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Cleaning off the desktop, part 2: Duck Amok
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Published Sunday, December 22, 2013 @ 8:45 PM EST
Dec 22 2013


The real Duck Dynasty.

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Categories: Church and State, Civil Rights, Cleaning off the desktop, Duck Dynasty, First Amendment, Religion


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Current events
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Published Saturday, June 29, 2013 @ 12:36 AM EDT
Jun 29 2013

The Family Research Council is either adorably oblivious,
or their PR outfit is just plain evil.


Variations on a theme:




When this man smiles, a fairy dies:


Speaking of smiles:


(YouTube video: formerly captive ducks see water for the first time).


Categories: Animals, Cartoons, Church and State, Politics, Religion, Supreme Court, The New Yorker, Video, YouTube


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Signs of the Apocalypse, #907: The Mark of Motorola
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Published Saturday, June 01, 2013 @ 3:29 PM EDT
Jun 01 2013

Motorola shows off tattoo and swallowable password hardware

Mobe manufacturer playing long game for end times
By Iain Thomson in San Francisco

Motorola has shown off an electronic authentication tattoo and an FDA-approved pill that uses the body to transmit passwords, and says it wants to see a new generation of smartphones geared towards such wearable- or edible- technology.

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One marketing problem Motorola may not have anticipated is the reaction of biblical literalists to its wearable authentication systems

A surprising number of people in the US still adhere to an apparent literal translation of the current version of the Bible. These include Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse blood transfusions and shun those who take them, to those who look to the finale of the New Testament: The Book of Revelation- or, for you believers of the Catholic persuasion, The Apocalypse.

The text, thought to be written about 60 years after the biblical death of Christ, is regarded as either a description of the end times of humanity, a satirical pastiche on the increasingly subverted tenants of Christian bureaucracy, or a really bad mushroom trip on a Greek island. Nevertheless it contains the following warning:

"It causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666."

Be reassured that the majority of people of faith in the US and elsewhere aren't quite so inflexible. Those that aren't may be shrill, particularly in the US, but do not form a representative sample of Christianity.

(Click for full article.)


Categories: Religion, Signs of the Apocalypse, Technology


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Sermon of the day
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Published Friday, May 24, 2013 @ 6:00 AM EDT
May 24 2013

(91 years later, and this sermon is probably even more valid today.)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 - October 5, 1969) was an American pastor. Fosdick became a central figure in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy within American Protestantism in the 1920s and 1930s and was one of the most prominent liberal ministers of the early 20th Century. Although a Baptist, he was guest preacher in New York City at First Presbyterian Church on West Twelfth Street and then at the historic, interdenominational Riverside Church. (Click for full Wikipedia article).

"Shall the Fundamentalists Win?": Defending Liberal Protestantism in the 1920s

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Urban as well as rural Americans flocked to fundamentalist and evangelical churches in the 1920s. "Liberal" Protestants sought to reconcile faith and science and to slow what they saw as the reactionary tendencies of fundamentalism. Harry Emerson Fosdick's influential 1922 sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?," called for an open-minded, intellectual, and tolerant "Christian fellowship." Though the sermon cost him his post at New York's First Presbyterian Church, his views represented those of an influential Protestant minority, and Fosdick enjoyed a long career at Riverside Church, built for him by John D. Rockefeller. Following the Scopes trial and a well-publicized scandal involving well-known pastor Aimee Semple McPherson and a mysterious lover, fundamentalists began to lose the prominence they enjoyed in the 1920s. But religious fundamentalism would remain a vital political force in American life.

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This morning we are to think of the fundamentalist controversy which threatens to divide the American churches as though already they were not sufficiently split and riven. A scene, suggestive for our thought, is depicted in the fifth chapter of the Book of the Acts, where the Jewish leaders hale before them Peter and other of the apostles because they had been preaching Jesus as the Messiah. Moreover, the Jewish leaders propose to slay them, when in opposition Gamaliel speaks "Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God."...

Already all of us must have heard about the people who call themselves the Fundamentalists. Their apparent intention is to drive out of the evangelical churches men and women of liberal opinions. I speak of them the more freely because there are no two denominations more affected by them than the Baptist and the Presbyterian. We should not identify the Fundamentalists with the conservatives. All Fundamentalists are conservatives, but not all conservatives are Fundamentalists. The best conservatives can often give lessons to the liberals in true liberality of spirit, but the Fundamentalist program is essentially illiberal and intolerant.

The Fundamentalists see, and they see truly, that in this last generation there have been strange new movements in Christian thought. A great mass of new knowledge has come into man's possession— new knowledge about the physical universe, its origin, its forces, its laws; new knowledge about human history and in particular about the ways in which the ancient peoples used to think in matters of religion and the methods by which they phrased and explained their spiritual experiences; and new knowledge, also, about other religions and the strangely similar ways in which men's faiths and religious practices have developed everywhere...

Now, there are multitudes of reverent Christians who have been unable to keep this new knowledge in one compartment of their minds and the Christian faith in another. They have been sure that all truth comes from the one God and is His revelation. Not, therefore, from irreverence or caprice or destructive zeal but for the sake of intellectual and spiritual integrity, that they might really love the Lord their God, not only with all their heart and soul and strength but with all their mind, they have been trying to see this new knowledge in terms of the Christian faith and to see the Christian faith in terms of this new knowledge.

Doubtless they have made many mistakes. Doubtless there have been among them reckless radicals gifted with intellectual ingenuity but lacking spiritual depth. Yet the enterprise itself seems to them indispensable to the Christian Church. The new knowledge and the old faith cannot be left antagonistic or even disparate, as though a man on Saturday could use one set of regulative ideas for his life and on Sunday could change gear to another altogether. We must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms, and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian faith clear through in modern terms.

There is nothing new about the situation. It has happened again and again in history, as, for example, when the stationary earth suddenly began to move and the universe that had been centered in this planet was centered in the sun around which the planets whirled. Whenever such a situation has arisen, there has been only one way out— the new knowledge and the old faith had to be blended in a new combination. Now, the people in this generation who are trying to do this are the liberals, and the Fundamentalists are out on a campaign to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship. Shall they be allowed to succeed?

It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration—that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement— that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner; and that we must believe in the second coming of our Lord upon the clouds of heaven to set up a millennium here, as the only way in which God can bring history to a worthy denouement. Such are some of the stakes which are being driven to mark a deadline of doctrine around the church.

If a man is a genuine liberal, his primary protest is not against holding these opinions, although he may well protest against their being considered the fundamentals of Christianity. This is a free country and anybody has a right to hold these opinions or any others if he is sincerely convinced of them. The question is— Has anybody a right to deny the Christian name to those who differ with him on such points and to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship? The Fundamentalists say that this must be done. In this country and on the foreign field they are trying to do it. They have actually endeavored to put on the statute books of a whole state binding laws against teaching modern biology. If they had their way, within the church, they would set up in Protestantism a doctrinal tribunal more rigid than the pope's.

In such an hour, delicate and dangerous, when feelings are bound to run high, I plead this morning the cause of magnanimity and liberality and tolerance of spirit. I would, if I could reach their ears, say to the Fundamentalists about the liberals what Gamaliel said to the Jews, "Refrain from these men and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be everthrown; but if it is of God ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God."

That we may be entirely candid and concrete and may not lose ourselves in any fog of generalities, let us this morning take two or three of these Fundamentalist items and see with reference to them what the situation is in the Christian churches. Too often we preachers have failed to talk frankly enough about the differences of opinion which exist among evangelical Christians, although everybody knows that they are there. Let us face this morning some of the differences of opinion with which somehow we must deal.

We may well begin with the vexed and mooted question of the virgin birth of our Lord. I know people in the Christian churches, ministers, missionaries, laymen, devoted lovers of the Lord and servants of the Gospel, who, alike as they are in their personal devotion to the Master, hold quite different points of view about a matter like the virgin birth. Here, for example, is one point of view that the virgin birth is to be accepted as historical fact; it actually happened; there was no other way for a personality like the Master to come into this world except by a special biological miracle. That is one point of view, and many are the gracious and beautiful souls who hold it. But side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact... So far from thinking that they have given up anything vital in the New Testament's attitude toward Jesus, these Christians remember that the two men who contributed most to the Church's thought of the divine meaning of the Christ were Paul and John, who never even distantly allude to the virgin birth.

Here in the Christian churches are these two groups of people and the question which the Fundamentalists raise is this— Shall one of them throw the other out? Has intolerance any contribution to make to this situation? Will it persuade anybody of anything? Is not the Christian Church large enough to hold within her hospitable fellowship people who differ on points like this and agree to differ until the fuller truth be manifested? The Fundamentalists say not. They say the liberals must go. Well, if the Fundamentalists should succeed, then out of the Christian Church would go some of the best Christian life and consecration of this generation—multitudes of men and women, devout and reverent Christians, who need the church and whom the church needs.

Consider another matter on which there is a sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the inspiration of the Bible. One point of view is that the original documents of the Scripture were inerrantly dictated by God to men. Whether we deal with the story of creation or the list of the dukes of Edom or the narratives of Solomon's reign or the Sermon on the Mount or the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, they all came in the same way, and they all came as no other book ever came. They were inerrantly dictated; everything there— scientific opinions, medical theories, historical judgments, as well as spiritual insight— is infallible. That is one idea of the Bible's inspiration. But side by side with those who hold it, lovers of the Book as much as they, are multitudes of people who never think about the Bible so. Indeed, that static and mechanical theory of inspiration seems to them a positive peril to the spiritual life...

Here in the Christian Church today are these two groups, and the question which the Fundamentalists have raised is this— Shall one of them drive the other out? Do we think the cause of Jesus Christ will be furthered by that? If He should walk through the ranks of his congregation this morning, can we imagine Him claiming as His own those who hold one idea of inspiration and sending from Him into outer darkness those who hold another? You cannot fit the Lord Christ into that Fundamentalist mold. The church would better judge His judgment. For in the Middle West the Fundamentalists have had their way in some communities and a Christian minister tells us the consequences. He says that the educated people are looking for their religion outside the churches.

Consider another matter upon which there is a serious and sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the second coming of our Lord. The second coming was the early Christian phrasing of hope. No one in the ancient world had ever thought, as we do, of development, progress, gradual change as God's way of working out His will in human life and institutions. They thought of human history as a series of ages succeeding one another with abrupt suddenness. The Graeco-Roman world gave the names of metals to the ages— gold, silver, bronze, iron. The Hebrews had their ages, too— the original Paradise in which man began, the cursed world in which man now lives, the blessed Messianic kingdom someday suddenly to appear on the clouds of heaven. It was the Hebrew way of expressing hope for the victory of God and righteousness. When the Christians came they took over that phrasing of expectancy and the New Testament is aglow with it. The preaching of the apostles thrills with the glad announcement, "Christ is coming!"

In the evangelical churches today there are differing views of this matter. One view is that Christ is literally coming, externally, on the clouds of heaven, to set up His kingdom here. I never heard that teaching in my youth at all. It has always had a new resurrection when desperate circumstances came and man's only hope seemed to lie in divine intervention. It is not strange, then, that during these chaotic, catastrophic years there has been a fresh rebirth of this old phrasing of expectancy. "Christ is coming!" seems to many Christians the central message of the Gospel. In the strength of it some of them are doing great service for the world. But, unhappily, many so overemphasize it that they outdo anything the ancient Hebrews or the ancient Christians ever did. They sit still and do nothing and expect the world to grow worse and worse until He comes.

Side by side with these to whom the second coming is a literal expectation, another group exists in the evangelical churches. They, too, say, "Christ is coming!" They say it with all their hearts; but they are not thinking of an external arrival on the clouds. They have assimilated as part of the divine revelation the exhilarating insight which these recent generations have given to us, that development is God's way of working out His will...

And these Christians, when they say that Christ is coming, mean that, slowly it may be, but surely, His will and principles will be worked out by God's grace in human life and institutions, until "He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied."

These two groups exist in the Christian churches and the question raised by the Fundamentalists is— Shall one of them drive the other out? Will that get us anywhere? Multitudes of young men and women at this season of the year are graduating from our schools of learning, thousands of them Christians who may make us older ones ashamed by the sincerity of their devotion to God's will on earth. They are not thinking in ancient terms that leave ideas of progress out. They cannot think in those terms. There could be no greater tragedy than that the Fundamentalists should shut the door of the Christian fellowship against such.

I do not believe for one moment that the Fundamentalists are going to succeed. Nobody's intolerance can contribute anything to the solution of the situation which we have described. If, then, the Fundamentalists have no solution of the problem, where may we expect to find it? In two concluding comments let us consider our reply to that inquiry.

The first element that is necessary is a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty. When will the world learn that intolerance solves no problems? This is not a lesson which the Fundamentalists alone need to learn; the liberals also need to learn it. Speaking, as I do, from the viewpoint of liberal opinions, let me say that if some young, fresh mind here this morning is holding new ideas, has fought his way through, it may be by intellectual and spiritual struggle, to novel positions, and is tempted to be intolerant about old opinions, offensively to condescend to those who hold them and to be harsh in judgment on them, he may well remember that people who held those old opinions have given the world some of the noblest character and the most rememberable service that it ever has been blessed with, and that we of the younger generation will prove our case best, not by controversial intolerance, but by producing, with our new opinions, something of the depth and strength, nobility and beauty of character that in other times were associated with other thoughts. It was a wise liberal, the most adventurous man of his day— Paul the Apostle— who said, "Knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up."

Nevertheless, it is true that just now the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of bitter intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen. As one watches them and listens to them he remembers the remark of General Armstrong of Hampton Institute, "Cantankerousness is worse than heterodoxy." There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure whether they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.

As I plead thus for an intellectually hospitable, tolerant, liberty-loving church, I am, of course, thinking primarily about this new generation. We have boys and girls growing up in our homes and schools, and because we love them we may well wonder about the church which will be waiting to receive them. Now, the worst kind of church that can possibly be offered to the allegiance of the new generation is an intolerant church. Ministers often bewail the fact that young people turn from religion to science for the regulative ideas of their lives. But this is easily explicable.

Science treats a young man's mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man, "Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths which we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth." Can you imagine any man who is worthwhile turning from that call to the church if the church seems to him to say, "Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results."

My friends, nothing in all the world is so much worth thinking of as God, Christ, the Bible, sin and salvation, the divine purposes for humankind, life everlasting. But you cannot challenge the dedicated thinking of this generation to these sublime themes upon any such terms as are laid down by an intolerant church.

The second element which is needed if we are to reach a happy solution of this problem is a clear insight into the main issues of modern Christianity and a sense of penitent shame that the Christian Church should be quarreling over little matters when the world is dying of great needs. If, during the war, when the nations were wrestling upon the very brink of hell and at times all seemed lost, you chanced to hear two men in an altercation about some minor matter of sectarian denominationalism, could you restrain your indignation? You said, "What can you do with folks like this who, in the face of colossal issues, play with the tiddledywinks and peccadillos of religion?" So, now, when from the terrific questions of this generation one is called away by the noise of this Fundamentalist controversy, he thinks it almost unforgivable that men should tithe mint and anise and cummin, and quarrel over them, when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith...

The present world situation smells to heaven! And now, in the presence of colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ's name and for Christ's sake, the Fundamentalists propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration. What immeasurable folly!

Well, they are not going to do it; certainly not in this vicinity. I do not even know in this congregation whether anybody has been tempted to be a Fundamentalist. Never in this church have I caught one accent of intolerance. God keep us always so and ever increasing areas of the Christian fellowship; intellectually hospitable, open-minded, liberty-loving, fair, tolerant, not with the tolerance of indifference, as though we did not care about the faith, but because always our major emphasis is upon the weightier matters of the law.

Source: Harry Emerson Fosdick, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" Christian Work 102 (June 10, 1922): 716–722.

(From History Matters)


Categories: Harry Emerson Fosdick, Religion


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Ye of little faith...
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Published Thursday, May 09, 2013 @ 3:56 AM EDT
May 09 2013

(Or, if you prefer, today is the birthday of J.M. Barrie, author of "Peter Pan." See a collection of his quotes here.)

A dead atheist is someone who's all dressed up with no place to go.
-James Duffecy

A little philosophy makes a man an Atheist: a great deal converts him to religion.
-David Hume

All thinking men are atheists.
-Ernest Hemingway

America is a place where Jewish merchants sell Zen love beads to agnostics for Christmas.
-John Burton Brimer

An atheist is one who hopes the Lord will do nothing to disturb his disbelief.
-Franklin P. Jones

Atheism is a necessary condition for emancipation of the mind, but it's not a sufficient one.
-Christopher Hitchens

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
-Unattributed

Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma.
-Sam Harris

Atheism is often merely a variety of Christianity.
-T.S. Eliot

Atheism is really a term we do not need, in the same way that we don't have a word for someone who is not an astrologer.
-Sam Harris

Atheism, like agnosticism and skepticism, can be a dignified posture when it is based on careful reflection and civilly expressed. It should not be mean-spirited. Many of us prefer a kinder and gentler form of secular humanism.
-Paul Kurtz

Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.
-Don Hirschberg

Don't be an agnostic. Be something.
-Robert Frost

Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.
-Christopher Hitchens

God made me an atheist. Who am I to argue with Him?
-Unattributed

He was permitted, without restriction, to speak of himself as immoral, agnostic and socialistic, so long as it was universally known that he remained pure, Presbyterian, and Republican.
-Sinclair Lewis

Hypocrite: a guy who writes a book on atheism and prays that it sells.
-Woody Allen

I am an Agnostic because I am not afraid to think. I am not afraid of any god in the universe who would send me or any other man or woman to hell. If there were such a being, he would not be a god; he would be a devil.
-Clarence Darrow

I am an atheist for moral reasons. I am of the opinion that you would recognize a creator by his creation, and the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created by anyone than to think that somebody created this intentionally.
-Stanislaw Lem

I considered atheism but there weren't enough holidays.
-Unattributed

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
-Stephen Roberts

I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure- that is all that agnosticism means.
-Clarence Darrow

I have heard an atheist defined as a man who had no invisible means of support.
-John Buchan

I think [the Bible] reads as if it were written by men and women, and men and women, as we know, are one-half chromosome away from chimpanzees.
-Christopher Hitchens

I'm a polyatheist- there are many gods I don't believe in.
-Dan Fouts

I'm an atheist and I thank God for it.
-George Bernard Shaw

I`am a very hard-line, angry atheist. Yet I am fascinated by the concept of devotion.
-Joss Whedon

If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color.
-

If God saw the way some Republicans invoked his name, he'd turn atheist.
-Dennis Miller

If I have been wrong in my agnosticism, when I die I'll walk up to God in a manly way and say, Sir, I made an honest mistake.
-H.L. Mencken

If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.
-Isaac Asimov

If the American Atheists Society or Saddam Hussein himself ever sent an unrestricted gift to any of my ministries, be assured I will operate on Billy Sunday's philosophy: The Devil's had it long enough, and quickly cash the check.
-Jerry Falwell

If there is a God, why did He make me an atheist?
-Ricky Gervais

In some awful, strange, paradoxical way, atheists tend to take religion more seriously than the practitioners.
-Jonathan Miller

Maybe the atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.
-Unattributed

Nah, there's no bigger atheist than me. Well, I take that back. I'm a cancer screening away from going agnostic and a biopsy away from full-fledged Christian.
-Adam Corrola

No one is more dangerous than someone who thinks he has the Truth. To be an atheist is almost as arrogant as to be a fundamentalist. But then again, I can get pretty arrogant.
-Tom Lehrer

Not one man in a thousand has the strength of mind or the goodness of heart to be an atheist.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Properly read, it [the Bible] is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
-Isaac Asimov

Religion ends and philosophy begins, just as alchemy ends and chemistry begins and astrology ends, and astronomy begins.
-Christopher Hitchens

Scientists are a friendly, atheistic, hard-working, beer-drinking lot whose minds are preoccupied with sex, chess and baseball when they are not preoccupied with science. (Life of Pi)
-Yann Martel

She was an atheist and I was an agnostic. We didn't know what religion not to bring our children up in.
-Woody Allen

The atheist staring from his attic window is often nearer to God than the believer caught up in his own false image of God.
-Martin Buber

The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.
-Eric Hoffer

The two most evangelical groups in the world are atheists and vegetarians, especially the least knowledgeable and least intelligent individuals within those groups.
-Clark Coleman

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
-Dante Rossetti

"There are no atheists in foxholes" isn't an argument against atheism, it's an argument against foxholes.
-James Morrow

There are no atheists in foxholes.
-William J. Clear

There seem to be only two kinds of people: Those who think that metaphors are facts, and those who know that they are not facts. Those who know they are not facts are what we call atheists, and those who think they are facts are religious. Which group really gets the message?
-Joseph Campbell

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
-Woody Allen

We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
-Richard Dawkins

What do you get when you cross a Jehovah's Witness and an Atheist? Someone who knocks at your door for no apparent reason.
-Stan Kelly-Bootle

When agnostics die, do they go to the Great Maybe?
-Unattributed

When life is so harsh that a man loses all hope in himself, then he raises his eyes to a shining rock, worshipping it, just to find hope again, rather than looking to his own acts for hope and salvation. Yes, atheism is a redemptive belief. It is theism that denies man's own redemptive nature.
-Isaac Asimov

Whenever a reporter is assigned to cover a Methodist conference, he comes home an atheist.
-H.L. Mencken


Categories: Atheism, Quotes on a topic, Religion


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Up to date
(permalink)

Published Monday, March 25, 2013 @ 10:15 PM EDT
Mar 25 2013


Categories: Religion, Twitter


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Popeapalooza!
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Published Thursday, March 14, 2013 @ 7:55 AM EDT
Mar 14 2013


I didn't even know he was Catholic. Oh, wait...

So, a 76 year old Pope with one lung. This will end well.
-Patrick Hyland ‏@uberfiend

You know who should totally be the final arbiter of sexual morality? A 76-year-old man who's never had an orgasm.
-God ‏@TheTweetOfGod

Google Reader died for your pope jokes.
-LOLGOP ‏@LOLGOP

Both Paul Ryan and Pope Francis have a commitment to the poor. But Ryan's commitment is to make more of them.
-LOLGOP ‏@LOLGOP

I think Elvis would have been a good Pope. He was popular and already had the wardrobe...
-John Hoskins ‏@BigJohnHoskins

If white smoke means they picked a new Pope, Uncle Rick's Bonneville has been picking Popes for years.
-Pittsburgh Dad ‏@Pittsburgh_Dad

"New Pope Called Gay Marriage 'Destructive Attack on God's Plan.'" Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
-God ‏@TheTweetOfGod

Somewhere Lou Dobbs is screaming about this Latino who crossed a border to take someone else's Pope job.
-John Fugelsang ‏@JohnFugelsang

I guess I'll see you all guys in the Pope Jokes section of hell.
-LOLGOP ‏@LOLGOP

Now that we have a Pope, we get that hour of sleep back, right?
-LOLGOP ‏@LOLGOP

Pope being showed his new office. "This is your computer, Holy Father. Pick a password, don't make it Jesus. Everyone picks Jesus."
-pourmecoffee ‏@pourmecoffee

The new Pope came out on the balcony, saw his shadow, and realized there was six more centuries of scandals.
-Albert Brooks ‏@AlbertBrooks

Most awkward part of conclave is now when Cardinals check out and have to authorize in-room entertainment charges.
-pourmecoffee ‏@pourmecoffee

The Pope finished his speech. So refreshing he didn't thank his agent.
-Elayne Boosler ‏@ElayneBoosler

I’m not even Catholic, and I can solidly get behind a Pope Frank.
-Jacque Jo Bland ‏@jacquebland

I was led to understand that Jack Nicholson & Mrs. Obama would be announcing #newpope
-John Fugelsang ‏@JohnFugelsang

It looks like there's a new pope but they're still in line waiting to vote in Florida.
-Elayne Boosler


Categories: Facebook, Pope Francis, Religion, Twitter


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Ramblings
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Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 1:27 PM EST
Feb 26 2013

I imagine our Shelties all would have Scottish accents if they could speak, and Lucy, the oldest, would sound just like Deborah Kerr in the original Casino Royale.

They should just create a "Best Quentin Tarantino Film" category and be done with it.

How can you not like an Oscars show with two Captain Kirks?

I wish Spielberg had won best director. How great would it have been for him to talk too long and to have the Jaws music start..

The Pope's tweets come from an Apple device, which is kind of funny when you think about it...

Since I'm not a fan, I was a bit apprehensive about Seth McFarland hosting the Oscars. His performance reminded me of Calvin Trillin's suggested state motto for New Jersey: "Not as bad as you might have expected."

"Why Seth MacFarlane's Oscars were mean spirited and misogynistic, coming up next after our review of the worst dressed women."
-@Crutnacker

Totally unrelated: It turns out Person of Interest is more of a documentary...


Categories: Apple, Calvin Trillin, Dogs, Jaws, Nova (PBS), Observations, Oscars, Person of Interest, Quentin Tarantino, Religion, Seth McFarlane, Star Trek, Steven Spielberg, Video, YouTube


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Ouch.
(permalink)

Published Tuesday, February 12, 2013 @ 8:05 AM EST
Feb 12 2013


Categories: Meme of the day, Religion


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Quote of the day
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Published Saturday, February 02, 2013 @ 12:58 AM EST
Feb 02 2013

When Jesus told us to love one another, He never said we had to like it.
-The Covert Comic


Categories: Covert Comic, Jesus, Quotes of the day, Religion


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I would have guessed octarine
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Published Thursday, January 24, 2013 @ 12:29 AM EST
Jan 24 2013


Categories: Religion, Terry Pratchett, Twitter


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Mysterious ways, indeed,,,
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Published Sunday, January 20, 2013 @ 5:54 AM EST
Jan 20 2013


Categories: Religion, Twitter, WTF?


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Ouch.
(permalink)

Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 @ 6:24 AM EST
Jan 15 2013


Categories: Meme of the day, Observations, Religion, Second Amendment


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Amen.
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Published Sunday, December 23, 2012 @ 8:05 AM EST
Dec 23 2012


Categories: Religion, Second Amendment


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Sigh.
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Published Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 12:10 AM EST
Dec 16 2012

Hey, t-shirt person.

If the "loving" god who demands your worship isn't bright enough to correctly interpret the establishment clause of the United States Constitution, and is so petty and vindictive as to turn his back and allow the slaughter of 20 innocent babies, then I have no use for either of you.

If you don't think teachers should be unionized but they should be armed, cancel basic cable.
-@LOLGOP

If more guns made things safer America would have the lowest murder rate on Earth.
 
The NRA reminds you their right to shoot more clay pigeons without reloading is just a bit more important than your life.
 
Welcome to America, where some of you will have an easier time buying an assault rifle than marrying who you love.
-John Fugelsang

Once, millions of Americans correctly argued the Constitution gave them the right to own other human beings, too. We changed.
-Jason Cochran

If the reason to have a thing is to protect yourself against people with the same thing, maybe that thing is a bad thing.
-@TheTweetofGod

It took two minutes, between 9:36am to 9:38am to kill 26 children and their teachers. How many hunters encounter 26 deer in two minutes?
-Roland Scahill

Too many conservatives refuse to regulate assault rifles, but they're fine with regulating the female reproductive organs. Because liberty.
-Bob Cesca

Sorry, but prayers and giving your kids hugs fix nothing; only having the balls to stand up to our insane selfish gun culture will.
-Bill Maher


Categories: First Amendment, Mass shootings, Religion, Second Amendment, WTF?


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"I reject your reality and substitute my own.." redux
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Published Saturday, November 10, 2012 @ 10:48 AM EST
Nov 10 2012

"The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."
-George Orwell

Or an election...

Diagnosing the Republican Brain
Fact: Conservatives deny science and facts. But there's a reality check that liberals need too.
By Chris Mooney
Mother Jones, Fri Mar. 30, 2012 2:00 AM PDT

We all know that many American conservatives have issues with Charles Darwin, and the theory of evolution. But Albert Einstein, and the theory of relativity?

If you're surprised, allow me to introduce Conservapedia, the right-wing answer to Wikipedia and ground zero for all that is scientifically and factually inaccurate, for political reasons, on the Internet.

Claiming over 285 million page views since its 2006 inception, Conservapedia is the creation of Andrew Schlafly, a lawyer, engineer, homeschooler, and one of six children of Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-feminist and anti-abortion rights activist who successfully battled the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. In his mother's heyday, conservative activists were establishing vast mailing lists and newsletters, and rallying the troops. Her son learned that they also had to marshal "truth" to their side, now achieved not through the mail but the Web.[1]

So when Schafly realized that Wikipedia was using BCE ("Before Common Era") rather than BC ("Before Christ") to date historical events, he'd had enough. He decided to create his own contrary fact repository, declaring, "It's impossible for an encyclopedia to be neutral." Conservapedia definitely isn't neutral about science. Its 37,000 plus pages of content include items attacking evolution and global warming, wrongly claiming (contrary to psychological consensus) that homosexuality is a choice and tied to mental disorders, and incorrectly asserting (contrary to medical consensus) that abortion causes breast cancer.

The whopper, though, has to be Conservapedia's nearly 6,000 word, equation-filled entry on the theory of relativity. It's accompanied by a long webpage of "counterexamples" to Einstein's great scientific edifice, which merges insights like E=mc2 (part of the special theory of relativity) with his later account of gravitation (the general theory of relativity).

"Relativity has been met with much resistance in the scientific world," declares Conservapedia. "To date, a Nobel Prize has never been awarded for Relativity." The site goes on to catalogue the "political aspects of relativity," charging that some liberals have "extrapolated the theory" to favor their agendas. That includes President Barack Obama, who (it is claimed) helped publish an article applying relativity in the legal sphere while attending Harvard Law School in the late 1980s.

"Virtually no one who is taught and believes Relativity continues to read the Bible, a book that outsells New York Times bestsellers by a hundred-fold," Conservapedia continues. But even that's not the site's most staggering claim. In its list of "counterexamples" to relativity, Conservapedia provides 36 alleged cases, including: "The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46–54, Matthew 15:28, and Matthew 27:51."

If you are an American liberal or progressive and you just read the passage above, you are probably about to split your sides- or punch a wall. Sure enough, once liberal and science-focused bloggers caught wind of Conservapedia's anti-Einstein sallies, Schlafly was quickly called a "crackpot," "crazy," "dishonest," and so on.

These being liberals and scientists, there were also ample factual refutations. Take Conservapedia's bizarre claim that relativity hasn't led to any fruitful technologies. To the contrary, GPS devices rely on an understanding of relativity, as do PET scans and particle accelerators. Relativity works- if it didn't, we would have noticed by now, and the theory would never have come to enjoy its current scientific status.

Little changed at Conservapedia after these errors were dismantled, however (though more anti-relativity "counter-examples" and Bible references were added). For not only does the site embrace a very different firmament of "facts" about the world than modern science, it also employs a different approach to editing than Wikipedia. Schlafly has said of the founding of Conservapedia that it "strengthened my faith. I don't have to live with what's printed in the newspaper. I don't have to take what's put out by Wikipedia. We've got our own way to express knowledge, and the more that we can clear out the liberal bias that erodes our faith, the better."

You might be thinking that Conservapedia's unabashed denial of relativity is an extreme case, located in the same circle of intellectual hell as claims that HIV doesn't cause AIDS and 9-11 was an inside job. If so, I want to ask you to think again. Structurally, the denial of something so irrefutable, the elaborate rationalization of that denial, and above all the refusal to consider the overwhelming body of counterevidence and modify one's view, is something we find all around us today.

Every contentious fact- or science-based issue in American politics now plays out just like the conflict between Conservapedia and physicists over relativity. Again and again it's a fruitless battle between incompatible "truths," with no progress made and no retractions offered by those who are just plain wrong- and can be shown to be through simple fact checking mechanisms that all good journalists, not to mention open-minded and critically thinking citizens, can employ.

What's more, no matter how much the fact-checkers strive to remain "bi-partisan," it is pretty hard to argue that, today, the distribution of falsehoods is politically equal or symmetrical. It's not that liberals are never wrong or biased; in my new book, The Republican Brain, The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality, from which this essay is excerpted, I go to great lengths to describe and debunk a number of liberal errors. Nevertheless, politicized wrongness today is clustered among Republicans, conservatives, and especially Tea Partiers. (Indeed, a new study published in American Sociological Review finds that while overall trust in science has been relatively stable since 1974, among self- identified conservatives it is at an all-time low[2].)

Their willingness to deny what's true may seem especially outrageous when it infects scientific topics like evolution or climate change. But the same thing happens with economics, with American history, and with any other factual matter where there's something ideological- in other words, something emotional and personal- at stake.

As soon as that occurs, today's conservatives have their own "truth," their own experts to spout it, and their own communication channels- newspapers, cable networks, talk radio shows, blogs, encyclopedias, think tanks, even universities- to broad- and narrowcast it.

We've been trained to equivocate, to not to see this trend toward anti-factualism for what it is- sweeping, systemic. This is particularly true of reporters. Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, and that's precisely where our country stands now with regard to the conservative denial of reality. For a long time, we've been trained to equivocate, to not to see it for what it is- sweeping, systemic. This is particularly true of reporters and others trained to think that objectivity will out. Yet the problem is gradually dawning on many of us, particularly as the 2012 election began to unfold and one maverick Republican, Jon Huntsman, put his party's anti-factual tendencies in focus with a Tweet heard round the world:

"To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

The cost of this assault on reality is dramatic. Many of these falsehoods affect lives and have had- or will have- world-changing consequences. And more dangerous than any of them is the utter erosion of a shared sense of what's true- which they both generate, and perpetuate.

Consider, just briefly, some of the wrong ideas that have taken hold of significant swaths of the conservative population in the U.S:

The Identity of the President of the United States: Many conservatives believe President Obama is a Muslim. A stunning 64 percent of Republican voters in the 2010 election thought it was "not clear" whether he had been born in the United States. These people often think he was born in Kenya, and the birth certificate showing otherwise is bunk, a forgery, etc. They also think this relatively centrist Democrat is a closet- or even overt- socialist. At the extreme, they consider him a "Manchurian candidate" for an international leftist agenda.

Obamacare: Many conservatives believe it is a "government takeover of health care." They also think, as Sarah Palin claimed, that it created government "death panels" to make end-of-life care decisions for the elderly. What's more, they think it will increase the federal budget deficit (and that most economists agree with this claim), cut benefits to those on Medicare, and subsidize abortions and the health care of illegal immigrants. None of these things are true.

Sexuality and Reproductive Health. Many conservatives- especially on the Christian Right- claim that having an abortion increases a woman's risk of breast cancer or mental disorders. They claim that fetuses can perceive pain at 20 weeks of gestation, that same-sex parenting is bad for kids, and that homosexuality is a disorder, or a choice, and is curable through therapy. None of this is true.

The Iraq War: The mid-2000s saw the mass dissemination of a number of falsehoods about the war in Iraq, including claims that weapons of mass destruction were found after the US invasion and that Iraq and Al Qaeda were proven collaborators. And political conservatives were much more likely than liberals to believe these falsehoods. Studies have shown as much of Fox News viewers, and also of so-called authoritarians, an increasingly significant part of the conservative base (about whom more soon). In one study, 37 percent of authoritarians (but 15 percent of non-authoritarians) believed WMD had been found in Iraq, and 55 percent of authoritarians (but 19 percent of non-authoritarians) believed that Saddam Hussein had been directly involved in the 9-11 attacks.

Economics: Many conservatives hold the clearly incorrect view- explicitly espoused by former President George W. Bush- that tax cuts increase government revenue. They also think President Obama raised their income taxes, that he's responsible for current government budget deficits, and that his flagship economic stimulus bill didn't create many jobs or even caused job losses (and that most economists concur with this assessment). Perhaps most alarming of all, in mid-2011 conservatives advanced the dangerous idea that the federal government could simply "prioritize payments" if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling. None of this is true, and the last belief, in particular, risked economic calamity.

American History: Many conservatives- especially on the Christian Right- believe the United States was founded as a "Christian nation." They consider the separation of church and state a "myth," not at all assured by the First Amendment. And they twist history in myriad other ways, large and small, including Michele Bachmann's claim that the Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly" to put an end to slavery.

Sundry Errors: Many conservatives claimed that President Obama's late 2010 trip to India would cost $200 million per day, or $2 billion for a ten day visit! And they claimed that, in 2007, Congress banned incandescent light bulbs, a truly intolerable assault on American freedoms. Only, Congress did no such thing. (To give just a few examples.)

Science: In a nationally representative survey only 18 percent of Republicans and Tea Party members accepted the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by humans, and only 45 and 43 percent (respectively) accepted human evolution.

In other words, political conservatives have placed themselves in direct conflict with modern scientific knowledge, which shows beyond serious question that global warming is real and caused by humans, and evolution is real and the cause of humans. If you don't accept either claim, you cannot possibly understand the world or our place in it.

But why? Why are today's liberals usually right, and today's conservatives usually wrong? I devoted a book to trying to understand the science behind the political brain- and though I first wrote about some of my findings in Mother Jones[3] let me touch on a few of its findings here.

One possible answer is what I'll call the "environmental explanation." I've told a version of it before, in my 2005 book The Republican War on Science:

At least since the time of Ronald Reagan, but arcing back further, the modern American conservative movement has taken control of the Republican Party and aligned it with a key set of interest groups who have had bones to pick with various aspects of scientific reality- most notably, corporate anti-regulatory interests and religious conservatives. And so these interests fought back against the relevant facts- and Republican leaders, dependent on their votes, joined them, making science denial an increasingly important part of the conservative and Republican political identity.... Meanwhile, party allegiances created a strange bedfellows effect. The enemy of one's friend was also an enemy, so we saw conservative Christians denying climate science, and pharmaceutical companies donating heaps of money to a party whose Christian base regularly attacks biomedical research. Despite these contradictions, economic and social conservatives profited enough from their allegiance that it was in the interests of both to hold it together.

In such an account, the problem of right-wing science denial is ascribed to political opportunism- rooted in the desire to appease either religious impulses or corporate profit motives. But is this the right answer?

It isn't wrong, exactly. There's much truth to it. Yet it completely ignores what we now know about the psychology of our politics.

The environmental account ascribes Republican science denial (and for other forms of denial, the story would be similar) to the particular exigencies and alignments of American political history. That's what the party did because it had to, to get ahead. And today, goes the thinking, this leaves us with a vast gulf between Democrats and Republicans in their acceptance of modern climate science and many other scientific conclusions, with conservatives increasingly distrustful of science, and with scientists and the highly educated moving steadily to the left.

There's just one problem: This account ignores the possibility that there might be real differences between liberals and conservatives that influence how they respond to scientific or factual information. It assumes we're all blank slates- that we all want the same basic things- and then we respond to political forces not unlike air molecules inside a balloon. We get knocked this way and that, sure. And we start out in different places, thus ensuring different trajectories. But at the end of the day, we're all just air molecules.

But what if we're not all the same kind of molecule? What if we respond to political or factual collisions in different ways, with different spins or velocities? Today there's considerable scientific evidence suggesting that this is the case.

For instance, the historic political awakening of what we now call the Religious Right was nothing if not a defense of cultural traditionalism- which had been threatened by the 1960s counterculture, Roe v. Wade, and continued inroads by feminists, gay rights activists, and many others- and a more hierarchical social structure. It was a classic counter-reaction to too much change, too much pushing of equality, and too many attacks on traditional values- all occurring too fast. And it mobilized a strong strand of right-wing authoritarianism in US politics- one that had either been dormant previously, or at least more evenly distributed across the parties.

The rise of the Religious Right was thus the epitome of conservatism on a psychological level- clutching for something certain in a changing world; wanting to preserve one's own ways in uncertain times, and one's own group in the face of difference- and can't be fully understood without putting this variable into play.

The problem is that people are deathly afraid of psychology, and never more so than when it is applied to political beliefs. Political journalists, in particular, almost uniformly avoid this kind of approach. They try to remain on the surface of things, telling endless stories of horse races and rivalries, strategies and interests, and key "turning points." All of which are, of course, real. And conveniently, by sticking with them you never have to take the dangerous journey into anybody's head.

But what if these only tell half the story?

As I began to investigate the underlying causes for the conservative denial of reality that we see all around us, I found it impossible to ignore a mounting body of evidence- from political science, social psychology, evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and genetics- that points to a key conclusion. Political conservatives seem to be very different from political liberals at the level of psychology and personality. And inevitably, this influences the way the two groups argue and process information.

Let's be clear: This is not a claim about intelligence. Nor am I saying that conservatives are somehow worse people than liberals; the groups are just different. Liberals have their own weaknesses grounded in psychology, and conservatives are very aware of this. (Many of the arguments in this book could be inverted and repackaged into a book called The Democratic Brain- with a Spock-like caricature of President Obama on the cover.)

Nevertheless, some of the differences between liberals and conservatives have clear implications for how they respond to evidence in political debates. Take, for instance, their divergence on a core personality measure called Openness to Experience (and the suite of characteristics that go along with it). The evidence here is quite strong: overall, liberals tend to be more open, flexible, curious and nuanced- and conservatives tend to be more closed, fixed and certain in their views.

What's more, since Openness is a core aspect of personality, examining this difference points us toward the study of the political brain. The field is very young, but scientists are already showing that average "liberal" and "conservative" brains differ in suggestive ways. These differences may be related to a large and still unidentified number of "political" genes- although to be sure, genes are only one influence out of many upon our political views. But they appear to be an underrated one.

What all of this means is that our inability to agree on the facts can no longer be explained solely at the surface of our politics. It has to be traced, as well, to deeper psychological and cognitive factors. And such an approach won't merely cast light on why we see so much "truthiness" today, so many postmodern fights between the left and the right over reality. Phenomena ranging from conservative brinksmanship over raising the debt ceiling to the old "What's the Matter with Kansas?" problem- why do poor conservatives vote against their economic interests?- make vastly more sense when viewed through the lens of political psychology.

Before going any further, I want to emphasize that this argument is not a form of what is often called reductionism. Just because psychology seems relevant to explaining why the left and the right have diverged over reality doesn't mean that nothing else is, or that I am reducing conservatives to just their psychology (or reducing psychology to cognitive neuroscience, or cognitive neuroscience to genes, and so on). "We can never give a complete explanation of anything interesting about human beings in psychology," explains the University of Cambridge psychologist Fraser Watts. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to be learned from the endeavor.

Complex phenomena like human political behavior always have many causes, not one. Human brains are flexible and change daily; people have choices, and those choices alter who they are. Nevertheless, there are broad tendencies in the population that really matter, and cannot be ignored.

We don't understand everything there is to know yet about the underlying reasons why conservatives and liberals are different. We don't know how all the puzzle pieces- cognitive styles, personality traits, psychological needs, moral intuitions, brain structures, and genes- fit together. And we know that the environment (or nurture) is at least as important as the genes (or nature). This means that what I'm saying applies at the level of large groups, but may founder in case of any particular individual.

Still, we know enough to begin pooling together all the scientific evidence. And when you do- even if you provide all the caveats- there's a lot of consistency. And it all makes a lot of sense. Conservatism, after all, means nothing if not supporting political and social stability and resisting change. I'm merely tracing some of the appeal of this philosophy to psychology, and then discussing what this means for how we debate what is "true" in contested areas.

Now, conservatives won't like hearing that they're often wrong and dogmatic about it, so they may dogmatically resist this conclusion. They may also try to turn the tables and pretend liberals are the closed-minded ones, ignoring volumes of science in the process. (I'm waiting, Ann Coulter.)

But what about liberals? Aren't we wrong too, and dogmatic too?

The typical waffling liberal answer is, "er . . . sort of." Liberals aren't always right, but that's not the central problem. Our particular dysfunction is, typically, more complex and even paradoxical.

On the one hand, we're absolutely outraged by partisan misinformation. Lies about "death panels." People seriously thinking that President Obama is a Muslim. Climate change denial. Debt ceiling denial. These things drive us crazy, in large part because we can't comprehend how such intellectual abominations could possibly exist. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a fellow liberal say, "I can't believe the Republicans are so stupid they can believe X!"

And not only are we enraged by lies and misinformation; we want to refute them- to argue, argue, argue about why we're right and Republicans are wrong. Indeed, we often act as though right-wing misinformation's defeat is nigh, if we could only make people wiser and more educated (just like us) and get them the medicine that is correct information.

In this, we both underestimate conservatives, and we fail to understand them.

To begin to remedy that defect, let's go back to the Conservapedia-relativity dustup, and make an observation that liberals and physicists did not always credit. Whatever else Andrew Schlafly might be- and no matter how hard it is to understand how someone could devote himself to an enterprise like Conservapedia- the man is not stupid. Quite the contrary.

He's a Harvard law graduate. He has an engineering degree from Princeton, and used to work both for Intel and for Bell Labs. His relativity entry is filled with equations that I myself can neither write nor solve. He hails from a highly intellectual right-wing family- his mother, Phyllis, is also Harvard educated and, according to her biographer, excelled in school at a time when women too rarely had the opportunity to compete with men at that level. Mother and son thus draw a neat, half-century connection between the birth of modern American conservatism on the one hand, and the insistence that conservatives have their own "facts," better than liberal facts thank you very much, on the other.

So it is not that Schlafly, or other conservatives as sophisticated as he, can't make an argument. Rather, the problem is that when Schlafly makes an argument, it's hard to believe it has anything to do with real intellectual give and take. He's not arguing out of an openness to changing his mind. He's arguing to reaffirm what he already thinks (his "faith"), to defend the authorities he trusts, and to bolster the beliefs of his compatriots, his tribe, his team.

Liberals (and scientists) have too often tried to dodge the mounting evidence that this is how people work. Perhaps because it leads to a place that terrifies them: an anti-Enlightenment world in which evidence and argument don't work to change people's minds.

But that response, too, is a form of denial- liberal denial, a doctrine whose chief delusion is not so much the failure to accept facts, but rather, the failure to understand conservatives. And that denial can't continue. Because as President Obama's first term has shown- from the healthcare battle to the debt ceiling crisis- ignoring the psychology of the right has not only left liberals frustrated and angry, but has left the country in a considerably worse state than that.


Categories: Chris Mooney, George Orwell, Mother Jones, Politics, Religion, Science


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Quotes of the day
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Published Monday, October 22, 2012 @ 4:11 AM EDT
Oct 22 2012


(American Humanist Association photo.)

Paul Kurtz (December 21, 1925 - October 20, 2012) was a prominent American skeptic and secular humanist. He was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research. (Click for additional information.)

A skeptic is one who is willing to question any claim to truth, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic, and adequacy of evidence.

Atheism, like agnosticism and skepticism, can be a dignified posture when it is based on careful reflection and civilly expressed. It should not be mean- spirited. Many of us prefer a kinder and gentler form of secular humanism.

Each person must face death: life has meaning only if we realize that it will end.

Far from living in a moral vacuum, secular humanists wish to encourage wherever possible the growth of moral awareness.

Homo religiosus invents religious symbols, which he venerates and worships to save him from facing the finality of his death and dissolution. He devises paradise fictions to provide succor and support... In acts of supreme self- deception, at various times and in various places he has been willing to profess belief in the most incredible myths because of what they have promised him.

Human life has no meaning independent of itself. There is no cosmic force or deity to give it meaning or significance. There is no ultimate destiny for man. Such a belief is an illusion of humankind's infancy. The meaning of life is what we choose to give it.

Humanists hold that ethical values are relative to human experience and need not be derived from theological or metaphysical foundations.

I believe that a person should take an affirmative outlook. There are always problems in life, old and new, uncertainties, and unexpected contingencies. The optimal way to deal with this is not to give up in despair, but to move ahead using the best intelligence and resources that we have to overcome adversity.

Life, when fully lived under a variety of cultural conditions, can be euphoric and optimistic; it can be a joy to experience and a wonder to behold.

Most humans feel the transcendent temptation, the emotional drive to festoon the universe with large-scale meaning.

No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.

Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute: neither faith nor passion suffices in itself.

Secular humanism is avowedly non-religious. It is a eupraxsophy (good practical wisdom), which draws its basic principles and ethical values from science, ethics, and philosophy.

The beginning of wisdom is the awareness that there is insufficient evidence that a god or gods have created us and the recognition that we are responsible in part for our own destiny. Human beings can achieve this good life, but it is by the cultivation of the virtues of intelligence and courage, not faith and obedience, that we will most likely be able to do so.

The meaning of life is not to be discovered only after death in some hidden, mysterious realm; on the contrary, it can be found by eating the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life and by living in the here and now as fully and creatively as we can.

The skeptic has no illusions about life, nor a vain belief in the promise of immortality. Since this life here and now is all we can know, our most reasonable option is to live it fully.

Three key humanist virtues are courage, cognition, and caring- not dependence, ignorance, or insensitivity to the needs of others.

We need to be skeptical of utopianists who offer unreliable totalistic visions of other worlds and strive to take us there. We need some ideals, but we also need to protect ourselves from the miscalculations and misadventures of visionaries.


Categories: Humanism, Paul Kurtz, Quotes of the day, Religion, Secular Humanism


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Observations of the day
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Published Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 8:15 AM EDT
Oct 20 2012

Get the full context: Read Jen Hatmaker's powerful post here.

There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, Business as usual. But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.
-Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never- failing stream!
-Amos 5:21-24

Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations- I cannot bear your worthless assemblies… When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
-Isaiah 1:13-17)

"Why have we fasted," they say, "and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?"... Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
-Isaiah 58:3-4, 6-7

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
-Micah 6:7-8

These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God's, that the self-righteous should rush.
-Life of Pi, by Yann Martel


Categories: Hypocrisy, Jen Hatmaker, Life of Pi, Observations, Philosophy, Quotes of the day, Religion, Yann Martel


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Quotes of the day: Arthur Miller
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Published Wednesday, October 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Oct 17 2012

Quotes of the day- Arthur Miller:
 
Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), and A View from the Bridge (one-act, 1955; revised two-act, 1956).

Miller was often in the public eye, particularly during the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, a period during which he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Prince of Asturias Award, and was married to Marilyn Monroe. (Click for full article)

A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away from. And by those he has walked away from that cause him remorse.

A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.

A suicide kills two people... that's what it's for.

An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.

Don't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.

Few of us can surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that The State has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.

He's liked, but he's not well liked.

I believe in work. If somebody doesn't create something, however small it may be, he gets sick. An awful lot of people feel that they're treading water- that if they vanished in smoke, it wouldn't mean anything at all in this world. And that's a despairing and destructive feeling. It'll kill you.

I figure I've done what I could do, more or less, and now I'm going back to being a chemical; all we are is a lot of talking nitrogen, you know...

I love her too, but our neuroses just don't match.

If a person measures his spiritual fulfillment in terms of cosmic visions, surpassing peace of mind, or ecstasy, then he is not likely to know much spiritual fulfillment. If, however, he measures it in terms of enjoying a sunrise, being warmed by a child's smile, or being able to help someone have a better day, then he is likely to know much spiritual fulfillment.

If I have to be alone I want to be by myself.

Immortality is like trying to carve your initials in a block of ice in the middle of July.

It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time- the heart and spirit of the average man.

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.

The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.

The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.

The enemy is within, and within stays within, and we can’t get out of within.

The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.

The wedding of Christianity or Judaism with nationalism is lethal.

The world is an oyster but you don't crack it open on a mattress.

There might be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever seen it.

Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.

When any creativity becomes useful, it is sucked into the vortex of commercialism, and when a thing becomes commercial, it becomes the enemy of man.

When the guns roar, the arts die.

Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action?

Why is betrayal the only truth that sticks?

Without alienation, there can be no politics.

Work a lifetime to pay off a house- You finally own it and there's nobody to live in it.

You can quicker get back a million dollars that was stolen than a word that you gave away.

You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away- a man is not a piece of fruit.

You specialize in something until one day you find it is specializing in you.


Categories: Arthur Miller, Church and State, First Amendment, Politics, Religion, Video, YouTube


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Seriously.
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Published Tuesday, October 16, 2012 @ 9:10 AM EDT
Oct 16 2012

I made the Federal income tax electronic filing deadline with three minutes to spare last night (we had an extension), and my experience underscored the lunacy that is our tax code.

I did three returns; one joint filing, and two married filing separately. The tax liability varied from a $5 refund to owing nearly $1,500. All were accurate and all were legal, and, frankly, that's just crazy.

$1,500 may not seem like much (especially to someone who makes $10,000 debate bets on health care), but that's what I spent in prescription drugs last year. Which, incidentally, I could not deduct from my taxes because my total medical expenses didn't exceed 7.5% of my adjusted gross income.

I should start drilling for oil in my basement.


Categories: Photo of the day, Politics, Religion, Taxes


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Quotes of the day: a quasi-cosmic perspective
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Published Friday, October 05, 2012 @ 12:55 AM EDT
Oct 05 2012

Quotes of the day- Neil deGrasse Tyson:
 
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. October 5, 1958) is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and Visiting Research Scientist and Lecturer at Princeton University. Click for full bio.

(YouTube video: Neil deGrasse Tyson debunks the 2012 Mayan calendar apocalypse.)

As your area of knowledge increases, so does your perimeter of ignorance.

Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.

Dinosaurs are extinct today because they lacked opposable thumbs and the brainpower to build a space program.

I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.

I simply go with what works. And what works is the healthy skepticism embodied in the scientific method. Believe me, if the Bible had ever been shown to be a rich source of scientific answers and enlightenment, we would be mining it daily for cosmic discovery.

I would request that my body in death be buried not cremated, so that the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime.

If aliens did visit us, I'd be embarrassed to tell them we still dig fossil fuels from the ground as a source of energy.

If all that you see, do, measure and discover is the will of a deity, then ideas can never be proven wrong, you have no predictive power, and you are at a loss to understand the principles behind most of the fundamental interconnections of nature.

If pizza sizes were given in area not diameter, you'd see instantly that a seven inch is less than half the size of a ten inch pie

If scientists invented the legal system, eyewitness testimony would be inadmissible evidence.

In modern times, if the sole measure of what's out there flows from your five senses then a precarious life awaits you.

My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.

Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us. I don't know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.

Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us.

People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.

Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.

Scientific inquiry shouldn't stop just because a reasonable explanation has apparently been found.

Seventy percent of Earth's surface is water and over 99 percent is uninhabited, so you would expect nearly all impactors to hit either the ocean or desolate regions on Earth's surface. So why do movie meteors have such good aim?

So what is true for life itself is no less true for the universe: knowing where you came from is no less important than knowing where you are going.

The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.

The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.

The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that there's any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at all.

The remarkable feature of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. After the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.

There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.

We fail in even the simplest of all scientific observations- nobody looks up anymore.

We spend the first year of children's lives teaching them how to walk and talk, and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down.

When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.

Whenever people have used religious documents to make accurate predictions about our base knowledge of the physical world, they have been famously wrong.

Within one linear centimeter of your lower colon there lives and works more bacteria (about 100 billion) than all humans who have ever been born. Yet many people continue to assert that it is we who are in charge of the world.

You don't take a dead cat to the vet. I mean you might, but why?


Categories: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Observations, Philosophy, Quotes of the day, Religion, Science, Video, YouTube


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Monday morning quiz
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Published Monday, September 10, 2012 @ 3:11 AM EDT
Sep 10 2012

How to Determine If Your Religious
Liberty Is Being Threatened

Column A Column B
I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing. Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.
I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage. Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.
I am being forced to use birth control. I am unable to force others to not use birth control.
I am not allowed to pray privately. I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.
Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse. I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.
I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material. Others are allowed to have access to books, movies and websites that I do not like.
My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause. My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.
Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country. My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.
My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community. A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.
I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home. Public school science classes are teaching science.

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions in column A, perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality- not your superiority.

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions in column B, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. Please review the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

Rev. Emily C. Heath
Clergy, United Church of Christ


Categories: Church and State, First Amendment, Religion


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Observation of the day
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Published Friday, August 24, 2012 @ 7:30 AM EDT
Aug 24 2012


Categories: Bill Maher, Calvin and Hobbes, Observations, Religion


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A Universe Not Made For Us
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Published Sunday, August 12, 2012 @ 6:40 AM EDT
Aug 12 2012

Observations for a Sunday morning...

We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
-Carl Sagan

(YouTube video: A Universe Not Made For Us: Carl Sagan on religion and geocentrism.)


Categories: Carl Sagan, Religion, Science


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Quotes of the day
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Published Saturday, August 11, 2012 @ 9:27 AM EDT
Aug 11 2012

Quotes of the day- Robert Green Ingersoll:
 
Robert Green Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism.

Click here for Rev. Don Beaudreault's sermon, "Thank God for Agnostics: A Celebration of the Life of Robert Ingersoll.

A college is a place where pebbles are polished and diamonds dimmed.

An argument should not depend for its force upon the name of its author. Facts need no pedigree, logic has no heraldry, and the living should not awed by the mistakes of the dead.

An infinite God ought to be able to protect himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures. Certainly he ought not so to act that laws become necessary to keep him from being laughed at. No one thinks of protecting Shakespeare from ridicule, by the threat of fine and imprisonment.

Blasphemy is what an old mistake says of a newly discovered truth.

Christianity has such a contemptible opinion of human nature that it does not believe a man can tell the truth unless frightened by a belief in God. No lower opinion of the human race has ever been expressed.

Churches are becoming political organizations... It probably will not be long until the churches will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological questions; and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the balance of power, this Government will be destroyed. The liberty of man is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave.

Courage without conscience is a wild beast.

Each nation has created a god, and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he was invariably found on the side of those in power.

Every pulpit is a pillory, in which stands a hired culprit, defending the justice of his own imprisonment.

Few rich men own their own property. The property owns them.

For thousands of years people have been trying to force other people to think their way. Did they succeed? No. Will they succeed? No. Why? Because brute force is not an argument.

Give me the storm and stress of thought and action rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will but first let me eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Great virtues may draw attention from defects, they cannot sanctify them. A pebble surrounded by diamonds remains a common stone, and a diamond surrounded by pebbles is still a gem.

Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.

I am not so much for the freedom of religion as I am for the religion of freedom.

I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample under foot. Men are not superior by reason of the accidents of race or color. They are superior who have the best heart— the best brain

I belong to the Great Church which holds the world within its starlit aisles; that claims the great and good of every race and clime; that finds with joy the grain of gold in every creed, and floods with light and love the germs of good in every soul.

I cannot believe that there is any being in this universe who has created a human soul for eternal pain. I would rather that every god would destroy himself; I would rather that we all should go to eternal chaos, to black and starless night, than that just one soul should suffer eternal agony.

I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world than he does in this.

I suppose it can be truthfully said that Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.

If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane.

If there be an infinite Being, he does not need our help- we need not waste our energies in his defense.

If we are immortal it is a fact in nature, and we are not indebted to priests for it, nor to bibles for it, and it cannot be destroyed by unbelief.

Ignorance is the soil in which belief in miracles grows.

In all ages hypocrites, called priests, have put crowns upon the heads of thieves, called kings.

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments- there are consequences.

In the republic of mediocrity genius is dangerous.

Intelligence is the only moral guide.

It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded upon the Bible, and that all who look upon the book as false or foolish are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government made by the people and for the people. It is the only nation with which the gods have had nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest and cowardly enough to solemnly decide that this is a Christian country, and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of Jehovah.

It is incredible that only idiots are absolutely sure of salvation. It is incredible that the more brain you have the less your chance is. There can be no danger in honest thought, and if the world ever advances beyond what it is to- day, it must be led by men who express their real opinions.

It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.

It seems to me that if there is some infinite being who wants us to think alike he would have made us alike.

Justice should remove the bandage from her eyes long enough to distinguish between the vicious and the unfortunate.

Labor is the only prayer that Nature answers; it is the only prayer that deserves an answer- good, honest, noble work.

Martyrdom, as a rule, establishes the sincerity of the martyr- never the correctness of his thought. Things are true or false in themselves. Truth cannot be affected by opinions; it cannot be changed, established, or affected by martyrdom. An error cannot be believed sincerely enough to make it a truth.

Ministers say that they teach charity. This is natural. They live on alms. All beggars teach that others should give.

My principal objections to orthodox religion are two- slavery here and hell hereafter.

Nature never prompted a loving mother to throw her child into the Ganges. Nature never prompted men to exterminate each other for a difference of opinion concerning the baptism of infants. These crimes have been produced by religions filled with all that is illogical, cruel and hideous.

No man can blaspheme a book. No man can commit blasphemy by telling his honest thought. No man can blaspheme a God, or a Holy Ghost, or a Son of God. The Infinite cannot be blasphemed.

No man with a sense of humor ever founded a religion.

One good schoolmaster is worth a thousand priests.

Our civilization is not Christian. It does not come from the skies. It is not a result of "inspiration." It is the child of invention, of discovery, of applied knowledge -- that is to say, of science. When man becomes great and grand enough to admit that all have equal rights; when thought is untrammeled; when worship shall consist in doing useful things; when religion means the discharge of obligations to our fellow-men, then, and not until then, will the world be civilized.

Reason, Observation and Experience- the Holy Trinity of Science- have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us.

The churches have no confidence in each other. Why? Because they are acquainted with each other.

The clergy know that I know that they know that they do not know.

The Emperor Constantine, who lifted Christianity into power, murdered his wife Fausta, and his eldest son Crispus, the same year that he convened the Council of Nice to decide whether Jesus Christ was a man or the Son of God. The council decided that Christ was consubstantial with the father. This was in the year 325. We are thus indebted to a wife-murderer for settling the vexed question of the divinity of the Savior.

The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.

The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray.

The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge.

The infidels have been the brave and thoughtful men; the flower of all the world; the pioneers and heralds of the blessed day of liberty and love; the generous spirits of the unworthy past; the seers and prophets of our race; the great chivalric souls, proud victors on the battlefields of thought, the creditors of all the years to be.

The inspiration of the Bible depends on the ignorance of the person who reads it.

The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow-men.

The superior man is the providence of the inferior. He is eyes for the blind, strength for the weak, and a shield for the defenseless. He stands erect by bending above the fallen. He rises by lifting others.

Theism is the only legal form of insanity.

There is no slavery but ignorance. Liberty is the child of intelligence.

This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves.

To persecute the intelligent few, at the command of the ignorant many- that is blasphemy.

We are satisfied that there can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.

Who can over estimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind?

Whoever has an opinion of his own, and honestly expresses it, will be guilty of heresy. Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrine of the weak

Whoever increases the sum of human joy, is a worshiper. He who adds to the sum of human misery, is a blasphemer.

Why does this same God tell me how to raise my children when he had to drown his?


Categories: Church and State, Don Beaudreault, Founding Fathers, Quotes of the day, Religion, Robert Green Ingersoll, Unitarianism


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You know we're in trouble...
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Published Saturday, July 21, 2012 @ 2:06 PM EDT
Jul 21 2012

...when "satire" in The Onion is about the only honest, objective view you'll get of this abysmal situation.

Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly How Colorado
Shooting's Aftermath Will Play Out

(The Onion, July 20, 2012)

WASHINGTON-Americans across the nation confirmed today that, unfortunately, due to their extreme familiarity with the type of tragedy that occurred in a Colorado movie theater last night, they sadly know exactly how the events following the horrific shooting of 12 people will unfold.

While admitting they "absolutely hate" the fact they have this knowledge, the nation's 300 million citizens told reporters they can pinpoint down to the hour when the first candlelight vigil will be held, roughly how many people will attend, how many times the county sheriff will address the media in the coming weeks, and when the town-wide memorial service will be held.

Additionally, sources nationwide took no pleasure in confirming that some sort of video recording, written material, or disturbing photographs made by the shooter will be surfacing in about an hour or two.

"I hate to say it, but we as Americans are basically experts at this kind of thing by now,” said 45-year-old market analyst Jared Gerson, adding that the number of media images of Aurora, CO citizens crying and looking shocked is “pretty much right in line with where it usually is at this point." "The calls not to politicize the tragedy should be starting in an hour, but by 1:30 p.m. tomorrow the issue will have been politicized. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the shooter's high school classmate is interviewed within 45 minutes."

"It's like clockwork," said Gerson, who sighed, shook his head, and walked away.

According to the nation's citizenry, calls for a mature, thoughtful debate about the role of guns in American society started right on time, and should persist throughout the next week or so. However, the populace noted, the debate will soon spiral out of control and ultimately lead to nothing of any substance, a fact Americans everywhere acknowledged they felt "absolutely horrible" to be aware of.

With scalpel-like precision, the American populace then went on to predict, to the minute, how long it will take for the media to swarm Aurora, CO, how long it will take for them to leave, and exactly when questions will be raised as to whether or not violence in movies and video games had something to do with the act.

The nation's citizens also confirmed that, any time now, some religious figure or cable news personality will say something unbelievably insensitive about the tragic shooting.

"Unfortunately, I've been through this a lot, and I pretty much have it down to a science when President Obama will visit Colorado, when he will meet with the families of those who lost loved ones, and when he will give his big speech that people will call 'unifying' and 'very presidential,'" Jacksonville resident Amy Brennen, 32, said, speaking for every other person in the country. "Nothing really surprises me when it comes to this kind of thing anymore. And that makes me feel terrible."

"Oh, and here's another thing I hate I know," Brennen continued, "In exactly two weeks this will all be over and it will be like it never happened."


Categories: Barack Obama, Hypocrisy, News Media, Observations, Politics, Questions for the Ages, Religion, Second Amendment, The Onion, TV, U.S. Constitution


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Quotes of the day
(permalink)

Published Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 12:20 AM EDT
May 03 2012

Niccolò Machiavelli (May 3, 1469 – June 21, 1527):

A man attains an elevated position only when his mediocrity prevents him from being a threat to others. And for this reason a democracy is never governed by the most competent, but rather by those whose insignificance will not jeopardize anyone else's self-esteem.

For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearance, as though they were realities and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.

Hatred may be engendered by good deeds as well as bad ones.

I desire to go to Hell, not to Heaven. In Hell I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, but in Heaven are only beggars, monks, hermits and apostles.

It is far safer to be feared than loved.

Men [seldom] rise from low condition to high rank without employing either force or fraud, unless that rank should be attained either by gift or inheritance.

Politics have no relation to morals.

[Religions] have made men feeble and caused them to become an easy prey to evil minded men, who can control them more securely, seeing that the great body of men, for the sake of gaining Paradise, are more disposed to endure injuries than to avenge them.

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.

There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new.
(In The Prince, 1513)

Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.

Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.


Categories: Niccolò Machiavelli, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes of the day, Religion


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The fact is, we are a mammalian species one half-chromosome away from chimpanzees, and it shows.
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Published Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Apr 13 2012

Christopher Hitchens (April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011):

A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can't make old friends.

A theory that seems to explain everything is just as good at explaining nothing.

Atheism is a necessary condition for emancipation of the mind, but it's not a sufficient one.

Beware the irrational, however seductive.

Ernest Hemingway used to read his obituaries with a bloody Mary every day to start the day, to ward off depression. It worked for ten years... until he put the shotgun in his face.

Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay.

Evolution has meant that our prefrontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big, and our reproductive organs apparently designed by committee; a recipe which, alone or in combination, is very certain to lead to some unhappiness and disorder.

Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.

Handed a small baby for the first time, is it your first reaction to think: “Beautiful. Almost perfect. Now please hand me the sharp stone for its genitalia, that I may do the work of the Lord.”

Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.

I always thought, in the death matter, an exception would be made in my case.

I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information.

I shall simply say that those who offer false consolation are false friends.

I sympathize afresh with the mighty Voltaire, who, when badgered on his deathbed and urged to renounce the devil, murmured that this was no time to be making enemies.

I think &lsqbthe Bible&rsqb reads as if it were written by men and women, and men and women, as we know, are one-half chromosome away from chimpanzees.

I've been nearly scratched by Mother Teresa. I've been nearly spanked by Margaret Thatcher. I could tell you stories...

If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.

In whatever kind of a “race” life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist.

It is not enough to “have” free speech. People must learn to speak freely.

Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

My favorite time in the cycles of public life is the time when the Pope is dead and they haven't elected a new one. There's no one in the world who is infallible for those weeks. And you know, I don't miss it.

My political life has been informed by the view that if there was any truth to religion there wouldn't really be any need for politics.

One of the beginnings of human emancipation is the ability to laugh at authority.

Principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.

Religion ends and philosophy begins, just as alchemy ends and chemistry begins and astrology ends, and astronomy begins.

Terrorism is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.

The fact is, we are a mammalian species one half-chromosome away from chimpanzees, and it shows.

The four most over-rated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics.

The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has, from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.

The place for religion is in the mind, within the individual.

Time spent arguing with the faithful is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.

To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: “Why not?”

What can be asserted without evidence, can also be dismissed without evidence.

More Hitch: A Hitchens distillation...


Categories: Christopher Hitchens, Quotes of the day, Religion


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"I'm not okay, you're not okay, and that's okay."
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Published Thursday, April 12, 2012 @ 12:10 AM EDT
Apr 12 2012

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (June 1, 1924 – April 12, 2006):

A spiritual person tries less to be godly than to be deeply human.

All of life is the exercise of risk.

Christ came to take away our sins, not our minds.

Christians have to listen to the world as well as to the Word- to science, to history, to what reason and our own experience tell us. We do not honor the higher truth we find in Christ by ignoring truths found elsewhere.

Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.

Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

Every nation makes decisions based on self-interest and defends them on the basis of morality.

For Christians, the problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with scriptural passages that condemn it, but how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of homosexuals with the love of Christ.

God knows it is emotionally satisfying to be righteous with that righteousness that nourishes itself on the blood of sinners. But God also knows that what is emotionally satisfying can be spiritually devastating.

I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings.

I'm not okay, you're not okay, and that's okay.

If your heart is full of fear, you won't seek truth; you'll seek security.

In our time all it takes for evil to flourish is for a few good men to be a little wrong and have a great deal of power, and for the vast majority of their fellow citizens to remain indifferent.

In short, Pentecost makes it clear that nothing is so fatal to Christianity as indifference.

It is often said that the Church is a crutch. Of course it's a crutch. What makes you think you don't limp?

Of God's love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet; and secondly, God's love doesn't seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement.

Patriotism at the expense of another nation is as wicked as racism at the expense of another race. Let us resolve to be patriots always, nationalists never.

People who fear disorder more than injustice will only produce more of both.

So don't let money tell you who you are. Don't let power tell you who your are. Don't let enemies and- for God's sake- don't let your sins tell you who you are. Don't prove yourself. That's taken care of. All we have to do is express ourselves. It's difficult, but we're a lot more alive in pain than in complacency.

The goal of the Christian life is not to save your soul but to transcend yourself, to vindicate the human struggle of which all of us are a part, to keep hope advancing.

The temptation to moralize is strong; it is emotionally satisfying to have enemies rather than problems, to seek out culprits rather than the flaws in the system.

The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.

There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover's quarrel with their country, a reflection of God's lover's quarrel with all the world.

There is nothing anti-intellectual in the leap of faith, for faith is not believing without proof but trusting without reservation.

To be avoided at all costs is the solace of opinion without the pain of thought.

Violence always ends up calling on lies to defend it, just as lies call on violence to defend them.

We have sold our birthright of freedom and justice for a mess of national security

When a man is drowning, it may be better for him to try to swim than to thrash around waiting for divine intervention.

When we live at each other's mercy, we had better learn to be merciful.


Categories: Quotes of the day, Religion, William Sloane Coffin, Jr.


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Fiona
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Published Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 6:23 AM EDT
Mar 27 2012

It takes something out of the ordinary to turn a crabby 57-year-old into a blubbering idiot. This did it.

(YouTube video: Fiona's amazing story.)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me...

Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.


Categories: Dogs, Philosophy, Religion


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