A Deconversion Story…

 

From Graceful Atheist

These kinds of messages have become cliché, but I find the need to write it anyway. Mostly this is an attempt to communicate to my friends and family as succinctly but thoroughly as possible the what and the why of my deconversion from Christianity. This is also for those of you readers who have had doubts and have struggled to keep them contained.

What I am

I am no longer a Christian. In the summer of 2015 after it became increasing more difficult to hold my beliefs against surmounting evidence to the contrary I admitted to myself I no longer believed. I was a Christian for approximately 27 years, until the Jenga tower of contradiction between belief and facts came crashing down. I could no longer sustain the mental effort it required to maintain belief against the overwhelming lack of evidence for that belief.

I am an atheist. Others, wiser than I, have pointed out that this does not tell you very much about me. To say that I am not something is not very descriptive. The list of things I am not is infinite. But I am not afraid of this moniker. I am not a theist. This means I do not believe in God or gods. I do not believe in the supernatural of any kind. The natural is more than sufficient.

I am a humanist. This means that I believe humanity is the most precious existence in the cosmos. It means that loving people trumps ideology. Julia Sweeny said it better than I can. In “Letting Go of God” after tentatively putting on the “Not believing in God glasses” she says:

And I thought wait a minute, wait a minute, what about all those people who are unjustifiably jailed? … There is no god hearing their pleas and I guess this goes for the really poor people too and really oppressed people who I had this vague idea that they had a god to comfort them and then an even vaguer idea that god had orchestrated their lives for some unknowable grand design. I walked around and thought oh, no one is minding the store! … And slowly I began to see the world differently.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Conversation with Richard Dawkins…

 


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George Clooney: I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell…

 

TODD WALTON: Four Grandmothers

 

Four Grandmothers

From TODD WALTON
Under The table Books
Mendocino

Once upon a time there were four grandmothers who were best friends—Tamara, Myra, Amy, and Vivienne. They first met when they were young mothers with children in the same elementary school in a medium-sized town in California; and they stayed friends and kept living in that medium-sized town after their children graduated from high school.

Tamara was sixty and had five grandchildren. Her daughters lived nearby and she was daily involved in the lives of her grandchildren. She was married to Fred, her husband of forty years. Her grandchildren called her Tama.

Myra was sixty-four and had three grandchildren. She spent time with one of her grandchildren several times a week, but the other two lived across the country in Virginia. She only saw those distant two for a week at Christmas and a week during the summer. Myra was married to Arno, her third husband. Her grandchildren called her Gammy.

Amy was sixty-seven and had two grandchildren. Amy’s grandchildren lived in Seattle with their mother who was divorced from Amy’s son. Amy only saw her grandchildren for two weeks in December, but she talked to them twice a week on the phone. Amy was not married. She divorced her one and only husband when she was thirty-five. Her grandchildren called her Grandma.

Vivienne was sixty-eight and had one grandchild. This child lived with Vivienne because Vivienne’s son and daughter-in-law died in a car accident when their little girl was three. Vivienne was a widow. Her husband Jeff died the year after their son died in the car accident. Her granddaughter called her Vivi.

The four grandmothers got together as a foursome twice a week. On Wednesday evenings they went out for Chinese food, and on Sunday afternoons they gathered at Vivienne’s to drink wine and watch a movie.

They don’t believe in God. So they founded a community center in Denver for non-believers…

 

DENVER, COLORADO – JULY 9: The exterior of The Secular Hub during a weekly gathering Sunday, July 9, 2017 on Downing Street. The group of atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and others do not believe in any supernatural deities. Though the community does not practice services, common text, or common ideology, they gather to meet, socialize, and discuss topics. (Photo by Daniel Brenner/Special to the Denver Post)

Denver’s Secular Hub unites non-believers in what one calls an “atheist church”Daniel

The exterior of The Secular Hub during a weekly gathering Sunday, July 9, 2017 on Downing Street. The group of atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and others do not believe in any supernatural deities. Though the community does not practice services, common text, or common ideology, they gather to meet, socialize, and discuss topics.

The congregation’s Sunday morning gathering is a cherished communal ritual that brings together newly joined 20-somethings, still groggy from a night on the town, with chatty retirees who have been members since the institution’s founding. They come from across metro Denver to hang out and talk about whatever’s on their mind: Donald Trump, National Public Radio, last night’s Rockies game, the hiking trail du jour.

Inevitably, though, their conversation returns to the supernatural power that unites them: God.

This isn’t church, though.

“It’s atheist church,” jokes Ruth McLeod, who moved to Denver from Louisiana in 2012. “Church doesn’t have a monopoly on community.”

You were not born a sinner. No one is…

 


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The Bible is True because…

 

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Sam Harris: Can we live meaningful lives without religion?

 

From Sam Harris
Excerpt Transcribed from Podcast Ask Me Anything #8
[Lightly Edited]

I continue to hear from people who have lost their religion and are powerfully relieved to have lost it. I’m really vividly in touch with [that] it is possible to lose one’s faith and to feel relieved of a problem rather than to be thrust into a new problem. For most faiths, people are spending a lot of their time thinking about unpleasant things like hell and sin. There is a tremendous amount of fear, and a tremendous amount of guilt and inner conflict. As Hitch used to say, you’re born sick and commanded to be well by religion — a fairly untenable situation for most people even if they don’t acknowledge it.

So for all the people that you may feel have lost their moorings, or never found them due to the absence of religion, there are those who have finally recognized how valuable their lives are… really the one life they know they have. Now they are newly in touch with that. Once you shed the fantasy life that is encouraged by religion… once you cease to be otherworldly, then you recognize that your life if not a rehearsal… it’s not a way station… it’s not something to be casually sacrificed for a fantasy of a world to come. It is your life in this moment that is profound. This universe, the only universe you can know, is the appropriate object of your awe… not some old book that tells you how to sacrifice goats.

Now this universe is a mystery, and it’s a beautiful one. And what is neither mysterious nor beautiful are the instructions for living that you will find in books like the Bible and Koran. So I don’t worry too much about arguing the case for reason, which is the case against faith. But I do worry about the problem of living a meaningful life… and about how people’s uncertainty of how to do that leads to unhappiness and worse.

I think I said in The End of Faith that for me it boils down to love and curiosity. I think that does cover it. Obviously you need love. If you don’t love someone in your life, perhaps not everyone, but surely someone, then you are missing something. You’re missing one of the main things that makes life good. So life without love is a problem.

There is no hell, Emily…

 

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No, Jesus…

 

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Fish…

 


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Pakistan’s Secret Atheists…

 

 

From BBC

Being an atheist in Pakistan can be life-threatening. But behind closed doors, non-believers are getting together to support one another. How do they survive in a nation where blasphemy carries a death sentence?

Omar, named after one of Islam’s most revered caliphs, has rejected the faith of his forefathers. He is one of the founding members of an online group – a meeting point for the atheists of Pakistan.

But even there he must stay on his guard. Members use fake identities.

“You have to be careful who you are befriending,” he says.

One man contacted Omar to say he had visited his Facebook profile and printed out pictures of him with his family. “You cannot be safe,” Omar says.

In Pakistan, posting about atheism online can have serious consequences.

Under a recently passed cyber-crime law, it is now illegal to post content online – even in a private forum – that could be deemed blasphemous.

The government took out adverts in national newspapers asking members of the public to report any content they believe could constitute blasphemy.

And the law is being enforced. In June this year, in the first case of its kind, Taimoor Raza was sentenced to death for posting blasphemous content on Facebook.

line

A Pakistani atheist’s diary

“Zahir” is an online activist who uses social media to express atheist ideas and comment on Pakistani politics

“Dear diary, I’ve been through four Twitter accounts in one year now. The last one got blocked last night. It doesn’t matter how vague my details are or if the pictures I use are generic. It’s as if someone is watching me. Every time this happens I feel that I should just give up. They want to silence me.”

line

As a result, atheists feel their ability to publicly question the existence of God is threatened.

I Believe…

 


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TODD WALTON: Heat

 

190moon

190 Moon diptych by Max Greenstreet

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

I do not do well when the temperature goes much above eighty degrees. I lived in Sacramento for fifteen years in a house without air conditioning, and though my last year there was 1995, over twenty years ago, I still cringe when I think of the summers I spent there. One of those summers we had a hundred days when the temperature surpassed a hundred degrees.

Now I live in Mendocino, a mile from the coast, and the days here are usually cool or cold, rarely warm, and almost never hot.

Today I decided to read a little news of the outside world. I learned that the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is dying incredibly fast due to the fast-warming oceans. I also learned that temperatures in Las Vegas have surpassed one hundred and five degrees for several days, and such blazing hot days are expected to continue unabated in the Southwest for several more weeks. And I learned that wildfires are rampaging in California and throughout the western United States and Canada, the ferocity of these fires due to historically high temperatures and a lack of rain.

I also learned that a single medium-sized tree in good health has the cooling power of ten large air conditioners running twenty hours a day.

Buckminster Fuller suggested in his book Critical Path, published in 1981, two years before Fuller died, that the only way human society might survive the coming ecological apocalypse was through a computer-organized and computer-facilitated global government dedicated to enhancing the lives of all living things on earth. In his imagining of this future, the dying Great Barrier Reef, out-of-control wildfires, and soaring global temperatures would trigger responses by the global community that would immediately identify and take action to eliminate the causes of these disasters.

How To Reclaim Public Services…

 

 

How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation

From TNI.org
Reclaiming Public Services  is vital reading for anyone interested in the future of local, democratic services like energy, water and health care.  This is an in-depth world tour of new initiatives in public ownership and the variety of approaches to deprivatisation.
From New Delhi to Barcelona, from Argentina to Germany, thousands of politicians, public officials, workers, unions and social movements are reclaiming or creating public services to address people’s basic needs and respond to environmental challenges.

They do this most often at the local level. Our research shows that there have been at least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide since 2000, involving more than 1,600 municipalities in 45 countries.

Why are people around the world reclaiming essential services from private operators and bringing their delivery back into the public sphere? There are many motivations behind (re)municipalisation initiatives: a goal to end private sector abuse or labourviolations; a desire to regain control over the local economy and resources; a wish to provide people with affordable services; or an intention to implement ambitious climate strategies.

Remunicipalisation is taking place in small towns and in capital cities, following different models of public ownership and with various levels of involvement by citizens and workers. Out of this diversity a coherent picture is nevertheless emerging: it is possible to build efficient, democratic and affordable public services. Ever declining service quality and ever increasing prices are not inevitable. More and more people and cities are closing the chapter on privatisation, and putting essential services back into public hands.

Messages from Vienna, Barcelona and Paris 

JEFF COX: Admitting Our Mistakes…

 

From JEFF COX
Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

It seems as though we Americans have a hard time admitting our mistakes. And yet mistakes unadmitted tend to fester and eventually poison the system, much as a festering sore does in our physical body.

Take, for instance, our role in the rise of ISIS. Right off the bat, let’s agree that ISIS fostered a culture of violence, death, and unimaginable depravity. Its deep roots lay in Wahhabism and the Salafist strain of Islam that sees the world in two parts: the near world of Muslim societies and the far world of infidel societies. And radical Islam was always about eventually converting the far world into the near world—think of the Moorish invasion of Spain and the battles fought with the Crusaders. This radical strain of Islam was always about re-establishing a Caliphate, or overall governance of all Islam under one ruler, the Caliph.

But history chugged along until George Bush upset the apple cart by invading Iraq in 2003, detaining thousands of Iraqis both Sunni and Shia, and imprisoning them in places like Abu Ghraib, where many were beaten and tortured, sometimes to death, under the CIA’s rules of “enhanced interrogation,” or what Dick Cheney at the time called “the dark side.”

Doomsday: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think…

 


From NYT

Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us…

I. ‘Doomsday’

Peering beyond scientific reticence.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.

The Doomsday vault is fine, for now: The structure has been secured and the seeds are safe. But treating the episode as a parable of impending flooding missed the more important news. Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.

Maybe you know that already — there are alarming stories every day, like last month’s satellite data showing the globe warming, since 1998, more than twice as fast as scientists had thought. Or the news from Antarctica this past May, when a crack in an ice shelf grew 11 miles in six days, then kept going; the break now has just three miles to go — by the time you read this, it may already have met the open water, where it will drop into the sea one of the biggest icebergs ever, a process known poetically as “calving.”

Confessions of an Ex-Muslim

 


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Bacon and Beer…

 


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GENE LOGSDON: Easy Way To Start A Grove Of Trees (with Black Walnut Jam Cake Recipe)

 

Public Domain

From Our Archives – December 2007
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

I spent an hour in late November planting two acres of bottom land to trees. If that sounds like a prodigious task to accomplish in such a short time, not to worry. All I had to do was walk back and forth across the plot, dropping black walnuts on the ground in rows about 25 feet apart. I dropped one about every two feet— too thick really but to take into account the possibility that some won’t germinate and that squirrels might eat a few. I had gathered the nuts, still in their husks, from under a mature tree along our creek. When finished, I drove my tractor’s tires over the walnuts to squish them into the soft ground a little so that they would have good contact with the soil. That was all the planting necessary. Next spring, the walnuts will swell and crack open and a root sprout will burrow into the soil so quickly you can almost see it in motion. I admire people who are busting their guts and their backs transplanting thousands of little seedling trees to renew woodland, backyard plantings or urban forests, but it is so much easier to just plant the seeds, and invariably they will surpass the transplants in growth.

In nature, all seeds, including weed seeds, grass seed, etc. fall on the surface of the earth in winter and sprout when weather conditions are right. In the grove of trees our house sits, thousands of maple seedlings that have fallen on the forest floor come up every spring without any help from anybody. Along our creek, black walnut and ash seedlings sprout and grow like weeds from a few old mother trees, also without any help. All oaks, hickories and just about any tree will do the same in their proper climate. Squirrels do bury acorns and nuts, but trees don’t need squirrels to increase and multiply.

In a natural situation, where seed-producing trees are present, seedlings grow thick enough that they will self-prune and prune each other into a stand of nice, clear trunks. Without human labor, they shade out smaller seedlings, their own and each other’s lower limbs and eventually competing weeds and bushes. All that pruning advice that forestry handbooks wax so earnestly about will only gain you about three years, hardly worth the labor for trees that need 50 years to grow to marketable maturity.

TODD WALTON: Found Stuff

 

168three

168 three diptych by Max Greenstreet

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Wandering through town today, mobs of tourists here for the long Fourth of July weekend, a man hailed me and said, “Do you know what time it is?”

I looked at the watch I have affixed to my basket and told him the time: 11:47. He then looked at his smart phone, smiled, turned to his wife and said, “You win the bet.”  And then they walked away.

“Excuse me?” I said, calling after the man and his wife. “What was the bet?”

The man turned to me and said, “She bet you’d have the correct time, I bet you wouldn’t.”

“What a curious bet,” I said, half-frowning and half-smiling at the man and his wife. “I wonder why she…”

But then they walked away, so I said no more.

Now as it happens, the watch on my basket is one I found on the ground while walking to town a few years ago. Perfectly good watch, rather old, but keeps perfect time and is just the thing to have affixed to my basket.

This encounter with the rude man from out of town got me thinking of other things I’ve found, including so many pairs of dark glasses that we have a small basket full of them to lend to visitors who lost or forgot theirs or for us to use when we misplace the current pair we’re using. My favorite sunglasses are ultra-comfortable and highly effective and stylish in a pleasingly understated way and no doubt cost their previous owner, the person who left them on the beach, a pretty penny.

Then there is my big orange and black hammer, a most excellent tool I found on the street in Berkeley. I was riding my bicycle and saw the lovely thing lying in the middle of the road. I often found tools in the road while riding my bicycle around Berkeley and Sacramento. Excellent tools. I have a very good crescent wrench and two screw drivers and an expensive wood chisel I found while riding my bike. People drop things and other people pick them up.

I also have lots of rocks I’ve found. I used to be an avid collector of rocks and driftwood, and I still occasionally bring home a stone or a hunk of sculptured wood, but I am no longer the avid collector I once was. My newest stone is not quite as big as a walnut, perfectly egg-shaped, and pale gray. I found the beauty on the beach at Elk a couple weeks ago, and now this stone egg is one of my two carrying stones—one in each of the front pockets of my pants.

TODD WALTON: Playing for Capra Redux

 

Cat & Jammer

Cat & Jammer photo by Marcia

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

My new book of essays and memories Sources of Wonder has garnered some wonderful feedback from readers, with two correspondents saying they were especially taken with my memoir Playing For Capra. So here for your enjoyment is the true story of my meeting Frank Capra, this memory first published nine years ago.

Marcia and I recently watched the Israeli movie The Band’s Visitabout an Egyptian police band spending the night in a godforsaken Israeli settlement. Seeing this remarkable film coincided with my struggle to write about the time I played piano for Frank Capra, the famous movie director.

Why the struggle? Because the story of playing piano for Capra is entwined with my dramatic rise and fall as a professional writer nearly thirty years ago. By the time I played piano for Capra in 1982, I had gone from living on pennies in the slums of Seattle to being the toast of New York and Hollywood, and back to barely scraping by in Sacramento, all in the course of a few dizzying years.

Capra, despite his many triumphs, was a Hollywood outsider. Having succeeded brilliantly under the protection of movie mogul Harry Cohn, Capra made movies he wanted to make, which were rarely what his overlords desired. In that regard, Capra was my hero. I had failed to build relationships with the powerful producers of American movies and books despite the many opportunities my early success provided me. I was young and naïve, and I believed that great stories and great screenplays would sell themselves. To my dismay, I experienced over and over again that quality and originality meant less than nothing to those who control our cultural highways. But I didn’t want to believe that, so I burned a thousand bridges.

Freethinker: Proud to be an American…

 

From  Andrew Seidel
Staff Attorney and Constitutional Consultant
Freedom From Religion Foundation

I’m proud to be an American. This is not some blind, jingoistic, nationalist pride—it’s not my country right or wrong (I only adopt that attitude during the World Cup and the Olympics). I’m proud because this nation, despite its faults and missteps, was the first to separate state and church. That “wall of separation” as Jefferson put it, is an American original.

This is not to say the idea is necessarily an American invention, but it was first implemented in the “American Experiment,” as Madison put it. Until then, no other nation had sought to so full protect the ability of its citizens to think freely. No people had sought to divorce the terrible power religion holds over the supposed afterlife, from the power government has in everyday life. Until then, the freedom of thought and even the freedom of religion, could never have truly existed.


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Imagine…

 

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It’s about time we listened to those speaking honestly about Islam…

 

From Ex-Muslim

Obaid is a free speech advocate and Ex-Muslim. He was born in India and grew up in Canada. His love for science eventually lead to his abandoning Islam. Obaid can be reached via Twitter @obaidomer.

Islam is a religion of peace; this has nothing to do with Islam, not all Muslims, we keep being told these tired old tropes by our politicians and pundits. It’s time for our politicians and media to start speaking the truth. It is also well past time that when our policy makers seek advice, they start looking for new sources. So far the people we hear from are apologists that tell us the same thing.

There is a group of people that need to be heard and sought after for advice when it concerns Islam, Ex-Muslims. Before you say what do Ex-Muslims have to say about Islam listen to their stories. People who left Islam, for the most part, know the religion better than those who practice it. We have left the faith because we looked at our religion and tried to find reasons to stay but could not and were appalled by what we saw.

Principles And Politics: The Southern Poverty Law Center Loses The Plot…

 

Maajid Nawaz

From Sarah Haider
The Ex-Muslim

In addition to threats of violence by Islamic fundamentalists, liberal critics of Islam are increasingly abandoned. At best, we are inconvenient afterthoughts, at worst, bigots and hate-mongers.

The intellectual confusion and moral paralysis plaguing the Western Left around the religion of Islam has done much to add credibility to the Western Right. Embodying the now-common approach of elevating politics over principle, the Southern Poverty Law Center has accused the ex-Muslim atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz of “anti-Muslim extremism”.

In the recently issued report Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, the SPLC claims to have identified 15 “anti-Muslim extremists” who it believes are represented too often in mainstream media.

These “extremists”, the SPLC contends, spread “baseless and damaging lies” in order to demonize all Muslims. The Field Guide aims to arm journalists with information so that they may challenge the “hateful rhetoric and misinformation” of the extremists, or better yet, “deny them a public platform altogether.”

Perhaps in more competent hands, a report such as this may have been a useful guide for journalists with little time to spend on background research.  However, the one produced by SPLC is neither reliable nor factual, and often steers closer to the category of yellow journalism than anything worth serious consideration.

At His Own Wake, Celebrating Life and the Gift of Death…

 

From NYT

Tormented by an incurable disease, John Shields knew that dying openly and without fear could be his legacy, if his doctor, friends and family helped him.

VICTORIA, British Columbia — Two days before he was scheduled to die, John Shields roused in his hospice bed with an unusual idea. He wanted to organize an Irish wake for himself. It would be old-fashioned with music and booze, except for one notable detail — he would be present.

The party should take up a big section of Swiss Chalet, a family-style chain restaurant on the road out of town. Mr. Shields wanted his last supper to be one he so often enjoyed on Friday nights when he was a young Catholic priest — rotisserie chicken legs with gravy.

Then, his family would take him home and he would die there in the morning, preferably in the garden. It was his favorite spot, rocky and wild. Flowering native shrubs pressed in from all sides and a stone Buddha and birdbath peeked out from among the ferns and boulders. Before he got sick, Mr. Shields liked to sit in his old Adirondack chair and watch the bald eagles train their juveniles to soar overhead. He meditated there twice a day, among the towering Douglas firs.

“Someone once asked me how did I get to become unique,” he said that afternoon in his hospice bed. “I recommend meditation as a starting place — bringing your consciousness to bear.”

‘Today Is the Last Day of My Life’ 

Mr. Shields intended to die swiftly and peacefully by lethal injection, administered by his doctor. Last June, the Canadian government legalized what it termed “medical assistance in dying” for competent adult patients who are near death and suffering intolerably from irremediable illnesses. When his doctor, Stefanie Green, informed him that he qualified, Mr. Shields felt the first hope since a doctor told him more than a year before that he had a rare and incurable disease called amyloidosis, which caused proteins to build up in his heart and painfully damage the nerves in his arms and legs.

Having control over the terms of his death made him feel empowered over the disease rather than crippled by it, a common response among Dr. Green’s patients. Mr. Shields believed that dying openly and without fear could be his most meaningful legacy — which was saying something. The man had packed five lifetimes of service into one: He had been a civil rights activist, a social worker for children, the head of British Columbia’s biggest union and, most recently, the savior of a floundering land trust that included 7,191 acres of protected wilderness and historic properties.

Christianity preaches only servitude and dependence…

 


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Jesus?

 


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TODD WALTON: Tender Fearless

 
Tender fearless

Rose In Morning Light photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

The following is a revamped version of Falling Behind, an article I first published in 2011. I was moved to revisit this article while listening to a piano tune of mine on YouTube called What Comes Around.

In 1983, as the trajectory of my writing success was turning steeply downward, my humorless Hollywood agent gave me an ultimatum. “Get an answering machine or find another agent.” Thus I became one of the last people in America to discover the joys of screening my calls.

In the early days of owning an answering machine, I especially enjoyed making long rambling outgoing messages. Most of the people who called me seemed to enjoy hearing those messages a few times, after which they would urge me to change them lest they go mad. Thus I got in the habit of making new outgoing messages every couple days, which habit caused my regular callers to complain I was erasing good messages before their friends got to hear them.

Then one day I made an outgoing message that went viral before the phenomenon of something going viral existed. I’m speaking about a time before the ascendancy of the interweb, which was not very long ago, but now seems prehistoric. And I tell you, if by some miracle I could remember that message and put it on YouTube today accompanied by a movie of a woman walking on the beach with her dog, or a movie of three cute kids making cookies from scratch, or a movie of a man reading a book with a cat on his lap (with my piano music as soundtrack)—I have no doubt the message would go viral again and I would become famous and wealthy from hundreds of millions of hits and links and apps and downloads and streams and billions of pennies such prodigious sharing and streaming would bring me.

Sadly or ironically or luckily, I only remember the feeling of that once-in-a-lifetime message, not the words. The feeling was one of deep contentment—of thoroughly enjoying the moment. I recall the day was sunny and warm, my office flooded with light, and I remember being massaged from head to toe by the feeling—the knowing—that simply being alive was a profoundly fulfilling adventure.

Within a few days of recording my message, the phone was ringing off the hook. Many of my friends called multiple times so their friends could have a listen, and then I started getting calls from people I did not know, people who had heard about the message from friends of my friends. And over the next few weeks I got hundreds of calls from all over America and around the world—people calling to hear my outgoing message and leave responses.

Legendary Cosmologist Martin Rees on Science, Religion, and the Future of Post-Human Intelligence…

 

Legendary Cosmologist Martin Rees on Science, Religion, and the Future of Post-Human Intelligence . “Fundamental physics shows how hard it is for us to grasp even the simplest things in the world. That makes you quite skeptical whenever someone declares he has the key to some deeper reality.”

“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire,”trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell observed in contemplating science, religion, and our conquest of truth at the end of the nineteenth century. “If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed,”Carl Sagan wrote a century later in his exquisite meditation on science and spirituality. And yet the longing for stable answers and thorough understanding — or, as Hannah Arendt memorably framed it, the propensity for asking unanswerable questions — might be one of the hallmarks of our species. After all, for as long as modern science has existed, scientists have attempted to answer such unanswerable questions by trying to either reconcile science and religion, like Galileo did in defending his theories against the Inquisition and Ada Lovelace did in considering the interconnectedness of the universe, or at least to relegate them to different realms of inquiry.

Adding to the canon of these meditations is the celebrated English cosmologist and astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees — the last European court astronomer in his position as Astronomer Royal to the House of Windsor and science adviser to the Queen of England.

In We Are All Stardust: Leading Scientists Talk About Their Work, Their Lives, and the Mysteries of Our Existence (public library) — Austrian physicist, essayist, and science journalist Stefan Klein’s fantastic compendium of interviews, which also gave us Nobel-winning physicist Steven Weinberg on simplicity, complexity, and the unity of the universe — Rees reflects on his rather unusual entry point into the question of science and spirituality:

The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality

 

From Church and State

For millennia, female inferiority was presumed, and mandated, in virtually every human culture. Through most of history, the brawn of heavier males gave them dominance, leaving women in lesser status – often mere possessions of men, confined to the home, rarely educated, with few rights.

Many were forced to wear veils or shrouds when outdoors, and they couldn’t go outside without a male relative escort. Fathers kept their daughters restricted, then chose husbands who became their new masters.

Sometimes the husbands also had several other wives. In a few cultures, unwanted baby girls were left on trash dumps to die.

In Ancient Greece, women were kept indoors, rarely seen, while men performed all public functions. Women couldn’t attend schools or own property. A wife couldn’t attend male social events, even when her husband staged one at home. Aristotle believed in “natural slaves” and wrote that females are lesser creatures who must be cared for, as a farmer tends his livestock.

Up through medieval times, daughters were secondary, and inheritances went to firstborn sons. Male rule prevailed. Anthropologists have searched for exceptions, with little success – except possibly some Iroquois tribes in Canada, where women reportedly had some rights.

In the 1930s, the famed Margaret Mead thought she found a female-led group in New Guinea, but she later reversed her conclusion and wrote: “All the claims so glibly made about societies ruled by women are nonsense. We have no reason to believe that they ever existed…. Men everywhere have been in charge of running the show.”

Lina & Hazar: Life Beyond Faith…

 


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Study Shows Religion May Be Contributing to Unprecedented Political Divide

 

From Friendly Atheist

People in the United States might be more politically divided than any other time in recent memory, but what’s causing it? According to a new study, religious groups could be a part of the problem.

Researchers found that religious leaders are even more politically divided than the majority of Americans — including people in their own congregations — with certain denominations (such as Unitarians and Reform Jews) leaning extremely Democratic and others (such as evangelical Christians and Baptists) considered “overwhelmingly republican.”

The authors of the survey, called Partisan Pastor: The Politics of 130,000 American Religious Leaders, also noted that congregational religious leaders are “elite influencers” that affect the attitudes and behaviors of ordinary Americans.

The very concept of sin comes from the Bible…

 


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The Stoics…

 

From The Book of Life

‘Stoicism’ was a philosophy that flourished for some 400 years in Ancient Greece and Rome, gaining widespread support among all classes of society. It had one overwhelming and highly practical ambition: to teach people how to be calm and brave in the face of overwhelming anxiety and pain.

We still honour this school whenever we call someone ‘stoic’ or plain ‘philosophical’ when fate turns against them: when they lose their keys, are humiliated at work, rejected in love or disgraced in society. Of all philosophies, Stoicism remains perhaps the most immediately relevant and useful for our uncertain and panicky times.

Many hundreds of philosophers practiced Stoicism but two figures stand out as our best guides to it: the Roman politician, writer and tutor to Nero, Seneca (AD 4-65); and the kind and magnanimous Roman Emperor (who philosophised in his spare time while fighting the Germanic hordes on the edges of the Empire), Marcus Aurelius (AD 121 to 180). Their works remain highly readable and deeply consoling, ideal for sleepless nights, those breeding grounds for runaway terrors and paranoia.

Stoicism can help us with four problems in particular:

1. Anxiety

At all times, so many terrible things might happen. The standard way for people to cheer us up when we’re mired in anxiety is to tell us that we will, after all, be OK: the embarrassing email might not be discovered, sales could yet take off, there might be no scandal…

But the Stoics bitterly opposed such a strategy, because they believed that anxiety flourishes in the gap between what we fear might, and what we hope could, happen. The larger the gap, the greater will be the oscillations and disturbances of mood.