26 July 2006

Susie Bright and Greta Christina -- Commentary on Awestruck Skepticism

I would recommend reading Greta Christina's blog and Susie Bright's blog commentary on transcendent skepticism.

I think it's relevant to the "language of reverence" discussions happening in Unitarian Universalism and what role that skeptical Humanists will have in developing a language of reverence. Here's a brief sample from Susie Bright's blog where she quotes Greta's blog:
Blogger Greta Christina has just lost her temper with notion that "God is in the details," as lovely as that may sound from a lyrical perspective.
It is entirely possible to be a skeptic, an agnostic, and/or an atheist— regarding all metaphysical beliefs, not just deities or organized religions— and still lead a rich, satisfying life, full of creativity and connection and love.

More to the point, it is possible to be a skeptic, an agnostic, and/or an atheist, and still experience awestruck wonder at the mysterious majesty of the universe, and a feeling of transcendent oneness with it.

09 July 2006

"Follow The Money" - Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC Report on the IRD

More info on IRD political dirty tricks ...
When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets June 13 in Columbus, Ohio, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face serious consequences. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.
The entire report can be downloaded here (requires Adobe Acrobat or other PDF reader software).

IRD and Political Dirty Tricks in Religion

This blog excerpt comes from Rev. Susan Russell's blog where she is quoting Peter Laarman's recent column "A Canterbury Tale: U.S. Episcopalians in Manufactured Schism."

Rev. Russell is President of Integrity, the Episcopal Church's "leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) persons in the Episcopal Church and our equal access to its rites."

Here's the interesting excerpt.
It's the old liberals' dilemma, ecclesiastical version. They fight dirty; we don't. They organize; we temporize. They seize the pendulum and give it a rightward shove; we wait meekly for the pendulum to swing back.

The liberals could at least point out -- and I hope that Bishop Jefferts Schori will be the first to do so -- how shamelessly the rift within the U.S. denomination has been manipulated and exacerbated for many years by a little-known but well-financed and quite deadly operation called the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD).

Created by cunning Schactmanites and by ex-CIA operatives during the time of Reagan's dirty wars in Central America, the IRD's core work plan has always called for dividing and disabling the larger Mainline Protestant denominations -- the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists, and Evangelical Lutherans -- using any means necessary. The means that has worked best by far is relentlessly flogging the issue of homosexuality and accusing religious progressives of departing from the true faith by preaching that God really does love everybody.

Thanks to the IRD's skillful fingering of this hot button through the different front groups it operates within each body, all four national denominations have been pretty much AWOL from the more urgent moral debates this moment: e.g., imperial wars of choice, torture, civil liberties, Katrina, climate change, and economic terrorism from above. The denoms just don't have the energy. Nearly all their attention and focus have been consumed by internal debates on matters Levitical.

I was reliably informed that the IRD operated right out in the open at the Episcopal convention back there in Columbus. And why shouldn't they crawl out of the woodwork and get kinda jiggy at this point? In Ohio they scored their biggest coup in a quarter-century of patient stalinoid boring from within.

One final irony: several of the guiding spirits in forming the IRD went on to create the intellectual foundations of the Bush-Cheney "dominance doctrine." So it's not that these folks doubt for one minute that Americans should rule the world; they are in fact quite passionately committed to taking up the White Man's Burden. It's just that in order for American dominance to be secured against all possible sources of domestic opposition, the liberal churches needed to be silenced. And for this purpose, what better CIA-like cover could possibly be contrived than multicultural deference to the spiritual interests and biblical views of the very same ex-colonials -- Africans, Asians, and Latins -- whose material interests and worldly aspirations our peerless American Empire will continue to shunt aside with total and utter contempt.
The IRD covert involvement in creating schism in Mainline Protestant Churches as a way to neutralize their prophetic voices for social justice has been very successful. Our Congregationalist cousins in the United Church of Christ are dealing with their IRD-supported schism called the Biblical Witness Fellowship.

I suspect the reason that the IRD isn't interested in creating schism within the UUA is we just aren't big enough to worry about. If we were to grow larger as a denomination, I wouldn't be surprised to see IRD support of schism movements within the UUA.

07 July 2006

Interview with Sam Harris (Author of "The End of Faith")

Salon.com has an interview with Sam Harris:

The disbeliever
Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith," on why religious moderates are worse than fundamentalists, 9/11 led us into a deranged holy war, and believers should be treated like alien-abduction kooks.

Sam Harris isn't totally anti-religious. His criticism is mostly directed towards scripture-based God-of-Abraham monotheism. With our historical roots in this tradition, this book might be a good resource for a book discussion group to explore how to responsibly exist in our tradition.

Here's a brief quote from the Salon.com interview where he talks about Buddhism:

You can't get the same kind of death cult brewing in Buddhism, or at least not as readily. And that's why we don't see Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers.

You know, the Tibetans have suffered a terrible occupation under the Chinese. Many people estimate that 1.1 or 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of that occupation. We should see Tibetan Buddhists blowing themselves up on Chinese buses, if all religions are equivalent. But we don't see that. What we do see in Tibetan Buddhism -- which is impossible to even imagine in Islam at the moment -- we see Tibetans who have been tortured for decades in Chinese prisons, coming out and saying things like, "My greatest fear while I was in prison was that I would lose the strength of my compassion and come to hate my torturers." Now, that said, there's nothing in Buddhism that's held dogmatically that I would support. It's just that all dogmas are not equal and don't have equal behavioral consequences.