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It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but if so, it will be necessary
first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.
These aren’t words penned by a so-called “new atheist” here in the 21st century. No, they came to us from more than 80 years ago by Bertrand Russell in the essay, “Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization.”
Russell is responsible for some of the simplest and most lucid arguments against, not only Christianity, but religion in general and toward a more secular approach to the education of children and the making of a better society. I think he would find it alarming and disconcerting that we are no further along than we are in slaying the dragon, although perhaps encouraged that more people around the world are identifying as nonbelievers (and even in the United States Congress).
By taking a softer line on concepts like eternal punishment, downplaying its stance on evolution and new-Earth theories and by embracing popular music and culture, Christianity, in particular, has saved itself from complete extinction for decades or, perhaps, centuries to come. The good thing about logic, however, is that holds water regardless of whether it is spread by Lucretius, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, and the logic of the Christian religion is self-defeating.
As Russell pointed out in the same essay:
The world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good and omnipotent. Before He created the world He foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain; He is therefore responsible for all of it.
While people like myself think that mankind would do itself a great favor if it would drop this fearful reliance on religion sooner than later, as I have said before, Christianity will persist so long as people view death as a proverbial event horizon between an eternity of rewards and punishments rather than the simple loss of consciousness that it actually is. As Mark Twain famously said:
I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
A slightly shy Sinead O’Connor:
Becomes a confident woman:
Thanks to Reasonable Doubts and Jeremy Beahan for providing this. The following is a description of a sermon delivered by Beahan on Dec. 11, 2011 at All Souls Unitarian Church:
Those who reject religion go by many names; atheist, agnostic, skeptic, freethinker, secular humanist–but please do not call us “unbelievers.” If you ask you will find there are many things we believe in. We believe that the natural world, as revealed through science, is more beautiful and inspiring than any mythology. But a world without the supernatural also confronts us with disturbing possibilities. If there is no God then the human story comes with no guarantee of a happy ending. Humanity must solve it’s [sic] own problems but it’s not at all clear we are up to the task. If there is hope, it will be found in those who reject the hollow consolations of faith and choose to press on instead of hoping for a miracle. By living with courage and integrity, pursuing truth for truth’s sake, we can make our lives and our world significant.
Here is the actual text in PDF form and the audio:
Just go here: http://twitter.com/#!/jeremystyron and click Follow.
Since I referenced it earlier, below is the entire poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats, with my comments to follow:
|41. Ode on a Grecian Urn|
Using language like, “Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave,” and “Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,/Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;/She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,/For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” Keats seems to capture the essence of the scene before him. It is etched or painted in still-frame, and though the lovers long, they will never kiss. Though the love endures, she cannot fade. Forever, she — they — are framed in that moment, in that beauty, in the one transcendental episode that will live on far after the lives have come and gone.
Keats again echoes this sentiment in the third stanza when he says, “For ever panting, and for ever young; …” In the fourth, he tells of some believers coming to give a sacrifice to some god on “this pious morn,” and in the fifth, the climax, when he says, apparently to the urn or to its representations, “Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought/As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!” The urn is, to him, alas, relunctant to tell all to a seeker seeking all. Keat’s then comes to terms with the fact that when “old age shall this generation waste,” the urn shall remain to witness “other woe/Than ours.” In the finale couplet, of course, we have, perhaps, the most often-quoted line in all of poetry: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’—that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
All we need to know indeed. T.S. Elliot, renown in his own right for The Waste Land and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a personal favorite of mine, was apparently no fan of this last line, but a fan of the other four stanzas. He thought Keats mucked things up on the last bit. My personal feelings: It’s a beautiful poem that feels a bit like that toward the end, Keats was attempting to just wrap it up the best he could. It was, one must say, a stunning way to wrap things up (Keats is a master poet, after all), but one that feels slightly forced, and dare I say, cliché-esque.
Nevertheless, Keats, in just a few words, accomplished what takes some thousands upon thousands of words, that is, describing the seemingly indescribable artistic work of our species in as few words as possible, which, after all, is the aim of poetry.
And too, such is the often thankless work of the poet, of whom, I do not envy.
I’m not a huge Chris Matthews fan, but here he discusses the supposed controversy over President Barack Obama’s citizenship with John Campbell of California:
in which Matthews’ continued badgering gets Campbell to admit that “as far as I know” Obama is a naturalized citizen. Campbell, later in the interview said, “that bill is not about Barack Obama,” but the bill was written because of questions surrounding Obama’s citizenship. As I said, I don’t necessarily go along with everything Matthews does, but I applaud his tenacity in getting Campbell to, it seems somewhat reluctantly, to admit Obama’s full citizenship status, and to in some measure, establish that the arguments contrary to Obama’s citizenship are a farce.
Because I truly don’t seek to offend swaths of people in every post that I make — I know it’s hard to believe — I’m going to break from the God talk and the slavery question for a second to talk about the marvel that is Paul McCartney. Here is the video from his miniconcert on a recent edition of The Late Show with David Letterman:
At 67, McCartney doesn’t seem to have missed a step, not one. I mean, he’s not going to be running around the stage and climbing stage structures and stage diving like Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder in his younger days — McCartney was never that kind of performer — but his virtuosity on numerous instruments, not to mention his continued vocal ability and the ease by which he sings the most demanding tunes, allows him to thump along on his hand-picked Hofner semi-acoustic bass on “Band on the Run” and then switch to a Les Paul six-string for the riff-driven “Let Me Roll It.” Did anyone catch his bit of brief shredding at about 12:35 minutes into the above video? The current crew of supporting band members seem to have a certain chemistry with McCartney and are adept musicians in their own right. Quite a cohesive bunch on stage.
I may have written briefly about this before, but when I was young, I had an incredible affinity for The Beatles’ music, so much so that I thought I was actually born in the wrong generation. My knowledge of the band began in first (or second) grade when I participated in a play about the ugly duckling, in which I was part of the group of singers that provided, apparently, the accompaniment to the on-stage action. I probably didn’t have a clue what I was doing since I was only 7, but regardless, some of the songs we sang included The Song of the Volga Boatman (Yo heave ho!), “She Loves You” by The Beatles, “Loch Lomond” and others. “She Loves You,” consequently, was actually sung to me, specifically, during one practice. Many in the play (apparently most of them) knew I had a crush on this girl named Lindy Douglas, which lasted well into fifth grade. So, when “She Loves You” kicked off during this particular practice and the part that goes “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah!” came around, I actually remember many of them pointing directly at me. She, indeed, did not love me, but that’s neither here nor there.
As my love of The Beatles’ music continued, I remember singing along to their songs for hours at the time at my grandparents’ house (My grandfather had a PA system with mics and all. I would even making recordings of me singing along). At some point in middle school (I think), my friend Byron Jones recorded an instrumental rendition of “Yesterday” played on the keyboard with drum accompaniment, which I was quite impressed with at the time. Later, upon picking up the six string myself, I learned numerous Beatles songs and still crack open a songbook now and then. My top 10 favorite Beatles songs, in order, would be:
- In My Life
- A Day in the Life
- Helter Skelter
- You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
- Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
- Hard Day’s Night
- Hello Goodbye
- We Can Work It Out
- Strawberry Fields Forever
So, with that, here’s some more rock ‘n roll for your enjoyment and remembrance from a much younger Paul, John Lennon and the gang:
Oh, and if you guys want some more fun, view this video, which is so misguided, I could pontificate about it for at least 1,000 or 2,000 words:
Concentration Camps in America of which, I offered these comments:
The U.S. blew the levees? Are you shitting me? Man, the Bush Administration failed miserably, I agree with you about the administration being impotent, but don’t screw this … up. It was a hurricane for God’s sake. What did you expect would happen??? New Orleans sits below sea level. By the way, it’s called the Federal Emergency Management AGENCY (not Association). I could continue to shred your arguments to pieces. but I don’t have all night. — Me.
Glenn Beck, transcribed by me:
“We are a country that is headed toward socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination. I have to tell ya, I’m doing a story tonight, that I wanted to debunk these FEMA camps, I’m tired of hearing, you know about them? I’m tiring of hearing it. I wanted to debunk them. We’ve now for several days done research on them. … I can’t debunk them, and we’re going to carry the story tonight. … It is our government, if you trust our government, it’s fine. If you have any kind of fear that we might be headed toward a totalitarian state, look out. Buckle up. There’s something going on in our country that is … uh … ain’t good.” — FOX & Friends, early March 2009
If you look here, Beck denied the contention about the FEMA concentration camps.
All, absolutely all, that Beck is doing is fear-mongering. No more, more less. To suggest we are headed toward a totalitarianism state is ridiculous, beyond reproach and does a disservice to the many leaders that preceded him that I know Obama venerates, including Lincoln, Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others. And, if you are interested, here is the piece of legislation Beck seems to be inaccurately referencing: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-645
When I previously worked at The Clayton Tribune, a local weekly newspaper in the Northeast Georgia mountains, we had a fellow there who handled the sports beat. To the extent that he handled it well is up for debate, but such as it is … He covered the local high school and recreation sports for us. Quite often, he would write about his alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University, in his sports column. Now, aside from the then-athletic director who actually attended to MTSU, needless to say, this writer’s columns about his old school didn’t really have much local interest in our neck of the woods. Our coverage area doesn’t even extend to the adjoining county, much less a state over. That said, neither did some of my maniacal rantings about the wrestler, Booker T, or the Denver Broncos or Mike Tyson or Cocoa Puffs or whatever zany stuff I was spewing at the time carry much local interest. Some of that is archived at the above link, so by all means, enjoy (as I carry heavy sarcasm in tow).
Thus, as few of you care anything about the Broncos, I’m sure, I offer this about the debacle in which Jay Cutler and the Broncos find themselves. As of late, this seems to be the most publicized story in the NFL at the moment and certainly the most publicized for the Broncos’ since they won the Super Bowl in the late 90s.
Here’s how it goes: the Broncos’ new coach, Josh McDaniels apparently pursued a trade for Matt Cassel, and Cutler got steamed about it. As in the post provided above, some folks said Cutler was being a cry baby and a whiner and should have kept his mouth shut. Regardless, silence ensued. The Broncos couldn’t get in touch with Cutler for 10 days, and the quarterback missed some workouts, etc. The Broncos then found out that Cutler wanted to be traded. Denver was apparently happy to oblige.
Now, the national media prior to this foolishness, seemed to paint Cutler as a hero who, despite having diabetes and having to check his blood sugar level multiple times during games on the sidelines and the like, was a role model for others who had diabetes that they could achieve a similar level of success. First, I think he can be great some day, perhaps sooner than later. But he’s not there, and that was clearly on display last season. Maybe that was why McDaniels was poking around looking for greener pastures.
Despite all the media attention surrounding this story and the color commentators touting Cutler as a hero, I thought a lot of the guy. He had an Elway-esque ability to scramble out of the pocket and a rifle arm, which is something I will sorely miss if the Broncos decide to go with a more pocket-style quarterback. He also was candid. And I think that’s also something that will be sorely missed.
Many players when interviewed spew the same tired talking points and clichés handed down for decades, but Cutler was/is different, and he provided a breath of fresh air, regardless of whether one is talking about sports or politics. (Political side note: We need leaders with spines, not robots.) Cutler provided that in his own sphere of influence, and he should be lauded for it. Whether his action or inaction in speaking with McDaniels and owner Pat Bowlen about staying the team was right or wrong, we must leave that open because, despite all the reports, no one truly knows what went on behind closed doors.
But now, we do know this. Cutler is now a Bear, and as a quasi-Bear fan, I’m not dissatisfied. (I was a child and one of my first memorable NFL experiences was watching Chicago topple New England in the Super Bowl. Also, William “The Refrigerator” Perry is a Clemson University alum, and Walter Payton, in my opinion, is one of the greatest.) The addition of Cutler will give a huge lift to the Bears’ offense and provide a level of rocketdom at the QB spot the bears have missed for ages. As for the Broncos, I don’t see Kyle Orton going down as a great in the Denver record books. The team will likely try to pick up a first-round or third-round QB draft pick, and my hope would be that the pick would play the same kind of movement game for which Cutler is known.