TODD WALTON: Ignorance

 

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Strength painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

The earwigs are a plague on the garden.

Jonathon—a thickset man with an unruly gray beard—wanders up and down the rows of decimated bean plants searching for surviving leaves, finding none. How curious, and what a disaster for the community. He has been gardening for fifty years, since he was six years old, and he has never experienced such an infestation—nothing even close to this. Only the garlic shoots have weathered the onslaught of the ravenous bugs, and even they show signs of being nibbled.

Having tea with Malcolm, his predecessor at the helm of the abbey garden, Jonathon says, “I went out last night at midnight and there were thousands and thousands of earwigs clinging to every stem and leaf. I’ve scoured the garden for their nests, but except for one small concentration near the old greenhouse…”

Malcolm, eighty-seven, a slender man with boyish dimples, shakes his head. “You won’t find concentrations.” He swirls the tea in his cup to bring out a last burst of flavor from the leaves. “They’re everywhere in the ground.”

“But why this year?” Jonathon gazes at the slice of garden he can see through Malcolm’s open door. “There’s nothing much different about the weather this spring than last. Our methods haven’t changed.”

Malcolm settles back in his rocking chair, a smile playing at his lips. “I must tell you, I’m glad it’s not my worry now. I’d be out there all night picking the buggers off one by one.”

“But what do you think it is?” Jonathon frowns at what he can see of the ruined planting. “We’ll have to start over again. And we’ll have to buy vegetables this year. I feel like such a fool.” He turns to Malcolm. “Can you make a guess?”

Richard Heinberg: Awaiting Our Own Reichstag Fire…

 

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From Richard Heinberg

This month’s Museletter brings together three essays that sound alarms on the early days of the Trump administration.

Millions of Americans now share the profoundly disturbing experience of watching and waiting as their nation lurches toward authoritarianism. In a previous essay, I described the Trump administration as a “presidency in search of an emergency”—i.e., a crisis that could be used as a pretext for seizing unchecked power. I opined that the emergency could come in the form of an economic meltdown, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster.

As a result of the events of the last two weeks we now know what the crisis will almost certainly be (a terrorist attack) and how it will be used—namely, to do the following:

  • Nullify the constitutionally mandated independence and authority of the courts.More on this below.
  • Shut down congressional investigations. These are soon likely to include probes into collusion with Russia to influence the election (if the worst of the allegations are substantiated, Senators and Representatives could soon be bandying a word that starts with “T” and rhymes with “reason”), along with financial conflicts of interestthat go vastly beyond the recent dustup with Nordstrom’s. The evidence of profound misdeeds is getting so hard to ignore that even a Republican Congress will likely eventually get rambunctious. The forced departure of national security adviser Michael Flynn can only fan the furor, rather than quelling it (again, more below).
  • Criminalize dissent. Millions have already taken to the streets to voice their displeasure with the new administration, and thousands are showing up regularly at congressional town hall meetings. The time-proven ways authoritarian governments discourage anti-government activism are to increase surveillance and to heighten the perceived risks entailed in joining protests (prison time or worse).
  • Rein in and discredit the mainstream media. White House strategist Steve Bannon has called the media “the opposition party.” Authoritarian regimes always attempt to marginalize and control the press and broadcasters. Given a sufficiently compelling national emergency, criticism of the government could be declared unpatriotic and even criminalized (as happened during World War I).

The events of the week of February 6 provided some clues on how Trump’s war on the judiciary is likely to play out. Jack Goldsmith writes that the way the executive order banning entry by residents of seven Muslim-dominated nations was drafted suggests a couple of possible interpretations. One is that White House Counsel Donald McGahn is simply incompetent; the other is that the executive order was deliberately botched in order to flush out judicial opposition for later retribution: “….Trump [may be] setting the scene to blame judges after an attack that has any conceivable connection to immigration. If Trump loses in court he credibly will say to the American people that he tried and failed to create tighter immigration controls. This will deflect blame for the attack. And it will also help Trump to enhance his power after the attack.”

Why I Became a Socialist…

 

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From VICE

After Bernie lost and Trump won, I realized the Democrats weren’t going to win my battles for me.

I first heard the word “socialist” in the movie Clue. It’s an early laugh line delivered by Tim Curry as he discusses his deceased wife’s previous indiscretions that led him into this murder mansion mess. You see, she used to hang out with *dramatic pause* socialists. “We all make mistakes,” he confides to the room of murderous Washingtonian shit-heels and the dead body among them.

 As the product of the American public education system, that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of this concept of “socialism.” Sure, there were the tales of “communist” Hollywood types being blacklisted during the red scare, and sure, I had read enough Howard Zinn to know that “trickle-down theory” just meant “rich people pissing on the poor,” but that was it. Most people don’t acquire much more than a back-of-the-napkin understanding of politics, and mine was: There are two options available, and one is full of the most hateful, bigoted, dumbest, racist people imaginable, so the other one is good enough.

Like so many others, I was heartened by Bernie Sanders’s campaign—particularly his desire to work on developing free or cheap higher education options, his dedication to “Medicaid for all,” and his continual highlighting of income inequality—but when Sanders inevitably lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, there was a sense of air being let out of the balloon. The specter of a potential Trump presidency loomed on the horizon, forcing most Sanders supporters to back away from their hopes of an actually progressive candidate in favor of yet another lesser of the two evils ticket. Sure, maybe Clinton won’t prosecute corrupt bankers or give us the government-backed healthcare system we need, but the alternative would be worse in so many ways.

That all changed on Election Day.

The Democratic Party, however reasonable and adult, clearly was not going to save us.

Those Seven Savage Hitchens Carpet Bombs…

 


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WILLIAM EDELEN: Jesus and Wives

 

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

A very live and contemporary issue today, with many magazines and newspapers covering it, is the question “Was Jesus Married?” This is all due to a lost manuscript that has surfaced. An outstanding article in the New York Times for Sept 27th, was Fighting Over God’s Image. Please find a copy and read it if this is a subject that appeals to you.

A number of years ago when Dr. Robert Funk had his Jesus Seminar here in Palm Springs with over 100 leading New Testament scholars present, he asked me to give the lecture on The Sexuality of Jesus. The fear among many of pursuing this subject has been revealing and shocking. Also a number of years ago The Sexuality of Christ in the Renaissance Art and in modern Oblivion received rave reviews from all quarters. It was written by Leo Steinberg, who delivered the material at a Lionel Trilling Seminar at Columbia University and was honored by the College Art Association of America with its annual award. Some will find it offensive… those who find all expressions of sexuality offensive. The sexuality of Jesus is very obvious in the paintings.

Jesus was a Hebrew male, a man in the fullest sense and a sexual human being in the same sense that all men are sexual human beings. And yet, for some strange, neurotic and weird reason, many want to keep this subject

Sunday School: Instruction Manual for Life

 

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Sunday Song: Overdrive

 

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Jesus and Mo

 

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Trump Infrastructure Plan Is Nothing But Privatization…

 

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From In The Public Interest

Wondering what a “public-private partnership” is? Here’s what you need to know…

America has an infrastructure problem. Residents in Flint, Michigan, still can’t drink water from their faucets. Last week, damage to the country’s tallest dam forced the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people in Northern California.

We aren’t investing enough in the foundation of our society and a clean, healthy future. State and local spending on roads, bridges, schools, water treatment plants, and other infrastructure is at a 30-year low. Federal infrastructure spending has fallen by half over the past 35 years. Washington spends around six times more on the military.

Trump thinks he can get one over on the American people. His infrastructure plan is nothing more than privatization with a tax break on top. Even congressional Republicans are starting to voice concerns.

A few weeks ago, we released a guide to understanding and evaluating the deals at the heart of Trump’s plan. “Public-private partnerships” tap private investors to finance—and often operate and maintain—infrastructure projects. There’s plenty to be wary of—the public often loses control, transparency, and revenue for decades. Just ask Chicago. Or Texas. Or Indiana. Or Washington, D.C.

As anti-tax politicians continue to starve public budgets, many state and local governments are turning to risky public-private partnerships to fill the infrastructure spending gap.

Understanding and Evaluating Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships includes a list of key questions you can raise with policymakers to make sure projects meet your community’s needs. What are the long-term impacts on our city’s budget? How many jobs will be created, will they be local, and what will the wages and benefits be?

Get in touch if you have questions or need help evaluating a project in your community.

We’ve got a lot of things to build and repair—let’s make sure our voices are heard loud and clear in the process.
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Freethinker: Natalie Angier born on this day in 1958…

 

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From FFRF

On this date in 1958, Pulitzer Prize-winning science columnist for The New York Times Natalie Angier was born in New York City to a Jewish mother and a father with a Christian Science background. She attended the University of Michigan for two years, then transferred to Barnard College, where she studied English, physics and astronomy, and graduated with high honors.

At 22, she became a founding staff reporter for the science magazine Discover. Throughout the 1980s, Angier worked as a senior science writer for Time Magazine, as an editor for the women’s business magazine Savvy, and as a professor of journalism in a graduate program at New York University. She began writing for The New York Times in 1990 and won a Pulitzer after just ten months on the job for a series of ten feature science articles.

Her hit books include Natural Obsessions (1988), about the world of cancer research, The Beauty of the Beastly (1995), and the National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller, Woman: An Intimate Geography (1999), which has sold over 200,000 copies. Woman won a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood, was nominated for the Samuel Johnson Award (Britain’s largest nonfiction literary prize), and was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, People magazine, National Public Radio, amazon.com, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and the New York Public Library. In 2002, she edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and in 2010 The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of ScienceRichard Dawkins describes The Canon as “an intoxicating cocktail of fine science writing,” and Barbara Ehrenreich says of it, “Finally, Nature has a found a biographer who’s up to the task.” Angier received the American Association for the Advancement of Science prize for excellence in science journalism, among many awards and honors. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, publications and anthologies. She began serving a five-year term as the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University in 2007, previously filled by Oliver Sacks, Toni Morrison, Jane Goodall, and others who were “distinguished contributors to cultural achievement.”

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Angier, a self-proclaimed “lonely atheist,” was a guest on Freethought Radio in 2006. In The New York Times Sunday Magazine (Jan. 14, 2001), Angiers outed herself as an atheist in the article, “Confessions of a Lonely Atheist”: “I’m an Atheist. I don’t believe in God, Gods, Godlets or any sort of higher power beyond the universe itself, which seems quite high and powerful enough to me. I don’t believe in life after death, channeled chat rooms with the dead, reincarnation, telekinesis or any miracles but the miracle of life and consciousness, which again strike me as miracles in nearly obscene abundance . . . I’m convinced that the world as we see it was shaped by the again genuinely miraculous, let’s even say transcendent, hand of evolution through natural selection.” She continued, “I may not believe in life after death, but what a gift it is to be alive now.” Angier received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the 2003 national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She is married to and has a daughter with Rick Weiss, a science reporter for the Washington Post.

“Sure, I’m a soapbox atheist. But she [my daughter] doesn’t have to take my word for anything. All she has to do is look around her, every day, to find the bible she needs—in the sky, sun, moon, Mars, leaves, lady bugs, stink bugs, possums, tadpoles, cardinals, the wonderful predatory praying mantises that have gotten really big and fat this year on all the insects this rainy year has brought. Life needs no introduction, explanation or excuse. Life is bigger than myth—except in California.”

—Natalie Angier, during her acceptance speech of the Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the national FFRF convention in 2003

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Freethinker: Roll to Disbelieve — The Handbook

 

I had a GM once who used random objects when he didn't have a miniature that was the right size or whatever. One day we're fighting something and he gets out this gigantic stuffed six-sider and sets it down in front of our tiny little 1" minis. We were totally O.O (Dagny Mol, CC.)

I had a GM once who used random objects when he didn’t have a miniature that was the right size or whatever. One day we’re fighting something during a game and he gets out this gigantic stuffed six-sider that’s the size of a basketball and sets it down without a word in front of our tiny little 1″ minis. We were totally O.O (Dagny MolCC.)

From 

Hi! I’ve noticed an uptick in new folks lately and have gotten some emails asking me why I call my blog what I do, so I thought that today–the most chocolate-y day of the year, so to speak–was a good day to bring everyone up to speed. I haven’t written about it in a long time and I’ve learned a lot since then. So today I want to show you what “rolling to disbelieve is” and what it feels like to make your roll at last.

I was Christian for the first half of my life, deconverting in my 20s a couple years after graduating from college. And oh boy was I Christian. My entire Christian “walk” (that’s Christianese for someone’s journey through the religion to, I suppose, enlightenment) seemed like one long search for this gauzy notion of TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ that I was sure must exist out there somewhere.

Somewhere, if I searched hard enough, I’d find a group that was practicing the ideals of Jesus the way Christians everywhere should be, and I’d finally be okay. Looking back it’s both laughable and tearjerking to think of how anguished I was over the misery, dysfunction, and hypocrisy I saw around me, and of how hard I worked to find that group. I kept going from group to group trying to find the one that was doing Christianity right–and in the process, spiraled down into worse and worse groups and even almost ended up in Waco right around when that David Koresh stuff was going down (with a different and arguably even worse cult, though).

TODD WALTON: Pollination

 

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Winter Mint photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“When the flower blossoms, the bee will come.” Srikumar Rao

Well, maybe not. With bee populations in decline worldwide and the so-called civilized world in no hurry to eliminate the known causes of these precipitous declines, more and more flowers are going unvisited by those faithful little pollinators.

Fear not. Scientists in Japan recently tested miniature drones equipped with sticky tendrils and were successful in transferring pollen from one flower to another with the little robot copters. Soon, say these triumphant scientists, orchards and vineyards and backyards will be abuzz, so to speak, with millions of little hovering robots doing the work bees used to do.

Somehow I am not reassured. Why not just stop producing and dispensing the pesticides and herbicides known to be decimating bee populations? A silly question, I know. Kin to asking: why not stop producing and dispensing the substances known to cause global warming? The answers are the same. To stop producing pesticides and greenhouse gases would be unprofitable in the short term for the huge corporations who have more power than nations.

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Albert Einstein

We recently watched the movie Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. This movie turns out to be a perfect Trump-era movie, for it is about a not-very-bright narcissist with no talent and too much money, and the people who feed off her. I was hoping for something to take my mind off of the over-arching stupidity and insensitivity of the new regime, yet found I was watching a goofy and pathetic drama based on that same kind of stupidity and insensitivity.

WILL PARRISH: Stuart Bewley’s Outlaw Grows

 

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The Mendocino County Supervisors will soon vote on a series of environmental protections that would include putting 714,000 acres of rangeland off-limits to new cannabis cultivation permits and adopting an impressively strict oak woodlands protection ordinance, while also allowing existing growers to become legally-permitted.

The end of marijuana prohibition has opened up the possibility of a damaging “green rush,” which these measures aim to prevent.

The person who has most vocally opposed these protections is Stuart Bewley, one of Mendocino County’s wealthiest landowners, who made his fortune in the wine industry and has now moved aggressively into the cannabis business..

I’ve described in the past about how marijuana growing is often used as a scapegoat for environmental degradation, but it’s also the case that extreme marijuana grows are a major source of environmental damage, land speculation, and cultural upheaval, as many people who have opposed damage from the timber industry have also pointed out.

As with so many of Mendocino County-based backwoods cannabis proprietors, Stuart Bewley’s journey to the rugged hills and gullies of Bell Springs and west Laytonville began during the 1970s. In that heady time, young idealists flocked to the remote and disjointed terrain of California’s northern coastal mountains, in collective pursuit of a better life in a better place. Desperate to earn a living, some of the more entrepreneurial members of their sub-culture soon developed breakthrough techniques for cultivation ofsinsemilla, fostering what has budded out into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Gene Logsdon’s New Book Is Out: Letter to a Young Farmer

 

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A message to those who claimed they suffered under President Obama…

 

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From Scott Mednick, when a Trumpster Facebook friend told him, “We suffered for 8 years. Now it’s your turn.”

Scott’s reply: “There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did. And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.”

Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.

But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass,I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?’

So let me ask:
Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of. Has this caused your suffering?
When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626. Now it is 19,875. Has this caused your suffering?
We had 82 straight months of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?

Freethinkers: Freedom From Religion Foundation

 

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It’s another week and another busy period for us here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Unlike the weeks before, this week the lion’s share of our time and energy was not spent focusing on the Trump administration. Instead, we were active in a number of different directions.

A lot of local activity
So, we did what we’ve done in regular times: We kept an eye on local and state-level institutions for violations of state/church separation. We warned a South Carolina school district about a reading of an overtly Christian book to an entire elementary school. (We’ve put up some of the images from the book for you to look at.)

We’re having to refight another local-level battle, though. A Minnesota city is backtracking on its removal of a cross from a public veterans park. The Belle Plaine City Council seemingly caved in to immense local religious pressure and is permitting the cross to be put back up. We’ve told the city council members that if this is done, FFRF will propose for the park a memorial of its own: to atheists in foxholes. Reply awaited.

Another local-level legal battle seems to be going well for us so far. In a case where FFRF filed an amicus brief, a Florida judge says a prayer lawsuit against a high school athletic league should be tossed out.

Sunday Song: Here’s to the State of Mississippi…

 

Thanks to Bruce

Here’s to the state of Mississippi,
For Underheath her borders, the devil draws no lines,
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find.
Whoa the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes,
The calender is lyin’ when it reads the present time.
Whoa here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!

Here’s to the people of Mississippi
Who say the folks up north, they just don’t understand
And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan
The sweating of their souls can’t wash the blood from off their hands
They smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here’s to the schools of Mississippi
Where they’re teaching all the children that they don’t have to care
All of rudiments of hatred are present everywhere
And every single classroom is a factory of despair
There’s nobody learning such a foreign word as fair
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here’s to the cops of Mississippi
They’re chewing their tobacco as they lock the prison door
Their bellies bounce inside them as they knock you to the floor
No they don’t like taking prisoners in their private little war
Behind their broken badges there are murderers and more
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And, here’s to the judges of Mississippi
Who wear the robe of honor as they crawl into the court
They’re guarding all the bastions with their phony legal fort
Oh, justice is a stranger when the prisoners report
When the black man stands accused the trial is always short
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the government of Mississippi
In the swamp of their bureaucracy they’re always bogging down
And criminals are posing as the mayors of the towns
They’re hoping that no one sees the sights and hears the sounds
And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the laws of Mississippi
Congressmen will gather in a circus of delay
While the Constitution is drowning in an ocean of decay
Unwed mothers should be sterilized, I’ve even heard them say
Yes, corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the churches of Mississippi
Where the cross, once made of silver, now is caked with rust
And the Sunday morning sermons pander to their lust
The fallen face of Jesus is choking in the dust
Heaven only knows in which God they can trust
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of
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Bill Maher explains why he criticizes religion…

 


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Evidence?

 

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Freethinker: Thomas Edison born this day in 1847…

 

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From Freedom From Religion Foundation

On February 11, 1847, Thomas Alva Edison was born in Ohio, the youngest of seven. The inventor – famed for reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire before the age of ten, and for vowing at age 12 to read the entire contents of the Detroit Public Library – was largely self-taught.

Supporting himself at a very early age, Edison sold newspapers, worked for railroad companies and became a telegraph operator. He invented the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and improved the telegraph and telephone, becoming a highly successful businessman and manufacturer.

Edison, who held more than 1,300 US and foreign patents, famously noted: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Edison, who died in 1931, told The New York Times in an interview (June 8, 1915 edition): “I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill.”

A lifelong freethinker, one of his oft-repeated lines (for which we could find only secondary sources) is: “So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake. . . . Religion is all bunk.”

In an interview with The New York Times (October 2, 1910) Edison said: “I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul … I am an aggregate of cells, as, for instance, New York City is an aggregate of individuals. Will New York City go to heaven? …. No; nature made us – nature did it all – not the gods of the religions.”

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Democratic Socialists Are Building on Bernie’s Momentum…

 

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From Rolling Stone

Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America is way up – now, can the group become a major force against Trump?

“Has anybody been angry before about capitalism?” Hannah Allison, a 29-year-old organizer with the Democratic Socialists of America, asks from the stage of a recent meeting in Los Angeles.

The nearly 100 DSA members who’ve gathered at the Friendship Auditorium in Griffith Park on this Saturday afternoon erupt in cheers and applause, after hours of presentations by speakers at least twice Allison’s age.

Allison, who’s based at DSA’s New York City headquarters, has been visiting the group’s local chapters around the country on a mission to get new members – especially younger and more diverse individuals, including those catalyzed by Bernie Sanders’ campaign – excited about organizing toward so-called democratic socialism. There are signs her efforts are starting to pay off. The group, which officially formed in 1982 but has roots in the early-20th-century socialist movement, has experienced a renaissance of late. The LA gathering is one of the group’s largest in 25 years. And since last March, the DSA’s membership has nearly tripled, to more than 15,000 members, with 90 local groups in 37 states.

Church and State: Top Ten School Violations and How To Report Them…

 

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From Freedom From Religion Foundation

1) PRAYER AT SCHOOL EVENTS

School events, including graduations, may not include prayer. For more than 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently struck down prayer in public schools.

School staff, including coaches, may not organize, endorse, promote, or participate in prayers with students. Teachers and coaches may not lead prayers or deputize students to lead prayer. Even a public school coach’s silent participation in student prayer circles has been ruled unconstitutional. Borden. Schools and athletic teams may not appoint or employ a chaplain or other spiritual leader.

2) COMPELLING PLEDGES OF ALLEGIANCE

Students have a constitutional right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Nor can students be required to stand or otherwise be penalized for exercising this right. Even before “under God” was belatedly added to the previously secular pledge in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court had already affirmed this right.

3) SCHOOL BIBLE DISTRIBUTIONS

The distribution of bibles to students on public school property is prohibited. Allowing bible distributions in public schools or on public school property is an “affront not only [to] non-religious people but [to] all those whose faiths, or lack of faith, does not encompass the New Testament.”

TODD WALTON: Going Bananas

 

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Going Bananas photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

In Woody Allen’s movie Bananas, one of Woody’s earlier, funnier films, there is a scene in which the leader of a successful rebellion in a banana republic becomes the new dictator and decrees that henceforth everyone must wear underwear on top of their clothes instead of under their clothes. Watching their leader make this mad decree causes Woody and another of the victorious rebels to finally realize their leader has gone mad with power.

I thought of this scene today when I read one of President Trump’s recent executive decrees. To wit: any federal agency wanting to institute a new regulation must simultaneously revoke two existing regulations. If you want to make it illegal for companies to dump toxic chemicals in rivers, then you must revoke the ban on dumping toxic chemicals in the ocean and in the air.

Another movie that comes to mind at this zany time in our nation’s history is the 1992 Eddie Murphy flick The Distinguished Gentleman. Eddie plays a two-bit thief elected to Congress through an unlikely fluke. When he arrives in Washington, he knows nothing about how government works, but finding he has landed among others of his ilk—criminals—he is soon raking in money from amoral lobbyists and corporate vampires. Since this is a Hollywood comedy and not reality, Eddie’s character is eventually won over by a gorgeous woman with righteous values, starts doing good things for regular folk, clashes with the forces of evil, and prevails. But it is the lead up to his conversion from criminality to decency that gives the movie its zing of veracity.

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions…

 


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The Internet Is A Lifeline For Ex-Muslims…

 

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From Vocatv
Online groups and communication platforms are giving atheists in the Middle East and northern Africa new ways to talk, and save each other’s lives

“I’ve been contacting many organizations that claim they fight for ex-Muslims, and they fight for women…nobody, nobody help [sic] me.” Sarah, a Moroccan who say she’s atheist, says in a video titled “my last chance.”

Sarah put her story out on the internet hoping someone in a position to help her might hear. Hers is a common plight for ex-Muslims living the Arab world. For many like her, the internet is a lifeline that provides a safe space for atheists to communicate about life in a society intolerant of apostasy. According to a 2014 Pew Research report, 14 out of 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa still have laws banning apostasy and blasphemy, more than any other region of the world. In November 2015 a Saudi atheist poet was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam.

Church and State: Supernatural Beliefs, The Trillion-Dollar Fraud

 

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From James A. Haught
Church and State, UK

Think of the amazing number of supernatural beliefs held by people:

Gods, goddesses, devils, demons, angels, heavens, hells, purgatories, limbos, miracles, prophecies, visions, auras, saviors, virgin births, immaculate conceptions, resurrections, bodily ascensions, faith-healings, exorcisms, salvation, redemption, messages from the dead, voices from Atlantis, omens, magic, clairvoyance, spirit-signals, divine visitations, incarnations, reincarnations, second comings, judgment days, astrology horoscopes, psychic phenomena, extra-sensory perception, telekinesis, voodoo, fairies, leprechauns, werewolves, vampires, zombies, witches, warlocks, ghosts, wraiths, poltergeists, dopplegangers, incubi, succubi, palmistry, tarot cards, ouija boards, levitation, out-of-body travel, magical transport to UFOs, Elvis on a flying saucer, invisible Lemurians in Mount Shasta, Thetans from a dying planet, etc., etc.

That’s about 60 varieties — and you can probably think of others I overlooked.

All these magical beliefs are basically alike. There’s no tangible evidence for any of them. You can’t test supernatural claims; you’re expected to swallow them by blind faith. The only “proof” for them is that they were “revealed” by some prophet, guru, astrologer, shaman, mullah, mystic, swami, psychic, soothsayer or “channeler.”

Well, considering the human brain’s vaunted power of logic, you’d think that people everywhere would reject magical assertions that can’t be verified. But the opposite is true. Billions of people embrace them. Almost all of humanity prays to invisible spirits and envisions a mystical realm. Virtually every leader invokes the deities. Supernaturalism pervades our whole species, in one form or another.

Around the planet, varying from culture to culture, the phenomenon is nearly universal. It consumes billions of person-hours and trillions of dollars. Millions of prayers to unseen beings are uttered every day, and millions of rituals performed. This extravaganza requires a vast array of priests and personnel, and a vast array of buildings and facilities. The cost is astronomical. Americans alone give $70 billion a year to churches — more than the national budgets of many countries. Other supernatural investment is enormous. For example, Americans spend $300 million a year on psychic hot-lines.

Christian Crock: Eight Reasons Why Christianity Is False…

 

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From Church and State

There is very little that we can prove in this world. However, we can look for evidence to support claims people make and, when there is sufficient supporting evidence and no contrary evidence, we can conclude a claim is probably true.

However, it is easier to prove something is false – all you need is contradictory evidence. Here are my eight reasons why Christianity is false. There is abundant evidence to support each reason. I don’t have space here to give the evidence but if you are not aware of it, I can provide it.

1. There is clear evidence that prayer does not work despite the Bible promising prayers will be answered.

2. There is clear evidence that humans invent gods and there is no reason to believe the Jewish god is an exception.

3. There is clear evidence that religions and gods are propagated through culture by infecting children, and no evidence that they are propagated by gods.

4. There is clear evidence that religions evolve as human understanding of the world changes whilst a real, God-given religion, should never need to change.

5. There is clear evidence that humans on this planet have unequal access to Christianity so, if Christianity is true, billions would be condemned to hell for no fault of their own. This contradicts the Christian notion that God is omni-benevolent.

6. There is clear evidence that the Bible, supposedly inspired by God, is riddled with the type of errors that we would expect from Iron Age men but not from the creator of the universe.

7. Christian theology is incoherent to the point of absurdity. God killing his son so he can forgive our future sin is like me breaking my son’s legs so I can forgive my neighbour in case she ever parks her car on my drive. It is quite ridiculous.

8. There is clear evidence that the arguments presented for the existence of God are founded on logical fallacies – all of them. All that is left for Christians is faith and their feelings. We know that faith and feelings can be used to believe in any god at all – including non-existent gods. So faith and feelings are epistemologically worthless. And that is all Christians have.

I rest my case.

22 Reasons to STOP Believing in God

In 100 Years, Will People Still Believe in God? 

Stephen Fry on God


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Sunday Song: The Vicar and the Frog

 

Thanks to Bruce

There once was a very very holy vicar
‘ Was walking alone the street one day,
When he heard a little voice sayin’: “Excuse me vicar,
O help me vicar”, the voice did say.
The vicar look’d about, but all he could see
Was a tiny little frog sitting on the ground.
“O my little froggie did you speak to me?
Was it you who spoke when I heard that sound?”
“Oh yes!” said the frog “Oh help me vicar,
‘Cause I am not a frog, you see!
I’m a choir boy, really, but a very wicked fairy
Put a nasty spell on me!
The only way, that I can be saved,
From this wicked spell” the little frog said,
“Is for someone to take me,
And put me in the place, where a very holy man
Has laid his head!”
So the vicar took him home,
Put him on ‘is pillow,
And there he lay till the break of day.
The very next morning: a blessed miracle!
The spell was lifted, I’m glad to say!
For there was a choir boy in bed with the vicar,
And I hope you think this all make sense,
‘Cause there, my lord, and members of the jury,
Rests the case of the Vicar.
~~

Church and State: Hitler Was a Faithful Christian, and His Germany a Christian Nation…

 

Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany is welcomed by supporters at Nuremberg.


From John Patrick Michael Murphy
Council for Secular Humanism

In George Orwell’s 1984, it was stated, “Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past.” Who is going to control the present-fundamentalism or freedom?

History is being distorted by many preachers and politicians. They are heard on the airwaves condemning atheists and routinely claim Adolph Hitler was one. Hitler was a Roman Catholic, baptized into that religio-political institution as an infant in Austria. He became a communicant and an altar boy in his youth and was confirmed as a “soldier of Christ” in that church. Its worst doctrines never left him. He was steeped in its liturgy, which contained the words “perfidious jew.” This hateful statement was not removed until 1961. “Perfidy” means treachery.

In his day, hatred of Jews was the norm. In great measure it was sponsored by two major religions of Germany, Catholicism, and Lutheranism. He greatly admired Martin Luther, who openly hated the Jews. Luther condemned the Catholic Church for its pretensions and corruption, but he supported the centuries of papal pogroms against the Jews. Luther said, “The Jews deserve to be hanged on gallows, seven times higher than ordinary thieves,” and “We ought to take revenge on the Jews and kill them.” “Ungodly wretches” he called the Jews in his book Table Talk.

Hitler seeking power, wrote in Mein Kampf, “… I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord’s work.” Years later, when in power, he quoted those same words in a Reichstag speech in 1938.

Three years later he informed General Gerhart Engel: “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.” He never left the church, and the church never left him. Great literature was banned by his church, but his miserable Mein Kampf never appeared on the index of Forbidden Books. He was not excommunicated or even condemned by his church. Popes, in fact, contracted with Hitler and his fascist friends Franco and Mussolini, giving them veto power over whom the pope could appoint as a bishop in Germany, Spain, and Italy. The three thugs agreed to surtax the Catholics of these countries and send the money to Rome in exchange for making sure the state could control the church.