Playing on God’s Team – Brazilian Soccer Stars and Christian Evangelism

September 18, 2008

Brazilian superstar Kaká bows down and praises the Lord in a very public display of his faith

When one thinks of Brazil, one will automatically think of Ipanema Beach, Carnaval in Rio de Janiero, beautiful women, and of course soccer. North Americans have difficulty understanding how popular a game soccer is worldwide and especially in a country like Brazil where it is a national religion thanks to the fact that their national team has won the World Cup a record five times.

Not only does Brazilian soccer and its fans take on a religious sensibility, its soccer stars are infusing the game with their own brand of Christianity, Evangelism. Superstars such as Kaká (pictured above), Lúcio, Zé Roberto, and Cacau openly profess their faith during matches by either wearing undershirts with a Christian message, or consistently making the sign of the cross throughout the game. Logic would suggest that these players are simply devout Roman Catholics since we’re talking about Brazil but they aren’t: they belong to the Pentecostal Church which counts 17.6 million adherents in this South American country.

Cathrin Gilbert takes a look at this phenomenon in Playing Soccer for God:

The Schalke team captain Bordon has joined the other Evangélicos in the Bundesliga, as well as about 100 other athletes from Brazil, and formed an organization called Atletas de Cristo. Their mission, as stated on their Web site, is to convert the world to Christianity. As often as his playing schedule permits, Bordon meets with his brothers for religious services.

At a training camp, Bordon invited Schalke manager Andreas Müller, a Mormon, to a bible circle. Missionary work is part of the commitment Bordon entered into when

click here to read Cathrin Gilbert’s article in its entirety

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Mickey Mouse has been sentenced to death

September 16, 2008

An icon of American culture, it seems that Mickey Mouse isn’t appreciated worldwide.

The UK Telegraph is reporting that a Muslim cleric from Saudi Arabia has sentenced Mickey Mouse to death. Former Saudi diplomat Sheikh Muhammad Munajid has denounced the lovable cartoon character as a “soldier of Satan”, according to The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI, for short):

“The mouse is one of Satan’s soldiers and is steered by him.

“If a mouse falls into a pot of food – if the food is solid, you should chuck out the mouse and the food touching it, and if it is liquid – you should chuck out the whole thing, because the mouse is impure.
“According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature. How do you think children view mice today – after Tom and Jerry?

“Even creatures that are repulsive by nature, by logic, and according to Islamic law have become wonderful and are loved by children. Even mice.

“Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases.”

Could it be that Mickey Mouse represents the USA and calling for his death is simply another way of saying “Death to America” as is so often heard in the third world? Or could MEMRI be distorting what the cleric said for propaganda purposes? Either way, the focus should really be on Donald Duck since was he truly the evil one :)

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Walk into the Light – Science and the Near-Death Experience

September 14, 2008

The tunnel of light is the most common association with those who experience near-death

The question of what happens to us when we die has spawned books, songs, plays, and of course, religions. Our mortality has been a central concern of our daily existence throughout the history of human civilization. We understand that it is an end of sorts, but what kind of end? And what happens afterwards? There is no direct proof of anyone returning from the dead (Jesus’ death and resurrection rests on the gospels) and reporting to us what is on the other side. But we do have many instances of what is known as Near-Death Experience (NDE).

First popularized by Raymond Moody in his 1975 book Life After Life, NDE refers to both the physical and spiritual effects of impending death. The most common experiences include feelings of tranquility, warmth, and the presence of the proverbial “tunnel of light”. Some go as far as to suggest that they are drawn into the tunnel of light. These sensations are taken by many as proof of an afterlife.

Science is now trying to figure out what causes these feelings and what they really are and why so many people (at one count 8 million alone in the USA) experience NDE. One study group has launched AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) to look at patients who suffer cardiac arrest.

“Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment,” said leader of the study Dr. Sam Parnia of the University of Southampton in the U.K. “It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning — a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.”

Previous research suggests about 10 to 20 percent of people who live through cardiac arrest report lucid, well-structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.

One study found that people who reported peaceful feelings, bright light and out-of-body experiences during a brush with death are more likely to have had difficulty separating sleep from wakefulness in their everyday lives. Both before and after their near-death experiences, these people often have symptoms of the rapid-eye movement (REM) state of sleep while awake.

The AWARE researchers want to find out what happens to the brain when a person’s body has started to shut down, whether it is possible for people to see and hear during cardiac arrest, and what’s going on during out of body experiences.

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Can Science Explain the Spiritual Without the Aid of Religion?

August 29, 2008

Can science explain spirituality?

As the debate between believers of religion and the atheists continues unabated, many are turning towards science to understand why humans seem to not only want religion, but need it as well.

Once again the battlefield is the human brain as some neuroscientists are attempting to explain spiritual experiences through scientific means that make an end run around religion. This group is basing its findings around the study of interoception. Sandra Blakeslee attempts to understand why she feels a spiritual presence and why she can reject religion at the same time in Flesh Made Soul. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Can science help?

I think it can, although the research is in an early stage. A stunning new description of how the human body and brain communicate to produce emotional states — including our feelings, cravings, and moods — has all the elements needed to explain how the human brain might give rise to spiritual experiences, without the necessary involvement of a supernatural presence, according to Dr. Martin Paulus, a psychiatrist at the University of California in San Diego who is also a Zen practitioner.

Called interoception, it offers a radically new view of human anatomy and physiology based on how information from the body reaches the brain and how that information is processed uniquely in humans.

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