Thursday, November 30, 2006

How to build a religion

A very interesting post by Seth Godin. A couple of comments:

In my opinion, though, his application to the Zoroastrians seems to miss the mark:
According to the Times, the Zoroastrians are fading away because they believe being good is just about enough and didn't build enough of the elements of an ideavirus into their culture. As they traveled the world, their attitude and hard work rewarded them with success and the ability to mix with other cultures. As a result, they were successful as a people but a failure as a long-term growing religion.

Given the fact that this religion has been around for 3000 years, it seems to have more going for it than the above comments suggest. Also, it seems to me that one of the main reason that it is fading is because few believe the meta-narrative that it presents about the world. This indicates to me that an important item left out of the list of things to build in to a religion would be this: a grand picture of the world and one's place in it that has enduring viability.

Second point: his analysis seems much more applicable to the religion of Scientology than Zoroastrianism. That said, I don't know how it gets away its meta-narrative (When compared to one another, I actually find the Zoroastrian view of the world more plausbile. You can quickly compare them here and here.)

Microsoft "Training Videos"

I absolutely love Ricky Gervais and the original "The Office". Now there are two "training videos" entitled: The Office Values. Although these videos were intended to be seen only by Microsoft employees, fortunately for us, they were leaked. Here is the first video.

Also, check out the second training video here.

Why doesn't blogger implement trackbacks?

This annoys me. Luckily, it's not to hard to get around this deficiency using Greasemonkey. Here's a post explaining how.

Check out this testimony - its a very compelling case for medical marijuana

In a not-too-long-ago post, Andrew Sullivan writes the following:
... we already have a drug that requires no elaborate production, has no bad side-effects, that actually cures serious illness and helps the sick - and the federal government doesn't just not fund this; it bans anyone from using it, and throws sick people in jail for it. This policy is despicable; it's immoral; and it's a scandal that marijuana is not available for any sick person it could help.

I'm in full agreement. If a doctor thinks that medical marijuana can really help someone, then he or she ought to be allowed to prescribe it. Moreover, more and more scientific evidence is mounting that marijuana can have medical benefits. Check out this quite thorough study here [pdf] for more infomation. Here is one of its conclusions:
The psychological effects of cannabinoids, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria can influence their potential therapeutic value. Those effects are potentially undesirable for certain patients and situations, and beneficial for others.

So goes it for most any medical drug.

Wikidumper: Wikipedia reject articles live on

Cliff Pickover, the blog's editor, describes this site as follows:
WikiDumper: The Official Appreciation Page for the Best of the Wikipedia Rejects. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

A fabulous idea. Without it, we would loose gems like this.

Barack Obama: 'I Inhaled — That Was The Point'

I really, really like this guy. Check out this article, and this one too.

The Silly Bravado of Sam Harris

His review of Francis Collins' The Language of God can be found here. As a sample, here is just the first paragraph:
Francis Collins—physical chemist, medical geneticist and head of the Human Genome Project—has written a book entitled “The Language of God.” In it, he attempts to demonstrate that there is “a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony” between 21st-century science and evangelical Christianity. To say that he fails at his task does not quite get at the inadequacy of his efforts. He fails the way a surgeon would fail if he attempted to operate using only his toes. His failure is predictable, spectacular and vile. “The Language of God” reads like a hoax text, and the knowledge that it is not a hoax should be disturbing to anyone who cares about the future of intellectual and political discourse in the United States.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Prove Christ exists, judge orders priest

Does anyone know what ever came of this story? I briefly searched around and couldn't find anything dating much later than Jan. 2006.

Colin Powell for President?

George Shadroui makes a case for it here. For my part, I would be ecstatic if he ran for office. Ideally, here is my order of preference (so far) for the ideal presidential candidates for 2008:

1st choice: John McCain (w/ VP being Colin Powell) vs. Barack Obama (w/ VP being John Edwards)
2nd choice: (Flip on or more of the above with their VPs)
3rd choice: John McCain vs. Al Gore

Benedict XVI as Santa? I don't think he quite pulls it off

They were protesting in front of my house. I had to protect my land.

Here (its funny)

Tangled up in Bleu

Acoustic Levitation

Now scientists are even able to levitate small animals. The story is here. Also here is a YouTube video.

Better than a Holy Ghost Machine Gun

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Iraq's Faith-Based Melee / Territorial Oogleboogle of Regional Qualms

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The Narrow, Narrow Vision of the Old Guard of the Religious Right

Check out these two stories here and here. According to the first story,
Rev. Joel Hunter, president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, is declining the job, saying the organization wouldn't let him expand its agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage. A statement issued by the group said Hunter left because of "differences in philosophy and vision."

The second story shows(and I guess the first story does as well) how the old-school leaders of the religious right respond when prominent evangelicals don't put the issues of abortion and gay marriage above everything else.
Obama is set to attend a huge evangelical gathering in California on Dec. 1, at the invitation of megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, the evangelical superstar who wrote The Purpose-Driven Life.
But the appearance is now provoking an intense backlash from leaders of the Christian right. They are calling on Warren to disinvite Obama from the event because of his liberal positions, especially abortion rights — or as one of those leaders put it, Obama's support of "the murder of babies in the womb."

A bit of positive spin here - both stories offer indications of a transition occurring in the religious right (and more generally, the evangelical community at large) that the old guard is not very happy about: a broader vision. Oh, and I just discovered this.

UPDATE: Check out the GetReligion post and this post by Jeremy Dibbell

Subdivision bans peace sign Christmas wreath

When is peace such a bad idea? Especially in the season dedicated to the celebration of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The story can be found here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Presidential Candidates: Quinnipiac University's National Thermometer reading

Here is the way the wind is blowing right now:
The independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll asked voters to rate leaders from 0 to 100 on a "feeling thermometer," with the highest numbers reflecting the warmest feelings. The top 10 mean scores are:
(1)..Rudolph Giuliani.........................63.5
(2) Barack Obama.............................59.9
(3) John McCain..............................59.7
(4) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice......57.1
(5) President Bill Clinton...................56.1
(6) Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards..50.8
(7) Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.........50.7
(8) New York Sen. Hillary Clinton............50.4

The details can be found here.

Worst Movies Ever Made

One of the reasons I love Wikipedia is for articles like this.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another Fantastic Speech by Barack Obama

Check out this speech by Sen. Barack Obama on the topic of faith and politics. Its fantastic. I wish many more on all sides of the political spectrum took his approach. The following two quotations give a general flavor of how he is arguing.

Here he acknowledges not simply the inevitability of religious discourse in the political sphere, but also its positive role in this context:
what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition

Second, and more importantly in my view, he offers a model for how religious religiously motivated viewpoints ought to argue their respective cases in a pluralistic society:
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Liberals, Conservatives, and Generosity: Is this surprising?

Check out the following post over at Arthur C. Brooks, a professor of Professor of Public Administration at Syracuse University, has written a book entitled: Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. In summery:
The book's basic findings are that conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure.

Here is another interesting tidbit (which seems true enough from my experience):
One noted that people who drink alcohol moderately are more successful and charitable than those who don't (like him).

My question is this: Is this surprising?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Links to Useful Applications and Computer Utilities

Here are links to a bunch of application sites and computer utility sites. I'll try and keep it updated:

Portable Apps (Windows)
LiveCD List (Linux and Windows - especially useful as rescue disks) (Windows: Lots of useful free applications)

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Government, Religion, and Marriage

Here is an excellent post on rethinking the government's role regarding the institution of marriage. The proposal offered is about the only way I see for bypassing the gridlock in this country over the issue of gay marriage, and it does so in a way that seems fair to all the parties concerned (though its probable that neither side is going to be fully happy - "it doesn't go far enough", "it goes to far", blah, blah, blah...)

Being a Political Moderate

If you want to read one of the best posts on what it means to be a political moderate, check out the following post.

Also, here are some other sites to check out:

The Moderate Voice
The Daily Dish

Bush Impersonation at the Correspondent's Dinner

If you haven't seen this, its pretty funny.

Of course, if you haven't seen Stephen Colbert's roast of the president, you should check it out here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Atheists Nightmare!! ... a banana?

Oh my goodness, this is so inane I can't stop laughing. The best part is that they are totally serious.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Political Compass

If you are interested in seeing where you fall politically, or compare your political views with others, a good site to check out is this. I've always known that I'm a centrist, so I'm not at all surprised by my results:

Unitarianism on the Colbert Report

Here is a link to it. The stuff on UU is embedded in the middle, but I think the whole things pretty funny.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard on Marriage

Decent discussions of the Haggard scandal can be found here. It is really easy to dislike Haggard, and his hypocrisy here provides one all the more reason to do so. Although I've never agreed with Haggard theologically, I hurt for him, his family and friends. I know that the inner life of a person is always more complex than how it is presented publicly - and that pain, struggle, arrogance, honesty, deceit, and faith can be found in a single person even at a single moment. Suggestion: Lets measure our response by considering our own secret hypocrisies, and what it would be like if they were exposed.

Public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries, 2005.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Review of Dawkin's "The God Delusion"

A review by Terry Eagleton can be found here. It should be noted that Terry Eagleton is himself a scholar, and unflinchingly uses his prowess a writer to critique Dawkin's book. One passage I found particularly amusing can be found at the very end of the article:
"The book is full of vivid vignettes of the sheer horrors of religion, fundamentalist or otherwise. Nearly 50 per cent of Americans believe that a glorious Second Coming is imminent, and some of them are doing their damnedest to bring it about. But Dawkins could have told us all this without being so appallingly bitchy about those of his scientific colleagues who disagree with him, and without being so theologically illiterate. He might also have avoided being the second most frequently mentioned individual in his book – if you count God as an individual."

UPDATE: Check out this post here, as well as Marilynne Robinson review in Harper's Magazine

Muslim Village Council Evicts Rape Victim

How despicable.