out and has not joined another governing body. By the way, most "megachurches" are non-denominational as well. This is probably the only thing that megachurches have in common with small, independent churches. Is the UU Church non-denominational? Well, that depends on the individual church. But if a congregation is sporting the "Unitarian Universalist" name and logo, chances are it is part of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). According to Wikipedia, the UUA was "founded in 1961 as a consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America, is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, and serves churches in North America. The UUA represents more than 1,000 member congregations that collectively include more than 217,000 members" (  That makes UU a denomination. But it could have inter-denominational activities. 

    So, what about the School of Sacred Ministries (SSM)? I suppose you could say it is non-denominational in the sense that the school is affiliated with a non-denominational church (Pebble Hill). You could also say, and be technically correct, that SSM is inter-denominational because the school does support working with and communication between different denominations and religious organizations. It's technically correct, but not a completely satisfying description. You see, while we can "technically" say there are denominations in Hinduism, Judaism, and even Islam, most people will still recognize denomination as referring to differences in organized Christian churches. Because this is the case, I reject inter-denominational as the best word to describe SSM. And that brings me to Pluralism. In general, pluralism is a concept that indicates there are many of the things in question. Religious pluralism refers to different religions (not just different versions of one religion) getting along. No two religions can make a unique claim to absolute truth, but they can both be 100% true.

    These points come across in Professor Robert Wuthnow's lecture, "In America, All Religions are True: Implications of the New Pluralism for Democracy". I have a recording of this lecture if you are interested. According to Professor Rodney Stark (The Market Approach to Understanding Religion), the natural state for a society is pluralism. And the only time pluralism does not thrive is when a monopoly is forced into place. The Roman Catholic Church in the ancient world (and all the way up to the Reformation) would be an example of this in action. I also have a recording or two of Stark's lectures at the Vanderbilt Student Center. I recommend them. I suggest reading the Wikipedia entry on Religious Pluralism ( and checking out The Pluralism Project (

     Oh, bringing all of this back to Pebble Hill ... I would say that Pebble Hill is a non-denominational church that actively espouses and practices pluralism. In fact, both Pebble Hill and SSM are pluralistic. And pluralism is just fine with me.

    In Their Own Words

    I heard about this site while listening to a talk show last month, and I am only now getting around to posting about them... "features constantly-updated examples of statements by religious extremists concerning the United States, Western Civilization, Israel and Christianity." What does that mean exactly? It means they are taking video, audio, and press clips directly from Islamic extremists and trying to present the material in context. The site's purpose is to provide Americans with material that somehow seems to be muted or ignored by most media outlets in this country. is independent, privately funded, and definitely not-for-profit. If you go to the site, you won't be pressed to buy a coffee mug or t-shirt or something (but there is a link if you want to donate). All you will get is information, news and commentary. And lest you think they are completely biased against muslims, they also feature a separate link that is pro-Islam: Islam is Not the Enemy. (According to the guy interviewed on the talk show, this section might be spun out into its own site). So, take a gander and let me know what you think. Personally, I think these guys are doing a good job of presenting material that is not readily available to American citizens. And it's material that needs to be seen and heard. Plus, I have to admit I am happy with their attempts at being objective and at providing material from moderate muslims. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.