Archive for February, 2012


When someone asks me if I believe in God, they are usually expecting a one word, yes or no, answer, but I find this type of answer difficult to provide. If I answered “yes”, I would want to follow it up with “but”, and if I answered “no”, I would want to add a “if”. The question is not really that simple and often depends on how you define “God”. In fact there are several different possible views on this subject:

Theism is the belief in at least one deity, which is present and active in the governance and organization of the universe.

Deism is the belief that the universe was created by a God who does not intervene in it. They say this can be determined by reason and observation alone, without the need for organized religion.

Monotheism is the belief in one God or in the oneness of God, such as in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (Deism is a form of monotheism).

Polytheism is the belief in multiple deities, such as in ancient Greek and Roman traditions.

Monolatrism is the worship of one God while recognizing the existence of others.

Henotheism, similar to monolatrism, is the worship on one God while accepting the the possible existence of others.

Pantheism, rather than having a personal, anthropomorphic creator, sees the nature of the universe and the divinity of God as one and the same.

Panentheism, while similar to pantheism, is the belief that God not only penetrates the entire universe, but extends beyond it through time and space.

Transtheism is another system of thought which is neither theistic, nor atheistic, and is too complicated to explain in a line or two so I’m not even going to try.

Atheism, a rejection of theism, is the absence of belief in any deity.

Agnosticism is the belief that the existence of a deity, as with any metaphysical claim, is unknown or even unknowable.

Apatheism considers the question of the existence of a deity to be irrelevant and meaningless. Apatheists are apathetic towards belief in general and are likely not reading this blog.

I was raised Roman Catholic but began to question many of the church’s teachings around age 12. My growing knowledge and understanding of science eventually led me to a complete rejection of all things religious later in my teens.

Later on, as I was exposed to more spiritual ideas, I began to take on a more open-minded approach to the whole question. I started taking many of the teachings from scripture, which I saw as no more than mythology, as metaphor and analogy rather than a literal depiction of history.

On top of this, my continued studies in science, especially psychology, made me realize that much is still unknown and can’t be fully explained by science alone. Some unanswered questions involve the origins of the universe and what, if anything, existed before the big bang. Also, the nature of consciousness and time itself are far from being understood.

Medical doctor and best-selling author, Deepak Chopra, thinks that science and spirituality need to be blended in order to have a full understanding of reality. While not claiming to have all the answers himself, he seems to believe in a sort of transcendent, conscious reality that exists beyond the physical world. This could be considered a panentheistic view.

Personally, while being open to ideas such as those of Chopra, I am not willing to adhere to any particular religious doctrine or way of thinking. Since I don’t actually believe in a deity, one could label me as an atheist. However, since I am willing to admit that there could be more to life than what science can explain, perhaps agnostic would be a better fit.

Actually, these categories aren’t as easily divisible as one might think. Within agnosticism, some people consider themselves agnostic atheists, who don’t believe in a deity, nor do they deny it as a possibility. Others would call themselves an agnostic theist, who believe in a deity, but don’t claim to know it as an absolute truth.

So, if I were to label myself, with the terms used above, I would have to consider myself an agnostic theist, who is open to pantheistic or panentheistic ideas. I worship nature and believe in the possibility of something that transcends our physical reality, that is, perhaps conscious, or even consciousness itself.

Just because someone identifies as an atheist, does not necessarily mean they have to remove themselves from all religious or spiritual ideas. In a recent TED talk, Alain de Botton describes a new approach to atheism that he calls atheism 2.0. He talks about incorporating parts of religious traditions into your life without having to accept the full doctrine.

While de Botton focuses on forms, traditions, and rituals that help satisfy the human need for connection, I believe it is also acceptable for atheists to study different religious or spiritual ideas, like you would study any kind of philosophical tradition.

I, for one, am fascinated by many different religious ideas from all over the world. There’s the nature worshiping of Paganism, the simple beauty of Taoism, and practices of Yoga and Zen meditation from eastern traditions, which have been shown to have many health benefits. Even the more dogmatic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) have ideas that are worth studying, if not only for their cultural significance, then for their morals.

When it comes down to it, religion should be a personal thing. Everyone should have the freedom to believe what ever they feel works best with them. It’s not so much what you believe that matters, but that you are accepting of other people’s beliefs. It helps to be able to have an open discussion about these issues, so that don’t serve to divide us, but instead, bring us together.

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I first heard of Nathan Cullen when I read his blog, which was featured on rabble.ca on December 1st, 2011. This blog briefly outlined his plan to cooperate with Liberal and Green Party members and hold joint nomination meetings in Conservative held ridings. This would leave only one candidate to face-off against the Conservative incumbents for certain seats, making it, at least, less likely that they could get a majority government with only 39% of the vote, as in the last federal election.

A few days later, the first leadership debate was held in Ottawa. 8 other candidates joined Cullen, including Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Brian Topp, Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton, Martin Singh, Romeo Saganash, and Robert Chisholm. Saganash and Chisholm have since dropped out of the race.

In this debate, Cullen clearly stood out as one of my top choices. It was his charisma and passion for the environment that caught my attention the most, plus, he made me laugh a couple of time, which is always good.

As former NDP environment and natural resources critic, and with his strong opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline – which would pass through his Skeena-Bulkley riding in BC – it is clear that environmental issues are one of Nathans top priorities. With the current Conservative governments total neglect of the environment, this is exactly the kind of leader we need to get our country back on the right track. Also, being a 4th term MP, he has more parliamentary experience than any other candidate in the race, and he is the only one to ever defeat a Conservative incumbent.

On top of his experience in parliament, Nathan Cullen has also operated a successful small business, spent time as a community organizer, and has done development work in Africa and South America. He has worked with diverse groups, from business executives to indigenous elders, and speaks 3 languages (English, French, and Spanish).

With his small business background, Cullen is also less likely to be feared by more moderate Liberals who might otherwise vote Conservative if they were cooperating with the NDP. In an interview with the Star, he calls himself “a pro-business New Democrat” who believes “in the private sector’s capacity to innovate and create the kind of wealth we need to pay for the social programs we deserve”. He also believes in protecting small and medium sized businesses from unfair interest rates imposed on them by large banks an credit card companies, as he explains in the clip from a debate below.

Nathan has come under attack for his joint nomination plan, mainly from his opponents and other die-hard NDP supporters. He addresses many of these criticisms in an interview with MacLeans magazine.

The main criticism is that his plan is undemocratic. Opponent say that it would prevent them from getting the unexpected victories that led to their success in Quebec on May 2nd. Cullen points out that he was not proposing this in the last election. Also, it’s difficult to say what would have happened in May if the parties had held joint nomination meetings. Perhaps the NDP would have given up some of their victories to the Liberals, but at the same time, both the NDP and the Liberals would most likely have taken some victories from the Conservatives. And maybe the Green party could have even won a seat or two.

This is nothing like a coalition government, like the the Canadian (Reform/Conservative) Alliance that existed from 2000 to 2003. It is also nothing like the imaginary Liberal/NDP coalition that Harper used to scare people into voting for him in the last election.

Furthermore, it’s not as if candidates would be forced to drop out of the race. Every candidate would have the choice, and if their polling numbers are low, they would be encouraged to get behind another progressive candidate, so that Conservatives don’t benefit from the splitting of the progressive vote.

Some NDP and GPC supporters would argue that Liberals are not progressive. This is a misunderstanding of the diversity of the Liberal base. I, like many progressives, have voted Liberal in the past because in my riding they were the only ones able to beat the Conservatives. Strategic voting, or voting for the lesser of two evils, although you don’t necessarily get to vote for the party that best represents your views, is smart. A vote for a party that has no chance of winning the seat, while it does give a dollar or two to the party of your choice, has no effect on the outcome of the election, and is essentially wasted. The Cullen plan is not strategic voting, but strategic nomination.

As Prime Minister of Canada, Nathan Cullen would also introduce proportional representation, where the number of seats won are proportional to the number of votes received. This would erase the need for joint nominations and strategic voting.

The bottom line is, progressives are starting to realize, after less than a year of a Harper majority, that we can’t keep going in this direction for much longer. Harper once said “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m done with it”, and people are starting to see what he meant.

With a new and expensive crime bill (C-10) at a time when crime is at it’s lowest point in decades, attempting to pass an internet spy bill (C-30) that would allow the government to monitor peoples online activity without a warrant, abandoning the Kyoto protocol, and advocating tar-sand pipelines that put communities in danger of a spill, it’s becoming clear what kind of vision he has for the country. If we don’t want a police state, controlled by oil companies, we need to do whatever we can to stop Harper before our country becomes completely unrecognizable.

Nathan Cullen started his campaign for NDP leader as a virtual unknown, but has now gained a considerable amount of momentum, mainly because of his joint nomination plan, and also his charismatic performance in the debates. Unlike many of the other front-runners, he is not backed by large labor unions. His support comes from people coming together to support progressive values over partisan politics.

The NDP leadership election is March 24th, but in order to vote, you must become a registered member of the NDP before February 18th.

Many reports of strange sounds have been coming from all over the world in recent months, to the puzzlement of much of the online community. You can watch a YouTube playlist of 50 videos, the earliest being from March, 2011.

Explanations given for this phenomenon include: UFOs, military experiments, HAARP (High frequency Active Auroral Research Program), atmospheric phenomena involving thunder, the hum of power lines, and nearby trains. Of course, many people say it’s all just a hoax.

After watching many videos, some of which are clearly a hoax, I have broken the sounds down into 3 categories.

Some, like in Kiev, Ukraine (also heard in the video above), are a loud, pulsating sound that has been compared to a horn (trumpet, tuba, trombone). Many have suggested that they are the trumpets of the apocalypse from the book of Revelations. Others have said it has a metallic quality, like two heavy pieces of metal scraping against each other, echoing through the air.

Some have cited nearby trains to explain the sounds, but this can’t explain why, all of a sudden, trains around the world have been making this sound. Also, in this video from Denmark, you can see and hear a train pass at the beginning, and then a completely separate sound is heard after the train passes.

This is suspiciously similar to the tripod sound from the War of the Worlds movie, which could explain why some have assumed that UFO’s are the source. It could also provide an easy sample for hoaxers to edit into their videos (possibly with some manipulations).

Two separate videos (here & here) from Oshawa, Ontario, shot on the same night, at around the same time, have similar pulsating sounds. The sound seems more distant in these videos than others, possibly because of low quality recording. Two videos doesn’t rule out the possibility of a hoax, however,  as they could have been shot by two people working together, or even by the same person at different locations.

In other cases, there’s more of a constant rumbling noise like wind, thunder, or a jet plane flying overhead. In a video from Colorado, you can hear the rumbling as distinctly separate from the wind, and also, there are no clouds in the sky, which seems to rule out thunder as a source.

Another video, from Tallahassee, Florida back in March 2011, has a rumbling noise that lasted about 20 minutes. The people who shot the video thought it was a tornado. They called 911, and were not given an explanation, but were told that many people have reported the sound. At one point a flash of light appeared in the sky, and the sound faded away immediately afterwards. This is similar to what happened in Minnesota later on, in September.

News reports have released a statement from the National Weather Service blaming the Tallahassee noise on a phenomenon called ducting. A duct is a low density layer of the atmosphere with a reduced refractive index allowing waves (usually radio, but also sound) to travel further than they normally would. This could potentially carry the sound of distant electrical storms to somewhere not experiencing the disturbance, which could explain the clear sky rumbling in Colorado, mentioned above.

A third type of sound, like in this video, also from Colorado, has a loud bang, every few seconds. This is much different from the other noises, which leads me to believe it is unrelated. The up-loader tries to link this to the Virginia earthquake the following day. This might make sense if it were the same day, or if Virginia were anywhere near Colorado. Also, comments on the video are disabled, which always makes me suspicious.

An interesting thing about this phenomenon is that observers often seem to have trouble telling where the sound is coming from. Some say it seems to come from the ground, others say from the sky, and some say it comes from all around them. It has also been known to rattle the foundations of buildings and furniture.

Of the 3 types of sounds mentioned, the first one is the most interesting to me. It is the least natural sounding of the 3, and also the one with the least logical explanations, other than a possible hoax.

I’m inclined to believe that at least some of these reports are genuine. In the CTV Saskatoon report below, the mayor of North Battleford claims to have heard the sound, which he describes as a “scraping”, as well as over 40 people who have called in, or sent Facebook messages, to a local radio station. It’s hard to believe that so many people would be involved in a hoax.

In this video, a physics professor at the University of Saskatchewan says that “somehow they are picking up noise from an environmental antenna… that is electromagnetic noise, nice natural noise”. He also says it is normal, and there is nothing to worry about. I’m not sure in what universe electromagnetic waves from an antenna are considered natural, but this is certainly not normal (at least in this universe). What’s not explained is why similar reports haven’t been made prior to last summer.

This is a fairly recent phenomena, and it seems to be increasingly more common in recent months, most likely because of hoaxers trying to take advantage of the hype to get more views on YouTube and elsewhere.

Many people looking for answers point to HAARP, an ionosheric research program funded by the US Air Force, the Navy, and the University of Alaska. The facility is located near Gakona, Alaska. HAARP has been the target of many conspiracy theorists who say it has the potential to disrupt weather patterns. It has been blamed for catastrophes such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, thunderstorms, and earthquakes, as well as other events such as major power outages. They have even been accused of using mind-controlling radio waves.

Some concerns about the activity of HAARP are likely legitimate, although, many of the conspiracy theories seem to be rooted in nothing more than paranoia. The seemingly increasing number of natural disasters of late can make people wonder and try to find a reason for it and also, look for someone to blame. Some people who are unwilling to accept the science behind climate change might be more likely to blame it on the government.

This mysterious phenomenon raises a lot of questions. For some of the reports, there seems to be a logical explanation. Others are clearly a hoax. It seems to me that something strange is definitely going on here. Whether it’s a natural phenomenon, or a man made result of secret government activity, it seems that this is something worth following and looking into further. Who knows? Maybe this is the trumpets of the apocalypse.