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People often disparage blogs by saying “any fool can put his name on a blog and write whatever he wants to.” Well, that’s true. Any fool can — and they often do. So why bother? Does anyone pay attention? Does it matter whether anyone pays attention?

I started writing on the web (other than on forums and discussion groups) a little over a year ago. I first signed up for a site that offered points for writing and participating in the site, and rewards for those points. The rewards were nice, but I left that site several months ago because I disliked many other aspects of it.

Shortly after leaving that site, I started writing for Associated Content. AC pays cash for what I write for them, although usually very small amounts. For some articles, I receive a small upfront payment, and for all articles I accumulate bonus money (paid monthly) based on how many page views they get. Again, it’s not much, but on my income, every bit helps, and it’s also good experience and a way to get publishing credits.

Now I’m on WordPress. WordPress doesn’t reward me directly in any way. I can’t even put ads on my blog here (aside from the occasional unobtrusive Amazon link). So why bother?

Well, I started a blog here originally because I sometimes have things I want to write about that aren’t really appropriate for AC, but that I would like to share with others. It’s also a way of promoting my AC articles (see sidebar and click, please) so that I can get more page views and more page view bonus. Mercenary, I know. I hope no one feels cheated.

It’s also just fun, though. Many of my internet friends have migrated to WordPress, so we interact here and have a great time.

It’s fun knowing that I’m being read, too. On the other site, I would obsessively watch my points grow until I had enough for a reward, but I think I was also watching them just know that people were reading my work. On WordPress, I’ve been obsessively checking my blog stats, even though there is no point value or cash value attached to them.

Does anyone pay attention? According to the stats, at least a few people do. Does it matter whether anyone pays attention? Well, clearly, to me it does. I like to know that someone is out there reading. I’m here for a number of reasons, but I think that’s the big one — just to know that someone is out there reading my stuff.

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by Kathleen McDade

I recently read the entire His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman. The soon-to-be-released movie The Golden Compass is based on the first book of this trilogy. I enjoyed the books, although I found the end of the trilogy somewhat unsatisfying.

The movie looks promising as well. I’m sure it differs from the book at least some of the time (what movie doesn’t?), but the mood and the characters in the preview look fairly accurate (and exciting).

However, some religious groups are not happy about this movie. It’s anti-religious, they say. Or it’s actually anti-God. Or, too many of the religious/anti-religious statements have been removed for the movie. Is there really a problem?

It seems to depend on your point of view. When I read the trilogy, I did notice that it was very much anti-organized religion, and perhaps specifically anti-organized Christianity. The church is portrayed as an enemy, as more interested in keeping its own bureaucracy alive than anything else. I think that’s a valid criticism; in fact, there’s a growing trend away from organized Christianity even among Christians right now.

The books never say, however, that there is no God. The story does tell that the God (called the Authority) that the church worships is not the one who created the world. He is basically an angel who took over from the Creator and decided to rule the world. Part of the storyline has the children trying to defeat and/or kill this Authority.

Author Philip Pullman does identify himself as an atheist, and he has said that the book is about killing God (Sydney Morning Herald, 12/12/2003, http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/12/12/1071125644900.html). For an atheist, however, he includes a great deal of spiritual content in these books. Even as he criticizes the church, and the version of God that it has created, he also recognizes that there is a spiritual dimension to human beings. For instance, in main character Lyra’s world, each person has a daemon, sort of an animal spirit that goes everywhere with the person and is an integral part of the person. When a human dies, the daemon dies with them. Human and daemon cannot move too far from each other without physical pain. And finally, if human and daemon are mechanically separated from each other, both die – or at best, the human becomes catatonic and unable to function normally.

The human-daemon relationship seems to recognize the existence of something more than the physical body in a human being – such as a soul. Whether Pullman himself is an atheist or not, it’s there.

I don’t agree with or like everything that happens in these books, but neither do I think they are intrinsically harmful. Pullman tells a good, engrossing story that makes you think. The strongest critic of the books and the movie right now is the Catholic League, which feels the story is anti-Catholic. Again, yes, the books are heavily critical of the organized church, and certainly the church of the books heavily resembles the Catholic Church. Are these criticisms perhaps too accurate?

Do these books promote atheism? That’s a little more difficult. After reading all three, I’m not sure what they really say about God. I don’t think they say that there is no God, which presumably is what a truly atheist book would say.

Donna Freitas, a blogger on BeliefNet’s Idol Chatter, recently interviewed Pullman about his agenda in writing the books. He basically said that his agenda was to tell a compelling story, not to promote atheism! It’s a great interview – I was practically standing on the edge of my seat, cheering and clapping after watching it. You can check it out here.

Should you let your children read the books or see the movie? Well, as with any book or movie, that’s up to you. I wouldn’t let someone else tell you what you should let your children do. Borrow the book from the library and read it, or see the movie for yourself first, and then decide.

And for yourself? There are some campaigns out there that will actually tell you not to see the movie or read the book yourself, lest ye be corrupted! Well, again, shouldn’t you be the judge of that? Use your own mind to decide what you think about it.

Nope, still no Golden Compass entry. I wrote this one a while ago, and it’s been sitting on my flash drive, waiting for me to upload it. Enjoy. Or don’t. 🙂

A popular Christian contemporary song says that “God is in control,” and that is a comforting statement for many people. So many bad things happen (or even just little, frustrating things), that it’s comforting to think that it wasn’t really our fault, or that God will bring good out of whatever happens.

On the other hand, a popular home organization specialist, Marla Cilley (the Flylady) advocates getting control of your home, your finances, and your body. “Flybabies” who embark on her program even create a Control Journal to organize their lives. The idea seems to be that if you can control things, life will be better.

So, which is it? We’re all familiar with the term “control freak”, so we do recognize that trying to control everything isn’t optimal. But, if we relinquish all control, make no decisions, and do nothing all day, life doesn’t work out so well either.

As a Christian, I do put things in God’s hands. I seek daily to know and do God’s will for my life, even in seemingly minor things like housework. I don’t, however, see God as a puppetmaster, controlling everything that happens in the world. I mean, if he were doing that, he ought to be doing a better job!

So, when I’m worried about where next month’s rent is coming from, do I do nothing and figure God’s got it well in hand?

Nope. Really not comfortable with that. I’ve read books by people who are comfortable with that, and seem to have amazing results to prayer. With me, I either don’t have sufficient faith for that, or it just really doesn’t work that way for me. I suspect that even in those miracle situations there’s really more to it than “we prayed, we received money.” There’s some kind of action involved as well.

I do, however, lean on God for support and for guidance. I make time to pray, and listen, and just to be at one with God. And then I try to take whatever action I feel God is leading me toward. Well, actually, that’s on good days. On less than good days, I take matters fully into my own hands, and usually end up frustrated and anxious.

Now, what about the Flylady? I do, in fact, use her system (or at least pieces of it). Is it wrong to try to organize myself and control my life this way?

Only if I overdo it, I think. The routines are helpful, but I also have to be flexible, and not sweat it if a crisis occurs and I can’t get everything done. In fact, Flylady emphasizes this – we have to let go of our perfectionism. If we get behind, we shouldn’t try to catch up, but just jump into the routine wherever we are.

I think God’s probably OK with that, and I am too.