Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from Freethunk

This makes a good point

Musn't give them time to think!

Keeping the flock herded together is what it’s all about in fundamentalist religions, because exposure to anything different, or anything that allows or even encourages time to clear the mind (meditation and relaxation) threatens the weak beliefs they have been taught to maintain. It’s interesting that the most “devout” are the most fearful of losing their beliefs at the influence of others. And so what does that say about their god/gods?

Malaysia Muslim council under fire for banning yoga

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – One of Malaysia’s highest Islamic bodies was under fire Sunday after its chairman said yoga was forbidden for Muslims because the practice would weaken religious faith.

Devotees of yoga and moderate Muslim groups criticised the ruling by Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of the government-backed National Fatwa Council. Yoga is hugely popular in mostly-Muslim Malaysia.

“I don’t think it had caused any Muslim to convert to Hinduism, neither has it weakened their faith,” said Norhayati Kaprawi, an official with Sisters of Islam, a private group which champions the rights of Muslim women.

“It is just an exercise like tai chi, which has its roots in Buddism,” she told the Sunday Star newspaper. She said her group’s staff had been holding yoga classes for the past year and that they would continue.

Rulings by the Fatwa Council are not legally binding on the country’s Muslims, and there are no laws to punish those who ignore Council decisions — but it is an enormously influential body.

Abdul Shukor decreed that yoga was forbidden because it involves the recitation of mantras and that it encourages a union with God that is considered blasphemy in Islam.

“The practice will erode their faith in the religion,” he said on Saturday. “It does not conform with Islam.”

With religion, there can be no peace

Pope: Dialogue among religions should be pursued

VATICAN CITY – Jewish and Muslim leaders on Monday cautiously praised recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI, who said that dialogue among faiths should be pursued even though it is impossible on strictly religious issues. [my emphasis of Pope's very own words]


The pontiff has often discussed the theme of dialogue among religions and has worked for the improvement of interfaith relations.

But this improvement they talk of only goes so far as saying “howdy” and maybe being polite with each other. It’s all nice for them to talk about “interfaith dialogue” but they admit right up front that their dialogue can only go so far. While they all worship the same imaginary friend, the God of Abraham, their own firm beliefs about this god will keep them divided forever.

“Faiths cannot hold dialogue beyond a certain point because there are insurmountable limits,” Di Segni told The Associated Press on Monday. “This is a limit to all religious dialogue: It’s not like a political negotiation where I give you this and that and we make peace. It’s not like we give up dogmas.”

And there you have it. They come right out and admit it. And as long as they cling to their dogmas, there can never be peace as long as religion exists because each group believes they are the true chosen ones of the gods they imagine to be their very own.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Missionary "sees the light" in Amazon jungle

This is an uplifting story I found in the Chicago SunTimes online edition. It should happen more often.

Missionary went to change tribe, but they changed him

BY ANDREW HERRMANN Staff Reporter aherrmann@suntimes.com

The mission assigned to Daniel Everett after he graduated from Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute was to change the lives of members of a tiny tribe in the Amazonian rain forest.

It was, however, Everett who was changed.

Everett, along with his wife and three children, were met in the rain forest by the Piraha people of central Brazil — a primitive culture which has no words for numbers or colors and no concept of war or personal property. They live in the present.

For a missionary like Everett, then 26, that last part proved a stumbling block as he tried to find the language to talk about Jesus and an afterlife to people who never talk about the past nor the future.

In the end, Everett, now a linguistics professor at Illinois State University, abandoned his own religious faith, a tale he tells in his new book, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes (Pantheon, $26.95).

“I had preached the evidence of Christianity could be seen in the lives of the believers,” Everett said Tuesday. “Then I realized, these people, were, if anything, more secure, happier.”

Oh, if only more self-righteous, intrusive god botherers would “see the light” and leave the innocent alone.

“The Piraha don’t feel poor — they feel satisfied and that’s the basis of their happiness,” said Everett. “If they start to feel a lack in their own culture, a need for western goods, that will be a very destructive force in their lives.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Religious Right Power in Washington Greatly Diminished?

Americans United for Separation of Church and State says it is. However, liberals are going to need to pay more attention to politics at the state and local levels where the Religious Right may still hold much influence:
Watchdog Group’s Election Analysis Suggests Religious Right May Target State And Local Government For Next Advances

The Religious Right’s access to power in Washington, D.C., has been seriously diminished, but its divisive influence at the state and local level remains deeply problematic, according to an election analysis by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“Religious Right forces did everything in their power to demonize Barack Obama and maintain their influence in the White House,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “but it didn’t work. The majority of white evangelicals voted predictably Republican, but most other Americans ignored the Religious Right’s shrill and partisan message.”


Lynn, however, said he deplores the Religious Right’s continuing baleful influence at the state and local level. The movement engineered anti-gay measures and restrictions on reproductive rights onto many state ballots.


Lynn said the Religious Right is likely to increase its activity at the state and local level, now that advances in Washington will be harder to obtain.

“The Religious Right is not dead,” concluded Lynn, “but I’m happy that most Americans seem very wary of the movement’s reckless merger of religion and politics. Those of us who value church-state separation must remain on the alert to counter the Religious Right’s next gambit.”

I am guilty of not paying as much attention as I should to politics at our local and state levels. Most of the time the flyers and things we get hanging on the door knob or in the mail don’t even say what party the candidate is affiliated with. I think it’s important that we pay as much attention to the local level candidates beliefs and where they stand on issues as we do for the presidential candidates, maybe even moreso.

Boy whose relgious parents battled hospital dies

This is such a sad story of a 12-year-old boy who lost his battle with brain cancer. When I read the headline above I figured it was another crazy Christian family withholding medical treatments from their child while just relying on their faith, and “God’s will”. But this story is totally opposite and involves an Orthodox Jewish family. The parents had been fighting to keep their son alive via a ventilator despite him being declared brain dead and that his bodily functions had ceased. The only thing a ventilator was doing was keeping his lungs working, but the parents demanded that the machine not be turned off.

NEW YORK – A 12-year-old New York boy with brain cancer has died after his family battled a hospital to keep him on a ventilator.

The lawyer for the Orthodox Jewish family says Motl Brody’s bodily functions ceased Saturday. A machine had continued to work his lungs after he was pronounced dead Nov. 4 at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The boy had already been declared brain dead, but some adherents of Jewish religious law say death occurs only when the heart and lungs stop functioning.

The family had asked a judge to prevent further tests for brain activity. The hospital argued that its “scarce resources” were being used “for the preservation of a deceased body.”

This is an odd twist, in their extreme heartbreak, of treating a machine of medical science as some sort of god. Because no god comes to comfort. No god comes to save the children. No gods come.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

UN is discussing a global ban on blasphemy?

Here is something Geoff of Stupid Git Says So brought to our attention This is appalling the way the Saudis are ever so sly in how they are wording their UN proposal to criminalize blasphemy against religion (making it sound as if they want respect for other religions they will not even allow to exist in their own nation), and I can see where this is going to go if they get their way.

(Geoff, I hope you won’t mind if I copy and paste parts of your blog post here?)

Is God a Pussy? By Stupid Git

[SG]Apparently the creator of all has a fragile ego and his followers are out to protect their delicate deity:

“Saudi King Abdullah is quietly enlisting the [UN] leaders’ support for a global law to punish blasphemy - a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties. If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.”

Discussions touched upon a number of hot issues including … Prophet Muhammad lampooning cartoons …


[SG]Lest we blame this all on the barbarian mindset of Theocratic Islam, we in the “enlightened” West should look in the mirror. A few highlights:

Offensive Jesus remark cut from Emmy show
Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons
• Everyone’s favorite - the supposed War on Christmas! To that I say, “Merry Horusmas!”

I can see where this is all going, and the Christian fundies will all say it’s meant to be, (the coming of the End of Times). If global blasphemy laws are initiated at the UN, then what next? It won’t end there because Islam and Christianity each believe that the other is wrong, and must be defeated for the glory of their imaginary friends. How sad that the end of civilization may eventually be brought on my silly ancient superstition and ignorance and the desire to dominate.

There is no evidence for this "other world" people. There is no evidence of this glorious afterlife with golden mansions and riches and all bowing to the feet of their god 24/7 if you are a Christian, or making it with 72 virgins in some afterlife porno fantasy if you are fundie Muslim.

It's mind boggling with all the scientific discoveries and advances that have been made to make our lives easier that so many people still cling to superstitious fantasy, even it if involves blowing up the entire planet.

(Thanks Geoff!)

God needs your money

During the past couple of months, I have written a few posts on bigot, Pastor Mondo Gonzales, whose rants against gays and atheists are allowed to be featured in the Pastor’s Corner of our local community newspaper. Along with Mondo, other church leaders take their turns and most are benign “Gob is with you” sort of fluffy messages for the general public to read. But the fundamentalists never fail to provide material for a post.

This time I focus on Pastor Jeff Robinson of the Lincolnway Christian Church just up the road from me. The title of his Pastor’s Corner message is Being ‘Unshakable’ in shaky economic times

God never intended us to build our lives on money. Money is to be managed wisely. But, money makes a lousy foundation on which to build one’s life. Even if you manage your money wisely, economic forces outside your control can shake you to the bone. A major sickness or injury, a job loss, or uncertain financial times can financially devastate all but the very wealthy. Building your life on a financial foundation is unwise.

You are leaving out a very important point, Pastor Jeff . . . People cannot pay doctor bills after a major sickness without money. People cannot rebuild after a natural disaster without money. Physically, people cannot be “saved” without help from other humans. People’s property cannot be replaced without insurance policies paid for with money. People cannot buy a home unless they save their money for it or establish a mortgage loan. People cannot replace their property, or recover from illnesses or injury without other people and charity and financial institutions because no god comes.

Lincolway Christian Church was once located on a busy corner of our town, where two big streets intersect, and also where developers are paying big bucks for residents and existing small businesses and churches to move elsewhere so they can build their strip malls and banks, etc. In the past, Lincolnway Christian Church always boasted about how God blessed them to be on such a busy corner where many people would notice them and come in to “fellowship” with them. As businesses built up around them, and the persistent offers of cash for their land, the big final money offer must have been just too tempting to turn away from. They called it “God’s will” that they sold their church for a huge sum, and they used all that money to build a large modern facility for all of their country club church activities. The new church sits on a large plot of land of many acres, away from heavy traffic and surrounded by farmland and ranches. In our area, it had to cost them a fortune for that plot (of which they pay no taxes and the rest of us watch our mortgage payments rise as taxes go up and up). The money they spent on a fancy meeting place, which stands empty much of the time, could have been used to help all those people they are praying for week after week to no avail. Money can help where prayer and their god cannot. Money could definitely help those in need in the Will County region and beyond.

In his article, Pastor Jeff writes,

“Jesus tells through a story that there is only one sure foundation. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash,”

To build a house on rock or sand costs money. If one has a lot of money, they can well afford to build their house of stone on a foundation of rock. But there are those in the world who have less money and can only afford to build their modest home on a lesser foundation.

One question I would love to ask these pastors when they preach about money from the pulpits of quite comfortable and even elaborate temples is “Why does Jesus need your money?”

Why the need to beg for money, often using guilt as a tool to swindle as much as they can from the pockets of hard-working people? Why do they need money from an all-powerful creator who they say provides everything?

Every church tells it’s members every Sunday morning when they pass the plate that Jesus is the all-powerful creator of the universe and everything in it, he will answer all of your prayers, but he has no money. Many people I know often complain about that. That the church passes the collection plate at every gathering, begging people for their offerings, saying how Jesus needs their money to help others, and no one ever speaks up about it. They receive their pledge sheets in the mail on a regular basis and feel compelled to budget part of their income and pledge that amount to a God who is supposed to be the creator and provider of everything.

Here’s a little message I found at Why Won’t God Heal Amputees that should be sent to every church pastor or those who find themselves in a church for whatever reason to stick in the offering plate instead of money:

“Hello. My name is Jesus, and I am God. I am the all-powerful creator of the universe. I created everything that you see before you — the galaxies and stars in the heavens; the oceans, the mountains and the plains of earth; the sun and the moon and the skies; along with every living thing on the planet. I created you personally, and I gave you your unique soul. I created everything!

Everything of value on earth I created. I buried thousands of tons of gold in mines around the planet. I placed billions of gallons of oil under the sands in the Middle East. I created the millions of carets of diamonds being mined in South Africa.

And I will answer your prayers. Pray to me for anything and I will hear and answer your prayers. I say it in dozens of places in the Bible, but I like the way I say it in Mark 11:24 the best: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Anything you need — money, love, happiness, you name it — I am here to provide it for you.

Now, there is just one thing I need in return. I need your money. I need lots of your money. The Bible specifies that you send me ten percent of your gross income, but think of that as a starting point. Feel free to give more! When they pass the offering plate at church, be sure to give generously!

Because even though I created the universe and everything in it, and even though I will give you everything you ask for in prayer, I can’t give a cent to any church, ever.

So, please give generously at your place of worship today! I thank you for your support!”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Two Black Holes Dancing in 3C 75

click on image to enlargeNASA / CXC / D.Hudson, T.Reiprich et al. (AIfA); NRAO / VLA/ NRL

Explanation: What's happening at the center of active galaxy 3C 75? The two bright sources at the center of this composite x-ray (blue)/ radio (pink) image are co-orbiting supermassive black holes powering the giant radio source 3C 75. Surrounded by multimillion degree x-ray emitting gas, and blasting out jets of relativistic particles the supermassive black holes are separated by 25,000 light-years. At the cores of two merging galaxies in the Abell 400 galaxy cluster they are some 300 million light-years away. Astronomers conclude that these two supermassive black holes are bound together by gravity in a binary system in part because the jets' consistent swept back appearance is most likely due to their common motion as they speed through the hot cluster gas at 1200 kilometers per second. Such spectacular cosmic mergers are thought to be common in crowded galaxy cluster environments in the distant universe. In their final stages the mergers are expected to be intense sources of gravitational waves.

The Cosmic Web of the Tarantula Nebula

click on image to enlargeCredit & Copyright: Joseph Brimacombe

Explanation: First cataloged as a star, 30 Doradus is actually an immense star forming region in nearby galaxy The Large Magellanic Cloud. The region's spidery appearance is responsible for its popular name, the Tarantula nebula, except that this tarantula is about 1,000 light-years across, and 180,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado. If the Tarantula nebula were at the distance of the Orion Nebula (1,500 light-years), the nearest stellar nursery to Earth, it would appear to cover about 30 degrees (60 full moons) on the sky. The spindly arms of the Tarantula nebula surround NGC 2070, a star cluster that contains some of the brightest, most massive stars known. Intriguing details of the nebula are visible in this scientifically-colored image. The cosmic Tarantula also lies near the site of the closest recent supernova.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Recuperating without Jeezus...

Most of you probably wonder if I am still around, so am making a little post to say that I have had surgery in September to repair a torn ankle tendon, and then while struggling to get around in a walking boot I blew out what was left of my L5 disc and also L4 in my spine so had to have spinal fusion for L5-S1 and L4-L5 on November 3rd. I will spare you the in-between stuff because every day it was the same pain, pain meds and ER visits. After a week spent in the hospital after the operation, I am now home waddling around with my old lady walker and working on recovering more as time goes by. It's difficult to sit here for too long so will try to find some short pieces to post for awhile until I feel more up to sitting here longer than five minutes. I hope to be posting something soon! Hang in there! Don't leave me!