Posts Tagged ‘Internet & Technology’

My New Blog: Pax-Pentest.Net

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

As I wrote in my last post, retiring from writing this blog has afforded me an opportunity to indulge in some of my other interests, one of which is cyber-security, white-hat hacking and Penetration Testing.

As blogging is in my blood and I still suffer from a blogging itch, I have decided to chart my progress – or otherwise - into the world of cyber-security and Penetration Testing.

My new blog can be found:

http://www.pax-pentest.net

I am of course aware that this new project will be of no interest to most of the readers of this blog and confess this post is as much about informing you, as informing search engines.

x

Hanging up my blogging boots

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Hope you had a blessed Lent and Easter.

I enjoyed my Lenten blogging break a little too much.

The break afforded me a lovely opportunity to indulge some of my other interests, and not reading blogs and news feeds and controversies and persecutions and so forth, actually precipitated an unexpected buoyancy of mood.

The break reminded me how much of my spare time is consumed in the blogging endeavour, squeezing out  time to pursue other activities and interests.

What I’m trying to say is the time has come for me to bow out of the blogosphere. This isn’t a snap decision but one I have pondered at length.

It has been a marvelous four years in which I have blogged nearly every day and sometimes multiple times a day. I’ve met some great folk, both in person and virtually. My own faith has been transformed through the many conversations, dueling, and patient reasoning of good cyber folk.

The landscape of the Christian blogosphere has changed somewhat over the last four years, with the loss of some superb thinkers; thankfully, swiftly replaced with many more of the same. There are now more ‘specialised’ bloggers focusing on such diverse topics as: law, politics, mental health, statistics, philosophy, ethics, medical, disability, foreign policy, humour, and so on, from  a Christian vantage.

I often wished I were knowledgeable enough on a particular topic to have a specialised area within which to write, but have been prone to flitting from subject to subject at a shallower level than my contemporaries. This has both advantages and disadvantages. I can honestly say I never blogged from a position of authority on any topic, but sought more to transparently share my own journey, revelations, fascinations and learning, be that for good or ill.

I have blogged in all mood states, which I’m somewhat painfully aware is quite exposing for someone with an abnormal mind and personality. But I took the risk and am glad I did so.

I will still be contactable on Twitter; however, my ‘handle’ has now changed from eChurchBlog to ChiefMentalist – far more fitting I’m sure you will agree.

I bid the blogosphere farewell and hope I meet you all on the other side.

In Jesus, as always - Stuart x

Giving up blogging for Lent

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

I am giving up blogging for Lent.

I’m waiting for my new Kindle to arrive which Wifey kindly purchased for my birthday, and she has a reading list ready for me to replenish my spiritual life.

Feel free to suggest any ‘essential’ reading you feel I should purchase in this endeavour.

Caral and Edmund may post in my absence, but that’s not confirmed and is up to them.

I really do need to renew myself spiritually and will hopefully return raring to go.

I’m still on Twitter if you want to touch base.

Have a wonderful Lent and may it be spiritually refreshing and renewing for us all.

Patriarch Kirill: Sow wheat among the web-tares

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Last month Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill lamented Orthodox bloggers publicly insulting each other, which I can only imagine must be an Orthodox phenomenon as it doesn’t happen in Catholic or Protestant Internet circles:

…that the diversity of ideas inherent in church circles sometimes assumes absurd forms in the Internet environment.

“In the web space groups of church liberals and conservatives are appearing that are not looking for the truth, divine truth but a means of finding fault, stinging each other. This is a very sad tendency,” he said at a diocesan assembly in Moscow ahead of New Year.

He said that divisions and feuds within the church “are evidence of infantility, childishness in faith which sometimes assumes ruffian forms.”

It would now seem the good Patriarch is advocating the strategy of sowing wheat among the web-tares:

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on Saturday lamented a high number of antichurch internet posts and said the Russian Orthodox Church he leads should be present in social networks to tell the truth to its audience.

“Blogs and social networks give us new opportunities for the Christian mission” at a time when the Church comes under attacks more often than before, the patriarch said. “Not to be present there means to display our helplessness and lack of care for the salvation of our brothers.”

“Now that social media shows a huge interest, although not always a sound one, in church life, our duty is to convert it for a good cause, to create conditions for young people to know about Christ, know the truth about the life of people inside the Church,” Patriarch Kirill said.

“When a person makes a query on church life in an internet search engine, he finds a lot of lies, hypocrisy and hatred,” the patriarch said at a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Bishops Council in downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

“These are the visible results of activity by the enemy of mankind,” he said.

This of course comes hot on the heals of the superb address given by the Pope on social media, which I think can be summed up as follows:

“Go into all the digital world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15 with slight modification)

Pret A Manger – Virgin Mary crisps – And the power of blogging

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Irrespective of your views as to the offensiveness or otherwise of the Pret A Manger sandwich chain branding their new crisps as ‘Virgin Mary’, something must be noted relating to the potential power and influence of blogging.

Deacon Nick Donelly first highlighted this on his popular blog Protect the Pope back on the 30th January:

The Pret A Manger sandwich chain have decided to insult their Catholic customers by naming their new Worcestershire Sauce flavoured crisps, ‘Virgin Mary Crisps’

A reader of Protect the Pope wrote to Pret A Manger to complain, making the point that Pret A Manger would not dare to mock the Muslim or Jewish faiths so why have they seen fit to mock Christianity. Why they should make such an appalling, tasteless and offensive lapse of judgement.’

This is the reply from their CEO:

‘It happens that I am a Catholic. I have examined my conscience about the naming of our crisps. The term Virgin Mary is widely used in the market today to describe a well known cocktail: a tomato juice with Worcester sauce and without vodka. I have consulted a lot of people in our office about this and that is what they all think of when they see our crisps packet. Please, please don’t take offence. None is intended.’

Protect the Pope comment: The Pret A Manger’s CEO should know better than to use the name of Our Lady, the Mother of God, to sell a snack food. It’s cheap, demeans the name of the Virgin Mary, and offends Catholics who hold Our Lady in the highest regard.  It’s irrelevant what the CEO’s employees tell him in the office about the appropriateness of the name, it’s what Catholics think that counts.  What will practicing Catholics first think of when they see the name ‘Virgin Mary crisps’? Not a well known cocktail for sure.

It appears that as a result of this blog post, readers were motivated to complain.

The upshot of this is taken from a Protect the Pope blog post today:

Pret A Manger has contacted Protect the Pope to inform us that following yesterday’s post on their Virgin Mary brand of crisps and readers of our site contacting them to express their concern Pret A Manger’s CEO Clive Schlee has decided to remove this brand immediately from their outlets.  Pret A Manger has apologised for any unintentional offence they have caused and have indicted that they will give any unsold crisps to the homeless. Clive Schlee has admitted to a reader of Protect the Pope that taking this brand of crisps off their shelves will cost them quite a bit of money but ‘good businesses listen and react quickly’.

Deacon Nick Donelly comments:

Clive Schlee and Pret A Manger deserve our unreserved thanks for listening to our concerns as Catholics and for acting so quickly to remove the brand of crisps. It seems fitting that Pret A Manger are planning to give any unsold crisps to the homeless. Thanks also to the readers of Protect the Pope for contacting Pret A Manger to express their concerns. God bless you all for your passion and desire to stand up for our Catholic faith.  I’d like to express my special thanks to the reader of Protect the Pope who first brought this news to our attention, but wants to remain anonymous.  One of the things we need to go away and think about is what this incident tells us about how we defend our faith in the future. We’ve been passive for too long in the face of mockery of our faith and discrimination against us as Catholics. We can change things!

This incident has now hit the BBC and the story is currently rated as the second ‘Most Read’ story on the BBC website.

As I said earlier, irrespective of your view on the issue at the heart of the matter, this is a dramatic example of a Catholic /Christian blogger exerting tremendous influence even over a powerful chain of shops.

This is surely noteworthy in itself.

Pope’s message on social media

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Here is a recent message on social media given by the Pope which warrants reproducing here without comment from me:

“Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the 2013 World Communications Day draws near, I would like to offer you some reflections on an increasingly important reality regarding the way in which people today communicate among themselves. I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new “agora”, an open public square in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.

These spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family. The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since, in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves.

The development of social networks calls for commitment: people are engaged in building relationships and making friends, in looking for answers to their questions and being entertained, but also in finding intellectual stimulation and sharing knowledge and know-how. The networks are increasingly becoming part of the very fabric of society, inasmuch as they bring people together on the basis of these fundamental needs. Social networks are thus nourished by aspirations rooted in the human heart.

The culture of social networks and the changes in the means and styles of communication pose demanding challenges to those who want to speak about truth and values. Often, as is also the case with other means of social communication, the significance and effectiveness of the various forms of expression appear to be determined more by their popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value. Popularity, for its part, is often linked to celebrity or to strategies of persuasion rather than to the logic of argumentation. At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own. “Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful” (Address at the Meeting with the World of Culture, Bélem, Lisbon, 12 May 2010).

The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.

The ability to employ the new languages is required, not just to keep up with the times, but precisely in order to enable the infinite richness of the Gospel to find forms of expression capable of reaching the minds and hearts of all. In the digital environment the written word is often accompanied by images and sounds. Effective communication, as in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love. Besides, we know that Christian tradition has always been rich in signs and symbols: I think for example of the Cross, icons, images of the Virgin Mary, Christmas cribs, stained-glass windows and pictures in our churches. A significant part of mankind’s artistic heritage has been created by artists and musicians who sought to express the truths of the faith.

In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the way in which they communicate “choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically” (Message for the 2011 World Communications Day). A particularly significant way of offering such witness will be through a willingness to give oneself to others by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence. The growing dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society.

For those who have accepted the gift of faith with an open heart, the most radical response to mankind’s questions about love, truth and the meaning of life – questions certainly not absent from social networks – are found in the person of Jesus Christ. It is natural for those who have faith to desire to share it, respectfully and tactfully, with those they meet in the digital forum. Ultimately, however, if our efforts to share the Gospel bring forth good fruit, it is always because of the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts. Trust in the power of God’s work must always be greater than any confidence we place in human means. In the digital environment, too, where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment. Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in “a still, small voice” (1 Kg 19:11-12). We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the “kindly light” of faith.

Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelization, can also be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of closeness to those who share the same faith. An authentic and interactive engagement with the questions and the doubts of those who are distant from the faith should make us feel the need to nourish, by prayer and reflection, our faith in the presence of God as well as our practical charity: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).

In the digital world there are social networks which offer our contemporaries opportunities for prayer, meditation and sharing the word of God. But these networks can also open the door to other dimensions of faith. Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth.

I pray that God’s Spirit will accompany you and enlighten you always, and I cordially impart my blessing to all of you, that you may be true heralds and witnesses of the Gospel. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15).

From the Vatican, 24 January 2013, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.

BENEDICTUS XVI

A few good links

Monday, January 21st, 2013

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

Get Religion – Anti-gay marriage protests prompt ire of the BBC

The Mental Elf – Clinicians should consider referring depressed patients to Internet Support Groups, according to new RCT

iMonk – “Getting Better”

Opinionated Vicar - The National Lottery: pet parasite of the nation

Oxford Human Rights Hub – R (Hodkin): A Signal to Rethink Religious Worship

Society for Christian Psychology – Redemption and Restoration

Dr Robert Cargill – Is the Internet bringing about the end of organized religion?

PsychCentral – Lance Armstrong: Narcissist or “Optimist”?

Believer’s Brain – 4 Things Not To Say to a Depressed Christian

Normblog – Telling stories to win an argument

Patheos: Science and Religion – Do you believe in magic? Seriously.

The Emotionally Sensitive Person – Sunsets and Math Problems: Appreciating the Difference

A few good links

Monday, January 14th, 2013

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

Chelliah Laity - RIP Big Issue Sellers

The World of Mentalists - The #TwentalHealthAwards – The Winners

Believer’s Brain - Flat-Pack Furniture and the Body of Christ

Accepting Abundance - Unmoved Mover for Unmoved Doubters

The Alethiophile - A christian response to trolling, Part 1: Trolls and what Peter said - (Part 2)

The Not So Big Society - Generic Condemnation of This Thing That Person Said on Twitter

British Religion in Numbers - Attitudes to Muslims

The Ugley Vicar - The enormous value of being logically wrong

Thought catalog – Five emotions- invented by the internet

Is the Internet really atheism’s greatest tool?

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Guest post by Edmund Standing:

In July 2011, Campus Crusade for Christ International apologist Josh McDowell warned that the Internet poses a great threat to Christianity because:

The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have.

Meanwhile, from the atheist side, we find claims such as this:

Want proof that religion is dying? Look no further than the dominance of atheists on the Internet. We fucking own this place, and it’s only matter of time before we mock faith into non-existence.

So, is the Internet really leading to an explosion of atheism and will it really sound the death knell for Christianity?

Perhaps such questions can only be adequately answered in the future, given how relatively young the Internet still is, and given the extent to which the West still dominates the Internet, in terms both of users and content. However, I’m unconvinced that the bold claims about atheism taking over thanks to the Internet ring true.

The Internet is an incredibly fast moving and relatively ephemeral ‘place’. Social networking and video websites are amongst the most used sites on the Internet and both are based largely around superficial trends and fads that come – and more importantly go – at a speed unknown a few generations ago. Twitter, for example, is one of the leading social media websites, where topics and ideas fly around at great speed, rising for a short while as ‘trending’ topics, only to quickly disappear and be replaced by some new fascination. On the Internet, news, ideas, videos, and pictures quickly go ‘viral’, but very few hang around for long. Last year saw the explosion of the ‘KONY 2012′ viral video campaign (which was endorsed by various celebrities). Its popularity led President Obama to make comments about the campaign, yet now, in 2013, it has long since ceased to be a ‘trending topic‘. Then there were the supposed Mayan prophecies of the world ending in 2012, which caused a buzz online and have now – unsurprisingly – disappeared from view. A look at Google’s top searches of 2012 likewise reveals the extent of the superficiality of popular Internet usage.

Just as the Internet moves at a very fast pace, so does the ‘real world’. A few years ago, the world seemed to be going Da Vinci Code mad. People everywhere were talking about Jesus and his supposed relationship with Mary Magdalene. Articles appeared in the press, documentaries appeared on TV, and a feature film was released. But nowadays, who’s talking about any of that? A few years after that, it seemed atheism was everywhere, with a series of books being published (such as The God Delusion and God is not great) that propelled atheism into the media spotlight and led to the claim that this was a ‘new atheism’. The media hype around ‘new atheism’ has now died down, if not died out.

Neither books nor Internet content now seem able to truly hold the attention of the masses for very long, and while the ‘new atheism’ phenomenon has arguably led to atheism having a higher profile online, much of it is of a very superficial nature. Internet atheism seems to be predominantly a trend led by young Internet users, many of whom are not so much philosophical atheists but rather nihilistic youngsters looking for a new avenue for rebellion and a new target for their love of ‘trolling’ and the spreading of Internet ‘memes’. A certain type of Internet atheist seems to love pictures featuring supposedly ‘clever’ put-downs of religion, offering deliberately reductionist explanations of the (Abrahamic) religious worldview, the claim that the Bible contains nothing but ‘fairy tales‘, weak jokes about the Resurrection being nothing more than the story of a ‘Jewish Zombie‘, and claims that religious believers are ‘stupid‘ and that religion is a ‘mental illness‘. This kind of ‘jargonising‘ offers nothing of worth to serious discussions of religion.

Leaving this kind of trivial material aside, it is of course the case that atheists have made very good use of the Internet, in terms of the vast amount of atheist and sceptical material that is now available to the curious searcher. However, one cannot help wondering what percentage of Internet users are willing to give up what spare time they have to trawling through large websites filled with long articles seeking to debunk faith. Religion may appear a minority interest in the dazzling new electronic world, but then atheism is too. There may be plenty who will be swayed to discard their faith having come across Internet atheist material, but it is arguably the case that such people were probably only nominally religious to begin with. The main demographic in the online atheist ‘convert’ community seems to be people who were brought up in some sort of fundamentalism and have now rejected that narrow faith in favour of an equally narrow and passionate atheism (or anti-theism). Such people are already very engaged in some sense with religion or religious ideas and will largely have specifically sought out atheist materials as a result. In order for atheism to truly triumph in the Internet context, it would have to grip a large proportion of people who have not actively sought it out. I’m unconvinced this is actually happening.

Arguably, if anything is triumphing on the Internet (aside from the kind of ephemeral online trends cited earlier) it is actually a kind of irrationalism which, far from being based on serious consideration of issues traditionally at the heart of philosophical discussion (the meaning of life, the existence or otherwise of God, ethics, and so on) leans instead towards conspiracy theories and a kind of ‘scepticism’ that is far from that advocated by atheists. Jonathan Kay, author of a recent book on conspiracism, has argued that the growth in Internet conspiracy theory materials has led to ‘nothing less than a rift in the fabric of consensual American reality’. Interestingly, when recounting his experiences of interviewing conspiracy believers, Kay argues that ‘they wouldn’t be doing this if they had some satisfying worldview that gave them the kind of intellectual and emotional stability they were looking for in their life’. Perhaps it is here that the Internet may actually lead to a revival of interest in Christianity. If Internet users start to desire something real, something that makes sense beyond the shifting electronic sands of the Web, something that anchors reality and truth in an age of speed and confusion, and something that brings rest from the chaotic nature of modern life, it may well be that beliefs that offer a connection between the past, the present, and the future will take on a new appeal. Atheism, in comparison, will never offer a satisfying worldview that provides the kind of intellectual and emotional stability so many crave.

Will the Internet really destroy Christianity?

I wouldn’t count on it!

Largest UK Christian Forum – Premier Community – Closes This Friday

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

It’s just been announced that Premier Community, the largest online UK Christian forum, is to close rather abruptly this Friday:

Dear Premier Community Member,

I am writing to inform you that from 5pm on Friday 11th January the Premier Community site will be permanently closed.

As the new media landscape continues to change Premier needs to respond to trends in how people interact online. In this context we have concluded that stand alone community sites are no-longer the most effective method of engaging our audiences or connecting people. There are also significant resources needed to maintain and administer the site and these resources could be focused in other areas of growth.

We appreciate that many people continue to find value and support in the groups, forums and relationships they have developed and that this decision will be very disappointing to some. Premier is very much committed to engagement with social media and during 2013 we will be redeveloping many of our main websites to include more social and visitor interaction. We will also continue to develop and grow our presences on the main social platforms including Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/thisispremier) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/premierradio).

After 5pm on Friday any content that you have uploaded to the site will become unavailable and you will no longer be able to contact other users. Therefore if you wish to take copies of e.g. blogs or exchange contact details with other members you wish to stay in touch with, you have until that time to do it.

If you have concerns about how this change might affect you please contact us on socialmediaadmin@premier.org.uk

Yours sincerely,

The Premier Community Team

It’s fair to say the forum could be something of a bear-pit and was very loosely moderated, but still, even though my involvement waned over recent times, I feel a little sad and nostalgic.

The forum in general probably didn’t present Christians in the best light, but I do feel for some folk who practically lived out their lives on there.

Anyway, this is the time for any intrepid brave warrior to set up a forum.

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