Recently in Facts vs. Faith Category
In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
They had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were “silently longing” for Christianity, he said.
At this point, it's safe to say the National Park Service is stonewalling. There is a book called The Grand Canyon: A Different View, written from a young earth creationist perspective, which the NPS has approved for sale in its bookstores. It is a truly appalling piece of crap …
As Mark says: "When interpreters, scientists, and teachers can no longer speak scientifically verifiable truth without fear of reprisal, we are in serious trouble indeed."
The strobe lights pulse and the air vibrates to a killer rock beat. Giant screens show mayhem and gross-out pranks: a car wreck, a sucker punch, a flabby (and naked) rear end, sealed with duct tape.
Brad Stine runs onstage in ripped blue jeans, his shirt untucked, his long hair shaggy. He's a stand-up comic by trade, but he's here today as an evangelist, on a mission to build up a new Christian man — one profanity at a time. "It's the wuss-ification of America that's getting us!" screeches Stine, 46.
A moment later he adds a fervent: "Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!"
And what kind of cajones does Jesus deliver:
SUCH in-your-face aggression at first troubles Howard Stephenson, who paid $68 for a day at GodMen in hopes of forging friendships with other Christian men. When Stine, a born-again Christian, shouts that it's OK to cuss — and then demonstrates with a defiant "bull...." — Stephenson shifts uneasily.
"This is so extreme for me," he says.
A few weeks later, Stephenson, 43, is still not sold on profanity. But he has ditched the nice-guy reflex of always turning the other cheek. When he spots a Wal-Mart clerk writing "Happy Holidays" on a window, he boldly complains: It should say "Merry Christmas."
The clerk erases the offending greeting. Chalk one up for Christian testosterone.
"I wouldn't have done that before," Stephenson says proudly. "I am no longer a doormat."
What a man!
It has come to this. Not putting one's hand on the judeo-christian myth book when being sworn into office "undermines American civilization".
From conservative nutjob Dennis Prager:
Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.
He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.
First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.
Just imagine if these days an athiest was elected and tried to "affirm" as in the constitutionally required:
I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
… or even, object to the "So help me God" part.
They would try to run him/her out on a rail …
UPDATE 11/30/06: Prager is even more of a gasbag. Via ThinkProgress:
… the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives never includes a religious book. The Office of the House Clerk confirmed to ThinkProgress that the swearing-in ceremony consists only of the Members raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution. The Clerk spokesperson said neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, had ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony.
The whole Armor of God Pajama set will help your children to depend on God to protect them from their fears, doubts, and uncertainties at night so their sleep can be restful and peaceful.
You really have to go to this site just for the sheer kitsch high that you will get. Those rising clouds are just too great!
Satin has kind of always has creeped me out anyway.
Onward christian business!
Credit to the always valuable Cruel Site of the Day.
The popularity of The Da Vinci Code is a shocking indication of both mass ignorance and the "voluptuous pleasure" the media take in promoting works with no basis in truth, the Vatican's culture minister says.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, on Monday told Europe 1 radio he had no objection to people seeing the film if they understand it is fiction, but many would watch this "nonsense" and think that it was true.
I think that stuff like The Da Vinci Code is trash too, but is it any trashier when compared to the "basis in truth" of the Bible?
Believing that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday. Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.
I didn't know that the Vatican had or even needed an astronomer, but at least his head is partially screwed on straight.
The second post every written on this blog was about Sam Harris' book The End of Faith. He recently published an article in the Buddhist culture magazine Shambhala Sun, positing that "Buddhism’s philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion".
What the world most needs at this moment is a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the species as their moral community. For this we need to develop an utterly nonsectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration. We need a discourse on ethics and spirituality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourse of science is. What we need, in fact, is a contemplative science, a modern approach to exploring the furthest reaches of psychological well-being. It should go without saying that we will not develop such a science by attempting to spread “American Buddhism,” or “Western Buddhism,” or “Engaged Buddhism.”
If the methodology of Buddhism (ethical precepts and meditation) uncovers genuine truths about the mind and the phenomenal world—truths like emptiness, selflessness, and impermanence—these truths are not in the least “Buddhist.” No doubt, most serious practitioners of meditation realize this, but most Buddhists do not. Consequently, even if a person is aware of the timeless and noncontingent nature of the meditative insights described in the Buddhist literature, his identity as a Buddhist will tend to confuse the matter for others.
There is a reason that we don’t talk about “Christian physics” or “Muslim algebra,” though the Christians invented physics as we know it, and the Muslims invented algebra. Today, anyone who emphasizes the Christian roots of physics or the Muslim roots of algebra would stand convicted of not understanding these disciplines at all. In the same way, once we develop a scientific account of the contemplative path, it will utterly transcend its religious associations. Once such a conceptual revolution has taken place, speaking of “Buddhist” meditation will be synonymous with a failure to assimilate the changes that have occurred in our understanding of the human mind.
It is as yet undetermined what it means to be human, because every facet of our culture—and even our biology itself—remains open to innovation and insight. We do not know what we will be a thousand years from now—or indeed that we will be, given the lethal absurdity of many of our beliefs—but whatever changes await us, one thing seems unlikely to change: as long as experience endures, the difference between happiness and suffering will remain our paramount concern. We will therefore want to understand those processes—biochemical, behavioral, ethical, political, economic, and spiritual—that account for this difference. We do not yet have anything like a final understanding of such processes, but we know enough to rule out many false understandings. Indeed, we know enough at this moment to say that the God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.
There is much more to be discovered about the nature of the human mind. In particular, there is much more for us to understand about how the mind can transform itself from a mere reservoir of greed, hatred, and delusion into an instrument of wisdom and compassion. Students of the Buddha are very well placed to further our understanding on this front, but the religion of Buddhism currently stands in our way.
Given my previous post today about the troubling lack of acceptance of atheism in American culture, Harris continues to bravely expound his ideas that religion has dangerously outlived any usefulness it may ever have had, and promotes the concept of living a rational, non-delusional life that still has many questions, and yes, mysteries, to be asked about and searched for.
According to new University of Minnesota study atheists are identified as America's most distrusted minority:
American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.
From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.
Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.
You kind of know what's coming from the (photshopped) picture, but fasten your seat belts.
From the jaw dropping, amazing, disgusting ... adjectives escape me article by one Adele Fergusen titled Why do blacks continue to support Democrats?:
One of these days before I die, I hope to see a shift in the attitudes of so many of my black brothers and sisters in this great country we share, from perpetual victimhood, to pride in their achievements on the road from slave to American citizen.
Remember Ronald Reagan's story about the kid who had to shovel a huge pile of manure? He went about it with such joy he was asked why and said, "With all that manure, there's got to be a pony in there somewhere."
The pony hidden in slavery is the fact that it was the ticket to America for black people.
Really, read the whole thing, if you dare. And of course, read The General's manly response.
Tip o' the ET chapeau to Catherine.
Moving to Canada
I brought up one of my favorite forced birth conundrums the other day, guaranteed to make wingnut "life begins at conception" heads explode. If a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you can only save a petri dish with five blastulae or a two-year old child, which do you save?
What would any sane person do? Well ... click through to the post and listen to the audio clip of a right wing talk show host "struggling" with the question.
What happens when a religion gets the rug pulled out from under it?
From the LA Times Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted:
From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago. "We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people," said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. "It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God."
A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East. "I've gone through stages," he said. "Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness." For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error.
The Church responds:
Officially, the Mormon Church says that nothing in the Mormon scriptures is incompatible with DNA evidence, and that the genetic studies are being twisted to attack the church.
"We would hope that church members would not simply buy into the latest DNA arguments being promulgated by those who oppose the church for some reason or other," said Michael Otterson, a Salt Lake City-based spokesman for the Mormon church.
As with all of the major faiths that rely on the literalism of their text, Mormonism has always been a suspect, as if they all aren't, but the Book of Mormon is particularly galling. From the article:
The book's narrative focuses on a tribe of Jews who sailed from Jerusalem to the New World in 600 BC and split into two main warring factions.
The God-fearing Nephites were "pure" (the word was officially changed from "white" in 1981) and "delightsome." The idol-worshiping Lamanites received the "curse of blackness," turning their skin dark.
According to the Book of Mormon, by 385 AD the dark-skinned Lamanites had wiped out other Hebrews. The Mormon church called the victors "the principal ancestors of the American Indians." If the Lamanites returned to the church, their skin could once again become white.
Lovely folks, huh?
First NASA has a press officer, now resigned under pressure, who tried to insists that the word "theory" be inserted everytime NASA mentions the big bang and now they try and suppress the idea that someday the Sun may go out.
In a different example of spinning science news last month, NASA headquarters removed a reference to the future death of the sun from a press release about the discovery of comet dust around a distant star known as a white dwarf. A white dwarf, a shrunken dense cinder about the size of earth, is how our own sun is fated to spend eternity, astronomers say, about five billion years from now, once it has burned its fuel.
"We are seeing the ghost of a star that was once a lot like our sun," said Marc Kuchner of the Goddard Space Flight Center. In a statement that was edited out of the final news release he went on to say, "I cringed when I saw the data because it probably reflects the grim but very distant future of our own planets and solar system."
An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, "NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and gloom scenarios." Never mind that the death of the sun has been a staple of astronomy textbooks for 50 years.
From the NY Times article Someday the Sun Will Go Out and the World Will End (but Don't Tell Anyone).
Today is the 197th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth.
From the Los Angeles Times:
WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.
"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"
The children roared their assent.
"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.
"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"
The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
A former high-school biology teacher, Ham travels the nation training children as young as 5 to challenge science orthodoxy. He doesn't engage in the political and legal fights that have erupted over the teaching of evolution. His strategy is more subtle: He aims to give people who trust the biblical account of creation the confidence to defend their views — aggressively.
Last month I watch a three part Frontline documentary on PBS called Country Boys. It was a scary look into the lives of two teenage Appalachian boys struggling to grow up and survive amidst poverty. One of the most shocking things in the film were the classroom sessions where teachers blatantly expressed their religious viewpoints. It was shocking to me, but as I always have to remind myself, that the vast majority of this country accepts and promotes fundamentalism without question.
I took the quiz and frankly the results are right in some ways and very wrong in other, but it was fun anyway. How about you?
Excuse us, could you just put down that hammer for a minute and listen. You’re so busy getting things done you rarely take any time out just to relax. In fact, you’ve probably forgotten how to relax. That’s because you’re so anxious to prove that it’s possible to lead a good and moral life without religion that you have built a strict and forbidding creed all of your own.
You keep a compost heap, cycle to the bottle bank, invest in ethical schemes only and the list of countries you won’t buy from is longer than the washing line for your baby’s towelling nappies. You admire uncompromising self–sacrificers like Aung San Suu Kyi and Che Guevara, and would have liked the chance to be incarcerated for your principles like Diderot or Nelson Mandela.
You would never cheat on your partner, drink and drive, accept bribes or touch drugs. You never waste money though you give lots to charity. Living a good life? You’re a model to us all. But it wouldn’t hurt you to try a little happiness once in a while. Loosen up.
What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.
After all ... every word of the bible is true.
via Jesus' General
Bonus pontification from Pat Robertson:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city."
PZ Myers, an associate professor of biology at Univerity of Minnesota at Morris, has a great blog, Pharyngula that today points me to a technique that may be the only reasonable way to resolve the "debate".
Moderator: We're here today to debate the hot new topic, evolution versus Intelligent Des---
(Scientist pulls out baseball bat.)
Moderator: Hey, what are you doing?
(Scientist breaks Intelligent Design advocate's kneecap.)
Intelligent Design advocate: YEAAARRRRGGGHHHH! YOU BROKE MY KNEECAP!
Scientist: Perhaps it only appears that I broke your kneecap. Certainly, all the evidence points to the hypothesis I broke your kneecap. For example, your kneecap is broken; it appears to be a fresh wound; and I am holding a baseball bat, which is spattered with your blood. However, a mere preponderance of evidence doesn't mean anything. Perhaps your kneecap was designed that way. Certainly, there are some features of the current situation that are inexplicable according to the "naturalistic" explanation you have just advanced, such as the exact contours of the excruciating pain that you are experiencing right now.
Here's the full "debate": The Abstract Factory: The only debate on Intelligent Design that is worthy of its subject.
From The Times of London:
Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.
According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.
In the book the Dalai Lama states:
My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.
Now there is a belief system I can get behind! I have bought the book and perhaps my own review is forthcoming on this site.
Jesus came upon a small crowd who had surrounded a young woman they believed to be an adulteress. They were preparing to stone her to death. Jesus said: “Whoever is without sin among you, let them cast the first stone.”
An old lady at the back of the crowd picked up a huge rock and lobbed it at the young woman, scoring a direct hit on her head. The young lady collapsed dead.
Jesus looked over towards the old lady and said: “Do you know, mother, sometimes you really p*** me off.”
At least some of these folks have a sense of humor.
For more laughs, follow the link:
First off, Bush's tour of the affected areas can be summed up by his patented arrogance and lack of sensitivity when he "joked":
The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)
Next, I first hesitated to post this as it looked to be too much of a hoax, but as you will see from the last item in this post, sadly, these people live among us:
New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."
Dr. Daniel C. Dennett published an op-ed piece in the Week in Review section of the NY times on August 28th titled Show Me The Science which illuminates the Intelligent Design "controversy". Here is a link to the essay at The Edge (a site that does not require registration as the Times does).
Dennett states in the essay:
... the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.
Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. "Smith's work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat," you say, misrepresenting Smith's work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: "See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms." And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.
Since there is no content, there is no "controversy'' to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrated?
Dr. Dennett is a Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. He is also prolific author of fascinating books including Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
Update - September 1, 2005:
In Dr. Dennett's piece he stated:
Instead of spending more than $1 million a year on publishing books and articles for non-scientists and on other public relations efforts, the Discovery Institute should finance its own peer-reviewed electronic journal.
This raised a question about the purported peer-reviewed publications on the Discovery Institute's site. I queried Dr. Dennett about these references and he has graciously allowed me to quote his response:
"The list they provide is informative—and pathetic. Less than a dozen papers, some not very recent, and none in good journals, and mostly on minor and dubious points. And insofar as anybody has responded to them, it has been to point out the errors in them. Their entire output in the last decade is less than the peer-reviewed publications that many a good scientist racks up in a year. "
The Association of Christian Schools International, which represents more than 800 schools, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming UC admissions officials have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution. Other rejected courses include "Christianity's Influence in American History."
Yep, those kids will show up at UC with all the tools they need ...
The End Of Faith by Sam Harris is a profound book for me. This quote from Natalie Angier in the NY Times well sums up how I felt while reading it:
“The End of Faith articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood… Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America… This in an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason.”
In today's world, particularly in the US, it is becoming a dangerous thing, not to believe. The similarity in goals of the "faith-based" movement in the US and the government structure that appears to be emerging in Iraq are all too close in the way that those in power seek to impose their beliefs on their respective societies. Harris' book promotes rational thinking about the complexity of life, morality and other issues without having to resort to blind-faith and un-provable assertions while still honoring the wonder and preciousness of life and the universe.