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Researchers Find Evidence That Prayer Can Stop Alcohol Addiction

Subjects viewed drinking-related images, then read newspaper or prayed. Study found those who recited AA prayers reported fewer alcohol cravings. MRI revealed response in brain regions that control attention and emotion.

For long-term members of AA, praying helps to reduce alcohol cravings when confronted with a triggering situation.

This is according to a new study which explored the brain physiology of recovering alcoholics who had been involved with the program for years.

Participants who recited AA prayers after viewing drinking-related images reported fewer alcohol cravings and displayed increased activity in the brain regions that control attention and emotion.

The study, conducted by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, is thought to be the first to explore brain physiology in AA members.

Researchers recruited 20 long-term AA members to participate in the study.

These participants, who reported no alcohol cravings in the week before testing, were then placed in an MRI scanner and shown pictures of alcoholic drinks, or of people drinking.

Each person was shown the pictures two times.

In the first round, the participants were asked to read neutral material from a newspaper following the viewing.

In the second, they recited an AA prayer which promotes abstinence from alcohol.

Across the board, the research subjects all reported some degree of craving after viewing the images.

The authors write:

Four methodologically diverse studies (N = 1,758) show that prayer frequency and alcohol consumption are negatively related. In Study 1 (n = 824), we used a cross-sectional design and found that higher prayer frequency was related to lower alcohol consumption and problematic drinking behavior.

Study 2 (n = 702) used a longitudinal design and found that more frequent prayer at Time 1 predicted less alcohol consumption and problematic drinking behavior at Time 2, and this relationship held when controlling for baseline levels of drinking and prayer.

In Study 3 (n = 117), we used an experimental design to test for a causal relationship between prayer frequency and alcohol consumption.

Participants assigned to pray every day (either an undirected prayer or a prayer for a relationship partner) for 4 weeks drank about half as much alcohol at the conclusion of the study as control participants. Study 4 (n = 115) replicated the findings of Study 3, as prayer again reduced drinking by about half.

These findings are discussed in terms of prayer as reducing drinking motives.

The Serenity Prayer

The serenity prayer is the common name for a prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and has been adopted by several twelve step programmes, including the AA, who use this version:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

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The time has come for all to admit that Jesus was not white

Historians and Biblical scholars are generally agreed that Jesus of Nazareth was born in the region which is now modern day Palestine and therefore it is certain that he was Middle Eastern in his appearance. Despite the fact that scholars generally agree that this is the case, it still proves to be controversial among certain circles with some people claiming that Jesus was a white man. Even though this may seem to fly in the face of common sense it is still a matter of great debate among some circles. But how did this argument come into being?

There are very few descriptions of Jesus in the Bible and those which do exist seek to emphasize his divinity rather than give an authentic representation of his human appearance. Therefore, those who wish to decipher what Jesus might have looked like being forced to seek out what other people from his home region and time period looked like. The ancient Jews tended to look very similar to their Middle Eastern neighbors, with dark skin and hair. Indeed, most of the earliest representations of the person of Christ are depicted in this way with an emphasis on Jesus’s Semitic origins. However, once Christianity and the figure of Jesus began to move into the mainstream this was no longer the norm.

The fifth century saw the greatest revolution in the history of Christianity when the most powerful man in the world, the Emperor Constantine, became a convert. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and the once scorned and persecuted faith soared in popularity. It was at this time that the classic representation of Jesus as it is understood today began to proliferate. This artwork was generally produced in the center of the Roman world, Rome, where the white European artists depicted Jesus with long brown hair, a beard, and white skin, in order to emphasize his connection with the people of Europe.

This trend would continue over the centuries as Christianity became more integral to European life. According to the Biblical scholar Christena Cleveland, this was a concerted effort to depict white Europeans as having the most natural affinity to Jesus of all of the people in the world despite historical facts indicating to the contrary. The reason for this is that Jews were a marginalized minority at the time that Christianity entered the mainstream and continued to be so throughout the glory days of Christianity in Europe. Therefore it would not be considered either appropriate or wise to aggrandize the Jews by aligning the Messiah with them in any way. Instead, Jesus was presented as being as close to the white European worshippers as possible in his physical appearance.


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Mark Heathen Or Asatru As Your Preferred Religion While In The Army

Asatru and Heathen have their place in the religious preference list of the US Army. It was a result of a five year campaign directed by the Open Halls Project. The Army has become the second branch of the U.S Military to incorporate both of these religious options. The Air Force led the way in July 2014. With these changes made, Heathen soldiers serving, or having served, in either of these two branches can accurately communicate their religious preference and, by doing this, earn a host of benefits and protections.

“This is a first step into showing how deeply integrated with serving our country Heathens are. We represent a significant minority of the world, but the large majority of Heathens have served their countries in some form or another. Taking care of our community is a Heathen worldview trait, serving in the military is one way to serve those communities. I hope that this recognition helps to encourage more Heathens to serve their communities in all ways,” explained Josh Heath, co-founder of the Open Halls Project.

It’s presently estimated that there are approximately 500 Heathens serving in the U.S. Army alone. That amount is purely speculative according to Open Hall Project registrations. Heath explained,”I’m hoping that getting the religious preference added will allow us to eventually ask the military to do an official census.”

Heath’s pursuit began in 2009 after he and his spouse joined The Troth. Then, Heath was on Active Duty with U.S. Army, also desired to see equally Heathen and Asatru added to the religious preference list. Since that application required the backing of a 501c3 organization, he requested the Troth for help, they gave. Regrettably, the Army created a mistake and put The Troth on the list, rather than Heathen or Asatru.

Because of this, Heath needed to start the process all over again. This time, however, he looked for assistance from a team whose title included the term Asatru, as advised by Army officials. With the help of Vince Enland of the Asatru Alliance and Patricia Lafayllve of The Troth, he filed a second application in 2010. This was the year he and Cat officially established the Open Halls Project.

A year went by with little to no response. In 2011, the group made a decision to submit a third application. This one included a request with the signatures of more than 30 soldiers. But once again, they were told that the application was being examined.

Following two years of waiting, the Army had made no decisions, and the group was faced with two new challenges. Heath stated,”In 2012, we were told by the Chaplains Corp that a new system to request Rel Prefs was being developed and would take some time to get anything new approved.” Furthermore, Heath himself was no longer on Active Duty. Thereforethey “would need to get someone [else] who [could] reprocess the whole request.”

Over the subsequent two years, they set the project on “the back burner.” They occasionally checked in with Chaplain Bryan Walker, personnel director of the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains. They also worked to garner more allies and support for the mission.

From 2013, momentum began to build in the form of both interest and corresponding activities. In terms of earning increased support, Josh Heath credits a 2013 interview with Dr. Karl Seigfried, published on the Norse Mythology blog.   While the article is mainly concerning the couple’s individual history and faith, it does mention the Open Halls Project and its profound involvement” in American Heathenry and… the struggle for its recognition as a religion in the U.S. military.” In reality, that very interview is exactly what inspired Msgt. Matt Walters, the Air Force NCO, to seek out the Open Halls Project for help in getting Asatru and Heathen added to the Air Force religious preference list.

While support increased, other serendipitous events started to happen. In spring 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs included the Mjöllnir, (the Hammer) to a list of symbols accessible for gravestones and markers. Subsequently, in early 2014, the Army added Humanism to its religious preference list, and the Air Force included Heathen and Asatru.

In a recent interview with Dr. Karl Seigfried, Heath confessed that the incorporating of Humanism, “riled him up!” He stated,”I’d been working on this issue for Heathens for five years, and they still hadn’t approved us! I threatened a lawsuit, politely, and even contacted the ACLU and the humanists that won their campaign to ask for some guidance on how to proceed.”

Due the increase in support from the Heathen community, Heath managed to locate four new Active Duty soldiers keen to work on the project. The group consisted of Christopher Gibat, Omar Bailey, Andrew Turner and Daniel Head, who would eventually become the new principle point of contact. In a recent interview, Head told Dr. Seigfried that following some “back and forth” and questioning the chaplains signed off.  Asatru and Heathen were added into the list.

Although this designation is only administrative, the rewards could be far reaching in the experiences of a Heathen soldier, and in the education of army officials. Heath stated:

Some Heathens will still have a hard time getting the right to worship, but having their religious preference added will mean the Chaplains Corp, MUST, assist them within the regulation requirements. That is a huge advocacy pool, even a chaplain that doesn’t really want to help will have to face disciplinary action for failing to uphold their oath. I think this will help, when good soldiers, are seen as good soldiers, then someone finds out they are a Heathen, this will show that we are good for our units, good for the Army and good for our country.

He additionally noted that Heathen Veterans can apply to create a change to their religious preference. Doing this will assist with any census taken, in addition to supporting Heathen specific needs for funerals and other religious-based services.

A couple of members were skeptical how far this will truly influence their daily experience, but most responses were celebratory and concentrated on the next chapter of the project. Heath explained,”We are planning on pursuing the Navy and Marines next, as they use the same system for Chaplains, a win there will affect both branches at the same time. I seriously doubt they would add the preferences themselves without prodding, but I do not think it would be hard for personnel to make those requests now.”

AUTHOR: Heather Greene

Publisher: The Wild Hunt

Original link:

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Is There Life After Death? John Cleese Talks to the Scientists Who Might Have an Answer

The Tom Tom Founders Festival is a week-long conference and cultural event organized every year at Charlottesville, VA, “celebrating innovation in entrepeneurship and civil life.” This year they asked Monty Python’s John Cleese to moderate a panel of experts from University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies (DoPS), to discuss and answer questions revolving the oldest mystery of all: Is there a life after death?

It’s a fantastic choice of panel members to give some real insights into the topic, as the Division of Perceptual Studies is renowned for its open-minded, level-headed investigation of the question of the ‘survival of consciousness’ beyond death. As such, each of the five panel members are among the most important researchers in parapsychology and life-after-death studies to date.

As just one example, when the Daily Grail‘s own Greg Taylor was researching his book Stop Worrying, There Probably is an Afterlife, the person he said he absolutely had to interview for the section about near-death experiences was Dr. Bruce Greyson, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at DoPS, as he has been perhaps the most important and influential figure in near-death experience (NDE) research for many decades now (the ‘Greyson Scale’ used for measuring the depth of an NDE is named after him).

And if you’re wondering why John Cleese was the panel moderator, it’s because he has a deep personal interest in the nature of consciousness, and whether it is more than just an ‘accidental’ by-product of physical brain function. Over the past couple of decades Cleese has attended numerous events hosted by, or involving scientists from a number of organizations at the cutting edge of research into the stranger side of consciousness, including the Esalen Institute, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) founded by Apollo astonaut Edgar Mitchell), and DoPS.

Here’s the video – below it you’ll find information about the speakers and the topics they covered:

After a short three minute introduction from John Cleese each researcher summarizes their research, in the following order:

3:50 – Bruce Greyson, M.D. (Chester F. Carlson Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences, UVA): Bruce talked about his 40+ year study of NDEs, telling anecdotes to illustrate phenomena for which there is still no good physical explanations –e.g. enhanced mental functioning at the time when the brain is critically impaired, ‘seeing’ things accurately while their consciousness is perceived as ‘detached’ from their physical body (OBE), observing deceased family members or friends they didn’t know they were deceased at the time, or encountering deceased people they didn’t know prior to the experience.

16:15 – Jim B. Tucker, M.D. (Director of the Division of Perceptual Studies, Bonner-Lowry Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, UVA): Jim has continued the late Dr. Ian Stevenson’s research on children who remember their past lives, using a very solid scientific approach to make the case in favor of Reincarnation; although his personal conclusion on the phenomenon is ‘naturalistic’, instead of a religious one which may invoke notions about Karma –why is it, he asks, that victims of violent deaths are the ones who seem more prone to ‘come back’ showing birth marks alluding to the way they died? This seems to have more to do a sense of ‘unfinished business’ than a penalty for ‘past sins.’

28:45 – Emily Williams Kelly, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor of Research, Division of Perceptual Studies, Dept. of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Studies, UVA): Emily’s line of expertise has to do with ‘deathbed visions’ and how dying patients seemingly interact with individuals and entities not present in the room, a phenomenon so common hospice workers have learned to equate it as a sign of imminent death –much more interesting, however, is when the caretakers share the visions. She also talked about ‘crisis cases’ or how people are able to learn a loved one has passed away (regardless of the distance separating them) and also about cases of ‘terminal lucidity’ in which patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia suddenly recover their mental faculties shortly after they die –almost as if the mind suddenly breaks free just when the brain is shutting down.

38:00 – At this point John Cleese initiates a break from the on-stage speakers, and opens it up to some audience questions for around 25 minutes.

1:02:30 – Kim Penberthy, Ph. D. (ABPP, Chester F. Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, UVA): Kim is a clinical psychologist and her work with mindfulness-based therapies forced her to take a look at the diverse anomalous phenomena which are oftenly reported by people who practice meditation, from ‘clairaudience’ episodes (hearing voices) to spectacular abilities concordant with the ‘Sidhis’ of the Hindu religion (e.g. psychokinesis, precognition, etc). Studying what seems to be a dormant aspect of the human condition might help us tap into those levels of consciousness in a deliberate way –effectively turning us all into ‘supermen.’

1:10:00 – Edward Kelly, Ph. D. (Professor of Research, Division of Perceptual Studies, Dept. of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, UVA): Ed talked about his of work at the famous Rhine Institute during the early years of his career. To him the whole point of PSI phenomena is that they challenge wildly-held views of what it is possible, and that eventually Science will have to expand in order to accomodate them. He also mentioned 2 books published by him and his colleagues: Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism, whose combined goal was to present evidence of phenomena which are hard or impossible to explain through a reductionist, materialist model of Science, and to explore new theoretical models which may help us to move beyond the limitations of said reductionist doctrine.

For almost two hours the panelists regaled their audience with fascinating anecdotes and tried to answer questions as best they could –no small feat when it comes to this type of subject– but perhaps the most salient comments came from Cleese, who not only quoted a chapter in Dean Radin’s book Real Magic –regarding the opinion of the president of the American Statistical Association (ASA) on how the amount of statistical evidence in favor of PSI is so overwhelming, “it would be widely accepted if it pertained to something more mundane”– but also reminded the audience how it would be foolish to expect these phenomena to be easily understood. If quantum physics is totally incomprehensible –even to the geniuses who have devoted their lives studying it– the British comedian remarked, what makes us think life after death should be any simpler?

A great observation made by an astute and funny gentleman. Here’s hoping that when my time comes to pass through that fabled tunnel of light, on the other side I shall be met by a tall being of light with a Norwegian blue parrot on his shoulder, greeting me while performing a funny walk.

SOURCE: The Daily Grail

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