Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Climate and Secular Change

By Gary Berg-Cross

Some important topics like secular humanism and climate change are hard to get accepted by people for one reason of another. Secular humanism has its principles, goals and core ideas laid out in the various Humanist Manifestoes.  But to many it explanations and approach aren’t satisfactory.   Part of the reason is that is an inconvenient threat to biblical and older views of the world and a God who intervenes in natural phenomena and is indispensable for salivation.

Coming to grips with climate change is another one of those difficult topics where complex, scientific evidence and reasoning comes in conflict with simpler and perhaps emotionally satisfying non-scientific beliefs. People’s immediate experience is with weather and local weather at that.  This easy understanding gets confused with climate as it in entangled with common sense and verbal habits (always a factor in discussing atheism and concepts of God too).  So people say you “can’t change the weather” (or predict it well going past 10 days) and these seem to be powerful arguments against knowing about climate change with a needed degree of certainty.  If fact they are not good arguments at all. One may predict a green house will be warmer than its surroundings even on a cold day.

You can see and example of how particular issues, often statistical in nature, get resolved  such as how much warming is going on in Antartica  see- On Edge-Pushing Statistics and Climate Basics. Statisticians like Noel Cressie have directly investigated  "Uncertainty
Quantification for Regional Climate Projections in North America" by studying the various model projecting temperature change that is projected for North America 30 years in the future (2041-2070). Regional Climate Models (RCMs) projections are run up to 60 years into the future for "small", 50 km x 50 km regions in North America.

The results including degrees of uncertainty are analyzed statistically for all regions and all four Boreal seasons. The preponderance of results throughout all of North America, as shown in the pinkish figures below is one of warming, usually more than 2°C (3.6°F). As Cressie asked, "is this hot enough for you."


 OK so there is converging and ever increasing evidence and a scientific consensus on climate change exists.  What about regular citizen's beliefs?  It's a function in part of macro weather. Following a winter of record snowfall in 2010, the public’s acceptance of climate change fell to a low of 52 percent, according to the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change (as published by the Brookings Institution). After 2011's mild winter, support jumped to 65 percent.  Still fewer think it human caused. 2012 polling conducted by the Pew Research Center suggests that a greater number of people in the U.S. are accepting the reality of climate change. 67 percent of Americans said that there is now  "solid evidence" that average global temperatures have been rising in recent decades. That's a gain of 4points over 2010 and 10 points since 2009. Yet only 42 percent say this warming is "mostly caused by human activity," according to Pew.You know, the climate always changes.. Maybe we'll have an ice age...

Recently some scientific efforts have been directed at such phenomena and understanding why belief in climate change has decreased rather than risen as more evidence has been generated. It turns out there are a variety of complex psychological, and cultural reasons for this as well as scientific.

One obvious factor is complexity of space, time and factors. There are lots of facts to consider and models to integrate since almost every aspect of our planet influences the climate –

ocean circulation,

weather patterns,

plate tectonics (over long time) and ,

atmospheric dynamics are just a start.

A change in one of these affects climate and progress has being made in modeling each although the interaction of factors with each other and the climate is still a challenge.  But like the weather everyone has something to say on the matter even if the complexity is ignored in most opinions by laymen. Psychologically we like simple answers and simplifying problems down to familiar terms.  Still understanding is possible to the literate and astute who have the time to study it.

But there is a problem with space and time. The impacts are somewhat off in the future or impacting far away space like the artic now (Super Storm Sandy being an exception which did get our attention.) . But  these demand action and costly action now. So there is a mis-match and what is being asked (see recent blog on protests) for now is some sacrifice for some hypothetical gain. What is being asked for is deferred gratification. It’s not like cleaning up a park or a polluted river. There we can often easily track responsibility for a problem and results can be quickly seen and rewards such as return of fish in river a known reward. 

Handling climate change is new and the expected rewards far off and maybe beyond our lifetime.  No matter how much we slow the growth of emissions, we may not see the benefits in the short-term. Thus, climate change activists are asking fellow citizens to sacrifice something concrete (say my investment and retirement portfolio) now for potential benefits that may not be evident for many years to come.

In its own way this is a bit like what secularists are asking of religious people – sacrificing some comforting habits now to avoid down sides over time. We need to have the maturity to understand the dangers of climate change and the wisdom for that may translate as a useful skill for the advancement of humanist and secular thinking too.
The Psychology of Climate Change:

Noel Cressie ergional models of climate change:

Sacrificing investments:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Herman Muller records

by Edd Doerr

Herman Muller (1890-1967), Nobel laureate in 1946 for discovering X-ray mutagenesis and one of my predecessors as president of the American Humanist Association (1956-1958), was one of our most important scientists. After working in Berlin he was engaged in research in the USSR in the 1930s before narrowly escaping to Scotland when Stalin began pushing Lysenko's nonsense. He ended up after the war at Indiana University in Bloomington, my alma  mater.

Muller was much in demand as a speaker, so much so that it got in the way of his teaching at IU. Here is the story I heard him tell about this. He was on the road lecturing so much that he decided to record his class lectures and have a graduate assistant play them for his classes. One day his travels enabled him to pass through Indiana, so he drove down to Bloomington  with the intention of dropping in to see how one of his classes was doing. As he approached the lecture hall he could hear his recorded lecture being played.  When he opened the door the room was empty except for all the small tape recorders on every desk recording his lecture.

As a lecturer Muller spoke rather softly and very rapidly. If you sneezed you missed a couple of sentences. But you were spellbound.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Inconveniently Documenting Real Life

By Gary Berg-Cross

The 2013 Oscars have their big light drama with serious movie contenders like ‘Lincoln’ one at least based on a serious book (‘Les Miserables’).  Less watched, discussed or popularized are nominees in the documentary category. They lack glitz and glamour of actors on the A-list or celebrities directors (like Michael Moore). What they have are non-celebrity protagonists living our real dramas narratives.

One that has attacked some attention is called The Gatekeepers” and is about Shin Bet - the shadowy internal security intelligence, and counter-terror operations brother agency to the Mossad. Director Dror Moreh somehow convinced 6 former living heads of the agency to conduct on-the record and pretty frank interviews along with raw footage and reenactments of dramatic historical events that are sewn together into a documentary with some power. As Newsweek noted:

To tamp down Palestinian rebellions and foil attacks on Israelis, Shin Bet operatives have regularly engaged in some unsavory measures—rough interrogations and targeted killings, to name two—all in the service of maintaining Israel’s grip over territories it captured in the 1967 war.

And this is an important part of what we heard from 6, powerful men breaking their silence as Richard Cohen noted unlike what will ever had with past CIA directors. These are 6 men spanning 1980-2011 with access to the most classified information and long experience to understand events historically.

The movies’ arc included the period of Palestinian terrorism and insurrections, the rise of the Israeli settler movement, the assassination of a prime minister, brutalities (“I think he took a rock and smashed their heads in.” )  and cover-ups. The result is what some uncomfortably call an admirable documentary that raises eyebrows if not angst as it argues for Israeli compromise as it documents errors and perhaps bad political faith. As the film voices make clear intelligence gathering has all shades of gray, wrapped in subtle situations that require nuanced understanding.  Yuval Diskin, who led Shin Bet from 2005 until 2011 as well as his former colleagues tell how their nuanced advice have been largely and repeatingly dismissed by most Israeli prime ministers.  As a group they accuse the PMs of ignoring the Palestinian territories and the peace process in favor of kicking an increasingly explosive can down the road.  To paraphrase Ariel Sharon quip, “ I love the peace process so much it hope it never ends.”

WapPo’s Ann Hornaday 4 star  review “An unsettling true-life thriller (“first must-see movie of the year is a riveting espionage thriller that just happens to be true.” ) suggested the most disheartening messages of “The Gatekeepers” is how many times Israeli leaders squandered opportunities to end the occupation of the West Bank or allowed illegal settlements despite a virtually guaranteed violent response. “What’s the difference between Golda Meir and [Menachem] Begin?” asks Avraham Shalom, who directed the agency from 1980 until 1986. “Nothing. He didn’t visit the Arabs. She didn’t, either.”

One broad theory as to why former Shin Beth leaders allowed the interview is that it involves growing religious influence in Israeli society. According to this view “the film is somehow the parting shot of an old secular elite in Israel, which is steadily being supplanted by another group, this one more religious and less prone to compromise. (The current Shin Bet head is religious.)” from Newsweek’s review which also included this from the film:

Carmi Gillon, who led the Shin Bet from 1994 to 1996, describes the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, where Palestinians are frequently interrogated, as so old and forbidding “that any normative person who walks in the door would be willing to admit to the murder of Jesus” just to get out of there.

Yuval Diskin, the most recently serving chief, tells of the coercive measures required to get Palestinians to snitch on their friends and even family. “[It] involves taking a person who doesn’t really like you and causing him to do things that he never thought he’d be willing to do.”

In one of the more startling moments in The Gatekeepers, Moreh reads to Diskin the comments of the late Israeli intellectual Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who wrote in 1968 that ruling over the Palestinians would effectively turn Israel into a police state, “with all that this implies for education, freedom of speech and thought, and democracy.”

It’s a long, secular look at difficult times maybe now sliding along down a road with new religious fervor added.

There is an interview with Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh on  The Gatekeepers from Democracy Now.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Standing Together: Secularists and the Religious

By Gary Berg-Cross

Although it wasn’t much covered in the national, corporate media thousands, perhaps 40,000 or more  people gathered in Washington, D.C. on a cold Sunday in February as part of the Forward on Climate Rally. Sponsored by and the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations it was a step to build an integrated movement. The immediate objective was to urge President Barack Obama to reject the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline TransCanada application, to introduce measures to regulate carbon and take steps to mitigate the effects of climate change.

It was all there in the protest signs and their sighs of concern, anger and determination.

“We are unstoppable, another world is possible.”

Some held placards saying, "Read my lips: no new carbons," or as repeated by Bill McKibben "We're in a climate hole: stop digging."  An angry, in-your -face one read, "Don't be frackin' crazy." But most were more directly, focused and home grown,  “Act Now — Before It’s Too Late.”

The Huffington Post noted among the protesters were senior citizens in wheelchairs, a dad from Indiana carrying a toddler, women from a Unitarian church in Corvallis, Ore., and college students, including Florida's Molly Kampmann who was holding a picture of a pipeline with the caption: "This is why I'm hot."
Others dressed a protesting polar bears and listened to speakers who spoke of this in urgent terms that brings us together in the last seconds of the last quarter of a great and very human struggle.

There were all kinds of folk in DC to urge us to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and the first group I ran smack into were by the Metro stop on the mall. They were a happy, busy group from Christian social justice organization Sojourners ( 3333 14th St. NW, Suite 200 DC) and they were out in force.
Sojourners support various progressive activities including the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, the Free South Africa movement, as well as opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis spoke in 2010 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland about moral recovery for economic recovery in a talk “Rethinking Values in the Post-Crisis World.” – See the transcript which includes:

 ‘The bonuses are only a symptom of a deeper erosion of societal values.’ There are new maxims, which have overtaken us, like ‘greed is good’, ‘it’s all about me’, and ‘I want it now’. Those maxims wreak havoc with economies, cultures, families and our very souls.

From held signs my first impression of the rally is that it was a but reunion of  Unitarian Universalist Church chapters. South Church Unitarian Universalist was one of dozens of chapters who had organizing buses for members who wished to attend. The First Unitarian Society of Westchester in Hastings-on-Hudson there along with allies -  Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College in New Rochelle. 35 people, mostly students, had signed up at the college.

“There’s a very real concern and a very real eagerness for this generation to learn how to do citizen advocacy,” a Sister Kathleen Deignan said. “As the students say, this is the issue for their generation. It was indeed a millennial filled scene and full of youth. Our Task was handing out brochures about its July workshop for a Youth Plan B at GMU.  I enjoyed this mix as well as the secular-religious one They brought impassioned curiosity. It was a group of ad hoc freethinkers, bucking a naïve trend to follow a dumb consensus of inaction.  Nice birds to flock together with for obvious ideas that seem outrageous to the mislead many.

 The Interfaith Moral Action on Climate group was there and had urged members to:

  bring a group from your congregation to join religious communities from around our area and across the country in speaking out for creation at the Forward on Climate Rally on Presidents' Day weekend. Bring congregational banners and wear congregational T-shirts. Buddhists were there and, oh yes several of us from WASH.

I felt quite at home with good spirited folk of all kinds.  Some were from my generation and veterans of protest.  At the sight of one another we fell into easy conversation like old friends.  Some were from low-lying areas of the country bearing scared memories of Superstorm Sandy. "We're right in the path of sea level rise," said Mark Geduldig-Yactrosky of Portsmouth, Va., explaining his concern about climate change. "We're a low-lying area. We have rising oceans and subsiding lands. So that personalizes it for us."

The weather was cold but their stories were bright entertainment of the serious kind.  This wind? This is what climate change feels like, a New Yorker explained to me with charm and thoughtful cadence.

Burlington, Vt., resident Michael Ware, holding a "Stop Vermont Yankee" banner, said last year's extreme weather convinced many Americans that climate change is serious. "What will Vermont, what will any state, look like in 20 years?" he asked.

This is, as was said the most fateful battle that mankind will wage. And we do not stand fully alone as Linda Britt, who came from Ann Arbor, Michigan explained. Linda could stand others secular or religious who are grandparents like me.  We stand powerfully together when we understand what is important.

"I have six grandchildren, and I want them to have a habitable planet," Linda said.

Yes, Linda, it’s why I was there.  I was there for my/our grandkids.


Chief Jacqueline Thomas, Saik’uz First Nation, speaks at the rally in Washington, DC, February 17, 2013 (Photo by Stephen Malagodi)

Children Attendees at the Feb. 17 Forward on Climate Rally. Photo by Jim Hall / Dayspring Earth Ministry

Rally photos: provide on Google Images

For my grandkids:  Collage by Gary Berg-Cross

Thursday, February 14, 2013

None of Those Ashes for Me

By Gary Berg-Cross

Valentine’s day, a day of visible love, was preceded by Ash Wednesday this year - a day of humbling, visible religious affiliation used to reminder believers of people’s “dependence on God.”
But there were a few things about this 40 day AW event trending differently from past ones. For one thing on the 2013 Ash Wednesday, some priests went  mobile with SUvs into neighborhoods to offer service in a fast-based culture. It’s part of the part of a national "Ashes to Go" movement that began with an Episcopal church in St. Louis in 2007. You can get ashes outside of a church now and train stations are popular. In Baltimore:

Leta Dunham got her breakfast order to go at a Roland Avenue Starbucks Wednesday morning: a grande triple skim latte in her cup and, on her forehead, an ashen reminder that we are all destined to become dust.

Dunham was among Ash Wednesday observers who took advantage of Ashes to Go, a service offered by area Episcopal and Methodist churches at more than a dozen spots around the city and nearby counties, The practice seeks to bring the Lenten season ritual to the people, rather than waiting for them to come to church.

Transit &  Metro stops around cities' morning rush hour now offer ashes (and a prayer can be thrown in).  It’s like blue law abandonment as reluctant acknowledgment that busy Americans have less time to frequent houses of worship. So there is worship outreach coming to where the people are.

 But as the Washington Post noted a counter trend too and it is more than time to go to a church but also a reluctance to be so showy about their religion. An article called On Ash Wednesday, some faithful appear reluctant to wear belief on their foreheads notes that more people seem to be uncomfortable with showing faith in what one person called “a pompous way.” As David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group and author of several books on young Christians, noted:

The trend also stems from a fear of oppression by a secular culture and partly from a personal challenge, said. In a society questioning the very truth of God, what do you really believe? In the past, evangelism didn’t have that high a standard; you were sort of signing people up for something they already were predisposed to accept, .. Today it’s about people asking: How does that translate into real transformation? When I wear something, what is this saying about me?”

It’s another small part of the growing, unaffiliated Nones phenomena that the Post seems to be picking up on and has been blogged on here. Indeed one might think of it as part of broad demographic & cultural change phenomena that political parties as well a media groups are positioning themselves for.  As one deeply religious person interviewed said it, she doesn’t talk a lot about her faith at work because “some people don’t want to hear it.”

Strategically this may be part of a quiet period that is an opportunity to get a reasonable message across.  What may be needed is less reactive confrontation (such as flashing a big red A on Ash Wednesday) from  some of us.  And we need to listen to see what topics are interested to the None community. Some thoughts along this line are found in a discussion of 'None' leaders chart a path for more political, cultural power for the religiously unaffiliated. It's something that Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association has picked up on as a thoughtful, strategic stance. 






Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Benedict's Retirement

by Edd Doerr

 Following are the thoughts I hastily put on the Washington Post's web site on Feb 12  ----

Benedict's retirement suggests these random observations, in no special order: 1. Since the death of John XXIII the Vatican has been rolling back many of the reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. 2. The Vatican and rhe hierarchy are largely out of sync with the Catholic people over contraception, marriage, ordaining women, clerical celibacy and other issues. 3. The Vatican's stubborn opposition to family planning has caused misery for countless millions of people and has made the overpopulation and environmental problems worse. 4. The Vatican's opposition to family planning keeps the abortion rate far higher than need be. 5. The hierarchy's never-ending drive for tax aid for its private schools has done great harm to religiously neutral democratic public education in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other countries. 6. Catholic theologian Daniel Maguire noted in the Feb 12 NY Times that "There is no evidence that a papal monarchy was Jesus' idea" and that the church got "mired in obsessions [about reproductive issues] that obscure the message of justice and peace that Jesus preached." 7. One wonders what part might have been played in Benedict's retirement of the documentary film "Mea Maxima Culpa" that was shown in theaters last fall and on HBO on Feb 4, a film that explored the clergy sexual abuse scandals and followed the chain of responsibility for coverups all the way to the Vatican.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Give me your tax dollars, but . . ."

By Edd Doerr

This letter was published in the Washington Examiner on Feb 10, 2013  ----

"Subsidized churches can't complain about regulations"

"Unlike President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which puts the religious freedom and health of women first, Cal Thomas elevates some theological dogmas over the religious liberty and rights of conscience of the vast numbers of women of all faiths who are employed or served by church-related charities, hospitals and colleges.

"Thomas conveniently overlooks the fact that these church-related charities, hospitals and colleges are generously subsidized by taxes extracted from Americans of all faiths.

"The mantra of these church leaders seems to be: 'Give us your tax dollars, but don't even think of linking them to any regulations'.

"Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty, Silver Spring"

(BTW, Bill Keller has a great op ed on this, "The Conscience of a Corporation", in the Feb 11, 2013, NY Times.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A philosopher who promotes critical thinking

By Mathew Goldstein

Here is an audio excerpt of the Critical Thinking Crash Course presentation by Dr. Peter Boghossian to the Agnostics and Atheists at Intel on May 11 of last year. Peter Boghossian's blunt criticism of faith based reasoning while working as a professor of philosophy at Portland State University has sometimes been deemed to be too judgmental to comply with academic norms by some of his peers at PSU. But Peter Boghossian recognizes that knowledge cannot be divorced from judgement and he is not deterred. He presses on with his "street epistmology" of trying to encourage critical thinking among his students and any audience that will finance his travel ($1500).

“I’m advocating that there are certain processes that will more closely help [people] to align their beliefs with reality; faith is an unreliable process. It will not help you come to reliable conclusions. It will decrease the possibility you come to that,” Boghossian says. He says of his critics: "“Here’s what they don’t understand: Ideas do not require dignity. People require dignity. There’s a difference between attacking an idea and attacking a person. Attacks on faith are not like attacks on race." We need more advocates of critical thinking like Peter Boghossian. Critical thinking requires restraint and discipline, it is about applying constraints. But many people prefer to be free of such constraints and just believe according to their fancy, so it needs to be taught and learned.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Humanist’s Hippocratic Oath

by Gary Berg-Cross

Following the mortgage meltdown that prompted the current crisis were those theoretical constructs known as financial models Emanuel Derman and Paul Wlmott had an article that appeared in Bloomberg Business week called “The Modelers' Hippocratic Oath”

In the article they listed the oath and I thought it might be of interest and amusing to the Secular and Humanist community and adapted it slightly as a more pragmatic. Of course we have many obvious principles in the various Humanist Manifesto's but the oath is a bit more general and might be thought of as aimed at some thinking behind the principles as well as communication about such principles.

Humanist’s Hippocratic Oath

~ I will remember that I didn't make the physical or social world, and they don’t exist to make my musings and opinions look good.

~ Though I will use my knowledge and experience to boldly write about important issues, I will not be overly impressed by my attempts.

~ I will never sacrifice reality for elegant language and simplifications without explaining why I have done so.

~ Nor will I give the people who use my idea false comfort about their completeness and accuracy. Instead, I will endeavor to make explicit my assumptions and oversights.

~ I understand (and hope) that if done well my work may eventually have significant effects on my community, society and its economy, many of them beyond my comprehension.
And of course, "First do no harm."



Friday, February 08, 2013

Do They Contradict Themselves?

By Gary Berg-Cross

They say that “Mother Nature Never Shaved with Occam’s Razor.” And it is not just physical reality that is complicated.  Humans and their positions are too. Mayor Koch, who died Feb. 1 at 88 of congestive heart failure, was many things and some of them complex, puzzling and perhaps paradoxical.

Early a crusader against Communism and the Vietnam War, he was elected as a Democrat but  later campaigned for George W. Bush. He opposed unions (denouncing transport union sympathizers as “wackos,”) although they helped rescue the city when the teachers' union furnished $150 million from their pension fund to buy Municipal Assistance Corporation bonds. He self described himself as a sane libreral but  became more hawkish over time and berated Obama for timidity in attacking Iran or confronting the Muslim world – “"President Obama is showing weakness to the Muslim world." Ed Koch Reverses Position, Slams Obama's "Weakness" on Muslims

Koch was a known for outrageous, antagonizing and unapologetic pronouncement such as reported by Joseph Berger in the New York Times," needlessly by saying Jews would be "crazy" to vote for Jesse Jackson for president because Jackson could be (like Koch himself)  outspoken, to many people’s annoyance and use outrageous language such as slurring NYC as "Hymietown".

Still I was a bit knocked back to hear a recent Koch clip from the Piers Morgan show where he mused about his secular-religious views this way:

"I'm secular but I believe in God. I believe in the hereafter," he said. "I believe in reward and punishment. And I expect to be rewarded. God gave me a very good hand to play over my 88 years. I have no regrets."

OK, so maybe this is another politician having it both ways and wanting to be loved by both sides. To be fair maybe he is talking about secular government and religion and bounding his secular to what is Caesars' and his religion to what is God's.  It would be nice to draw out such politicians so we know what type of values they have and what type of government we can expect and who they might heed on what issue.

Or it is easy to say that a Mayor Koch was a one-man anomaly: a self-declared secular Jew who harbored a strong belief in God, but he is not alone.  As I noted in “All Mixed Up: Perplexing Hyphenated Identity, 50-50 Concepts and Mixed up Ethnicity,” American has not only an ethnic hyphenated label phenomena like Irish-American, but one that mixes religion and ethnic identity such as the self-label Atheist Jew. Does it make sense to say that one is an atheist Catholic? It doesn’t seem like it. I can be an atheist who is a White, English person, but atheist and Catholic are both in what seems the “religion” dimension with no overlap on the Venn diagram. It can seem confusing since terms for Jewishness and Catholicism seem like religious identity, but they also have ethnic-historical identity too. This can be accepted as part of human complexity and people labeling things on their own terms, but it can make understanding what people, such as declared “secularists” stand for.  In what we variously call the Near or Middle East there is much labeling of secular government, Turkey and Israel come to mind, they are very religious nations too. And what claims to be a secular government can drift over to religious pressures such as the rising influence of ultra-orthodox  in Israel.

 For more confusion and having it your own way like Mr. Koch see Can a secular humanist believe in a god?

I guess some people can think this way, but it seems like they are floating in some see of definitional relativism that relies on the rest of us to tolerate their having it their way. Still I have some concerns that having it both ways without a better understanding leads to situations such as we have on the debt, deficit & economy.  Conservatives agitate for a cut in government spending to handle the "debt problem."  But this hurts the economy and so they can complain about slow job recovery.  If you stimulate job growth with spending they can complain it increases the debt.  It's one equation with 2 unknowns and a guaranteed complaint. Sometimes this hyphenated view of cultural identity (secular) or religious identity seems like that type of variable equation that can flip back an forth as needed.  The result may be least in the hands of people not trying to understand or pursue a clear definition of secular in a world of religious cultures.

Or perhaps they are more in the spirit of Walt Whitman in his Song for Myself:

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself.....
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. "

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Contraceptive Mandate

by Edd Doerr (

The Affordable Care Act (misnamed Obamacare) requires that church-related institutions such as hospitals, colleges and charities' health insurance programs cover contraceptive services. This has caused a ruckus among the Catholic bishops (though not the Catholic nuns) and some conservative evangelical leaders, who complain that the mandate violates their religious liberty. They conveniently overlook the fact that these institutions employ and serve vast numbers of women of every religious persuasion, AND, importantly, are generously subsidized by taxes extracted from Americans of every religious or nonreligious persuasion.

These theocrats seem to have this mantra or litany, "Give us your tax dollars but do not even think of imposing any regulations that might not be in sync with our medieval dogmas or our dubious religious liberty claims."