Welcome to the Tuesday Coffee Hour here on Street Prophets. This is an open thread where we can hang out and talk about what’s going on in our worlds. I thought I’d start today’s discussion by looking at some ducks swimming in a small creek.
War veteran and Atheist tosses hat into Mayoral race in LaGrange, Georgia
Candidate actually believes that the citizens in his city should have a politician working for them.
Vice President of PR/Marketing Bernard "Flash" Kellish says, "The National Atheist Party is honored to support Mr. Smith's run for Mayor of LaGrange, not only because he is an atheist running for office in the bible belt, but because his platform is solid and he is not accepting contributions. That to me is not only extremely refreshing, but an inspiration of things to come. In my opinion, America needs more candidates like Mike Smith."
I am familiar with church politics. My family, going back as far as anyone can remember, has been driven to be involved in their church’s operations, usually as board members and Sunday school teachers. One thing that has vexed me is the reality that most people in the South that attend church regularly are unprepared for anything that steps outside of tradition. Preachers have to take care with what they allow themselves to say in their sermons. The past two hundred years have revealed startling information that would have turned religion on its head if it had been shared with its followers. I do not want to go into that now, but careful reading of the bible and other books written by the growing number of theological scholars along with historians of antiquity are good sources for what has been skillfully kept from congregations in most parts of the world. I’m speaking of Christianity, since this is my background, but this trend seems to be consistent everywhere. It’s for this reason that my preacher’s sudden statement of the steady decline of religion was not backed up by anything more than what is evident such as the dwindling number of young people that attend church or involve themselves in other ways. I semi-consciously made myself open to being receptive to the reasons for religion’s decline as they made themselves evident.
Let me just say that I do not believe that the decline of religion is due to young people being less involved. If they are dropping away from Christianity, or their respective religion, I see that as a symptom of how religion has failed to embrace Jesus’ message of love and offers too great an emphasis on the super-natural among other things that are rarely explained. Is it difficult to understand that a young person would need to have been raised in the church to find supernatural events genuinely plausible or even an adult? I was well into my twenty’s when I had my first serious George Carlin or Bill Maher moment; when a person finally says, “Now let me get this straight…..”. I find that moment of doubt to be nearly as precious as the first time I realized that I was paying attention in church.
The data is irrefutable. The world’s religions are beginning to decline. Church membership is very slowly shrinking, though hardly noticeable in the United States, but far more apparent in Europe. These European churches are easily seen from high-speed rail along each nation’s less populated countryside, noticeably empty and in ill repair.
Other than the emphasis on the benevolent super-natural there is the pervading message of doom clearly spelled out in the Book of Revelation that fundamentalist Christians claim belief. Back when Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ ‘Left Behind’ series was gaining popularity, I believed their books were a reflection of what was to come. Being familiar with Revelations helped me understand the story from one novel to the next. The theme was consistently negative, and meant to frighten the reader into being an obedient follower of whatever the bible dictated. It would be accurate to say that the reader could find what they were looking for depending on their devotion and expectations. Both of these factors gradually changed for me as I learned more about the origin of John’s mysterious book to the seven very young churches of the first and second centuries.
My family’s devotion to Christianity gave me the valuable experience of growing with and speaking to a wide variety of people within the faith with still varying beliefs. In conversation the elements of anticipation, expectation, and fear prevailed. Many of the people I met anxiously looked forward to being caught up into the clouds with Jesus during his Second Coming, but also expecting that most people would be stuck here to suffer through the Tribulation. Even as I was sure that my destiny awaited me in the clouds, I feared for those that would be left behind. What an odd expectation for a child, but I believed it until just a few years ago.
Inevitably, a person that believes in the Book of Revelations as being prophetic must also expect great horrors to occur before Jesus will reign here on Earth. The goal being to be with Jesus and eventually to be in God’s physical presence requires the events made clear in the bible; rumors of war, pestilence, disease, starvation, and anything else that can be imagined that may kill us. This is a very odd series of horrors to be looked upon with glad expectation. The mentality is akin to being told that you’re going to win the lottery, but first everything you love has to be subject to destruction and you may be grievously injured. Many are so zealous for this approach to being with God that they yell “bring it on” with smiles on their faces.
New adherents are often discouraged from being a part of Christianity knowing this long-taught expectation and approach to having a final audience with God. Couple this with newly revealed information that has been kept from us for centuries, and we face the unfortunate obstacles that cripple not only the Christian faith, but the paths to God that most religious people follow. This includes Islam; the religion that is basically a mix of Judaism, Christianity and what lengths Arabic tribes will go to in their quest for water.
Do the religions of the Western hemisphere require a degree of pessimism? The argument set before you is that they do. Is this a message that encourages converts or retains those sitting in church pews on Sunday morning? How could it?
Where does a message of hope and love fit in? Many take comfort in the words of Jesus. I presume not to tell you what Jesus actually said. To know that takes a special devotion to the historical Jesus, Jewish culture, bible literacy and a healthy ability to tell the difference between irrational politics and reason.
Many Christians are optimistic that our religion can survive, but recognize that it must be redefined. I want to believe Christians can shed the elements of fear, and that those that are overtly zealous can eventually recognize how destructive the “God, guns, and country” message is to Christianity’s future. Those of us that want to change the direction of this beloved religion need to act soon, and if successful, those that are neurologically challenged may be overwhelmed with peer pressure and follow us into a real Kingdom of God that Jesus taught would one day come. One of my favorite saying attributed to Jesus is not in the bible, but I’ll offer it for those that believe in optimism and reject pessimism as a necessary element in our faith.
From The Gospel of Thomas:
The kingdom of heaven is within you, and all around you.
As you might expect, the wingnutosphere in Minnesota is in full meltdown over the state making same-sex marriage legal.
Less than 24 hours after Mark Dayton signed the bill into law, Bradlee Dean hit the ceiling on his radio show, "The Sons of Liberty." He claimed that Dayton had declared "war on God" by signing the bill, and warned that he was about to "learn how gravity works." He also claimed Martin O'Malley and other "criminals" who support gay rights could face the same fate. People for the American Way got a clip. You can also listen to the whole show here.
This weekend, another leading Minnesota wingnut, Messianic Jewish leader Jan Markell, told OneNewsNow that God is looking at a lot of things that are going on in Minnesota--and he doesn't like it.
"We're the occult capital of America," she tells OneNewsNow. "We certainly have more Islamic influence probably than any other place, other than Dearborn, Michigan. We're certainly one of the gay capitals, and now with homosexual marriage a reality, many Christians, solid pro-family-type people -- we don't know where to run to."To give you an idea of what kind of person Markell is, she thinks the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan was a call for Japan to repent.
And Markell believes Minnesota Christians are concerned about God's judgment on the state.
"Whether it be economically or some weather-related kind of a tragedy, but God destroyed cities in the Bible over homosexuality; He speaks out on this issue in a very clear manner and calls this an abomination," the Olive Tree Ministries founder warns.
Wave–Particle duality is an interesting concept to think about. Did you know that in 1906 Joseph John Thomson received the Nobel Prize for proving that electrons are particles. And, that his son, George Paget Thomson, in 1937 was awarded the Nobel Prize for proving that electrons are waves. And both descriptions correctly describe light.
For some this is a paradox. What do you think? This is a Open Thread / Coffee Hour. So, what are you thinking about? What is for dinner? And, how are you today?
"How can you be moral without believing in God?"
"Isn't atheism just a religion?"
"Why are you atheists so angry?"
One of the challenges that Atheists face, just for identifying themselves as Atheists, are the questions people ask about Atheism. The challenge is that some people ask these questions sincerely trying to learn more about Atheism, but others are asking out of a sense of condescension and denigration, and how Atheists might answer these questions often changes depending on these distinctions.
By way of the diarist Karen, I read this post by Greta Christina: 9 Questions That Atheists Might Find Insulting (And the Answers).
This reflexive dismissal of our anger's legitimacy does two things. It treats atheists as flawed, broken, incomplete. And it defangs the power of our anger. (Or it tries to, anyway.) Anger is a hugely powerful motivating force -- it has been a major motivating force for every social change movement in history -- and when people try to dismiss or trivialize atheists' anger, they are, essentially, trying to take that power away.It is definitely worth reading in full whether you are a believer trying to learn more about Atheists, or a non-believer who would like a resource to point to instead of answering these same questions time and time again. It provides reasonable, succinct answers, it highlights the dehumanizing effect of these questions, and covers the majority of the major questions Atheists face.
Because basically, these questions often boil down to, "Why are you different?" and the answer is generally, "We're not that different, really."
Atheists still face a lot of hostility in this country. The LGBT community can be seen as a parallel situation. Until not too long ago, the majority of Americans disapproved of same-sex marriage. However, through fostering understanding and spreading the perception that LGBT couples are no different from heterosexuals, the community has slowly gained much wider acceptance. Only by encouraging believers to learn more about and empathize with Atheists will we reach the same level of acceptance.
Maybe if somebody occasionally gave some "Agnostic prayers" at the start of the town meetings in Greece, New York, the plaintiffs in this case would be satisfied.
From today's New York Times
May 20, 2013
High Court Agrees to Hear Town Meeting Prayer Case
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether a town in New York endorsed religion by allowing members of the public to open meetings with a prayer.
Two residents sued Greece, New York, in 2008, saying it was endorsing Christianity, a violation of the Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state.
Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens said the vast majority of prayer-givers since the practice started in 1999 were Christian clergy. Attendees would often be asked to join in
or bow their heads.
Imagine losing your greatest leader to the powerful. Imagine that the powerful were afraid that this leader taught a message of love and care for people that were not usually loved nor cared for. The political leaders felt that the people were listening too intently to the message of care for the prisoner, care for the widow, care for the homeless, care for the sick. Love for little children. Acceptance of women. This person was a radical who needed to be shut up and shut up completely. Then imagine that these rulers conspired to bring false charges to put this man to death and were looking for the others who followed him to do the same to them.
Now be one of those followers fearing for your life. You secretly meet together to support each other, but none of you has the wherewithal to put the message of love for all out on the street the way your leader did. Some of you have seen your leader after his death and still doubt whether it was real. Men and women are together and trying to decide how to carry out this love without getting killed.
And then, in a room together while celebrating a religious holiday…
Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.The rest of the story below the orange thingamajig!
Wait – What just happened? A roundup of the week in news, May 19, 2013
After boycotting Boston College’s graduation ceremony because they dared invite Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny to give the commencement address, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley threatened the college that it’s him or me…and they went with Kenny.
Why the boycott? Because Kenny is trying to be a responsible human being by advocating for the passage of a bill that would allow abortions for women whose lives are in danger due to their pregnancy. This bill comes on the heels of a woman who was refused an abortion and died of blood poisoning because her dying fetus still had a heartbeat.
Bonus scandal! Kenny two years ago stunned Ireland by publicly blasting the Vatican for its cover-up of sexual abuse by Irish priests.
Fair Labor Standards Act? What Fair Labor Standards Act?
The House this week voted to allow employers to replace overtime pay with comp time with their shiny new Working Families Flexibility Act. Where the FLSA actually guarantees minimum wage, overtime pay and recordkeeping, the WFFA makes it easier for employers to schedule as much overtime as they want without paying for it, giving workers far less flexibility in their lives as well as denying overtime pay to low-wage earners who frequently have no other way to make ends meet. And we continue further down our new American path of eroding workers’ rights. At least there are still child labor laws right?
Another movie theatre shooting this week…oh wait…
In a brilliant marketing move, Capital 8 Theaters in Jefferson City, Missouri hired actors to portray gunmen at the “Iron Man 3″ premier. John Molock, a retired Army war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, told ABC 17 News the Capitol 8 Theaters stunt triggered memories he never wanted to relive.
To quote National Atheist Party member Ron Millam, “We have Concealed Carry in Missouri. The dude is lucky that half a dozen theater patrons didn't blow his ass away...while also killing and wounding who knows how many others in the chaos. So tell me, Mr. manager Bob Wilkins – does THAT qualify as "entertaining people," as you put it???
Oh, guns aren't allowed in theaters, you say? If it helps you sleep better, go right on believing the "No Weapons Permitted" sign has magic powers.”
Good morning! Welcome to the DKos Sangha weekly open thread.
This is an open thread for members of the DKos Sangha and others who are interested in discussions concerning how we integrate our progressive political activism into our spiritual practice. If you have observations about the political discourse of the week, or about practice, or about anything else related to walking a spiritual path through the political world, if you wish to share, or if you seek support, or if you simply want to say hello, please do; this space is for you.
If you would like to host a weekly open thread, please let me know.
If you care nothing for spiritual practice and only wish to denigrate and disparage, please do so elsewhere, and respect that this is a community diary for the DKos Sangha.
Welcome to Sunday All Day Brunch. This is an open topic thread so help yourself to the goodies and sit a spell and let us know what is new in your life. I read an article in National Geographic the other evening on space travel. Let us assume that they figure out how to make space travel so that you can easily go places in what would be normal time for you. Where would you like to go?
For the past few years, loggersbrat and I have been organizing the Sunday morning interfaith service at Netroots Nation. The service is open to everyone, of all faiths and of no faith. Some of us find it a centering after such a full conference, some use it to fix their resolve to work for change, some for a sense of communal meditation and affirmation. Each year we have chosen a theme and asked the community for their thoughts and inspiration on that theme. This year I sent this e-mail to loggersbrat and linkage, who is also helping:
I have been thinking about a theme for the NN13 Sunday Service, and I wondered about doing something about belief and nature, belief and science.It's a (fairly loose) starting point.
As far as I can tell, science and religion began as our attempt to learn about and have some effect on our world; for a long time they were the same thing. The divergence came only a few hundred years ago for the west; I don't know enough about eastern religions. But in this country the religious right (and perhaps other fundamentalist versions of faith) lead to a general feeling that religion is opposed to science, and this perhaps has encouraged the fundamentalist version of atheism.
In any event, the idea of learning about the world and the universe, to understand as much as we can about them, and to take better care of them, are deeply felt by some to be religious values. So I was thinking about asking people for ideas from their belief systems about our relation to nature, and our duty to nature, both in terms of understanding and conserving. Scientists like Newton and Darwin were deeply religious, and Einstein was spiritual in his ideas about harmony in the universe.
Another side of the issue is ethics. Technology in these days tends to develop faster than we are able to consider its ethical application, which leads to such things as atomic weapons, genetically modified foods, lots of other genetic concerns, matters like biological and chemical weapons, etc.
This is kind of free associating, but I would like to hear what everyone working on the service thinks about the general theme, other suggestions, and your own associations if we take this theme and ask for contributions from others.
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