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56 posts categorized "Sunday Sermonette"

May 07, 2006

Supplemental Sunday Sermonette: Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go Of God"

Clinging, originally uploaded by p2wy.

PZ Myers notes that Julia Sweeney (who played the androgynous "Pat" from Saturday Night Live) has a new play out called "Letting Go of God."

Also, via PZ, immortality for naturalists--a zoologist explains what happens when animals die in trees.

Sunday Sermonette: Super-secret government study says no evidence of aliens

u.f.o, originally uploaded by flutterbycharlie.

Why weren't we told about the glaring absence of evidence for aliens:

A confidential Ministry of Defence report on Unidentified Flying Objects has concluded that there is no proof of alien life forms.
In spite of the secrecy surrounding the UFO study, it seems citizens of planet Earth have little to worry about.
The report, which was completed in 2000 and stamped "Secret: UK Eyes Only", has been made public for the first time. [BBC]
Shocking, I know. No evidence of aliens, you heard it here first.

Other exciting discoveries you may not have anticipated: Abstinence pledges often fail, college drinking is enduringly popular, and even strapping 21-year-old males can't get it up every single time.

April 30, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Chuck Colson's prison indoctrination

The Justice Department is planning a faith-based pre-release program. Well, if by "faith" you mean Chuck Colson's brand of evangelical Christianity...

The Justice Department plans to set aside cellblocks at up to half a dozen federal prisons for an ambitious pilot program to prepare inmates for release. But it has produced an outcry by saying that it wants a private group to counsel the prisoners according to a single faith.

The plans do not specify what that faith must be, but they appear to rule out secular counseling or programs that offer inmates guidance in a variety of faiths.

The Washington-based advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State charged in a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that the Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons has tailored its bidding requirements to fit one particular program: an immersion in evangelical Christianity offered by Charles W. Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries. [WaPo]

Yes, that's the Watergate Chuck Colson.

Via The Raw Story.

April 09, 2006

Supplemental Sunday Sermonette

Physicist Steven Weinberg:

I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.

Weinberg made this remark at a conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, an organization dedicated emphasizing the commonality between religion and science. I think Molly Ivins would approve.

I first encountered the Weinberg quote in an apologia by skeptic John Horgan for taking money from the Templeton Foundation. Hat tip to 3Quarks.

Sunday Sermonette: Jack Hitt inside "pro-life" El Salvador

In this week's New York Times Sunday Magazine Jack Hitt explains how criminalized abortion works in the real world. [NYT permalink]

Hitt is writing about abortion in El Salvador, where all abortion has been illegal since 1998. He describes a nightmare world where rich women fly to Miami for abortions, middle class women swap DIY abortion remedies on the internet, and poor women get back alley abortions with coat hangers or pesticides.

At least El Salvador is morally consistent about the value of embryonic life. Sanctions are not limited to doctors. Women are severely punished for ending their pregnancies. If they aren't caught in the act, the state gets them after the fact when they seek medical help for life-threatening complications of botched abortions. The forensic vagina squad gets called in when a woman seeks treatment for "suspicious" signs and symptoms like a perforated uterus, uncontrollable bleeding, sepsis, and organ failure. Hitt describes abortion suspects shackled to their hospital beds and doctors subpoenaed to testify against their own patients. He even interviews a 26-year-old mother of 3 who is serving the fourth year of a 30-year prison term for her abortion.

How 'bout that culture of life, eh?

April 02, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Stephen Roberts

This week's Sunday Sermonette comes from writer Stephen F. Roberts:

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Elsewhere in Sunday quotation blogging, The Happy Feminist submits Ten Commandments for Religious Liberals, by the Rev. Paul N. Carnes--which seem like very sensible rules of thumb for us non-religious liberals, too.

March 26, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: James Russell Lowell

This week's humanist homily is from the American poet and editor James Russell Lowell:

Where Church and State are habitually associated, it is natural that minds, even of a high order, should unconsciously come to regard religion as only a subtler mode of police. -- James Russell Lowell, Literary Essays, Vol. III, p. 186, from Albert J. Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

March 19, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Choose your own caption

Mary and the Mole, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

March 12, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: John Rogers

The freethinker of the week is John Rogers of Kung Fu Monkey:

Every now and then, when I go off on intelligent design, some people I ordinarily consider bright will say "Come on, you don't know what the truth is. And shouldn't we teach all the theories?" it is very very hard not to punch these people at this moment -- but I do not, because I must remember that such a statement reflects, with all due respect, complete and utter ignorance of how science works. Or even what science is.

Not that these people are stupid, no, not by any means. But this is the exact equivalent of me standing behind my car mechanic, hood up, and saying "well, you know, just make it go way faster. And just convert it over to the switchgrass stuff." Although I understand the general concepts behind internal combustion and the four stroke engine, I still don't know what the fuck I'm talking about.

John goes on to link to an interesting interview between DarksSyde Dr. Barbara Forest co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.

March 05, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Religious freedom


The separation of church and state isn't just about freedom from religion, it's also about the safeguarding the integrity of religions. When religions seize state power, the first victims are usually other religions.

Missouri is considering legislation recognizing Christianity as the state's "official majority religion":

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition." []

Elsewhere in the freethinking blogosphere, Revere discusses another sad case of religious discrimination, this time against a deceased decorated U.S. veteran who was also a Wiccan:

On Sunday many people visit cemeteries to pay their respects to departed loved ones. Me, I don't care much about where or how my non-functioning remains are disposed of. Mrs. R. has told me in no uncertain terms that my desire to be cremated and have the ashes put in the garbage or flushed down the crapper are a non-starter for her and my kids agree. Since I won't exist anymore, I can't complain too much. I just have to trust they won't desecrate my posthumous disposal site with symbols of some odious superstition. No such problems for Sgt. Patrick Stewart...

Stewart died when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. His appointed place on the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial cemetery remains blank because the Department of Veteran's Affairs won't let Stewart's widow include a pentangle, the symbol of Stewart's Wiccan creed.

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not authorize pagan symbols in its cemetaries. Their stance is at odds with that of the military itself where Wiccans and other pagans serve openly. (Cf. the entry on Wicca in the US Army Chaplain's Handbook.) According to the Military Pagan Network's website, pagans in the US military can serve as chaplains and officially-recognized lay leaders. The military's top chaplains at Fort Hood army base acknowledged Wicca a "legitimate religion" as early as 1996 and began offering space for Wiccan rituals at the base as early as 1998. Fort Hood's decision to allow Wiccan service members and their families to worship openly on base sent U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga) into high dudgeon. He even issued a press release called Causes Of Youth Violence Found In Adult Culture in which he implied that Wicca and humanism were spawning youth violence.

When asked about the Wicca in the military issue during the 2000 presidential race, George W. Bush said:

"I am committed to the First Amendment principles of religious freedom, tolerance, and diversity. Whether Mormon, Methodist, Jewish, or Muslim, Americans should be able to participate in their constitutional free exercise of religion. I do not think witchcraft is a religion, and I do not think it is in any way appropriate for the U.S. military to promote it."