Alan Perlman's Blog (96)

The Battle for Zachary’s Brain III: Religion Rears its Ugly and Divisive Head (rev.)

“If God wants us to do a thing he should make his wishes sufficiently clear.  Sensible people will wait till he has done this before paying much attention to him.”

Samuel  Butler

“I cannot believe in a God who has neither humor nor common sense.”

W. Somerset Maugham

Followers of the riveting “Zachary’s Brain” series will remember that Zach is my 6-year-old stepson (7 this month) whose task of configuring the world – his…

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Added by Alan Perlman on August 10, 2012 at 8:30pm — 6 Comments

Thoughts of an August 9 Birthchild

“Hell no, we won’t go!”

60s anti-war slogan

It’s nice to have a birthday in the summer – guaranteed good weather (almost).  My early parties were well attended (everybody home from vacation) and outdoors.  But I know why seniors tend to disregard birthdays: as the number of enjoyed August 9ths gets more numerous, so does the number of anticipated August 9ths shrink.

As a speechwriter, I learned such obscure facts as my shared birthdate with Francis Scott…

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Added by Alan Perlman on August 8, 2012 at 5:30pm — 4 Comments

Ravaging the Planet for Our Own Amusement

Another A/N blogger, Richard Goscicki, has eloquently written on the connection between religion and the destruction of our planet.  Let us count the ways. 

Time is wasted in religious ritual and obsessing over ancient texts.  Religious wars and terrorism carry on a constant slaughter of humans and destruction of resources.  Religious teachings – that contraception is wrong, that man is not descended from animals but is special, that we are meant to have total dominion over nature…all…

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Added by Alan Perlman on August 2, 2012 at 7:30pm — No Comments

"An Atheist Reads the Torah" -- Why I Wrote It and Why You Might Want to Read It

(Several years ago, I undertook to read the Torah.  For specific reasons, see below.  But basically I wanted to find out, to my own satisfaction, just what it said, to the extent possible, given that it's such an ancient text that's been repeatedly copied and edited. 

To rabbis, thus to most Jews, it is a repository of priceless wisdom.   I set out to find it. 

What I found was both enlightening and disappointing. …

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 30, 2012 at 3:30pm — 11 Comments

Another PhD Candidate Goes Over the Edge

“Here’s an object more of dread / Than aught the grave contains – A human form with reason fled / While wretched life remains.”

Abraham Lincoln, letter to Andrew Johnson, Sept. 6, 1846

 

A heavily armed man explodes a gas canister in a theater, then opens fire,  killing a dozen, wounding many more.  Again, Colorado and the nation are in shock.  The eternal gun debate, which Obama had been keeping quiet, explodes, four months before an election.  There’s…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 27, 2012 at 12:30pm — 8 Comments

Tisha B'Av and the Jewish History of Tragedy

“CLERGYMAN.,  n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs  as a method of bettering his temporal ones.”

Ambrose Bierce



We're just on the verge of a little known but very sad Jewish holiday, Tisha B'Av [the ninth day of the month of Av; July 27-8 this year], which commemorates the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, including, but not limited to, the destruction of the First and Second…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 25, 2012 at 1:00pm — No Comments

The Meat Thinks: On the Ineradicability of Religion; a Modest Proposal

“I used to think my brain was the most wonderful organ in the universe. Then I realized who was telling me this.”

Emo Phillips

 

(From a fictional exchange between two extraterrestrial intelligent machines, regarding the dominant life-form on Earth:)

“So…what does the thinking?”

“You’re not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.”

“Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 19, 2012 at 8:00pm — 26 Comments

Desperately Seeking Approval: Overt and Covert Reasons for the Adult Bar Mitzvah

"As a beautiful flower that is full of hue but lacks fragrance, even so fruitless is the well-spoken word of one who does not practice it."

The Dhammapada

 

Informed of a former colleague’s decision to have a bar mitzvah in middle age, I can’t help but look for reasons, since the ceremony is completely optional at this point in life.

For a complex variety of reasons, many of them personal, some Jewish adults genuinely want to reconnect with their…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 18, 2012 at 10:00am — 2 Comments

A Mormon President?

The most questionable part of Romney is not his ethics, or whether he created or destroyed jobs.  It's his religion. A President's religion, if's he's a true believer, influences the way he sees the world and makes decisions.  Did Dubya think God told him to invade Iraq?  To what extent does Romney believe all that nutty Mormon stuff? 

Nutty stuff

I was recently fortunate enough to receive a copy of the Book of Mormon, courtesy of the Marriott Residence Inns. …

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 10, 2012 at 10:30am — 33 Comments

Religious Conversion: Who Goes Where? And Why?

Infidel, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does.”

Ambrose Bierce

It would be great to have reliable numbers on religious migration: how many people change religions each year, how many become new adherents, how many drift away, never to return?

Increasing the ranks

Different religions have different ways of increasing their ranks: birth rate (e.g., all…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 5, 2012 at 7:00pm — 6 Comments

4th of July Again a Bittersweet Holiday for Lovers of Liberty

(The following was originally submitted to the July 1-4 2008 Blogswarm against Theocracy.  I have made some additions and revisions.  Since my goal is always change in the real world, I urge you to take personal action to roll back religious bigotry and superstition.  First Freedom First is a good place to start.)

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 4, 2012 at 8:00pm — 11 Comments

On Fake Friends and Groupthink

“Never speak ill of yourself; your friends will always say enough on that subject.”

Talleyrand

“It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.”

Mark Twain



On June 28, my second wife and I would have celebrated our 31st anniversary.  I meant to write about it on the 28th, but hey, three years after the divorce, a guy’s allowed to…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 3, 2012 at 7:00pm — 13 Comments

Is Heaven More Like a Hilton – or a Motel 6?

“All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.”

Lucretius

 

I sometimes think that prankish college students with nothing better to do are responsible for at least some of the more outrageous letters to advice columnists.  That may be one explanation for the following letter and response.  Another is that the writer and columnist are absolutely serious,  the latter buying into…

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Added by Alan Perlman on July 1, 2012 at 2:30pm — 10 Comments

On Religious Repression

“I object to having to attend chapel 40 times before I graduate in order to earn a degree, sir.  I don’t see where the college has the right to force me to listen to a clergyman of whatever faith even once, or to listen to a Christian hymn invoking the Christian deity even once, given that I’m an atheist who is, to be truthful, deeply offended by the practices and beliefs of organized religion…I do not need the sermons of professional moralists to tell me how I should act.  I certainly…

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Added by Alan Perlman on June 28, 2012 at 10:30am — 4 Comments

The Cult of One Billion - Is It Already Too Late?

“Those who love God are not always the friends of their fellow men.”

Robert Ingersoll

“When I think of all the harm [the Bible] has done, I despair of ever writing anything to equal it.”

Oscar Wilde

“I find it necessary to wash my hands after I have come into contact with religious people.”

Friedrich Nietzsche



Voltaire was right for his time, but would be wrong today if he said “Christianity…

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Added by Alan Perlman on June 24, 2012 at 8:00pm — 27 Comments

Evil: A Secular Humanist View

"The Devil gets up to the belfry by the vicar's skirts."

Thomas Fuller, 1732

 

"It is by its promise of a sense of power that evil often attracts the weak."

Eric Hoffer, 1954

 

“Every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor.”

Emerson, Essays: First Series, 1841

 

“Much of the important evils…are those which [people] inflict on each other through stupidity or…

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Added by Alan Perlman on June 24, 2012 at 1:00am — 5 Comments

Reason Day

“Civilization will not attain to its perfection, until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”

Emile Zola



On the summer solstice, there is more light than on any other day of the year.  Light is a metaphor for knowledge, so let us set aside at least one day a year to intentionally do one thing to advance the light of reason.  Read a book, join a secular group, write a letter to the editor, give a talk, have a thoughtful discussion,…

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Added by Alan Perlman on June 21, 2012 at 7:48pm — 10 Comments

RSVP to Carly's Bat Mitzvah Invitation (Not Sent)

The mailed invitation to the presumed induction of the daughter of my first cousin to Jewish adulthood read “We cordially invite you to celebrate with us on the occasion of the bat mitzvah of our daughter Carly Sarah on Saturday morning, the Twelfth of November, Two Thousand and Eleven at Nine Thirty in the morning. Congregation Adath Jeshrun…Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.” 

Apparently it’s more dignified to use no numbers and capitalize everything, as if it were 18th…

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Added by Alan Perlman on June 21, 2012 at 12:02pm — 4 Comments

Question for messianic believers: And then what?

“An inch away, total darkness.”

Zen saying



"If you believe in judgment day, then I have to seriously question your judgment."

Bill Maher

“Prepare for tomorrow by doing your best today.”

Life’s Little Instruction Calendar, Volume V

 

Religious radio and TV are great sources of amusement for me.  I love to watch the strutting, sweating televangelists spouting their childish BS…

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Added by Alan Perlman on June 20, 2012 at 9:00am — 16 Comments

Atheists and God-talk: Towards God-Free Language

Elsewhere in A/N, there’s a portal devoted to freeing your speech of God-references.  This is a worthwhile endeavor.  Our speech must reflect who we are.  But our language (and probably every language) is littered with references to gods.  What should we do? 

As a linguist (PhD, U. of Chicago), I’ve pondered this question for years: certainly any self-aware unbeliever is aware of the extent to which God-talk pervades even the atheist’s speech, not to mention that of the CNN anchors…

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Added by Alan Perlman on June 17, 2012 at 8:00pm — 12 Comments

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