Category Archives: Religion

Thursday Linkorama

Non-political links:

  • NSFW. But funny as hell.
  • Political Links:

  • An interesting article about some of the Christians standing up to Fred Phelps.
  • This is one of the chief reasons I’m nervous about the GOP taking power and am not prepared for them to win the White House in 2012. When a party is uniformly disputing fairly solid science, that’s disturbing. And anti-conservative. They are essentially saying they’re willing to bit our entire future on the idea that global warming is a myth.
  • You’re Full of It Watch: what is it with Paul Krugman? So much of what he writes is simply factually wrong. Does he think that winning a Nobel precludes him from checking his fantasies with data?
  • Newspapers wuss out on a funny cartoon.
  • Weekend Linkorama

  • Stunning pictures of the Icelandic eruption. Hat tip to Astropixie.
  • Part Two of the debunking of Lord Monckton. Again, notice how fundamentally dishonest he in the debate. He is one of the principle sources for much of conservative opposition to AGW. And he’s a complete crackpot.
  • Sometimes, I’m so happy I live in a country that takes the First Amendment so seriously.
  • Irony. The EPA has dangerous levels of lead in their building.
  • Color my unimpressed that NYC is planning to close their rubber rooms. They are not firing anyone or expediting the hearing process. They’re just giving them make-work jobs. Typical of the “conservative” Bloomberg.
  • A small triumph over the absurdly generous British libel laws. And pseudo-science.
  • Some sensible talk on IT security.
  • Coolness. Saving lives at $3 a pop. I love innovation.
  • An open letter to the Catholic bishops that reads more like the Declaration of Independence than anything else.
  • Cool windows.
  • Dead On?

    My faith, according to Beliefnet?

    1. Reform Judaism (100%)
    2. Unitarian Universalism (93%)
    3. Liberal Quakers (91%)
    4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (80%)
    5. Baha’i Faith (79%)

    I’m Conservative Judaism, but that doesn’t show up on their quiz. Orthodox Judaism shows us #8. I’d say this was reasonably accurate.

    Weekend Linkorama

  • Big Surprise. Smacking kids is not so obviously bad. When are we going to get over this idea that we can decree parenting techniques from on high?
  • Science Fiction is the next big thing for the religious nuts.
  • I heart Hitchens.
  • When Ta-Nehisi Coates is on, he’s on.
  • Aw, Jeez.
  • Somehow, the media fails to tell us when there are no combat casualties in Iraq. But Obama is still blowing the war, right?
  • Dear God: why? Why do you punish us so?
  • Could cellphones protect against Alzheimer’s? Further work will determine. It would be hilarious and wonderful if it did.
  • Tuesday Linkorama

  • Just when you thought Republicans couldn’t get any dumber.
  • People are upset with Crumb’s version of Genesis (NSFW). Probably what bothers them most is that he leaves in the parts of Genesis — such as Lot’s daughters — that they’d prefer quietly left out.
  • A scary story about kids being taken away from parents because they are obese.
  • Compare and contrast: the environmental movement in a state run by controlling environmentalists and one barely run at all. If you want green technology to advance, you’re going to have to let the market do it.
  • Those awful CEOs with their evil salaries. Good thing our public option mortgage company is above such reckless behavior. Oh, wait.
  • Alan Grayson is now embarrassing the Democrats. Last week, he got praise from Greenwald for questioning a fellow Congressman about bills of attainder — apparently, removing ACORN’s funding is the equivalent of fining or jailing someone. I was unimpressed and continue to be unimpressed. Grayson spews rhetoric that appeases far leftists. But I tend to think that stuff belongs on talk radio, not Congress. Of course, the GOP has just about its entire membership talking like a an army of Alan Graysons.
  • Re-analysis shows that global warming has not reversed and, indeed, the last decade has been the warmest in the 130 years we have measurements for.
  • Friday Linkorama

  • And people wonder why tort reform is such a big deal to doctors. Brilliant article from Philip Howard looks into solutions.
  • A new study find CO2 levels track arctic ice levels. Let’s see if the global warming denier acknowledge this study the same way they’ll acknowledge a study that disputes an aspect of global warming.
  • It’s no surprise to me that more religious states have higher teen birth rates, although I suspect there’s a correlation-causation thing going on.
  • I have to say that I’m kind of against mandatory flu vaccinations even though I generally favor mandating vaccination. One factor here is that the flu vaccine is not anywhere close to 100% effective.
  • Just when you thought the birthers couldn’t get any crazier.
  • A great piece from Jesse Walker argues that it’s not radical groups — left or right — who present the real violent threat in America. It’s the response.
  • Yet more scientific coolness.
  • It’s Not the Faith, It’s the Collectivism

    Ed Yong with something close to my heart.

    Together, these four studies – three survey analyses and one experiment – contradict the idea that religious belief and devotion in themselves are the driving force behind the suicide bombing mindset. Nor is this mindset exclusive to Islam, as the third and fourth experiments show. Instead, it seems that the link between religion and suicide attacks is more to do with collective rituals. Ginges’s theory is that these rituals strengthen an individual’s loyalty to a community, but risk hardening their hearts against outsiders. That’s certainly a reasonable interpretation but it’s worth noting that religious services are complicated affairs, which have many sides to them besides group behaviour. People who worship en masse may get very different perspectives on their faiths that those who pray alone don’t, and this study doesn’t really take that into account.

    What I’d be interested in seeing — and I suspect it would be borne out — is if the suicidal mindset also exists among those in collectivist secular societies. Communism and fascism had plenty of people willing to kill or die on its behalf. And race has been as powerful a motivator for bloodshed as religion, if not more so. After all, to go the Godwin route, the Third Reich’s persecution of Jews was far more racial than it was religious. Hitler’s writings were far more focused on how the Jews physically repulsed him than on any aspect of the faith.

    I have long believed the religion is primarily the excuse for evil behavior, be it wars, genocide, suicide bombing or oppression. Nice to see at least a little bit of support from the sociologists.


    This is why I hate mixing politics and religion — because it does as much harm to religion than politics:

    The priest–the priest who had just joined with us in the prayer of the Rosary was now red-faced shouting. I thought. Talking about me. I had cooperated with evil. I had? I had killed babies? My heart was black. I was giving scandal to the entire church. I had once been a leader but now I forfeited any semblance of respectability or leadership. The good father grasped tightly the edges of the ambo, the unusual name given to the lectern in the Catholic Church. No faithful Catholic would ever contemplate doing what I had done. I was dead to the Holy Mother Church.

    My wife held my hand tightly. We looked at each other in disbelief. Here was someone in the vestments of the priesthood who had called us to have our prayers be heard, who recited the Kyrie with us, asking the Lord’s mercy upon us, now seemingly merciless, telling me and the many there assembled that I was unworthy. I was to be publicly shunned and humiliated. My offense? Endorsing Senator Barak Obama for President of the United States.

    The irony of ironies was that my motivation for the endorsement was entirely Catholic. No, Obama doesn’t share the Catholic faith, but he certainly campaigns like he does. As reflected in his book, the Senator is focused on the human person, on the common good, on the social justice of economic arrangement. All is so very Catholic.

    It was time for Communion. Notwithstanding the indictment of the homily, I did not think of myself as unworthy of receipt of the sacrament–at least no more so then pre-Obama endorsement. Communion in the Catholic tradition is indeed sacred. We believe the bread and the wind is transformed–transubstantiated–into the body and blood of Christ. I have often watched my parish priest focus his gaze with reverence upon the bread and the wine during the offertory to gain some appreciation for the significance of the divine person whose presence on can scarcely grasp….

    But I was not to receive the Eucharist that evening. The couples who stood in line before my wife and myself received the body of Christ in their hands or on their tongues and returned to their seats. My wife received. My hand outstretched, the priest shook his head from side to side. Was that a no? It was Judgment Day, and I hadn’t made it. LSAT Insufficient. Inadequate GPA. Do not pass GO…go directly to Hell.

    The Catholic Church has waaay overstepped its bounds on the abortion issues. It’s no longer enough to personally oppose abortion. You have to vote to inscribe that opposition into law. Anything else — poverty, freedom, religious tolerance — means nothing. If you are not for the outlawing of abortion — hell, if you just support someone who is against the outlawing of abortion — you are no longer Catholic. You can literally go to hell.

    This tends to happens when a faith that believes their leader speaks with the voice of God conflicts with a discipline — politics — that does not recognize absolute authority but works in compromise, bargains, persuasion and argument.

    I would be remiss if I did not point out the following:

    As of this writing, I have successfully kept the name of the priest and his religious order out the public record. Every expert in Canon Law who has examined the question and concluded under Canon 915 that the denial of Communion was unauthorized and inappropriate. After the even became public, Cardinal Mahoney called the priest into his office, and several months after that meeting, Father ______sent Carol and myself a letter of apology. The letter is thoughtfully written and the apology accepted. Perhaps there was a Providential hand at work using the two of us to teach a lesson to a larger congregation. The lesson? Any Voter Guide even hinting at a Catholic duty as a matter of faith and morals to vote against Senator Obama is seriously in error.

    But the Kmenic incident is part of a large and troubling trend that is one of the principal reasons I can not vote for the Republicans any longer, no how matt how much I like their candidate. When you portray your opponents as godless (Ann Coulter’s best-selling book) or the Party of Death (Ramesh Ponnoru’s book) and claim you are on a mission from God (Tom Delay’s remarks a couple of years ago), you are no longer a political party, but a religious movement.

    Kosher For Work

    An interesting story about the Postville plant has conservative rabbis demanding fair treatment of workers in order for food to be kosher.

    This is perfectly reasonable and the orthodox rabbis need to have their beards dipped in ink for opposing it.

    For food to be kosher, it can not be processed or transported on the Sabbath. The Bible says very specific things about not abusing those who work for you. Shouldn’t that mean that kosher food must be processed in a plant that is safe on workers?

    The Parent Delusion

    I forgot one aspect of the God Delusion that is probably the most controversial. Dawkins spends an entire chapter ranting about the foisting of religion upon children. He fumes about a child being described as a “muslim child” or a “christian child” and thinks they should be left out of religion until they are old enough to choose.

    First, one suspects that Dawkins supports this point of view because he knows or thinks that children raised in such a way will not be religious at all. It’s a back-door means to a different sort of indoctrination.

    You have to wonder who is supposed to keep religion away from children. It can only be government. Because the only people who will voluntarily keep children away from religion are not the kind of people who will abuse their children with an extreme brand of faith.

    Second, the extreme examples he cites do not reflect the majority of Americans or religious people in the 21st century. Yes, it’s horrible that some parents instill their children with a terror of hell and tell them their friends are going there. But they would probably be abusing their children in other ways if religion were banned for kids. There is a certain mindset that goes along with that brand of family religion.

    Third, what if they’re right? Dawkins argues that the probability of a biblical God is low, but he does not argue that it is zero. There’s no fundamental reason not to believe, for example, that the scientific world is an illusion and God is cruel and judgmental (see Heinlein’s Job). Maybe the crazies are right. I’m not so sure of my position that I’m willing to outlaw crazy theology.

    Fourth, religion isn’t the only identity we attach to children. National identity and ethnicity is given as well. How many children have been killed because they were French or Croatian or Apache compared to those killed because they were Jewish or Protestant. We raise our children learning the language, culture and traditions of our nation and ethnic group. Should we refuse to have children say the Pledge of Allegiance? Should Native Americans not pass on their culture, which is clinging to life by a thread? I suspect Dawkins would say no.

    I too feel rage when I hear of parents enculcating their children with absurd or even dangerous fundamentalist religious beliefs. But it is the price we pay for freedom. And the privilege of being a parent. It’s not pretty, but it’s the only way to let the world be run.