Monday, July 30, 2012

What Is "Humanism", Anyway?



Thanks to def shepherd.

Everything you've always wanted to know about Humanism but were not sure who to ask,  and everything answered in just under 6 minutes!  Yes, it is that simple!

Do you wonder:

"What is Humanism?"

"Isn't it sad to think there's no afterlife?"

"Why might a humanist hold science in particularly high regard?"

"What is the humanist view on human nature?"

And of course, that moldy oldie question:

"How can humanists live ethical lives without religion?"

Check out this video and have everything explained in six easy minutes!

QFT:

"We can be decent human beings, and love and care and support each other - and not expect a fantasy to fulfill our hopes and our dreams when we can actually live them in this lifetime." Zoe Margolis

Cartoon credit: Tom Priest

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blast From The Past



A blast from the past. Ah, those endearing young charms!

Dexy's Midnight Runners:  Come On Eileen.

Sunday Inspiration - There Is Hope For Christians, After All!


Col. Timothy Wagoner : "He embodies the best of the chaplain corps." 





























Slowly, but surely, decent Christians everywhere are beginning to step back and take a good hard look at what has been happening to their religion.  Slowly, but surely, decent people are gathering the strength to brave the inevitable backlash in order to speak out against the evil that is being said and done in the name of their religion.

A long-serving military chaplain, Col. Timothy Wagoner, has parted ways with the Southern Baptist Convention after being publicly admonished over his attendance at the first gay marriage in the military. He will remain as a chaplain in the military, affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship which holds more moderate views than the SBC.

“I find very little that is more important and nothing that is more exhilarating than providing for the religious freedoms and spiritual care of all service members and their families — and will joyfully continue to do so,” Wagoner said Friday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. (Military Times story here).

Col. Wagoner joins a whisper-thin but steady drizzle of believers who are trickling out of the fold of the most extreme conservative churches, as they realize that the political agendas of these churches have little to do with the teachings of Jesus and everything to do with political power and social control. They join a steadier, but still thin, stream of moderate Christians from putatively moderate churches whose individual congregations claim to be more tolerant and accepting than the parent denomination, but who nevertheless contribute to the continued rightward lurch of Christianity through financial support of conservative parent hierarchies.

This is the ugly underbelly of religion.
The silent support of the moderate majority has
 allowed it to flourish but finally, good people of faith
are finding the courage within themselves to speak out.
Maybe it is only a trickle now, but I am hopeful that it will soon become a torrent.

More and more religious people are realizing that their beloved faith has been hijacked by the extreme right wing and more and more of them are taking the incredibly courageous step of walking away - not from their belief in God, but from the pernicious influence of the destructive conservative religious juggernaut and its powerful religious institutions.

And it does take courage to walk away from one's church.

The term "social animals"  does not mean that we merely enjoy spending time with kith and kin. Being social animals means that our connection to, and reliance upon, our social groups is vital to our physical and psychological health. People rarely rebel against social norms -  we rarely challenge the will of the dominant social group (often a large powerful religion) - because we know on a deeply visceral level that to do so could have dangerous consequences.

Society threatens apostates with total ostracism. We know what can happen if we criticize our social/religious group. Friends turn away, families are torn apart, careers are destroyed and lives are even threatened or lost in the vicious backlash that an outspoken member of a religious identity group experiences. We all know this is true. The fear of losing everything we know and love - especially our sense of belonging within the security of a large, powerful, familiar group identity - is what keeps people silent. It is what keeps people uneasily trying to perform a balancing act between what we know is morally right and what our churches say we must say and do.

I am inspired this Sunday morning by Col. Timothy Wagoner.  He is both courageous and righteous.  I hope this story goes viral. I hope it will encourage others to follow his example.

From Justin Griffith, via Rock Beyond Belief: Air Force chaplain quits Southern Baptist Convention over gay wedding.

Update: Ed Brayton (Dispatches From the Culture Wars) added to the hopeful news out of the military last night by posting a young soldier's re-enlistment speech.  Honest, unpolished and sincere, a chaplain's assistant named Nick spoke movingly and courageously about bigotry and homophobia both within the military and out in civilian society.  I could not find a YouTube link for the speech, but I hope this speech also goes viral. You'll find it in Ed's blog at this link.
The look of love: Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali wed civilian Will Behrens on June 23, 2012 in New Jersey.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Inspiration - The Unbroken Thread




Thanks to Symphony of Science for these wonderful videos.

Lyrics:

(Carl Sagan's lyrics written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan and Steven Soter)


[David Attenborough]
All life is related
And it enables us to construct with confidence
The complex tree that represents the history of life

Our planet, the Earth, is as far as we know
Unique in the universe; it contains life
Here plants and animals proliferate in such numbers
That we still have not even named all the different species

Darwin's great insight revolutionized the way in which we see the world
We now understand why there are so many different species

[Carl Sagan]
Every cell is a triumph of natural selection
And we're made of trillions of cells (Within us is a little universe)
Those are some of the things that molecules do
Given four billions years of evolution (We are, each of us, a multitude)

Now how did the molecules of life arise?

[Attenborough]
It began in the sea
Some 3 thousand million years ago
Complex chemical molecules began to clump together

These were the "seeds"
From which the tree of life developed
They were able to split, replicating themselves
As bacteria do

[Sagan]
The secrets of evolution
Are time and death
There's an unbroken thread that stretches
From those first cells to us

(refrain)

[Jane Goodall]
There isn't a sharp line dividing humans
from the rest of the animal kingdom
It's a very wuzzie line

It's a very wuzzie line,
and it's getting wuzzier
All the time

We find animals doing things that we,
In our arrogance,
Used to think was "just human"

(refrain)

[Attenborough]
Its continued survival now rests in our hands

We Are All Americans



















Saying America is so mired in "moral depravity" 
that only a mass appeal to the Almighty can save it, 
Christian evangelical leaders from across the country 
planned a giant prayer rally for Sept. 29 in Philadelphia.

I have a message for Bishop Giminez and her eager co-conspirators:

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is a land of diverse people - hardworking, industrious, innovative, tolerant, forward-thinking people. We are red, brown, white, black, and every beautiful shade of human skin. We are all American. We are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and every religious and political stripe. We are all American. We are female and male, gay and lesbian, bisexual and transsexual and every gender identity on the wide, wonderful spectrum of human sexuality. And we are all American.

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. We coexist in relative peace, as imperfectly as current human limitations might predict and as transcendently as human aspiration can occasionally soar. We have succeeded as a country because America is founded on principles which limit the power of religions to divide, conquer and destroy us. As messy and imperfect and unjust as much of our history has been, it has still stood out as a beacon of hope in a world of messy, imperfect and unjust systems of government which - nearly always using religion - continued to oppress and abuse their people long after the American journey toward 'liberty and justice for all' was haltingly begun. For more than 200 years, we have struggled and fought and inched our way toward realizing the dream - toward living the ideals - that those founding documents point us toward. We are a people evolving, with a roadmap to liberty in the Declaration of Independence and a blueprint for achieving it in the Bill of Rights. We will continue to negotiate and argue and push and pull toward a more perfect union of equal citizens because this country is a work in progress. And we are all American.
America is not mired
in moral depravity.
WTF is the matter
with you, theocrats?

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. It is you, Bishop Giminez, and power-hungry religious elites like you who are mired in moral depravity. It is you and the power-hungry religious elites who call injustice "justice", who fight relentlessly against equality and human rights and who seek to enshrine bigotry and misogyny into our laws without a shred of remorse or compassion for the human suffering you have caused. It is the conservative religious right which seeks to overturn the natural order of things - calling myth "science", calling oppression "justice", calling evil "good", calling what is immoral "moral". Those who call themselves "righteous" - who pretend to speak for God! - are the ones who are mired in moral depravity. They have lost their moral compass, but their fellow citizens can help them find their way again. Because, we are all Americans. 

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America does not need theocratic "saving". It needs protection from dangerous, ambitious, vicious religious power-mongers like you, Bishop Giminez, and the wealthy Christian elites that you represent. America needs saving from the approaching train wreck of Christian totalitarianism which you and your cohort wish to force upon us. America does not need "saving" by ambitious men claiming to represent their silent, invisible God. America needs saving from them. This nation has the tools to fend off this attack from the religious right. We have the diversity and the strength in numbers to resist a takeover attempt by one hardline fundamentalist faction among us. We can weather this storm. We are all Americans!

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is mired in political and social turmoil which was deliberately created by the conservative Christian right-wing for their own political gain. It is you, Bishop Giminez, and the powerful, wealthy elites who seek to drag this entire country to the brink of disaster, just as religious extremists elsewhere in the world have done to their countries. It is you and the power-hungry religious elites you speak for who hope to precipitate a cultural crisis in this country out of which you hope to wrest ultimate control over everyone and everything that is American. You hope to destroy the America that is and build an America that you can control. But you underestimate the passion for liberty and justice in this country. You underestimate the American spirit. We are not all Christians. But we are all Americans.

Whether or not one believes there is a god - or any higher power that cares about the welfare of humanity - constant historical evidence has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that it does not reside within the ruthlessly implacable ambition of religious elites. The success of the great American experiment in nationhood has only been possible - painfully, lurchingly, imperfectly and minimally  not thanks to religious belief, but in spite of it. Before the ink had even dried on the founding documents, religious groups launched their efforts to subvert the American dream of a more just and democratic Republic to their own theocratic agenda. And they have never ceased in their efforts since.


We are red, brown, white, black...
every beautiful shade of human skin.
We are all American. 
There is a seat at the national table for conservative Christians just as there are seats for every other kind of American. The difference is that conservative Christians want to banish everyone else except conservative Christians from the American table and in that sense, they are profoundly unAmerican. I only hope the basic goodness and common sense of the American people has been awakened to this looming crisis at last and that we can come together for the good of the country before it is too late.

America can only be saved by Americans. By performing our civic duty: educating ourselves on the crisis before us, registering and voting in every election and holding our elected representatives to their Constitutional responsibilities, the American people can save America.  Let's not allow one religious sect to hijack the ship of state and sink the hopes and dreams of freedom-loving people everywhere. It is not the silent, invisible God, nor the men who claim to represent ultimate godly authority who speak for America. Only Americans speak for America. 

Educate yourself. Register. Vote. Let no one speak for you. Speak up for yourself. We are all in this together and the future of this country depends on all of us. We are all Americans.



Friday, July 27, 2012

Actually No, Bishop Giminez, America Is Not Morally Depraved

Evangelicals to America: You are a sick, morally depraved country and only we God can save you!



























Recently, an astonishing number of prominent Christian hardliners (and their political arm, the Republican party) have been openly bashing America. If you close your eyes and just listen, you could be forgiven for thinking you were hearing Islamist hardliners spewing their hatred, so similar is the anti-American rhetoric. Claiming that the USA is mired in "moral depravity, Christian Evangelicals are planning a rally in September called "America for Jesus" which makes explicit the intention of the religious right to continue to interfere in domestic politics.  By staging the event against a backdrop of revered symbols of American liberty, they plan to link religious fervor with foundational ideals in a very concrete way, even as they work to dismantle the Constitutional protections of the very freedoms for which the founding fathers so bravely fought.

Christian fundamentalists - led by the usual wealthy, powerful religious elites - intendto reap the ultimate harvest from the seeds of religious tension that they have been sowing for the past three decades. The organizers include some members of the core group behind the original 1980 "faith" rally which not only helped propel Ronald Reagan into office, but launched unelected conservative Christian elites as a shadowy, behind-the-scenes political powerhouse. Their goal, as always: Christian theocracy in the most powerful country on the planet, with themselves - naturally - holding the keys to what they would privately call the restored "kingdom of God".

Vote for me... or else!
"We don't feel a man can save America," Giminez said, referring to the presidential contenders. "God is our only hope." But wait! Since they claim that no "man" can save America and God is the "only hope", are the rally organizers actually suggesting that Christians ought to step away from the political arena, forget about the apparently useless goal of electing a "man" and simply start praying to God to deliver America from this so-called "moral depravity"? Perish the thought:

"The history of "America for Jesus" suggests a Republican leaning, however."

Ah, there it is. Substitute "Mitt Romney" for "God" and the real motive behind all the devout posturing and nation-bashing is uncovered. The implication that "God" is represented through Republican candidates is just another example of the blatant and openly theocratic rhetoric that has been the hallmark of this most recent and deeply disturbing Republican campaign.

Abandoning once and for all any pretense that they love America or respect the founding principles upon which this country is built, conservative Christians are going for broke. They hate America - they hate the constitutional, democratic Republic that she really is - they always have hated America and they intend to break the country down, once and for all, and rebuild it to their own, narrow, Biblical specifications. In an all-out drive to whip believers up into a frenzy of fear of God and confusion about the causes of their very human problems, these Christianist leaders intend to prey upon the vulnerabilities and superstitions of a population whose ignorance and radicalization is a direct result of their own deliberate campaign to destroy public education and inject religiosity into every aspect of public life - and it is possible that they could succeed.

Got that, America? Be very afraid...
The power of religion is the psychological fear it holds over people - and the power of religious elites is their ability to use that fear to control people, thus securing political power for themselves. During times of social or economic upheaval, religious elites can tap into the terror of the belief in a punishing god that is planted in most Christian children before they are old enough to defend themselves against the permanent psychic harm.  Religious leaders point to the inevitable manmade and natural disasters which have always plagued humanity and declare them "God's judgement" on America. They appoint themselves God's intermediaries and - because "God" is always silent and invisible - the people accept the authority of these "men of God" in the absence of an actual God. These elite conservative Christian men intend to seize power as cowed and frightened people bow to what they believe is the authority of God coming through His intermediaries - none other than these elite religious men.

The American political system was developed, after a hard, bloody struggle, for the people, by the people and of the people - with the will of the people intended to be the final authority on national matters. It was this strong national effort toward the first real attempt in history at self-governance by ordinary people striving toward Enlightenment ideals which was the worst nightmare of religious authoritarians. It was the American dream itself, long before its realization, which posed the greatest threat to the methods and machinations of religious elites who had long exercised hidden power behind the thrones of kings and openly via popes throughout history. Religious groups who had fallen out of favor and had fled Europe for the New World intended to set up new kingdoms for themselves in America, which the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States forbade. For the first time in human history, an entire people had adopted for their system of government one which not only empowered the people but which explicitly denied religion the power to influence national affairs. Religious elites began to fight back almost immediately and their weapon of choice has always been to use the fear of God as a cover for the almost treasonous declaration that they are answerable not to the American people but only to their silent, invisible God, for whom they are (conveniently) the only righteous intermediaries.

Fear of God and social pressure prevents most people from wondering out loud why God would need intermediaries at all. Because of childhood indoctrination and the pernicious saturation of every corner of society with religious influence and intimidation, fear of social ostracism prevents most from questioning the authority of these powerful religious men. Like many overwhelmed peoples before them,  religiously indoctrinated Americans may vote against their own interests, against their neighbors and even against their country if they allow themselves to be manipulated by religious leaders with a political agenda. If there are enough believers, they may democratically hand over to the theocrats the absolute power they have been plotting to capture for decades.

We have too many examples of countries whose religious leadership managed to convince a majority of its population that they (or more specifically, others among them) were a morally depraved people, that only "God" could save them from destruction and that a small cabal of elite religious men were somehow God's representatives on earth - the only bastion of righteous holiness between a morally debased people and the terrifying fury of an angry god. Iran comes to mind. Islamists may come from a different branch of monotheistic Abrahamic religion, but they have the same modus operandi. One might say they learned it from their Christian and Jewish forebears. The belief among those Americans not yet directly affected by religious oppression - that somehow a descent into oppressive theocracy can't happen here - is self-delusion. It can happen here. It is already happening here.

This guy claimed to
speak for God, too.
Religion is fueled by the relentless human thirst for power and it has been an extraordinarily effective weapon in the constant war by elites on the rights and freedoms of the common people. It is the tragedy of humanity that the faith of so many is misplaced - that the human desire for a sense of control and belonging and the human willingness to follow those who exude power and dominance has repeatedly led to actual mass self-destruction as entire societies have thrown away their human rights and freedoms and handed political power to their religious elites.

One senses that Christian hardliners feel they can almost taste victory. They are confident that they can mobilize believers at least as well as they have done before, because in this election cycle they have been able to get away with a more open and shocking agenda of social regression and bigotry than they have ever before dared to reveal.  They are excited, inflamed with power and fiercely, unapologetically dogmatic.Their decades-long campaign of chipping away at the underpinnings of a society struggling to form a more perfect union of diverse, hard-working peoples under the banner of a great, free nation is at last bringing down secular protections at an accelerated pace.  The ultimate reward of a conservative Christian nation where homosexuality is persecuted, women are returned to the reproductive slavery mandated by the Bible and racial and religious bigotry will once again reign supreme is within their sights and they are giddy with exhilaration.

But, settle down there theocrats!  I have a message for Bishop Giminez and her eager co-conspirators:

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is a land of diverse people - hardworking, industrious, innovative, tolerant, forward-thinking people. We are red, brown, white, black, and every beautiful shade of human skin. We are all American. We are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and every religious and political stripe. We are all American. We are female and male, gay and lesbian, bisexual and transsexual and every gender identity on the wide, wonderful spectrum of human sexuality. And we are all American.

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. We coexist in relative peace, as imperfectly as current human limitations might predict and as transcendently as human aspiration can occasionally soar. We have succeeded as a country because America is founded on principles which limit the power of religions to divide, conquer and destroy us. As messy and imperfect and unjust as much of our history has been, it has still stood out as a beacon of hope in a world of messy, imperfect and unjust systems of government which - nearly always using religion - continued to oppress and abuse their people long after the American journey toward 'liberty and justice for all' was haltingly begun. For more than 200 years, we have struggled and fought and inched our way toward realizing the dream - toward living the ideals - that those founding documents point us toward. We are a people evolving, with a roadmap to liberty in the Declaration of Independence and a blueprint for achieving it in the Bill of Rights. We will continue to negotiate and argue and push and pull toward a more perfect union of equal citizens because this country is a work in progress. And we are all American.
America is not mired
in moral depravity.
WTF is the matter
with you, theocrats?

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. It is you, Bishop Giminez, and power-hungry religious elites like you who are mired in moral depravity. It is you and the power-hungry religious elites who call injustice "justice", who fight relentlessly against equality and human rights and who seek to enshrine bigotry and misogyny into our laws without a shred of remorse or compassion for the human suffering you have caused. It is the conservative religious right which seeks to overturn the natural order of things - calling myth "science", calling oppression "justice", calling evil "good", calling what is immoral "moral". Those who call themselves "righteous", who pretend to speak for God are the ones who are mired in moral depravity. They have lost their moral compass, but their fellow citizens can help them find their way again. Because, we are all Americans.

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America does not need theocratic "saving". It needs protection from dangerous, ambitious, vicious religious power-mongers like you, Bishop Giminez, and the wealthy Christian elites that you represent. America needs saving from the approaching train wreck of Christian totalitarianism which you and your cohort wish to force upon us. America does not need "saving" by ambitious men claiming to represent their silent, invisible God. America needs saving from them. This nation has the tools to fend off this attack from the religious right. We have the diversity and the strength in numbers to resist a takeover attempt by one hardline fundamentalist faction among us. We can weather this storm. We are Americans!

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is mired in political and social turmoil which was deliberately created by the conservative Christian right-wing for their own political gain. It is you, Bishop Giminez, and the powerful, wealthy elites who seek to drag this entire country to the brink of disaster, just as religious extremists elsewhere in the world have done to their countries. It is you and the power-hungry religious elites you speak for who hope to precipitate a cultural crisis in this country out of which you hope to wrest ultimate control over everyone and everything that is American. You hope to destroy the America that is and build an America that you can control. But you underestimate the passion for liberty and justice in this country. You underestimate the American spirit. We are not all Christians. But we are all Americans.

Whether or not one believes there is a god - or any higher power that cares about the welfare of humanity - constant historical evidence has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that it does not reside within the ruthlessly implacable ambition of religious elites. The success of the great American experiment in nationhood has only been possible - painfully, lurchingly, imperfectly and minimally -  not thanks to religious belief, but in spite of it. Before the ink had even dried on the founding documents, religious groups launched their efforts to subvert the American dream of a more just and democratic Republic to their own theocratic agenda. And they have never ceased in their efforts since.

We are red, brown, white, black...
every beautiful shade of human skin.
We are all American. 
There is a seat at the national table for conservative Christians just as there are seats for every other kind of American. The difference is that conservative Christians want to banish everyone else except conservative Christians from the American table and in that sense, they are profoundly unAmerican. I only hope the basic goodness and common sense of the American people is awakened by this looming crisis at last and that we can come together for the good of the country before it is too late.

America can only be saved by Americans. By performing our civic duty: educating ourselves on the crisis before us, registering and voting in every election and holding our elected representatives to their Constitutional responsibilities, the American people can save America.  Let's not allow one religious sect to hijack the ship of state and sink the hopes and dreams of freedom-loving people everywhere. It is not the silent, invisible God, nor the men who claim to represent ultimate godly authority who speak for America. Only Americans speak for America.

Educate yourself. Register. Vote. Let no one speak for you. Speak up for yourself. We are all in this together and the future of this country depends on all of us. We are all Americans.



Thank Gods It's FreyaDay!





























Good Morning, Humans.

I am ready to play, but what is this book?

I am a patient cat. I am a tolerant cat. But this book must go.

I am ready to play with my Human, and this book is getting in the way.

I am a patient cat. I am a tolerant cat.

But, this book must go.

Thank gods it's FreyaDay!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thorsday Tonic - Doe and Fawn

Right outside Nifty Manor, right now.




























This is the beauty and magic of reality.  A tonic for a tired writer on a hot, humid Thorsday.


The Fawn

There it was I saw what I shall never forget
And never retrieve.
Monstrous and beautiful to human eyes, hard to
believe,
He lay, yet there he lay,
Asleep on the moss, his head on his polished cleft
small ebony hoves,
The child of the doe, the dappled child of the deer.

Surely his mother had never said, "Lie here
Till I return," so spotty and plain to see
On the green moss lay he.
His eyes had opened; he considered me.

I would have given more than I care to say
To thrifty ears, might I have had him for my friend
One moment only of that forest day:

Might I have had the acceptance, not the love
Of those clear eyes;
Might I have been for him in the bough above
Or the root beneath his forest bed,
A part of the forest, seen without surprise.

Was it alarm, or was it the wind of my fear lest he
depart
That jerked him to his jointy knees,
And sent him crashing off, leaping and stumbling
On his new legs, between the stems of the white
trees?

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quantum Theory Explained!





Lyrics:

[Morgan Freeman]
So, what are we really made of?
Dig deep inside the atom
and you'll find tiny particles
Held together by invisible forces

Everything is made up
Of tiny packets of energy
Born in cosmic furnaces

[Frank Close]
The atoms that we're made of have
Negatively charged electrons
Whirling around a big bulky nucleus

[Michio Kaku]
The Quantum Theory
Offers a very different explanation
Of our world

[Brian Cox]
The universe is made of
Twelve particles of matter
Four forces of nature

That's a wonderful and significant story

[Richard Feynman]
Suppose that little things
Behaved very differently
Than anything big

Nothing's really as it seems
It's so wonderfully different
Than anything big

The world is a dynamic mess
Of jiggling things
It's hard to believe

[Kaku]
The quantum theory
Is so strange and bizarre
Even Einstein couldn't get his head around it

[Cox]
In the quantum world
The world of particles
Nothing is certain
It's a world of probabilities

(refrain)

[Feynman]
It's very hard to imagine
All the crazy things
That things really are like

Electrons act like waves
No they don't exactly
They act like particles
No they don't exactly

[Stephen Hawking]
We need a theory of everything
Which is still just beyond our grasp
We need a theory of everything, perhaps
The ultimate triumph of science

(refrain)

[Feynman]
I gotta stop somewhere
I'll leave you something to imagine

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Tonic - Join The Party!



Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's best Christian, explains the clear choice before you.

QFT:

"If you think that life is sacred, but health is negotiable...join the (GOP) party!"

Betty Bowers sums up the current Republican party thusly:

"The grand old party: where you can be for something while you're against it!"


Monday, July 23, 2012

RIP Sally Ride






























Sally Ride, the first woman in space and an inspiration to girls everywhere, has died. Dr. Ride passed away earlier today due to complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 61 years old.

"... when I wasn't working,
I was usually at a window
looking down at earth."
Sally Ride, first woman in space, dies at 61,  USA Today.

Sally Ride, first American woman in space, dies,  CNN.

Sally Ride, first American woman in space, is dead, NPR.

"(In space) The stars don't look bigger, but they do look brighter...The view of earth is spectacular."

Dr. Ride inspired an entire generation of women scientists who watched her break the gender barrier in a new frontier and realised that they, too, could one day see that view of the earth and stars from space. 


Later, Sally broke through another social barrier. She was an out lesbian who shared her life proudly with the woman she loved.


I would like to send my sincere sympathy to Dr. Ride's life partner of 27 years, Dr. Tam E. O'Shaughnessy.


RIP, Dr. Sally Ride, American Hero - May 26, 1951 - July 23, 2012



Isn't That Just Ducky!









Hello there, Humans!

It is hot. I am hot!

The sun always shines.

The sky never rains.

It is hot!

My Human helped me.

I had a bath!

I am nice and cool, now.

It is hot, but I am cool.

Isn't that just Ducky!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Inspiration - The New Normal



via NBC

Oh, this looks so good.  I may have to throw a party for the premiere episode in September!

Quote for the win:

"A family is a family...and love is love."

Conservative Christians Declare Colorado Killer God's Henchman























ter·ror·ism

  [ter-uh-riz-uhm] 
noun
1.
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
2.
the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting government.


If you were frightened and confused by the horrific events in Aurora, Colorado last Friday, Christian hardliners want you to know that they have their God has everything under control.  They believe that it is good that you were frightened. Hopefully, you will remain frightened for a long time. Your fear and anxiety are exactly what they say the Biblical god demands and wants. Christians want you to know that it was their god's rage over the slight easing of fearfulness in society which prompted Him to deputize James Holmes to ram the message of His righteous anger into the hearts and minds of the American people through the senseless slaughter of innocents.

...but do what the pastor tells you!
That's right. According to the American Family Association's Fred Jackson, the Colorado killer was used by the Christian god to terrorize the American people. In spite of the ever-increasing radicalization of the population through Christian evangelism, and an historic level of unconstitutional religious encroachment into the public sphere, elite Christian leaders insist that there is still not enough fear in American society. Too few Americans accept the authority of church elites God with enough unquestioning obedience. Not enough Americans fear the power of Christianity God with the proper servility. And fundamentalist Christian church leaders know just who to blame:

"Jackson: I have to think that all of this, whether it’s the Hollywood movies, whether it’s what we see on the internets [sic], whether it’s liberal bias in the media, whether it’s our politicians changing public policy, I think all of those somehow have fit together—and I have to say also churches who are leaving the authority of Scripture and losing their fear of God—all of those things have seem to have come together to give us these kinds of incidents.
Newcombe: I think that’s so true. It’s as if we said to God, publicly or in the public arena, ‘get out, You’re not welcome here anymore’ and it’s as if God removed His protection from our land.
...and sometimes, "Love" hurts.
Jackson: I think the sources of this is [sic] multifaceted but you can put it all I think under the heading of rebellion to God, a rejection of the God of the Bible. I think along with an education system that has produced our lawyers, our politicians, more teachers, more professors, all of that sort of thing, is our churches, mainline churches. We’ve been dealing Teddy and I know the AFA Journal has been dealing with denominations that no longer believe in the God of the Bible, they no longer believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they teach that God is OK with homosexuality, this is just increasing more and more. It is mankind shaking its fist at the authority of God.
James: And God will not be silent when he’s mocked, and we need to remember that. 
Jackson: We are seeing his judgment. You know, some people talk about ‘God’s judgment must be just around the corner,’ we are seeing it." - conversation between the popular rightwing Christian radio host, Fred Jackson, Jerry Newcombe of Truth in Action Ministries and Jackson's co-host Teddy James of AFA Journal.

("Rebellion against God" is code for "rebellion against unconstitutional religious influence". When civil rights groups protest the unconstitutional religious interference in government, they are accused of "rebellion against God". "Rejection of God" is code for "rejection of inappropriate religious attacks on individual rights and freedoms". When conservative Christian groups attempt to deprive citizens of their human rights, the people who protest are accused of "rejecting God").

According to the self-appointed God-spokesmen, the all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful (also silent and invisible) Creator of the Universe is understandably outraged when humankind fails to tremble in terror at the very thought of Him, yet He is curiously incapable of easily and lovingly repairing the error in His own creation.  So, we are told that every now and then He causes a terrible event on earth (or fails to prevent a terrible event - same difference, really, since His presence and His absence are equally indiscernible) to remind us of our sinful failure to fear Him enough. His spokesmen then gleefully point to these disasters as evidence that all the things which threaten them God's supremacy in American society are evil and should be blamed for the pain and suffering of innocents.  (Apparently, they can't explain why God never seems to target the specific objects of their His wrath directly, nor why they expect anyone to believe that a god who would rain down terrible suffering on innocent men, women and children as an object lesson to sinners should be considered a "loving" god.)

terrorizeterrorise [ˈtɛrəˌraɪz]
vb (tr)
1. to coerce or control by violence, fear, threats, etc.
2. to inspire with dread; terrify

The terror evoked by random acts of violence is a feature, not a bug, in the eyes of the powerful Christian elites Almighty. It has proven to be a very useful weapon in the ongoing battle for Christian world dominance.  By planting the seeds of fearful hatred in the minds of traumatized believers and then redirecting that fear toward the enemies of Christian hegemony, the religious right - and its political arm, the Republican party - divides and polarizes society into "us" and "others", with themselves as the authorities ruling over the ever-growing "us". They wield the fear of God's wrath to ensure fearful compliance, and - since "God" is never seen or heard by anyone - they appoint themselves as His spokesmen and the ultimate interpreters of His righteous will, ensuring that their will is rarely effectively challenged.  They systematically coerce the population of believers - through fear of their god - and coerce non-believers - through social pressure as believers' fear grows that other citizens who are not like "us" will bring god's wrath down on them, even if they are innocent, god-fearing believers! - to be less and less tolerant of differences, and to demand greater and greater conformity to their religious authority. In short, they assign all of the power over society that is hypothetically "God's awesome power" - to themselves.  It is terrorism-by-proxy. And it is very effective.
God hates whoever the church hates!
Are you listening, atheists and gays?

Random terrible events happen: they always have and they always will. The evil genius of fundamentalist Christians is that they know how to use these inevitable natural and man made disasters as tools for their own Machiavellian brand of power consolidation. They harness fear and bigotry created by religious belief, redirect it into hatred toward the elements in society which threaten their own power, thus eliminating their enemies and removing all barriers to their dream of an American theocracy. They terrorize the vulnerable victims of a local or national disaster with the dread of an angry god - evoking the same terror of god's wrathful jealousy which was inculcated through childhood indoctrination - and then they direct that frightened anguish toward others whose refusal to accept Christian authority they accuse of bringing this suffering down upon innocent, persecuted Christians.

It is an awesome one-two punch: a form of terrorism more lethal to our pluralistic, democratic Republic than anything the United States has ever faced. Terrorized people historically bow to the perceived security of authoritarianism. The power of religious belief, inculcated early and reinforced regularly - especially in the public sphere - enables church elites to use the fear of God to coerce a population to destroy church enemies, to support religious agendas and to obey church elites, all without lifting a finger!  Of course, in places where there is too much human-created peace, tolerant multi-cultural social order and too few natural disasters, strong Christians will do what they have to do to help themselves their god out.

In the USA, where there is no shortage of natural sources of human misery, the Christian right still furthers their own ambitions helps their god out by doing their utmost to incite violence and human conflict through the constant drumbeat of fear and othering.  The dignity and humanity of the victims in Aurora is nothing to them, when measured against what they perceive is their god-given right to use the horrible tragedy for their own political gain. We don't know yet what the Colorado murderer's motive was, and we may never know, but whatever Holmes may think his own motives were,  influential Christians want everyone to believe that he was the unwitting lash of their God's judgment. The truth doesn't matter to the Christian right, nor does common human decency. For them, the Aurora massacre has already served its purpose.


...and we He won't hesitate to use terrorism to consolidate our His power!  Got that, America?

































Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sea Fever


photo credit: YachtPals



























Sea Fever -  by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Friday, July 20, 2012

But It Was Not Terrorism!


























Horrific news from Colorado. Last night, a heavily-armed, masked gunman entered a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, threw a smoke bomb into the crowd and began shooting. By the time the murderer was apprehended in the parking lot behind the theatre, there were 12 people dead and more than 50 wounded.

"Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said there was no evidence of a second gunman, and FBI spokesman Jason Pack said it did not appear the incident was related to terrorism."

This appalling eruption of violence was visited upon a crowd of excited, happy and innocent movie-goers enjoying the thrill of opening night at the movies. The killer had carefully planned and carried out a cold-blooded execution designed to inflict maximum casualties among innocent people. He targeted unsuspecting people who knew nothing of his personal grievances and intentions. People who felt safe enjoying a simple pleasure in life; who were in an ordinary place doing an ordinary thing.

The dictionary definition of "terrorism" is "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion". We usually associate terrorism with a political or ideological agenda; terrorists coerce people to submit to their demands using violence. When a killer turns out to be a white American, his ideological beliefs are never assumed until proven to be whatever they are, and everybody runs from the word terrorist. Even if a political/ideological agenda is proven beyond question - and with far more evidence than that with which instant assumptions of terrorism are made about people of color and non-Christians - it may still be denied.

We don't know yet what the murderer's motive was, but I think what happened in that theatre was terrorism. Call it what it is CNN, even if the officials did not.

Update:

As I feared and expected, the Christian right has swooped in with accusations that this tragedy was caused by non-Christians and non-believers.  Call me cynical, but I see a pattern in the constant drumbeat of fear-mongering, lying about and demonizing atheists and non-Christians, encouraging paranoia and violent rhetoric from the right.  One might almost call it "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion".

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) "Aurora shootings result of "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs". Huffington Post.

"You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place," Gohmert said.

Conveniently, "chaplains" were on hand to be "deployed" within hours of the shooting, ensuring a righteous and ideologically correct spin on the tragedy will be immediately reinforced within the shocked and vulnerable community, no matter what the truth actually turns out to be.

Gunman Kills 12 at Batman movie premiere, USA Today.

"Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, already in Colorado and New Mexico ministering to victims of the ravaging wildfires, redeployed to Aurora within hours of the shooting. The group's web site was uploaded with evangelical advice on "spiritual survival" in tragedy."



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thorsday Inspiration


                         (full screen viewing strongly recommended)

via Newfoundland and Labrador

Some days, you just need a little awesome.

Visual and musical inspiration.

Balm for the weary spirit.

Happy Thorsday, All.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Do You Believe In ... ?



via NonStampCollector.

You really have to wonder at the arrogance of people who insist that there is a difference between their supernatural beliefs and those of other people. Bah.

When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods,
you will understand why I dismiss yours. - Stephan F. Roberts



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NPR Follows Up With American Nuns

LCWR's Sr Pat Farrell, President and Sr Janet Mock, Executive Director face the Inquisitors at the Vatican. 



























NPR has followed up on their April story. This morning, Terry Gross interviewed Sr Pat Farrell on NPR's Fresh Air. The interview is enlightening and refreshing. Once again, the vast gulf between the socio-political ambitions of the church's powerful hierarchy and the social justice mission of U.S. women religious comes into focus.

The audio of the interview won't be up on NPR until much later tonight (after its evening rebroadcast in some areas), but from the written recap, here are some interesting quotes:

"The question is, 'Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?' That's what we're asking. ... I think one of our deepest hopes is that in the way we manage the balancing beam in the position we're in, if we can make any headways in helping to create a safe and respectful environment where Church leaders along with rank and file members can raise questions openly and search for truth freely, with very complex and swiftly changing issues in our day, that would be our hope. But the climate is not there."

Here, Sr. Pat mentions the dangers I referred to in my Sunday post:

"We're not talking about the risk of ex-communication or leaving the church. That's not our intent. We're talking about the Vatican's dealing with a national organization, not with specific religious congregations or individual religious."

The cost to these women, who have devoted their entire adult lives - 20, 30, 40, even 50 years - to this work may be enormous, and yet...

To the bus, sisters!
"The one and only underlying option for us is to respond with integrity with however we proceed. That is our absolute bottom line in this. Some of the options would be to just comply with the mandate that's been given to us. Or to say we can't comply with this and see what the Vatican does with that. Or to remove ourselves and form a separate organization."

Sr. Pat has taken a bold and courageous step. She has thrown down the gauntlet, stating the position of the LCWR with a stark honesty and absence of "spin" so rare in society today, especially coming from a religious group. She is saying that the LCWR is willing to step away from the Church, if they are forced to choose between their social conscience and church authority.

But perhaps that earnest honesty should not be so surprising. With grace and humility, Sr. Pat describes what she clearly cherishes as "our gift to the Church".

"We have been, in good faith, raising concerns about some of the church's teachings on sexuality. The problem being that the teaching and interpretation of the faith can't remain static and really needs to be reformulated, rethought in light of the world we live in. And new questions and new realities [need to be addressed] as they arise. And if those issues become points of conflict, it's because Women Religious stand in very close proximity to people at the margins, to people with very painful, difficult situations in their lives. That is our gift to the Church. Our gift to the Church is to be with those who have been made poorer, with those on the margins. Questions there are much less black and white because human realities are much less black and white. That's where we spend our days."

There is so little to admire about religion. The human suffering caused by religion, both directly and indirectly through their political power, is immense. Attacks on science and medical research, denial of global climate change, and oppression of women, LGBT people and minorities has come almost exclusively from the religiously dominated right wing of society. But these women religious have my admiration and my respect.

In their work and in their defiance of the coldly authoritarian hierarchy of the Church, I see a glimmer of the liberal social conscience that was so briefly lighted in the 1960's and I am profoundly moved. Like the liberal Episcopalians/Anglicans, Catholic women religious are discovering that their church is far more concerned with upholding an archaic, unjust and misogynistic conservative social order than with doing good in the world. Those who sincerely wish to follow the lead of the Christ figure in the gospels must fight the very institutions that pretend to represent him on earth. I hope that liberal Christians and closeted atheists are taking note of this irony. 

Seriously, this is something to think about.

Read:

An American Nun Responds to Vatican Condemnation, NPR, July 17, 2012.

Vatican describes talks with sisters as "open and cordial", Catholic News Agency, June 12, 2012.

Road Tripping Nuns Take On Ryan Budget, Erika Eichelberger, Mother Jones, June 25, 2012.

Listen:

An American Nun Responds to Vatican Condemnation, NPR Fresh Air, July 17, 2012 (available after 5:00 PM ET).