Written for the dedication of The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in 1971, Leonard Bernstein created MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers as a memoriam for John F Kennedy and as a thoroughly modern theater musical piece to reflect both its current times and universal questions of faith and existence. A recasting of the Tridentine Mass (in Latin), featuring additional lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a brilliant lyric quatrain from Paul Simon, the full staging requires multiple choruses, a full stage performance company (including ballet cast), a marching band, a rock band, and many others. The 2012 BBC Proms featured a concert performance [1h56m, including introduction sequences]. MASS has had very few full theatrical stagings since its premiere, although now, over 50 years after its creation, it is beginning to find new acclaim and appreciation. [more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
Varieties of irreligious experience - modern believers "may not accept the idea of God as an actually existing entity, so arguments for atheism will not disturb them"
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.
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]
"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion." ~ George Washington / "I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature." ~ Thomas Jefferson / "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion." ~ Abraham Lincoln / "A just government has no need for the clergy or the church." ~ James Madison / "I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end... where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice." ~ John F. Kennedy / "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers." ~ Barack Obama
July 17th - The Day That Counts. These people have a plan to make their feelings known on the issue of public money being diverted to religious organizations. I had no idea that the atheists were so organized! Is this sort of thing a tremendous waste of time, or do you think it can, or will affect policy discussions?