Genre of the Week: Really, Really Big Questions About Faith by Julian Baggini

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As we come up on the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther, which created the Lutheran Church, the next articles will focus on Martin Luther, his relationship with Christ and how it affects Christians today.  Apart from some activities to come, some books and videos will be included here.

This includes this book which provides a question about God, religion and how He influences society- if He influences society as a whole.

Written by British philosopher  Julian Baggini and translated into German by Michael Schmidt with the Title Thinking about Mr. God,  this book provides an overview on religion and focuses on key questions about why we have religion, how has religion helped or hindered us (as a society) and about the existence of God, biblical events and if we even have a soul.

Baggini categorizes the questions into the aforementioned topics plus the question on the right to choose religion.  Each question features a summary with some key facts that are thought-provoking for all ages, yet also can be presentable in the classroom. These questions include the existence of God, such as:

What does God look like?

If we have God, why don’t we see him?

Can God be female or is He really male?

Is God fearful or to be feared?

Does God heal us, let alone speak with us?

Do we help others in need when we believe in God?

 

Then we have questions about religion, which includes why we have many religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and others. Then we have others like:

Does religion cause war? Peace?

Does religion make us better people

Does religion make us equal in terms of gender, sexuality, social class, animals, etc.?

Do we have a choice in religion? If so, which one is the best?

These are questions that are provocative and require a lot of deep thinking before one can come up with a truthful answer, just as truthful as it was during Martin Luther’s time.  Before his 95 Theses, he took his walk from his home in Mansfield to Erfurt on 17 July, 1505 when he was caught in a thunderstorm near Stotternheim. Fearing for his life, Luther prayed to St. Anne and promised her to become a monk, which he took his vows in 1506 and was ordained in 1507. It was during that time that he studied and prayed to God, but also questioned the Church about their beliefs in Christ and the way they handled people- providing indulgences to some and excluding others. Luther believed that religion was supposed to be open to those who want to believe Christ. The 95 Theses was based on the critical questions he had. However, even after the creation of the Lutheran Church, other followers had their questions about their faith and decided to create their branches of the Lutheran Church, hundreds of which still exist because they each offer a special aspect of Luther that people wishing to answer the questions about God can choose and fulfill their faith.

If we were to look at this book and compare it to Luther’s question of faith, they are parallel for like Luther, the author of the book provides us with a chance to question ourselves about our faith and whether our religion fulfills our expectations. If not, and if the church cannot change because of their ways, then the question is how we believe in God and if we have the right faith or if we should look for the answers to our deep questions elsewhere. The book is not just open for people looking for a religion but also for people who have just as deep questions about faith and religion as we do- you and me.

In my case, my question would be why we are here at this specific time and what is my mission here? That has yet to be answer despite my successes as a writer and teacher.

 

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Julian Baggini received his PhD in Philosophy at University College in London in 1996 after writing a thesis about the philosophy of personal indentification. He founded the Philosopher’s Magazine in 1997 and has a website dealing with microphilosophy (click here for details). He has written over 30 works and numerous essays dealing with philosophy, religion and people and their roles on Earth, just to name a few. He has also done TED Talks including this one below, which he talks about the real you. He still resides in London.

 

 

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JC Insurance Now Offers Indulgence Coverage

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LUTHERSTADT-EISLEBEN:  A couple weeks ago, I was given a tip by one of the members of the Jehovah Witnesses, who was a former student colleague from Leipzig, about an insurance company that provides indulgence coverage for people wishing for a one-way ticket to Heaven upon their passing.

My first impression was a real eye-opener. Germany has been known by many as the place of insurance, where no matter where you go, insurance is like the Bible itself: it is sacred, it is a necessity and it can save your life. That explains the reason why health insurance is compulsory, even when working as a freelancer, a moral must if you want to leave something for your next of kin upon passing, and a pure protector of all your precious goods. And even if insurance takes up 60% of your raw income, in the long term, it can really save and even nurture your life. Pure fact if you want to live in Germany, even for a short time as a student or someone passing through. 🙂

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But indulgence insurance???

To understand this, one has to look at this from a Catholic’s point of view.  When a person passes on, enroute to the Heavenly gate, he/she is screened for any impurities that was committed while on Earth. If a person happens to commit a sin, regardless of the degree, then that person has to spend time in the Purgatory. The Purgatory is like the Court of Law, where the person is tried on charges of sins that he/she has committed. These sins can include but are not limited to: violating the 10 Commandments, turning away from God and embracing other creatures rejected by Him, saying the Lord’s name in vain in front of a devout believer in Christ, being lazy and not fulfilling the work set forth by the elders, disrecpecting teachers and even breaking a woman’s heart by dumping her for another one.   Unlike in the normal courts, where the defendant is found guilty or innocent and the punishment is decided by the judge, pending on the severity of the crime, all people standing trial in the purgatory are pre-programmed to be guilty. And those who are guilty have to spend time in the Purgatory, where hard labor under the scrutiny of the Lord Jesus Christ awaits them. The amount of time spent there is dependent on the sins committed and in the end, if the person is unable to repent and ask for forgiveness, then the next step is witnessing Dante’s Inferno. Yet by working off the sins as debt, the person in the end will enter the Garden of Eden, to live happily ever after.

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Jeremy Christians, the JC Insurance Agent

There is the alternative form which doesn’t necessarily relieve a person of all his/her sins (the guilt remains as a scar), but it guarantees direct passage to Heaven. This is where indulgence comes in. And with that, Jeremy Christians, who sells Indulgence Insurance for JC Insurance. Based in the heart of Martin Luther in the city of Eisleben in Saxony-Anhalt, JC Insurance recently opened its business, providing relief for Christians who fear their future in the afterlife and therefore, would like to have insurance coverage that will spare them the time in the purgatory. I had a chance to interview the agent about how indulgence insurance works and found out some interesting facts about it. For instance,

  1. Indulgence insurance works like the indulgence that was practiced by the Catholic Church in terms of coverage of all sins committed to date, yet…..
  2. Indulgence insurance also provides coverage for potentials sins to be committed in the future, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background and even profession, which means….
  3. There are several different forms of insurance premiums available pending on the aforementioned pre-existing conditions in nr. 2.

According to Mr. Christians, insurance rates start with a one-time payment of 2000 Euros per person, 3300 Euros for straight couples, 3700 Euros for other couples and 5000 Euros for a family of 4-5 people. Afterwards, insurance carriers only have to pay a monthly base fee of a tenth of the one-time payment PLUS additional payments for the number of sins that had been committed prior to obtaining coverage. A questionnaire with the list of sins is provided when customers wish to purchase indulgence insurance through JC. Yet unlike normal practices where the customers can take their time filling it out on their own, the questions are read to the customers but lie-detector scan is used during the proceedings to scan the brain and facial reactions to determine whether the customer is telling the truth or not. Believe it or not, there is just as much thorough scrutiny with buying indulgence insurance as there is in the Purgatory. The additional payment scale is then used, ranging from 25 cents per count for lying or saying the Lord’s name in vain, to one Euro per count for showing the person the bird (both the German as well as the universal forms), even when displaying it in the form of a cyclist. For serious offenses, like speeding, fighting, protesting at public events, cheating, committing fraud or any of the other offenses that violate the Ten Commandments, the additional payment fees could go as much as ten Euros per offense. In the other words, the most innocent people are the ones that pay the least per month.

But that’s not all! JC also offers a package which covers all sins that could be made in the future, pending on the profession. That means for an additional base price of 300 Euros per month, plus additional fees, a person can be covered form life. Additional Pay Profession scale range from unemployed (which is 10 Euros a month), to teacher (which is 60 Euros) to even a businessman (which is 100 Euros). This does not cover sins done onto another, whose spiritual life is altered permanently. There, the person is permanently dropped from the coverage and is guarenteed direct passage to the Purgatory or even worse.

This really shocked me, but as Mr. Christians mentioned in the interview, with so much corruption going on in society today, many insurance companies, such as JC, are profitting from it, because of a steep increase in demand by those who wish to be cleansed of their sins and given direct passage to the Garden of Eden, dining with God and talking to Jesus in person. This is especially the case as the talk of Judgement Day has skyrocketed since Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the US this past January and white-supremecy is on the war path in Europe, thus destabilizing the global environment, bringing it to the brink of a potential military conflict last seen in 1945. He believes when people buy indulgence insurance, they are protected for life, not just on Earth, but also spiritually.

Yet this brought me to the question of why JC Insurance is selling indulgence insurance in the heart of Martin Luther’s region, namely Eisleben, where he was born and also died. His answer is simple: He wants to prove to the Reformer that this coverage works, and that his arguments of a Purgatory not existing is congruent to the story of The Lady and the Tiger, where the suspect has to open one of the two doors to determine whether he is guilty or innocent- in front of a large crowd in a colliseum.

If interested in buying indulgence insurance, Mr. Christians suggested to call the JC Insurance hotline, for there is no internet, no social network page and the primary location for a nearest agent is next to the lake. One needs to go to the following areas. There a yellow phone can be found on the beach, where a person can call the agent for an appointment. When the agent comes walking on water, you have found the place and can talk about your future, both now and in the afterlife. 🙂

JC Insurance Agents:

Leipzig-  Zwenkauer Lake, Lake Markkleeberg

Brandenburg- Lake Plaue

Glauchau- Glauchauer Stausee

Neubrandenburg- Tollensee

Zeulenroda-Triebes- Zeulenrodaer Stausee

Lutherstadt-Eisleben- Süßersee

Erfurt- Stotterheimer See

Schwerin- Schweriner Innensee

Prien am Chiemsee

Starnberg- Starnberger See

Landshut- Isar Reservoir

More are being established in the coming months. If you want to know more, talk to the agent nearest your place of resident.

Amen!  😉

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Glauchauer Stausee: One of the places where you will find one of the JC insurance agents

 

 

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Special thanks to Carrie Shofner and Bill Moudry for the photo of the insurance agent, Jesus Christ, portrayed by the latter, a key contribution to only fake news story you will find on this column. But it does serve as small lesson about indulgences and the Purgatory and how Martin Luther criticized the Church about it in his 95 Theses. A link on this topic is in the article. 

 

 

Year of the Beer Day 6: St. Marienthal Dark Beer

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Day six, which corresponds to the Day of Epiphany. After a pair of disappointments involving beer tasting, I decided to try a local beer that has a Kloster appeal, answering the question of whether other breweries may have followed Martin Luther’s advice on a good quality beer that is good for the mind and soul. 🙂

The St. Marienthal Klosterbräu beer was established in 1557, about the same time as Luther’s presention of his thesis. Located in a small town of Ostritz, the brewery was famous for the crafting of its St. M dark and light beer, each of which has a sweet aroma but a mild bitter taste. Part of that has to do with the amount of hops added in the content. With the exception of the nationalization of the brewery, being part of the VEB Brewery Bautzen during the Cold War era, the St. Marienthal brewery remained an individual brewery until 1998, when the Eibauer Brewery, located in Zittau in eastern Saxony, bought the company and relocated it to its main headquarters. Despite this, the brands are still being crafted but at a different location.

I had bought a St. M beer for tasting purposes while visiting the Leipzig Christmas market in December, even though I had bought a couple extra bottles as Christmas gifts. Sadly, as I was heading home by train, the Regional Bahn raced around the curve, knocking over my bike with the beer in there! Despite them being wrapped, one of the beers broke and made a mess, but the others were spared, one of which was the Dunkelbier- dark beer in English. That beer was saved until the special occasion, which was the Day of Epiphany- the day where the three wise men followed the bright star to the stall to see Baby Jesus.  A beer like this has to fit an occasion like this, right?

If the Lord was here, He would bless this beer after trying it Himself. 😉 While we’ll discuss more about the dark beer and its difference with the black beer, the St. M dark beer had a dark brown color but with a rather dull clearness. Yet unlike the last two beers, the head (foam) was fairly good with some carbonation, thus giving it the impression of it being a good beer.  In fact…..

Aroma and Flavor: It is unknown what type of hops were used in the dark beer, but the aroma and the flavor appeared to be different with this beer. The aroma had a sweet appeal as the malt aroma seemed to be sweet and the hops used seemed to be a citrus type. In either case, the smell of the beer was rather sweet and nice and the intensity of the aroma was strong, which makes it appealing for those who elect to have a beer with a mild but sweet aroma.

The flavor of the beer, however, is different from the aroma. While the intensity was really strong, the beer tasted mild but leaning towards the astringent side as the malt flavor had a combination of a nut and toast taste with a dash of grain and coffee. It appeared by the taste that the hops used in the ingredients were earthy and herbal. This leads to the question of whether or not it is possible that the aroma and flavor of a beer can be different. This is something that warrants some inquiries and research. In either case the intensity of the flavor was mild, which makes the beer a mild brand worth drinking.

When drinking the beer, it appears that the balance is fairly even between sweet and bitter, having a really fresh taste, having a full body, leaving a long coating on the mouth and making the drinker linger longer with the beverage. In either case, thanks to a great craftmanship, the beer has kept to its ingredients despite the brewery being owned by another larger one. One does not seen many of these successes as a result of mergers and acquisitions these days, however, if the conglomerate is willing to keep a product alive that is liked by locals and people visiting the region, then they are willing to do anything possible to ensure that the recipe for a good beer, which has been used since 1557, is kept exactly the same, even if one has to pay 10 cents more for a bottle.

Grade: 1,3/ A : The St. Marienthal Klosterbräu beer is one of many beers a person will find when visiting Saxony, especially in the vicinity of Leipzig and the Ore Mountains, that is highly recommended. While some supermarket beers have become a disappointment because of the obsession of quantity of sales instead of the quality of the taste, the St. M is one where if a person as a spare dime for use, it is worth the taste. While beer can cleanse the mind upon consumption, if one goes by Martin Luther’s arguments, they can be the subject of great conversation over dinner or chat with your friends and family. This is one of them.

Therefore, on the eighth day, God created beer and it was blessed before served. And the people were happy! 🙂  Prost!

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