The E-Newsletter of
A Monthly Digest of Current Research, Emerging Issues, and New Initiatives

Vol. 4, No. 1, January 2008
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor

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Violence is the main obstacle to human development. There is an intrinsic link between violence and religion, patriarchal gender violence being the most pervasive expression of religious violence. Mitigating violence therefore requires overcoming the patriarchal mindset, especially in religious institutions. The mission of this independent newsletter is to provide a commented digest on current research and emerging issues related to human solidarity, ecological sustainability, and both religious and secular non-violence. The U.N. "Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs) are used as a point of reference.

Theme of this Issue
Religious Dimension of Sustainable Development


The theme of the month is "religious dimension of sustainable development." There is a religious dimension to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and there is a religious dimension to human nature and everything we do. Religion is both indispensable and dangerous. It is indispensable to attain full human development beyond the physical, biological, and intellectual levels. It is dangerous when it degenerates into fanatical delusions about the absolute superiority of any particular religion, and then leads to religious intolerance and religious violence.

Many consider religion to be a controversial topic. But, after millennia of misconceptions about religion, we now have scientific evidence (initially via the Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung) that religion is essential for human beings to become fully human. This being the case, our 2007 analyses of the MDGs is incomplete as long as some insight of the religious influences on the implementation of the MDGs is not provided. A difficult subject, but it cannot be avoided.

In particular, religion is often an incentive (positive or negative) for the transition from patriarchy to solidarity, sustainability, and human development. Granted that financial gain (or loss) will probably remain as the key incentive for people to change behavior during our lifetime, futures research entails considering all conceivable possibilities. For instance, Abraham Lincoln once stated: "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion." Lincoln's "religion" many not qualify as religion in some quarters, but it points to the fact that, deep in the human psyche, there is the voice of conscience; the voice of God who abides in us but is bigger than us.

After a brief summary of the MDGs (or "MDGs+1" when religious development is considered), evidence is presented that a cultural transition is needed to support both social justice and environmental justice at all levels. This cultural transition will entail changes in human behavior that often cannot be accomplished even when there are financial incentives. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any such transition happening without incentives that are stronger than financial gain and/or resources for domination. Since the power of religion as incentive for changing human behavior (for good or bad) is pervasive, it seems reasonable to research this angle next. This religious dimension has not been absent from any of the previous issues of this newsletter, but now it will become central.

Incentives from a religious perspective are discussed for overcoming patriarchy and fostering social solidarity, environmental sustainability, and human development. In considering this material, it is essential to distinguish between "religion" and "religious institutions." Authentic religion is the expression of our relationship with God, and it is "good, good, good." Institutionalized religion can be "good, bad, or some mix of good and bad." Some specific religious institutions are mentioned. The intent is never to deny the significant amount of good done by those institutions. However, nothing human is above criticism. Religious institutions often need reformations, just like all other human institutions often need reformations. Some religious persons may feel uncomfortable. As always, we shall adhere to the principle of analysis based on objective evidence.

Updates of the SSNV-MDG knowledge taxonomy and links database continue as time permits. The current version shows the links sorted by mega-disciplines, and within each mega-discipline by MDGs. This is "work in progress" but you are cordially invited to take a look at this resource and download it (free) for your own use (two options: HTML Web Page or EXCEL Spreadsheet).

This month's invited paper is Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men, a reflection by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, published in 1997. The Baha'i religious tradition emerged in Persia (now Iran) in the 18th century. It is the first major religious movement that explicitly includes gender equality as a core belief.


  1. Millennium Development Goals + 1
  2. Need for a Cultural Transition
  3. Adding the Religious Dimension
  4. Incentives for Overcoming Patriarchy
  5. Incentives for Solidarity & Sustainability
  6. Incentives for Human Development
  7. Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom
  8. Prayer, Study, and Action
  9. Links to Archived Newsletters

Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men, by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, 1997.

The Pelican Symbol
Religious Traditions
Global News/Issues
Benazir Bhutto
Global Citizen
Sign of the Times
Hillary for President
MDG Pubs & Data
Vital Statistics
Selected Links
SSNV Call for Papers
Search Tools
Free Download

1. Millennium Development Goals + 1

The recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan prompts a re-evaluation of everything being done to improve the human condition. The need for such re-evaluation certainly applies to this research newsletter. The 12 monthly issues of 2007 were devoted to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):

  1. Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
  2. Achieve Universal Primary Education
  3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  4. Reduce Child Mortality
  5. Improve Maternal Health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases
  7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Indeed, the MDGs are the most promising inititative to move toward a better future. But reflection on the significant events and global dynamics during this first decade of the 21st century make it impossible to ignore the re-emergence of religion as a critical factor in human affairs at all levels. The attack of 11 September 2001 in New York, and the assassination of Benazir Buttho in Pakistan (27 December 2007), are linked by a sequence of events in which religious violence is barely disguised as political terrorism. Therefore, at the risk of drowning in another sensitive and complex issue, it is proposed that the MDGs be augmented with the critical goal of fostering a solid universal commitment to religious freedom:

  1. Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
  2. Achieve Universal Primary Education
  3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  4. Reduce Child Mortality
  5. Improve Maternal Health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases
  7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development
  9. Foster a Universal Commitment to Religious Freedom

Religion is both indispensable and dangerous for human and social development. It is indispensable as a means for people to grow spiritually and take the inner journey that leads to individuation. But it becomes lethal when it leads to religious arrogance, religious intolerance, and religious violence. It seems reasonable to suspect that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was both politically and religiously motivated: "Following the last news of today’s German TV, a group of al Qaeda was quoted taking responsibility for Benazir Bhutto’s death. If the news is authentic, then Bhutto has been assassinated by Islamic terrorist suicide bombers of al Qaeda who cannot tolerate any woman being a symbol of gender equality in an Islamic society" (see Benazir’s Chastisement, Mideast Youth Thinking Ahead, by J. Rashidian, 28 December 2007).

2. Need for a Cultural Transition

Is the addition of goal 9 an unnecessary complication that could become an obstacle to achieving the 8 UN MDGs? No. In fact, precisely the opposite is the case. Adding the goal of religious freedom actually facilitates achieving the 8 UN MDGs. A global commitment to religious freedom would significantly mitigate violence in human relations at all levels. It would make possible to develop a global partnership for development (MDG8). And it would open wide the path of progress for all the other MDGs, in particular MDG3. The implementation of the MDGs will not be made possible by human diplomacy, let alone technological fixes. It will require a significant transformation of human behavior in many phases of human affairs.

Consider the evidence-based examples provided in Figure 1:

Figure 1A - World Population 1950-2005
Estimated for 2010-2050
Source: Population Estimates, Wikipedia, 2007

Figure 1B - Gross World Products 1969-2007
GWP=World, G1WP=1st World, G3WP=3rd World
Source: World Bank, 2007

Figure 1D - Human Development Index 1975-2005
Source: Human Development Report
UNDP, 2007, Table 2

Figure 1C - Living Planet Index 1970-2003, with
Terrestrial, Marine, and Freshwater Components
Source: Living Planet Report, WWF, 2006

Figure 1 - Trends Leading to a Cultural Transition

Figures 1A and 1B show global growth in terms of Population and Gross World Production (GWP), respectively. Figure 1B clearly shows the widening gap between the First World (G1WP) and the Third World (G3WP). There is also a widening gap in population growth, with population in the Third World increasing must faster than population in the First World. This means that increasingly fewer people are consuming more and more, and increasingly more people are consuming less and less.

Figure 1C shows that human activity is having a negative effect on the ecological systems of the biosphere (the human habitat). It is well known that most of the damage is due to the extravagant consumption patterns of the fewer and fewer people who consume more and more in the First World. It is also well established that the more and more people who consume less and less are the ones most affected by this environmental deterioration. As Vandana Shiva has pointed out: "Resources tend to flow from the poor to the rich. Pollution tends to flow from the rich to the poor."

But it gets even worst. Figure 1D displays three trends of the Human Development Index (HDI), 1975-2005. The three trends are flat. This means that, during the past 30 years, human activity pursuant to improving human development (physically, intellectually, spiritually) has been insignificant; and the same is happening regardless of economic well-being. Understandably, people in the low HDI countries (all in the Third World) have no energy left for human development after surviving day by day on $1/day/person. But, apparently, people in the high HDI countries (all in the First World) have no energy left for human development either after consuming everything they can grab.

These four trends, taken together, speak volumes about human behavior in the world today. Human decisions are driven by the addiction to materialistic consumption, and these decisions utterly fail to take into account the common good of humanity. In fact, they even fail to take into account the individual well-being of the consumers with deep pockets. In the USA, for example, the most common reasons for fatal heart attacks are obesity and lack of exercise. When people are totally absorbed by wealth accumulation and power struggles, they forget even their own health!

3. Adding the Religious Dimension

At the moment, financial gain is the supreme incentive for people to change their mind, let alone change their behavior in practically all dimensions of human affairs. Religion has been in the distant past, and could again become, an important if not the most important incentive. Religion is a double-edge sword, for serving God and serving humanity can easily become an excuse for religious domination and violence. But then, financial gain is also a double-edge sword, as is becoming increasingly with emerging global issues such as global warming.

In practical terms, adding the religious dimension to the issues underlying the MDGs requires an understanding of the separation of church and state. This is a good concept that in practice is not universally applied. In the Christian world, it became reluctantly accepted only after the French Revolution's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789). More recently, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948, 48 nations) was approved by the general assembly of the United Nations. However, in the Islamic world, the separation of church and state is often viewed as a "heretical" idea, incompatible with Islamic law. The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam was approved by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC, 1990, 57 nations)based on the principle that "people only have "freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah," which is intrinsically patriarchal. In 1981, the 36th General Assembly of the United Nations (now composed of 55 nations), reiterated that religious freedom is a human right in the Declaration On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Intolerance And Of Discrimination Based On Religion Or Belief.

The principal objective of the separation of church and state is to safeguard religious freedom. Freedom of religion is based on the most basic human right of freedom of conscience: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance." When freedom of religion is lacking, it is hard to imagine the intensity of human collaboration that will be required to accomplish global peace and justice, let alone the transition from patriarchy to solidarity. A good exposition of this issue can be found in Freedom to Believe: Upholding the Standard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Several organizations are active in fostering religious freedom:

In brief, religious freedom mitigates violence, which is the main obstacle to sustainable development. If religious institutions become focused in human development rather than wealth accumulation and religious domination, then they might lead more people to undertake the inner journey toward spiritual individuation; and those who have reached this point of personal inner growth are generally impelled to serve God and humanity, and with greater motivation than financial gain can provide. But as long as religious institutions fail to become authentically religious, financial gain remains as the only incentive that leads to behavior modification.

4. Incentives for Overcoming Patriarchy

The structure and dynamics of patriarchal societies have been discussed at length in previous issues. The reader may wish to check the following references about patriarchy and patriarchal behavior:

PATRIARCHY is defined by Merriam-Webster as "social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly: control by men of a disproportionately large share of power." According to Wikipedia: "Patriarchy describes the structuring of society on the basis of family units, in which lineage is passed on from the fathers. Within this structuring some consider fathers, therefore, to have primary responsibility for the welfare of the family units. In some cultures slaves were included as part of such households. The concept of patriarchy is often used, by extension, to refer to the expectation that men take primary responsibility for the structuring of society, acting as representatives via public office."

Question: What incentives would motivate secular institutions to overcome patriarchy?

Answer: The desire of participation in governance, i.e., democracy.

Question: What incentives would motivate religious institutions to overcome patriarchy?

Answer (revised 18 January 2008): The Baha'is have found the motivation via new religious insights (see the invited article). Other religious bodies may or may not be receptive to new insights. Old habits die hard, and it is not difficult to fabricate rationalizations. The Vatican's abrupt termination (via the publication of Ordinatio sacerdotalis, 1994) of the process of discernment about the ordination of women is a case in point. The literalist interpretation of certain scriptural texts are indicative of dubious and antiquated (if not self-serving) biblical exegesis. To add insult to injury, the subsequent ban on further discussion of the issue (clearly, a travesty) appears to close the door to further rational discourse. The continued exclusion of women from imaging God is a tragedy, and one that is already having severe and painful ramifications; for it leads to the delusion that domination by force is in accordance with a God who dominates by force. This applies not only to gender relations, but to all human relations. Other churches have been more open to new insights in human sexuality, and have allowed the ordination of women, but they are certainly paying the price in terms of divisive internal tensions.

Question: What is it that, deep in the human psyche, rebels against women in roles of religious authority?

Answer: Only God knows, but one possibility is the story about the creation of man and woman in early chapters of the Book of Genesis. These are the key texts:

  • "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27)
  • "Then the LORD God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." (Genesis 2:23)
  • "This is the written account of Adam's line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them 'man.'" (Genesis 5:1-2)

The traditional understanding of these texts is that the "man" was male-only and the "woman" was female-only. However, consider the following:

  • Genesis 1:27 does not support the notion that "man" was either male or female. On the contrary, the text states that God created one "man" that was both male and female. The same linguistic analysis applies to Genesis 2:22-23 and Genesis 5:1-2.
  • Genesis 2:22-23 confirms that the male "man" and the female "man" were not created independently of each other. On the contrary, "woman" was in "man," and only a literalist reading of the text would conclude that the "female man" was in "man" but the "male man" was not in "woman."
  • Genesis 5:1-2 reiterates that "man" was a single body-person, a single human being, in which both male and female abide. Sexual differentiation is the necessary culmination of the mystery of creation because it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18) and, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24).

In brief, a man is a man and a woman is a woman, but there is man in woman, and there is woman in man. Surely, man and woman are mutually complementary, but it does not follow that they are mutually exclusive. There is no such thing as a man in whom there is no woman (i.e., no anima in Jungian terminology), and there is no such thing as a woman in whom there is no man (i.e., no animus in Jungian terminology). Furthermore, how much his anima influences a man, and how much her animus influences a woman, may have something to do with the propensity to homosexuality experienced by some persons. If so, it follows that homosexuals are perfectly normal persons.

Be that as it may, it would be wrong for secular institutions to force religious institutions to embrace new insights in human sexuality that, for whatever reason, they are not ready to accept. On the other hand, it would be unfair to use tax revenues to subsidize churches that continue to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. They are free to believe what they believe. But it is an injustice to support them with tax funds provided by citizens who know better. All such subsidies should be cancelled, and sooner rather than later. Freedom of religion does not exonerate civil authorities from adjudicating preferential treatment only to institutions that benefit society.

5. Incentives for Solidarity & Sustainability

The principles of solidarity and sustainability have been discussed at length in previous issues. The reader may wish to check the following references about solidarity, sustainability, and related concepts such as subsidiarity:

SOLIDARITY is defined by Merriam-Webster as "unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards." Solidarity is not simply an emotional feeling of empathy. It is a mindset that leads people to making decisions based on both individual interest and the common good. Depending on the situation, common good may apply at the local, national, regional, or global level. It always entails the practice of social justice.

Question: What incentives would motivate secular institutions to practice human solidarity?

Answer: The resolution of social justice issues; e.g., the Solidarnosc trade union in Poland.

Question: What incentives would motivate religious institutions to practice human solidarity?

Answer: For patriarchal religious institutions that want to remain hierarchical -- nothing -- except perhaps loss of subsidies.

SUSTAINABILITY is defined by Merriam-Webster as "method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged." Wikipedia offers a more elaborate definition: "Sustainability is a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. The term, in its environmental usage, refers to the potential longevity of vital human ecological support systems, such as the planet's climatic system, systems of agriculture, industry, forestry, and fisheries, and human communities in general and the various systems on which they depend.". Wikipedia also provides a definition for sustainable development: "Sustainable development is a socio-ecological process characterized by the fulfillment of human needs while maintaining the quality of the natural environment indefinitely."

Question: What incentives would motivate secular institutions to practice environmental sustainability?

Answer: That there is money to be made by doing things sustainably. An attractive bottom line may or may not require changes in current tax systems.

Question: What incentives would motivate religious institutions to practice environmental sustainability?

Answer: For patriarchal religious institutions that want to remain hierarchical -- nothing -- except perhaps loss of subsidies.

SUBSIDIARITY is defined by Merriam-Webster as "unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards." Wikipedia provides a more elaborate definition: "Subsidiarity is the principle which states that matters ought to be handled by the smallest (or, the lowest) competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics and management. Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism."

Question: What incentives would motivate secular institutions to practice the principle of subsidiarity?

Answer: The practical need for horizontal and vertical "checks and balances" between authorities.

Question: What incentives would motivate religious institutions to practice the principle of subsidiarity?

Answer: For patriarchal religious institutions that want to remain hierarchical -- nothing -- except perhaps loss of subsidies.

In brief, we have a global complex of social systems that is painfully trying to move toward solidarity, sustainability, and subsidiarity; and we have a global complex of religious systems (with an inordinate attachment to "traditions" made by human hands) that systematically makes the transition slower and more painful. For instance, the procrastination (unwillingness?) to resolve inter-faith issues that prevent "unity in diversity" among religious bodies comes to mind. Other than the Baha'is, who are actively trying to foster unity of religion, no significant initiatives can be cited. Islam and Christianity barely talk to each other. Within Christianity, the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant branches talk to each other, but do nothing. They all seem to desire "unity in unity," and see "unity in diversity" as a threat to their doctrinal purity. This is not what humanity needs. This is not what God desires.

If religious institutions that presumably seek integral human development, keep failing in the practice of basic human solidarity, how can we expect secular institutions to do better? This is a significant question in that sustainability, and sustainable development, cannot be attained outside a culture of human solidarity.

6. Incentives for Human Development

The integral development of the human person includes the physical, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions. Human development has been discussed at length in previous issues. The reader may wish to check the following references about human development:

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT is a complex subject; as complex as the complexity of human beings. Human development occurs in several dimensions: physical, biological, psychological, and spiritual. According to Wikipedia, "human development can refer to anthropological, sociological, and psychological approaches to examining human development in context." An important related concept is the Human Development Index (HDI). Wikipedia defines the HDI as "the measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. It is used to determine and indicate whether a country is a developed, developing, or underdeveloped country and also to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life."

There are many secular schools of human development. Jungian analysis (also known as psycho-analysis) may have been the greatest scientific breakthrough in human development during the 20th century. According to Carl Jung, "your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart .... among all my patients in the second half of life ... there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life."

Jungian analysis is described by The Jung Center of Houston as follows:

"Jungian analysis, evolving from the rich and extensive theories of the renowned Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung, is a method of depth psychotherapeutic treatment and personal inner development. Jung defined psychological wellness as the balance between the demands of an outer life of family and relationships, work and social obligations, and an inner life of spiritual values and personal meaning. He observed that in the course of living these two essential aspects of who we are cannot help but diverge and fall out of workable balance. This imbalance is often at the root of psychological suffering and distress.

"While most psychologies primarily address disturbances in outer life, what distinguishes Jungian analysis from them is that it aims at treating the whole person, both inner and outer. Jungian analysis endeavors to work through felt suffering beyond the amelioration of symptoms in order to discover their symbolic meaning for the balance of the person as a whole, and to discern in these symptoms unseen opportunities for growth. Beyond caring for immediate distress, access to a deeper, unrealized balance is achieved by working from this symbolic, or meaning based perspective with dreams, guided and free-form imagery and artistic productions. Jung demonstrated that such spontaneous and creative material is the doorway beyond suffering to a deeper wellness, if not spiritual growth and development.

"The format of analysis varies based on the preferences of the analyst and the needs of the client, or analysand. Through the analytic process, the unconscious gradually manifests itself in the relationship between analyst and patient, and given an adequate relationship, setting and time, the psyche tends towards healing itself."

Likewise, there are many religious schools of human development. For instance, in the Roman Catholic tradition, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, written in the early 1500s by the founder of the Jesuits, remain as effective today as they were 500 years ago. The entire text is available as a free download. However, just as psycho-analysis requires the assistance of a trained analyst, doing the Ignatian exercises well requires the assistance of a competent spiritual director:

"St. Ignatius of Loyola recorded his spiritual experiences during a year of prayer at Manresa, Spain (34 miles north of Barcelona) from March of 1522 to February of 1523. The Spiritual Exercises were to form the basis of many retreats given to priests, religious, and lay people. They are offered in closed sessions of a weekend, five, eight or the full thirty days at retreat houses as well as retreats in everyday life made at home over the course of about nine months (technically referred to as a 19th Annotation retreat).

"The book of the Spiritual Exercises is not a text to be read as a work of non-fiction, but exercises to be prayed usually under the guidance of a trained spiritual director. The original Spanish text of the Exercises was translated into two Latin versions (the Versio Prima and the Vulgate) which were approved by Pope Paul III in 1548. You can download Father Mullan's 1914 translation at the top of the page or find additional books and resources on the Exercises at"

      Principle and Foundation
      Particular and Daily Examen
      General Examination of Conscience
      General Confession with Communion
      Meditations on Sins
      Meditation on Hell
      The Call of the Temporal King
      The Incarnation
      The Nativity
      Preamble to Consider States
      Two Standards
      Three Pairs of Men
      Three Manners of Humility
      Prelude for Making Election
      Matter of Election
      Times for Making Election
      To Amend and Reform one’s own Life and State
      Meditations on the Passion of Christ
      Meditations on the Resurrection of Christ
      Contemplation to Attain Love
      Three Methods of Prayer
      Mysteries of the Life of Christ our Lord
      Rules for Perceiving the Movements Caused in the Soul
      Rules for Distributing Alms
      Notes on Scruples and Persuasions of the Enemy
      Rules to have the True Sentiment in the Church

All methods of spiritual growth, in all religious traditions, have one common denominator: the person seeking spiritual growth must have an attitude of humility and surrender to God's will. For only God is capable of touching the soul, only God can touch the heart to make it softer, and only God can touch the mind with deeper insights into the divine mysteries.

        "Greater than love is obedience.
        Greater than obedience is surrender.
        All three arise out of,
        and remain contained in,
        the Ocean of divine Love."
        Meher Baba, India, 1894-1969

Blessed is the person who knows this and has experienced the divine touch. Such persons know the truth, and the truth sets them free (John 8:32). This is authentic religion. But, as Claudio Naranjo and so many others have pointed out, there is a crucial difference between authentic religion and "the attempt to indoctrinate people into a given cultural pattern -- through fear of hell, hope of heaven" (The One Quest, Viking Press, New York, 1972, page 50). Such deviations from authentic religion usually happen when the religion becomes institutionalized. Naranjo continues: "According to one story, when God created the world and saw that it was good, Satan joined him in his appreciation, and exclaimed, as he gazed from one wonder to another, 'It is good! 'It is good! Let us make it an institution!" (idem, page 51).

Few things are more disgusting than institutionalized religious politics. For instance, it is well known that the subordination of women is a traditional element of the Judeo-Christian ethos. In the Old Testament (e.g., Deuteronomy 5:21) wives were considered to be the property of their husbands together with animals and other objects. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that women are "misbegotten males" (Summa Theologica , I, 99, 2). As recently as 1917, the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law (1262.1) stated: "It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church." In 1988, the Vatican finally acknowledged the equal dignity of men and women (Mulieres dignitatem) while reiterating that women are excluded from holy orders and, therefore, from any church office. In 1994, any further discussion of the issue was abruptly terminated Ordinatio sacerdotalis. To add insult to injury, Jesus Christ is used as the scapegoat; the church cannot ordain women because she has not been authorized by Christ to do so.

What is then the meaning of the "power of the keys" (Matthew 16:19)?

Recently, the Vatican announced a World Congress on Woman: "Women from the world over will gather in Rome next year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter on the dignity of women. The congress, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will be titled "Woman and Man, the Fullness of What Is Human," and will take place Feb. 7-9." Attendance is by invitation only. The ordination of women will not be included in the agenda. This is simply another patronizing exercise to simulate that the Vatican is interested in the human development of women as long as the male-only hierarchy remains intact. Is this what humanity needs? Is this what God desires?

There is also the issue of wealth accumulation. The Roman Catholic Church may well be the wealthiest institution on earth. But, since this newsletter is already late, let's move on to questions about incentives:

Question: What incentives would motivate secular institutions to make human development their top priority?

Answer: The human development requirements of solidarity and sustainability should be enough. At this time, the operative incentives are socio-political, such as free universal education for all children; financial, such as investing in employee training to increase the bottom line; etc. But teaching is still a poorly paid profession, and employee training is often limited to the minimum necessary to do a given set of tasks; so human development is still driven mostly by utilitarian considerations. Not many people care about growing in wisdom, let alone helping others to do so.

Question: What incentives would motivate religious institutions to make human development their top priority?

Answer: In theory, human development to the highest level of wisdom and spirituality should be priority #1 for religious institutions. But the observable reality is that, especially for patriarchal religious institutions that want to remain hierarchical, wealth accumulation and religious domination compete, often successfully, to become the top priority.

7. Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom

The phenomenal growth of information content in recent years is overwhelming for many researchers. At the same time, a multiplicity of information science disciplines has emerged, such as "information management," "data base," "knowledge management," "knowledge base," "knowledge organization," etc. In terms of finding and retrieving information, Advanced Google and the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia are faster and better than the best directories. In terms of a systematic method to organize knowledge for individual research, an excellent model has been provided by Chaim Zins: Knowledge 2008, an encyclopedic portal to Wikipedia. Beyond "information" and "knowledge" there is "wisdom," or the convergence of information and knowledge with experience and intuition. For the best compilation of resources on wisdom, visit The Wisdom Page.

Some definitions may be helpful. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines these terms as follows:

And there is, of course, Wisdom (with capital "W"), which refers to divine wisdom. This research and newsletter is based on a modest amount of information, knowledge, and wisdom. Therefore, we shall keep using the search engines (Google and others), the encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others), seeking guidance in the Knowledge 2008 website, and even seeking help in old books covered by dust. Let us pray that Divine Wisdom will keep us moving along the path of truth, hope, and mercy.

But who can resist "bookmarking" web pages to be revisited, and who can resist structuring the bookmarks (or "favorites" for IE users) that organizes all the websites with content of interest? The reader may want to take a look at where we are in this never-ending process:

The strategy is simply to include only "best of the web" pages and websites that are gateways to many other "best of the web" pages. Otherwise, we might as well confess that this is an ad hoc exercise. Any suggestions?

8. Prayer, Study, and Action

As we begin a new year, this is an appeal to pray, study, and work for the transition from patriarchy to solidarity, sustainability, and human development. In that patriarchy has been isolated as a root cause of both human-to-human and human-to-biosphere violence, let us pray, study, and work to overcome the patriarchal mindset of wealth accumulation, power struggles, and all forms of domination in human relations. This applies to both secular and religious institutions. This transition should never become a matter of assigning blame. It should never become a matter of pointing fingers. It should be a journey of peace and justice, with secular and religious institutions in mutually respectful dialogue, willing to cooperate with each other and learn from each other at the local-national-global levels. This is what humanity needs. This is what God desires.

Many secular institutions are still resisting the transition from patriarchy to gender equality. However, it is reasonable to anticipate that humanity's journey toward gender equality is irreversible. Women in roles of secular authority are beginning to emerge in practically all secular institutions worldwide. This is what MDG3 is all about.

But most religious institutions are not only resisting, but actively trying to suppress (or simply ignoring) the need to recognize that both men and women are created equal in the image of God. Women in roles of religious authority are barely beginning to emerge in most religious institutions worldwide. Phallocentrism is still the norm in some of the largest religious bodies, such as Islam and the Roman Catholic Church. Given the enormous influence that these institutions have in culture and human behavior, it is critical to overcome the phallocentric mindset in religious matters. In this regard, see the recently published book, The Power of the Word: Scripture And the Rhetroic of Empire, by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Fortress Press, 2007. The publisher's book description is brief and to the point: "What is the purpose of reading the Bible? Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza tackles the tough question of the Bible's role in the world today and how its vision can further a more just world. She shows particularly the radical power of the Word to challenge imperial ways, the humiliation of persons, and the use of religion itself to keep people down, today as then. Finally, she offers an understanding of the implications of such a program for the field and practice of biblical studies, an indispensable partner in challenging the status quo."

Specifically, the traditional subordination of women, and their exclusion from roles of spiritual authority (such as presiding at the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church, or presiding at Friday prayers in mosques throughout the Islamic world), is a religious aberration that must be corrected by prayer, study, work, .... and God's help. The following painting, by Farid de la Ossa Arrieta, captures the essence of a new Christianity liberated from unchristian male domination and heretical images of a male-only God.

Women in Roles of Religious Authority
Woman Priest Presiding at the Eucharist
Farid de la Ossa Arrieta, Sincilejo, Colombia, 2007

Sustainable development and, in particular, sustainable human development, encompasses a huge set of complex global issues that offers unlimited opportunities for prayer, study, and action. The role of religion has been shown to be critical, and can be positive or negative. This need not be of concern for people who are not religious; they have plenty to do elsewhere. But for people who are religious, and especially for Roman Catholics and Muslims, it is hard to imagine a more important concern. Let us pray, study, and work for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church. Let us pray, study, and work for the emergence of female religious leadership in the Islamic world. The time has come for a new phase of human development, one that is socially and religiously free of man-made gender inequalities. This is what humanity needs. This is what God desires.

9. Links to Archived Newsletters

The following are links to previous issues of the newsletter:

V1 N1 May 2005: Cross-Gender Solidarity
V1 N2 June 2005: The Phallocentric Syndrome
V1 N3 July 2005: From Patriarchy to Solidarity
V1 N4 August 2005: Synthesis of Patriarchy and Solidarity
V1 N5 September 2005: From Solidarity to Sustainability
V1 N6 October 2005: Dimensions of Sustainability
V1 N7 November 2005: Analysis and Synthesis of Objective Evidence
V1 N8 December 2005: Solidarity, Subsidiarity, and Sustainability
V2 N1 January 2006: Synthesis of Solidarity and Sustainability
V2 N2 February 2006: Sustainable Human Development
V2 N3 March 2006: Patriarchy and Mimetic Violence
V2 N4 April 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions
V2 N5 May 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 2
V2 N6 June 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 3
V2 N7 July 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 4
V2 N8 August 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 5
V2 N9 September 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ September 2006
V2 N10 October 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ October 2006
V2 N11 November 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ November 2006
V2 N12 December 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ December 2006
V3 N01 January 2007: MDG1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty
V3 N02 February 2007: MDG2: Universal Primary Education
V3 N03 March 2007: MDG3: Promotion of Gender Equality
V3 N04 April 2007: MDG4: Reduction of Child Mortality
V3 N05 May 2007: MDG5: Maternal Care Improvement
V3 N06 June 2007: MDG6: Contain the HIV/AIDS Epidemic
V3 N07 July 2007: MDG7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
V3 N08 August 2007: MDG8: Global Partnership for Development
V3 N09 September 2007: Integrated Analysis of the U.N. MDGs
V3 N10 October 2007: Feasibility of the 2015 MDG Targets
V3 N11 November 2007: If Not the MDGs, Then What?
V3 N12 December 2007: Review of the 2007 State of the Future Report
V4 N01 January 2008: Religious Dimension of Sustainable Development

|Back to SUMMARY| |Back to OUTLINE|

|Back to SECTION 1| |Back to SECTION 2| |Back to SECTION 3|
|Back to SECTION 4| |Back to SECTION 5| |Back to SECTION 6|
|Back to SECTION 7| |Back to SECTION 8| |Back to SECTION 9|

|Link to Newsletter Home Page|

|Link to Invited Paper|

The Pelican Symbol


The pelican is a legendary symbol of commitment to the service of others, especially those who are weak and most vulnerable to physical and/or psychological violence. References:

The Physiologus
The Symbolism of the Pelican
Poem by St. Thomas Aquinas
Sermon by Rev. Sylvia Roberts

Religious Traditions

World Religions

Unity in Diversity

The following are links to information about some of the major religious traditions and approximate numbers of adherents:

Christianity (2.5 billion)
Islam (1.4 billion)
Hinduism (1 billion)
Buddhism (375 million)
Sikhism (23 million)
Judaism (14 million)
Bahá'í (7 million)

For more information, see World Religions, which includes global maps showing geographic religious distributions.

Global News/Issues

The following are links to recent global news and emerging issues, in no particular order:

Climate Change Traps World's Poorest

A world of people on the move

World headed for ecological disaster

Development And Environment

Gender equality call to UN

Arab thought 'must focus on human resources'

Globalization with Altruistic Intent

The 'dark side' of globalization

Gender, Cities, and the MDGs in the Global South

Origins of Evil & Violence

A prolific nun who doesn't mince words

Americans Pay for
Emerging World Government

Are Words Worthless in the Climate Fight?

Education for All
UNESCO Global Monitoring Report

Universities discuss MDGs strategy

Iran: New Wave of Arrests of Non-Violent
"One Million Signatures" Campaign Activists

Sustainable development more than just carbon accounting

Time to think up innovative ways to save the world

No Democracy in the Middle East Without Muslim Citizenry

End global greed for better climate

Food Prices Climbing, With No End in Sight

Futurist Sees Progress and Obstacles
in Achieving UN Development Goals

World Atlas of Sustainable Development

"We’re richer, and richer, and richer,
and yet, no happier."

10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green

The Top Ten Principles of Good Consumption

Website launched to compare Qu'ran and Bible

World's poorest hit hardest by corruption

Shedding Light on the Question of Reserves Growth

Engaging Men and Boys to Achieve Gender Equality:
How Can We Build on What We Have Learned?

Engaging Men and Boys in Changing
Gender-Based Inequity in Health (WHO)

Researcher is child advocate on global scale

Our medical system: it's time to face peak oil

The End of Globalization?

Climate change and health

Less than half of all children worldwide
complete primary school

People’s participation key to sustainable development

World Expects Climate Change Breakthrough

Biodiversity Crucial to Climate Decision Makers

Slamming the Door on Development

Will Africa miss all the MDGs?

How the MDGs are Unfair to Africa

“This far and no further:
Act fast and act now!”

EU hammers out common approach to globalization

The global politics of food

Governments urged to control population growth

Lighting the Way:
Toward a Sustainable Energy Future

Global church groups urge reparations
to atone for slave trade

Hillary's Tough Trade Talk

Stumbling Into Chaos:
Afghanistan on the Brink

Finding Weakness in Jihadist Propaganda

Bali roadmap to discuss new
global warming agreement

Has Bali yielded anything significant?

Putting the Bali roadmap in context

U.S. Bends To Critics, OKs Climate Roadmap

'Sustainability is the key'

Lets listen to sobbing mother Earth

A place of prayer or violence?

Their Mullahs -- and Ours

Globalization and the myth of collapsing borders

Economic Integration of Global South

Internet driven knowledge
for a world of equal opportunities

Ethiopia’s Development Disaster:
An Overview of Some Root Causes

Polish women face labor discrimination

Gender equality in Arab world
critical for progress and prosperity

Time we changed our development paradigm

Reference and News Materials:
Benazir Bhutto Assassination

Obituary: Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan's tragedy should serve as lesson for us

UN assembly adopts
new global human order resolution

Bhutto, Women, Islam, & True Freedom

Gross National Happiness:
putting the concept into practice

New doubts over flawed Kenyan vote

World to Focus on Improved Sanitation in 2008

The Invisible Hand of Globalization

Editor's Note: For more news sources, visit the SSNV News Sources and RSS Feeds Page. See also the SSNV Knowledge Taxonomy & Links Database and the SSNV Research Tools Directory

In Memoriam
Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto
Pakistan, 1953-2007

Another victim of political violence,
mixed with religious violence
and religious misogyny;
one more victim of patriarchy.
Indeed, an act of sick religious minds;
for this is not what God desires.
Benazir Bhutto - Wikipedia
Official Website of Benazir Bhutto
Brief Biography of Benazir Bhutto
About the assassination - Wikipedia
About the assassination - ResourceShelf
Obituary: Benazir Bhutto - BBC

MDGs + 1

Key References

Millennium Development Goals:
mdggoals PLUS GOAL 9:
Universal Religious Freedom

Links to key MDG resources:

U.N. MDGs Home Page
MDG Core Documents
MDG Basic Indicators
U.N. Millennium Project
MDG Targets & Indicators
MDG Atlas
MDG Dashboard
MDG Monitor
MDG Slideshow
MDG Report 2007
GEO Report 2007
HDR Report 2007-2008
Children and the MDGs
Youth and the MDGs
Health and the MDGs
State of the World's Children 2007
State of the World's Girls 2007

HDR Report 2007/2008
Fighting climate change:
Human solidarity in a divided world

Published 27 November 2007

Vital Statistics

Vital Statistics Created by

Global Citizen

Vandana Shiva
Environmental Scholar-Activist, India
"Resources flow
from the poor to the rich,
pollution flows
from the rich to the poor."
Vandana Shiva (Wikipedia)
Vandana Shiva's Books
Planting the Seeds for Change (Video)
Think Globally, Act Globally

Signs of the Times

Women in Roles
of Sacramental Authority

Rev. Juana Albornoz
Protestant Chaplain
La Moneda, Chile
Rev. Angela Berlis
German Theologian
Old Catholic Church
Rev. Mary Ramerman
Independent Catholic
Pastor, Spiritus Christi
Rev. Jean Marchant
Free Roman Catholic
Ordained priest 2005

Hillary for President

Wife, Mother, Lawyer, Stateswoman
Senator from New York
Next President of the USA
After Iowa, let's see
what she is made of.

Selected Links

Links to good content:

2007 State of the Future
Millennium Project (WFUNA)


Education for All
UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2008

Global Gender Gap Report
WEF, 8 November 2007

General Environmental Outlook 4 (UNEP)

World Economic Outlook:
Globalization and Inequality
IMF, October 2007


Mimetic Theory of René Girard

Socioeconomic Democracy
Robley E. George, Director
Center for the Study of Democratic Societies

International Energy Agency

Climate change:
Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation
in developing countries, UNFCCC, 2007




Learning for Sustainability
Educational Resources

Methods and Tools for
Integrated Sustainability Assessment




Bible & Koran
Search Side by Side

Men, Masculinities,
and Gender Politics
(600+ links on male-female politics)



Global Ecology
UNEP Gallery of Child Artists
Angie Chan, Age11
China, 2007

SSNV Call for Papers
Short articles about the impacts of all forms of secular and religious violence on social solidarity, ecological sustainability, and human development.

During 2008, articles are especially desired on incentives for solidarity and sustainability and religious dimension of sustainable development. How can people be motivated to collaborate in the transition from patriarchy to solidarity, sustainability, and human development? What is the proper role of religious institutions?

Accepted papers will be published when time and space allows. Email your submission to SSNV.



This conference is hosted by the Religion, Cognition and Culture (RCC) priority area, University of Aarhus, Denmark. The organizers encourage papers from all relevant disciplines that address the dynamics of religious ritual, cognition and culture. Both empirical and theoretical papers are welcome. Please send your proposals no later than April 1, 2008 to Secretary Marlene Jessen.

ECREA 2008
Call for papers. ECREA's 2nd European Communication Conference. Barcelona, 25-28 November 2008. Hosted by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). More information can be found on the conference website. This website will also be used as the site to submit your proposals.

The Second International Conference on Health and Biodiversity (COHAB2), will take place from Monday 25th to Thursday 28th February 2008 in Galway, Ireland. The conference will aim to advance dialogue and collaboration across sectors on issues linking biodiversity with human health and well-being. For more information: Cohabnet Conference.

Conference: Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History, Abo, Finland, 11-13 June 2008. "Postmodern spirituality is here, in contrast to traditional spirituality, understood as a form of spirituality that appears as an alternative to conventional religion." Point of contact: Donner Institute

Date: 6-11 July 2008. Place: Auckland, NZ. The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) is hosting a large gathering of groups from the Asia-Pacific region, and the AASR has been invited to participate in the 2008 International Congress for the Study of Bible, Religion and Theology. Conference convenor: Kathleen McPhillips

Sponsored by IADIS. Algarve, Portugal, 9-11 April 2008. Description: "A new paradigm is sweeping the society, organisations and the business environment. In fact, society and business world alike are moving from its tangible bases to intangible ones based on knowledge and information systems (IS) to support its management, use and sharing." Point of contact: Secretariat.


Research Committee on Sociology of Religion from the International Sociological Association (ISA), Forum of Sociology, Barcelona, Spain, September 5-8, 2008. Abstracts (no more than 300 words) with full correspondence address of the presenting author and institutional affiliation of all authors should be sent to Roberto Blancarte and Olga Odgers.

An international conference is to be held on all aspects of child slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE), University of Hull, UK in association with AntiSlavery International, Gilda Lehrman Center, Yale University and Free the Slaves on November 27-28 2008. For more information: Jane Ellison.

Hosted and organized by Integral International Development Center of Integral Institute and Canadian NGO Drishti - Centre for Integral Action. April 22-26, 2008, Istanbul, Turkey. For more information: Gail Hochachka.

World Heritage and Sustainable Development International Conference, Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal, 8-9 May 2008. In a more globalized world, Heritage should be addressed in innovative and sustainable ways, underlining the role of human and natural heritage as a contra-hegemonic trend. The conference is organized with the official support of the Portuguese Ministry of Culture. Point of contact: HERITAGE 2008.

Second Global International Studies Conference, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, 23-26 July 2008. Topics: political culture and identity, ‘civilisational’ concerns, human security and development, regional conflict studies, transnational religious ideologies, terrorism, political theology. Point of contact: Jeff Haynes.

Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 10-13 June 2008. The Fifth Environmental Writers' Conference in honor of Rachel Carson will be held once again at The Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and scholars, writers, educators and artists are welcome to attend. For more information, email new-cue or contact the conference website.

The Indiana University Department of Religious Studies announces its annual Graduate Conference, to be held March 20-21, 2008 at Indiana University's Bloomington campus. The topic is “Religion and the State”. Please send 300-word abstracts and any questions to Diane Fruchtman.

Accra, Ghana, 7-9 July 2008. Conference paper submissions are being accepted, and information is available at conference website.

Special Issue, The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. We invite submissions to a special issue focused on how organizational development and change (OD&C) is managed in international contexts. Please follow JABS guidelines. Submit manuscripts by e-mail prior to March 15, 2008, to: Chung-Ming Lau, Jean E. Neumann, Christopher G. Worley.

ICAES 2008
This is the 16th world congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. The theme of the conference is "Humanity, Development, and Cultural Diversity." The conference will take place in Kumming, China, 15-23 July 2008. The points of contact are Prof. Zhang Haiyang and Prof. Zhang Jijiao. More information can be obtained from the conference website.

WWMM 2808
Women's Worlds 2008 is "the most important congress on academic research on gender and women and feminist social movements." A key goal is to fight against social injustices and gender inequalities. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 3-9 July 2008. Points of contact: Dr. Claudia Malacrida, Dr. Leslie Roman, Conference Secretariat.

Next year the 2nd World Congress in Social Simulation (WCSS'08) will take place on July 14-16, 2008, at George Mason University, hosted by the Center for Social Complexity, just outside Washington DC. For more information contact Professor Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Director of the Center for Social Complexity at George Mason University.

A symposium on "Gender and Well Being: The Role of Institutions from Past to Present." Madrid, Spain, 25th-27th June 2008. Send abstracts to Paloma de Villota with copy to the Secretary by this Form. Papers must be sent by e-mail no later than 26 May 2008.

Call for Papers: "The Biology of Religious Behavior: A Human Ethology Perspective on Religion." Sponsored by the Society of Human Ethology. Bologna, Italy, 14 – 18 July, 2008. The deadline for abstract submission is 1 March 2008. For more information visit the ISHE2008 conference website. Points of contact are Marco Costa, University of Bologna, Italy and Luca Tommasi, University of Chieti, Italy.

Search Tools

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Sciencebase Science Blog

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Knowledge Taxonomy
Links Directory

The taxonomy and database can be downloaded as either an HTML web page or an excel spreadsheet (the html code is embedded in the excel file for ease of modification).

HTML Web Page

Excel Spreadsheet


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