Monday, 18 July 2011

Home is where the Heart is.......

The heart of the last heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Otto von Habsburg, has been buried in central Hungary. The funeral of the last crown prince took place on Saturday in the Austrian capital Vienna, where his body was buried alongside those of his ancestors in the Imperial crypt. His heart was buried separately in accordance with Habsburg tradition. The event is also an echo of medieval aristocratic custom.

Mr Habsburg said he wanted his heart buried in Hungary to show the affection he held for the country, Austria's 19th-Century partner in the Austro-Hungarian empire. His heart was buried in a private ceremony on Sunday evening in the Benedictine Abbey in Pannonhalma, near Budapest, after a requiem mass.

A cleric at the service before the burial of Otto von Habsburg's heart (on the table in the silver urn) in Abbey of Pannonhalma
The service in the chapel was simple compared to the pomp of the Vienna funeral

Mr Habsburg's heart, in a silver urn, was placed on a table in front of the alter - surrounded by a wreath of red and white flowers in green leaves to represent Hungary's national colours. At the end of the service his two sons carried the urn down to the crypt for burial. Mr Habsburg, the son of the last emperor, died earlier this month at the age of 98.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

What's the height of fashion in the Atheist community these days?

Here's a fantastic story about a man who decided to test Austria's religious laws relating to religious dress. This is particularly appropriate for GCSE option B students but A level students may also enjoy reading all about this:

An Austrian atheist has won the right to be shown on his driving-licence photo wearing a pasta strainer as "religious headgear".
Driving licence of Niko Alm
Niko Alm first applied for the licence three years ago after reading that headgear was allowed in official pictures only for confessional reasons.
Mr Alm said the sieve was a requirement of his religion, pastafarianism.
The Austrian authorities required him to obtain a doctor's certificate that he was "psychologically fit" to drive.
The idea came into Mr Alm's noodle three years ago as a way of making a serious, if ironic, point.
A self-confessed atheist, Mr Alm says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted faith whose members call themselves pastafarians.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

What's Real and What's Important?

Kyle from South Park debates the nature of reality (sort of!)

The debate over what is 'real' has gone on since at least the time of Plato, the great Greek philosopher who maintained that the only 'real' world was one far from here (the world of the 'Forms') yet influencing everything that existed in our version of reality. He illustrated this by means of an allegory (a story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning)  known as 'The Cave.'

It has been suggested by others that the quest of the philosopher is to free people from their existences in the cave and to see things as they really are.

The only problem is that philosophers, theologians and religious believers have a great deal of difficulty in agreeing on what is truly 'real' in the first place.......

I think Kyle sums it up nicely though!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Can Religious Teachings Prove Evolution to be True?

It is one of the great questions of the past 150 years.
Did God or evolution drive the emergence of life in all its resplendent variety?
The US education system, and even American politics have to a degree all become dominated by the debate at various times, which goes to the heart of our world view and our ideas of where we, and all other forms of life, came from.
But Matt Walker, editor of BBC Nature Online, has just come across an intriguing piece of research that may, to coin a phrase, put an evolutionary cat among the believing flock of creation scientists, many of whom believe in the literal account of Genesis.
One scientist has decided to use creation science to test the validity of evolution.
Because, he says, if it turns out that creation science proves evolution, then by its own logic, it will have to reject its own canon of research that previously denied it.
Bird-hipped dinosaurs (image: Natural History Museum, London)
It’s a clever idea, because it once again puts evidence, rather than faith, at the centre of the debate.
Science cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, or that God may have once put in place all known physical laws and processes that shaped the universe and everything in it.
Science cannot challenge faith, which by its very nature, does not require evidence (many scientists are religious people who see no contradiction between their faith and work and many people of faith see no contradiction with what science can explain).
But science does require evidence, and this evidence allows us to explain, with increasing accuracy, how the world around us works.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Divorce ceremonies in Japan 'on the rise' after tsunami

A firm which specialises in divorce ceremonies in Japan says they have seen a rise in demand since the earthquake and ensuing tsunami which hit the country in March.
A joint crushing of the wedding ring is the highlight of the event.

In a world where relationship breakdown appears to be ever on the increase, does the quirky nature of this kind of ritual make divorce seem a 'fun' option?

Or do natural disasters force people to re-evaluate their lives at the cost of the happiness of those nearest and (previously) dearest to them?

Click here for more details

Monday, 4 July 2011

How the Nativity might look today.....

Enjoy this updated version of the Christian Nativity Story:

click here

Does Spiderman have Free Will?

Imagine that you are Spiderman and have just discovered that you have special powers. Do you have a moral obligation to use your new found powers to help other people? 

Is Spiderman a consequentialist? 
Does Spiderman really have to use his powers to do good? 
Why is he considered to be good? 
Could he choose any other course of action? 

Click here for the link to the complete article.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Life After Death is a 'Fairy Story' say Stephen Hawking

Eminent scientist Stephen Hawking has branded life after death a 'fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark'. He has also recently proposed that the universe could create itself from nothing, with out the need of God - see here.

Hawking's understanding of the workings of the universe is, to be sure, greater than most of us could ever wish to hold, but is knowledge of the universe enough to deny out right the existence of life after death? Talk of life after death is generally regarded as belonging to the realm of metaphyics, philosophy and Theology. It's true that science hasn't provided any convincing evidence for life after, however it has long been suggested that if there is a heaven, or indeed a hell, that it would be transcendant, that is beyond time and space beyond the universe. The idea of a heaven in the sky and hell under the earth is viewed by most, in metaphorical or symbolic terms.

Hawking also likens the human brain to a computer, that shuts down at death. I can only assume that he is making use of analogy here as, while there are obvious similarities between a brain and a computer eg, the ability to store and retrieve information, that are also vast differences. It was the famous sceptical agnostic philosopher Hume who criticised Paley's watch analogy on this very point. Just because the brain resembles a computer in some ways, it does not follow that it resembles it in all ways. The Dualist view is that we are more than simply physical matter - and that it is reductionist to suggest that the people we are, our feelings, desires, memories, fears and loves are nothing more than the result of a complex biological computer.
There are good arguments against the existence of life after death as well as arguments to support it but many of them go beyond the remit of science.

There is a danger when scientists like Hawking make metaphysical/philosophical claims and that many people will accept them as scientific fact, when, in truth the issue is very much up for debate.

To read more from this article click here.

To read more on life after death click here.