Simply said, we have reached a moment in Western history when, despite all appearances, no meaningful public debate over belief and unbelief is possible. Not only do convinced secularists no longer understand what the issue is; they are incapable of even suspecting that they do not understand, or of caring whether they do. David Bentley Hart on Adam Gopnik's review of the state of theism and atheism.
God, you sent gluten into this world as you sent your own Son, to save us, not to torment us with vague and possibly imaginary physical symptoms. So please help certain people to remember, gracious Lord, even as they shun and revile gluten, that it is still a creation of your own Almighty hand, and that, being God, you probably knew what you were doing when you created it. Enlighten those of us in your flock, O Lord, who go about slandering gluten with great authority and volume, even though they never heard of gluten until last year. [more inside]
A gigabyte and a half was a lot of data, once. It’s thought that the last person to have read every available published text was the fifteenth-century Italian philosopher and original Renaissance man, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. To do the same thing today would be impossible. And as it turns out, the greatest collaborative literary project in human history isn’t really human at all.
Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. [more inside]
The Norden is a Finnish TV series, taking Americans and introducing them to their profession within the Nordic countries. First, James Conway, retired Superintendent of Attica Correctional Facility in New York, visits four Nordic prisons and facilities. An excerpt, and the full episode with English subtitles. [more inside]
Politico: "Young called his creed 'the religion of nature' and 'the religion of nature’s God.' And he made abundantly clear that, in his own mind, this radical philosophical religion was the axis on which the Revolution turned. For him, the project to free the American people from the yoke of King George III was part of a grander project to liberate the world from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion." [more inside]
How New World Wine Resurrects Old Religion
I used to be a regular at a wine bar in San Clemente, a beach town in California where my wife and I lived when we were first married. The ‘Tuscan’ decor of the place was a little too vivid for my taste, but the wine was priced right and the owner was a great conversationalist. He would tell us stories from behind the bar about his travels to vineyards in Chile and New Zealand, and he had a charming populist streak. When people got too pretentious about the wine, he would roll his eyes and say: ‘Relax, it’s just a beverage.’ He was wrong about that, of course. Since its invention more than 8,000 years ago, wine has always been more than just a beverage.
In this short documentary, filmmaker Darrin Johnson explores the status of atheism within African-American families and communities, and meets some non-believers from California about their experiences with breaking from religion.
Do we have good reason to think God exists? We do, says William Lane Craig. Craig has debated several high profile atheists, including Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
David Chalmers and Alan Hájek give a one-page argument that the Ramsey test and Moorean reasoning entail that rational subjects should accept that they have the epistemic powers of a god [pdf]. [more inside]
The waning influence of evangelical Christianity can be seen through the story of Orange County's Crystal Cathedral.
The first trailer for Noah, the forthcoming Paramount Picture biblical epic, is online. With a budget of $130 million, and slated for release in March/April 2014, and with a cast of stars, this covers Chapter 6-9 of the Book of Genesis. Filming took place mostly in Iceland, with some scenes in New York State. [more inside]
Evangelical churches across the country run "hell houses" on Halloween. These attractions show how "sinful" activities can ruin young lives. Some churches are trying to be more positive in their messaging. For those who are interested, you can now buy your own "hell house" outreach kit. [more inside]
Dhikr (or Zihr) is a islamic devotional act involving the remembrance, the chanting, and repeating of the names of God. Though this often happens in silence, the Sufi tend to have ritualized group ceremonies ranging in style from the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlevi to the fervid dancing of the Chechen.
"Most of us are introduced to God at about the same time as we hear about Santa Claus, but over the years our views of Santa mature and change, while our notion of God often gets stuck at an infantile level."
The NewStatesman asks "After God: What can atheists learn from believers?"
The NewStatesman asks "After God: What can atheists learn from believers?"
How Humankind's Theory of Mind Could Have Produced God "As a direct consequence of the evolution of the human social brain, and owing to the importance of our theory-of-mind skills in that process, we sometimes can't help but see intentions, desires, and beliefs in things that haven't even a smidgeon of a neural system... More than a few of us have kicked our broken-down vehicles in the sides and verbally abused our incompetent computers.... So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people's behaviors that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains. As a result, today we overshoot our mental-state attributions to things that are, in reality, completely mindless. And all of this leads us, rather inevitably, to a very important question: What if I were to tell you that God's mental states, too, were all in your mind?" [more inside]
The Bible & Terminator 2: Heteroglossic discourse and poetic authority.
Scotch and Wry, Scotland's greatest comedy. As the rest of the world celebrates New year's Eve and bringing in 2012, there's the little matter of Hogmanay. You might think it's just a fancy scottish word for the start of a three day party (which it is), but it's a special time of year. And for those of us who watched the new year come in on TV, it's the point of year where we all miss Rikki Fulton's Scotch and Wry - a TV ritual for over twenty years that has never been equalled. [more inside]
"Here, in my final post on the ending, I present the case that its final hour was the worst ending in the history of science fiction on the screen. This is a condemnation of course, but also praise, because my message is not simply that the ending was poor, but that the show rose so high that it was able to fall so very far." -Brad Templeton's dissection of the modern version of Battlestar Galatica and where it went wrong
My assumption has always been: If something like a soul exists, and it affects our consciousness in any manner, then it must be detectable by some scientific device. I find it difficult to imagine that something can interact with my physical body without leaving any physical trace. But though I find it hard to imagine, is it possible for something like a soul to interact with me without leaving any physical trace?
This weekend marks the time of the Hajj, a core pillar of Islam in which great tides of humanity venture to the ancient city of Mecca to honor God. Predating Mohammed's birth by centuries, the pilgrimage comprises several days of rites, from congregation like snow on Mount Arafat and the ritual stoning of Shaitan to the circling of the sacred Kaaba (the shrouded cubical monolith Muslims pray toward daily) and kissing the Black Stone (colored by the absorption of myriad sins, and believed by some to be a fallen meteorite). While the city has modernized to handle this largest of annual gatherings -- building highway-scale ramps, gaudy skyscrapers for the ultra-rich, and tent cities the size of Seattle -- it remains mysterious, as unbelievers are forbidden from entering its borders. Richard Francis Burton became famous for touring the city in disguise to write a rare travelogue, but contemporary viewers have a more immediate guide: Vice Magazine journalist Suroosh Alvi, who smuggled a minicam into the city to record The Mecca Diaries [alt], a 14-minute documentary of his own Hajj journey. Browse the manual to see what goes into a Hajj trip, or watch the YouTube livestream to see the Grand Mosque crowds in real time.
In a regular spot on the show called The Pitch, ABC Television’s The Gruen Transfer (previously) this week asked two ad agencies to come up with a pitch for why religion should be banned. Here are the pitches in SYTL format.
Meet Bebe Gloton, the Breastfeeding Doll who's coming to America. The NY Times opines, Facebook users can't agree on whether it's good or bad, but what does God think?
We've met Ween before, so I don't need to provide further introduction to this 25 minute long sampling of a 3 hour concert in Australia. It's from 2008, but recently put online courtesy of BTFishing. Wait, who? Yes, it's Dean Ween gone fishing. Mickey Melchiondo Jr. (aka Dean Ween) previously shared his love of fishing in the Brownie Troop Fishing Show. He now runs Mike's Guide service, sometimes going directly from shows to go fishing. See also: Dean Wean's Tips For Amateur Anglers, and an article on the Brownie Troop Fishing Show.
Rap disaster! Earnest boy attempts dc Talk's "Nu Thang." The band Capital Cities offers a redemptive remix. (Download.)
Rumor Sweeping World's Science Community that CERN's LHC has Detected the Higgs Boson -The "God Particle"
Rumor Sweeping World's Science Community that CERN's LHC has Detected the Higgs Boson -The "God Particle" The controversial rumor is based on what appears to be a leaked internal note from physicists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 17-mile-long particle accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland. It's not certain at this point if the memo is authentic, or what the data it refers to might mean — but the note has sent the physics community into full buzz mode.
Full-on metaphysics. In meme form I know I probably shouldn't. It's too trite. Memes. Just shoot me now. One of probably many previouslies
Lack of Belief in gods by Qualiasoup. SLYT; 10.00; "Explaining the concept, refuting common objections and giving a number of reasons that atheists are sometimes 'fervent'."
On January 5th, 2011 largely unknown modern composer, and pioneer of long format compositions on early computer systems Roland Kayn "... left this world today from his home". [more inside]
Did the ancient Israelites drink beer? Although at the time beer was consumed by “men, women and even children of all social classes,” references to it in the Bible are scant. Beer production at the time was similar to bread, where wheat and barley cakes were baked then rehydrated to ferment -- a process much like the ancient Egyptian method of fermentation, as found in the Hymn of Ninkasi, which was recreated by Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing. You too can be a part of beer history by brewing your own Archeobeer.
Ask the atheist "Have a question for an atheist? Ever wonder what atheists think about morality, faith, science, etc.? How do atheists live their lives without a god? How do they know right from wrong? Are they just angry at god? Do they really NOT believe?" [more inside]
David Bazan was the lead singer for a band called Pedro the Lion, who were big on the Christian rock circuit. A few years ago, Bazan began questioning his faith, and ultimately left Christianity. He has found understanding from his fans.
GodBlock is a web filter that blocks religious content. It is targeted at parents and schools who wish to protect their kids from the often violent, sexual, and psychologically harmful material in many holy texts, and from being indoctrinated into any religion before they are of the age to make such decisions. When installed properly, GodBlock will test each page that your child visits before it is loaded, looking for passages from holy texts, names of religious figures, and other signs of religious propaganda. If none are found, then your child is allowed to browse freely.
Doodle God is a unique Flash game. Start with just earth, air, fire, and water. Combine them to create the universe.
Science vs. Religion: a new book, Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, discusses the results of her detailed study of 1,646 scientists at top American research universities. Among her findings: ~36% of those surveyed not only believe in God but also practice a form of closeted, often non-traditional faith. They worry about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. Interview with the author from the Center for Inquiry's Point of Inquiry podcast. Also, here's a webcast from an author discussion forum held at Rice University on April 7th. [more inside]
What I find chiefly offensive about them is not that they are skeptics or atheists; rather, it is that they are not skeptics at all and have purchased their atheism cheaply, with the sort of boorish arrogance that might make a man believe himself a great strategist because his tanks overwhelmed a town of unarmed peasants, or a great lover because he can afford the price of admission to a brothel.Christian writer Dan Hart wonders if New Atheism might just be a passing fad. [more inside]
[pdf] Clergymen in the closet -- not because they are gay; because they don't believe in God. Here's a followup.
Asheville, NC City Councilman-elect Cecil Bothwell is scheduled to be sworn in today. But critics of Bothwell say he cannot hold office citing NC's constitution which states: "The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” [more inside]
Deconversion 2.0. A series of Youtube videos detailing the author's separation from his faith. His diction, with...pauses, is a little odd to get used to but worth getting around.
Harvey Cox, one of the foremost American theologians of the twentieth century, recently retired from Harvard, where he held the oldest tenured professorship in the nation. You've seen him discussed here before for more bovine pursuits. But more importantly, he has argued that atheism is a passing fad; his new book contends it emerges in response to factors that will change the face of faith in the coming generation. Why should you care about an old theologian's last hurrah? His prior predictions have been right.
Noted religious thinker Karen Armstrong and noted atheist thinker Richard Dawkins face off - sorta kinda - in the WSJ: We commissioned Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to respond independently to the question "Where does evolution leave God?" Neither knew what the other would say. Here are the results. Previously.
Some late night fun with Mr. Deity- Mr. Deity Episode 1: Mr. Deity and the Evil Mr. Deity Episode 2: Mr. Deity and the Really Big Favor Mr. Deity Episode 3: Mr. Deity and The Light Mr. Deity Episode 4: Mr. Deity and the Messages
The Book of Genesis illustrated by Robert Crumb. Extracts of Crumb's latest work, years in the making and to be published in October, are serialized in the French cultural weekly Telerama during this summer (warning: bad interface, text in French). Short interview with the author here. [more inside]