Archive for January, 2011

Right Wing fruitcake Sean Hannity attempted to elevate poor persecuted Sarah from bullied school into a saint Joan of Arc martyr effigy!

You would think these pair of hypocritical liars and loons were beyond parody; but John Stewart proves that wrong!

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What science says about religious conversion

by James R Coffey


For many, religious experiences lead to religious conversion. While conversion need not stem from such an experience, per se, many convertees have cited religious awakenings as leading to a new spiritual perspective. But while science accepts a religious experience/conversion relationship, conversion alone is often attributed to other causes: preexisting psychological disturbances (as cited by Freud), bad parenting, low self-esteem, an escape from a perceived reality that has proved insupportable, or an attempt to resolve unconscious inner conflicts. And more often than not, there seems to have existed a “burning desire to know, to find answers, to embark on a kind of search . . .” which the Buddhists refer to as “great doubt.” But, this raises the question as to what spawns this desire in the first place. Does it arise from the creative imagination? Does it lie in common, human curiosity? Is it an irresistible urge spurred by the God-spot?

The Convertee Profile

Psychological data suggests that although “melancholics” and unstable introverts are most susceptible to stress and most likely to undergo dramatic religious conversion, stable extraverts and introverts are more likely to retain new beliefs after conversion. Studies show that among those with spiritual beliefs, maturity of personality goes with the attitude of religion which is undogmatic and nonrestrictive, and more interested in seeking the truth behind religious teachings. (These findings seem to support renowned psychologist Maslow’s assertion that ‘self-realization’ is hindered by involvement in religious beliefs that traditionally go unchallenged.) Therefore statistically, conversion is seen far more often among middle-aged and older adults.

Conversion and Acceptance of Supernatural Events

Historically, religion has been linked to the supernatural and the acceptance of supernatural events. So the next question of interest is whether religious individuals (especially converts and those experiencing religious occurrences) are more likely to accept the possibility of supernatural events-even if they break the laws of science. Studies show that this question may best be addressed from an examination of predisposed childhood beliefs and experiences-which set the stage for future spiritual experiences or conversions. In a study by German psychologist Friedemann Thun (a recognized expert in interpersonal and intrapersonal communication conducted) in 1959, five areas of spiritual belief were identified in children 6-10: mystical thinking, readiness for religion, capacity for religious experiences, a dependence for religious ideas upon influential others, and changeableness. Thun’s conclusions highlighted either the “road to religious maturity” or to “neurotic self-defense or indifference,” suggesting that mystical thinking is a childish way of misinterpreting the world, a form of thinking normally left behind. When it is not, the door to believing in the supernatural is left open-and sometimes supported by further religious experiences.

Stephen chatting (below) on the “The Importance of Unbelief”

The Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism is presented at Harvard University each year by the Harvard Secular Society on behalf of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and the American Humanist Association. Selected by a committee of 20-30 Harvard students each year, this award is given to a figure greatly admired by our students and community for both artistic and humanitarian reasons.

Now in its fifth year, the HSS Cultural Humanism committee has chosen Stephen Fry based on what they feel is an outstanding contribution to Humanism in popular culture.

Actor, author, comedian, and outspoken Humanist, Fry has worked for three decades in film and theater. Well known for his exploration of the US in Fry in America, Fry has also starred alongside Hugh Laurie (A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster) and in a variety of other award-winning films including V for Vendetta, Wilde, Alice in Wonderland, and his own documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Fry has more than two million followers on Twitter.

The award ceremony will take place Tuesday, February 22 at 8 pm and will feature a performance by Fry.

Previous winners of the Cultural Humanism Award are, in 2007, novelist Sir Salman Rushdie, in 2008, punk rock star Greg Graffin (of the band Bad Religion and the UCLA Faculty of Biology), in 2009, writer/ director/producer Joss Whedon (“Buffy,” “Angel,” Firefly,” “Dollhouse”) and in 2010 Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the hosts of The MythBusters.

The chief rabbi’s immoral stance on donor cards

Orthodox Jews should be free to make their own decisions about what constitutes death

    Jonathan Sacks
    Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, believes organs should not be donated in the event of brain-stem death. Photograph: Liverpool Daily Echo/PA

    The debate on Jewish organ donation was reignited this week with a statement on what constitutes death according to religious law (halacha). In what is a very important debate, a lot of misunderstandings of what the rabbinical authorities are arguing about are being confused, so I am writing this to clarify what is going on and explain why I am upset at the decision of Lord Sacks, the chief rabbi.

    The issue of organ donations within the Jewish community was pushed back into the front pages after the footballer Avi Cohenhad an accident and his family went against his wishes and decided not to donate his organs. He had been a proud organ donor-card holder in Israel, where there is a major issue of getting people to donate their organs due to the religious complexities around the issues.

    The commandments of saving a life (pikuach nefesh) trumps almost all others and what to do when a family member is dying is a particularly tense time where religious guidance is sought. The high stakes involved, as well as the sanctity of the body in Jewish law, means that this issue is of vital importance.

    The chief rabbi was not saying to Jews not to donate their organs. On the contrary: he was encouraging them to do so. You can read his clarification here. In the case where someone needs a kidney or any other non-life-threatening donation (for the donor) there is no issue, you should be encouraged to donate your organ. The debate flows around what counts as death in Jewish law. Is it at the point of irreversible cessation of the heartbeat occurs (when the heart stops) or irreversible cessation of autonomous breathing (brain-stem death)? The chief rabbi’s position is that it is when your heart stops. The difference means that if you are brain dead and on a respirator you would not be allowed to donate vital organs. If your heart stops you would be allowed to donate everything.

    What the chief rabbi is asking for is that the current donor cards make this difference so that people can donate when their heart stops but not if they are only brain dead. He is asking that before the organs are removed, a rabbinical authority is consulted.

    Why I and others are very upset is because the chief rabbi has said that halachic organ donor cards are also unacceptable: “At this point, however, since the National Registry system is not set up to accommodate halachic requirements, donor cards (even those purporting to be halachic) are unacceptable.”

    This has upset a lot of other Orthodox rabbinical authorities. While the chief rabbi and his bet din might decide that brain-stem death does not constitute halachic death, there are Orthodox authorities who argue that it does. These include the chief rabbinate of Israel and Rav Moshe Tendler. Tendler is a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University and a professor of biology not to mention the son-in-law of the late Rav Moshe Finestein z’hl, one of the most important rabbinical authorities of the past century and allowed his son in law to take a lead on these issues.

    The halachic organ donor cards allows the donor to choose under which conditions (either brain death or heart failure or both) they would wish to donate.

    The argument between the Hods (Halachic Organ Donor Society) and the office of the chief rabbi has become quite heated and is featured in this week’s Jewish Chronicle. They are upset as there is a major dispute among different rabbis over what constitutes death. Rather than acknowledging the dispute and giving people the option within the UK to choose which they would rather follow, the office of the chief rabbi has said that he only accepts heart failure and will not accept brain death. While this is one opinion, it is not the only opinion and to ignore those of rabbinical authorities who are also medical experts really upsets me.

    Medical ethics on this level is very complex and is definitely something that not every communal rabbi will have an expertise on. What the chief rabbi has done by not allowing these halachic organ donor cards is to take the decision over whether brain-stem death will allow you to donate your organs away from Orthodox Jews in his jurisdiction – even though Orthodox Jews in America and Israel can have a choice.

    The chief rabbi may be a moral philosopher but he is not a medical expert, while he is entitled to support the view that only heart failure counts as death, to make this the only view that the Orthodox community in the country can subscribe to is unfair and in my view immoral.

    I still cannot see what would be the issue with the halachic organ donor cards and to impose a singular view is removing the choice for Orthodox families at a very tough time

Bill O’Reilly Stumped by Tides: ‘Unexplainable’ by Science
By Alex Moore

Tread lightly—this video is truly depressing.

Yo, God, it’s me, Bill. Can you explain how the tides work?”

Today David Silverstein, president of the American Atheist Group went on the Bill O’Reilly show to debate whether god is real and whether religion is valid. O’Reilly gave him a golden hail-mary opportunity to absolutely blow his argument off the map and wipe that smug look off his face, and Silverstein blew it.

Explaining that his religious faith springs from the mysteries of nature that are unexplainable by modern science, O’Reilly said: ““I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam, in my opinion. Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.”

Even more amazing than Bill O’Reilly not knowing that the tides are caused by the moon’s orbit is the fact that the atheist guy didn’t know it either! Silverstein was left to retort, “It doesn’t matter if I can’t explain it—that doesn’t mean that an invisible magic man in the sky is doing it,” his high school science (or was it middle school?) apparently failing him.

The moon, dude. The moon. Nothing so frustrating as seeing Bill O’Reilly so close to getting eviscerated, and without a rational human being in sight to put him in his place.

I guess it wasn’t meant to be this time—like the 1986 Red Sox. Just wait, O’Reilly—we rationalists will get you one of these days.

Interview here:-

When Religious Pandering Goes Too Far?

by Hemant Mehta

I’m used to politicians pandering to religious Americans.

There’s more of them, so there are more votes to be gained by speaking their “language.” That coupled with the fact that President Obama is a Christian just meant we could expect a lot of religious references in his speech in Tucson, Arizona yesterday.

I wasn’t disappointed:

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

I’m sure a lot of you feel it’s too much. He shouldn’t have made any religious references at all and this was overkill.

But somehow, none of those passages fazed me. They went in one ear and out the other. I’m so used to hearing them by now, I feel almost immune to them.

Until I heard the President talk about Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who died in the shooting. Obama spoke about her in some detail early in his speech, and then at the end of it, he said this:

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.


No. There are no rain puddles in heaven. Christina is not jumping in them. Hell, there’s not even a heaven in the first place.

I hate this idea that we have to create imaginary memories for people who die young, as if we couldn’t find anything happier to remember them by during their lifetimes. For all the joy Christina surely provided her family with during her life, Obama chose instead to invoke this fake scenario that I feel cheapens her memory.

I realize I’m probably overreacting. This was one line in a very long (and honestly beautiful) speech.

It just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know if I’m alone in this.

How One Paragraph in a Single Speech Has Skewed the Eisenhower Record

Wednesday 19 January 2011

by: Ira Chernus, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

How One Paragraph in a Single Speech Has Skewed the Eisenhower Record

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower pictured in his Army uniform. Eisenhower delivered a farewell address fifty years ago about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. (Photo: US Army)

The fiftieth anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address and its famous warning about the military-industrial complex presents progressives with a dilemma. They can continue the popular trend of claiming Eisenhower as a prophetic voice against militarism and for peace. Or they can set aside that manufactured image and get Eisenhower straight: they can talk about him and his policies accurately, with analysis based on research straight from the original source documents, and straighten out the distorted image the peace movement has propagated for so long. But they cannot do both, since the image so directly contradicts the reality.

It’s not an easy choice. The fictional Eisenhower, supposedly dead-set against wasteful spending on military (especially nuclear) armaments, has been a powerfully effective poster boy for the peace movement. After all, how could the war hawks argue with a beloved Republican war hero? The image of Eisenhower as the “man of peace” is so useful that I almost hate to burst the bubble.

On balance, though, I think that fiction does more harm than good. It distorts our picture of the early cold war years and prevents us from learning valuable lessons that an accurate history of that time can teach us. So, it’s healthy to see a small debate about Eisenhower triggered by this anniversary because some of the contributors give us a more honest understanding of this president who has had such a huge lasting influence.

And even if you’ve read the most accurate op-eds of the last few days, believe me, you haven’t heard anywhere near the whole story. I offered the most accurate history I could in the three books I wrote on Eisenhower, who once summed up his philosophy when he told the British ambassador that he would “rather be atomized than communized.” In writing those books, I saw over and over again how Eisenhower put his anticommunist ideology above human life.

He maintained elaborate plans for fighting a nuclear war. Though he was never eager for that war, he was absolutely prepared to start it if he believed the Soviets were about to destroy the “free world” in any way. “Shoot your enemy before he shoots you,” he told his advisers, and “hit ’em … with everything in the bucket.” He insisted that, with the right planning, the US could “pick itself up from the floor” and win the war as long as only 25 or 30 American cities got “shellacked” and nobody got too “hysterical.”

(You can read a detailed summary of what I learned about Eisenhower and nuclear weapons here.)

The loudest voice in the current debate is James Ledbetter, an economics journalist who has just published a well-timed book on the farewell address. In a New York Times op-ed, Ledbetter stresses the point that everyone stresses: Ike was indeed worried about excessive military spending. What Ledbetter, like all the members of the “I Like Ike” club, ignores is that Eisenhower spent eight years approving an enormous and unnecessary buildup of the nation’s military arsenal.

Melvin A. Goodman, a columnist for Truthout, falls into the same trap when he claims that, “Eisenhower ignored the hysteria of the bomber and missile gaps in the 1950’s, as well as the unnecessarily heightened concerns about US security” in a number of government reports, and “stood alone in countering America’s infatuation with military power.”

Would that it were true. In fact, Ike presided over by far – and that’s an understatement – the largest nuclear buildup in US history, going from a few hundred warheads when he took office to nearly 20,000 by the time he left. He also approved the deployment of a vast array of new kinds of weapons and delivery systems, including the intercontinental ballistic missiles that made it possible to obliterate the Soviet Union and China in a single day.

True, he didn’t give the Pentagon everything they wanted, but most of the time he bitched and moaned about the cost and then approved new weapons anyway – especially if they were nuclear. When Goodman writes, “Eisenhower understood that it was the military-industrial complex that fostered an inordinate belief in the omnipotence of American military power,” he misses the crucial point. The president, too, believed that the US could be, and had to be, omnipotent in military power. That’s why he kept approving all of those weapons of overkill even though he understood the economic risks.

Ledbetter rightly describes Eisenhower as “a lifelong opponent of what he called a ‘garrison state,’ in which policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite.” Ledbetter, like most writers, misses the key point here. Ike opposed the garrison state for the same reason he worried about the military budget: it would restrict the freedom of wealthy capitalists to get richer. (Though he was never a very wealthy capitalist, most of his friends were.)

The president, who was seen in his day as a limited intellect, actually had a somewhat sophisticated economic analysis, all based on a boundless fear of anything that would hamper the growth of free-market capitalism. He loved nukes precisely because they were so cheap, giving “more bang for the buck.” He was convinced that more nukes, like the cold war itself, meant more protection for free enterprise.

Eisenhower managed to mislead so many because of the vast disjuncture between his peace-oriented rhetoric and his huge military buildup. An Eisenhower fan who gets tripped up by the rhetoric, understandably enough, is his granddaughter Susan Eisenhower. In a Washington Post op-ed, she explains quite rightly that her grandfather’s concern about excessive military spending began long before the farewell address. She casts it as “the bookend” to his first major foreign policy speech as president, “A Chance for Peace,” where he warned eloquently of the military and economic dangers of the burgeoning nuclear arms race.

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“But pulling these quotes out of context, as we like to do, misses the reprehensible context of the speeches in which they originated,” as David Swanson notes on Truthout. The “Chance” speech was a propaganda piece through and through, designed to calm the fears of his Western European allies that the US was itching for a nuclear fight (which would take place on European soil). Though Ike insisted on his nation’s desire for peace, most of the speech was a call for the Soviet Union to show an equal desire – by totally capitulating to the US on every major issue of conflict. Eisenhower knew perfectly well that this speech could never ease cold war tensions. That was never its intent.

Nearly eight years later, as Swanson points out, in the farewell address, Eisenhower still “claimed eternal innocence for the United States in foreign affairs” and blamed all the dangers of the nuclear arms race completely on the Soviets. “He maintained the same set of lies that allowed for the military industrial complex to grow into something today that probably didn’t penetrate his worst nightmares.”

In fact, for eight years, while he talked so believably about his desire for peace, Ike made sure that disarmament talks with the Soviets would bear no fruit, mainly because he was convinced, as he told an aide, that “you can’t trust them when they are talking nice, and you can’t trust them when they are talking tough.” Nothing could change his mind; mistrust and hatred of communism were the bedrock of his faith.

Ledbetter also gets caught in the gap between rhetoric and policy when he speculates that, “Eisenhower would likely have been deeply troubled, in the past decade, by the torture at Abu Ghraib, the use of martial authority to wiretap Americans without warrants and the multiyear detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay without due process.”

I’ve read thousands of pages of private letters, memos and minutes of meetings and conversations recording Eisenhower’s words. If he had any concern about such abuses, he kept them to himself. In fact, Eisenhower approved the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala, putting in place cruel dictatorships that held power by massively abusing human rights every day. (Though few Americans remember the violation of democracy in Iran, you can bet most Iranians are still well aware of it.) He was willing to do anything to defeat “the reds.”

Ledbetter’s book, despite its apparent praise for Eisenhower, may provide more of a glimpse of historical reality. David Greenberg, who has read and blurbed an advance copy, writes accurately in Slate that, “Eisenhower’s fears about standing military power never outweighed his conviction that it was necessary.” Then he quotes the book: Ike was, “by any definition, a leading figure in that [military-industrial] complex.” In fact, he started promoting closer ties between the military and corporate America when he was still a young officer in the late 1920’s, and he never stopped.

As Greenberg rightly says, “the cult around Ike’s farewell address” has “misleadingly recast Eisenhower – a lifelong internationalist and military man [and commie-hater, he might have added] – as a veritable peacenik.” And it has misleadingly cast blame for war on the military corporations, as if the American public’s acquiescence had nothing to do with it.

Greenberg adds that Eisenhower’s “warnings about military overreach were couched, it’s usually forgotten, in passages insisting on the need for a military of unprecedented size.” The famous final warning about the military-industrial complex is the best example: It was immediately followed by words that are typically ignored: “We recognize the imperative need for this development [of the complex]…. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action” because the communist threat “promises to be of indefinite duration.”

“Indefinite duration.” That’s the most crucial and ignored point about Eisenhower’s lasting influence. Every time he talked about his longing for peace, he also told the nation that we had to prepare more for war because we had entered an endless “age of peril.” (“This phrase of not an instant but an age of peril – I like that fine,” he told the speechwriter who coined it.)

The influence of that constantly repeated warning lasted throughout the cold war era and far beyond. For sixty years or more, we have lived in a national insecurity state. It has been easy for presidents to persuade the public that we must fight because some enemy is out there ready to destroy us, that we are wholly innocent, that they are evildoers who have no comprehensible grievance against us, they just hate our freedoms.

With his frightening words and his massive nuclear buildup, Eisenhower did more than any other president to create the irrational age of peril that is still with us. The US government is still claiming total innocence in world affairs, still insisting that people who would attack us have no motive but sheer evil and still putting forth plans to survive nuclear attack – as long as nobody gets too “hysterical.”

The current debate about Eisenhower is healthy if it brings out the honest reality of a president who is now especially widely admired in progressive peace circles. Knowing the facts, it should make us wonder how less-admirable presidents talked and thought about nuclear weapons and war. It should remind us how easily presidents can create images that mask profoundly important truths. It should also warn us how easily peace progressives can promote those images and unwittingly serve the warmongering policies that they mean to oppose.