Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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The Religious Case Against Belief

James Carse: “The Religious Case Against Belief” | Salon Books

Carse dismisses attempts to find some underlying unity to all religions. He says the major religions differ radically from each other. He also shrugs off 2,000 years of Christian debate over who the real Jesus was, claiming “it says nothing.” He even speculates that this religious tradition, with its 2 billion followers, may be unraveling. “Christianity is losing its resonance,” he writes. “Its history looks to be more a matter of decades than millennia.”

Is Carse the man to save religion from its enemies and false prophets? I found him to be charming and good-humored in conversation, even as he lobbed grenades into our conventional ideas about religion ….


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Talking to ourselves

“It is past time for Americans to stop attributing the polarization of our public life to the media, the demon entity “Washington” or “the elites.” As long as we continue to avoid the hard work of scrutinizing public affairs without the filter of polemical shouting heads, we have no one to blame for the governing class and its policies but ourselves.

“Like Hofstadter, I yearn to live in a society that values fair-mindedness. But it will take nothing less than a revolutionary public re-commitment to the pursuit of fairness, knowledge and memory to halt, much less reverse, the trend toward an ignorant single-mindedness that threatens the future of democracy itself.”

Talking to ourselves – Los Angeles Times


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Ben Stein’s Blunder

In a new documentary film — Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed — the actor, game show host and financial columnist Ben Stein falls for the pseudoscience of Intelligent Design

Michael Schermer writes:

In 1974 I matriculated at Pepperdine University as a born-again Christian who rejected Darwinism and evolutionary theory, not because I knew anything about it (I didn’t) but because I thought that in order to believe in God and accept the Bible as true that you had to be a creationist. What I knew about evolution came primarily from creationist literature, so when I finally took a course in evolutionary theory in graduate school I realized that I had been hoodwinked. What I discovered is a massive amount of evidence from multiple sciences — geology, paleontology, biogeography, zoology, botany, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, genetics and embryology — demonstrating that evolution happened.

It was with some irony for me, then, that I saw Ben Stein’s anti-evolution documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opens with the actor, game show host and speech writer for Richard Nixon addressing a packed audience of adoring students at Pepperdine University, apparently falling for the same trap I did.

Actually they didn’t. The biology professors at Pepperdine assure me that their mostly Christian students fully accept the theory of evolution. So who were these people embracing Stein’s screed against science? Extras. According to Lee Kats, Associate Provost for Research and Chair of Natural Science at Pepperdine, “the production company paid for the use of the facility just as all other companies do that film on our campus” but that “the company was nervous that they would not have enough people in the audience so they brought in extras. Members of the audience had to sign in and the staff member reports that no more than two to three Pepperdine students were in attendance. Mr. Stein’s lecture on that topic was not an event sponsored by the university.” And this is one of the least dishonest parts of the film. eSkeptic: April 17th, 2008


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For Clarke, Issues of Faith, but Tackled Scientifically

Whatever attitude comes through — and it is almost always fraught with ambiguity — religion suffuses Mr. Clarke’s realm. He demands the canvas of Genesis and upon it he enacts experiments in thought. All science fiction does this to a certain extent, trying to imagine alternative universes in which one factor or another is slightly different. What if carbon were not the fundamental element in life forms? What if a society existed that never experienced nighttime?

Mr. Clarke’s enterprise, though, is at the edges of the frame: trying to examine the moments when things come to be and when they come to an end….

An Appraisal of Arthur C. Clarke – Books – New York Times


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Carl Dickerson gives the gift of literacy to low-income children

Carl Dickerson has loved books from the day he learned to read. He loves giving them away even more.

As director of Give-A-Book Foundation, Dickerson has helped distribute millions of dollars of books in Pensacola and throughout Central and South America.

The 52-year-old Memphis native gave up his job last June after 12 years as pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church to dedicate his time and energy full time to the book foundation.

His mission to raise the literacy of low-income children by providing new books started by accident.

Carl Dickerson gives the gift of literacy to low-income children | Life | pnj.com