Asking Candidates About Their Faith (and Extraterrestrial) Beliefs

26 08 2011

“God chose me for that moment!” she thrills . . .

Following up after the GOP debate controversy around asking Rep. Bachmann about the implications of her bible-based wifely submission beliefs should she become President:

This year’s Republican primary season offers us an important opportunity to confront our scruples about the privacy of faith in public life — and to get over them. We have an unusually large number of candidates, including putative front-runners, who belong to churches that are mysterious or suspect to many Americans.

Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons, a faith that many conservative Christians have been taught is a “cult” and that many others think is just weird. (Huntsman says he is not “overly religious.”) Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are both affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity — and Rick Santorum comes out of the most conservative wing of Catholicism — which has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction.

And let’s not skip too quickly over Read the rest of this entry »

Three Power of Story Stories . . .

5 05 2011

to help JJ celebrate this National Day of Reason:

1) You’ve seen this picture.
“It is an image unimaginable 30 years ago. . .”

Now see three reasons it’s worth not only a thousand words but worth more than every history textbook in Texas, and then some.

(If you saw the evangelical Christianist self-styled as an authentic history expert on Jon Stewart last night, you’ll know what I mean. If not, watch this.)

Update – the Jon Stewart interview moved one author to action, reports the Friendly Atheist. She decided to give away for free download her book, Liars for Jesus:

The whole thing is just infuriating. Barton goes on and on (and on), talking over Stewart, saying that Christianity is under attack. Stewart calls him out on it. Barton changes the subject, cherrypicks court cases to prove some obscure point, and acts like he’s victorious. . . .

She’s going to give away her book for free in the hope that the truth can spread.
. . .So download it, read it, spread it, and help put a dent into Barton’s influence. Better yet, buy it if you can so future volumes can be published.

2) THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! Only reason will beat it back into the Dark Ages. (Do we need a presidentially commanded special ops strike force of REASON?)

3) Edge dot org has an intriguing new conversation up on “The Argumentative Theory.”

Edge is the perfect place for some Day of Reason reading:

To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

Read first, feel the sudden warmth of human cognition exciting your synapses, then talk later.
I’ll be here. 🙂

JJ Spending This Week With Economist Jeffrey Sachs

22 02 2011

Free! — no admission, registration, tuition. Materials not included and I may need to buy a book or two, maybe not. We’ll see.

It only took a cup of coffee, some battery power and less than ten minutes to get started with a world class professor (see his vita at end of post):

“Both [parties] are completely unrealistic . . . what’s happening in this country? . . .Both parties are financed by wealthy people . . . everyone caters to the top. . .
American influence is waning, American infrastructure is crumbling . . .except if you’re rich and you have a lot of money to invest, you’re investing in China. . . our politics is SO ODD right now, because it’s driven just by the very top. . .pure propaganda [of] Big Oil . . . food prices are at all-time highs, there’s instability all over the world. . .energy crises, food crises, do we talk about any of that in our country? Absolutely not.”

‎Next I found a short profession of his thoughts on education. Real education, not schooling: education to help our kids learn about the real world IN the real world, to “Think Big”, to experience and understand what’s being systematically twisted and lied about for the basest motives, in our textbooks and classrooms and broadcasts, even in the hallowed halls of the capitol buildings and courthouses we built to express and effect our American Dreams. So what does the Doctor order? Unschool them in the real world and encourage every opportunity for them to get out in it and unschool themselves:

“The irony is not that we are at an abyss that is unavoidable . . .it’s almost the opposite. We’ve unlocked the ability to promote economic development in all parts of the world. We have at our hand, the ability to end extreme poverty. We have before us either already existing or within reach, technologies . . .the question is whether we can BRING KNOWLEDGE TO BEAR on these solutions and then Read the rest of this entry »

More Than Muslims, Remember Real Threat Today

11 09 2010

I’m a Southern girl born and bred. So I know a lot about burning — of books and flags and bridges, with passion and anger, repressed resentments and expressed bigotry. In my childhood culture, the resident gods saw everything in black and white and stayed too busy punishing teen sex with babies or at least shunning and damning Yankee carpetbaggers to hell from morning to night and twice on Sundays, to kindle culture war against furriner infidels.

The first book I loved enough to make me hate those who would burn it or ban it, was a bible as worth living by and dying for as any other, by god, the SOUTHERN bible — Gone With the Wind!

You never read it because it’s not your bible? Oh well, maybe you saw the movie, or at least a clip of the ignorant yet self-aggrandizing Prissy “don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies” as played by Butterfly McQueen, who as a real woman in real life read from many books and learned not to take its real meaning on faith:

What is the “faith of our forefathers” and how much faith does it have left in what’s right? Which identity is it we’re fighting to save, and which “them” is the real threat to it?

Their first class discussion was about the complex meaning of identity, thinking critically about how (and why) you define who you are as an individual within any society — or mob — relentlessly pressing individuals to conform with (often quite radical) norms.

Stubborn symbolic belief in “who we are” beyond all reason and science is all some folks have, the only story with any power to put them on top of a social group, and so they are willing to turn the sciences of larger society upside down, on the basis of that belief.

On this notorious day as Americans remember, reconstruct and reject both the best and worst of our national identity all at once — because whatever else we the people may be, we’re never easy! — the images of hate in my mind aren’t of burning towers but burning books, burning flags, burning bigotry and yes, burning flesh. Read the rest of this entry »

Which Vulnerability Do You Feel Most Keenly?

9 09 2010

“This is a battle over which vulnerability you feel more keenly,” he said.

Yikes, these words could apply to SO many aspects of current American life! Talk about Power of Story. Everything all at the same time even. Maybe challenge yourself and guess which, before you click through to see.

Have you stopped to really sort out which vulnerability YOU feel most keenly these days, and how that feeling is affecting your thinking? (I do this a lot because it keeps changing, hmmm. . .)

Believer or Not, You Won’t Believe This

5 09 2010

UPDATE Friday 3:42 pm: This is How the Media Embarrass Themselves

UPDATE Thursday early am: President Obama himself “as commander in chief” says the pastor needs to understand that this “stunt” could “greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform” and “it’s a recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda.”

UPDATE Wednesday 8 pm:

Deputy Chief Tim Hayes of the Gainesville Fire Dept., however, said that his department’s denial was not related to the content of the books but on a city ordinance which prohibits the burning of “newspaper, corrugated cardboard, container board or office paper, which are akin to books.”

No doubt, attendees from the Sarah Palin/Dr. Laura School of Law would regard it as an infringement of the Dove Outreach Center’s First Amendment rights, should a group of concerned citizens peacefully surround these book burners, whom Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe describes as a “tiny fringe group and an embarrassment to our community,” holding up signs which quote [Heinrich] Heine’s “Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people.”

UPDATE Wednesday 2:07 pm: He’s going forward. City of Gainesville says all yard book-burning is banned because the ink is toxic when burning and releases into the atmosphere. How poetic!

UPDATE Wednesday at 1:58 pm: TV news conference coming up, in which Pastor Jones reportedly “might” announce God has told him to back off the holy book-burning, waiting to see now, which is no doubt what he wants . . .

UPDATE Wednesday: Mrs C. has some thoughts on hate speech cloaked with religion Christian or Muslim, American or not: Burning the Koran


My hometown in Gainesville FL — one religious tax-dodging nut-job
there, to be more accurate — has ignited a state department-level
international incident! Seriously, thousands rioting in the streets
against America, or at least against what’s wrong with our right and its
abuse of our rights.

See full news below. Read it and weep.

But first a little background: last year at back-to-school time, Snook was blogging about school dress codes and uniforms, etc. I compared it all to my unschooled children’s freedom to dress as they pleased, thinking about and discussing the god-and-government control memes behind such clothing issues.

One of the stories I riffed about was from my hometown, in the school
system where I worked as an administrator and literally wrote the policy manual for everything, including dress as speech and conduct. Remember those t-shirts that screamed, “ISLAM IS OF THE DEVIL” in the first discussion? Read the rest of this entry »

Blackwater, Google and Whales, Oh My

25 02 2010

JJ’s News Riddle of the Day:
What do all corporate giants from health insurance and banking, shape-shifting black-hat Blackwater to white-hat feel-good Googly-YouTube internationals just yearning to be freeee, have in common with killer whales?

Superhuman powers, no human morals.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld has suspended killer whale shows at all of its parks following the death of a trainer in Orlando, Florida. A horrified audience looked on as a killer whale named Tilikum snatched the trainer from a poolside platform and thrashed her under water. She drowned. It’s the third time the animal has been involved in a human death.

So because of what they have in common (with each other, *not* with us) they hurt us over and over and over, incapable of stopping themselves, of caring or even comprehending why we do. Because they are NOT HUMAN!

Schakowsky also discussed her plan to ban private military contractors . . .like Blackwater [that] are “putting our own troops in danger, ruining the reputation of our country, murdering people and still getting tax payer dollars.”

She explained that she is trying to garner public support for the Stop Outsourcing Our Security Act, which would phase out “repeat offenders” like Blackwater who have “imperiled our mission on numerous occasions.”

And we keep letting them! Not funny. So maybe just call it the punch, instead of punchline.

For example, you might feel outraged — does Sarah Palin? Haven’t heard her jump on this like she did the r-word, hmmm — thinking that a real human with Down Syndrome was the victim in Italy’s obscene video for fun and profit, but that’s such a soft-hearted typical human weakness, you should think like a corporation! Here’s the REAL victim, poor old internet giants like Google and YouTube, plagued by our Lilliputian pinprick concerns like the need for a living wage and family privacy and our natural drive to protect each other Read the rest of this entry »

How Do You Define What’s Up (at pussy)Cat’s?

27 10 2009

The latest round of thinking parents playing “What’s in a Name?” as a floating blog-game of religion and politics costumed as each other for Halloween, apparently started with Lynn and JJ and many commenters both places, riffing on Frank Schaeffer’s books and his new MSNBC repudiation of the evangelical radicalism he was weaned on, taught to use as a weapon of mass destruction in mainstream politics and governance, back in mid-century America. He used some very colorful and contentious language to make his case that this was a bad thing then and a worse thing now.

Cat linked that video and the posts, used it as a mirror exercise in fallacious argument with her kids, which interested JJ enough to keep her playing over there instead of here for a couple of days.

Oh,and Monty Python got involved because isn’t it axiomatic that satisfying intercourse between smart people just does revert to Monty Python sooner or later? 😉

And here we are. My last comment at Cat’s is reproduced below as an invitation if you’re so inclined, to take on the Python persona of your choice and join the improv, here or there across artificial boundaries and dubious definitions as you prefer:

Well, let’s define terms immediately upon using them, or far better, stick to dictionary definitions. A good argument needs no redefinitions, right?

Or a good argument is almost entirely redefinitions. Need we first argue to define good argument?

To that point, I’m surprised you missed this Python definition of argument! 🙂

I laughed at that in the 70s because it was really absurd while Bill Buckley was doing Firing Line on PBS for real — breathing life into intellect and intellect into argument and argument into television.

Initially, Cleese simply contradicts everything that Palin says. Palin insists that it is not an argument but merely contradiction and asserts that “argument’s an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gain-saying of anything the other person says.” Cleese asserts that, to have an argument, he must “take up a contrary position.” Palin is frustrated until he realises that Cleese is actually engaging him in a sort of meta-argument about what constitutes an argument.

But it’s not so funny when television and real life become one big intellectually bankrupt contradiction clinic 24-7.

I think of “good argumentation” much like, ahem, other forms of healthy human intercourse. 😉

It is meant as a creative force to uplift, connect and sustain virtues rather than do harm to anyone directly or indirectly through vice and self-indulgence. It is “good” intercourse and fun to share with the right person for the right reasons, when it’s Read the rest of this entry »

War, War, War Revisited

22 10 2009

See Because Liz Cheney is a War Criminal too in the rogues’ gallery detailed, then proceed:

dick cheney looking scary and crazed

Liz Cheney, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, is founding a new group called “Keep America Safe” that will coordinate a campaign of fear intended to paint the President as an appeaser disinterested in protecting America.

The Cheneys have never been shy when criticizing President Obama or his foreign policy. Soon after Obama was elected, former Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to warn the country of the dire risk faced by ending the internationally-condemned practice of torture. Now, his eldest daughter Liz is creating a nonprofit aimed at making such scare tactics into a permanent campaign.

Conservative partisan and failed Iraq war prognosticator William Kristol is one of the founding members. Kristol has also called for an invasion of Iran, suggesting that perhaps this time, we will, in fact, be “greeted as liberators.”

Keep America Safe’s mission statement parrots some of Kristol’s paranoid and dubious claims. . . To Keep America Safe, apparently, requires not one or two but three simultaneous wars.

Because Dick Cheney and his spawn can’t or won’t shut up and slink off the national stage in shame, I am reposting this from April, just as urgent as ever:

War war war, fiddle-dee-dee!

Is this the only power of story conservatives get, war?
All they can talk about, the only way they can make a case for their “freedom” values and respect for “life”? WMD as WWJD?

Not just fighting with each other over literal fights in the Middle East, which you’d think would be plenty of real war and then some. But no-oo-o. We also have to re-fight themes of:

Read the rest of this entry »

How Humans Are Hard-Wired to Treat Each Other

3 10 2009

“So easy a caveman could do it” sells insurance on tv as laissez faire capitalism good for us all. A new congressman boldly goes where no Dem has gone before, calling out GOP obstructionists and greedy antisocial insurance companies as “foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals” this week. [see six-minute mark into video]

And today, the Wall Street Journal takes on the killer-ape “survival of the fittest” theory as unfit to intelligently explain human behavior.
[see 11 new Science papers on these 4.4 million year old hominid fossils here]

Are humans hard-wired to be ruthlessly competitive or supportive of one another?
. . .The once-popular killer ape theory is crumbling under its own lack of evidence . . . towards increasing evidence for humans as cooperative and empathic. . . people do not always adhere to the profit principle.

We care about fairness and justice and sometimes let these concerns override the desire to make as much money as possible.

JJ is having some Saturday morning conjecture with her coffee: Read the rest of this entry »

Foundation Beyond Belief: Humanity at Work

1 10 2009

It’s Beyond Belief — what Dale has been up to is up, go see, explore and join this eminently ethical community if it reflects your family values.

Its purpose is to articulate and put into coordinated action the humanist perspective for making the world a better place.

As Dale’s personal epiphany puts it:

“The atheists weren’t absent. They were invisible. . . Prayers and songs and religious rituals announce themselves. Quiet conviction goes unseen.”

Education, health, peace, child welfare, the environment and all life on the planet we share.
The Big Bang fund.
The humanist parent education program!

Q: I’m a religious person. Can I be a member?

Sure! Secular humanists volunteer and donate to religious organizations all the time. Another analogy would be the Gay Straight Alliances across the country, which straight members join to support the efforts of their GLBT friends to achieve equal treatment. By joining a secular humanist foundation, you are supporting this effort by secular humanists to make the world a better place.

There will be forums and all sorts of interactive resources to come beginning January 1, but Dale already has the new FBB blog up here.

Because Teaching “Vile, Contemptible Nonsense” Is Bringing Down America

19 08 2009

(More from our epic examination of what conservative Christian curriculum really teaches, even when it claims to double as mainstream academics.)

“My biggest curiosity factor, however, is why do you care?”


Up-thread Lynn and I do talk about how the wonderful world we all live in together is threatened for all, when any indoctrinating power including if not especially patriarchal fundamentalism, gets power-hungry in public policy. Look at the history of the Catholic Church or modern-day middle eastern theocracy, or just turn on cable news in America to the current town halls.

The entire state of Texas is (unconstitutionally in my view) implementing by public policy a new curriculum to literally indoctrinate students in this armed and dangerous version of Christianity — yet you’re asking US instead of those elected public servants, why we should care what kids grow up believing? Do you seriously mean to claim that all curriculum and all education is just competing indoctrination anyway, so what does it matter??

If so, you answer your own question: THAT is why it matters. Because believing that lie spoils everything good, true and beautiful that is real and dehumanizes us all so we can devolve back into warring religious tribes.

Even if you can’t believe as I do, that Read the rest of this entry »