Gary Wills has written a book questioning the legitimacy of priests in Catholic heirarchy. In light of their recent pedophilic history this question takes on greater relevance. This book joins a long list of others, including the works of Galileo and Luther, which raised uncomfortable questions about Catholic belief and its more extreme expressions. Like them, it will be condemned or ignored. Let one brick fall and the whole Gothic edifice may crumble…
Randall Balmer | NYTimes Book Review | 15 Feb 13
Garry Wills wants us to know that he really bears no animus toward priests. Truly. Some of his best friends, not to mention his mentors, are priests. His quarrel is not with priests but with the specious notion of the priesthood, which, he argues, finds no precedent in the early church and precious little warrant in the New Testament.
Jesus never claimed for himself the mantle of priesthood, nor did he, a Jew, hail from the priestly tribe of Levi. The sole reference to Jesus as priest in the New Testament, Wills says, occurs in the Epistle to the Hebrews, an enigmatic letter of unknown provenance. The writer of the letter introduces the notion of Jesus as priest not in the line of Aaron (Levite) but in the tradition of Melchizedek, the obscure Canaanite king of Salem who makes a cameo appearance in Genesis and is mentioned again briefly in Psalm 110.
10th-century Bible at St. Mary of Zion, Aksum, Ethiopia.
In God We Trust. It’s printed on the dollar bill. Etched into stone on court houses and monuments all over the country. What happens when trusting in God leads a President to start a war? Can you imagine Barack Obama making a speech and saying God instructed him to bomb Bombay or nuke Beijing? If you think that sounds preposterous you should read Kurt Eichenwald’s ’500 Days’, the account of the period following 9/11 when George Bush launched a war on the world in the name of ‘terrorism’. The author of that horrible day sat in a hideout in Afghanistan but Bush decided to bomb Baghdad instead because the Bible told him so. If you think I’m crazy, read this…
Gog and Magog
Kurt Eichenwald | Vanity Fair | Oct 12
Light from a chandelier of gilt bronze and crystal spilled across the hand-carved Louis XV desk where Jacques Chirac was working. His office, the Salon Doré, was an opulent holdover from 18th Century France, its golden walls adorned with Gobelins tapestries that surrounded the most valuable antiques in all of Élysée Palace. But on this day, the familiar grandeur barely registered with the French president as he waited for a phone call from Bush.
The topic, again, would be Iraq. Just weeks after the first U.N. resolution demanding that Saddam comply with his disarmament obligations, the Bush Administration was pushing the Security Council to take the next step, authorizing a U.N.-backed invasion. Chirac remained unconvinced that military action was necessary. He still considered the evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction to be flimsy at best. Rushing into battle based on hunches and theories struck him as the height of folly.
A poignant commentary on life and belief from Maurice Sendak and Terry Gross…
An Illustrated Talk With Maurice Sendak
Terry Gross (with drawings by Christoph Niemann) | NYTimes and NPR | 31 Dec 12
________________________________________________________________________________ Maurice Sendak was an American writer and illustrator of children’s literature. He was best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, first published in 1963. He died in May 1012 at his home in Danbury CT. Terry Gross is the host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air, an interview format radio show produced by WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and distributed throughout the United States by National Public Radio.
________________________________________________________________________________ Neal deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist and science communicator. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. From 2006 to 2011 he hosted the educational science television show NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS and has been a frequent guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Jeopardy!. It was announced on August 5, 2011, that Tyson will be hosting a new sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series.
The question is, if a politician running for President says he will or will not do something, should we believe him? Now say that politician’s name is Mitt Romney, who has a long record of changing his views on policy issues depending on the latest polls and the makeup of his audience? Should we believe him when he says being a Mormon will never influence his decisions as President? Do you?
The Mormon Constitution
Gary Wills | New York Review of Books | 24 May 12
Some years ago I had a brilliant student in several of my classes—the only student, in fact, I ever recommended for a Rhodes Scholarship. In the first class he took, we were discussing the Declaration of Independence, and I argued that the Continental Congress was wise in deleting Jefferson’s attack on the King of England for keeping open the slave trade. Jefferson’s original draft claimed that the King did this against colonial efforts to restrain the trade. I pointed out that some colonies (South Carolina and Georgia, for instance) were for keeping that traffic open. Virginia, it is true, had tried to put limits on the importation of slaves—but mainly because the state was suffering a surplus of them, with consequent reduction in their value. Congress was therefore eliminating an inconsistent and hypocritical attack on the King, one that falsely suggested he was foisting slavery on a people opposed to it.
Howard Chandler Christy: Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, 1940
In one of the clearest discussions of the history of science and religion I have ever heard, Cal Tech Physicist Sean Carroll explains in 10 minutes how the progress of science has led to the view that nothing exists beyond the natural universe…
The Case For Naturalism
Sean Carroll | YouTube | March 12
Opening statement by Sean Carroll at “The Great Debate: Has Science Refuted Religion?”, sponsored by the Skeptic Society on 25 March 2012. Other participants in the debate were Michael Shermer, Dinesh D’Souza, and Ian Hutchinson. The entire debate can be seen at this YouTube address.
________________________________________________________________________________ Sean Michael Carroll, PhD is a senior research associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He is a theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity. He is also a contributor to the physics blog Cosmic Variance, and has published in scientific journals and magazines such as Nature, Seed, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist.
Many people don’t like Bill Maher. They find him a bit too ‘snarky’ for their taste. Some don’t like him because he’s down on religion and way too leftist. That’s OK. You don’t have to like him. Just listen to what he says…
I’m a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson. In addition to being a brilliant presenter he also has some keen insights into about how we live and operate. This video, taken at a remarkable place in London called The School of Life, is not exactly a sermon though it has the trappings of one. In his talk, Robinson discusses what it is that makes certain people thrive while others simply plod along in life. Toward the end of this one-hour “chat” he also talks about the implications of raising kids in rigid educational molds versus allowing them the freedom to discover and exploit their own innate qualities. Like all of Robinson’s presentations this session leaves you chuckling and resolved to see things a bit differently…
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Sir Ken Robinson | The School of Life | Apr 12
________________________________________________________________________________ Founded in September 2008 by an eclectic group of London writers, artists and friends, amongst whom the philosopher Alain de Botton, The School of Life offers night classes on a variety of topics with the unifying goal to satisfy its students’ hunger for a more meaningful life.
I don’t like the mood in this country. We have spent the last few months listening to lots of politicians telling us how we should act in our bedrooms, what sort of medical procedures are acceptable and what GOD thinks of our behavior. In some countries this sort of morality policing leads to people being stoned or having their heads chopped off. You can’t imagine that sort of radicalism occurring here. Then how do you explain 300 years of American history when it was perfectly OK (even ‘Christian’) to hang people because they walked on the wrong side of the street or didn’t bow their heads properly? How do you explain a nation that keeps more people in solitary confinement (torture) than any other country in the world? There is a very short distance between intolerance and persecution. This country has had too much of both. If you hear a politician talking about morality, tell him he’s applying for the wrong job. Better yet, just tell him to shut up…
The Difference Between Private and Public Morality
Robert Reich | 13 Mar 12
Republicans have morality upside down. Santorum, Gingrich, and even Romney are barnstorming across the land condemning gay marriage, abortion, out-of-wedlock births, access to contraception, and the wall separating church and state.
But America’s problem isn’t a breakdown in private morality. It’s a breakdown in public morality. What Americans do in their bedrooms is their own business. What corporate executives and Wall Street financiers do in boardrooms and executive suites affects all of us.