Monday, February 25, 2008

Survey: US religious landscape in flux

From The Associated Press:

The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile, with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether, a new survey finds.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace

I came across this and felt it deserves to be seen by more people. This is an earnest effort by people on both sides of the Gaza / Israel border - common folk, not religious zealots or political power-brokers, to talk peace; to think and dream about what a 'normal' life might be like; to share those dreams between real people.

Please take a look at to get a different and more human perspective on the conflict in the region.

Note to readers: I have shamelessly borrowed the title of a paper, now somewhat famous in the Internet development community, if a bit dated, addressing a very technical topic of concern during the formative days of the technology that led to this Internet on which we blog today. Though not directly relevant to this topic, I link to it here out of respect for the original author, ironically, an Israeli named Danny Cohen who made significant contributions to the development of the Internet..

Friday, February 22, 2008

Be careful what you wish for...

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is playing with fire... again. Perhaps he shouldn't be so quick to count on Israel's restraint this time around, or that of the United States.

To Israel Nasrallah said in his latest diatribe:
"Your army would collapse at the feet of Imad Mughniyeh. I swear that we would fight you like you never experienced. Your army would be destroyed in south Lebanon"

He added "The Israeli air force is not capable of winning a war and Israel has no alternative but launching an overland offensive . We are ready to achieve victory and no one can protect all of Israel from our rockets"

Nasrallah predicted that Israel will cease to exist , because the "The Arab opposition, including Syria will eliminate Israel"
It is clear from his remarks that he underestimates Israel's resolve and its capabilities. By making remarks threatening their very existence, he provides unambiguous justification for any steps Israel may feel it needs to take. Its characteristic restraint, ignored in the popular press and denied in the Arab media, will not be a factor in a battle in which its existence is seriously threatened.

Isreal will as always make every effort to avoid or minimize civilian casualties, a standard to which its attackers are never held, but in the end there will be much blood and death. Southern Lebanon will be laid waste. The practice of hiding weapons and ammunition amidst civilians, a typical tactic of Hizballah, the various Palastinian militant groups, and others who attack Israel will result in unavoidable civilian bloodshed nonetheless. The death toll will likely reach into the tens of thousands, and though Israel will surely feel the pain, the vast majority of the carnage will be north of the border.

And if Israel is found to be in serious jeopardy, the involvement of the US becomes a serious possibility. It's unclear what form such involvement would take, but the political landscape in the region would not likely resemble its present condition afterward.

Religious delusions on all sides are ultimately responsible for this entire conflict. If suddenly the veil of religious fervor could be lifted, the parties would have much to gain from cooperation.

Related stories:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gorge Bush's Fascist States of America

So after watching Olbermann's latest eloquent rant in which he calls Bush to task for being a fascist, I got to thinking - obviously he's not the first to consider this idea - let's see what other material has been written on the subject. A quick search of the internet turned up a number of sites presenting different views on the subject. I've provided links to some below.

The search also turned up a few feeble attempts to attack Olbermann, but these looked more like preaching to the Bush choir, singing the familiar refrains of their usual hymns, than any substantive argument. As such, I didn't bother to include them here.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess I only skimmed these postings - didn't have time to read them in full - but they seemed to be of possible interest.
As is typical of internet sites, their quality runs the gamut but they have much to say.
For further reading, I encourage you to do your own search usng your favorite search engine/s. There're lots more out there than the few I posted here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Olbermann on FISA & Lessig on Barack vs. Hillary

While not specifically atheistic, two videos worth watching here: one, Keith Olbermann's latest eloquent rant against our erstwhile fascist in chief; the other a reasoned presentation by Lawrence Lessig on the important differences between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

A veto of the FISA bill endangers Americans
Olbermann: The president is demanding immunity for the telecoms yet, he can’t confirm they did anything for which they need to be cleared

Olbermann Special Comment

Lessig on Obama & Clinton

Friday, February 8, 2008

A 'shmita' miracle? Miracle Shmiracle.

Harmful or not harmful superstition? In any case, good for a laugh...

From The Jerusalem Post:
In what some potato farmers in the Negev are taking as a sign from God, the recent frost that ravaged produce across the nation selectively passed over some crops - as if guided, they say, by a divine hand.

Potatoes planted in the Negev before the beginning of the shmita (sabbatical) year, in accordance with the biblical prohibition against plowing, sowing and many other field chores, were spared the damages caused by sharp drops in temperature last week.

In contrast, potatoes that were planted during the shmita year - which began at nightfall on September 13, the first day of the Jewish year of 5768 - were decimated.

(full story)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vatican rejects criticism of new prayer for Jewish conversion

From HaHaretz:
The top Vatican cardinal in charge of relations with Jews on Thursday denied that a new prayer for their conversion was offensive and said Catholics had the right to pray as they wish.

The Vatican had come under fire from Jewish groups in recent days for changing its Good Friday service to include a prayer urging God to let Jews "recognize Jesus Christ as savior of all men."

Earlier this week, Pope Benedict ordered changes to a Latin prayer for Jews at traditionalist Good Friday services, deleting a reference to their "blindness" over Christ.

Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke in an interview in a leading Italian newspaper a day after world Jewish leaders said the new prayer could set back inter-religious dialogue by decades.

(full article)