Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Stop Executions of Gay Iraqis

STOP EXECUTIONS OF GAY IRAQIS MEMBERS OF IRAQI LGBT GROUP ON DEATH ROW ACTION NEEDED TO HALT JUDICIAL EXECUTIONS | London, 27 March 2009

Urgent action is needed to halt the execution of 128 prisoners on death row in Iraq. Many of those awaiting execution were convicted for the 'crime’ of homosexuality, according to IRAQI-LGBT, a UK based organisation of Iraqis supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Iraq.

According to Ali Hili of IRAQI-LGBT, the Iraqi authorities plan to start executing them in batches of 20 from this week.

IRAQI-LGBT urgently requests that the UK Government, Human Rights Groups and the United Nations Human Rights Commission intervene with due speed to prevent this tragic miscarriage of justice from going ahead.

"We have information and reports on members of our community whom been arrested and waiting for execution for the crimes of homosexuality,’’ said Mr Hili. "Iraqi lgbt has been a banned from running our activities on Iraqi soil."

"Raids by the Iraqi police and ministry of interior forces cost our group the diapering and killing of 17 members working for Iraqi lgbt since 2005," added Mr Hili.

"Death penalty has been increasing at an alarming rate in Iraq since the new Iraqi regime reintroduced it in August 2004.
In 2008 at least 285 people were sentenced to death, and at least 34 executed. In 2007 at least 199 people were sentenced to death and 33 were executed, while in 2006 at least 65 people were put to death. The actual figures could be much higher as there are no official statistics for the number of prisoners facing execution," he said.

IRAQI LGBT is concerned that the Iraqi authorities have not disclosed the identities of those facing imminent execution, stoking fears that many of them may have been sentenced to death after trials that failed to satisfy international standards for fair trial.

Most are likely to have been sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), whose proceedings consistently fall short of international standards for fair trial. Some are likely to have. Allegations of torture are not being investigated adequately or at all by the CCCI. Torture of detainees held by Iraqi security forces remains rife.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Blue Ducks Are Gay! They Face Species Extinction!

March 10, 2009 by Dan Nordgren

Scientists and liberal progressives alike are without words, as a lesson of natural order is playing out with a species of blue ducks. The ducks are gay and they are now facing extinction!

Being gay is against natural order as the entire point of having reproductive organs is continuation of the species. Everyone from liberal scientists to politicians will deny this fact, all in attempts to forward the destructive homogay agenda.


Attempts to breed a rare species of duck to avoid extinction in the UK have backfired after the only two remaining males fell for each other.
Source - The Daily Telegraph

So today these scientists and politicians are being treated to an early Ides of March, as their science research has stabbed them in the back with the Sword of Truth!

An article from the Telegraph tells the story of three ducks, Cherry, who is a female, along with Ben and Jerry, who are males (drakes). Cherry is the last remaining female Blue Duck in existence, and as such bird keepers at the West Sussex bird sanctuary want her to mate with one of the two males. There is only one major problem: the two male ducks are gay.


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Monday, March 23, 2009

Jesus, Interrupted


Published: March 19, 2009
HONEST TO JESUS: A few weeks ahead of the Easter bunny, Bart Ehrman is back on the hardcover nonfiction list with “Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them),” which enters at No. 8. Back in 2006, Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, had a surprise hit with “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible (and Why),” which spent nine weeks on the list. Ehrman — who grew up casually Episcopalian, became a fundamentalist in high school, had his faith eroded by decades of studying the Bible’s textual history and now calls himself a “happy agnostic” — seems to be riding the same anti-religion wave that has swept Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens onto the best-seller list and late-night talk shows. But he says that while they share some readers, he tries to distance himself from the so-called new atheists.

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If anyone finds a .pdf of this let me know. I unsuccessfully attempted to make one from my copy. Not going to happen with my scanner. Atheist Movies has the audio book here.

Selfless Insight: Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness


Selfless Insight: Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness
When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness.

Austin, author of the widely read Zen and the Brain, reminds us why Zen meditation is not only mindfully attentive but evolves to become increasingly selfless and intuitive. Meditators are gradually learning how to replace over-emotionality with calm, clear, objective comprehension.

In this new book, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He explains how our maladaptive notions of self are rooted in interactive brain functions. And he describes how, after the extraordinary, deep states of kensho-satori strike off the roots of the self, a flash of transforming insight-wisdom leads toward ways of living more harmoniously and selflessly.

Selfless Insight is the capstone to Austin's journey both as a creative neuroscientist and as a Zen practitioner. His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.

Get a free .pdf copy here

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Are you sushi savvy?


Experts share their knowledge to help you wield your chopsticks with confidence

LINK

Before I became a vegetarian I couldn't handle any sushi fishier than crab. Eel and octopus were horrifying. Vegetarian caterpillar rolls still give me the creeps. Thanks to Chris at Cynical-C Blog

What do you think of this shit?

Acid River

The sensitive issue of homosexuality in the Dharma is in the news again, with the recent revelation that a celebrated lineage-holder was basically tricked into ordaining a post-op transvestite.

This is a subject that Tibetan lamas avoid like the plague.

However, Santideva didn't and in his Siksa-samuccaya anthology, quotes the Saddharma-smrtyupasthana Sutra as follows:

"Likewise, endless varieties of punishments in a future life are described for the wrong deed of sexual intercourse between two men. The one who commits misconduct with boys sees boys being swept away in the Acid River who cry out to him, and owing to the suffering and pain born of his deep affection for them, plunges in after them."

Indeed, the only sutra where homosexuality isn't condemned is the Kama Sutra, and that one doesn't belong to us.

Although His Holiness the Dalai Lama takes pains to explain that he doesn't have the authority to unilaterally interpret Buddhist scriptures -- and while he remains open-minded and non-judgmental on the issue -- he nonetheless wrote, in his 1996 book Beyond Dogma, "...a sexual act is proper when the couples use the organs created for sexual intercourse and nothing else."

His public attitude is that homosexuality is a form of sexual misconduct. As we all know, sexual misconduct has many forms, so to single out homosexuality as "better "or "worse" misconduct seems unnecessary, and perhaps somewhat unfair. Yet, it is an area of concern when one considers there are now such things as "Queer Sangha." The recent, disturbing news that an openly homosexual, convicted child abuser has been parading around as a Tibetan Buddhist monk sheds light on the potential dangers. It leads us to the question of whether or not Tibetan Buddhism in the West holds any risk for Catholic-style abuse of young boys.

Certainly, in the context of ordinary Western "dharma centers," this doesn't seem like much of a possibility. However, we do have nominally Buddhist cults in America (and elsewhere), and because of their insular nature, it would seem the risk is potentially greater. Indeed, there is evidence that at least one such cult has come to specialize in recruiting gays, then sponsoring them for ordination by unwitting preceptors.

I do know that a large number of gay people have come to Buddhism because they feel ostracized by other religions. Exposure to Buddhism has been helpful for them and for those around them. Perhaps some of them have been able to cease defining themselves by their sexuality, and have begun to examine their own basic humanity.

I personally do not believe in discrimination on any basis. It seems to me that desire is desire. I knew a pilot once, who liked to say, "When I have to land the plane, I don't care if the runway goes north or south. I just land the damn plane."

And, to continue with the analogy, maybe it is charitable to recall that we recently had the example of a pilot who landed in a river in order to save his passengers.

Motivation plays a substantial role in determining the outcome of even highly unseemly behavior.

Despite use of the word "gay," it seems that many homosexual people are deeply unhappy and confused. There is a very high rate of suicide. Many become the victims of violence. If Buddhism brings them comfort, happiness, and insight, then what is wrong with that? If Buddhism becomes their refuge, isn't that what Buddhism is explicitly supposed to do?

"Gay bashing" in the name of Buddhism will never be acceptable. That much should be made very clear. However, what is worth careful examination is whether or not homosexuality -- or indeed any single-issue labeling -- should be allowed to become part of institutional Buddhism as expressed in the West.

With all due respect to "Queer Sangha," why wouldn't "Sangha" be enough?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hidden wounds of occupation

Ashley Smith reports on the devastating effects of the U.S. war and occupation on the civilian population of Iraq.

The U.S. invasion has caused an epidemic of emotional and mental disorders among Iraqis (Ali Almossawi)The U.S. invasion has caused an epidemic of emotional and mental disorders among Iraqis (Ali Almossawi)

THE ROMAN historian Tacitus denounced Roman imperialism for its plunder and destruction of its colonies, declaring, "They make a desert and call it peace." No phrase is more apt in describing what the U.S. has done in Iraq.

Two new studies released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Oxfam reveal the devastating toll on Iraq's surviving population in the wake of the U.S. war and occupation.

The U.S. has besieged Iraq, a country of some 27 million people, for the last 20 years. The 1991 Gulf War killed hundreds of thousands. Sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's regime led to the deaths of over 1 million people. The 2003 invasion and occupation caused another 1 million deaths, drove in excess of 4 million from their homes and caused a civil war that tore apart the society. In sum, the U.S. has killed or displaced nearly a quarter of Iraq's population.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Better World Books


The online bookstore with a soul

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than two million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.
We were founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some money, and ended up forming a pioneering social enterprise — a business with a mission to promote literacy.

We’re not a traditional company with an add-on “cause” component. Social and environmental responsibility is at the core of our business. You could say it's in our DNA.

We’re breaking new ground in online bookselling. We believe that education and access to books are basic human rights. That's why books sold on BetterWorldBooks.com help fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.

All books are available with free shipping to any location within the United States (or $3.97 worldwide). And in case you’re concerned about your eco-footprint, every order is shipped carbon neutral with offsets from Carbonfund.org.

Here’s the best part: In addition to selling new titles, Better World Books supports book drives and collects used books and textbooks through a network of over 1,600 college campuses and partnerships with nearly 1,000 libraries nationwide. So far, the company has converted more than 11 million donated books into $4.5 million in funding for literacy and education. In the process, we’ve also diverted more than 6,000 tons of books from landfills.

Because we believe that most every book has lasting value and the potential to help change the world, we see our job as helping to find new homes for unwanted books. Thus far, we’ve donated nearly one million books to partner programs around the world. Our five primary literacy partners are Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Invisible Children. Good company, no doubt.

Every book purchased from Better World Books contributes to individual literacy throughout the world and the promise of a better life. Clearly, we can’t do this work without our customers. That's why we’re so passionate about trying to offer the best price, selection, customer service, and overall shopping experience.

Thanks for joining us in our mission to create a better world, one book at a time.

LINK

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ocean by Kenneth Tanaka


I was looking at some older posts at Echoes of the Name and he had a link to an online version of Ocean. I am reading a paperback copy of it now. Great book! A nice simple introduction to Jodo-Shinshu.

LINK



Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Heights Traveled to Subdue Tibet


Published: March 14, 2009

MAQU, China — The paramilitary officer took our passports. It was close to midnight, and he and a half-dozen peers at the checkpoint stood around our car on the snowy mountain road. After five days, our travels in the Tibetan regions of western China had come to an abrupt end.

My colleagues and I waited for the police to arrive. We were to be escorted to the local police station, interrogated and put on a plane back to Beijing.

“This is for your own safety,” the paramilitary officer said.

The detention, two weeks ago, was not entirely unexpected: I was reporting on Tibet, one of the most delicate issues in the eyes of the Chinese government. And I was traveling through Tibetan areas of Qinghai and Gansu Provinces as the government was deploying thousands of troops to clamp down on any unrest.

Tibetans widely resent Chinese rule, and Chinese leaders fear that Tibetans could seize on this month, the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising, to carry out a wave of protests, similar to what took place a year ago. Part of the mission of the security forces is to evict foreigners so that whatever occurs will be kept hidden from the world.

That, of course, has always been part of the problem with Tibet. China’s lockdown this month is only the latest episode in a long history of both Tibetans and Chinese trying to keep the mountain kingdom closed to the outside world. News of Tibet has always been difficult to obtain because much of the region lies on a remote plateau above 15,000 feet that is ringed by mountains. Information becomes that much harder to get when governments padlock the gate.

Drawing a veil over Tibet has only encouraged outsiders to project their own imaginings and desires onto the hidden land, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

It happened in the 19th century, when Tibetan officials, seeing Britain and Russia jockey for influence in Central Asia during the Great Game, decided to close Tibet to foreigners. The very state of isolation spurred explorers, spies, missionaries, colonial officers and Buddhist devotees into quests to reach Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

Britain shot its way to Lhasa during a brutal military invasion in 1904, then tried to keep other foreigners out. The Chinese Communist Party, after conquering Tibet in 1951, kept the region closed during decades of repression (and made it into a “hell on earth,” the Dalai Lama said on Tuesday).

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Easter: The Resurrection of Spring

Excerpted and Adapted from

Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection

Christ in Egypt cover image

Although it is believed to represent the time of Jesus Christ's resurrection, the festival of Easter existed in pre-Christian times and, according to the famous Christian saint Venerable Bede (672-735 AD/CE), was named for the Teutonic or German goddess Eôstre, who was the "goddess of dawn" and who symbolized the fertility found abundantly during the springtime of the year. (See CE, V, 224; Weekley, 491) Regarding the ancient fertility goddess, in How the Easter Story Grew from Gospel to Gospel, Dr. Rolland E. Wolfe, a professor of Biblical Literature at Case Western Reserve University, relates:

"In the polytheistic pantheons of antiquity there usually was a king or chief of the gods, and also a female counterpart who was regarded as his wife. This mother goddess was one of the most important deities in the ancient Near East. She was called by the various names of Ishtar, Athtar [sic], Astarte, Ashtoreth, Antit, and Anat. This mother goddess always was associated with human fertility. In the course of time Mary was to become identified with this ancient mother goddess, or perhaps it should be said that Mary was about to supplant her in certain Christian circles." (Wolfe, 234)

The comparison between the Babylonian goddess Ishtar and the Jewish maiden Mary becomes even more evident when it is factored in that in an ancient Akkadian hymn Ishtar is called "Virgin." (Sayce, 268) Yet, like Mary, Ishtar too was the "Mother of God," in this case Tammuz, the dying and rising god mourned by the Israelite women at Ezekiel 8:14. (See Mettinger, 213) Indeed, Old Testament scholar Rev. Dr. W. Robertson Smith identifies Ishtar as the virgin-mother goddess worshipped at Petra who was mentioned by Church father Epiphanius. In a footnote, Smith remarks, "The identification of the mother of the gods with the heavenly virgin, in other words, the unmarried goddess, is confirmed if not absolutely demanded by Aug. Civ. Dei, ii. 4." (Smith, 56) The reference is to St. Augustine's The City of God (2.4), in which the Church father discusses with undisguised contempt the Pagan rites surrounding "the virgin Caelestis" and "Berecynthia the mother of them all." (Augustine, 54) From these remarks and many others over the past centuries it is clear that the educated elite have been well aware of the unoriginality of the virgin-mother motif within Christianity. Yet, to this day the public remains uninformed and/or in fervent denial about such facts....

As demonstrated in Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection, the springtime/ Easter resurrection myth occurred in Greek mythology with the tale of Kore/Persephone descending into the underworld to reside with Hades, leading to the death of winter. Her remergence out of the underworld represented the springtime renewal of life on Earth - thus, Persephone's resurrection symbolized eternal life, precisely as did that of Jesus and the Egyptian god Osiris.

Sun on the cross of the vernal equinox imageComprising the entombment for three days, the descent into the underworld, and the resurrection, the spring celebration of "Easter" represents the period of the vernal equinox, when the sun is "hung on a cross" composed of the days and nights of equal length. After a touch-and-go battle for supremacy with the night or darkness, the sun emerges triumphant, being "born again" or "resurrected" as a "man," moving towards "his" full strength at the summer solstice...

It is noteworthy that even older scholarship reflects the knowledge of the strengthening of the sun at Easter, as exemplified by Rev. George W. Lemon, who in his English Etymology, published in 1783, gives the meaning of "Easter" as:

"...at that time or on that day, the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in his wings, like the sun all glorious in the east..."

Jesus Christo Sole Helios sun god imageThe "Sun of Righteousness" refers to Jesus Christ, as purportedly prophesied in the last book before the New Testament, Malachi (4:2). Christ's identification as the "Sun of Righteousness," the placement of his "resurrection" at Easter, and his association with the "sun all glorious in the east," all reflect his solar role, serving as earmarks of Jesus himself being a sun god. Indeed, "Easter" or the vernal equinox truly represents the resurrection of the "Light of the World" - the sun-bringing with it the fertility of spring.

That Easter constituted a pre-Christian festival concerning resurrection is apparent from the discussion in the New International Encyclopaedia regarding Easter customs:

"The use of eggs in this connection is of the highest antiquity, the egg having been considered in widely separated pre-Christian mythologies as a symbol of resurrection..." (Gilman, 492)

In his extensive analysis in The Golden Bough regarding the "dying and rising gods," Sir James George Frazer concluded that the story of Easter as a time of rebirth, renewal and resurrection of life in general could be found in the myths of non-Christian deities such as the Greco-Phrygian god Attis and the Greco-Syrian god Adonis, among others. While various of Frazer's contentions have come under fire, frequently from Christian apologists, in The Riddle of Resurrection, Dr. Tryggve N.D. Mettinger demonstrates the dying-and-rising theme overall to be sound....

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Guide to Jodo Shinshu

Guide to Jodo Shinshu Teachings and Practices
The Calgary Buddhist Temple has put together a great guide available for downloading. It's called a "Guide to Jodo Shinshu Teaching and Practices."

The Guide was translated from Japanese to English by Kyojo S. Ikuta & Trudy Gahlinger of the Calgary Buddhist Temple. It was originally developed as an introduction to Jodo Shinshu for the layperson.

Part One describes the life and teachings of the Buddha, and the history and evolution of Jodo Shinshu teachings.

While, Part Two discusses Jodo Shinshu practices, including Jodo Shinshu religious days and services.

It also answers the questions, "What is the Pure Land?" and "Who is an evil person?" The 63 page document (check your printer for ink and paper before downloading) also contains photos and information explaining the meaning and history of the ornaments and artifacts that comprise the Jodo Shinshu tradition.

The document was originally produced by the Renken Tokuhon Study Group in Japan.

The Guide is a great way to ready, study and understand the life of the Nembutsu.


DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE TO JODO SHINSHU TEACHING AND PRACTICES...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Buddhists Connect Online Through Video Sharing and New Community at eDharma.com


WEBWIRE – Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Contact Information
Rudy Hadisentosa
Founder
eDharma.com
+62 21 56999720
hadisentosarudy@gmail.com

Summary: A new online Buddhist community and video sharing portal launches this week at www.eDharma.com enabling members to connect and converse more easily with other Buddhists around the world, while spreading awareness of Buddhism through video sharing.

Jakarta, Indonesia – March 11, 2009 – eDharma.com launches this week, connecting Buddhists worldwide through a free social networking and video sharing service. The community opens with a collection of educational videos on Mahayana, Theravada, and other Buddhist sects, as well as a forum where Buddhists and those interested in learning about Buddhism can meet and discuss the Buddhist way of life.

“eDharma.com is about two things,” says Rudy Hadisentosa, owner of the new online Buddhist community. “The site serves as a social network and online community where Buddhists from all over the world can come together and share thoughts and ideas. In addition to connecting people, eDharma.com is designed to teach others about Buddhism in a more interesting and interactive way. We’re working to accomplish this through the video sharing aspect of the site. For example, through current videos, visitors can learn about things like moral or Zen Buddhist teachings or watch English webcasts of the True Buddha School"

Creating an account at www.eDharma.com takes only a few minutes. After registering for an account, members have the ability to upload Buddhist videos, photos, or news to share with the eDharma.com community.

Videos can be shared by uploading them directly to eDharma.com. The site also supports embedded videos from other video sharing services such as YouTube and Google Video. The Buddhist forum gives all new members a place to introduce themselves and share ideas with the entire community. Membership at eDharma.com is free.

About www.eDharma.com

eDharma.com is a free online Buddhist community, connecting members of various sects of Buddhism with each other and with non-Buddhists. Launched in March 2009, the mission of eDharma.com is to educate people about Buddhism while giving active Buddhists a place to meet and interact.

For more information about the www.eDharma.com community or Buddhist video sharing service, please contact Rudy Hadisentosa at +62 21 56999720.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ex-Gay Activist Must Go; Exodus Tied To Uganda Hate Event



Truth Wins Out


Watchdog Groups Demand 'Ex-Gay' Organization Dismiss Leader, Alan Chambers, After Exodus International Participates In Ugandan Anti-Gay Hate Conference

Exodus Under Fire After Group Remains Silent As Speakers At Ugandan Event Seek To 'Wipe Out' Homosexuality And Imprison Gays
Alan Chambers
NEW YORK - The three leading watchdog organizations that monitor "ex-gay" ministries today called on the largest such group, Exodus International, to fire its leader, Alan Chambers. The coalition charged in a letter to Bob Ragan, chair of the Exodus Board of Directors, that Chambers allowed the organization to be used and give credibility to a conference that promoted human rights abuses against gay and lesbian people.

Representatives from Ex-Gay Watch, Box Turtle Bulletin and Truth Wins Out signed the letter, which stated:

We, the undersigned organizations, have monitored the ex-gay industry for more than a decade. To our great horror, prominent members of the ex-gay organization Exodus International participated last week in a conference in Uganda that promoted shocking abuses of basic human rights. This included draconian measures against gay and lesbian people such as forced ex-gay therapy, life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexuality and the formation of an organization designed to "wipe out" gay practices in Uganda. The conference also featured Scott Lively, a Holocaust revisionist who at the event also blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay pPink Swastikaeople.

"Alan Chambers has shown a serious lack of leadership by allowing Exodus to become
part of such a horrible event," said David Roberts, Editor of Ex-Gay Watch. "The participation of board member Don Schmierer in the Ugandan anti-gay conference undermines any credibility they may have had, and puts them right in the middle of serious human rights abuses. What on earth were they thinking?"

"I'm outraged that Don Schmierer used his position with Exodus to legitimize calls for further criminalizing and forced 'therapy' for gays and lesbians," said Jim Burroway, founder and editor of Box Turtle Bulletin. "Exodus' failure to speak out against the conference's recommendations and denounce the Holocaust revisionism of Scott Lively is inexcusable. Those who allowed this to happen must be held accountable."

"Exodus has turned a deaf ear to the violence committed against Ugandan sexual minorities," said Truth Wins Out's News Director, Mike Airhart. "Worse, it stood in public solidarity with those who are responsible for vigilante violence and state-sanctioned denial of freedom."

"Alan Chambers has consistently taken Exodus International in unsavory directions that have brought great shame on the organization," said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. "Exodus' participation in the Ugandan conference only confirms that it is time he is removed from his position of leadership."
Uganda Map

The coalition's letter went on to say:

The facts incontrovertibly show that Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, was aware of the list of speakers and abhorrent content prior to the conference. Exodus board member Don Schmierer, who spoke in Uganda, made no objections to the radical and dangerous platform offered. Instead, these mortal threats to the lives of gay and lesbian people were met with a deafening silence. Exodus, in effect, gave this insidious conference its tacit approval.

The coalition also called on Exodus to take the following steps:


  • Remove Board member Don Schmierer (Pictured Right) for speaking at a hate conference that promotes physical harm and psychological torture against GLBT peopleDon Schmierer
  • Boldly articulate Exodus' policy against human rights abuses including forced therapy
  • Promise to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people
Ex-Gay Watch is a group of writers who monitor the actions of ex-gay organizations. The result of this work appears at exgaywatch.com where civil debate and comment are welcome.

Box Turtle Bulletin is an online watchdog effort by a group of writers who specialize in news, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric. It is available at www.boxturtlebulletin.com

Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that defends gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from anti-gay lies. TWO also counters the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life. More information can be found at www.TruthWinsOut.org.

- 30 -


Open letter to the Exodus International Board of Directors:

We, the undersigned organizations, have monitored the ex-gay industry for more than a decade. To our great horror, prominent members of the ex-gay organization Exodus International participated last week in a conference in Uganda that promoted shocking abuses of basic human rights. This included draconian measures against gay and lesbian people such as forced ex-gay therapy, life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexuality and the formation of an organization designed to "wipe out" gay practices in Uganda. The conference also featured Scott Lively, a holocaust revisionist who at the event also blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay people.

The facts incontrovertibly show that Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, was aware of the list of speakers and abhorrent content prior to the conference. Exo
Exodus Billboarddus board member Don Schmierer, who spoke in Uganda, made no objections to the radical and dangerous platform offered. Instead, these mortal threats to the lives of gay and lesbian people were met with a deafening silence. Exodus, in effect, gave this insidious conference its tacit approval.

Today, we take the unprecedented step of joining together to demand that Exodus International's Board of Directors take immediate action to hold accountable those who used the Exodus brand to promote an atmosphere conducive to serious human rights abuses. The accountability must begin with reasonable and responsible action by Board Chair Bob Ragan, including:

  • Dismissing Exodus President Alan Chambers for his knowing role in using Exodus to promote human rights abuses
  • Removing Board member Don Schmierer for speaking at a hate conference that promotes physical harm and psychological torture against GLBT people
  • Boldly articulating Exodus' policy against human rights abuses including forced therapy
  • Promising to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people
We do not take this call to action lightly. These steps are necessary and commensurate with the massive breach of ethics and trust by the Exodus leadership. Clearly, Exodus has lost credibility and its claim to "love" gay people in the aftermath of Uganda seems duplicitous and insincere. As long as Chambers and Schmierer remain at Exodus, the organization is hopelessly compromised and even complicit in grave human rights abuses. It is time for the Exodus Board, led by Bob Ragan, to assert its moral authority by appointing new leadership and taking the organization in a more humane and principled direction.

Sincerely,


Jim Burroway David Roberts
Box Turtle Bulletin Ex-Gay Watch

Wayne Besen Mike Airhart
Truth Wins Out Truth Wins Out



© 2008 Truth Wins OUT. All rights reserved.

Religion and Republicanism Are Losing the Future


In pandering to the fanatical and the fearful -- both religion and Republicanism may have compromised their future.

First, the Republican Party seems in an awfully big rush to implode with Rush Limbaugh as its mercurial mouthpiece. The GOP's other savior, Michael Steele, is just a big mouth who seems more suited to Limbaugh's talk show gig than chairman of the Party. The GOP's first African American leader, Steele, promised a "hip hop makeover" that would attract even "one armed midgets." It is Steele, however, who is the incredibly shrinking chairman, with his promised "Big Tent" turning into a circus act.

This carnival of "conservatives" has led the once-mighty Republican Party to O.J. Simpson-like popularity levels. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this past week put Republican approval at just 26 percent, compared to Barack Obama's 68 percent.

The state of the modern GOP was best captured on CNN's D.L. Hughley Show, when the host interviewed Frank Schaeffer. A former member of the Religious Right and author of Crazy For God, Schaeffer said the GOP had created a "hard-assed neo fascist kind of direction in America."

He went on to say, "The Republican base is now made up of religious and neoconservative ideologues and the uneducated white underclass with a token person of color up in front of the TV to obscure the all-white, all reactionary, all backward, and there is no global warming, rube reality."

The Republicans Schaefer is referring to have lately come out of the woodwork in Utah, where State Sen. Chris Buttars called GLBT advocates, "the meanest buggers". A right wing organization, America Forever, placed full-page ads in the Salt Lake dailies comparing gay men and lesbians to "druggies" and "hookers." Of course, Utah Republicans might know about these things. A new study reveals that the conservative state leads the nation with 5.47 Internet pornography subscribers per thousand.

Similar to the Republican Party, religious organizations have catered to the crazies for far too long. The "ex-gay" organization, Exodus International, is a perfect example. It travels the world to proclaim its "love" for homosexuals. Yet, a Board member, Don Schmierer, spoke at a Ugandan conference that pledged to "wipe out" gay practices. Schmierer joined Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively to urge Uganda to continue its persecution of gay people, including life prison sentences for the "crime" of homosexuality.

Last week, the Vatican defended the excommunication of a 9-year old Brazilian girl's mother and doctors, who helped abort the pregnant child's twins. The procedure was recommended because delivering these babies might have killed the 80-pound girl. The local Archbishop, Jose Cardosa Sobrinho, justified this despicable decision by saying, "God's law is above any human law."

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Number of Christians Drops 11% in America

By Michelle Garcia

The number of Americans who identify as Christian has dropped more than 11% in less than 20 years.

Despite a growth of 50 million people in the United States since 1990, almost all religious denominations have lost followers in the country, according to a study by the American Religious Identification Survey.

Fifteen percent of Americans say they do not identify with any religion, up from 8% in 1990. Catholic strongholds such as New England and the Midwest have lost their clout as immigrants have moved into the areas.

States that show a sharp increase in the number of people who don't identify with a religion remain largely in the Northeast, including Vermont and New Hampshire -- coincidentally, two states that are heavily weighing marriage equality.

SOURCE

Dalai Lama marks Tibetan uprising with grim state of the union

By Carol Huang | Asia editor 03.10.09


The Dalai Lama marked the 50th anniversary of Tibetans’ failed uprising Tuesday with a grim state of the union on life in Tibet.

Decades of Chinese rule have brought “untold suffering and destruction,” the elderly leader told 10,000 Tibetans who’d gathered from around the world in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. Episodes of repression and violence had “thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth.”

“The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans,” the elderly leader said. “Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them…. [T]he religion, culture, language, and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction. In short, the Tibetan people are regarded like criminals deserving to be put to death….”

Indeed, nearly six decades since the People’s Liberation Army invaded the Himalayan region, any kind of settlement between Tibetans and the Chinese authorities seems quite far off – the Dalai Lama himself has admitted that years of on-and-off negotiations with Beijing have born no fruit. (Read the Monitor’s coverage on this here and here.)

While speaking to reporters later that day, though, the Dalai Lama offered a sliver of hope: “More and more Chinese [are] now starting to acknowledge there is problem there,” he said. “In fact, quite a number of Chinese high officials, [their] family members [are] showing interest in Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism.”

SOURCE

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tannisho: A Shin Buddhist Classic


Translated by Taitetsu Unno
Buddhist Study Center Press, 1984

Prologue

In reflecting upon my foolish thoughts and thinking of the past and present, I deeply regret that there are views deviating from the true entrusting which was taught orally by our late master, and I fear that doubts and confusion may arise among the followers who come after us. Unless we rely upon a good teacher with whom, fortunately, our karmic destinies are bound, how can we possibly enter the true gate of effortless practice? Do not violate the fundamentals of Other Power by imposing upon it your own interpretations.

Thus have I committed to writing some words of the late Shinran which still ring clearly in my ears. My sole purpose is to dispel the clouds of doubt in the minds of the practicers with the same aspiration.

LINK

Clergyman defends his Zen Buddhist practices


Conservatives in the Episcopal Church of the US rally against bishop after he admits to using Buddhist techniques

An Anglican clergyman elected as a bishop has defended his right to use the practices of Zen Buddhism to deepen his Christian faith.

Conservatives in The Episcopal Church of the US are demanding that Rev Kevin Thew Forrester, a priest in the diocese of Northern Michigan, be barred from the episcopate because he received a "lay ordination" from a Buddhist group.

For his election to be ratified, Dr Forrester will need the consent of a majority of bishops in The Episcopal Church as well as of diocesan standing committees.

Conservatives in the US, who have so far failed to unseat the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, have already begun an internet lobbying campaign in an attempt to undermine support for Dr Forrester by claiming he is a fully-fledged Buddhist.

They are also citing two other recent cases. In 2004, the Rev Bill Melnyk was inhibited by the Bishop of Pennsylvania for proclaiming that he was a practicing Druid as well as an Episcopal priest. In 2007, the Rev Ann Holmes-Redding was inhibited by the Bishop of Rhode Island being a practising Muslim as well a priest.

But in an interview with The Times, Dr Forrester said he was neither a Buddhist nor a Bhuddist priest and that he used Zen meditation simply to deepen his relationship with Christ. It was also a means to deepen understanding of the mystery of suffering, he explained.

In a further twist it emerged that Dr Forrester, a former Roman Catholic, studied for his doctorate in moral theology under the controversial US Catholic theologian Charles Curran. Dr Forrester played a prominent role in organising student protests in support of Professor Curran, his tutor, before the theologian was barred by the Vatican as a Catholic teacher in the late 1980s because of his liberal views on doctrines covering birth control and Papal infallibility.

Dr Forrester said he became an Anglican soon after this episode, when he returned to Michigan to write his dissertation on moral theology and began attending an Episcopal church where the sanctuary is shared with the local Jewish temple.

Northern Michigan, a numerically-small diocese covering the huge and sparsely-populated Upper Peninsula area of the Great Lakes, has been without a bishop for two years after Bishop Jim Kelsey, known as the "earth" bishop because of his interfaith and environmental passions, was killed in a car accident.

Dr Forrester, married with two young children and who is also an accomplished musician, said there was a long Christian tradition of using meditation techniques. His own spirituality is drawn largely from the contemplative tradition of the Cappadocian Fathers as in the writings of Ekhart and Julian of Norwich.

"They all have this deep ability to sit silent in the presence of God who sustains our existence with the breadth of His love. The contemplative tradition is rich in Christianity."

He continued: "I was drawn to meditation because these elders in our own tradition suggested it as a resource. It can deepen our own closeness to Christ. I find it a very helpful tool. I am not a Buddhist, or a Buddhist priest. I am someone who as a Christian is very grateful for having been taught by the Zen community how to sit."

He said: "The lay ordination was a welcoming rite for me to commit myself to the path to discover why I suffer or why other people suffer, and to use the practice of meditation to help that suffering."

At his own church of St Paul's in Marquette there is a healing arts centre, where worshippers "sit" twice a week. When he works with groups, Forrester often begins with a meditation. "The work we are about is Christ moving through us," he said. "There is a Trinitarian aspect to it, in the sense of individuals working as one to support the baptismal ministry. Meditation simply helps us to slow down and receive this as a gift from God."

Read interview with the Rev Kevin Thew Forrester at Ruth Gledhill's blog

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Homosexuality

by Shravasti Dhammika

Homosexuality is the tendency to be sexually attracted to persons of the same rather than the opposite gender. According to the ancient Indian understanding, homosexuals were thought of simply as being ‘the third nature’ (trtiya prakti), rather than as perverted, deviant or sick. With its emphasis on psychology and cause and effect, Buddhism judges acts, including sexual acts, primarily by the intention (cetana) behind them and the effect they have. A sexual act motivated by love, mutuality and the desire to give and share would be judged positive no matter what the gender of the two persons involved. Therefore, homosexuality as such is not considered immoral in Buddhism or against the third Precept, although this is not always understood in traditional Buddhist countries. If a homosexual avoids the sensuality and licence of the so-called ‘gay scene’ and enters into a loving relationship with another person, there is no reason why he or she cannot be a sincere practising Buddhist and enjoy all the blessings of the Buddhist life.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

What Is the Pure Land?


by Dr. Nobuo Haneda
Reprinted from the Dharma Breeze by permission of the author

The Japanese word for Shin Buddhism is Jodo Shinshu ("True School of the Pure Land"). Jodo means "Pure Land." The unique feature of Shin Buddhism (or Jodo Shinshu) is that it talks about the concept of "the Pure Land" as the most important thing. Thus without a good grasp of this concept, we cannot understand Shin Buddhism.

However, among all Shin Buddhist concepts, the Pure Land seems to me the most difficult to understand. Traditionally, on a folklore level, many people believed in the literal descriptions of the Pure Land in the sutras (that talk about wonderful things to be enjoyed, such as delicious foods, wonderful music, and the comfortable climate) and desired to enjoy them in the Pure Land after their deaths. But this literal interpretation of the Pure Land—an interpretation based on affirmation of human greed and attachment—is against Buddhism, which challenges human greed and attachment. Thus the Pure Land masters cautioned people not to take descriptions of the Pure Land literally. For example, T’an-luan (476-542, the third Pure Land patriarch) said, "If people hear that they will constantly experience pleasure in the Pure Land and desire to be born there because of it, they will not be born there."

We must know that just as Buddhas (like Amida and Vairocana) and bodhisattvas (like Maitreya and Manjusri) are symbols, the terms denoting places such as the Pure Land and Hell are also symbols. What, then, does the Pure Land symbolize? Buddhist scholars often explain that the Pure Land is a symbol for the ultimate truth, nirvana, or suchness. But their explanations often complicate, rather than clarify, the issue. Thus in this essay, I will attempt to present what I consider a simple and concrete interpretation of the Pure Land—an interpretation given by Shin teachers such as Rev. Rijin Yasuda (1900-82). I will attempt to answer the following four questions: (1) "What does the Pure Land symbolize?"; (2) "Why did Dharmakara (or Amida) create the Pure Land?"; (3) "What is the power of the Pure Land?"; and (4) "Who can be born in the Pure Land?"

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Damed if they're monks; damned if they're gay

SERIOUS allegations must be backed up by serious evidence. Unfortunately, two combustible ingredients - sensitivity around Buddhism and underlying homophobia - have been mixed by those with a personal agenda and blown up into a national obsession. Even after the northern abbot at the centre of a controversy had already left the monkhood, new spurious claims of homosexual acts are being made to destroy the reputations of several senior monks. This is absurd in a society where most people no longer bat their eyelids at heterosexual monks' violations of the same celibacy vow.

Now that the dust of homophobia is stirred up, many Thais seem to be out on a witch hunt, demanding the "purging" from the monkhood of all monks with effeminate traits, whose mannerisms allegedly breach the monastic rules, the Vinaya.

While monks must be held in high esteem and Vinaya violations must be addressed, none of the 227 precepts for monks explicitly addresses gender-specific mannerisms or the effeminate stylising of monks' robes. In fact, categorical defrocking, regardless of the nature of an offence, follows neither the letter nor the spirit of the Vinaya.

This whole episode reminds of the general intolerance towards female "monks" - yet to be recognised due to poor ethical reasoning. Fear of the unfamiliar reigns over reason. Most worrying is when blame is levied at senior monks for having ordained effeminate monks in the first place.

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There is a reference to Elder Soreyya. I found this story at LINK

A Well-Directed Mind is of Great Benefit

    What neither mother, nor father, nor any other relative can do,
    a well-directed mind does and thereby elevates one.
    43

A Story of Sex Change

While going to bathe with a close friend, a millionaire with two sons harboured a lustful thought on seeing the body of Mahākassapa, who was putting on his robe to enter Soreyya for alms. He thought, “May this elder be my wife, or may my wife’s body be like his.” As that thought arose, he changed into a woman. She was so embarrassed that she ran away and made her way to the distant city of Taxila. There she married and had two sons. Thus she was mother of two, and father of two.

Some time later, the millionaire’s close friend went to Taxila on business. Recognising him, the millionaire had him invited to his mansion and after treating him to the usual hospitality, inquired about his own parents. Then she revealed her former identity and confessed the thought that had caused the sex change. The friend advised the millionaire to ask the elder for forgiveness. As Mahākassapa was living nearby, she invited him for alms and asked for foregiveness. As soon as Mahākassapa forgave her, she changed back to a man. He took leave of the father of his sons in Taxila, kissed his sons goodbye, and became a monk. He was known as the Elder Soreyya.

Travelling with Mahākassapa, Soreyya Thera arrived back at Sāvatthī. Hearing about his past, the people of the country asked him repeatedly which two sons he had the most affection for. He replied patiently that had more affection for those two sons of whom he was the mother.

Soreyya went into solitude and soon attained Arahantship. Later, when asked the same question again he replied that he no affection for anyone. The monks wondered whether this was true, and reported it to the Buddha who confirmed that Soreyya was now free from affection. The Buddha praised him and recited the verse saying that a well-directed mind was of even greater benefit than a mother or a father.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Do Tell, Live In Hell

Posted March 3rd, 2009 by Wayne Besen

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Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) introduced a bill this week to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a law that prohibits gay and lesbian military personnel from serving openly. While this is welcome news, there is no guarantee of a “welcome mat” for gay and lesbian soldiers if the ban is lifted. In the years since Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was adopted in 1993, there has been a rigorous effort to force religion into the barracks. Fundamentalist Christian groups have infiltrated some of our leading military bases and have made life uncomfortable for anyone who does not conform.

This first came to light in 2005 after the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs had become a bastion of Anti-Semitism and Christian proselytizing. The problem escalated as some cadets were reportedly harassed and called “filthy Jews.” A chaplain who complained about the Biblical abuse was unceremoniously demoted and shipped off to Japan. To stop the attempted conversions, the military brass had to meet with the Anti-Defamation League.

Sadly, the proselytizing continues with powerful military leaders behaving more like missionaries, than soldiers entrusted with fulfilling military missions.

“Why is it acceptable that soldiers are unable to serve this nation without attending state-led religious practices they find offensive and false?” Specialist Dustin Chalker, an army medic based at Fort Detrick, in Maryland, asked in The New York Times.

The Times article said that many service members are made uncomfortable by the outsized influence of private groups, such as Officers Christian Fellowship and the Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry.

“You can’t and shouldn’t eliminate the spiritual component in the military,” argued Bruce Fister, Executive Director of Officers’ Christian Fellowship, in the Times.

Excuse me, why is there a “spiritual component” in a pluralistic military whose goal is to safeguard a people governed by the United States Constitution? The very document that they are entrusted with protecting forbids a state religion.

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