Readers' Forum

Religion Hurts

Perhaps it is YES!'s dedication to positive futures that leads you to produce an issue (Winter 2006) in which almost half of the space is devoted to “Spiritual Uprising” with not a word about the adverse effects of religious (or spiritual) practices.

Religious beliefs are what prompt: hostility towards gays, resistance to stem-cell research, disruptions to educational curricula, impositions of religious practices on those who want none of it, opposition to women's ability to choose, and so on.

The United States, the richest and most powerful country in the world, is far and away the most religiously devout industrialized (“advanced”) nation. Despite all that devotion (vociferously practiced by the president—any president), we sow the greatest disturbances across the planet, waste enormous resources on the military, have unconscionable levels of domestic poverty, are responsible for much of the world's environmental degradation, allow a large proportion of our citizens to lack adequate medical care, and so on.

Differences in religious belief have served as the primary sources of conflict almost everywhere. Examples: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the horrific breakup of Yugoslavia, the troubles in Northern Ireland, ongoing strife in parts of Africa, the almost constant conflicts in the Middle East, the recurring battles between India and Pakistan, and on and on. Such conflicts are not resolved through appeals to the supernatural; they are solved by resort to reason.

Making appeals to correct the many troubles and injustices that your authors do is commendable, but do not invoke appeals to the supernatural for solutions. If that worked, all we'd need is prayer. Do we hold human beings in such low regard that we think they can be sufficiently moral only when admonished by illusory supernatural powers?

- Lester Goldstein (Seattle, Washington)

Out of Our System?

I hope you have gotten the religious and the spiritual out of your system. I long for freedom from religion.

- Roger Stevens (Wrentham, Massachusetts)

Thanks for the Spiritual Hope

The Winter 2006 issue of YES! is one of my favorites and seems to be somehow pulling the words I have felt inside my soul out onto the pages of this issue. I am feeling more hopeful.

- Susan Hylen via e-mail

True Spirituality

Thank you for Sarah van Gelder's column in the Winter 2006 issue. You gathered the essence of what “spiritual uprising” is really about. Not only is there “a spiritual crisis” in America, as Rabbi Michael Lerner has pointed out, but “true spirituality” is on the line. Thank God, it is about time for the real issues to be dealt with openly, and this issue of YES! helped open up that dialogue publicly.

I know this arena very well from my own experience: 47 years as a Catholic, the final 20 as a Catholic monk and priest. Leaving the priesthood and Catholicism, I became an atheist because I no longer believed what I had been taught and taught others. I wandered around in spiritual no-man's-land for five years, lost and confused, and then came to the end of my road, beginning to think there is no meaning to life at all. But then I was led, seemingly by accident—no accident at all—into Eastern spirituality with an enlightened master. I had the freedom there to accept whatever or none of the teachings at all, so with that freedom I dove in and discovered the answers I had been looking for all my life.

I am told that Mahatma Gandhi, after being told that many in his movement didn't believe in spirituality at all, replied, “That is because they haven't experienced ‘true spirituality.'” I am sure this is true of many people in America these days. And it is extremely difficult to wade through the deluge of misinformation and find true avenues for that exploration.

-Tom Toomey via e-mail

A Reason to Stay in America

I wish an issue of YES! would be in my mailbox every month. Each magazine is read, thoroughly discussed with like-minded friends, and recycled to a friend whose income is even less than mine.

Your magazine is what keeps me sane in this crazy society. There are times I feel that I should go back to my roots in the Netherlands, but they're having their problems.

We, as Americans, can work in our own little area and hope that whatever we do will spread out to show others that together we can make it a better world.

- Vivian Kincaid (Danville, Kentucky)

Painting an Elder

When I opened the Fall 2005 issue of YES! I was excited to see coverage of the elderly. I recently had an exhibition at the University of Colorado called “Ruth/Face to Face.” This show was a display of drawings and paintings of one elderly woman, Ruth, who modeled for me the last 15 years of her life.

Rarely do we see artists make use of an elderly woman as a model for artistic expression. Yet viewing Ruth's image moved viewers to see elderly women as beautiful and special individuals they wanted in their lives. Ruth and I hoped that through people viewing this body of work, we would change attitudes. Perhaps society would start honoring its seniors and learn from their vast wisdom.

- Kathleen Spencer Johns (Boulder, Colorado)

Spiritual Eldering

I was so happy to see YES! magazine's tremendously beneficial series of articles on aging.

Just as in other stages of our development, we want to move into our older years consciously, not unconsciously. If we can begin to face our fears of aging, we may find some unexpected treasures and opportunities for growth. Most people walk large circles around the topic of
aging; it's right up there with death.

For those who are interested, here are some great first steps I recommend on the path toward becoming elders: reading the book From Age-ing to Sage-ing by conscious aging pioneer Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Schalomi [featured in YES!]; participating in workshops and classes, including those that have been developed by the Spiritual Eldering Institute.

Yes! Let's do the challenging and rewarding work of aging and reap the joys, understanding, and wisdom that the second half of life can bring.

- Sandy Sabersky, Elderwise (Seattle, Washington)

An Elder Initiation

When I turned 50, I was initiated as an elder in a ceremony that was simple and profound. I stepped across a threshold to elderhood, and have never felt old or that I'm diminishing.

I feel this is a time when elders need to be leading the revolution forward to a sane and sensible way of living. The world is not evolving in a natural process; it is being pushed by consumerism and marketing to meaningless cosmologies that don't and can't work. We need us elders to lead once again.

The natural world, youth, and the forces of peace need the wisdom elders have to offer. This has been the work of elders throughout history. Let's find ways to bring our special gifts to the world, and help create a world we want to live in, with love, compassion, play, and community.

To this end, I am planning a workshop that will be playful and experiential. Using the cob [earth] building process, we will create an Earthprayer for World Peace. In so doing, we will investigate our elder calling and create a personal vision for living a vital, purposeful, engaged life during our elder years. We will use group process, ritual, and grief-releasing techniques to end the numbing we often feel and open our hearts to imagination and possibility.

If you come, wear old clothes, as we will make this Earthprayer for World Peace out of the mud! Bring objects that mean peace to you: prayers, poems, and objects we will embed in the earth sculpture. We will be initiated as elders in a ritual we will embody.
My own initiation was the most meaningful ritual of my life. Contact me at

- Robert Francis Johnson via e-mail

Alexander Technique is Best for Aging Well

Three movement practices were mentioned by Carolyn McConnell in “Aging Better by Moving Smarter” (YES! Fall 2005). I would like to add another practice to the list: Alexander Technique.

I have studied the Feldenkrais Method, yoga, and qi gong. Though I heartily recommend all of these practices, none of these methods taught me what the Alexander Technique has, to thoughtfully inhibit poor habits of movement and direct myself in skilled movements. Within weeks of starting regular Alexander lessons I was able to stop my regular visits for chiropractic adjustments.

The Alexander Technique has been taught in England since 1906. It is covered by medical insurance both in England and Israel. There are over 400 Alexander teachers in the United States.

- Peter Anderheggen (New Hartford, Connecticut)

Can Crones Save the World?

Thanks for the issue on elders. Reframing things as per your mention of David Korten makes a huge difference.

I came to the same point alone recently while reading Marion Woodman's book, Dancing in the Flames, in which she has a wonderful chapter, “And A Crone Shall Lead Them.”

Elder wise women were killed by the millions from the 12th to the 19th century—their power was too much for the patriarchy—but we are thus missing their positive role model. We elder women have a special role to play now in saying “no” to the power structure that is destroying the earth. As Marion and Robert Bly point out, there is crone energy in men too. Feminine energy is drastically needed now to take a firm stand about what's going on and to take men and the rest to a new level of consciousness.

Age alone doesn't do it; the leadership role must be psychologically earned, but I believe if more women stepped forward they (and we) would be enriched and emboldened

- Alice Holstein Mack via e-mail

Finding Support

Some of us local Aptos, California, women have been meeting monthly since before the Iraq war for support, understanding of issues, and action.

- Betty Michelozzi via e-mail

Your issue on Cultural Creatives (Winter 2001) blew me away. Where are the Cultural Creatives now? Their website seems to have been abandoned around 2002. What I long to see is a locally hosted gathering (but part of a national grassroots movement) that could rally around the cultural creative worldview—a meeting place that could put spirit and values and our worldview first.

What I feel was so essential about Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson's work, and your issue on it, was that it cut across the lines that divide even us, the free thinkers, the ones with hearts open enough to dream of a better world and lives we are willing to commit to working towards it. What of the pro-life mother who supports green politics or the gay Republican or any number of other combinations of perspectives?

We are already out here, but like islands in various streams. The worldview (the cultural creative values and perspective) itself is what could bring us together.

- Juliet Trail (Charlottesville, Virginia)

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