(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. … Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 30, 2012 at 3:30pm —
“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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 27, 2012 at 12:30pm —
“CLERGYMAN., n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering his temporal ones.”
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…
Added by Alan Perlman on July 25, 2012 at 1:00pm —
“I used to think my brain was the most wonderful organ in the universe. Then I realized who was telling me this.”
(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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 19, 2012 at 8:00pm —
"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."
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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 18, 2012 at 10:00am —
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?
I was recently fortunate enough to receive a copy of the Book of Mormon, courtesy of the Marriott Residence Inns. … Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 10, 2012 at 10:30am —
Infidel, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does.”
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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 5, 2012 at 7:00pm —
(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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 4, 2012 at 8:00pm —
“Never speak ill of yourself; your friends will always say enough on that subject.”
“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.”
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…
Added by Alan Perlman on July 3, 2012 at 7:00pm —
“All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.”
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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on July 1, 2012 at 2:30pm —
“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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on June 28, 2012 at 10:30am —
“Those who love God are not always the friends of their fellow men.”
“When I think of all the harm [the Bible] has done, I despair of ever writing anything to equal it.”
“I find it necessary to wash my hands after I have come into contact with religious people.”
Voltaire was right for his time, but would be wrong today if he said “Christianity…
Added by Alan Perlman on June 24, 2012 at 8:00pm —
"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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on June 24, 2012 at 1:00am —
“Civilization will not attain to its perfection, until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”
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,…
Added by Alan Perlman on June 21, 2012 at 7:48pm —
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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on June 21, 2012 at 12:02pm —
“An inch away, total darkness.”
"If you believe in judgment day, then I have to seriously question your judgment."
“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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on June 20, 2012 at 9:00am —
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… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on June 17, 2012 at 8:00pm —
If secular humanists don’t look to God, the Bible or the Quran for their wisdom, where do they get it? From other human beings, of course. It turns out that people have been thinking and writing for a very long time about how to live a good life.
I’ve noticed that many of the same ideas keep showing up, across geography, history and culture.
The following collection provides practical advice about how to think, behave, and regard others,… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on June 15, 2012 at 2:30pm —
“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.”
I recently heard some women discussing a “women’s spirituality group.” They wanted to determine whether there was such a thing as “female spirituality”?
It’s impossible to say, since no one can really be sure what someone else means when he/she uses this word.
Spirituality is very popular these days. Everybody wants to be known as “spiritual.” That’s not… Continue
Added by Alan Perlman on June 14, 2012 at 6:00pm —
“I always wondered how much my soul was worth. So when Cinemax asked me if I’d go on camera to interview soft-core porn stars on the set of its new series, ‘Sin City Diaries,’ in return for $2,000 and a free night in Las Vegas, I discovered that my soul was worth some amount less than $2,000 and a free night in Las Vegas.”
In other writings I have defined two of the most vague yet most powerful religious buzzwords – “God”…
Added by Alan Perlman on June 13, 2012 at 2:00pm —