2006
08.29

An atheist manifesto

 

Truthdig.com:n Imagine there’s no heaven, Atheist Manifesto — by Sam Harris (thanks to Re Collection for this link)

This is an intriguing and strident essay in which the case for atheism is made. Many of the arguments are familiar to me (and I think not only to atheists, but to many questioning believers), but what was surprising was his attack on religious moderates. Here’s one part where he does this…

. . . To believe that God exists is to believe that one stands in some relation to his existence such that his existence is itself the reason for one’s belief. There must be some causal connection, or an appearance thereof, between the fact in question and a person’s acceptance of it. In this way, we can see that religious beliefs, to be beliefs about the way the world is, must be as evidentiary in spirit as any other. For all their sins against reason, religious fundamentalists understand this; moderates–almost by definition–do not.

The incompatibility of reason and faith has been a self-evident feature of human cognition and public discourse for centuries. Either a person has good reasons for what he strongly believes or he does not. People of all creeds naturally recognize the primacy of reasons and resort to reasoning and evidence wherever they possibly can. When rational inquiry supports the creed it is always championed; when it poses a threat, it is derided; sometimes in the same sentence. Only when the evidence for a religious doctrine is thin or nonexistent, or there is compelling evidence against it, do its adherents invoke “faith.”

. . . It seems profoundly unlikely that we will heal the divisions in our world simply by multiplying the opportunities for interfaith dialogue. The endgame for civilization cannot be mutual tolerance of patent irrationality. While all parties to liberal religious discourse have agreed to tread lightly over those points where their worldviews would otherwise collide, these very points remain perpetual sources of conflict for their coreligionists. Political correctness, therefore, does not offer an enduring basis for human cooperation. If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith.

When we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; when we have no reasons, or bad ones, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another. Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn’t–indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable–is both an intellectual and a moral failing. Only the atheist has realized this. The atheist is simply a person who has perceived the lies of religion and refused to make them his own.

Intersting points, but I’ll have to disagree on his fundamental thesis. Faith is not the denial of knowing, but rather the acknowledgment that there are different kinds of knowing. Humans have gone through many phases in our social evolution, most recently away from blind faith and towards reason and rationality. However, many of us (including myself) now see that this latest evolutionary change is also lacking, and that pure reason is empty and doesn’t satisfy the human spirit that yearns for something more.

So I guess to me the urge of spirituality (particularly for those who’ve outgrown traditional religion), is about this quest to connect with the divine, to find meaning, to find beauty.

But let me say it another way… if I depended solely upon reason to understand the world, I would be compelled to be an agnostic. (atheism, never has made sense to me. I can understand saying you don’t know about the existence of God, but being sure there is no God at all, that just seems like another form of faith to me, except it is faith in an unprovable and unknowable notion) However, there is another kind of truth that rings true to me, the fact that evolution didn’t create a world that is ugly and utiliatian, but rather is beautiful. The fact that despite the brutality of survival of the fittest, human beings through the millenia have shown love and kindness to others (this is the argument I would make, that Sam Harris seems to ignore). All of these things point to the existence of some kind of divine order.

Now as to what that order is, what “God” is, I can’t really say. The way Jesus spoke about the divine resonates the best with my heart (maybe it was my upbringing and culture, maybe it is something else), but I won’t say that his way is the only way. I see the same kind of truth, the same kind of clarity in other faiths, in the riches of the Jewish traditions, in the austere and brave deep looking of Buddhism, in the irreverent but delightful teachings of the Tao te Ching, in all of these places I see God.

2006
08.29

 

LandInstitute.org: 8th Annual Prairie Festival — 30th Anniversary of The Land Institute, October 6-8, 2006

Guest speakers will include Jakob Von Uexkull, founder of Right Livelihood Award; Wendell Berry; Frances Beinecke, Executive Director, Natural Resources Defense Council; Ray Anderson, Interface, Inc.; David Orr; Laura Jackson; and Doug Tompkins. The Land Institute’s scientists will give a research update and founder Wes Jackson will present his annual inspirational. You’ll enjoy the homegrown tunes of Ann Zimmerman. And you’ll not be alone in the wilderness: People who celebrate The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival share a caring about sustainable living and our land, and they say these warm people are the best thing about attending. We invite you to be part of it, the 30th Anniversary of The Land Institute at Prairie Festival 28, October 6-8, 2006. . .

I’m so stoked about this festival (I’m hoping to talk my pal Rachel into going with me), but especially about hearing Wendell Berry speak, as his writing has influenced the course of my life more than any other (except maybe those who wrote the Bible).

2006
08.28

 

Truthout.org: Camp Casey Reaches Out to GIs at Fort Hood — A Report by Geoffrey Millard and Scott Galindez

Over the last week, Camp Casey activists have been reaching out to GIs at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Truthout’s Geoffrey Millard went along with a group from the camp to one of the gates at Fort Hood and filed this report.

2006
08.27

Pictures from Crawford – Part 1

 

Pictures taken at Action at Ft. Hood in Killeen, TX

This is the first installment of the pictures I took on my trip to Crawford.

2006
08.26

On my way back from Crawford

 

I’ve stopped at a Schlotzky’s in Hillsboro, TX for a quick bite to eat and to check email while returning from Crawford. I’ll post more later about the experience (as well some pictures), but I must say my experience was a very mixed bag. On the positive, I met some wonderful folks, got to participate in an action outside Ft. Hood, and enjoyed camping under oodles of stars under a gorgeous dark Texas sky.

On the negative, I saw some way creepy power dynamics at play and way too much anger and hatred (from not all, but definitely from many) that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway I’ll say more later as I have to process it, but definitely I will say that it was an interesting and enlightening experience.

Oh one more positive thing, I did get to have dinner with my bro Daniel and his wife Summer while in Texas. We met at the Chuy’s up in Round Rock (sorta between them in South Austin and Killeen where I was at that day). The food was great (and of course I had to have a margarita… since it was at a Chuy’s that one of the Bush twins was first busted for drinking a margarita underage), but I learned that the “Elvis Presley Memorial Dinner” is absurdly too big and really should be only ordered to be shared by 2-3 folks.

2006
08.23

 

This is kinda a last minute deal, but I’m departing this evening to spend a few days in Crawford, Texas. I’ll be down there on behalf of the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild to provide some military counseling (and referals to legal counsel) for soldiers who are visiting Camp Casey and need assistance with discharge issues.

Here’s some information on all that is going on in Crawford this month…

Crawford Peace Houes

Gold Star Families for Peace — Camp Casey August 6th-Sept 2nd 2006

I should also add that my presence and participation in the work in Crawford doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with everyone else who is also doing work down there. Mass protest actions always wig me out a little bit because there are so many different approaches to the problem of war (I’m more on the spiritual/pacifistic side of things), but overall I’ve heard so many good things about the work down there that I’m really looking forward to getting to be a part of it.

2006
08.22

 

This is an update to an earlier post.

Well I had my first day of classes at TCC yesterday. Of course, class days is a kinda a fluid concept when you are taking distance learning classes, because what we do is basically do our reading and then post responses to discussion questions on the discussion boards of the class website (there is a total of 150 points available for the discussion board participation, and then 100 points for each of 3 tests, with a total of 450 points being possible).

So far it is fun, but a bit frustrating too as most of my classmates haven’t posted anything yet (my OT class I think has 18 students, and my eastern religions class has 30 some students, but so far both classes have only had myself and one other student posting so far).

As for the discussion questions, here are the ones we’re talking about right now…

For the OT Class – “Given that there are different lists of Biblical books (canons), do you have any ideas on how to chose which list to accept?”

For the Eastern Religions Class – “Discuss the concept of Karma. Do you think this concept adequately deals with the fact that the World seems unjust?”

For the first question, my response (paraphrased here) is that one can accept biblical books for different purposes: communal, personal and scholastic; and that each of these purposes may yield a different response.

For the second question, my response (again paraphrased), is that karma seems to be a good descriptive concept (i.e. describing how the world works) but is not a good prescriptive concept, at least when it refers to what happens to the do-ers of deeds (since bad stuff happens to good folks and vice-versa).

2006
08.21

Exciting news from Nebraska

 

NEStatepaper.com: Green Party Does What Dems Couldn’t – Fields A Candidate For Attorney General

This sure is an inspiration for us here in the Oklahoma Green Party. But of course we’re stuck with our rotten, undemocratic ballot access laws.

2006
08.17

 

I’ve had tons of comments on my previous post about Mysecret.tv (the cyber-confession website of Lifechurch.tv), so I thought I would follow up with what others are saying about it.

The Parish: MySecret.tv or Voyeur Driven Church (also see The Parish: A Better Analysis on Mysecret.tv

I’ve written many, many posts about what happens when marketing language enters the church. One of the inevitable results is that marketing methods also enter the church. So now we’ve got the simulacra of an ancient Christian discipline, the false promise of freedom, and an offer of sermons to draw people to Lifechurch.tv, all in a medium that accomplishes nothing for anyone.

The Parish’s post makes a great segue to this post from a site that celebrates “marketing” the church . .

ChurchCommunicationsPro.com: Internet a ‘Roadside Billboard’ With ‘Pull Over’ Benefits, says Forbes

I won’t paraphrase what this innane website says, except to say that it illustrates perfectly how wrong Mysecret.tv is.

Rae’s Space: Sensational sin

. . . Our state newspaper, the Daily Oklahoman, ran a story on this so I’m sure millions of people are flocking to the site. I just think this is irresponsible use of religion–to post “sin” online for the world to see, instead of making it a matter between a person and God.

Another issue I have are the categories of sin and what is/is not a sin. I think it’s safe to say that my understanding of sin is different than what LifeChurch would preach, but hey…..

The Ember: What’s your secret? – a rather sympathetic look at the website

Making Chutney: MySecret.tv — In search of brokenness

. . . Almost all the confessions at MySecret have a raw honesty about them—the confessors truly believe they have sinned. And some have.

But then there are the posts where the confessors seek forgiveness for simply being human. There are folks who have bought a package deal of what it means to be a good human, and when their lives don’t measure up, they count themselves failures.

I was there once.

Possibly one of the best thoughts I’ve seen about the site (you really need to read the rest of this post), and reflects my own life dead-on-the-money.

The Swingset: The Beast…Pt. II (also see Part I

2006
08.17

 

HRC.org: Pension Law includes important protections for same-sex couples under federal law— Human Rights Campaign Helps Secure Key Provisions to Assist GLBT and Other Americans

WASHINGTON — The Federal Pension Protection Act passed by Congress and signed into law today by President George W. Bush contains two key provisions that will extend important financial protections to same-sex couples and other Americans who leave their retirement savings to non-spouse beneficiaries. The bipartisan provisions in the bill are a step forward in equality and stem from a continuous effort led by the Human Rights Campaign.

“There is a large group of Americans that are left behind in traditional pension benefit models. We need to do better to keep these groups from falling through the cracks,” said Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. “I am pleased that the pension reform legislation takes an important step to fill this gap by equalizing treatment in retirement savings vehicles for non-spouse beneficiaries.” . . .

(on side note, isn’t it beautiful that a Republican spoke out so strongly in favor of this law! Truly, wonders never cease!)

HRC.org: Fact sheet on the Pension Protection Act