Prophesies and Portents

I need to reread these books! I know it’s not very sophisticated, but the kid’s movie WALL E touched on some of these themes. It’s set in the future where everything is done by computers and robots. The humans are amorphous blobs that ride around on hovering scooters, their muscles too weak to hold up the weight of their own bodies. They spend their time eating, drinking, staring at computer screens, never interacting face-to-face with each other. That may well be our pitiful future.

We are so preoccupied with our little gadgets that we walk into public fountains, manholes, and moving buses. Sitting around the dinner table, each person is busy on the phone or the iPad, not talking to each other. Kids and parents text each other from different parts of the same house. Back in the day, while I was in school, kids tried to write their book reports based on the summary on the back cover or by watching the movie. They didn’t see the POINT of actually reading the book. We are self-absorbed, but not self-aware. It’s sad. Maybe that is why so many people are intrigued with the zombie apocalypse, survivalism, etc. We subconsciously crave connection with each other and with nature. We suffer from an impersonal existence where it’s harder and harder to find meaning and purpose. We want to unplug and engage, but think it can only happen if everything falls apart, because we are also addicted to technology and instant gratification.

Great post from Hugh Curtler!

hughcurtler

Back in January I wrote a blog about Huxley’s classic Brave New World, which has always been one of my favorite books. I taught it for years and have always found mountains of issues worthy of serious thought and discussion. In 1985 Neil Postman wrote another provocative book titled Amusing Ourselves To Death in which he promises to discuss the question whether Huxley might have been right in his predictions about what was to become of Western culture. Bear in mind that Huxley wrote his novel in the 1930s and he was English.

In his “Foreword” Postman contrasts Huxley’s remarkable book with Orwell’s equally remarkable book 1984. I shall largely ignore what Postman said about Orwell, but will summarize what he said about Huxley since it is most apt. In America, especially, we love to boast about our freedoms, which we would insist are many. Is it possible that…

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One Billion Rising, February 14, 2014

Please watch this video. It is difficult to watch at first, but it is powerful and uplifting.

ABOUT ONE BILLION RISING

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION

On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, 2.14.13, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On February 14th, 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.

ONE BILLION RISING IS:

  • A global strike
  • An invitation to dance
  • A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends
  • An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
  • A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
  • A new time and a new way of being

Why I am rising: Because rape is rape. No man should define what legitimate rape is. No one should decide what happens to my body but me. Contraception and family planning is essential to women’s health and autonomy. No woman should suffer abuse at the hands of another. Genital mutilation, rape, forced prostitution, child slavery, and other atrocities occur in every corner of the world and it must end. I want to leave my children a better world. There is strength in numbers.  Men and women can rise up together and speak as one to end the violence. Join the REVOLUTION!

Nature News Blog: Buddhist ‘Iron Man’ found by Nazis is from Space : Nature News Blog

A Buddhist statue brought to Germany from Tibet by a Nazi-backed expedition has been confirmed as having an extraterrestrial origin.

Known as the ‘iron man’, the 24-cm high sculpture may represent the god Vaiśravaṇa and was likely created from a piece of the Chinga meteorite that was strewn across the border region between Russia and Mongolia between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, according to Elmar Buchner of the University of Stuttgart, and his colleagues.

In a paper published in Metoritics & Planetary Science, the team reports their analysis of the iron, nickel, cobalt and trace elements of a sample from the statue, as well as its structure. They found that the geochemistry of the artefact is a match for values known from fragments of the Chinga meteorite. The piece turned into the ‘iron man’ would be the third largest known from that fall.

Given the extreme hardness of the meteorite – “basically an inappropriate material for producing sculptures” the paper notes – the artist or artists who created it may have known their material was special, the researchers say. Buchner suggests it could have been produced by the 11th century Ben culture but the exact origin and age of the statue – as opposed to the meteorite it is made from – is still unknown. It is thought to have been brought to Germany by a Nazi-backed expedition to Tibet in 1938-39. The swastika symbol on the piece – a version of which was adopted by the Nazi party – may have encouraged the 1938 expedition to take it back with them.

“While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before,” said Buchner in a statement. “The Iron Man statue is the only known illustration of a human figure to be carved into a meteorite.”

via Nature News Blog: Buddhist ‘Iron Man’ found by Nazis is from Space : Nature News Blog.

Controversies – Pastors Prepare to Taunt IRS by Endorsing Candidates Despite Tax-Exempt Status – AllGov – News

Religious leaders by the hundreds are daring the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to come after them for violating a government regulation that prohibits church leaders from endorsing political candidates.

Organizers are hoping that on October 7, more than 1,000 pastors will participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” during which they will tell their followers who they should vote for in November.

The event is intended to provoke the IRS into revoking the tax-exempt status of one or more participating churches, so that they can sue the agency in federal court. Organizers contend the IRS rule banning political endorsements violates the First Amendment rights of preachers, and should be thrown out.

Since 1954, the IRS has prohibited tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from publicly supporting campaigns. The IRS enforced the law under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, however since Barack Obama became president, the IRS has stopped enforcement. Oddly, the “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” movement was created in 2008 by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom to oppose Obama’s candidacy.

It is estimated that the federal government loses $25 billion a year in revenue by allowing churches, mosques and synagogues to operate tax-free.

via Controversies – Pastors Prepare to Taunt IRS by Endorsing Candidates Despite Tax-Exempt Status – AllGov – News.

I’ve always been dubious about tax-exempt status for churches. When you see the soaring holy complexes that rival imperial palaces, preachers driving around extravagantly expensive cars, their wives dripping with jewelry and painted like the whore of Babylon, but saved by the blood, it looks like a heck of a good deal.  As the Rolexes flash from the cuffs of the anointed while they condemn sinners and wheedle for dollars, I contemplate starting my own church. What a racket, I think, I could stand up there in the pulpit and berate others, tell them how to vote, tell them how to think. And have them pay me for the honor! Then give the finger to the IRS, wow. Dare them to tax me, create a mini-holy war of the IRS against Jesus Christ Almighty! That’s a losing battle for the government, surely. Everyone hates the IRS, but no one can defy them, except GOD!

I KNOW, I KNOW, there are good churches and good pastors. There are those truly called to serve and save. Tiny missions that feed and clothe the poor. Among the flock, however, are wolves-predators who crave power and influence. Those who enjoy shaping malleable minds and emptying the pockets of the penitent. Why should they enjoy the benefits of dodging Uncle Sam? If the bulk of tithes go to building vast empires of wealth funneled directly into the pockets of the charismatic leader, why should they not pay their fair share? Please feel free to share your thoughts. 

Agnosticism: Not as Easy as You Think

I identified with this post by Randy Walker over at The God Article. It describes the strange place I find myself in whenever the subject of religion comes up. I don’t discount the existence of a “higher power,” but I don’t really think there is one. If there is, I think it doesn’t give a crap about our petty little mortal problems. I still have some mystical, spiritual feelings that there may be “something” more, but my rational self says “nah.”

I am terribly disappointed in the Christians that I used to look up to, who advocate such bullshit as the “Ground Zero Ocean” alongside their professions of Jesus worship. From my understanding of Jesus, he would be delivering a scathing sermon to those pseudo-Christians. American Christianity is wrapped up in militant nationalism and tied with a stars and bars ribbon of patriotism that gags me with its hypocrisy. I have difficulty tolerating ANY religious talk at this point, because it causes a knee-jerk rage borne of the many years of having to listen to this strange brand of nation-worship disguised as the Word of God. Any time someone says they know “God’s Will,” I duck for cover. I still have enough religion in me to think that they may be struck down in their arrogance. 

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Go read this blog! While you’re there, check out some of the other great posts by Mark Sandlin, such as his excellent and very popular Clobbering Biblical Gay Bashing, which delves into the issue of homosexuality in the Bible. I wish I had attended Sandlin’s church as a kid. I might not be the angry ex-Christian I am today. I had no idea until recently that progressive Christians existed, and in my own home state!

 by Randy Walker

We agnostics are misunderstood and often shunned. Type “agnostic” into any search engine, and all kinds of insults and critiques will populate the window. We are called non-committing, afraid of confrontation, spineless, and so on. I encountered one forum that labeled us as lacking certain male reproductive organs. The point I am making here is that because we choose doubt over certainty, we are accused of not taking a stand and choosing the easy way out. I assure you: this is not true.

In fact, accepting the agnostic label means being rejected by both theists and atheists. Some theists lump atheists and agnostics into one category; while most fervent atheists slam us for not fully accepting science as absolute proof that God does not exist. If pleasing others and being accepted is important to someone, then being agnostic is not a good choice. It is a path littered with uncertainty and often-hateful resistance. A good comparison might compare agnostics to middle children. When there are three or more children in a family, and especially when there are only three children, the middle-born child feels overlooked and invalidated. Obviously, this may not always be true, but such feelings are real even if they are distorted perceptions. Being agnostic leaves me feeling overlooked and invalidated, sometimes, because I do not seem to fit-in with theists or atheists.

So, what is agnosticism and how did I “wander onto the agnostic path”? A more complete explanation of my personal journey will follow in later post. This post will provide some history of agnosticism, and how it has benefited mankind.

via Agnosticism: Not as Easy as You Think –.

10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America – Postmasculine

Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him.

This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.

I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socio-economic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

I realize it’s going to be impossible to write sentences like the ones above without coming across as a raging prick, so let me try to soften the blow to my American readers with an analogy:

You know when you move out of your parents’ house and live on your own, how you start hanging out with your friends’ families and you realize that actually, your family was a little screwed up? Stuff you always assumed was normal your entire childhood, it turns out was pretty weird and may have actually fucked you up a little bit. You know, dad thinking it was funny to wear a Santa Claus hat in his underwear every Christmas or the fact that you and your sister slept in the same bed until you were 22, or that your mother routinely cried over a bottle of wine while listening to Elton John.

The point is we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it. Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture. You often don’t see what’s messed up about your country and culture until you step outside of it.

And so even though this article is going to come across as fairly scathing, I want my American readers to know: some of the stuff we do, some of the stuff that we always assumed was normal, it’s kind of screwed up. And that’s OK. Because that’s true with every culture. It’s just easier to spot it in others (i.e., the French) so we don’t always notice it in ourselves.

So as you read this article, know that I’m saying everything with tough love, the same tough love with which I’d sit down and lecture an alcoholic family member. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome things about you (BRO, THAT’S AWESOME!!!). And it doesn’t mean I’m some saint either, because god knows I’m pretty screwed up (I’m American, after all). There are just a few things you need to hear. And as a friend, I’m going to tell them to you.

And to my foreign readers, get your necks ready, because this is going to be a nod-a-thon.

CONTINUE READING: 10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America – Postmasculine.

Ground Zero Ocean

I bit my virtual Facebook tongue today when a relative posted this. It makes me sad that my Christian friends and relatives would even joke about such a thing. Although such unchristian behavior is what drove me from religion that I once found comfort in, I still revere history and tradition. I have retained many of the values and teachings that I learned from the Bible, most specifically the words of Jesus. But so-called godly people regularly call for the destruction of the Middle East and all the dirty “heatherns” (no, not a typo) that live there. Never mind that there are Christians living there and the vast majority of Muslims are non-violent. Never mind it is the cradle of civilization and of utmost biblical and archaeological historical importance. Mesopotamia, Ur, homeland of Abraham, a vast treasure trove of ancient history yet to be discovered, billions of innocent souls…whatevs. Nuke ’em all. If there is a God, he must be sorely disappointed in his creation. Or maybe this is his “plan.” 

Mitt Romney’s God Warrior Pat Robertson on Wayward Wife Beating

Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, stumped alongside televangelist Pat Robertson this weekend, proving his God credentials. In aligning himself with Robertson, Romney hopes to cement his position as standard bearer for the far-right. Robertson has some very interesting positions, even in the loony world of biblical literalists. When Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of souls and made millions of others homeless, he blamed it on a “pact with the devil” made in the 1700s to free themselves from the French. He has blamed many other natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina on the immoral acts of homosexuals, atheists, and liberals. Robertson thinks that those who believe in evolution not to expect help from God. Non-Christians are like lowly termites:

“It is interesting, that termites don’t build things, and the great builders of our nation almost to a man have been Christians, because Christians have the desire to build something. He is motivated by love of man and God, so he builds. The people who have come into [our] institutions [today] are primarily termites. They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, our own traditions, that we have…. The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation.”

On Monday, when a viewer of Robertson’s 700 Club asked him what to do about his defiant little wifey who disrespects and defies him, Robertson advised him to move to Saudi Arabia so he can beat her!!

Robertson finds this little “joke” amusing perhaps, but his statements are insulting to all women:

“She’s rebellious, and chances are she was rebellious with her father and mother. She’s a rebellious child and she doesn’t want to submit to any authority. And she probably had temper tantrums when she was a kid, and you know…you know the little girl, ‘I hate you. I hate you,’ and she wants to slap her father. Well that’s the same kind of thing. She’s just…she’s transferred the father, now, she might…eeh…oh, I hate to say everything’s got to be some psychological counseling…But that’s the problem. She does not understand authority. When she was growing up nobody made her behave. And now, you’ve got a 13-year old in a 30-year old woman’s body and she is acting like a child. Now, what do you do with that? You can’t divorce her according to the Scripture, so I say ‘MOVE TO SAUDI ARABIA’.”

Ah, sage advice from a man of God. Since the scriptures do not allow divorce, what a shame that this “rebellious child”‘ cannot be beaten in modern times, unless you move to a Muslim country. Haha. Though “these days” it isn’t acceptable to beat one’s wife, in biblical times it was accepted and sometimes prescribed for a woman who could not “submit to the authority” of her husband. A man could also force himself upon her, which was still legal in some states until the 1990s. What if your wife has Alzheimer’s, though? Here’s what God’s emissary has to say:

“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her…If you respect that vow, you say ’til death do us part. This is a kind of death.”

Is Romney’s affiliation with this bigoted zealot an asset to his struggling campaign? When Obama was linked to the firebrand pastor Jeremiah Wright, who said “god damn America,” Republicans were quick to paint the President as militant black activist who shares all of Wright’s opinions. How do we construe the affiliation of Romney with a man who laments that a man cannot beat his own wife, that we should “nuke” the State Department, and who frequently weighs in with his divine opinion that natural disasters are the fault of homos and liberals? Romney is going all in on the bat-shit crazy bizarro-Jesus train.

Poll: 15% of NC Republicans think Mitt Romney killed Osama bin Laden | Palmetto Public Record

Nearly one in six North Carolina Republicans believe GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was more responsible for Osama bin Laden’s death than the president who ordered the strike, according to a poll released on Monday.

Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling asked 1,081 likely voters a series of questions related to the presidential election over September 7-9. According to the poll’s crosstabs, 15 percent of Republican respondents said that Mitt Romney was more responsible for the al Qaeda leader’s death than President Obama, while 56 percent said they weren’t sure.

via Poll: 15% of NC Republicans think Mitt Romney killed Osama bin Laden | Palmetto Public Record.

I am well aware that people fit the “facts” to their own worldview, but this blows my mind. Really? Where do they find these people?

How could you go ahead of me?

This letter was found atop the mummified remains of 30-year-old Eung-Tae Lee  in an excavated tomb in Andong City, South Korea:

To Won’s Father

June 1, 1586

You always said, “Dear, let’s live together until our hair turns gray and die on the same day.” How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?

How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, “Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?” How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me?

I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where would I put my heart in now and how can I live with the child missing you?

Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. Because I want to listen to your saying in detail in my dreams I write this letter and put it in. Look closely and talk to me.

When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.

You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. There is no limit and end to my sorrows that I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say and I stop here.

This poor young widow was left alone, pregnant with her husband’s child in the late 1500’s. Also found among the man’s remains were sandals woven from his wife’s own hair.

The human condition links us inextricably to the past and keeps us hopeful for the future. Stories such as this, long-buried, now found, fascinate me. I will never cease to be amazed by the ways our flawed species find to memorialize one another and struggle to find meaning in the most painful and heart-wrenching moments. In the depth of her pain, this widow reaches out to her dead lover, still hoping to see him in her dreams. How beautiful, how tragic, how very human.

Source: Letters of Note: How could you go ahead of me?.