Good News Day 16: Harvard Launches Free Online Class To Promote Religious Literacy

Sales of the Quran skyrocketed in the United States following 9/11. Perhaps it was a search for answers, or a desire to parse out certain stereotypes, that made some people turn to the Muslim holy text.

But the increased circulation of the Quran due to the recent Paris attacks and rise of the Islamic State has not always helped people to better understand and respect the faith. If anything, fear and prejudice toward Islam has risen.

This is one example of the “widespread illiteracy about religion that spans the globe,” said Diane Moore, director of Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project to The Huffington Post.

To combat this illiteracy, Moore and five other religion professors from Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School and Wellesley College are kicking off a free, online series on world religions open to the masses. The courses are being offered via an online learning platform called edX, which Harvard University launched with Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 …

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An’ do what ye will…

Forest lightPeople who have made the decision to walk down the path of “non-traditional” spirituality, or have chosen to openly declare themselves a psychic or a medium, know what an interesting and sometimes extremely challenging path that can be.

There are, of course, inherent challenges to any type of spiritual path. To do it right, you really need to be willing to work on your own personal emotional and spiritual baggage. Much of what we share with others, be it in a psychic reading or spiritual counseling, is the result of our own experiences, soul searching, facing our inner demons, and learning to trust in what is frequently an intangible source of information and guidance.

And then, there are the social challenges. In my experience, things are a lot better today than they were 20-25 years ago. One of my first psychic fairs was picketed. I was accused of being a Satanist. One “friend” regularly told me he feared for my soul and that I was going to go to hell. Fortunately, I do not hold much stock in the “going to hell” aspect, and when I told him I thought he was hilarious, he gave up on me. 🙂

For these reasons, a lot of psychics over the years have taken on pseudonyms. Primary to avoid professional or private life repercussions related to what might happened if the “wrong person” discovered what they do.

Forest BrookIn recent years, despite setbacks caused by high profile scam artists or well-intentioned fakes, the general metaphysical world seems to be viewed with a more open mind. Some of the same growing public open mindedness that has helped other fringe communities slowly find more mainstream acceptance has at least minimally decreased the number of people who freak out, react negatively, or sidle cautiously away when they hear about someone’s psychic work. At the minimum, I think there is more of a sense of live and let live. As long as you aren’t hurting someone, go for it.

For those who vehemently object to or publically scoff at the idea of psychic phenomenon, energy healing and people who communicate with spirits, it’s an interesting juxtaposition of ignorant and hypocritical thought patterns. I’ve heard the argument that science has been unable to conclusively prove that extrasensory perception, psychic intuition, or spirit communication works. Yet, ironically, some of the same people who forcefully deny the possibility of psychic phenomenon frequently believe fervently in an unseen, omnipotent god force or benevolent messiah.

These same people believe in the power of prayer, messages from god, and communing with Jesus, despite the fact that science has been unable to satisfactorily prove the existence of any of these beings either. Religious leaders heal with their words and their presence. They share the messages from God as presented by people who were called prophets. All the while only having minimal tangible proof of their existence.

I find it ironic that these beliefs somehow lead people to the conviction that it’s impossible for there to be unexplained phenomenon outside of a church, synagogue, or other religious institution. That they can’t find it within their hearts to believe that the God who works in mysterious ways can somehow work in other, even more mysterious ways.

Do not confuse a psychic or other intuitive who does not consider themselves religious with not being an otherwise extremely spiritual person. Most true, conscientious psychics work from a very strict set of moral, spiritual, and ethical standards.

Azure BluetVarious versions of the adage “And it harm none, do what ye will” hold sway in Wiccan and psychic communities. The laws of karma have bearing around the world, and the idea that you give back what you give out. They work in the best interest of all involved, and they learn important rules of ethics, and seeking the permission of the people they’re reading for. Many of them spend years working on their own personal baggage in order to be better able to help with yours.

That’s not to say that every practicing psychic is a good person, or follows these rules exactly. Any more than every religious leader is an infallible, godly person. We are all human beings. We make bad choices, and we bear the consequences of these decisions one way or another.

So, I’ve rambled on for quite a while now, but the main point of this conversation was to remind people to think about the mysterious ways the universe works. Whether you’re considering someone’s psychic abilities, their belief in the paranormal, or even their religious beliefs, consider the possibilities presented by the things you DO believe in. Maybe there’s a lot more out there than even you believe.

Walk Your Talk

Stone Angel - Tricia GriffithFor many years, I have been leery of “religion”, because for the longest time, some of the meanest people I met were being so in the name of their interpretation of their religion.

In the early 90’s when I first began finding my spiritual path, things that were “New Age” were often wrongly associated with Satanism. I participated in psychic fairs where religious people picketed outside. I hung out in a metaphysical bookstore where occasionally people would come in and point out that we were Satanic because we had a [hand-painted Native American horse] skull in the window.

I canvassed door to door for an endangered species organization and the people with the most outward displays of their religion on their homes were often the cruelest. “I’ll just shoot the wolves myself”, and “I’d rather save babies than nature” (I’m still trying to figure that one out.) were common harsh comments.

Then, of course I could go on and on about the centuries of wars waged in the name of religion. But then, you would all fall asleep or start to wonder what my point was.

Shrine - Tricia GriffithFortunately, over the years, I have met people who were “religious” who actually weren’t harsh or cruel. I met a woman who, many years ago, made a deal with God, that if her father survived an illness, she would give up junk food. He survived, and she did give up junk food. She also was a kind, gentle and generous person whose faith in her religious beliefs and her actual practice of them, I greatly admired.

More and more, I find people I can have a conversation with about differing religious and spiritual beliefs, and it doesn’t turn into an argument. I meet people who share their view of the way their spiritual world works not only with words, but with action. They love their neighbor, they help others, they are kind to their fellow human beings; without an agenda, without standing on a sidewalk shouting about sin, without calling their fellow spiritual beings Satanists.

Beaver Lake Nature Center - Tricia GriffithI believe that whatever religion you feel is "the right one”, it is your right one. The trick is not to judge others for their beliefs. First of all, if their spiritual path makes them a better, kinder person, who are we to judge how they got there? Secondly, before you judge another person’s beliefs or behavior, you better take a good look at your own.

Before you shout your beliefs from the rooftops and begrudge people the path they walk, think about the words you’re speaking. Are you walking your talk? Can you say, without a doubt, that you are living the ideal of your own spiritual beliefs?

I personally believe that the world would be a much better place if people stopped preaching their beliefs and starting living them.