Does Religion Play a Positive Role?

Zurich, Switzerland: 17 April 2014 – A global poll by WIN/Gallup International has revealed that over half of respondents believe that religion plays a positive role in their country, with people in Western Europe recording significantly lower positive results than other regions.

In the run up to the Easter period, WIN/Gallup International has released findings that show just over half (59%) of the 66,806 people polled feel that religion plays a positive role in their country. This, however, is not a sentiment reflected across all the regions, with Western Europe showing a low net positivity (the net score is the total positive percentage less the total negative percentage) at only 4% – a figure that is significantly less than the global average (37%). When compared to other regions, there is a notable step to Eastern Europe at 33%, followed by Asia at 37%. This lower positivity in Western Europe may be attributed to the secular nature of the region in comparison to other parts of the world.

Religion's Influence

In total there were nine countries whose net scores were negative when asked about religion, with six of those falling within Western Europe (Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden). Of these, Denmark was the most net negative at -36%, followed by Belgium (-30%), France (-22%) and Spain (-22%). By contrast, the most net positive country in this region was Iceland (43%) followed by Portugal (39%), which may be due to these countries having one dominant religion. On a global scale, the most net negative country was Lebanon (-43%).

While Western Europe may have come in significantly less positive than the other regions polled, there is generally a positive belief in the role of religion elsewhere in the world. The most net positive region globally is Africa (65%) followed by the Americas (54%) and MENA (50%), and these high response rates may be due to the less secular nature of these regions. The most positive country globally was Indonesia, with 95% stating religion played a positive role, whilst, as a comparison, the USA and the UK are both net positive at 43% and 6% respectively.

Religion still holds great importance in the US with 62% of respondents saying religion plays a positive role in the country, culminating in net positivity of 43%. This shows that the majority of US respondents hold religion central to their values, something which is still reflected in the country’s politics – and something this poll would suggest is unlikely to change in the near future.

The impact of education?

The data also shows a clear correlation between the level of education people have received and their perceived positivity about the role of religion in their country. The results would suggest that those who have been educated to Masters or PhD level have 20% lower net positivity compared to those who have had less education. The results also showed that net positivity increased gradually to an average of 57% for those who have no education at all. The table below highlights this staggered increase:

Chart 1

How do religious beliefs affect results?

When analyzing the data by religion, a marked difference can be seen across the various religious groups in terms of their positivity towards the role of religion in their country. Globally, net positivity was 37%, however, of the major religious groups Muslims and Protestants both came in above the global figure at net positive 60% while Hindus were the least net positive at 24%. It is of note that a large proportion of Hindus surveyed are located in India where in fact net positivity is 19%.

The overall results broken down by religion can be seen here:

Chart 2
Chart 3

The Encyclopedia of Crystals

As you guys may recall, I am a lady that loves me some crystals, gemstones, and minerals. I was excited by the historical insights offered by “A Lapidary of Sacred Stones” by Claude Lecouteux and Isidore Kozminsky’s “Crystals, Jewels, Stones: Magic & Science” but I was downright thrilled to be given access to the practical, revised and expanded edition of, “The Encyclopedia of Crystals” by Judy Hall.

You may recognize Hall’s name as the author of “Crystals and Sacred Sites: Use Crystals to Access the Power of Sacred Landscapes for Personal and Planetary Transformation” that I reviewed here on The Buffet. Well, when Hall isn’t busy proposing new theories on how to use crystals she’s authoring some of the most definitive guides to minerals and gemstones. So why are her books some of the best out there? Glad you asked.

My favorite feature, and the most obvious, is that the crystals are laid out (or listed if you prefer) in the book by color. How great is that? Hey, I have this purple stone and I can’t remember what it is. No problem, I’ll pull out the “Encyclopedia” and flip to the purple section and see what it matches up with. How awesome is that? But I know what stone I want to read about! Again, not a problem. There is an alphabetical crystal index at the front of the book and there is a thorough index in the back of the book as well. There is also a short but very informative introduction that covers everything from basic geology to the chakras.

Each stone is given a fantastic image or two to help with identification. Then they list: crystal system, chemistry, hardness, source, chakra, number, zodiac sign, planet, and what it’s beneficial for. After that there is a paragraph with historical and folkloric detail.

Judy Hall’s “Encyclopedia of Crystals” is an absolute must own for anyone interested in minerals and gemstones. If you’re going to own just one book as a resource on crystals, this is the one.

Moonlight Tarot’s Question Corner: Mystical Answers to Mundane Inquiries

By Angela Kaufman, Moonlight Tarot LLC

Choice liberating yet can be overwhelming. If you have ever had equal parts craving for Chinese food and Italian, then you know that ambivalence can feel like a pull in two directions that seem equally satisfying, or at least equally carb loaded. This month’s Querent is looking to intuitive guidance to make a decision that looms larger than simply deciding what to have for dinner, but nevertheless has her feeling conflicted. A woman we will call Rhoda asks for guidance in making a time sensitive decision about selecting her future home. She is choosing between a big apartment complex, and a smaller option. Having never met Rhoda personally, I have no insight into her preference for housing styles. For intuition’s sake, this is a good thing, as the reading can then come direct from Spirit and not my meddling mind trying to think about the best match.

The first impression for Rhoda is the location that seems smaller, more family friendly and feels like a suburban or rural setting, yards, near a small body of water. It feels like a more comfortable and rustic atmosphere. The first card to appear is the 10 of Cups and the scene portrayed in this card matches my impression- a country setting, family together in a yard, and a generally friendly intimate atmosphere. Already I feel the smaller option is more like home for Rhoda. I then get the sense she will sign paperwork with a woman soon, she will make a decision about which she is confident. I get the sense that some initial hesitation presents around a lease of a year or being locked in for a year time with money being tight. The indication I get is that this will be a happy, positive experience and that with careful planning she will make the finances work. Other images I see when doing this reading are a wagon wheel and a grey stone wall, so these may be features associated with this home or as symbols the wheel represents change and movement and the stone wall would be security.

This impression is confirmed by the presence of the Sun and Hanged Man cards, both Major Arcana, suggesting valuable developmental lessons are underway in this transition. I feel the Hanged Man presents a prolonged period of about a year in which it feels like finances are a struggle but a valuable lesson is being learned and important experiences surround Rhoda if she can remain open minded to viewing her options from a different angle. This also echoes the sense of fear of being “locked in” to a commitment. While in this transition Rhoda will be fulfilling an obligation and awaiting another transition in about a year.

The Sun card is a very positive indicator. It suggests optimism and an overall sense of joy. I feel like Rhoda will be happiest in the smaller home and will be successful in making the transition work in her benefit with a little perseverance and patience. She will need to “hang in there” when obstacles arise that have her feeling like she is not in total control but the overwhelming feeling is a positive one for this move. It seems like after the lease expires she will once again be making a move and that this stage is an important first step along the way on her journey. I feel like relationships are developed in this phase and peace of mind cultivated.

About This Month’s Deck

Rhoda’s reading was completed using the Rider Waite or Waite-Smith deck. This 78 card 22 Major/56 Minor Arcana deck’s structure and images are universally recognized as quintessential Tarot. The courts consist of Page, Knight, Queen and King for each of four suits, Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles. Traditional elemental associations are Water/Cups, Earth/Pentacles, Wands/Fire, Swords/Air, but esoteric training in areas where Wands are more associated with Air and Swords with Fire can easily adapt these images. Likewise those of pagan faiths may also ascribe a more spiritual connotation to the traditional “earth” association with the pentacles.

The illustrations display allegory in two dimensional settings. All cards are fully illustrated and the pip cards are full scenes as opposed to simply a picture of two swords for the Two of Swords. In addition to this, traditional Tarot numbering, names, outlines, and connection to universal occult systems from astrology to Kabala, numerology, Judeo-Christian and Classical Pagan belief systems make the Rider Waite-Smith deck an excellent tool for developing Tarot enthusiasts and advanced readers alike.

My understanding of the Tarot evolved from Smith’s portrayal of the archetypes but as a reader I needed to adjust my expectations. When I first received these cards I had a difficult time appreciating the messages conveyed through the colors and images as my taste in art at the time favored more complex, layered styles and I initially found Pamela Colman Smith’s art to be flat. The scenic feeling to the cards emerges from Smith’s background in stagecraft as a set designer. In the learning process, one can imagine the characters forming their interactions on a set stage and this image can stimulate intuition and further help the novice interact with the archetypal energies represented in the cards. The symbolism contains enough mundane elements to make easy connections to realistic events and people, so intuitive discernment can easily transport the King to the role of father, boss, CEO etc. Some may take issue with this as the gender roles are defined based on traditional medieval society and other decks have altered this to be more culture/gender sensitive. These limitations can be overcome through accessing intuition to help the reader discern whether the Queen really represents a woman or a man in a more nurturing role etc.

If you are looking for imagery with complex depth or a variety of colors, you may be in for a shock as Smith’s color scheme is basic, with emphasis on primary colors, bold but with a limited spectrum. One way to work with this color scheme is to develop a connection to the colors and the depth of interpretation offered from their meanings. The color scheme makes it easier to focus on specific energies and becomes familiar the way a common brand logo is instantly recognizable. McDonalds, for instance, doesn’t use a full artistic palette, red and yellow work just fine. This deck is also useful for psychic development and study of the occult. I have come to appreciate the fact that the art work is not so elaborate as to be distracting. As for quality, I have had this specific deck 17 years at least and can still shuffle them without fear of damage. The corners show the tiniest bit of wear, however this may be attributed to my choice to store them in a felt bag rather than in a box.

Another step to becoming comfortable with this deck is finding ways to intuitively connect with images that did not emerge from one’s specific religious system. The symbolism in this deck is rich but like good esoteric tools the power is hiding in plain sight. It can be said that this is exactly what magick is, yet when I first saw the cards I was shocked by the “regularity” of the images. So, if you are looking for a deck that screams fantasy/sci fi, this one may fall short of your expectations, or as the Hanged Man suggests, you may need to alter your view and open your mind. The Waite- Smith deck is a timeless classic with much value to a budding or accomplished Tarot reader. Once you are able to see the spiritual influence in an image of a man suspended from a tree by his ankle, finding the magick and mystery in other mundane settings becomes second nature. Luckily I got past my first impression and came to recognize their mystical nature. The symbolism is easy to learn and this is a deck I would recommend for beginning Tarot students as it is referenced in most Tarot books.

This is also a great deck to use when conducting face to face readings as the images are illustrative without being grotesque. It is also helpful that the settings are medieval so as to provide a basis for explaining the symbolic quality of cards. Just as an audience watching a play, even the difficult scenes are close enough to home to evoke emotional response, but distant enough to be seen as part of a greater story line. This can be very important when a client is nervous about getting a “bad” reading.

I chose this deck because Rhoda’s question was straight to the point and this deck is the common currency of Tarot, and the deck I learned on 17 years ago. For me this deck represents “straight talk” from Spirit and in spite of my initial response to the cards as looking “too mundane” I now find it very helpful to use this deck for exactly the purpose of getting the clear picture of daily life issues. To contrast, I have other decks whose imagery I favor much more artistically but that I don’t view as being as reliable a tool for concrete guidance because they speak to me on a level of higher vibration and in a lens that promotes more spiritual concepts with less anchoring in worldly affairs. It can be said that both aspects carry a connected virtue- that what is spiritual is mundane and vice versa, and I would agree with this, yet in receiving the messages from Spirit and conveying them to a client with greatest ease when practical matters are involved this deck is my universal “taking care of business” deck.

Best of luck to Rhoda as her new life takes shape in this idyllic setting. Remember no matter where you choose to settle down in accordance with NYS law all readings are intended for entertainment purposes only and not substitution for financial, legal, or medical advice.

Interested in being the Querent in next month’s column? Contact Angela at

This month’s Tarot reading was conducted using the traditional Rider Waite deck. For more information on this deck, please visit This deck was created by A.E Waite and Pamela Colman Smith and is currently under copyright by US Games Inc, 2012-14.

About Angela Kaufman:
Angela Kaufman has been exploring divination through Tarot cards for over a decade. She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and formed Moonlight Tarot in 2009 which would become Moonlight Tarot LLC in 2010. Angela uses the Tarot and intuition to assist clients in exploring personal growth and development, and in accordance with New York State Law offers readings for entertainment purposes. Angela began providing readings on a professional, “Moonlighting” basis in order to provide affordable readings to those seeking guidance, inspiration and fun. Angela is also co-author of the new book “Wicca, What’s the Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions.” (Schiffer Publishing, 2011) and Sacred Objects, Sacred Space; Everyday Tools for the Modern Day Witch (Schiffer Publishing 2013). For more information on services offered by Moonlight Tarot LLC, visit

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For more related to Tarot and Wicca, check out: Wicca, What’s the Real Deal? At

Want a chance to get a live Tarot Reading? Check out for listing of Tarot events at Café Nola in Schenectady NY!

The Daemon Tarot

Calling Ariana Osborne’s “The Daemon Tarot” a tarot is giving it far too little credit. Osborne based the set of 69 cards on Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy’s “Dictionnaire Infernal”. As you would suspect, that’s French for “Infernal Dictionary”. The book itself, we learn from Osborne’s introduction, has a bit of history itself. The Dictionary was originally published in France in the 1818 when Collin de Plancy was a demonologist. The book at that time was filled with magic and the idea of using skepticism instead of superstition when making decisions. Then in the 1830’s Collin de Plancy converted to Catholicism and in 1863 a sixth edition of the Dictionary was published that reflected his new beliefs. Essentially, demons became demonic.

Enter Osborne who gets her hands on a copy of this late edition of the Dictionary. She comments that the art, done by Luis Breton, really speaks to her because although the creatures portrayed “are clearly inhuman, their strangeness does not make them appear terrible.” And Osborne sharing that really struck me, and that’s when I was ready to look at these cards with fresh, unbiased eyes.

Like all tarot sets, each card has its own entry in the companion book. The entry is broken into three sections: Annotation provides information on the subject and includes research from the Dictionary and more, Inspiration shows Osborne’s interpretations and insights into the subject of each card, and Divination, since the cards don’t follow a traditional tarot deck format this section gives focused meanings that can be used in spreads. Osborne suggests using a one card draw or a six-card spread that she describes with this deck.

Ariana Osborne's The Daemon Tarot

With all the information contained in the 142 page book, and the classic artwork on the 69 card set, “The Daemon Tarot” is an excellent reference tool, not just a divination tool. At a suggested retail price of $19.95 everyone should own it. Seriously.

Geek Month in Review: March 2014

By JB Sanders

Is it spring yet?

Abstract Art or Model City?
Very cool, very large model of a city — any city. See the 1,100 cars whiz by, the trains, and watch it all in the reflective mirror windows of the skyscrapers.

More details

Floating Cities That Eat Icebergs
Seriously. A couple of French architecture students have plans to create a floating city, population around 800, that lives by eating icebergs that break off from the Arctic.

Secret Structures
See 7 different things built in secret that will just blow your mind, or so this Cracked article claims. Yes, another Cracked article. Coolest thing? Some guy, and his friends, built a massive series of underground temples based on the guy’s dream. When he was ten. And it looks … amazing.

Free Speech
Not as in rights, as in a visual map-based method of communication that doesn’t involve language (or not exactly). It uses pictures instead of words, and then graphical relationships to convey things like time and pronouns. Simpler than it sounds, and far more complicated. It was developed originally as a way for children with autism to communicate — an iPad app takes their strung together images, and converts them into computer speech. Boom, communication. The creator of Free Speech also reckons that it could be used to allow people to learn languages better and faster than traditional methods. Check out his TED talk.

Check out their software here

That’s Not a Watch, It’s an Astronomical Clock
So this Parisian watchmaker has created a watch that shows the orbital positions of the 6 closest planets on its face, as well as telling time. Each of the planets is done in a different precious or semi-precious gem, and you can even set a “lucky day” so that when Earth reaches that point in it’s orbit, you’ll know it’s your lucky day. And all for the low-low price of $245,000. It does look swell.

Steampunk, LEGO(tm), Walking Ship
I think that hits three or four Geek Points. Watch the video to see a very cool use of LEGOs and the remote control.

Food in Tolkien’s Books — With Recipes!
An in-depth article, discussing where Tolkien got his inspirations from (in terms of food), and with splendid links to recipes you can make yourself. It’s literary criticism, history, and food.

First Cybathlon in 2016
A bunch of Swiss robotics firms are set to hold the First Cybathlon in 2016, an event like the Olympics, but for athletes who use advanced prosthetics or other assistive devices. Cyber-doping is encouraged!
Among the events are competitors piloting a virtual plane, using only a brain-device interface (no hands or other operative limbs!); the functional electrical stimulation bicycling race, where athletes with spinal cord injuries use an interface to pedal the bike; a prosthetics leg race; a powered exoskeleton race; a powered wheelchair race; and an arm prosthetic race.
There are no rules limiting the use of technology. If you can build a better prosthetic limb, exoskeleton, or wheelchair — do!

How Big?
Want to see a quick discussion of how big the universe is? It’s like an animated bit of Cosmos. Then they start talking about the multiverse, parallels worlds with different laws of physics, and it all just combines to make your head explode. But in a fun way.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: