July 22-23, 2006, weekend
July 25, 2006

July 24, 2006


A religion whose followers worship Norse gods has become the center of attention in a scheduled execution of a death row prisoner. What do you know about Asatru? And should we be worried about it?

* * *


If you had to pick one place on Earth that says "sacred" to you, where would it be? A place where you could see foliage like this? (I shot this last fall near where I live.)

Fall05u_1Beliefnet.com, one of the best spiritual Web sites, asked something like that question recently and has put together a photo gallery of the places that its readers and members have suggested are important to them in this regard.

It's worth a look.

But, more, it's worth thinking about what makes someplace particularly sacred to you. I'm partial to physical spaces that take me outside myself and help me understand my own context in the universe as well as the amazing complexity of the creation. I always think of Annie Dillard's comment in one of her books: "The Creator loves pizzazz."

I don't have a photo of one of the places that, in memory, means a lot to me in terms of sacredness. It's in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, where I was in boarding school for a time in my boyhood in India. I was attending an Easter sunrise service there and I watched the sun rise through a V-shape in the mountains.

I also am spiritually attached to places like Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico for its stark beauty in a rugged land.

But I also am mindful of what God said to Moses: Remove your shoes. You are standing on holy ground. I have understood that to mean that in some sense all ground is holy.

Once you visit the Beliefnet gallery, think about what you consider sacred space. And if you've got a great picture of the place, e-mail it to me at [email protected]. If I get a nifty little collection, I'll put together our own gallery.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

Today's religious holiday: Pioneer Day (Mormon).


Joe Barone

One-third of beliefnet's holy places are national shrines of some sort. Talk about separation of chuch and state.


Speaking of sacred sites, does it seem strange to anyone else that almost every city in Iraq and Afganastain are "Holy cities?" Is this supposed to make us feel worse because these cities are involved in a war? Are there some cities in Iraq that are not holy and where war can be waged without implied guilt? How come we never hear the media refer to the holy cities of Kansas City, St. Louis, or New Orleans?


Re: Asatru -

I knew someone several years ago that was involved with this branch of paganism. He said that Asatru groups varied widely. But he added that, because of its links to Teutonic/Germanic belief systems, white supremist groups were often attracted to the religion. He said there was a vast difference between those attracted to Asatru for religious/spiritual reasons and those who usurped the beliefs to further an extremist political agenda.

Re: "Sacred places" -

I feel much closer to the sacred in nature than in a man-made structure like a church, so for me one of my sacred places is the mountains. The times I have spent camping and hiking in Colorado made me realize who small and insignificant I am compared to those massive mountains ... and how even those huge, seemingly eternal mountains are insignificant compared to God.

My other favorite sacred place was visiting the ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in Colorado. While touring the ruins I had the chance to climb down into one of the kivas, or circular covered pits the Anasazi used for worship. I felt a sense of primordial awe to sit in a spot where others had come to worship 1,000 years ago.

SC in KC

Regarding Asatru...

My only exposure to this group was when I worked for the Missouri Dept. of Corrections. As kayceewolf's friend indicated, the group has been infiltrated by various white supremist organizations. In my experience, it was used as a front to distribute white supremist newsletters. It's a shame when ANY faith group is used as an outlet for hatred.

Regarding sacred places...

While I've enjoyed some beautiful scenery in special places, I wouldn't really consider them "sacred" unless I felt God's presence. I usually feel His presence most strongly when I need Him most, which is not when I'm being awestruck by the beauty of His creation. Rather, it's when I'm faced with trials, horrible tragedy, terrible fear, or great sadness.

Hospital emergency waiting rooms are very sacred places, as I always draw closer to God when I'm there. On the rare occasion that I'm alone in a bad neighborhood, God always lets me know He's right there with me. Rush hour traffic in Kansas City is a VERY sacred place.

My favorite, and hands down the nicest sacred place is around my kitchen table, where my family and I pray together and break bread together, in remembrance of Jesus.

Ruth from Tucson

Holy Ground - immortality of ones Spirit

When my friend Paul died, we spread his ashes in a beautiful spot at Ghost Ranch, which he loved. The people in the choir seminar sang beautiful music. One minister who knew him from Tucson pointed out that he had 3 services; One at this church, one at the Casa Maria Catholic workers kitchen and now Ghost Ranch.

My son died too young. We took his ashes (mixed with those of the dog he loved) to a beautiful spot where we enjoyed camping. He loved the desert. We held the service at Tohono Chul Park just at dusk. Our minister who hiked with him many times said that the location of the celebration of his life was where he would have liked.

His spirit is in the desert he loved. But it is not confided to a place, nor is Paul’s


Holy Ground is wherever you are that you are in the presence of God, where God comes to speak to you personally. We should never forget to offer the proper respect when we are in such places.

Holy ground can be a place where we are closer to God, but it can be everywhere. When someone enters into a New Covenant with God through Jesus Christ, then they become holy ground as the Spirit of God comes to live within them. They are declared righteous by faith, and the Spirit of the Living God actually lives in them, and declares them to be Holy Ground.

Then every day must be lived in reverence of the Holy Ground that is in themselves and on which they stand. We remain on Holy Ground when we daily turn from our sins against the Holy One and accept the grace that offered. Every minute of our lives must be spent staying in touch with the earth around us and this spirit within us.

But the moment we declare ourselves to have arrived, then we fall out of grace and we forget where we are.


Ooops ... I'll correct that horrible mistake before someone else does.

They are declared righteous by grace, through faith. They are not declared righteous by faith.

I was being careless, and one should never be careless in matters of salvation.


It was my interpretation that when God spoke to Moses it was to inform him that he was in the immediate presence of God, and being in His presence made it Holy Ground. That being the case, any time I am in prayer, I am in His presence. Magnificent examples of the Creation are great,but the objective is to be in His presence no matter where you are.

Greg Swartz

In re: Asatru

The sad thing is that Asatru is not really any different than any other religion in that it leads people to do demonic things.

On May 16 of this year, the Star reported that on the Friday before a guy in Gladstone attacked his brother with an ax because he believed the devil was trying to take his soul. Also, he apparently believed that the devil was using his brother and he had to try to stop it. Examples like this abound.

A belief in any god is delusional and unfortunately some people carry it a bit too far. They are told that God can talk to them, so they start thinking that their demonic thoughts are God's. Others just have strange ideas as to how they should honor or defend God. Other people use religion for their own benefit saying that they have a connection with some god. Unfortunately, there are way too many people that are gullible enough to go along!

It is just the nature of religions and why religion is at the heart of most of the ills we have in this world that are man-made

In re: Holy Ground

It seems to me that just about the time someone thinks that some spot on earth is sacred, people start fighting over it! The spot where the Dome of the Rock is not the only example!

As far as some spot in nature being sacred, I definitely believe that some of the most meaningful things to me are found in nature. To be able to get up every day and be able to see the beauty of nature is one of the many things that makes my life worth living. It is rather awe inspiring to understand that a continuous series of chemical interactions that began millions of years ago, came to this place and at this time to make what I am seeing and I am here to see it!

But I do not think all this beauty is sacred!

Of course, the flip side is that I also see with great sadness how one creature kills another to survive. I am grateful to know that no intelligent entity could have created what we have, because that entity would have been demonic at best!

And, as I conclude here, I realized I have used the word "demonic" a few times. My dictionary defines the word as "of or resembling a demon" and I am using it in the resembling sense. I certainly do not believe in demons any more that I believe in a God or gods!


You know that God exists. When you go into the forest and marvel at the intricacy and beauty, in the core of your being, you recognize that such design demands a Designer...that it isn't just random interactions of chemicals.
Romans 1:18-22 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been CLEARLY SEEN, being understood THROUGH WHAT HAS BEEN MADE, so that they are without excuse. For even though they KNEW God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened....

The Bible informs us that self-styled "atheists" KNOW that God exists, despite what they claim, but they choose to suppress the truth that is CLEARLY seen in the amazing world in which we live.

As for the "demonic nature" of this amazing world that appears to condemn a Creator, the Bible also clearly tells us that WE, as free moral agents, and not God, are responsible for ushering in the Fall of the human race.

Bob Patterson

I agree with Greg that no place on earth is any more 'sacred or holy' than any other place, although some sure look better than others! Man's desire to assign the term 'holy' to a spot just becomes justification to kill anyone who doesn't share that irrational belief. As long as religion persists, man will kill one another to make his point. Thank Gawd, I'm an atheist and have no need to kill anyone or anything, in the name of some imaginary deity. Maybe the world will one day have no need for a god or to kill one another in the name of one. bp


You don't have any place you can go that will alter your feelings toward others, your thoughts, or your mood for the better? It's too bad if you don't have such a place. Is there a relationship in your life that has a divine quality?

Just Thinking

Take a look at how this ancient male tortoise adopted an orphaned hippo.


It's amazing how two ugly things can wind up looking holy.


Unfortunately, the claim that so-called atheists have no need of killing anything is totally divorced from reality and history. Two words (for starters): USSR, China.

Steve S

Thank you Bill for telling us poor stupid atheists what we know. I guess all the countless hours of studying religions and thniking about faith and belief were all just wasted time for me when I cold have just asked you what I know. Just another example of the arrogance of some Christians.

As for the complexity of nature being proof of a designer, I see it the other way. Intelligent design strives toward simplicity and durability. Intelligently Designed objects (i.e. a house or the ever present watch) use geometric shapes and the simplest designs possible to achieve the purpose of the object. This makes the objects stronger and more efficient. Generally, designed objects deviate from this maxim only when the designer is purposly copying nature. There are few geometric shapes and almost no straight lines in nature. If there is an intelligent designer, he or she must have flunked design school. Otherwise, life would not be so fragile.

SC in KC

Greg and Bob,

I'm going to surprise a few people by saying this, but I respect your opinions. I have always admired people of faith, people who have the character to be devoted to that which they cannot see, which cannot be proven, which seems so unlikely. I think it takes a great deal of courage to be an atheist, and a great deal of faith.

As something of a student of science, I am ever reminded that, at the sub-atomic level, scientific laws don't apply. Effects can preceed causes, time and space have no meaning, and one particle can be in two different, or two-thousand different places at once.

I am also reminded of the other end of the scale, the cosmological, where, again, the rules of science cease to apply. Singularities scoff, and dark matter and energy pervade, shape, and drive the universe.

Blindly subscribing to such a scientific world view means you must be brave enough to acknowledge that your world view breaks down at each end. That, in fact, the very scientific laws you subscribe to predict their own demise in the microscopic or macroscopic.

I admire your courage in sticking by your faith.


In all your posts you have the need to reduce God to something you can handle. Can you really look at the beauty and complexity of nature, all the way down to DNA and out to the vastness of the universe and say that the Creator "flunked design school"?
Do you realize what a ridiculous statement that is?

Steve S

Yes I can. What competent designer makes something that, more often than not, fails?


What do I know about Asatru, and should I be worried about it?

A similar question could be asked about any religion that is being abused by its followers.

It's not just Asatru that is being abused by prisoners. Violent forms of Islam are spreading among prisoners. Here's one of many articles on the topic that you can find on the internet:

Does that mean we should be worried about Islam, including its majority of non-violent followers? Or would it be more constructive to be concerned about those few who are abusing that religion?

Again, any religion can be abused. It's not just Asatru or Islam. Christianity, itself, has been mightily abused through the ages. And there are violent white supremicists in jail who adhere to the Christian religion.

Does that mean we should be worried about Christianity?


Regarding sacred space ... Yes, there are many beautiful places in the world. But home is sacred space to me. Right now we living in a lovely house on an acre of land with many large trees -- including a very old catalpa -- in our yard. But even when I was living on the second floor of a rented apartment, home was a sacred space.


I am always amused by how emotional people get when the Truth is presented...it shows that a raw nerve has been touched. People just don't get so emotionally lathered up discussing the growth rate of soybeans in Iowa....but begin talking the Truth of the Bible, and those in rebellion to God's authority vibrate and get angry...

It is erroneous to ascribe human (i.e. flawed and finite) design standards to God. WE do not define design standards. God, as THE Creator, does. The fact that we, as finite, fallen creatures gravitate towards simpler structures that our minds can grasp and handle is natural. God, on the other hand, has no such limits and you see this in the absolutely amazing designs He has created (and NOT evolved). He is not limited to straight lines and perfect geometric shapes... He designed a brain that defies the power of the combined computers of the world-- something we cannot replicate (and will never replicate).

British Museum of Natural History senior paleontologist Cohn Patterson confessed: “Evolutionists—like the creationists they periodically do battle with—are nothing more than believers themselves. I had been working on this stuff [evolution] for more than twenty years, and there was not one [factual] thing I knew about it. It’s quite a shock to learn that one can be so misled for so long.”

Everywhere you turn, SOME scientists get it and acknowledge the Creator.

British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle reminds us of the mathematical fact that “even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup” the chance of producing the basic enzymes of life by random processes without intelligent direction would be approximately 1 in 10 with 40,000 zeros after it. In other words, it couldn’t happen—ever!
“Darwinian evolution is most unlikely to get even ONE polypeptide [sequence] right, let alone the thousands on which living cells depend for survival.”

Albert Einstein, at the end of his career, acknowledged that a God existed--HAD to exist--based upon his empirical studies, although, tragically, he never took the step of accepting God as his personal savior.

Isaac Newton: believed in God.

Benjamin Franklin: at the end of his celebrated scientific career, stated that he knew but ONE thing: that God intervened in the affairs of men.

And then there is Dr. Francis S. Collins, scientist who led the international Human Genome Project and who speaks openly about his discovery that science and faith in God are NOT incompatible. He is now member of the American Scientific Affiliation, which is an organization of scientists affirming "the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible".
He has also written "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" (Free Press). I suspect he will become a pariah in his community.

I could go on and on, but the point is that science seeks to discover the mechanics of what God has sovereignly put into motion. Scientific enquiry is often WRONG, and has to update its hypotheses when new, previously unknown data appears, and this is the vulnerability and weakness of science. Science cannot be your god.

But with the proper perspective, science can aid one in understanding the magnificence of the creation.

Bob Patterson

Science is neither right or wrong. Science is a philosophical approach to honestly seeking the facts, or at least the available data and making the best determination possible, always subject to scrutiny and rethinking. Science always invites others in the field to investigate it's findings for confirmation or fefusal. Religion never invites criticism, religion has the answer it wants and likes


I totally agree with Bob-- I detest religion and think religion--all forms of it, are hopelessly evil and repugnant.

"Religion" is man adding illicit human constructs, unauthorized human trappings to God's Word. "Religion" drapes oneself (or one's institutions) in Christ.... just as one might drape oneself in the Flag and dare anyone to criticize them at the risk of being labeled "unpatriotic". Same with religion. Many wolves have slipped inside the Lamb's clothing and have enslaved millions of people and have killed many people.... all in the name of Christ. What a travesty and what sheer brilliance on Satan's part to unfairly shift criticism on God's Word and Christianity.... where in REALITY, such travesties were committed by "religious charlatans" prostituting the Truth.

Oh well. If you search the Scriptures you will KNOW the Truth, and it will then set you free. You will not be enslaved to "religion" and the "wolves" that commit evil under the veneer of Christ.

So yes, Bob, I agree that "religion" never invites criticism [ex. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Roman Church conquering the Americas via the Conquistadors, etc. etc.]

True Christianity, however, is defined by the content of God's inerrant Word in the original languages of Scripture... as such, one finds that Christianity is not "religion", but a personal relationship with the Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also agree with Bob that Science is always subject to scrutiny and rethinking... and that those whose Temple of Worship is the laboratory and "junk science" are equally deceived as the "religiously enslaved".

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