Humanist Global: Humanism in Uganda can alleviate many of the region’s life-threatening problems…

 

From Humanist Global

Humanism 1) promotes rational thinking / debunks superstition 2) provides an option to the conflict between Christianity and Islam 3) supports women’s education 4) supports condom use 4) supports family planning 5) supports tolerance of other tribes 6) supports gay rights 6) promotes education for both genders 7) supports environmental concerns

HG’s humanism is outlined in The Code for Global Ethics: Ten Humanist Principles by Rodrigue Tremblay. We deliver the poster below to our African humanist communities, plus we send our own humanist lectures.

 

Africa Needs Humanism – by Leo Igwe

Millions of Africans suffer under the tyranny of fear and ignorance

Africa needs humanism to realize its potential!

  • Humanists can provide a place where Africans can think freely without the fear of god.
  • Humanists can help African children by campaigning for improvement of education.
  • Humanists can help women and girls achieve equality in their societies.
  • Humanists can help the elderly and disabled, ensuring they are not abused, branded as witches, and killed.
  • Humanists can speak up for gay people, for their dignity, humanity and equal rights.
  • Humanists can combat exploitation by prophets, pastors and imams.
  • Humanists can free people from the bondage of superstition, fanaticism and dogma.
  • Humanists can campaign for secular society and government based on the will of the people.

Dark Age forces – religious extremism, dogma, superstition – hijack African politics, corrupt democracy, hamper social progress and human rights.

Priests, pastors, prophets, imams, and witch doctors confuse, manipulate and exploit ignorant folks.

Witch hunters, jihadists and ‘crusaders’ – in Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, Somalia, Algeria – incite people to kill, maim and abuse, in the name of their god.

Humanism can be a force for peace, freedom and emancipation.

Many Africans are at war due to religious bigotry; many live in slavish situations due to irrational superstition. Religious violence ravages communities leaving death and destruction.

African Humanists can promote Peace, Emancipation and Enlightenment…

…to further the African Renaissance.
~~

Christian Crock: Religious Horrors – A Grim Pattern

 

Excerpt from Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness, by James A. Haught (Prometheus Books, 2002). 

From Church & State, UK

Introduction

— In 1766 at Abbeville, France, a teen-age boy was accused of singing irreligious songs, mocking the Virgin Mary, marring a crucifix, and wearing his hat while a religious procession passed. Criticizing the church was punishable by death. The youth, Chevalier de La Barre, was sentenced to have his tongue cut out, his right hand cut off, and to be burned at the stake. The great writer Voltaire attempted to save him. The case was appealed to Parliament in Paris. The clergy demanded death, warning of the dire spread of doubt. Parliament showed mercy by allowing the youth to be decapitated instead of mutilated and burned alive. He was first tortured to extract a fuller confession, then executed on July 1, 1766. His corpse was burned, along with a copy of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary.

— In 1980 at Moradabad, India, a pig caused hundreds of people to kill each other. The animal walked through a Muslim holy ground. Muslims, who think pigs are an embodiment of Satan, accused Hindus of driving the pig into the sacred spot. Members of both faiths went on a rampage, stabbing and clubbing. The pig riot spread to a dozen cities and left 200 dead.

— In the 1500s in Mexico, the Aztec theocracy sacrificed thousands of people to many gods. Aztecs believed that the sun would disappear without the daily “nourishment” of human hearts ripped from victims on stone altars. To appease the rain god, priests killed shrieking children so that their tears might induce rain. In a rite to the maize goddess, a virgin danced 24 hours, then was killed and skinned; her skin was then worn by a priest in further dancing.

— In the 1980s, Iran’s Shiite theocracy—“the government of God on earth”—decreed that Baha’i believers who wouldn’t convert to Islam must be killed. About 200 Baha’is, including women and teenagers, were hanged or shot by firing squads. Some 40,000 others fled Iran.

I Grew Up In A Fundamentalist Cult — ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Was My Reality

 

From The Establishment

It was a cold morning on the campus of the little Christian college I attended in Western Pennsylvania. Along with about 20 other students, I’d trundled in and unwrapped my coat and scarf. Now we all sat there sipping our coffees, waiting for the hardest class of the year to get rolling.

Our literary criticism professor paused as he announced the optional reading titles on our list for the next week, a funny look on his face.

“This one,” he said, “you may not like. It was written in 1984, published in ’85 or ’86, and was a reaction against the rise of the religious right — against the values that places like our school stand for. It’s pro-feminist, and anti-complementarian — against traditional gender roles. It sort of parodies what we believe in, in an interesting way. I’m curious what you’ll make of it.”

The shade thrown by my usually soft-spoken professor caught my attention. I had to read this book.

And so I did, unwittingly cracking open the beginning of the end for meek, conservative Christian me.

The story of The Handmaid’s Tale is a fairly simple dystopian one: A young woman is re-educated by the new totalitarian (and Christian) government regime to be a childbearing surrogate for the wife of a high-ranking military official. She tells her story after the fact, a narrative recorded on audio tapes found years later in someone’s attic. Her name is Offred, literally of Fred, having no name of her own anymore in this new society. It takes place in the U.S., post-Constitution, post-democracy, post-liberal humanism. Women are chattel. Religion is god. Order comes above all else.

To the average American in 1985, it seemed pretty far out there, an unlikely vision of future written as a warning. It’s been controversial since it came out, making ALA’s 100 most banned books list between 1990 and 1999, but that was because of the sex scenes in it and the way it depicted Christianity. It wasn’t really taken seriously as political foreshadowing.

But for me, when I read it for the first time, it felt like a prophecy that echoed rhythm of the world I had been raised in, reflecting the vision my church and community had for the future of American culture and politics.

I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian community — the church we attended could fairly be called a cult, and my parents took things a step further than even our church did, homeschooling and raising nine kids. I was the oldest. We were part of a larger movement now called “Quiverfull,” the term taken from a Psalm where the writer talks about God blessing the man whose “quiver is full of arrows.” The metaphor refers to children, and our community understood this to be a command: Have children and raise them in this aggressively conservative faith, and then there will be more “true” believer Christians in the world to bring about cultural revolution in the name of Jesus Christ. Children like me were raised to see life as apocalyptic, and ourselves as serving on the front lines of a culture war to make America Christian.

Women in this world were treated much like those in The Handmaid’s Tale — most, like my mom, didn’t have their own bank accounts, didn’t have their own email addresses, and couldn’t leave the home without permission from their husbands. They were called helpmeets, a word taken from the King James Version of the Bible, which refers to wives as created to meet the needs of their husbands and be helpers to them.

I even participated in a super-conservative worship church dance troupe for young women, called His Handmaids — again a term taken from the Bible, from the Virgin Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel telling her she’s going to be pregnant with the Messiah, which some translations open with “I am the Lord’s handmaiden, let it be unto me as you say.”

Just like Offred, women existed within the community to serve higher purposes than our own desires. Young girls who led the congregation wore white dresses and were stripped of identifying features — no jewelry, no nail polish, hair tied back and not in the face — while wives were submissive helpers to their husbands, with my mother used as the fertile ground for my father to breed a quiver full of Christian culture warriors.

And me, the oldest child in a family of nine? As was common in the movement, I was my mom’s right hand. She sometimes called me her strength, because I helped her co-parent my younger siblings and keep the household running. When she had twins shortly before my 13th birthday, it was me who got up with her during the nighttime feedings, not my dad. When things were too busy on Sunday nights, I took over doing all the family laundry and ironing. And I did the dinner dishes almost exclusively for about 10 years, foregoing activities with my peers at church and in the community because I had too many obligations to fulfill at home. Like Offred, my life’s purpose was subsumed into serving the “greater good” of my far-right Christian community.

We were not alone, either. My situation grew out of a larger movement in the conservative Christian community to be more invested in politics and cultural affairs on the national level. This push was led by the “Moral Majority,” a group of Christian leaders founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971, which sought to take on Washington to bring Christian ethics to bear on policy at a national level.

The Moral Majority focused on issues related to their priorities for promoting and protecting traditional family values. They celebrated Ronald Reagan’s presidency and encouraged his refusal to act on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was killing thousands, largely because they saw it as fundamentally a judgment from God on the “immoral” behavior of homosexuals. According to historian Rachel Coleman — a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Indiana, who is also a Quiverfull Daughter and whose research focuses on 20th century history of childhood, children, and religion — it wasn’t until kids started getting affected and dying from infected blood in transfusions that the issue was seen as valid. As a result, President Reagan eventually did act, releasing a series of PSAs about the epidemic…but these were all focused on kids, the future of the religious crusade for a Christian United States.

Also part of this movement was the rise of Operation Rescue, a Christian group that encouraged protest (and, loosely, some terrorist-style) tactics against abortion practitioners and those receiving abortion services. In the wake of Roe v. Wade passing in 1973, the Moral Majority hit on abortion as the issue that would most viscerally and immediately grab the attention of their audience and rally support and action at the grassroots level. We still see this struggle impacting negotiations on the Hill today, as abortion remains an impossibly hot-button issue, regularly derailing policymaking. Shock-and-awe tactics with grisly photos of dead fetuses and terror of increased government oversight on family-related issues drummed up droves of supporters buying into the agenda of the Moral Majority.

This terror-based approach to protecting the “traditional family” and “family values” had a watershed affect, driving the Right to work against civil protections for sexual orientation and gender presentation, creating a fear frenzy that drove the War on Drugs to incarcerate an entire generation of young black men, while causing Christian universities (led by my alma mater) to seek legal exemption from being under Title IX if they would surrender access to federal funding.

This collective terror also allowed Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority to lobby successfully against the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. The United States is one of the last remaining countries in the world without a constitutional clause that protects the rights of women as full and equal citizens with men, and this prevents us from participating in key international coalitions against gender discrimination (like CEDAW, which we haven’t ratified either). The Moral Majority effectively took the United States backwards a century policy-wise — and we still haven’t fully recovered.

It was during this rise of the Moral Majority that Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale. I was born, the first of what would be nine kids, just about five years after the book was first published.

Atwood has given many interviews about the writing of The Handmaid’s Taleand her creative process for it, but the thing that stands out to me the most is her comment that she made a rule for herself not to include anything in the novel that hadn’t already been done by some society, somewhere. Nothing was new.

And so, as I read the book for the first time that cold morning in 2010, the fictional world sounded a whole lot like my real life.

My ex-husband, who I met at that same little Christian college and who had also grown up in the same group of churches, wanted nothing more than to be a father, to have 10 kids and to homeschool them. When our marriage was careening to an end, we were sitting in a car outside his family’s house when he asked me if I might consider having a baby with him to rekindle something.

We’d chosen to wait initially for a host of reasons, the strongest one for me being that I had been raising kids for the last 10–12 years of my life and couldn’t see myself having the energy to plunge back into the world of poopy diapers and snotty noses. Two years into our marriage, I’d had a few pregnancy scares and each time as I waited for my period, I had had nightmares and panic attacks, unable to shake a deep-set terror of being trapped at home with a baby and no life outside the home. I would wake up crying and shaking from a dream about being pregnant, and the next morning he’d make me coffee and listen to my stories and try to assuage my fears.

So when he asked me to have a kid to save our marriage, I was stunned. “Are you serious?” I asked.

“Don’t be that way!” he responded. “I just think that I could love you again if you were a mother.”

Speechless, I told him to get out of the car. “I’m not discussing this,” I said. “There’s no way in hell I’d bring a kid into this mess if we can’t fix this on our own.”

It was our last big fight. We stopped communicating shortly thereafter, and the next time I had a real conversation was at the courthouse after our divorce hearing. He asked me to go to lunch, and I said no.

Because I running was late for my gynecologist appointment to get myself an IUD.

Offred learns early on that she is not the first Handmaid to be given to the Commander’s household to bear a child for him and his wife. The last one, she gathers from bits of gossip here and there, committed suicide.

In her room there is a little cupboard, and on the back wall of the cupboard is scratched nolite te bastardes carborundorum, which is bad Latin for “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Offred assumes this message is left for her by the last Handmaid, a hand of camaraderie offered to her from beyond the grave.

When I ended my relationship to my father shortly after I got divorced, it was because he and I reached a crossroads where he had to choose to treat me according to his religious ideology or to treat me like a human, his daughter, his firstborn. He chose his ideology, and continued to use it to manipulate and mistreat myself and my mother and my siblings. We stopped talking, and I got my first tattoo — a black armband with script, “N.T. B. C.” Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Don’t forget you are human. Don’t forget what you have overcome.

Offred never tells the reader her real name — she only says she had another one, once. Under the new regime, her name is that of the man for whom she exists as a birthing vessel. It’s not important, she doesn’t exist as an individual anymore, her life is not her own.

When I got divorced, I repudiated the worldview that had been imposed upon me, rejecting a life where I existed only according to my relationship to my father or my husband. I took a new last name, a family name from further back on my grandmother’s side, naming myself to own myself. That was also the year I got my own bedroom for the first time, coming full circle out of a universe where my identity could not exist on its own terms, and carving out for myself a place in the world, a home, a name, a future that was my own to direct.

Today, Donald Trump is President of the United States, and there is increasing “constitutional anxiety” on Capitol Hill — what will he do next? The 24-hour news cycle is high-strung and exhausted, shrilly reporting on his tweets and Melania’s whereabouts and Ivanka’s so-called feminism.

Mike Pence is second in line for the presidency, and if Trump is impeached, we will have instead of an incompetent egoist for a president, a calculating and careful man who leaves a legacy behind him of anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant policy-making. VP Pence is exactly the kind of man the Moral Majority of 1985 would have hoped to elect, as is demonstrated by their rallying around anti-minority and anti-choice legislators and policies and foundations.

The Quiverfull movement was created for this kind of world. I was raised to be a helpmeet in a world like Offred’s, and watching (white, middle class) liberals around me be shocked and unnerved by the election results has been curious for me. Didn’t they know this has been in the works for decades? I didn’t come out of nowhere, and neither did Trump, and nor did The Handmaid’s Tale.

Atwood recently wrote about the book in the New York Times, in anticipation of the new mini-series coming out on Hulu today, starring Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel. In it she says:

“Is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ a prediction? That is the third question I’m asked — increasingly, as forces within American society seize power and enact decrees that embody what they were saying they wanted to do, even back in 1984, when I was writing the novel. No, it isn’t a prediction, because predicting the future isn’t really possible: There are too many variables and unforeseen possibilities. Let’s say it’s an antiprediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.”

The publication of The Handmaid’s Tale during the time of the Reagan presidency and the Moral Majority was an apt collision of vision and fears expressed through fiction — the release of the new mini-series timed at the end of the first 100 days of Donald Trump, U.S. President #45, is a powerful piece of foresight on the behalf of the studio which created it. Americans are more politically engaged than they have been in years, and we would all do well to pay attention to this “antiprediction” of a TV show in hopes that we can learn from it and resist the fruit of 1980s Christian conservative thinking running our government today, and save the future of our democracy.
~~

Carl Sagan Predicts the Decline of America: Unable to Know “What’s True,” We Will Slide, “Without Noticing, Back into Superstition & Darkness” (1995)…

 

From Open Culture

There have been many theories of how human history works. Some, like German thinker G.W.F. Hegel, have thought of progress as inevitable. Others have embraced a more static view, full of “Great Men” and an immutable natural order. Then we have the counter-Enlightenment thinker Giambattista Vico. The 18th century Neapolitan philosopher took human irrationalism seriously, and wrote about our tendency to rely on myth and metaphor rather than reason or nature. Vico’s most “revolutionary move,” wrote Isaiah Berlin, “is to have denied the doctrine of a timeless natural law” that could be “known in principle to any man, at any time, anywhere.”

Vico’s theory of history included inevitable periods of decline (and heavily influenced the historical thinking of James Joyce and Friedrich Nietzsche). He describes his concept “most colorfully,” writes Alexander Bertland at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “when he gives this axiom”:

Men first felt necessity then look for utility, next attend to comfort, still later amuse themselves with pleasure, thence grow dissolute in luxury, and finally go mad and waste their substance.

The description may remind us of Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man.” But for Vico, Bertland notes, every decline heralds a new beginning. History is “presented clearly as a circular motion in which nations rise and fall… over and over again.”

Neil Tyson tired of God…

 


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Neil de Grasse Tyson on the afterlife

 


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Talking Heads: Take Me To The River…

  


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TODD WALTON: My Grandmothers

 

Goody, Red, and William

Goody with Bill and Red 

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity.” Kahlil Gibran

Whilst thoroughly cleaning my office, something I do every five years whether the office needs cleaning or not, I came upon a small cache of letters from my maternal and paternal grandmothers. Neither of my grandfathers ever wrote to me. Why I saved these letters—the most recent dated 1981—I do not know, having thrown out hundreds of other family letters over the years, but I’m glad I saved these because I had a fascinating time reading them and appreciating the influence of these two very different women on their progeny and grand progeny.

My father’s parents were white Anglo Saxon Protestants, intelligent, humorless, and proud members of the John Birch Society. They disowned my father when he was twenty-one because he married my Jewish mother. However, some years later when they needed financial help and eventually became economically dependent on my father, they re-owned him, and by association us, their half-breed grandchildren.

My mother’s parents were born in Michigan to Jewish parents who came to America from Poland in the late 1800’s. Goody and Casey (Gertrude and Myron) changed their last name from Weinstein to Winton during the Great Depression so they could get housing and jobs in that time of extreme anti-Semitism. Goody was brilliant and multi-talented and largely self-educated; and she loved to mix Yiddish with her English when she told jokes and stories.

Here is a birthday letter my paternal grandmother Helen wrote to me shortly before I dropped out of college in 1969.

Michael Laybourn: There seems to be a some confusion about Sonoma Clean Power’s offer to include Mendocino County…

 

From Michael Laybourn
Hopland

There seems to be a some confusion about Sonoma Clean Power’s offer to include Mendocino County. Maybe this will clear things up a bit: A CCA or “Community Choice Energy” gives customers a choice in their energy provider. With Community Choice Energy, cities and counties contract with a licensed energy service provider to purchase greener energy in bulk and charge less in some cases. help local business to build renewable energy generating facilities, and implement energy efficiency programs. This efficient public/private partnership makes it possible to get the greenest energy at the best rates. This is how we should be able to purchase energy. It is local control. From a local company that doesn’t need to have a huge profit to make shareholders happy and overpay it’s executives.

But PG&E doesn’t like competition. We saw that when they spent 45 million dollars to change the California constitution to eliminate the competition to stop Marin County and other Community Choice Energy projects. And lost, because they were wrong.

More PG&E facts from the San Jose Mercury News: “At 6:11:12 pm PDT on September 9, 2010, a huge explosion occurred in the Crestmoor residential neighborhood of San Bruno, near Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue. This caused a fire, which quickly engulfed nearby houses. The explosion and resulting fire leveled 35 houses and damaged many more. Three of the damaged houses, deemed uninhabitable, were torn down in December, bringing the total to 38. As of September 29, 2010, the death toll was eight people.

In January 13, 2012, an independent audit from the State of California issued a report stating that PG&E had illegally diverted over $100 million from a fund used for safety operations, and instead used it for executive compensation and bonuses. In August, 2016, PG&E was convicted of six felony counts for crimes the company committed before and after the 2010 San Bruno explosion, which killed those eight people and destroyed the residential area.”

FINLAND: Basic income experiment – what we know

 

From Basic Income Earth Network

In the last week, the basic income experiment in Finland has gone viral, making headlines around the world, from UK-based Telegraph to Russia Today. Not all the reports however were correct. Here is what we know.

Update March 2016: KELA has published its recommendations – see a summary here.

Some articles mistakenly gave the impression that the Finnish government has already made plans to introduce a nation-wide basic income. As we reported before here and here, for now the government has committed to implement a basic income experiment. KELA, the Finnish government agency in charge of welfare benefits, rectified the misperception on Tuesday.

In a previous statement released on November 19, KELA provided additional information about the experiment. It highlighted four objectives behind the program. It aims to find feasible options for an overhaul of the social security system in response to labor market changes. Some of these trends include the growth of temporary contracts and freelance work that is not covered by the current work-based benefits structure. The experiment will also explore how to make the system more effective in terms of providing incentives for work, and avoiding the poverty trap – benefit recipients are discouraged from taking up employment, if the additional income received from a job is only marginally higher than means-tested benefits. Another goal is to reduce bureaucracy and simplify complex and costly procedures for administering benefits.

The experiment will be carried out in a context marked by three years of economic downturn, which has led to rising unemployment and pressures on public spending. The current center-right government took office after general elections in April this year, and is carrying out a wide-ranging program of cuts that will affect education, health and welfare provisions.

Sam Harris: How To Defend Donald Trump

 


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WILLIAM EDELEN: More Robert Ingersoll

 

 

From Our Archives
WILLIAM EDELEN (1922 – 2015)
The Contrary Minister

One of the joyful rewards of writing a column is to receive the delightful letters that arrive in response, with often developing new friendships. After my column on Robert Ingersoll, many wrote, or called, saying the column brought back a bit of nostalgia, because “I remembered how my father (or grandfather, or mother) used to rave about Robert Ingersoll… and I had forgotten.

Since my last column was primarily introducing the man to those who had not heard of him, I did not have space to give examples of the gems that flowed from his pen.

Women: “The men who declare that woman is the intellectual inferior of man, do not and cannot, by offering themselves in evidence, substantiate their declaration. Husbands as a rule, do not know a great deal, and it will not do for every wife to depend on the ignorance of her worst half… It is the women of today who are the great readers. No woman should have to live with a man whom she abhors. I despise the man that has to be begged for money by his wife. ‘Please give me a dollar?’… ‘What did you do with the 50 cents I gave you last Christmas?’ he asks.”

Government: “I despise the doctrine of state sovereignty. States are political conveniences. Rising above states as the Alps above valleys are the rights of man, the sublime rights of the people… Nothing is farther from democracy than the application of the veto power. It should be abolished… I do not believe in being the servant of any political party. I am not the property of any organization, I do not believe in giving a mortgage on yourself or a deed of trust for any purpose. It is better to be free.”

Church and state: “Church and state should be absolutely

What’s the greatest pop song of the 20th Century?

 

From Jeff Cox

So I’m thinking–what’s the greatest pop song of the 20th Century? Is this even a valid question, since the answer might vary from day to day, from mood to mood, from mindset to mindset?

I thought long and hard about it, since I like everything from George M. Cohan tunes to Gershwin, to Harold Arlen to Cole Porter to Richard Rogers, from early rock to psychedelia to the present day. But when it came down to a decision, I chose a tune that combines everything:

Great guitar playing that references the lyrics, and perfect drumming, lyrics that are simultaneously accurate, snarky, satirical, and brilliantly spiritual, Layer upon layer of meaning, References to madness, lyrics and music that hits you in all seven chakras at once, references that shoot all over the place (even to the Beatles with Goo Goo Ga-Joob), references to Yankee baseball and heroic disappearance, all put together with a fantastically ingenious melody, sung by two great harmonizers. And a song so creative and original that there’s never been anything like it since.
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MICHAEL FOLEY: Why I Am Not Marching for Science Today

 

From MICHAEL FOLEY
Willits
[This one’s for Ron. ~ds]

Today’s March for Science is touted as a defense of informed democracy against ignorant tyranny. But the “science based policy making” that liberals defend is often just another form of tyranny, and a poorly informed one at that. Policy should ultimately be based on our values. It must be reality based, to be sure. But “science” does not provide the sure guide to reality that proponents claim. That claim is based on Science as religion, as dogma, not on science as an ever correctible practice. The reason that climate denial is so outrageous is that it defies the only approximation science has to established fact, a scientific consensus. But much of the science invoked in court, in Congressional testimony, and in bureaucratic rule-making lacks that sort of surety.

The case of Annie Dookhan is a dramatic illustration. The Massachusetts chemist was convicted in 2013 of falsifying evidence in the state drug lab where she worked. Some 21,000 people were convicted of drug crimes as a result of her work. It took years of litigation, and the threat that prosecutors would have to retry all those cases, to get those people exonerated. How could this happen? Because courts routinely take “science based” evidence from police and prosecutors as fact, opening the way to just such abuses.

If Euthanasia Had Been Legal In This Country My Mother’s Suicide Could Have Been Avoided…

 

From HuffPost

‘Suicide’ implies irrationality, mental fragility; as opposed to ‘euthanasia’, which implies a deeply considered, mature and rational death.

I’m still angry. That my mother died by suicide. Left me, abandoned me, when she was elderly and I was in the thick of drowning in busy-ness as a middle-aged working mum — desperately trying to keep all the balls, somehow, in the air; and feeling like I was failing at everything.

My life in a nutshell a few years back: Four young kids. A full-on job as a novelist and columnist. A husband. A dog. And an elderly mum with chronic pain. Something had to give. And with my beautiful mother, Elayn Gemmell, it often felt like she came sixth in this very crammed life. Which shouldn’t have been the case.

Elayn had had painful feet for years, after a childhood of ballet classes and decades of wearing the most fashionable high heels. It all came back to haunt her in her seventies. A year before she died she had an operation to fix her foot agony. It made the situation worse, much worse.

“I certainly do not hate the Church… I do, however, think that they are wasting a lot of time, effort, and money on nonsense.”

 

 

From Reddit

The Clergy Project is an online support group that exists for former religious professionals who have found a better fit for their spiritual selves with Atheism. Formed in 2011, the group aims to help ex-clergy deal with the inevitable ethical and philosophical questions that arise when leaving a faith, as well as help them adapt to life away from the spiritual world.

We spoke to several former clergy involved in The Clergy Project about how and why they abandoned their faith.

Shlomo Levin, former Rabbi

As a rabbi, you are responsible for and called upon to answer questions. These questions range from the more profound, like, “Rabbi, what happens after we die?” to the very mundane, “Rabbi, is this yogurt kosher?” As I became older, I began to feel much less confident in my ability to know the answers to all of these questions. I found it very burdensome to have to have all the answers. People will ask after a funeral, “Can this person still hear me?” And I just have no idea. I couldn’t say, “I don’t know.” It really weighed on my conscious to give people answers that I knew could be hurtful to them. I think a lot of people find Orthodox Judaism a source of joy. I’m all for that, if that’s what they want. But at times, it was clearly not. Some people were just made to suffer.

I found it very liberating to not have belief. It’s hard to live knowing that there’s a God in the sky that will punish you if you don’t do a certain ritual at a certain time in a certain way. It’s a lot easier this way. I don’t miss it at all.

Freethinker: George Carlin on Religion (again)

 


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TODD WALTON: Gene and Grandma

 

andmischief

Mischief painting by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino
[Repost]

“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 Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and The Producers, all directed by Mel Brooks.

In 2007 I attended a party in Berkeley rife with college professors, and in the heat of talking about movies, and perhaps having had a wee bit too much to drink, I suggested that Young Frankenstein, which I had recently seen again for the tenth time, was as magnificent and timeless as Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Here’s a Great Video Compilation of Celebrity Atheists…

 


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Is it a religion or a cult?

 

 


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Good Friday, Easter Sunday…

 


From The Freethinker, UK
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I’ve offended someone. And I’m not going to apologise…

 

From The Freethinker, UK

IN last week’s bulletin I reported on the death of Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag for the LGBT community.

I followed that up by dedicating my Easter column in the Costa Blanca‘s Round Town News to Baker – and within hours of the paper hitting the streets the editor, Sam Holliday, received a furious email from a reader. Without identifying the name or gender of the complainant, she asked me if I would care to respond to the angry Christian, who wrote:

“Firstly, I must state that I usually enjoy reading your newspaper. However, this week I find that I must comment upon your column writer Barry Duke’s latest rant. Please note that I am writing this in the most polite fashion I can muster and am biting my tongue as I type!

“We are all entitled to our own opinions, of course. Barry Dukes (sic) is allowed to express his freely in your paper. However, this does NOT give him the right to insult the MANY Christians who read such publications. Yes, there are quite a lot of us out there; probably many more than Barry thinks.

“I realise that he was irritated by the comments of Bryan Fischer but he could have expressed this annoyance without resorting to calling God ‘mythical’. For Christians the world over God is very real indeed.

“For the record, I am not anti-gay and have a number of gay friends but this has gone beyond the pale. WHY did the Editor allow this to be published? Respect for people should work both ways. Mr Dukes (sic)  makes enough fuss about gay rights. How about some courtesy being shown to those of Christian faith?

“An apology would be most welcome.”

I immediately fired back this response:

GENE LOGSDON: The Lovely, Life-Saving Virtue of Laziness

 

From Our Archives
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

Surprise, surprise. The work ethic, before which our culture bows down in adoration, can result in failure perhaps as often as it does success. I came to that conclusion after many years of trying to follow an ecologically-sustainable lifestyle out on the ramparts of society, and after reading hundreds of letters from others trying to do the same.

Real success in this endeavor (if not all endeavors) comes more often from a healthy dose of shrewd, laid-back laziness. We Americans are just too ambitious for our own good and in an effort to gain success (tranquility being the best measure of a successful life) we carry the habits of the commercial workplace into our private lives and over-extend ourselves with activities that are really unnecessary and even harmful. The only cure for it, at least in my case, was getting older and running out of all that eager energy I once possessed. Nowadays, my first order of business in all homestead endeavors is: “Do nothing you can put off until tomorrow. It might not need to be done at all.” In other words, there are times when “work ethic” is an oxymoron.

Freethinker: Christopher Hitchens

 

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1949, writer and columnist Christopher Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England. He attended Cambridge and graduated from Oxford in 1970, reading in philosophy, politics and economics. From 1971-1981 he worked as a book reviewer for The Times.

In 1981 he emigrated to the United States. Hitchens wrote “Minority Report,” a column for The Nation, from 1982-2002. He then wrote for Slate, The Daily Mirror, as a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair, and also wrote for Harpers and many other U.S. newspapers and journals.

As a foreign correspondent, he covered events in 60 countries on all five continents. Hitchens wrote a host of books, but is best-known in freethought circles for authoring The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995) and God Is Not Great (2007). His criticisms of Clinton and pro-Iraqi war views made Hitchens increasingly controversial among progressive readership, but he remained a stalwart atheist and iconoclast. In “Papal Power: John Paul II’s other legacy” (Slate.com, April 1, 2005), Hitchens pointed out that the pope “was a part of the cover up and obstruction of justice that allowed the child-rape scandal to continue for so long.” Hitchens became a U.S. citizen in 2007. D. 2011.

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life—except religion . . . Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our ‘godly gift’ of reason when we cross their mental thresholds? . . . Atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”

—-Christopher Hitchens, “The Lord and the Intellectuals,” Harper’s (July 1982), cited by James A. Haught in 2,000 Years of Disbelief (1996)

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TODD WALTON: Huckleberries

 

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Turn Left At the Moon painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“For when you see that the universe cannot be distinguished from how you act upon it, there is neither fate nor free will, self nor other. There is simply one all-inclusive Happening, in which your personal sensation of being alive occurs in just the same way as the river flowing and the stars shining far out in space. There is no question of submitting or accepting or going with it, for what happens in and as you is no different from what happens as it.” Alan Watts

If even half the blossoms on the huckleberry bushes in the Mendocino area this year become fruit, then the huckleberry harvest will be by far the greatest since I moved here eleven years ago. Bushes on our property and in the surrounding woods that previously sported no blossoms or only a few are now white with hundreds and thousands of the lovely little bell-shaped flowers. And friends in nearby Albion report the huckleberry bushes thereabouts are also heavily freighted with flowers.

My guess is that the great rains of this seemingly interminable winter following four years of drought inspired the huckleberries to such prolificacy, though we must be careful not to celebrate too soon. Those myriad flowers must be pollinated, and the primary pollinators of huckleberry bushes are bumblebees; and the bumblebee population has been in decline due to the use of pesticides that should never have been invented, let alone deployed.

Tax March Saturday April 15 Downtown Ukiah 11 am…

 


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Stoicism 101

 

 

From How To Be A Stoic

If you are into infographics, you may want to check out these quick summaries of basic Stoic ideas:


History. Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium (modern Cyprus) around 301 BCE, and it takes its name from the Stoa Poikile (painted porch), a public market in Athens when the Stoics met and engaged in philosophical discussions with anyone who was interested. A second major figure of the so-called “early Stoa” was Chrysippus, who is actually credited with elaborating most of the doctrines that are still associated with Stoicism. The early Stoics were of course influenced by previous philosophical schools and thinkers, in particular by Socrates and the Cynics, but also the Academics (followers of Plato) and the Skeptics.

The second period of Stoic history, referred to as the “middle Stoa,” saw the philosophy introduced to Rome. Cicero (not himself a Stoic, but sympathetic to the idea) is one of our major sources for both the early and the middle Stoa, since otherwise we have only fragments of the writings of the Stoics up to that point. The third and last period is referred to as the “late Stoa,” and it took place during Imperial Rome; it included the famous Stoics whose writings have been preserved in sizable parts: Gaius Musonius Rufus, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

Stoicism Saved Me…

 

 

From Roger Johnston
Modern Stoicism

Stoicism saved me in a way. My last deployment to Iraq was particularly trying. I was medivacced out with just three weeks left of the deployment. I recall as the helicopter crew chief told me we had crossed the Kuwait border and that I was safe, I was relieved that I survived a war zone, but was under no illusion that I was “safe.” I’m a son of a Vietnam vet. The war did not end for him when he got home, in many ways it had only just begun for me. Relief quickly faded to resolve as I was determined not to suffer the same fate as my father: being angry at the world.

During recovery, back in the States, I could tell that my deployment had changed me. Infuriated would be a good word for how I felt 10 years ago during as I began to mend. Google militant atheist and my picture would show up and I would look pissed in it. I felt betrayed by my country, coopted to fight for profit and gain. I had seen so much suffering. The anger was poisoning everything, and what made the poison spread even further was that I was angry because I was angry. I had turned into my father.

Respecting Beliefs…

 

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Christian Crock: Face-Palm Sunday…

 

From 

An Ideology in Search of a Godling…

Easter may be one of the most beloved holidays of the Christian calendar, but a lot of the celebrations that weekend take totally for granted that the occasion marks the honest-to-goodness death of a real live god who really was tortured, died, buried, and then rose again after a brief time in Hell. In fact, a lot of their religion depends upon there being a real live god at the center of it. But if there isn’t actually a god involved at all in the religion, then nothing works the way it should.

The Torture Porn Starts Looking Especially Grotesque.

Christians get this uniformly adoring look on their faces when their leaders describe the ghastly, horrific, over-the-top torture that they think Jesus suffered before dying. Oh, how their eyes shine! How their lips part in wonderment! How their hearts swell with gratitude!

When others express total disgust for these stories, they’re quick to tell us that because we aren’t inhabited by “Jesus,” we can’t possibly understand how glorious and wonderful his torture was–or appreciate it the way they can.

But if there’s no Jesus inhabiting them, then they’re just getting off to stories of torture, no different from anything one sees in a modern thriller or in accounts regarding the American government. They’re glorifying the humiliation and heartless torture of a totally innocent human being–nobody different from themselves. That they are doubtless totally exaggerating the extent of that mistreatment only makes their giddiness over it look worse.

The Boy From Mar-A-Lago…

 


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Do anything you want, Donald. Doesn’t matter. You betrayed our democracy and will be Impeached!

 


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WILL PARRISH: Stopping the Tar-Sands Invasion

 

From WILL PARRISH
The Monthly

East Bay groups are attempting to prevent the region from playing a major role in a climate disaster. 

In the late afternoon of Aug. 6, 2012, a rupture in a fuel pipe at the Chevron refinery in Richmond released a geyser of hot milky-white vapor that engulfed 19 employees. The workers fled, and two minutes later, the cloud ignited into a torrent of flames that ripped through several buildings. A massive plume of black smoke blew east and northeast, sprinkling residents of Richmond and San Pablo with toxic chemicals and particles. In the weeks that followed, more than 15,000 local residents went to the hospital, mostly with respiratory ailments.

Ninety minutes after the fire began, Chevron spokesperson Heather Kulp attempted to deflect blame for the disaster onto two of the refinery’s most persistent watchdogs: the environmental justice groups Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. The organizations had jointly won a 2010 lawsuit against Chevron, blocking the refinery’s attempt to develop new infrastructure for handling higher polluting grades of oil. Chevron was in the midst of negotiating with the city of Richmond concerning a scaled-down version of its proposal. In a press conference, the smoke cloud billowing behind her, Kulp blamed the disaster on “environmentalists and the community that have not let us modernize our refinery,” alleging that the company had been forced to operate with aging equipment that consequently burst into flames.

Kulp later retracted her statement, and a U.S. Chemical Safety Board examination ruled that a pivotal factor in the explosion was rapid corrosion of pipe caused by the refinery’s reliance on oil with high sulfur content. Ironically, the same groups that Kulp attempted to scapegoat had warned of this possibility for several years. During their environmental campaigns, they repeatedly pointed out that the refinery’s switch to dirtier crude risked more frequent leaks and spills.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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TODD WALTON: Mutant Ideologies

 

something greather we could be tw

Something Greater We Could Be painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself.” Alexander McCall Smith

In 1968, when I was nineteen, I read The Population Bomb by Paul and Ann Ehrlich. That book and several others I read over the next few years, along with a life-changing journey through Mexico and Central America as a translator for a marine biologist, turned me into a zealous proponent of zero population growth, mass transit, organic gardening, and material minimalism.

That was fifty years ago. Since 1968, the world’s human population has more than doubled to over seven billion, the world’s automobile population (non-electric) has more than doubled to 1.2 billion, and organically grown food accounts for less than five per cent of the food grown in America. The earth’s fisheries are depleted, carbon emissions are increasing rather than decreasing, and we have an American government dedicated to undoing what little good our government did for the environment over the last forty years.

When I find myself in conversation with people who are just now becoming alarmed about climate change and the unfolding economic and environmental disasters engulfing us, I am reminded of the anger and disinterest and disingenuous lip service that greeted me for most of the last fifty years whenever I wrote about or discussed these issues and suggested ways to avoid much of what has now befallen the world. And though I am sad and disheartened about the unfolding disasters decimating human societies and life on our precious planet, I am not surprised by these disasters or the lack of substantive response to them.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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 ‘Jihad and martyrdom are mainstream Islam.’ Ayaan Hirsi Ali Explains How To Combat Political Islam…

From Quillette

What happens when we let fear, muddled thinking, ignorance, and political correctness guide us in confronting a threat to our constitutional freedoms?

We lose everything.

In the United States, our ability to enjoy our rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness rests largely on the protection the First Amendment accords to freedom of speech and its corollary, the freedom to exercise the religion of our choice – or, of course, to profess no religion at all. It follows, then, that we should both vigorously defend the First Amendment and subject to withering criticism any challenges to it. If we begin dodging or concealing the truth about a threat to free speech, whether out of fear of appearing improper or even of knowing the consequences, we place ourselves at risk of losing our freedom of speech – and everything else we cherish in a democracy.

Speech consists of words. Words and how we use them matter. So, in the annals of self-defeating political inanities, the Obama administration’s term for Islamist terrorism – “violent extremism” – stands out as unusually obfuscatory, semantically unsound, and craven. (The phrase encompasses other kinds of terrorist doctrines as well, but no one can fail to see which one in particular is being addressed.) Originating as ISIS-inspired attacks were starting to hit the United States, it baldly omits their motivating ideology and purports that “extremism” can exist as a rootless, groundless, free-floating phenomenon. The term was so patently contrived to avoid mention of Islam that Republican candidate Donald J. Trump, during last year’s presidential campaign, could appear courageous to many just by saying “Islamic terrorism.” Yet coining the insipid phrase “violent extremism” was just par for the course. Former President Obama’s repeated declarations that the faith in question had nothing to do with all the bombing, beheading, and machete-slashing carried out to the cry of “Allahu Akbar!” looked, at best, cowardly – and at worst, complicit. Hillary Clinton followed Obama’s lead on the matter – all the way to a historic loss at the polls.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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Freethinker: Emile Zola

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1840, Emile Zola was born in Paris. The novelist pioneered naturalistic writing, believing ugly problems could not be solved as long as they stayed hidden.

As a struggling young writer, Zola supported himself as a clerk. Legend has it he sometimes resorted to trapping birds on his windowsill in order to eat. Zola also moonlighted as a political reporter and critic.

He was fired from a publishing house after an early autobiographical novel created notoriety. His breakthrough novel was Therese Raquin (1867). By the time his book L’Assammoir (“The Drunkard,” 1878) appeared, Zola was France’s most famous writer, yet he was barred his entire life from the Academy. His book Germinal (1885), about conditions in a coal mine leading to a strike, was denounced by the rightwing. Nana (1880) examined sexual exploitation.

Zola’s most enduring work is his open letter “J’Accuse,” about the Dreyfus case. He campaigned with Clemenceau to free the the French Jewish army officer falsely accused of spying. Zola was sentenced to imprisonment for writing “J’Accuse” in 1898, escaping to England until he could safely return after Dreyfus’ name had been cleared.

Zola, who was baptized Catholic, was a notable critic of the Roman Catholic Church (and vice versa). The Church particularly condemned his books Lourdes, Rome, and Paris (1894-98). The agnostic was an honorary associate of the British Press Association in England. D. 1902.

“When truth is buried underground it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.

The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it.”

—-Emile Zola, “J’Accuse!” L’Aurore, Jan. 13, 1898

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Ingersoll: Denies the Lie Told about God…

 

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

This Infinite LIE. No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror [hell – eternal pain] All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood – all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death – all of this is nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.

This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God – the mercy of Christ.

This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor.

It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains, and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands.

It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.

Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.

It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend.

It is the one infinite horror.

Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind.

Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred, and revenge.

Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.

While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.

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IMPEACH TRUMP! (bring back No Drama Obama)

 


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IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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America never was a Christian nation…

 


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