WILLIAM EDELEN: Jews Without God


The Contrary Minister

Several years ago I lectured to a sold out auditorium at the University of Southern Colorado on the subject of “Redefining God.” It was about a movement today that is sweeping through Protestant churches all across this country. In this age of quantum physics and breath-taking discoveries in Astronomy, Archaeology and Biological evolution, intelligent and enlightened people are realizing that the archaic Gods of the bible are the most primitive superstitions. And nothing more.

My recent readings have been about a similar movement that is a fast growing phenomenon in Judaism. It is known as Humanistic Judaism.

Rabbi Sherwin Wine said he realized that he was “not being true to himself” in still talking about a biblical God that he no longer believed in. He started the Birmingham Temple outside of Detroit, the world’s first Humanistic congregation, which today has grown to a congregation of over 1000 members. There are now more than 40 Humanistic congregations across the United States with over 30,000 members. There are 12 such international organizations including one in the Jewish homeland of Israel.

Those involved say that humanistic Judaism is the only form that makes sense to rationalist Jews in this age of science and technology.

The Great California Genocide…



From Daily Kos

 What do you think of when someone says “California”? Beaches? Sunshine? Hollywood?

How about the largest act of genocide in American history?

“The idea, strange as it may appear, never occurred to them (the Indians) that they were suffering for the great cause of civilization, which, in the natural course of things, must exterminate Indians.”
– Special Agent J. Ross Browne, Indian Affairs

California was one of the last areas of the New World to be colonized.

It wasn’t until 1769 that the first mission, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, was built in California at present-day San Diego. It was the first of 21 missions, which would become the primary means for the Spaniards to subjugate the natives. The leader of this effort was Franciscan friar Junípero Serra.

Despite whatever the movies portray, the missions were coercive religious, forced labor camps. Through bribes, military intimidation, and the eventual onslaught of European diseases (that usually targeted children), the colonizers ensured that eventually sick and desperate indians would come to the missions for help. That’s not to say that they intentionally spread diseases, but there was a consistent, two century long pattern.
The indians that wound up there had their children taken from them, and harsh, manual labor was the rule. Beatings and filthy living conditions were common. The death rate at the missions was appalling. By 1818 the percentage of Indians who died in the missions reached 86 percent. Over 81,000 indian “converts” eventually managed to successfully flee the missions.

Soon there were indian revolts.

Why Are You Still Catholic?



A study came out recently all about what Catholics believe compared to what all Americans believe.

I just want to mention two issues in particular.

First is marriage equality. 55% of all Americans said they support gay or lesbian couples getting married.

Now, this is something forbidden by the Church. The Catechism even says “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” The supposedly-great Pope Francis believes that.

And yet the study showed that 60% of Catholics support gay marriage. 60!

The second issue is abortion. 53% of all Americans said it should be legal in all or most cases.

The Catholic Church calls it a “grave offense.” It’s completely anti-abortion.

But guess what? 51% of Catholics said they support legal abortion in most or all situations.

What the hell?

Belief in Belief…



From Atheist Revolution

Daniel Dennett, author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, has offered what I consider to be one of the most intriguing arguments about the nature of contemporary religious belief. He suggests that very few people alive today actually believe in gods. But if that’s true, why do we atheists often feel like we are surrounded by believers? Obviously, we feel this way because the majority of people around us claim to believe. But why would they do this if they don’t actually believe? Dennett suggests that the vast majority of people today believe in belief in gods. That is, even though they do not actually believe in gods, they do believe that trying to believe, promoting belief, and telling others they believe are advantageous.

Dennett’s suggestion that few people actually believe in gods certainly seems consistent with the observation many of us have made that most people who claim to believe in gods do not behave as if they believed in gods. As just one example, wouldn’t the world be a vastly different place if people really believed in prayer? If religious believers believed much of what they claimed to believe, they would behave in very different ways from how they do behave. Again and again, their behavior betrays them as not really being sincere about their claimed beliefs.

Best of Non Believers Arguments And Comebacks…



TODD WALTON: Of Onyx and Guinea Pigs


Crater Lake Chipmunk

Crater Lake Chipmunk photo by Marcia Sloane

Under The Table Books

“There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind—the humorous.” Mark Twain

1972. Santa Cruz. Never enough money. I was working days as a gardener, nights playing music. My girlfriend was a waitress and house cleaner. Rent was cheap but wages were negligible.

So one day my girlfriend said to me, “My brother and his wife are making good money housesitting. If they can do it in Philadelphia, why can’t we do it here? People go away for a night, a week, a month, and they pay us to stay in their house, water the plants, feed the cats, walk the dog, maybe take care of their kids.”

She put an ad in the Sentinel. Something like: Responsible couple with good references will housesit for you. We are clean non-smokers, good with pets, good with plants, good with children.

Truth be told, I was not keen on housesitting, but my girlfriend was tired of our lack of cash and Spartan lifestyle.

A few days later, a woman called in response to the ad. Ellen. She was going away that Friday and returning Sunday. Ellen had a ten-year-old son and a dog. We went over to her house that night to audition. She was large, mid-thirties, we were skinny, early twenties. Her very fat son Perry was sitting on the sofa eating candy and watching television.

Why the Media isn’t Covering Citizens United…



From Thom Hartmann

Americans have always been skeptical of corporate power. In fact, this country was founded by a revolt against the biggest corporation of its day – the British East India Company. You know how conservatives are always going on about how the Boston Tea Party was an example of America’s anti-government roots? Well, the Boston Tea Party was actually an anti-corporate protest, not some 18th century version of an Americans for Tax Reform rally. When the good citizens of Boston threw chest upon chest of East India tea into the freezing winter water of Boston Harbor, they were protesting a law — the Tea Act of 1773 — that was their era’s version of the bank bailout.

The Tea Act gave the British East India Company total control over the North American tea trade, exempted it from having to pay taxes on exported tea, and gave it a refund on any tea it was unable to sell. It was the largest corporate tax cut in the history of the world, and set up the East India Company to pull a Wal-Mart and put all the small, local tea shops across America out of business. Not surprisingly, this really angered the American colonists, and so they took action, setting off a chain of events that eventually resulted in our independence from Great Britain.

So skepticism of corporate power is in our blood.

GENE LOGSDON: Manure — The Gift That Keeps On Giving



The Contrary Farmer

Our son, Jerry, gave his mother a big trailer load of cow manure for her birthday last spring. She could not have been more pleased. Where can you buy even from Neiman Marcus, barn manure aged for three years with a bouquet somewhere between old English leather and woodsy leaf mold? My brother-in-law, Brad, does one better. He not only gives his sheep manure to family members who live nearby, but delivers it by the forklift load and spreads it neatly on their gardens about four inches deep. We are all real nice to Brad. If we don’t already get the gift that keeps on giving, maybe next year. And if you wonder about whether it really keeps on giving, you should see my sisters’ gardens after receiving this kind of treatment for a few years. Luther Burbank would be jealous.

Making barn manure compost is simplicity itself if you have a front end loader. Just scoop the manure bedding out of the barn out into piles, like around six feet high and eight feet in diameter, and watch it turn into black gold over several years. Brad turns his piles with the loader once or twice a year to hasten composting, but Jerry just lets the microorganisms do the turning and waits a year or so longer for the composting process to complete itself. He has plenty of space for it around his barn far from human habitation so no paranoid twenty-first century health faddist will raise unfounded fears of odor, rodents or microbes of devastation. The heat of composting and three years of decomposition renders the compost almost as pure of harmful bugs or pathogens as the driven snow. Yes, it would be better to have a roof over the pile but the amount of plant nutrients lost to rain is minimal.

Freedom From Religion Foundation unveils ‘Atheists in Foxholes’ monument at new headquarters…


A 4,743-pound granite monument dedicated to ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES and the countless freethinkers who have served this country with honor and distinction” was installed, Oct. 6, at the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s new offices in Madison, Wis.

The Atheists in Foxholes monument will be dedicated on Friday, Oct. 9 at 10:30 a.m. during the by-invitation-only grand opening of the renovated Freethought Hall downtown. Vets in attendance will be encouraged to pose for a photograph.

The monument, made of the same South Dakota granite that Mount Rushmore is carved from, is more than 7 feet high, reflects the long windows that are part of the original 1855 building and provides a focus for the new Rose Zerwick Memorial Garden and Courtyard adjoining Freethought Hall’s new entrance. A teak bench opposite the display provides a spot for reflection.

The monument text concludes with a pacific plea: “Presented with hope that in the future humankind may learn to avoid all war.”

Governor Signs Into Law Merciful Right-to-Die Legislation…



From Hemant Mehta

We should all be glad he signed it.

There are religious conservatives who think taking your own life is an affront to God and that you have to let nature run its course — even when you’re deathly sick, in constant pain, and have no hope for recovery. They think the God who inflicted that pain upon you should be allowed to torture you as long as He wants.

Could they be any more cruel?

We’re not talking about people who are having fits of depression or who want to end their lives on a whim. We’re talking about patients whose lives aren’t going to get any better. They should have the right to die, having said their goodbyes, without anyone getting punished for it.

The Caltrans Bypass: An Un-Mitigated $50,000,000 Disaster…


From Chris Hardaker

The Caltrans-Willits Bypass Mitigation projects amount to the most expensive tally that Caltrans has ever spent on mitigation – defined as compensating for and/or repairing the destruction incurred during the project, including environmental and cultural resources (archaeology).  $50,000,000 mitigation dollars are being spent on the overblown northern intersection area. This is the price tag for terra-forming non-wetlands into wetlands, to compensate for the destruction of healthy wetlands during the construction of the new freeway.

This kind of terra-forming has never been tried before. That makes this ‘most expensive mitigation project’ a $50,000,000 ‘experimental mitigation project.’ No guarantees it will work. It could have all been avoided if CalTrans chose to build a smaller northern intersection, at least until their second stage of construction, at some nebulous and unscheduled point in the future. But Caltrans insisted. And it was all approved by the Mendocino County and Willits City Councils.

Capitalism is inhuman, antidemocratic, and unsustainable…



From Resilience

Gangsterism—the goal of getting ahead no matter what the cost to others—slowly becomes the norm, which has so far happened most notably at the very bottom and very top of the system…

[This is an excerpt from the new book Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully, published by Counterpoint/Soft Skull, which tells the story of Robert Jensen’s intellectual and political collaboration with teacher/activist Jim Koplin.

Jim Koplin, who developed the most comprehensive and consistent radical left/feminist/anti-racist/ecological politics of anyone I have ever known, talked with great affection about his time as a bank teller.

Jim was good with numbers, liked working with ordered systems in which accounts could be summed and settled at the end of the day, and was satisfied only when a job was done right—which made him perfect for a summer job at the State Bank of Lake Park. In that small, locally owned bank, serving a main street of small shop owners who served the surrounding farm country in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, Jim saw the importance of neighborliness and trust in a local economy. That didn’t mean everyone in town loved each other or that people always treated each other kindly, but the economy of Lake Park generally worked. The banker knew the folks to whom he was lending money, the store owners knew the nearby farmers, and the richest person in town didn’t seem all that different from the poorest, though everyone was aware of who was rich and who wasn’t.

Jim spoke fondly of that job, both of the work he did and the people he worked with. And yet throughout his politically conscious life, Jim did not hesitate to describe capitalism as a depraved and destructive economic system that is incompatible with social justice and ecological sustainability. Jim believed that we have to acknowledge not only the successes but the profound failures of capitalism and leave it behind.

Sam Harris book ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ available now…


Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 10.16.06 AM

This panel discussion was held at Harvard’s Kennedy Forum on September 14, 2015.

Sam Harris
Neuroscientist; Co-founder and Chief Executive, Project Reason; Author, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, among others

Maajid Nawaz
Author, Radical; Founding Chairman, Quilliam

Juliette Kayyem (moderator)
Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; Former Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, US Department of Homeland Security

WILL PARRISH: Mendocino Redwood Company Hack & Squirt Continues Unabated




California timberland owners sprayed 359,147 pounds of pesticides and herbicides on unwanted trees and shrubs in a recent four-year period — 2005 to 2008 — according to data compiled from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation by Cal Fire. A single region of the state — the Klamath/North Coast, including everywhere from Guerneville to Yreka — alone accounted for 256,401 of those pounds, or roughly two-thirds of the state total.

The disproportionate use of toxic chemicals within the state’s northern coastal forests is unsurprising given that this region’s main historic role vis-a-vis the California’s political economy is to turn trees into board-feet of lumber, thereby furnishing employment for labor and investment for capital.

Apropos of the latter, San Francisco’s Fisher family alone has invested roughly $1 billion of their vast riches in their conjoined Mendocino and Humboldt county timber firms, which cover 440,000 acres and employ hundreds of people. The Fishers’ Mendocino Redwood Company, which has faced renewed criticism for its herbicide use this year, accounted for 16,370 pounds during the period Cal Fire studied, or 6.4% of the total used in the North Coast/Klamath area.

Mendocino County denizens’ persistent criticism of MRC’s Hack ‘n’ Squirt technique of removing tan oaks and other hardwoods hasn’t noticeably slowed down their use of herbicides this year, according to the latest data Mike Kalantarian has compiled from the Mendocino County Agriculture Department. MRC has used 1,299 gallons of herbicides on 3,267 acres as of September 24, according to Kalantarian. MRC has used more triclopyr (garlon) this year than any in recent history: 418 gallons spanning 1,025 acres.

A few weeks ago, I obtained a copy from a North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) staff member of MRC’s voluntary Imazapyr monitoring data from 2001 to 2014. In 178 water samples, MRC has actually detected the chemical six times. As the NCRWQCB staffer stressed, MRC undertook the monitoring program voluntarily. He says the company’s willingness to undertake the testing is representative of how “they are generally pretty collaborative with us.”

WILLIAM EDELEN: Congregations with Frontal Lobotomies


Christ Church Stellarton
The Contrary Minister

Recently I received a long distance telephone call from an embarrassed member of the hospice group of in a prominent community. The group had invited me to lead a two-day seminar comparing the world’s major religious traditions, emphasizing different views on death and dying, which is what the hospice program is all about. The seminar was to be held in one of the local churches.

An officer of that church decided he had better find out what I was going to say. I told him about the material that I would be presenting. He informed me that the congregation recently allowed a speaker to come in who talked about “astrology” and all of that “occult stuff” and they would not allow any kind of that thing in their church.

Then came the call from the hospice member to tell me that the church officers had decided they did not want a “controversial” speaker coming into their church to talk about all of those “foreign” religions and things. (Someone should inform them that Christianity is a “foreign” religion, and the only Native American religion is that of the North American Indians,)

What a church like that needs is obviously all of the fresh air that it can possibly let in. The fact is, you don’t know what you think until you hear someone who thinks differently. Any church that cuts itself off from such dialogue and from mental and spiritual stimulation becomes smug and stupid and completely incapable of defending its own beliefs, except by dogma.

TODD WALTON: Assignments



Grace Upon The Visit painting by Nolan Winkler

Under The Table Books

“Tell the children the truth.” Bob Marley           

Even at this late date in the arc of my life, I am occasionally invited to speak to high school kids about the career path of a writer. When I explain to those soliciting me to speak that I am not a journalist or a non-fiction writer or a writer of murder mysteries or bodice rippers or young adult dystopian vampire novellas, but rather a writer of unclassifiable fiction and essays, and I further explain that I don’t recommend my career path to anyone because that would be to recommend working long hours seven days a week for five decades, my wages paltry and unreliable. After such an explanation, the invitations are withdrawn.

I have on a few occasions over those five decades earned noteworthy chunks of money for books I’ve written, but that hardly qualifies as a career path; more like staggering through a trackless wilderness and every seventh blue moon coming upon a clearing with potable water and catchable fish where a tent might be pitched for a year or two before I stagger back into the wilderness.

Reading a story by E.B. White yesterday, The Hotel Of The Total Stranger, I came upon a line that struck me as an apt description of my career. “…the sense of again being a reporter receiving only the vaguest and most mysterious assignments.”

Hello. I’ve been asked to speak to you today about my career as a writer who receives only the vaguest and most mysterious assignments. I want to emphasize the vague and mysterious aspects of my career path, as well as the notion that I am being assigned the mysterious writing I undertake. Who, you may ask, is doing the assigning? Who is my boss? And what kinds of companies employ artists to undertake only the vaguest and most mysterious assignments?

GENE LOGSDON: Dancing With the Weeds



The Contrary Farmer

It is fashionable now to see who can come up with the most damning information about herbicides and I take my turn at that pastime too. But those of us who grew up on farms when only the hoe and the cultivating shovel stood between us and the avenging weeds, the arrival of 2,4D was more welcome than Santa Claus. Weeds are what drove so many of us to the cities. No city slum is any worse than the space between a brush-choked fence row and tall corn when you are scything  weeds there in August. No city street pavement is as hard as clay soil when the hot sun hardens it after heavy rain, especially when as a boy you are trying to push a wheel cultivator through it. No city traffic jam can equal the feeling of powerlessness that comes over you when staring at the rollers of an old corn picker choked tight and fat with weeds.

Before agriculture, there was no such thing as weeds. The plow invented the weed. As humans increased and multiplied, so did weeds. Those who battle them on a grand scale today adore the great god Monsanto who came down from the heaven of science to save us. But not even gods are a match for weeds and now we face a grim world where we have a choice between killing them with chemicals so powerful that they might kill us too, or going back to those seemingly primitive times when nearly every human spent time wielding a hoe.

A hoe, used wisely, can become an instrument of peace and tranquility, not slavery. But most farmers made the same mistake John Henry, the Steel Drivin’ Man of folklore made. They tried to use their muscles to compete with the piston engine. They hoed, and made our children hoe, all day and into the night. Inevitably the children fled to town. FFA changed from standing for Future Farmers of America to Farmers Farming Alone.

This is how religion steals your childhood…



From Reddit

Growing up Christian meant to me that life on Earth was but prologue to Heaven, almost a sort of virtual reality training ground to see if you would accept the authority of God and submit to achieve immortality and forgiveness, or be stubborn and reject Christ and damn yourself to an eternity of fiery torment and final exclusion from God’s presence (which was portrayed as being the real, ultimate torture of Hell).

The end time that we were being drawn to was the Apocalypse, and we were immersed in the weird cognitive dissidence of it being simultaneously the most terrible event ever, worse than any war or Holocaust imaginable, yet at the same time a blessed event (to quash the Adversary and establish God’s Kingdom) that we might not have to take part in, if, IF we could be good and holy and forgiven enough to be caught up in the rapture.

That’s a lot for a kid. I was just a pawn on death row, waiting for when the shit would finally hit the fan.

Now, before you think I was raised in a cult on a razor-wire compound, all Jim Jones style, let me assure you that mine was a common (not even bible belt) upbringing. It wasn’t even drilled into me daily by hand-wringing religious nuts of a family, it was much more banal than that… it was just a simple fact that they told us in Sunday School and my family confirmed that yes, that’s right; there will be an Apocalypse, a Judgement Day, and yes, we’re all sinners bound for Hell but we have an escape clause provided by the blood atonement of the Son. Praise Jesus, I am washed clean in the blood of Christ! And after church we all had pie.

It was like being raised in a happy, care-free concentration camp where we could walk by the gas chambers and play in the ovens, and all my neighbors smiled and reminded me every now and then that a good boy loves the Camp Director because He’s the only one that can sign and stamp your Papers. We must be careful and any infraction had to be asked forgiveness as the Camp Director had cameras everywhere and He could see you in such detail that He could count the hairs on your head and see into your very thoughts.

This is how religion steals your childhood.

I finally escaped my own prison (so lovingly and faithfully built by my family and community) and saw the world outside the walls erected in my mind. Most never escape and remained twisted and gnarled by their upbringing and feel it their duty to erect the same walls in the minds of their children, and twist them with this burden of imminent torture and damnation. So thorough is their indoctrination in the faith that they do not realize what is like to live outside the walls.

The abused become the abusers, generation after generation, and we all call it good and righteous and great for the nation. The government stamps its approval and bestows churches with a free pass on taxes, and good Christian boys and girls grow up to be on a stage where we judge them for their fitness to be President of the United States by how much they swear allegiance to the Camp Director.

95 comments here

William Edelen: Red Slippers… Red Blood… A New Hope


The Contrary Minister

The Media has fully covered the Red Slippers of the retiring Pope… Red Silk for indoors… Red Leather for outdoors… with the name of the designer and all related facts.

My mind went into a re-wind on the Red Blood that has soaked the earth by that same “Christian” organization. When Alfred North Whitehead was the Chair of Philosophy at Harvard University, he made this observation. “Christian Theology has been the greatest disaster in the history of the human race.” Was he correct? A brief review:

391 A.D. Christians burn down one of the world’s greatest libraries in Alexandria that housed over 700,000 scrolls.

1099: Christian crusaders take Jerusalem and massacre Jews and Muslims. In the streets were piles of heads, hands and feet. Millions were killed as a result of the Crusades.

1208: Pope Innocent orders a Crusade against the French Cathars. Over 100,000 were killed by Armaud’s men at Beziers.

1231: Pope Gregory IX establishes the Inquisition. Inquisitors were given license to explore every means of horror and torture and cruelty. Victims were rubbed with lard or grease and slowly roasted alive. Ovens built to kill people, made famous by Nazi Germany, were first used in the Christian Inquisition of Eastern Europe. The gruesome torturesused on hundreds of thousands of non-Christians were so repugnant and horrible that I cannot even describe them to you. The Inquisition spread as far as Goa, India.

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?



From AR

The question is a damn good one. It is one which many religious believers have asked themselves. If you are here now because you have been asking it and are seeking answers, you are in good company.

Growing up as a Christian, I asked myself this question many times over the span of several years. I gradually worked through many possible answers, some of which seemed to help briefly. Unfortunately, it would eventually become clear that most were not productive. While there are no easy answers, it seems like there are at least a few possibilities those asking this question might want consider. In this brief post, I’ll invite you to consider six possible explanations for why your prayers are going unanswered.


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