Friday, April 29, 2005

Verse Undevisive? or Vice Versa?

The Brook
We’d come at last to a place
Where our ways must surely part.
The small freshet which flowed
And enlivened the distance between our lands
Had now gone wide, and
Rather than slow and snake idly by
As one finds often at an expanse of water,
Here were unexpected rapids, shooting over a cataract
Which seemed to draw from, rather than give life, to the water,

We found ourselves stumbling on either side
Pitched down precipitous tunnels
Each tangled in a thicket alone,
Unsure where to turn for air or light,
Unable to count on the other’s hand
Now the divide had gone so suddenly wide.

Time, time…give it time and earnest care
Waiting out the night,
Listening for the least advice
From what birds were wintering out,
From the creaking trees
Or a certain lift in the wind,
Till finally detecting the slightest dripping,
The thaw had come
At last I seemed able again to walk a way downstream.
I called for you—and your call came back anew.

And now we each know better and
The stream between us,
That where it can be brooked we’d best go,
If we hope not to walk these lands alone.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Can This Blog be Saved?

The Dialogue has had some great posts and lively exchanges in the comments. For a while, it seemed as though we were headed where we wanted to go. But after a while, we ended up with just half of the ingredients.

It may be that our original hope was false -- that dialogue between faith and reason is just not possible. Perhaps the terms of discussion, or the rules of inference, or the norms of interaction, are just so different that we can't establish a meeting ground. Or perhaps most religious people just aren't interested in defending their fundamental beliefs. Or maybe we just haven't gotten lucky.

Particularly in the past weeks, with the very foundation of secular democracy under open, sustained and vicious attack, I personally had hoped that more people of faith would come forward to assert common ground with non-believers on freedom of conscience, the separation of religious institutions from wordly power, and the respect due to reason and verifiable truth. Last week, for the first time, we began to see some public statements by prominent religious leaders, including the National Council of Churches -- far too little, and far too late, in my view, but at last it is happening.

This site was, of course, an experiment. I don't call it a failure. I have learned from it and I trust others have as well. But it can it continue? I can keep posting here of course, and so can the terrifying piratical one, but that's not the point. There are plenty of well established atheist, skeptic and free thinking sites out there. So again, any believers who want to post here, we want you to do it.

Meanwhile, please comment. Why is this so hard? What can we do better? Is the project doomed from the start, or is there a way to make it work?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Peacemaker

The Ho De No Sau Nee, the People Who Build, live in New York State and Ontario. Before the Europeans came, they ranged over far more extensive lands. In 1977, the United Nations hosted a conference for so-called indigenous peoples in Geneva. I'm not sure how the people so labeled define their commonality, but essentially these are peoples who possessed a cultural identity prior to the European conquest of much of the world, who are now subsumed within larger nation states. The Ho De No Sau Nee, who English speaking people call by a name the French called them, Iroquois (a term they do not recognize as coming from their own language) presented documents about their history and cultural tradition, which they collected in a book called Basic Call to Consciousness. I will paraphrase a bit as I condense.

According to their tradition, which as far as I know they first wrote down themselves for that occasion, long before the European conquest they experienced a social crisis. The six nations in the region were in continual conflict. Blood feuds between clans and villages meant that no-one was safe. A young man of the Wyandot, north of Lake Ontario, argued that the system of blood feuds should be abolished. He got no hearing in his own land so he traveled south to the land of the Genienkahaka, the people of the flint, who we call the Mohawks, where he started to preach and win converts to his ideas.

As I understand it - and if by some chance any of the Ho De No Sau Nee should read this please set me straight - he had three major categories of ideas.

First, he said that some force or being must have created the world. He didn't claim to know very much about the creator, but he did not believe that the creator would have wanted human beings to abuse one another. He argued that humans should create a social order to abolish war and robbery. His view was very different from the view of Jews and Christians, however, about the relationship between humans and the creator. He did not believe that the creator had given humans dominion over the earth. On the contrary, "The principle of righteousness demands that all thoughts ofprejudice, privilege or superiority be swept away, and that . . . the creation is intended for the benefit of all equally, even the birds and animals, the trees and the insects, as well as the humans. . . . Nothing belongs to humans, not even their labor or their skills, for ambition and abilities are also the gifts of the creator. Therefore all people have a right to the things they need to survive, even those who do not or cannot work, and no person has a right to deprive others of the fruits of those gifts."

He also argued that humans were given the gift of reason in order to settle their disputes without violence.

Finally he argued for a principal translated into English as Power, but which is nearly the opposite of our own idea of power. "Peace . . . flourished only in a garden fertilized with absolute and pure justice. It was the product of a spiritually conscious people. "

He set up a constitution for a confederation of the six nations which was radical but reasonable for a hunting and gardening society. It included parallel political structures for men and women, and the abolition of territoriality. It's specifics are not evidently adaptable to our current circumstances, but it may be instructive if we consider it in its context.

To my way of thinking, the story of the Peacemaker is particularly instructive because it shows that, while people everywhere tended to feel that the universe must have a creator, their ideas about the creator could be very different. If God demanded that the Hebrews follow the laws of the Pentateuch, and later that they accept Jesus as their personal savior or else He would torture them for eternity in hell, he evidently didn't bother to tell most of the world's population, but allowed them to come up with their own ideas, presumably at the cost of their immortal souls. That was not nice of Him at all.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


how does abraham get a pass on that child-killing thing? if he was willing to kill his child because a voice in his head told him to doesn't that make both him and the voice morally reprehensible? do you suppose he asked the boy's mother what she thought about murdering their son? would a daughter have been as valuable a sacrifice as a son? would a woman making that claim get a pass? what will we say when the fruitcake neighbor is found to have killed his/her child and says "well, god told me to do it." we'll likely say, and rightly so, that the murderer is criminally insane. luckily enough for abe another voice in his head something like "ok. you don't have to carry it out. your willingness to do so is proof enough for the big guy of your devotion to Him." which god do you worship and how's your devotion?

i know modern christians abhor infanticide. or do i know that? the fundamentalists in the big tent might argue for biblical inerrancy. some members of the US congress want us to accept that government authority comes from god, and want all judges to so acknowledge. would that be the same god that demanded a human sacrifice? how far down this path to theocracy will we allow the fruitcakes to take us before we wake up? is it the sort of theocracy you can live under?

so all i have are questions. there are those places in history where things reach a tipping point; where one group takes hold so that others are swept aside to such a degree that recovery is a long and difficult task. i see a dangerous situation here and now. how about you?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Dominion over Thee and Me

What do Karl Rove, Pat Robertson, Machiavelli, and Antonin Scalia have in common? The Dominionist view. They, the elite, are to lead us. Why is torture ok now, sanctioned by the new Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense? Because evil in the work of the lord is acceptable to them. How is it ok to lie to lead us into war? ANY ploy is acceptable to to them to do "god's work." "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." Are you vigilant enough to read a long and well done piece on Dominionism? go here. Thanks to Shakespeare's Sister. True Christians, be afraid with the rest of us. Be very afraid. I dare you to read it. It made me want to get a gun. Go. Check it out. Come back and tell me what you think. They don't want just to deny homosexuals marriage, they want to KILL them, along with "fornicators," adulterers, and anyone who dares criticize authority. really, kill. read Scalia's comments on the death penalty.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A hot topic, Brought to you by a dead guy

David Hume:

Look round the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it; you will find it to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of machines . . . . All these various machines, even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the production of human contrivance, of human design, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since therfore the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble, and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man; though possessed of much larger faculties proportioned to the grandure of the work which he has executed.

Discuss. (But see my comment.)

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Prime Example

We don't have links to other blogs here yet, so here is a link to a post by our co-host Cervantes on his own blog. He makes a forthright statement at the end and asks a tough question. The comments are where it's at. There is a spirited discussion between Cervantes and our other co-host Speechless. I commend them both for their civility and respect. I recommend their discussion to anyone who stops by here.

I will ask here:

Why are not christian leaders, cardinals, bishops, preachers, elders, priests, whatever, and christian politicians not publicly repudiating the hate-filled vitriol of Tom DeLay and Randall Terry? In the absence of other voices they are being allowed to speak for christianity. They are becoming the face of christianity.