TODD WALTON: Old Souls

 

219ladderup

ladder up diptych by Max Greenstreet

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Isaac Bashevis Singer, one my favorite writers, wrote several stories set in pre-holocaust Poland about children who are thought by their Jewish elders to be old souls. These children are prodigies and seem to possess knowledge and wisdom gained in previous lifetimes. This idea of an old soul occurs in nearly all societies and is particularly appealing to those who want to believe in reincarnation. But reincarnation aside, I have always been intrigued by especially wise young children and how they came to be so wise.

When I was in my twenties, I worked as a teacher’s aide in a day care center for low-income children, two-and-a-half to five-years-old. Among our thirty charges were a few unusually mature children, but there was one girl named Susie who seemed to be an adult in the body of a cute little 3-year-old blonde.

Susie gladly played with the other children, especially the quieter ones, and she routinely sought me out for conversation, which none of the other children did. She had a large vocabulary and liked to share with me her insights about what was going on emotionally with the other kids and staff members. These insights would have been remarkable for a teenager, but coming from a three-year-old, they boggled my mind. Susie could be goofy and giggly, but more often she was serious and introspective.

One day Susie came running to me, hugged my leg tightly, and said, “My mother came here. I don’t want to go with her.”

We are here because…

 


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The Comedic Legacies of Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis (RIP): A Study in Contrasts

 

From Open Culture

Two titans of comedy passed away this weekend, but the deaths of Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis have seemed like cultural footnotes amidst some of the most anxious, angry few days in recent U.S. history. Gregory and Lewis are stars of a bygone era, maybe two full generations behind contemporary popular relevance. And yet, in many ways, the mid-20th century world where both men got their start feels closer than ever.

Both Gregory and Lewis once wielded considerable power in the entertainment industry and in their other chosen spheres of influence—the civil rights movement and charitable giving, respectively. In nearly every other respect, the two could not have been more different.

Gregory broke into mainstream success with a new wave of black comics like Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, and like Pryor, he did so by telling painful truths about racism that many white Americans laughed about but were unwilling to honestly confront or change. You can hear an early example in the routine above, from his 1962 album Dick Gregory Talks Turkey.

Christian Crock: Various Christian Threats, Deciphered and Decoded…

 

 

From Captain Cassidy

Threats are a constant and deeply-woven part of Christian culture. Even the really nice parts of the religion use them in implicit form. That’s why we often talk around here about Christians’ use of threats. They make promises as well, promises that touch on the natural and supernatural worlds. I thought it’d be interesting to pull together some of their favorites–and offer up some link love in case anyone wants to read further about them. 

Hell.

Obviously, the biggest and most potent threat at a Christian’s disposal is the threat of an eternity of being tortured forever and ever by demons. This threat didn’t originally appear in the Christian mythos; it was added much later, and it was added specifically to frighten people into line.

The terrible part about this threat is that it is devastatingly effective.

More than two thousand years later, Christians still use this threat willy-nilly. It’s their go-to threat, in fact. It’s used so often and so freely that sometimes the Christians using it don’t even realize that non-Christians view what they just said as a legitimate threat. They use it that  often because it is very effective against people who aren’t aware of its many shortcomings. About all that’s changed over the last couple of millennia is the degree of graphic details added to the threat scenario.

Even years out of the religion, ex-Christians sometimes suffer from a fear of being tortured for eternity–thanks to the “loving” Christians around them who constantly deploy this threat.

The promise that Christians make to counter their threat of Hell is, obviously, that compliance with and adherence to their religious demands–a very earthly subservience masked by the Christianese phrase acceptance into one’s heart of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–will allow their new victim access to Heaven instead of Hell.

In its turn, Heaven is, according to Christians, the most wonderful place in the universe though to non-Christians that description often doesn’t sound quite so accurate.

Book Review: Doubt

 

From Graceful Atheist

I have just finished Jennifer Michael Hecht‘s Doubt: A History. It has been around for some time but as I am new to atheism it is new to me. I would suggest this is an extremely important book for modern atheists to provide perspective on where we have come from and direction on where we are going. There is something wonderful about history. It places our ideas in context. It draws lines between what would appear to be disparate ideas. This book provides that context and draws those lines in a valuable way.

After my deconversion I had a number of ideas I was desperate to express. You will find them throughout this blog. Interestingly, however, I was mildly disappointed to find that none of my ideas were particularly original. Come to find out my experience of deconversoin was rather typical in fact. Average.  I titled my first blog post “A very common message” after this realization.

After reading Hecht’s book I am even more disappointed to realize that my ideas are not only not original for today but not particularly original for 2600 years ago. It is quite a humbling experience. But it does provide a sense of unity with doubters throughout history. And for that I am grateful.

Hecht’s book is dense with quotes from doubters and moves at break-neck speed from 600 BCE to the turn of the millennium. Attempting to review the book in the traditional sense could never do it justice. If I were to start quoting this post would be as long as the book. (Take note meme creators, this book is a rich quarry of quotes). Instead, I will write about the reactions I had reading the book and how they apply to the modern doubter.

In praise of Doubt

Freethinker: Gene Roddenberry

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1921, writer/producer Eugene Wesley Roddenberry, creator of “Star Trek,” was born in El Paso, Texas. He left for “Space, the final frontier,” at age 70 from a cardiopulmonary blood clot. In college he studied pre-law and engineering and got his pilot’s license. He flew B-17s in World War II and was a commercial pilot for Pan Am. He joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1949 and became speechwriter for Chief William H. Parker. He began writing scripts for TV shows like “The U.S. Steel Hour,” “Goodyear Theater,” “The Kaiser Aluminum Hour,” “Four Star Theater,” “Dragnet,” “The Jane Wyman Theater” and “Naked City.” He won his first Emmy for “Have Gun, Will Travel.” “Star Trek” debuted on NBC in 1966 and ran until 1969 (79 episodes). A sequel series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” premiered in 1987 and ended in 1994 (176 episodes). Paramount Pictures produced 11 “Star Trek” feature films through 2013. D. 1991

“I have always been reasonably leery of religion because there are so many edicts in religion, ‘thou shalt not,’ or ‘thou shalt.’ I wanted my world of the future to be clear of that.”

——Gene Roddenberry, cited by Susan Sackett (http://www.InsideTrek.com)
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Distributism Isn’t Outdated

 

 

From The American Conservative

G.K. Chesterton offers a non-statist vision for economic and social change that’s still relevant in the age of the iPhone.

I’m not holding out for a Red October 2017, but neither am I happy succumbing to a weary fatalism about the kind of capitalism we find ourselves with today. I want to believe things could be different, but that will require more vision than can be found in our current political arguments. And its accomplishment will hinge upon inspiring rather than alienating business leaders.

This will require a vision for transformation that—crucially—doesn’t revolve around a model of gladiatorial government whereby elected representatives battle for policy changes and social justice while we sit by cheering. No, we need a non-statist vision for economic and social change.

G.K. Chesterton’s early 20th century “distributism” is a movement typically considered a spent force, which is always a good reason to pay attention to something, for finding a vision for the future often requires swiveling back to the past. It holds out just the sort of powerful vision that could very well capture the hearts and minds of business leaders.

Chesterton’s “distributist” project tried to chart a middle course (but not “Third Way”!) between laissez faire capitalism on the one side and state socialism on the other. The problem with the former, as Chesterton wrote in The Outline of Sanity10 years after the Russian Revolution, was that “The practical tendency of all trade and business today is towards big commercial combinations, often more imperial, more impersonal, more international than many a communist commonwealth.” While of the alternative, Chesterton said, “the point about Communism is that it only reforms the pickpocket by forbidding pockets.”

Religion Supports Nobody…

 


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No More Make Believe: God gets stoned?

 


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Freethinker: Alex Honnold

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1985, rock climber Alex Honnold was born in Sacramento, California. Honnold is one of the top free-solo climbers in the world. In free solo, the climber does not use any ropes or protective gear but relies only on physical and mental strength. He also does big-wall climbing, which is defined as a route that takes more than a day to climb.

A self-described “atheist rock climber,” Honnold was taken to church as a child, but instead of finding meaning in bible readings, he daydreamed about climbing the church’s rafters. Honnold began rock climbing at age 11. He attended the University of California-Berkeley to study engineering but dropped out to pursue his climbing passion and lives out of his van, traveling to different climbing spots. In a video by filmmaker Chris Johnson, Honnold described why he’s an atheist: “I was taken to church for maybe five or six years as a kid and at no point did I ever think there was ever anything going on with church. I always saw it as a bunch of old people eating stale wafers, and that’s totally weird to me.”

Honnold, along with climber Hans Florine, holds the world record for the fastest ascent of “The Nose” of El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, in California’s Yosemite Valley. It’s is the most popular route to ascend the mountain. Honnold and Florine climbed it in the record time of 2:23:51. On June 3, 2017, he became the first person to scale El Capitan without using ropes or other safety gear, in 3 hours and 56 minutes. According to National Geographic, the ascent “may be the greatest feat of pure rock climbing in the history of the sport.”

“By not believing in an afterlife, it forces you to make the most out of this life to get the most out of the time you have.”

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TODD WALTON: Postcards & Notecards

 

cardquestM

Card Quest notecard and postcard by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

I love the postal service. I love getting letters and postcards and packages. I’m sixty-seven; thus for much of my life there were no such things as personal computers and email and smartphones. The mail, the actual hold-in-your-hands letters and cards, was the great connector over long distances, especially among artists and writers and less conventional folks.

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I got two or three letters and postcards every day, and some days I might get seven or eight. Nowadays I get a postcard or letter, if I’m lucky, once a week. And though I gladly partake of email and depend on my email connections for an important part of my daily happiness, I still think of letters and cards I find in my post office box as holy relics.

In response to what I consider the new Dark Ages that have descended upon us, I have revived my habit of writing and sending out letters and cards each week. I don’t expect these missives to elicit replies via the post office or otherwise. I write these notes and letters because I find the process satisfying, and because I know such communications bring pleasure to the recipients.

To facilitate my pleasure and the pleasure of people I write to, I like to create postcards and notecards that are the kinds of notecards and postcards I wish to find in stationery stores or bookshops, but never find them—because they don’t exist unless I create them. In the last year, since reviving my habit of sending handwritten messages on one-of-a-kind postcards, and handwritten letters in one-of-a-kind notecards, several correspondents have asked if they could purchase copies of my cards. One thing led to another and I decided to launch a line of notecards and postcards and offer them for sale from my web site. If you’d like to see the new line, go to Underthetablebooks.com and click on CARDS in the menu. Then on the CARDS page click on Postcards or Notecards. Voila.

Losing Our Religion: Movie Trailer…

 

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It is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true…

 


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All You Fascists Bound To Lose…

 

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JEFF COX: Intolerance

 

From JEFF COX
Kenwood, Sonoma County

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, are not an isolated example of white supremacists voicing their opinion about the glory of Robert E. Lee and the Old South. Those alt-right marches are just one small node in an interconnected web of right-wing agendas that now extend widely through our entire society, church and state, corrupting our institutions as they spread.

This wide web of agendas smells strongly of racism, fascism, and religious and political fundamentalism. In a word: intolerance for anything but the Trump-approved line.

For example, take Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s plan to siphon money from our public schools to pay for vouchers that will be given to parents to pay for sending their kids to private schools. Sounds pretty benign, right? Wrong. Most of those private schools are religious—and not just religious like Catholic schools, but fundamentalist Evangelical Christian schools, where the kids will be indoctrinated in alt-right ideas about the superiority of the white race and the Christian equivalent of Sharia law. Does that sound hysterical? Get a copy of “The Good News Club” by Katherine Stewart, published five years ago, that details how far underway this agenda already is, and Google “Betsy DeVos and the move toward Evangelical Christian education” to see how far the movement has come in the past five years.

Freethinker: Robert Ingersoll

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1833, Robert Green Ingersoll, who became the best known advocate of freethought in 19th-century United States, was born in Dresden, N.Y. The son of an impoverished itinerant pastor, he later recalled his formative church experiences: “The minister asked us if we knew that we all deserved to go to hell, and we all answered ‘yes.’ Then we were asked if we would be willing to go to hell if it was God’s will, and every little liar shouted ‘Yes!’ ”

He became an attorney by apprenticeship, and a colonel in the Civil War, fighting in the Battle of Shiloh. In 1867, Ingersoll was appointed Illinois’ first Attorney General. His political career was cut short by his refusal to halt his controversial lectures, but he achieved national political fame for his thrilling nomination speech for James G. Blaine for president at the national convention of the Republican Party in 1876. Ingersoll was good friends with three U.S. presidents. The distinguished attorney was known and admired by most of the leading progressives and thinkers of his day. “Who can over estimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind?” (Some Mistakes of Moses)

Ingersoll traveled the continent for 30 years, speaking to capacity audiences, once attracting 50,000 people to a lecture in Chicago—40,000 too many for the Exposition Center. His repertoire included 3 to 4-hour lectures on Shakespeare, Voltaire and Burns, but the largest crowds turned out to hear him denounce the bible and religion. Ingersoll’s speaking fees ranged as high as $7,000, in an era of low wages and no income tax. He married Eva Parker Ingersoll, a rationalist whom he deemed a “Woman Without Superstition,” in dedicating his first freethought book to her. He initially settled in Peoria, Illinois, then in Washington, D.C., where he successfully defended falsely accused men in the “Star Route” scandal, the most famous political trial of the 19th century. The family later relocated to New York.

A devoted family man, he lived with his extended family, and the Ingersoll “at homes” were celebrated, both in Washington D.C., and in New York. Religious rumors against Ingersoll abounded. One had it that Ingersoll’s son was a drunkard who more than once had to be carried away from the table. Ingersoll wrote: “It is not true that intoxicating beverages are served at my table. It is not true that my son ever was drunk. It is not true that he had to be carried away from the table. Besides, I have no son!” The 12-volume Dresden Edition of his lectures, poetry and interviews was collected after his death and has been reprinted many times. D. 1899.

“All religions are inconsistent with mental freedom. Shakespeare is my bible, Burns my hymn-book.”

“I do not borrow ideas. I have a factory of my own.”

“I do not believe in putting out the sun to keep weeds from growing.”

“With soap, baptism is a good thing.”

“[Of William Jennings Bryan] He talks, but he does not think.”
—-Robert G. Ingersoll.

For more information on Ingersoll see https://ukiahcommunityblog.wordpress.com/category/robert-ingersoll-the-great-agnostic/

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Freedom From Religion Foundation unveils “The Most Unpleasant Character” webpage…

 

ControlFreakGod

The Freedom From Religion Foundation unveils its new “Unpleasant Companion” webpage, a searchable database of Old Testament verses proving that God is, indeed, the most unpleasant character.

The pro-blasphemy site was inspired by biologist Richard Dawkins’ sentence in chapter 2 of his book “The God Delusion,” in which he writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist,infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential,megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

That sentence prompted volcanic criticism. To back up this claim, Dawkins asked FFRF Co-President and former minister Dan Barker to compile a list of biblical citations for each unflattering descriptor. This resulted in Barker’s book “GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.”

Now, FFRF is introducing the “Unpleasant Companion,” a site built to allow visitors to easily search through and share bible verses from Barker’s book that serve as evidence for the 19 adjectives Dawkin’s used to characterize God. The site categorizes the characteristics Dawkins used, along with eight additional sacrilegious attributes Barker gives to God in Part 2 of his book.

“God is every bit as depraved as Dawkins painted him, and more,” said Barker. “The new site includes biblical passages revealing that God is also pyromaniacal, angry, merciless, curse-hurling, vaccicidal, aborticidal, cannibalistic and a slavemonger.”

Recently, there has been an influx of blasphemy charges around the world, including one that Irish authorities brought against actor Stephen Fry over irreverent comments he made LINK TO STORY. In response to the investigation, Dawkins publicly denounced Ireland’s law that makes blasphemy a crime in a letter to the Irish Times quoting his famous slew of holy insults. There is an ongoing campaign by Atheist Ireland to repeal that law.

On Monday, June 12, Dawkins will be speaking in Dublin on the topic of blasphemy and will reference the verses to be found on FFRF’s new webpage.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to promote nontheism and the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
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Rational Suicide: Dr Philip Nitschke in Darwin, Australia to show people how to end their lives…

 

Nan Maitland.

From NTNews, Australia

FORMER Northern Territory voluntary euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke is back in Darwin to teach Territorians how to “practically, peacefully and reliably” end their lives.

Dr Nitschke, who now lives in the Netherlands, helped four patients end their lives in the NT before the law allowing him to do so was overturned in 1997.

The workshop in Lyons on Saturday is one of 10 to be held around Australia and will give the elderly and terminally ill advice on how to buy, store and use drugs or gases to kill themselves.

“It’s a very practical guide on peacefully and reliably ending your life,” Dr Nitschke said.

He acknowledged the workshops were controversial, but said there had been minimal opposition to them in the Territory.

“Territorians are by and large much more amenable to the idea (of voluntary euthanasia) than people down south,” he said.

“There’s always opposition in Sydney and Melbourne – usually from religious groups – and from people who say it upsets politicians and lowers the chances of having laws passed.”

Dr Nitschke said he didn’t buy the argument that teaching people how to end their lives led to higher suicide rates.

“We have thousands of 75-year-old members who want to have the drugs in the cupboard, and feel a whole lot happier when they do and when they’re happier, they live longer and better lives,” he said.

Dr Nitschke said he believed legislation in the works for Victoria would pass this year, which could lead to the repeal of the federal legislation which prevents the NT and ACT from allowing the practice.

But, any legislation would likely be “extremely conservative” and require those wishing to die to “jump through hoops” to prove their eligibility to end their lives, he said.

While in Darwin, Dr Nitschke will also attend the Casuarina screening of Fade to Black, a film documenting the final six months of Peter Short’s life as he lobbied politicians to give the terminally ill the right to die.
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TODD WALTON: Twins

 

fawns 2017

Twins photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

We were visited this morning by the twin fawns who share these woods with us, and today our coming to the window to look at them did not scare them away, but precipitated a pleasant staring game that went on long enough for me to get my camera and take a picture. The deer hereabouts are quite hungry now in early August and are eating things they don’t bother to eat when their preferred foods are more abundant. When we see deer going up on their hind legs to eat camellia leaves, we know pickings are slim for the local ungulates.

We just saw the excellent and upsetting movie Incendies by Denis Villeneuve based on the play of the same name by Wajdi Mouawad. If you are squeamish about violence as I am, this is not a movie for you. Had I known what the movie was about beyond what I saw in the trailer, I would not have watched the film. Yet I think Incendiesis an important work of art and a brilliant illumination of the religious and cultural madness gripping the Middle East and much of the world today. The movie involves twins, a man and a woman, attempting to unravel the secrets of their deceased mother’s past.

Some years ago, I read several articles about twins. One of the articles suggested that many more twins are conceived than ever come to full term; and most left-handed people are the surviving twin of identical twins, one of whom did not survive the first weeks in utero. For some reason, that tidbit, which may or may not be true, has stayed with me.

Rebuttal to the Richard Dawkins Controversy…

 

From AlterNet

[Original articles here]

My article “The Dangerous Delusions of Richard Dawkins,” which appeared on AlterNet recently, has stirred up a veritable hornet’s nest of controversy. Within a few hours of publication, it has catalyzed over 350 comments, most of them antagonistic. To give a sense of the flavor and tone, here’s a typical entry:

Yep. This piece isn’t just fallacious, it is flagrantly intellectually dishonest. The only way for AlterNet to save face on this is to retract this tripe in its entirety.

I should have been prepared. In a recent article on Salon, Phil Torres writes how the New Atheist movement has degenerated into a tribal ethic of intolerance. His piece initiated its own torrent of comments, such as, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.”

However, along with the vitriol, some arguments made in response to my article raise important issues worthy of a considered response. In the hope of catalyzing a more productive dialogue, I’ve attempted to distill what I see as the key criticisms and offer my feedback. I encourage a continuing discussion, in a civil and respectful tone, of what I see as vitally important topics regarding the underlying structures of thought that predominate in our civilization.

‘Attacking the “Selfish Gene” idea is a straw man tactic’

Why Losing God Hits Some of Us Harder…

 


From Neil Carter
Godless In Dixie

I wasn’t active in the skeptic movement long before I discovered how different my perspective on religion was from that of other atheists. In time I came to understand that people who have never been religious come to the subject as outsiders who cannot always sympathize with those who formerly were.

But I most definitely was religious. Except I never would have used that word to describe myself. In fact, I would have recoiled from that word as I had been thoroughly indoctrinated against accepting the label by years of hearing that I was “spiritual but not religious.” What I enjoyed was not a religion, you see, it was a relationship.

That’s utter nonsense, by the way. It most definitely is a religion. But Christian exceptionalism has always been a key component of the evangelical faith, and ironically I don’t think they are exceptional in that regard, either. I believe a majority of world faiths harbor the notion that they are uniquely authentic while all other faiths are dim reflections of the truths of which they themselves are the sole proprietary owners.

That said, my religion was absolutely relational. For me, the Christian faith was best summed up in that statement of Jesus in John 17:3 where he said:

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

That’s the lens through which I was taught to view my religion—I viewed it fundamentally as a relationship with a living person who was to be known and experienced in daily life just like any other person would be. Well, not exactly in the same way, I suppose, since this particular person was invisible—detectable only to those who believed in him. In this relationship, one must come with a sincere expectation that God is real and that he can indeed be known by those who want to know him. As another key verse, Hebrews 11:6 explains:

Jazz at the Blues House

 


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Religion takes on Richard Dawkins and He Responds In Kind…

The Dangerous Delusions of Richard Dawkins

His rationalist crusade creates a false impression that the only alternative to religion is reductionist science.

From Jeremy Lent
AlterNet

[Two articles, then responses below…]

The recent cancellation of a book event with Richard Dawkins by the radio station KPFA has caused reverberations around the world. KPFA cited offensive remarks Dawkins has made about Islam. Dawkins and his followers have claimed these were taken out of context and that he’s been equally critical of Christianity. What this controversy misses, however, is the far greater destructive force of other ideas Dawkins has promulgated over decades, which have helped form the foundation of a mainstream worldview that endorses gaping wealth inequalities and encourages the wanton destruction of the natural world.

Richard Dawkins is seen as a superhero by rationalist thinkers seeking to overturn the delusions of monotheistic thought, which have wreaked havoc on the experience of billions of people over the past two millennia. In a 2013 poll, the readers of a respected British magazine, Prospect, voted him as the world’s top thinker. His bestselling popularization of evolution, The Selfish Gene, published in 1976, was recently named the most influential science book of all time in a Royal Society poll.

In fighting for science against religious superstition and climate deniers, Richard Dawkins deserves some of his popular acclaim. However, rational as they appear at first, Dawkins’ ideas are based on delusions of their own. The flaws implicit in his own belief system may be less obvious than those of monotheism, but they are at the root of much that is wrong in the current mainstream worldview. Important as it is to point out the dangerous delusions of monotheism, it is equally important not to replace one set of misconceptions with another.

In my book, The Patterning Instinct, I explored the underlying misconceptions that have led to our current crisis of civilization, and realized that Dawkins has been popularizing two of the most pernicious. One is the idea that all living organisms are controlled by selfish genes, and that humans, by implication, are innately selfish. Another is the notion that nature is nothing more than a very complicated machine. Both of these core ideas have been shown by countless scientists to be fundamentally wrong. Yet, partly because of the popularity of Dawkins’s own writing, they are widely taken on faith by the same intelligentsia that reject the fallacies of monotheism—and are used to justify some of our civilization’s most destructive behaviors.

The ‘Selfish Gene’ Is Bad Science and Bad Economics

Evangelical Christians and Donald Trump: They love him because they don’t trust facts or reason…

 

From Salon

Donald Trump is a man of many notable qualities. He is ignorant and a brute. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women by grabbing them by their genitals. He is a serial womanizer and has been divorced several times. He has also admitted to finding his own daughter sexually attractive. He is a serial liar who adores autocrats and dictators. He may even have gone so far as to collude with Russia and Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 presidential election. Trump is also violent, moody, vain and impulsive. He does not read and is proudly ignorant.

Why would anyone support such a leader? More specifically, why would any supposed “Christian” support Donald Trump, who appears to represent the antithesis of Christian virtues in so many ways?

Writing at Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall offers the following insights:

But Trump is able to take people of some apparent substance and attainment and destroy them as well. The key though is that he doesn’t destroy them. In his orbit, under some kind of spell, he makes them destroy themselves. It is always a self-destruction. He’s like a black hole. But for this there’s no ready explanation. Because what is the power? The force?

I puzzled over this for some time. Eventually I sensed that Trump wasn’t inducing people’s self-destruction so much as he was acting like a divining rod, revealing rot that existed already but was not apparent. … The rot was there but hidden. Trump is the moonlight. Perhaps better to say, to invert our metaphor, Trump is the darkness. …

Jesus: I love you unconditionally…

 


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TODD WALTON: High Summer

 

High Summer

High Summer photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Woke in the middle of the night. I’ve been sleeping well lately, so I wondered why I was awake. Wide awake. And then I remembered I broke my rule about not reading any news in the evening, and I also watched a video blurb about Trump—my first Trump visitation in several weeks. I might as well have had two cups of coffee and chocolate truffles before going to bed.

I haven’t liked a President of the United States since Jimmy Carter. I am aware that Jimmy presided over lots of horrible things done by our government, but I was thrilled by his willingness to talk about the planetary environmental crisis way back in the 1970s, about how we needed to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. And then he pushed through government programs that helped accelerate the solar power revolution. He walked his talk a little.

Our presidents since Jimmy have been consistently dishonest servants of the supranational monsters who began their complete takeover of our government with the election of Ronald Reagan. All our presidents after Jimmy facilitated the transfer of wealth from those with not much to those who already have everything. They all expanded the military and continued the policy of endless war. They all knowingly presided over the killing of thousands of civilians in essentially defenseless countries. They all did nothing to address global warming, over-population, and the environmental crises threatening life on earth. They all allowed our healthcare system to deteriorate and be taken over by the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. They all played golf.

Stoic Reminders For Everyday Practice…

 

From How To Be A Stoic

During the recent Stoic Summer School I have taught in Rome, one of the exercises for the group was to come up with a list of short phrases summarizing key Stoic teachings, to keep handy for everyday practice. Below is the list (which, I’m sure, could easily be expanded), organized according to Epictetus’ three disciplines of Desire, Action and Assent, with each phrase accompanied by a sourced quotation and a brief explanation. (Here is a downloadable version for ease of use.)

DISCIPLINE OF DESIRE (virtues of courage and temperance)

Some things are up to me, other things are not up to me

Arguably the most fundamental doctrine in practical Stoicism, certainly for Epictetus, is the dichotomy of control: focus on the stuff you can act on, take the rest as the universe will serve it to you (very similar to the famous Christian Serenity Prayer).

“Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.” (Epictetus, Enchiridion I)

Fate permitting

The famous Stoic reserve clause: your plan is always subordinate to the occurrence of things you cannot control.

“When you’re about to embark on any action, remind yourself what kind of action it is. If you’re going out to take a bath, set before your mind the things that happen at the baths, that people splash you, that people knock up against you, that people steal from you. And you’ll thus undertake the action in a surer manner if you say to yourself at the outset, ‘I want to take a bath and ensure at the same time that my choice remains in harmony with nature.’” (Epictetus, Enchiridion IV)

There goes my cup

Other Gods Before Christ…

 


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Our Aged Have Earned The Right To Die…

 

 

From Philip Nitschke
The Australian

As the euthanasia issue heats up again, many are wondering aloud what the fuss is all for.

For some, Victoria’s proposed law will represent a historical breakthrough. Since the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Termin­ally Ill Act was quashed by federal parliament 20 years ago, Australia has led the world in going backwards on end-of-life choices. ­Others like it this way.

As Victoria’s assisted-dying law looks increasingly like a sure thing, deep splits along conscience, ­rather than party, lines are emerging at Spring Street.

Similar divisions happened in Darwin in 1996. The NT law got up by one vote, that of the sole Aboriginal member, Wes Lanhupuy.

However, 20 years later the world has moved on and we are talking about a new law, one that Victorians boast is the safest law ever, anywhere in the world.

What I would add is that the law is so ridiculously cautious that few people will be able to use it. With its 60-plus safeguards, the law is destined to fail even if it passes.

Here’s why:

Islam: Only the Truth Will Prevent Harm…

 

From Sarah Haider
Secular Humanism

Sarah Haider is a writer, speaker, and activist. Born in Pakistan and raised in Texas, she was a practicing Shia Muslim until she left the faith in her teenage years. In 2013, she cofounded Ex-Muslims of North America.

Nothing is as destructive to a political ideology as a hypocrisy exposed. An accidental hypocrisy indicates ignorance, and ignorance, thankfully, can often be remedied with evidence and reason. A willful hypocrisy, however, eats away at the foundations of the ideology, leaving it vulnerable to collapse.

Conservatives and dissenting liberals alike have noted a tendency in progressive circles to whitewash Islamic ideology and practices. Activists who (rightfully) decry intolerance against Muslims in the West will too often turn a blind eye to intolerance by Muslims anywhere in the world. The very same activists who denounce religiously motivated hostility toward gay rights by evangelicals and Mormons will ignore, or attempt to explain away, the same hostility when it is motivated by Islamic belief. Western feminists join “slutwalks” by the thousands to protest the notion that immodest clothing justifies sexual assault. But few among them speak out against Muslim norms idolizing female modesty and chastity. The ones who do face being smeared as “Islamophobes.” In a similar vein, the same progressives who recognize the importance of defending the civil liberties of Muslims in the West will overlook the abhorrent treatment of apostates in Muslim countries.

Conservatives declare that this double standard reveals the politicized and discriminatory nature of the Left’s commitment to human rights and civil liberties. The blind spot for Islam provides evidence, they argue, that “liberal values” are only a pretense, a mask of moral superiority underneath which hides a cynical tribalism. Dissenting liberals (like myself) believe that the Left’s hypocrisy points instead to a moral confusion, based on a well-intentioned desire to protect Muslims from xenophobic aggression, albeit one that provides a shield for Islamic theocrats.

At the beginning of my own activism, I had imagined that the protectiveness I saw toward Islam was due to ignorance. The solution, then, was to educate my fellow liberals. I could offer evidence that the practice of Islam by Muslims around the world is far more literal than that of the followers of most other faiths. I could point to the history of the East and prove that Islamic fundamentalism is not a unique phenomenon triggered solely by Western intervention. Fundamentalism has appeared (and been vanquished, and reappeared) countless times in the Muslim world.

Bible Literately?

 


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Mum’s torture broke my heart…

 

Nitschke and mother Gwen.

From Philip Nitschke
Exit International
The Australian

Euthanasia activist Philip Nit­schke has used the case of his mother to illustrate why he ­believes Victoria’s voluntary ­euthanasia laws will not work for the vast majority of people who are calling for them.

Dr Nitschke’s mother Gwen died in December 2015, aged 95, after spending more than six years in a South Australian nursing home which, he says, she compared to torture.

“She had in fact wanted to ‘check out’ the same year she had to leave her granny flat and move into institutional care. At least, she said she wanted the choice,” Dr Nitschke writes in an opinion piece in The Australian today.

Because his mother was not able to plan for death, Dr Nitschke could not get home from The Netherlands in time to be with her for her final moments.

“(It) broke my heart and ­remains the profound regret of my life. Not that Gwen died but that the process of her dying was so drawn-out, torturous and unable to be planned,” he said.

Dr Nitschke has used the ­example to illustrate what he ­believes to be the flaws in Victoria’s new right-to-die laws: that the restrictions are too onerous and that people would have to be ­“almost dead” to use them.

“Old ladies like Gwen will never be able to use the Victorian law because they aren’t sick, let alone terminally ill, about to die. Gwen was old, frail and lived without dignity. But this is different from being sick,’’ he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel ­Andrews is pushing ahead with formulating legislation for a voluntary euthanasia program that would restrict access to the sound of mind and those suffering a terminal, incurable disease that is likely to kill them within a year.

Patients would have to go through a process requiring them to ask three times for access to the scheme. They would have to be assessed by two doctors who could verify they qualified for the program.

Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan yesterday said he would use the weekend to look over the plan.

“I haven’t made my mind up, but I’m erring on the side of supporting the bill,” he said. “I’ll take some time to reflect on the issue, read the final reports and then come to a decision.”

However, resistance is firming in other pockets, with some MPs ­arguing that compliance would be ­impossible even with the strictest safeguards in place.
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Chlorinated chicken? Yes, we really can have too much trade…

 

From George Monbiot

Global trade once made us rich. Now it unleashes a full-spectrum assault on our well-being.

What’s wrong with chlorinated chicken? It’s not as if chlorine is absent from our lives: we drink it in tap water every day. Surely it’s a small price to pay for the trade deal with the US the British government seeks? There are several answers to this question, that range from the instrumental to the existential. Let’s begin with the immediacies.

Washing chicken carcasses with chlorine allows farmers and processors to save the money they might have spent on systemic sanitation, throughout the chicken’s life and death. You need only dunk the meat in a chlorine bath to kill any accumulated germs. Does it work? It is true to say that rates of foodborne illness are similar between the EU and North America*. But chlorine-washed chicken, remarkably, could be the least offensive of the US meat regulations a trade deal might force us to adopt. It has been pushed to the fore because it’s less politically toxic than the issues hiding behind it.

While European Union rules, that currently prevail in the UK, take a precautionary approach to food regulation, permitting only products and processes proven to be safe, the US government uses a providential approach, permitting anything not yet proved to be dangerous. By limiting the budgets and powers of its regulators, it ensures that proof of danger is difficult to establish.

An investigation by Reuters discovered that chicken companies in the US use a wide array of antibiotics as routine feed supplements, both to prevent disease and as growth promoters. Among these drugs are some listed by the US Food and Drug Administration as “critically important” in human medicine. They’re administered to the chickens in low doses, creating perfect conditions for bacterial resistance and the emergence of new superbugs.

Christian Crock…

 


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TODD WALTON: Medicine Birds

 

hawk

Hawk pen and ink by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Long ago when I lived in Sacramento, someone gave me Medicine Cards, a book and accompanying deck of cards written by Jamie Sams and David Carson, and illustrated by Angela C. Werneke. Each card features a picture of an animal or bird or insect or reptile or amphibian. For purposes of divination, the user randomly chooses cards from the deck and reads the text in the book corresponding to those cards.

Each animal represents some aspect of power in the natural world. For instance, ant medicine involves patience and trust and hard work, badger medicine is the wise use of aggression, and beaver medicine helps us pursue our goals through cooperation and planning and persistence. The text of Medicine Cards reflects the teachings of various indigenous peoples of North America regarding the physical, energetic, and spiritual attributes of forty-four non-human beings.

When I moved from Berkeley to Mendocino twelve years ago, I found myself in a world populated by most of the beings represented in the Medicine Cards, so I no longer needed to draw cards from the deck to ignite my wondering about what Nature wanted to tell me. And last week, in the course of a single day, I had three extraordinary meetings with non-human beings that gave me much food for thought.

In the morning of that remarkable day, I walked from our house to the commercial district of Mendocino—about a mile—and upon completion of my errands decided on a circuitous route home that took me through the graveyard at the south end of town. And there amidst the gravestones I came upon a magnificent Great Blue Heron, stalking gophers—the living seeking sustenance among the dead.

The New York Times covers Dawkins’s Berkeley deplatforming…

 

From Why Evolution Is True

As we all know, radio station KPFA in Berkeley decided to withdraw its sponsorship of a book talk by Richard Dawkins, cancelling the fundraising even; the reason, they said, was that Dawkins had insulted Islam (see my coverage here and here).  As they explained, “While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech.”

That’s ridiculous, for criticizing a faith is not “abusive”. KPFA’s de-platforming was an unconscionable breach of free speech, especially by a Left-wing station that has, over the years, broadcast a lot of what could be seen as much worse “hate speech.” As I’ve noted, this wasn’t an explicit violation of the First Amendment, as KPFA is not a government-run station nor has anything to do with the University of California, but free speech goes far deeper than the Constitution. It’s a tradition—a sine qua non—of progressivism, and to do what KPFA did violates that tradition and erodes an underlying principle of democracy.

And, of course, we all realize that it’s Islam that caused it all; as Dawkins said in his response,