Sarah Haider, Co-Founder of Ex-Muslims in North America, Shares Her Transition to Atheism…

 

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From The AHA Foundation

Sarah Haider, Co-Founder of Ex-Muslims in North America, Shares Her Transition to Atheism

Sarah Haider is a Pakistani-born writer and activist who grew up in Texas. A practicing Shia Muslim throughout her childhood, Sarah gradually transitioned to atheism in her teens. In 2013, she co-founded Ex-Muslims in North America, advocating for the acceptance of religious dissidents and creating local support communities for those who have left Islam.

AHA Foundation: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your childhood, where you went
 to school, your profession?

Ms. Haider: I was born in Pakistan, but I was raised largely in Texas. After college, I moved to D.C, where I got involved in non-profits. In 2013 I co-founded Ex-Muslims of North America, and since then I’ve been working to promote acceptance of dissent and secularism in Muslim communities.

Book Review: The Myth of Human Supremacy

 

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From Max Wilbert

I’ve just finished reading Derrick Jensen’s new book The Myth of Human Supremacy (2016, 7 Stories Press).

In Derrick’s style, the book jumps from philosophy to neurobiology, from direct experience of relationship with non-humans to discussions of ethnocentrism. Although some have difficulty with this style, it’s elegant to me; in short strokes, he paints a picture larger than the sum of its parts.

Human supremacy is a fragile system. To be maintained, it must silence the near-daily experiences and messages from the more-than-human that demonstrate intelligence, morality, complexity, and other characteristics that, under western science, are reserved only for humans.

Even in someone like me, who was raised with anti-racist, feminist, anti-empire politics and brought up living alongside a wide variety of non-humans, human supremacy is ingrained. It’s built into the foundations of our culture.

I’ve often been told that one of the most important tasks for non-indigenous people is to decolonize our hearts and mind. This book contributes to that process by helping the reader understand and deconstruct human supremacy step-by-step.

Rational Suicide: Jules Hunter committed suicide after a long battle with MS and a rare condition that left her in constant agony…

 

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From Sun Coast Daily, Australia

“I LOVE my life and wake each day in anticipation of what the day will bring.

“My life is good, so very very good.”

At the age of 46, Noosa woman Jules Hunter was positive she could overcome the constant, debilitating pain which had plagued her life since childhood.

Two weeks ago, just short of her 50th birthday, Jules finally gave in to the pain, said goodbye to family and friends and quietly took her own life.

“I’m excited with this decision knowing it’s time for my big sleep, to be free of pain and suffering,” she wrote in her final letter to Exit International, the controversial organisation fighting for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia.

The former “face” of the Queensland MS Society, Jules joined Exit early this year to learn more about her “end-of-life options”. It was the beginning of the end after years of pain which began when she was a teenager. The keen tennis and netball player couldn’t understand why she was in constant pain and suffered numbness, paralysis, vertigo, fatigue and muscle spasms. After years of tests and expert opinions, in 2004 she was diagnosed with relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis.

Addicted to Christianity?  Former Christians Say Yes and No…

 

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From Valerie Tarico

A generation ago, most people—even those who were not religious—thought of religion as mostly beneficial or at least harmless. But these days opinions are more mixed—with good reason. On the political stage, conservative Christians quote chapter and verse to justify bigotries that they call religious freedom, while conservative Muslims quote chapter and verse to justify beheadings and rape that they call jihad. Both groups of true believers seem determined to turn back the clock on secularism and modernity.  Meanwhile, at the individual level, conversation has opened up about psychological harms of Christianity—everything from damaged self-esteem or stunted curiosity to sexual hang-ups to depression and anxiety to full-blown religious trauma syndrome.

Why do people persist in beliefs and practices that seem obviously false and harmful from the outside?  How do religions compel decent people to say and do things they would otherwise find troubling or worse? Why are some people more protective of their religion than even their children?

Cognitive scientists and social scientists are just starting to examine religion as a natural phenomenon. In the meantime, recovering believers must draw on analogies to describe their experience. A number of writers have suggested that religion may be addictive, at least certain variants; and some addictions treatment programs now offer recovery from toxic religion as part of their services.

A brief scan of the internet leaves little doubt that religion can be harmful to both societies and individuals, but how well does the addiction model fit?  I asked former Christians what they thought, based on their own experience. Some said the parallel between religion and addiction resonated. Others balked, and offered other analogies that more closely fit their experience. Rather than distilling their comments, I have chosen to share them in full so that readers can weigh the relevance to their own religious experiences and draw their own conclusions.

Some Say Yes

Scientific Facts Are Not Up For Debate…

 

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Washington, D.C.-(9/27/16)- The Secular Coalition for America released the following statement after last night’s presidential debate.

Last night at Hofstra University, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump briefly discussed the issue of climate change. The short exchange centered around whether Donald Trump has claimed that “the concept of global warming is a hoax created by and for the Chinese.” Trump denied the allegation but the record shows that he tweeted precisely that statement and on numerous other occasions made statements expressing similar doubts about the reality of climate change. This comes less than a week after 375 concerned scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, penned an open letter drawing attention to the serious threat posed by climate change. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has acknowledged the reality of climate change and the challenge it presents. The stark difference between the candidates on the issue was factored into their scores on the Secular Coalition’s 2016 Presidential Voter Guides.

“Our next president must be honest about the limits of their own knowledge,” said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “When Donald Trump disregards the scientific consensus behind climate change, he presents an approach to policy making that Americans should find deeply troubling. Science empowers us by showing us the world as it is, unfiltered by belief or ideology. We cannot craft policy first and hope that reality will conform later. This approach threatens our ability to address not only climate change but a wide range of issues where the data presented by science may be inconvenient or challenge established beliefs. It is our hope that going forward, Donald Trump will continue to be pressed on the issue of climate change and both candidates will be asked to clarify how science will factor into their decision-making when serving as president of the United States,” Decker said.

Contact: Casey Brescia, Casey@secular.org, (845)-380-6201

###

The Secular Coalition for America is the nation’s premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.
~~

Kurt Vonnegut: Hooray For Our Team…

 

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From A Man Without a Country (2005)

Our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what’s really going on.
~

People are so afraid. Take the man, with no address, who wrote me:

If you knew that a man posed a danger to you—maybe he had a gun in his pocket, and you felt that he would not hesitate one moment to use it on you—what would you do? We know Iraq poses a threat to us, to the rest of the world. Why do we sit here and pretend we are protected? That is exactly what happened with al-Queda and 9/11. With Iraq, though, the threat is on a much larger scale. Should we sit back, be little children that sit in fear and just wait?

I wrote back:

Please, for the sake of us all, get a shotgun, preferably a 12-guage double-barrel, and right there in your own neighborhood blow off the heads of people, cops excepted, who may be armed.
~

“Socialism” is no more an evil word than “Christianity.” Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.

Adolf Hitler, incidentally, was a two-fer. He named his party the National Socialists, the Nazis. Hitler’s swastika wasn’t a pagan symbol, as so many people believe. It was a working person’s Christian cross, made of axes, of tools.

About Stalin’s shuttered churches, and those in China today: Such suppression of religion was supposedly justified by Karl Marx’s statement that “religion is the opium of the people.” Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivatives were the only effective painkillers anyone could take. Marx himself had taken them. He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him. He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress. It was a casual truism, not a dictum.

When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn’t even freed our slaves yet. Who do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then, Karl Marx or the United States of America?

Killing People and Breaking Things: U.S. Special Operations Command Details Dismal U.S. Military Record…

 

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From TomDispatch

Winning: it’s written into the DNA of the U.S.A.  After all, what’s more American than football legend Vince Lombardi’s famous (if purloinedmaxim: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”?

Americans expect to be number one.  First Lady Michelle Obama recently called the United States the “greatest country on Earth.” (Take that, world public opinion, and your choice of Germany!) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went even further, touting America as “the greatest country that has ever been created.”  Her rival, Donald Trump, who for political gain badmouths the country that made him rich and famous, does so in the hope of returning America to supposedly halcyon days of unparalleled greatness.  He’s predicted that his presidency might lead to an actual winning overload.  “We’re going to win so much,” he told supporters.  “You’re going to get tired of winning. You’re going to say, ‘Please, Mr. President… don’t win so much’… And I’m going to say, ‘No, we have to make America great again… We’re gonna keep winning.’”

As Trump well knows, Americans take winning very seriously.  Look no further than the U.S. gold medal count at the recent Rio Olympics: 46. The next highest total?  Great Britain’s 27, almost 20 fewer than those of the country whose upstart rebels bested them in the eighteenth century, the nation’s ur-victory.  The young United States then beat back the Brits in the early 1800s, and twice bailed them out in victorious world wars during the twentieth century.

In the intervening years, the U.S. built up a gaudy military record — slaughtering native tribespunishing Mexico, pummeling Spain — but the bestwas yet to come.  “Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” boasted President Barack Obama in this year’s State of the Union address.  In this he echoed his predecessor, George W. Bush, who, in May 2001, declared that “America today has the finest [military] the world has ever seen.”

Want to hear about Islam? Why not hear it from a woman who grew up as Muslim in the Middle East?

 

~~

Some of my best friends are Jewish, and other confessions of an Ex-Muslim…

 

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From Yasmine

One of my earliest memories is of being bound to my bed as the soles of my feet were whipped. At five or six years old, this was my punishment for not correctly memorising surahs, chapters, from the Quran, or for missing one of the daily prayers.

Lying on my bed, in the room that I shared with my sister, I would feebly struggle to free my feet from the skipping rope that bound them. But it was pointless. My strength was no match for the man who had restrained me there. I would scream as the plastic stick whipped across the soles of my feet.

“So, you think you’ll memorise properly next time?”

“Yes!”

I would futilely plead to my mother with my eyes. Why wasn’t she raising her voice, or her hand, to protect me? Why was she just standing there next to him? My young mind grappled with what could possibly be holding her back. Was she afraid of him? No. She didn’t seem to be. Could she be complicit in this? No, never. But in fact, it was her that asked him to come over, so maybe she is partially to blame? No, that can’t be it.

I could not accept that the only parent that I knew would willingly give me up to be bound and beaten. He was the evil one, not my mother. That had to be the truth. So why, then, did she phone him and ask him to come over?

“Next time I come here, I want to hear all three surahs, you understand?”

“Yes…”

“Which three surahs are they?”

If I hesitated for a fraction of a second, he would raise his hand again. Almost excited about the opportunity. When there was no fresh skin for his blows to land, they would fall atop my already bruised and torn feet. My body would be slick with sweat. My quickened heartbeat made it difficult to breathe, but I knew I could never end this until I found the strength to push on.

“Al Fatiha, Al Kauthar, and…Al Ikhlas.” Three short surahs necessary for the five daily prayers.

“If you make one mistake, one mistake, I will show you how I can really hurt you.”

Ingersoll: The Foundations of Faith — The Old Testament

 

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From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

ONE of the foundation stones of our faith is the Old Testament. If that book is not true, if its authors were unaided men, if it contains blunders and falsehoods, then that stone crumbles to dust.

The geologists demonstrated that the author of Genesis was mistaken as to the age of the world, and that the story of the universe having been created in six days, about six thousand years ago could not be true.

The theologians then took the ground that the “days” spoken of in Genesis were periods of time, epochs, six “long whiles,” and that the work of creation might have been commenced millions of years ago.

The change of days into epochs was considered by the believers of the Bible as a great triumph over the hosts of infidelity. The fact that Jehovah had ordered the Jews to keep the Sabbath, giving as a reason that he had made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, did not interfere with the acceptance of the “epoch” theory.

But there is still another question. How long has man been upon the earth?

According to the Bible, Adam was certainly the first man, and in his case the epoch theory cannot change the account. The Bible gives the age at which Adam died, and gives the generations to the flood—then to Abraham and so on, and shows that from the creation of Adam to the birth of Christ it was about four thousand and four years.

According to the sacred Scriptures man has been on this earth five thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine years and no more.

Is this true?

Fires of Hell…

 

From Harmony James (homeschooled, raised in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist home)
Thanks to Bruce

Raised in the back woods hidden away

And kept out of sight

Is it any wonder I would want to run to the light

I ain’t ever been drunk on liquor

I ain’t ever been kissed

I heard at the store there’s a whole lot more

Of sins on that list

Au revoir and fare thee well

I’m headed straight for the fires of hell

Took that Holy Bible right to the bottom of the lake

Where I’m going I will not be carrying that kind of weight

Pure as the driven snow but now all set to be defiled

The sins of the father once again passed on to the child

Au revoir and fare thee well

I’m headed straight for the fires of hell

Get down on your knees dear mama

Get down and pray

I get a feeling you’ll be kneeling for my soul to be saved

I’ve wandered astray

Au revoir and fare thee well

I’m headed straight for the fires of hell

Au revoir and fare thee well

I’m headed straight for the fires of hell

I’m headed straight for the fires of hell
~~

TODD WALTON: Luz

 

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Ampersands thanks to Max

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

So it’s Friday and I’m having one of those mornings where I feel certain the universe is an all-powerful sentient being picking on me for no good reason. Put another way, I’m feeling sorry for myself. If you’re human and have been alive for at least seven years, you know what I’m talking about. The rational sectors of our brains know the universe has more important things to do than intentionally make us miserable, but when we’re in the throes of such angst the rational sectors are offline.

I decide to exercise my way out of my bad mood by walking to town. I usually drive into town on Fridays in August and September because Jack almost always has a big watermelon for me at the farmer’s market, and a big watermelon is not schlepable in my knapsack.

But I need to shake off this sense of being a victim of a malevolent universe, so I decide to walk to town, mail a package, hope the very important letter that should have come two days ago is waiting in my P.O. box, walk home, and then drive back to town to get the melon.

Halfway down the hill, a long half-mile, the walking is definitely resolving my angst and I’m about to turn around and go get my truck when some idiot talking on his phone while driving almost hits me and my certainty the universe is out to get me returns in force and I decide I better walk all the way to town.

Fast Growing Numbers of Young Adults Religiously Unaffiliated…

 

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Colin Kaepernick on Terence Crutcher and ‘Racism Disguised as Patriotism’

 

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From The Nation

A new generation of athletes and sports fans are learning that courage is contagious.

In recent weeks, everyone from Beltway pundits to the online bigot brigade have tried to turn Colin Kaepernick into a caricature. He’s been reduced to his afro, his socks, or a T-shirt he wore depicting Malcolm X and Fidel Castro. By turning him into a joke, his opposition hopes they won’t have to reckon with the substance of his message or the fact that the protests are spreading.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick is not backing down. In recent comments following the police killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, he disproves anyone in the media who still claims he’s being unserious or just looking for attention:

There’s a lot of racism disguised as patriotism in this country and people don’t like to address that and they don’t like to address what the root of this protest is. You have players across this country, not only in the NFL but soccer and NBA and high school players, they don’t like to address this issue that people of color are oppressed and treated unjustly. I don’t know why that is or what they’re scared of, but it needs to be addressed.

Kaepernick also spoke about the killing of Terence Crutcher, saying, “This is a perfect example of what this is about. It will be very telling about what happens to the officer that killed him.… It’s very interesting to me how the situation that happened [Monday], they shot and killed a man and walked around like he wasn’t a human being. People are getting killed and not being treated as human beings. No one went and checked on him, no one tried to resuscitate him, nothing. They walked around, went about their business and made up lies to cover up their murder that they just committed. That’s not right, and they should be in prison.”

The Dangerous Acceptance of Donald Trump…

 

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From The New Yorker

Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity.

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.”

Rational Suicide: ‘Go Gentle’ Makes Voluntary Euthanasia Personal…

 

From Australia

Just weeks after launching a campaign to introduce voluntary euthanasia laws into Australia, Go Gentle Australia has launched a campaign to enlist public support and remind politicians of the unnecessary human suffering current laws cause.

Cummins & Partners devised the powerful campaign which allows Australians to submit a version of the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016, replacing the word ‘Person’ with their own names and then use it to lobby their local politicians.

Shortly after the launch of Go Gentle’s push to have new laws introduced, Go Gentle co-director Andrew Denton told Mumbrella the advertising industry has a huge role to play in convincing parliamentarians to change the laws.

‘Be The Bill’ launched with South Australian, Kylie Monaghan, submitting the ‘Kylie Monaghan Voluntary Euthanasia Bill No. 1’. Each subsequent Bill submitted by people will numerically named to reflect growing public support for the bill.

Denton said the goal of the campaign is to reflect that the majority of Australians support the right for people to die in dignity without suffering.

“The majority of Australians support choice at the end of life, but despite this there is still no law,” Denton said.

Freethinker: H.G. Wells…

 

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From Freedom From Religion

On this date in 1866, (Herbert George) H.G. Wells was born to a working class family in Kent, England. Young Wells received a spotty education, interrupted by several illnesses and family difficulties, and became a draper’s apprentice as a teenager. The headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School, where he had spent a year, arranged for him to return as an “usher,” or student teacher.

Wells earned a government scholarship in 1884, to study biology under Thomas Henry Huxley at the Normal School of Science. Wells earned his bachelor of science and doctor of science degrees at the University of London. After marrying his cousin, Isabel, Wells began to supplement his teaching salary with short stories and freelance articles, then books, including The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).

Wells created a mild scandal when he divorced his cousin to marry one of his best students, Amy Catherine Robbins. Although his second marriage was lasting and produced two sons, Wells was an unabashed advocate of free (as opposed to “indiscriminate”) love. He continued to openly have extra-marital liaisons, most famously with Margaret Sanger, and a ten-year relationship with the author Rebecca West, who had one of his two out-of-wedlock children.

A one-time member of the Fabian Society, Wells sought active change. His 100 books included many novels, as well as nonfiction, such as A Modern Utopia (1905), The Outline of History (1920), A Short History of the World (1922), The Shape of Things to Come (1933), and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1932). One of his booklets was Crux Ansata, An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church. Although Wells toyed briefly with the idea of a “divine will” in his book, God the Invisible King (1917), it was a temporary aberration.

Wells used his international fame to promote his favorite causes, including the prevention of war, and was received by government officials around the world. He is best-remembered as an early writer of science fiction and futurism. D. 1946.

“Indeed Christianity passes. Passes—it has gone! It has littered the beaches of life with churches, cathedrals, shrines and crucifixes, prejudices and intolerances, like the sea urchin and starfish and empty shells and lumps of stinging jelly upon the sands here after a tide. A tidal wave out of Egypt. And it has left a multitude of little wriggling theologians and confessors and apologists hopping and burrowing in the warm nutritious sand. But in the hearts of living men, what remains of it now? Doubtful scraps of Arianism. Phrases. Sentiments. Habits.”

—H.G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography, 1934, cited by Ira D. Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, 1945

~~

Values and Virtues

 

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From Dave Smith
To Be Of Use (2005)

Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one. ~Thomas Jefferson

VIRTUES and values are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Values are moral codes, often inflexible, based upon our particular social, cultural, religious, or political circumstances. They are codified, standardized, absolute, and then imposed by authorities and used to judge others. Example: The Ten Commandments

Virtues are a person’s admirable character traits, principles that are adjustable to changing circumstances. Examples: courageous, honest.

What qualifies as “courageous” in one situation or society will not be the same for a different situation or society. Holding on to or identifying with the virtue of “courageous” can, however, allow the best in us to come forward regardless of what situation we find ourselves in.

One shortcut to defining personal virtues is to ask “What do I consider are the character traits of a good person?” And then go further to ask “How do I actually practice the virtues I want to live by?”

Virtue based morality
We tend to judge others based on abstract interpretations of values that our own social group, religion, or wider culture has adopted. This divides us against each other. Rather, if we could step back and appreciate the personal virtues of others, a lot of the hostility inherent in competing doctrines of religious and political systems would seem much less important. This happens all the time in personal relationships when a relative or neighbor holds opposite views from our own on current issues, but we admire and care for each other deeply. When our heads get in the way of our hearts, we get out of balance emotionally and wars can result.

My friend Dan cancels out my every vote by voting the opposite of me. I never ask him if he wants a ride to the polling place. We have big-time arguments about politics, but I love the guy for who he is… for what he is inside. If we could look at a whole culture for who they are inside, what they really care about and how they live their daily lives, we may be less interested in looking down at them as a group.

If we moved from value-based morality which causes hate, violence and wars, to a virtue-based morality which is more human and honorable of other people’s strengths and rights, we would be more forgiving of those practices or weaknesses which harm no-one else, and the world would be a more creative, peaceful place.

The old blues song said it best…

If I should take a notion
To jump into the ocean,
It ain’t nobody’s business if I do.

If I go to church on Sunday
And I shimmy down on Monday,
It ain’t nobody’s business if I do.
~~

Americans have long been suspicious of Atheists. Misogyny, nativism, and racism have often been tied up in their fear…

 

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From The Atlantic

In general, Americans do not like atheists. In studies, they say they feel coldly toward nonbelievers; it’s estimated that more than half of the population say they’d be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who didn’t believe in God.

This kind of deep-seated suspicion is a long-standing tradition in the U.S. In his new book, Village Atheists, the Washington University in St. Louis professor Leigh Eric Schmidt writes about the country’s early “infidels”—one of many fraught terms nonbelievers have used to describe themselves in history—and the conflicts they went through. While the history of atheists is often told as a grand tale of battling ideas, Schmidt set out to tell stories of “mundane materiality,” chronicling the lived experiences of atheists and freethinkers in 19th- and 20th-century America.

His findings both confirm and challenge stereotypes around atheists today. While it’s true that the number of nonbelievers is the United States is growing, it’s still small—roughly 3 percent of U.S. adults self-identify as atheists. And while more and more Americans say they’re not part of any particular religion, they’ve historically been in good company: At the end of the 19th century, Schmidt estimated, around a tenth of Americans may have been unaffiliated from any church or religious institution.

Ukiah Bakery Selling Mendocino-Grown Bread

 

Zach Schat, seen Thursday with freshly baked loaves of Sonora Wheat bread, is using locally produced flour to bake one of the sourdough varieties he sells in his downtown Ukiah bakery.
Zach Schat, seen Thursday with freshly baked loaves of Sonora Wheat bread, is using locally produced flour to bake one of the sourdough varieties he sells in his downtown Ukiah bakery. Chris Pugh-Ukiah Daily Journal

The Sonora Wheat loaves need to be baked longer, so they have a thick crust, and the long fermenting process gives them an “incredible shelf life,” Schat said.The Sonora Wheat loaves need to be baked longer, so they have a thick crust, and the long fermenting process gives them an “incredible shelf life,” Schat said. Chris Pugh-Ukiah Daily Journal

The main challenge in baking with the Sonora Wheat, he said, is it has a lot less gluten than most of the wheat strains used for breads. And, as most people know by now, gluten is pretty much what makes bread worth eating.

So instead of the one-day process for a typical sourdough, Schat has designed a three-day one for the Sonora Wheat.

“About 2 a.m. Tuesday we start the pre-ferment process, then we mix the dough on Wednesday, and on Thursday we put it in the oven,” he said, explaining that it took many weeks of trial and error to make a consistently good loaf that he thought people would want to eat.

And like many people in a frustrating relationship, Schat turned to family members and other trusted advisers for help.

Doug Mosel — Mendocino’s Bread Grower

 

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From Our Companion Blog Mendocino Talking

(Since landing in Mendocino County, Doug Mosel has involved himself in several worthwhile community projects: running the successful Measure H campaign against GMOs; co-founding the Agriculture & Ecology Hour on KZYX; and most recently creating the Mendocino Grain Project where he farms, mills and distributes locally-grown grains and flour to CSA members of the project and local stores. —DS)

For all my life I’ve introduced myself as a Nebraska farm boy. It’s deeply ingrained in me (no pun intended)… the core of my being. Although I left the farm to go into the big world and leave that all behind, I think I’ve now come full circle here on the west coast.

After high school, I had wanted to be an aeronautical engineer and had applied for a scholarship to Purdue University, but changed my mind and moved to Washington D.C. where my brother lived. While there I was accepted at VPI, Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg. At the time it was a military school, all strait-laced, spit polished and regimented and I could only stand it for two weeks. So I went back and enrolled at the University of Nebraska… which lasted 3 semesters of figuring out that Physics and engineering didn’t work well for me either.

So back to D.C. where I took a job with the Association of American Railroads starting in the basement. At the time, the railroads were still a very romantic part of this culture. We had really nice linen covered table dining cars. AAR was the legislative and public voice of the railroads. Reams of information, comic books, PR brochures, etc. being shipped out was my job. In a year or so they invited me upstairs to distribute the mail, then after a few months I was invited to become a clerk in the law department before ending up as the Administrative Assistant to the Executive Vice President.

Love A Spud

 

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From Dave Smith

Me? I’m a potato junkie. I’ll take one in any form you can think of except raw, and I’ll consume it with or without relish and abandon. I’ll take it…

mashed
smashed
…or succotashed

fried
dried
…and served on the side

sliced
diced
…and lightly spiced

boiled
broiled
…and lightly oiled

heated
kneaded
…and onion-treated

faked
creped
…or shaked-and-baked

floured
soured
…and cauliflowered

chilled
grilled
…and parsley-filled

steamed
creamed
…or fry-machined

whipped
chipped
…or butter-dipped

fluffed
puffed
…or broccoli-stuffed

breaded
shredded
…or lettuce-bedded

teased
cheesed
…and topped with peas

wrinkled
crinkled
…or cayenne-sprinkled

wet-farmed
dry-farmed
…and organic farmed

Love ‘taters

~~

Assisted suicide and the death that caused a wedge between siblings…

 

Sean Davison and his mother Patricia in Kathmandu in 2001, to celebrate her 80th birthday.

 Sean Davison and his mother Patricia in Kathmandu in 2001, to celebrate her 80th birthday.

 

From Australia

“I will be informing the police that you murdered our mother.”

Sean Davison received the single-line email at 1pm on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 19 months after the funeral.

The New Zealand man hadn’t seen his sister Mary since they had posed for a photograph together in front of the coffin, which they helped paint in the bright colours, black cats and beaches so loved by their mum.

Sean Davison and his mother Patricia at her home near Dunedin, in August 2006, two months before her death.

 Sean Davison and his mother Patricia at her home near Dunedin, in August 2006, two months before her death.

“I’ve had enough, this is not life,” Patricia, 85, had repeatedly told her four adult children from her sick bed in late 2006. Cancer had spread to her lungs, liver and brain.

Patricia – a former GP and psychiatrist who loved painting and dancing – was in constant pain and desperate to die. She jokingly asked to be drowned in Otago Harbour, which she could see from her home near Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island.

She stopped eating to hasten her demise but was still in a pitiful state 33 days later, on October 25. On her request, Davison, who had travelled from his home in Cape Town, South Africa to nurse her, crushed up the dozen morphine pills she had stockpiled.

In 2011, Sean Davison was sentenced to five months' home detention in Dunedin for helping his suffering mother to die.

In 2011, Sean Davison was sentenced to five months’ home detention in Dunedin for helping his suffering mother to die.
“You are a wonderful son,” she told her youngest child, after he helped her drink the lethal dose in a glass of water that she lacked the strength to grasp.

How a new form of atheism can combat jihadists who wish to end the world…

 

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From Time

The world isn’t ending, but we face a tremendous problem from people who believe it is. The beliefs of many radicals have become increasingly apocalyptic over the past decade. They’re convinced the end of the world is imminent and that they have a special role in bringing it about. Whether or not you’re interested in the apocalypse, terrorists who believe it’s coming are interested in you.

Solutions are hard to come by. But there is a way to counter extremism that’s potentially as effective as it is unpopular. It’s a social and intellectual strategy that aims to undermine the religious beliefs that motivate jihadists—and one of the most controversial set of ideas to emerge in the West in the last quarter century: New Atheism.

New Atheism emerged in direct response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks executed by al-Qaeda, which demonstrated that acting upon certain religious beliefs could lead to catastrophe. The movement offered a heretofore unwelcomed perspective: That every religion has negative consequences, and that even religious moderates contribute to the problem because, by affirming that faith is a legitimate reason to hold beliefs, they enable religious extremists.

TODD WALTON: Gene and Grandma

 

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Mischief painting by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“My blanket. My blue blanket. Gimme my blue blanket!” Gene Wilder’s line from The Producers

Gene Wilder died in August. He was eighty-three. Thinking about him took me back to the first time I saw the movie Young Frankenstein on the big screen in San Francisco in 1974. And I remember feeling as I watched the film that I was witnessing one of those extremely rare creations, a work of art that would never grow old and never be successfully imitated—the result of the unique chemistry of six superlative actors and a brilliant director, none of them duplicable: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Terry Garr, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, and Mel Brooks.

To my surprise and dismay, many people did not agree with my assessment of Young Frankenstein. Indeed, the three people I attended the movie with enjoyed the film, but thought it silly and forgettable. I saw the movie three more times during the initial release and found everything about the film more inspiring with each viewing. Indeed, I was so inspired by Young Frankenstein, I wrote two screenplays and two plays imagining Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn in leading roles.

Alas I was never able to get my creations to Gene or Madeline, but even now, four decades later, I still imagine them playing parts in my stories and novels and plays. As the neurobiologists say, I resonated profoundly with Gene Wilder. I enjoyed him in later films, but never again loved him as much as I did in Young FrankensteinBlazing Saddles, and The Producers, all directed by Mel Brooks.