Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thor's Helmet in H-Alpha

Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman

Explanation: Near picture center, the helmet-shaped structure with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Cataloged as NGC 2359, the striking nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The helmet is actually more like a cosmic bubble, blown as the wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center sweeps through the surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the energetic star is a blue giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. The remarkable color composite combines broad and narrow band images - including a deep exposure recorded with an H-alpha filter. The H-alpha image traces the light from the region's glowing atomic hydrogen gas. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, this Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across.

Thors Helmet from CFHT

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's a Sin

Dr Lee E. Warren writes :

"Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions within a man’s consciousness that shapes human personality and society. Guilt governs our behavior, colors the way we perceive ourselves, and slants our outlook of the world.

We can understand guilt if we view it as a self-policing feeling and an emotion of self-punishment that all societies must encourage and maintain to influence individual actions. A person that is guiltless is a detriment to himself and society for there is nothing to prevent him from doing harm to another human. Psychologists call individuals that are guiltless psychopaths. This is the positive and healthy side of guilt."

However, as with any principle, it has a negative side, which often stems from religious guilt which instills feelings of remorse, self-doubt, or personal responsibility that results when a religious person engages in what according to one's religion is believed to be, sinful acts.

Wikipedia states : "even though there is proper guilt from doing 'wrong' instead of doing 'right,' people endure all sorts of guilty feelings that don't stem from violating universal moral principles." Many people go through life torturing themselves with unnecessary and undeserved guilt because of some ancient, irrelevant and unnecessary moral codes laid down by ancient men in eras long past.

This video by the Pet Shop Boys depicts these feelings of guilt and unnecessary psychological self-torment people put themselves through because they were taught to believe the are bad when they are not bad. The singer is gay, therefore often hears how "evil" he is according to god believers. Most religions are all about making people feel bad about who they are....for merely being human.

Friday, January 26, 2007

God has retired and moved to south Florida!


At first I thought it was a parody, but it’s a true story about another whackadoo who claims to be the man “Christ Jesus” who came back to earth to live in the lap of luxury in Doral, Florida… and sheeple flock to him! His followers lavish him with gifts, houses, cars and money and they really believe he is Jesus in the flesh returned to earth as a pimp daddy!

“This self-proclaimed Son of God is a 60 year old former heroin addict and convict.”

Jesus no longer has any hang-ups with material wealth, and has no problem taking advantage of stupid people. He has brought news that sin no longer exists! He is on his second earthling wife. The has clarified that there is no devil, and no hell…and prayer is a waste of time! Glory Halleluia!

This is from the Today Show on 8/22/06.

Newslink: The Man Who Claims To Be Jesus


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Comet McNaught

This is really cool! Vidar Martinsen took successive photos of Comet McNaught on January 9th, 2007, and animated it into this video. Comet McNaught is the brightest comet since 1975, and will reach perihelion on January 12th, 2007.


From University of Illinois: As little as 30 years ago astronomers discovered that space isn't empty; a significant amount of mostly gaseous material lies between the stars, coalesced into Giant Molecular Clouds. Deep within these massive clouds, also called GMC's, stars are born. A prominent star forming region within the Orion Nebula, called Orion KL, is pictured in the [Uof I link above].

Optical studies of star-forming regions have been much enhanced by the success of NASA efforts to correct the Hubble Space Telescope's optics in 1993.

click on image to enlarge
Orion's Cradle
Credit & Copyright Tony Hallas

Explanation: Cradled in glowing hydrogen, stellar nurseries in Orion lie at the edge of a giant molecular cloud some 1,500 light-years away. This breath-taking view spans about 13 degrees across the center of the well-known constellation with the Great Orion Nebula, the closest large star forming region, just right of center. The deep mosaic also includes (left of center), the Horsehead Nebula, the Flame Nebula, and Orion's belt stars. Image data acquired with a hydrogen alpha filter adds other remarkable features to this wide angle cosmic vista -- pervasive tendrils of energized atomic hydrogen gas and portions of the surrounding Barnard's Loop. While the Orion Nebula and belt stars are easy to see with the unaided eye, emission from the extensive interstellar gas is faint and much harder to record, even in telescopic views of the nebula-rich complex.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation

Can the president set up an office in the White House to promote religion without court review or scrutiny?

That is the question the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this year in
Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation. Oral arguments will be held February 28.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenging the government preference for religion shown by the creation of the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the Bush Administration's claim that it can use taxpayer money to support religion without complaint by taxpayers.

The high court on Dec. 1 accepted the Bush Administration's attempt to stop the Freedom From Religion Foundation's taxpayer lawsuit, challenging the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives.

The Foundation, along with its three taxpayer plaintiffs--Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and Anne Nicol Gaylor--filed suit in 2004, challenging the faith-based office at the White House and at several Cabinets. A federal judge dismissed the challenge, saying that Barker and the Gaylors did not have standing to sue over something the executive office did with general appropriations, if Congress had not designated those actions.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year reinstated the lawsuit, holding that tax money raised by Congress, which then goes to executive officials, cannot be used to support religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Bush Administration appealed the Foundation's victory to the Supreme Court.

"We believe that the Court of Appeals was correct in its decision," said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president. "We welcome the Supreme Court's review to eliminate any doubt. If in fact Congressional appropriations can be used by the Administration in disregard of the Establishment Clause, then Congress and the American public should know that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AHURA-MAZDA - still worshipped by Zoroastrians as the Creator of the Universe

As Godchecker.com states, "With its monotheistic concept of GOD and ideas of good and evil spirituality, Zoroastrianism had a huge impact on subsequent religions such as Judaism and Christianity, who appear to have stolen many of its spiritual notions..."

Zoroastrians still exist today and small communities of adherents can be found worldwide, especially in India, Pakistan, Iran and also in major urban areas of the U.S., Canada, UK and Australia. When studying mythology, one can see just how many religions there are in the world, and in many cases one religion/mythology evolves into another as time goes on. Christianity today is far different than what it was only a few centuries ago. Also, Christianity combined with tribal religions gives us beliefs such as the kind of Voodoo that is practiced in Haiti and the southeastern U.S., for instance.

The point is, when one studies world religions and their histories along side world mythologies and cultural traditions, it is quite obvious how one culture borrowed parts of mythologies from previous religions and mythologies to form new belief systems. I encourage all people, whether you have a belief system or not, to study world religions and mythology to understand your fellow humans on the planet we are all forced by nature to share.

From Godchecker.com: As The Wise Lord and God above all other Gods, AHURA-MAZDA was — and still is — worshipped by Zoroastrians as the Creator of the Universe and Source of All Good Things. With the light bulb reference seeming so appropriate, we fondly imagine he created the Universe by flipping a cosmic light switch. 'Let there be light', in fact.

With the holy AMESHA-SPENTAS and also his sons ATAR and MITHRA providing backup, AHURA-MAZDA wages permanent war with AHRIMAN, a deity of unspeakable repulsiveness. AHRIMAN aims to devastate the universe by filling it with pure evil.

Much like GOD and SATAN, they've been battling it out for millennia, but AHURA-MAZDA has a trump card tucked up his sleeve; SAOSHYANT will show up at the last minute and put everything to rights.

Zoroastrianism was founded by Zoroaster (also known as Zarathushtra) squillions of years ago, and flourished despite being such an awkward religion to spell. Its sacred scripture, the Vesta, unfortunately perished in the Great Fire at the Library of Alexandra, and only a remnant of this fascinating text remains. This is called the Zenda Vesta, which means 'Scrap of Vesta Which Is Somewhat Charred But Still Jolly Good'.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Zeus Revival! Zeus worshippers demand access to temple

We often joke about how worshipping god is like how the ancient Greeks worshipped Zeus, but there seems to be a few folks in the world who actually believe that Greek mythology is real!
ATHENS, Greece - After all these centuries, Zeus may have a few thunderbolts left. A tiny group of worshippers plans a rare ceremony Sunday to honor the ancient Greek gods, at Athens' 1,800-year-old Temple of Olympian Zeus. Greece's Culture Ministry has declared the central Athens site off-limits, but worshippers say they will defy the decision.

"These are our temples and they should be used by followers of our religion," said Doreta Peppa, head of the Athens-based Ellinais, a group campaigning to revive the ancient religion.

"Of course we will go ahead with the event ... we will enter the site legally," said Peppa, who calls herself a high priestess of the revived faith. "We will issue a call for peace, who can be opposed to that?"

Peppa said the ceremony will be held in honor of Zeus, king of the ancient gods, but did not give other details. The daily Ethnos newspaper, citing the group's application to the Culture Ministry to use the site, said the 90-minute event would include hymns, dancers, torchbearers, and worshippers in ancient costumes.

Greece's archaic religion is believed to have several hundred official followers, mainly middle-aged and elderly academics, lawyers and other professionals. They typically share a keen interest in ancient history and a dislike for the Greek Orthodox Church.

Ancient rituals are re-enacted every two years at Olympia, in southern Greece, where the flame lighting ceremony is held for the summer and winter Olympic games. But the event is not regarded as a religious ceremony and actresses are used to pose as high priestesses.

Last year, the Culture Ministry, fearing damage to monuments, blocked an initiative to hold an international track meet at Olympia. A panel of ministry experts ruled against Sunday's ancient ceremony at the ruins of the Temple of Zeus on similar grounds.

"Ancient sites are not available for this kind of event," ministry official Eliza Kyrtsoglou said. It was not clear whether the government had plans to block the worshippers.

Peppa's group, dedicated to reviving worship of the 12 ancient gods, was founded last year and won a court battle for official state recognition of the ancient Greek religion.

Those who seek to revive the ancient Greek religion are split into rival organizations which trade insults over the Internet. Peppa's group is at odds with ultra-nationalists who view a revival as a way to protect Greek identity from foreign influences.

They can't even agree on a name for the religion: One camp calls it Ancient-Religion, another Hellenic Religion.

The worshippers also face another obstacle: Greece's powerful Orthodox Church.

"There should be respect for people who want to express their religious feelings in a different way, that is not the typical Orthodox or Christian way," Peppa said. "We should not be stopped or denied our rights."

What a crazy-ass world we live in!


Friday, January 19, 2007

Is anyone paying attention to this?

Here is something that all Americans need to know. It's what I have been saying of the things that go on inside of mosques right on our own soil. Radical muslims are setting up shop under pretenses of being "moderate" but their true intentions are to convert the world to Islam (or kill those who resist, according to their holy scriptures). They are building in numbers, and winning converts every day. This makes xian fundies look like Ned Flanders in comparison. Make sure to watch parts 2 and 3, as well.


Caption of video : Chilling undercover investigation into the influence of Saudi Arabian religious extremism throughout the UK. Despite being considered Britain's principal ally in the Middle East, this disturbing report reveals Saudi Arabian Islam - Wahabism - is spreading a message of bigotry and hatred to a section of Muslims and predicting an imminent jihad. An undercover reporter joins Islamic worshippers.

After watching these undercover videos, tell me if I am just being paranoid.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Woo Hoo! 20,000 visits!

According to my sitemeter, Stardust Musings and Thoughts for the Freethinker had its 20,000th visitor yesterday. Not bad considering that I do not subscribe to any comment feeds and I don't allow anonymous comments (because of problems with trolls and advertising). I don't really want to subscribe to a comment feed because I already spend too much time as it is in blogland. I have other things I like to do in addition to blogging.

When I first started this blog I didn't think that it would get that much attention, but now I have a small little group of regulars who I thank very much for taking time to come by and read and leave comments. Also, welcome to all new readers who happen to run across my blog. Feel free to also browse through my other blogs, as well. Links are provided in the sidebar.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

SATAN: The Devil — Mr All-round Evil Genius

Recently, I added mythology site, Godchecker.com to my sidebar which provides a link where readers can learn about a different god each day. While reading about today's god, VELES God of Sheep and God of the Underworld, links led me to this article about one of the favorite characters of the Abrahamic religions - Satan.

Below is the article taken right from Godchecker, and if anyone knows anything about mythology, it's quite baffling how grown-up human beings can believe that these gods, satan, demons and all these figments of human imagination can be believed to be literally real.


SATAN: The Devil — Mr All-round Evil Genius and the Adversary of GOD — particularly the Christian variety JEHOVAH.

A rebel angel, he was originally the team leader of the spiritual world, possessing great power and responsibility. But he turned nasty and tried to set himself up as a rival to GOD. As a punishment for his rebellious pride, he was cast out of Heaven, along with a rabble of other rebels.

Now SATAN rules the infernal regions of Hell, with an army of demons to do his bidding. Out of pure malice and vengeance, he aims to overthrow the established order by turning humans against GOD. Using every trick in the book, he spreads evil whispers, plants the seeds of doubt, and tempts the unwary to fall from grace.

SATAN relishes his role of troublemaker and tempter. And let's face it, he's pretty good at his job. No wonder JESUS called him the Prince of this World.

What does SATAN look like? Answer: anything he likes. According to legend, his appearance ranges from the demonic to the smart. He can have the traditional horns, scales, a forked tail, the head of a goat, cloven feet — or turn up as a smooth dude in the latest Italian suit. But there's always more to him than meets the eye; his own eyes can glow like red-hot coals.

As with most things in Christianity, older legends and rival religions had a strong influence on the concept of SATAN. The Persian baddie AHRIMAN was sucked in — and popular Gods such as BAAL were twisted into evil versions such as BEELZEBUB.

This also happened with PAN, a very popular God whose sexual antics horrified the Church so much that they labelled him the Devil. That is why SATAN has goat's legs and horns. If PAN could sue for libel the Church wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

Because the Old Testament has little to say on the subject of SATAN, the early Christians were free to speculate as they formulated their new theology. What wasn't already present in Jewish tradition they could plunder from elsewhere or downright invent. This was especially popular in medieval times, when cataloging the attributes of demons and angels was virtually a career. You could almost get a government research grant for it.

Case in point: SATAN is also known as LUCIFER. Why? Lucifer is a Latin word meaning Light-Bearer. St JEROME (4th Century) used it to denote the Greek word Heosphoros when he was translating the Bible into Latin. But Heosphoros means 'morning star', and the Biblical passage in question (Isaiah 14) is really just taunting the King of Babylon. ("You think you're as bright as Venus, but God's gonna get ya!")

Still, the name stuck and legends of Lucifer sprang up all over. From Light-Bearer to Prince of Darkness. Poor old VENUS should sue for libel too.

SATAN seems to inspire an eerie fascination and turns up in the most unlikely places. In his devilish guise he leaves bits of himself all over the landscape. Devil's Elbow, Devil's Footprints, Devil's Hollow, Devil's Chimney, Devil's Dyke... We think he just likes to be noticed.

The X-Rated Bible - Updated "Born Again" Edition

From Evolvefish.com

"Incest, rape, adultery, exhibitionism, prostitution, homosexuality, abortion, mate swapping, bestiality -- it's all there in the book held sacred by three of the world's major religions. Originally published to reveal the hypocrisy of fundamentalists' attempts to censor and suppress the kind of material found throughout their own scriptures, The X-Rated Bible quickly became the American Atheist Press's most notorious and best-selling book. It garnered media attention due to its title, subject matter (with chapters like "Lot Knocks Up Both His Daughters," and "Noah Gets Drunk and Exposes Himself"), and association with publisher Madalyn Murray O'Hair, famous atheist and publicity hound."
Paperback, 245 pages.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This is indeed a very brave woman

Thanks to Alan at Meet an Atheist for posting this one. Alan states, "Here is another very brave woman living in a suppressive Arab country." This is very encouraging to see women speaking out against oppression despite the great dangers they put themselves in.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Five Things About Me meme

I've been tagged by Krystalline Apostate at biblioblography for the Five Things About Me meme. I have five blogs and by looking at those one can tell quite a bit about me. I am a wife, mother, writer, graphic artist, photographer, painter and amateur astronomer and am interested in world religions and mythology. Let me see if I can think of some things that I haven't mentioned yet:

* I was lighting/sound director/stage manager for a nearby university theater company 2000 - 2001 during the time I was finishing my Masters at that same institution. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life.

* I played the part of an attendant in a stage production of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."

* I have more than 40 penfriends in 25 countries. England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Uganda, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, and the U.S. of A. I have met one from Sweden in person. She and her husband came to stay with us for a few days last year and now it's my turn to go there. I have spoken with several on the telephone and email many of them often (in addition to snail-mail letters). Having these international friends has enriched my life tremendously.

*I have an exotic pet -- a 6-year-old Bearded Dragon named Miller who is a female lizard with a guy's name because when we got her and named her, we didn't know he was a she. She's a sweetie. I never thought I could love a lizard, but I do. My son gave her to me four years ago, which I write about HERE.

*I have traveled with my husband and kids to 42 states, many more than once and camped when we visited. Also, Canada and Mexico. (And with three kids in tow.) I have many stories to tell about those experiences!

As for tagging people to do this, I think I will just tag whoever happens to read this. :-) So, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thomas Paine - excerpt from the 'Age of Reason', 1794

It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new thing, at that time, to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with hundreds: the story, therefore, had nothing in it either new, wonderful, or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among the people called Gentiles, or Mythologists, and it was those people only that believed it. The Jews who had kept strictly to the belief of one God, and no more, and who had always rejected the heathen mythology, never credited the story.

It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian church sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand: the statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus; the deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints; the Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian Mythologists had saints for everything; the church became as crowded with one, as the Pantheon had been with the other, and Rome was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient Mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.

Every sperm is sacred!

We are always focusing on evangelical protestants and forget that many in the Catholic church are just about as goofy. They don’t always love their situations that their religion forces them to “accept”. The neighbors who live behind us are Catholic and they have lived here as long as we have, nearly 20 years and since they are “devout” and don’t believe in birth control they have had a baby every two years and had two to start out with. THEN their oldest daughter got pregnant and isn’t married and has two kids of her own in that house with all of them. It’s a zoo over there. I don’t know how they can possibly pay for all of them and all of the utilities it must cost to maintain the household needs. The drunken father is wandering around the backyard all the time yelling and swearing and doesn’t seem to be happy with his bundles from heaven.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Something different

Now this has got to be one of the weirdest insects I have ever come across. I have heard of walking sticks before, but had not heard of insects that look like leaves! In the photo above, a leaf insect sits on a clipboard during the annual stock take at London Zoo, London. All the zoo's keepers take part in the annual task which includes a head count of more than 600 different species living at the zoo. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

From Sam Harris's "Letter to a Christian Nation"

In response to those who have made comments about atheists causing as much harm to humankind as religious folks:

" . . . Do members of the atheist organizations in the United States commit more than their fair share of violent crimes? Do members of the National Academy of Sciences, 93 percent of whom do not accept the idea of God, lie and cheat and steal with abandon? We can be reasonably confident that these groups are at least as well-behaved as the general population. And yet, atheists are the most reviled minority in the United States. Polls indicate that being an atheist is a perfect impediment to running for high office in our country (while being black, Muslim, or homosexual is not). Recently crowds of thousands gathered throughout the Muslim world -- burning European embassies, issuing threats, taking hostages, even killing people -- in protest over twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper. When was the last atheist riot? Is there a newspaper anywhere on this earth that would hesitate to print cartoons about atheism for fear that its editors would be kidnapped or killed in reprisal?

Christians like yourself invariably declare that monsters like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Kim Li Sung spring from the womb of atheism. While it is true that such men are sometimes enemies of organized religion, they are never especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements are often delusional: on subjects such as diverse as race, economics, national identity, the march of history, and the moral dangers of intellectualism. The problem with such tyrants is not that they reject the dogma of religion, but that they embrace other life-destroying myths. Most become the center of a quasi-religious personality cult, requiring the continual use of propaganda for its maintenance. There is a difference between propaganda and the honest dissemination of information that we (generally) expect from a liberal democracy. Tyrants who orchestrate genocides, or who happily preside over the starvation of their own people, also tend to be profoundly idiosyncratic men, not champions of reason. Kim Il Sung, for instance, demanded that his beds at his various dwellings be situated precisely five hundred meters above sea level. His duvets had to be filled with the softest down imaginable. What is the softest down imaginable? It apparently comes from the chin of a sparrow. Seven hundred thousand sparrows were required to fill a single duvet. Given the profundity of his esoteric concerns, we might wonder how reasonable a man Kim Il actually was.

Consider the Holocaust: the anti-Semitism that built the Nazi death camps was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continuted presence among the faithful. While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, its roots were religious, and the explicitly religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued throughout the period. The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914. And both Catholic and Protestant churches have a shameful record of complicity with the Nazi genocide.

Auschwitz, the Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia are not examples of what happens to people when they become too reasonable. To the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of political and racial dogmatism. It is time that the Christians like yourself stop pretending that a rational rejection of your faith entails the blind embraceof atheism as a dogma. One need not accept anything on insufficient evidence to find the virgin birth of Jesus to be a preposterous idea.

The problem with religion -- as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology -- is the problem of dogma itself. I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became to desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cell phone addiction

Let's send him all of our bills and junk mail . . .

The way my snail mail is handled, one would indeed have to be a complete moron to send terrorist plans via the postal service. I have gotten to know my neighbors mostly by receiving their mail by mistake and having to take it to their door, and vice versa. It gets worse every year. The mailman just yesterday put a box of books I ordered from Amazon on top of the mailbox at the curb instead of bringing it to the door! Someone could just come along and snatch it.

If Bush and his administration are so concerned about mail, why don’t they find out why their postal delivery system is so screwed up. I sent a package out two weeks before xmas and the person still has not received it yet. This is not the first time something has gone missing. I sent my daughter a parcel for her birthday last year and instead of leaving a note for her to pick it up, they left it in the hallway of her building and someone stole it. She was so sad, and so was I. I now have to send everything return receipt and pay more.

I am trying not to be paranoid but this feels like just a way to be able to see what anyone is saying via phone or now mail at any given time and for whatever “secret” reason they choose to make up. I would not be surprised if we atheists are on some list somewhere already.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Stephen Hawking hopes to go into space

I hope he can do this, too. This man is an extraordinary human being and deserves to see his dream of going into space become a reality. A victim of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), Hawking was diagnosed when he was only 21, shortly before his first marriage, and doctors said he would not survive more than two or three years. Despite being totally paralyzed for many years now, and unable to breath without a machine, he carries out the long and complex calculations that his work requires in his head. He is like the the energizer bunny. . . keeps going, and going, and going.

LONDON - Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking says he wants to undertake a zero-gravity flight aboard an airplane this year as a precursor to a journey into space, a newspaper reported Monday.

"This year I'm planning a zero-gravity flight and to go into space in 2009," he was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Hawking, 65, has said he hopes to travel on British businessman Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic service, which is scheduled to launch in 2009. The service will charge space tourists about US$200,000 (about 100,000 pounds; euro155,000) for a two-hour suborbital trip some 87 miles (140 kilometers) above the Earth.

Branson was keen to help the scientist realize his dream of space flight, Virgin Galactic spokesman Stephen Attenborough said Monday.

"Richard is very determined that if we can possibly make this happen, then it should," Attenborough said.

He said the company had not discussed the issue of payment with Hawking.

One of the best-known theoretical physicists of his generation, Hawking gained fame with the best-selling book "A Brief History of Time."

The scientist, who uses a wheelchair and communicates with the help of a computer because he suffers from a neurological disorder called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, has done groundbreaking research on black holes and the origins of the universe, proposing that space and time have no beginning and no end.

Hawking has warned that the survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy Earth.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Zora Neale Hurston

On this date in 1891, novelist, folklorist and short story writer Zora Neale Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black community to be incorporated in the United States. Her mother was a country schoolteacher and her father a Baptist preacher, who became 3-term mayor of Eatonville.

"My head was full of misty fumes of doubt," she would later write. "Neither could I understand the passionate declarations of love for a being that nobody could see. Your family, your puppy and the new bull-calf, yes. But a spirit away off who found fault with everybody all the time, that was more than I could fathom."

Full article at FFRF

Here is a beautiful excerpt from Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), anthologized in African-American Humanism: An Anthology edited by Norm R. Allen Jr. (1991)

. . . Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws. The ever-sleepless sea in its bed, crying out 'How long?' to Time; million-formed and never motionless flame; the contemplation of these two aspects alone, affords me sufficient food for ten spans of my expected lifetime. It seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish. I feel no need for such. However, I would not, by word or deed, attempt to deprive another of the consolation it affords. It is simply not for me. Somebody else may have my rapturous glance at the archangels. The springing of the yellow line of morning out of the misty deep of dawn, is glory enough for me. I know that nothing is destructible; things merely change forms. When the consciousness we know as life ceases, I know that I shall still be part and parcel of the world. I was a part before the sun rolled into shape and burst forth in the glory of change. I was, when the earth was hurled out from its fiery rim. I shall return with the earth to Father Sun, and still exist in substance when the sun has lost its fire, and disintegrated into infinity to perhaps become a part of the whirling rubble of space. Why fear? The stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving, but never lost; so what need of denominations and creeds to deny myself the comfort of all my fellow men? The wide belt of the universe has no need for finger-rings. I am one with the infinite and need no other assurance.”

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The world through the eyes of an atheist

A Christian commenter wrote this on a blog I was visiting:

I don’t see much beauty in humanity and have a hard time believing that this was all by chance. I couldn’t live in a world where there is no hope….and a world without God is hopeless. Where in everyone’s 80-100yrs of life their body will eventually turn into fertilizer. How pointless is that. Try to picture the world solely of Atheist’s.

My response:
This is very sad if the only value you can see for life is in the finality of it. It is also very sad that you see no beauty in humanity, and this is the problem I have with religious folks. They are blinded by negativity, and brainwashed into believing that humans are bad. You are pretty much saying that your god's creations are a crappy mistake and can only be redeemed after they are dead and fly up into some never-never land wherever that is or go to some burning lake of fire. That is extremely morbid thinking to me, either way.

This heaven to me sounds no better than the hell you threaten people with. Being a god's little pet 24-7 for all eternity with the likes of all the self-righteous xians who claim they will be there sounds more like hell than a firey lake! Study World Mythologies of other cultures throughout the ages and you will see that the xian mythology is as absurd as any of the mythologies ever invented by human imagination.

Humanity is beautiful! People are wonderful and there are far, far more good people in the world than bad. People who can do wonderful things, who are helpful, kind, loving, talented. Look at inventions humans have come up with...amazing that we can go to the moon and back and to send probes to other planets to give us an upclose view.

Human beings are creative...creative enough to create belief systems for conveying morals, and for coping with difficulties in life...and mostly to cope with the fact that we are not immortal. If some people need this to get through life,so be it, but some of us do not need it.

Living a pointless life to me is spending all this energy on negative thoughts and looking for the bad in the world and humanity. Try to look at the world through the eyes of an Atheist? Life through the eyes of an atheist seems far more positive to me than gloom and doom, death obsessed religious folks.

Life is a continual cycle. We live, we die...nothing in the universe lasts forever. It is how we live, and love and what we leave for future generations that matters. We can be productive and live for each moment, making each day count. Write a book, do artwork, volunteer and help those in need....there is so much one can do to make your life worthwhile.

Look at Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking...they looked beyond the stars and contributed much to the field of astronomy, and Hawking has done all of his research and book-writing from a wheelchair with a voice-controlled computer because he is totally paralyzed. He isn't gloom and doom...he is living life more fully than most people who have the function of all of their extremities.

Life is what you choose to make it. Sit around and watch Jerry Springer and cry that life is meaningless and it will be. Or get up and go out there and actually live and you will find joy...and won't need to look for hope because you will be making things happen for yourself.

Joseph Campbell said "“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is Whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”

Also, just because you don't understand how everything came to be doesn't mean that a god did it. And one more thing...we are so "out there" because religion is in our face all the time...and if xian folks would just keep their religion to themselves instead of trying to force it on other people, and try to force it into our secular government we would have no need to be so vocal...and we would actually prefer not to talk about it at all as we have better things to do with whatever time we have in this life.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Thor Watch

Comet McNaught Heads for the Sun

Credit & Copyright: Michael Jager and Gerald Rhemann

Explanation: Early morning risers with a clear and unobstructed eastern horizon can enjoy the sight of Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) in dawn skies over the next few days. Discovered in August by R. H. McNaught (Siding Spring Survey) the comet has grown bright enough to see with the unaided eye but will soon be lost in the glare of the Sun. Still, by January 11 sun-staring spacecraft SOHO should be able to offer web-based views as the comet heads toward a perihelion passage inside the orbit of Mercury. This image captures the new naked-eye comet at about 2nd magnitude in twilight skies near sunset on January 3rd. After rounding the Sun and emerging from the solar glare later this month, Comet McNaught could be even brighter.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Belief in witchcraft remains widespread in Africa

There is still so much work to do to rid the world of dangerous superstitious paranoia.

Alleged African witches still outcast to camps

By Orla Ryan Tue Jan 2, 10:41 AM ET

GAMBAGA, Ghana, Jan 1 (Reuters Life!) - Mariama Alidu was cast out as a witch from her village by her own family, yet she swears she has never cast a spell.

The mere suspicion of witchcraft was enough to see her and 80 other suspected witches expelled to a scruffy camp of mud huts on the fringes of the town of Gambaga in northern Ghana.

"It is the work of the devil. I can't say I have ever practiced it myself," says Mariama, who has lived in the camp for about 10 years.

Hundreds more women accused of witchcraft live in similar camps in the cocoa- and gold-producing West African country.

Belief in witchcraft remains widespread in Africa, the world's poorest continent, where Christianity and Islam rub shoulders with animist religions, and where witch doctors wield great power in tribal societies.

In the poor, dry savannah of northern Ghana, the heat shimmers under a pale blue sky and allegations of witchcraft bubble up as readily as tar in the tropical heat.

Like the witches' trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 or the Cold War persecution of alleged communists in 1950s America, the fate of a suspect often hangs on the word of another.

Death, illness, dreams, superstition or even visible signs of success may be enough to provoke accusations of sorcery.

No matter how hard the allegation is to prove -- or how hysterical the accuser -- the fact that witchcraft is virtually impossible to disprove means many women are forced to live outside their communities, some for as long as 30 years.

Some are brought to the witch camps by their families. Others flee there from their homes and villages, fearing a beating or worse. Most of the occupants of the camps are women, although there are some men.

Human rights campaigners say camp populations are declining, thanks to efforts by concerned agencies to reintegrate the women into society and fight the influence of witchcraft.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Richard Dawkins at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg

My husband and I rang in the New Year watching Richard Dawkins on CSPAN-2 (Book TV).

PART 1: Richard Dawkins reads excerpts from The God Delusion and answers questions at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia on October 23, 2006. This Q&A features many questions from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty “University” students.

Part 2 Q & As:

Isaac Asimov : January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992

From the Freedom From Religion Foundation

Asimov was an atheist: "I am Jewish in the sense that if an Arab wanted to throw a rock at a Jew, I would qualify as a target as far as he was concerned. However, I do not practice Judaism or any other religion." (March 17, 1969 letter). Asimov called himself "an orthodox, practicing atheist" (April 29, 1988 letter). Asimov wrote: "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived" (Feb. 22, 1966 letter). He also observed, "I must say that I stand amazed at the highly intelligent people who have taken so much of the Bible so seriously" (Oct. 28, 1966 letter). "Nobody but a dedicated Christian could possibly read the gospels and not see them as a tissue of nonsense" (Nov. 1, 1966 letter). "I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it, just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I considered detrimental to mind or body" (Aug. 22, 1963 letter). "I am prejudiced against religion because I know the history of religion, and it is the history of human misery and of black crimes" (March 27, 1976 letter). Elected in 1985 as president of the American Humanist Association, Asimov rejected an offer to support "Jewish" humanism: "I want to be a human being, nothing more and nothing less" (June 21, 1985). (All letters cited from Yours, Isaac Asimov, a Lifetime of Letters, edited by Stanley Asimov, 1995). Asimov noted that "it is an excellent sign that the right wing is trembling before a few thousand Humanists. We are weak and yet feared. Let's give them more cause to fear!" Upon his death at age 72, he had written more than 470 published books, covering every category in the Dewey Decimal System, fiction and nonfiction. Asimov was married twice, and had a son and daughter. Isaac's death from heart and kidney failure was a consequence of AIDS contracted from a transfusion of tainted blood during his December 1983 triple-bypass operation. D. 1992.