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Showing posts from August, 2014

A guide to electronic etiquette

Guidelines for being polite on the Internet.

Originally posted to Helium Network on Nov. 25, 2007.

Being polite in online discussions is as straightforward as being polite in conversation. A good rule of thumb is not to write anything online that you wouldn't say to someone face-to-face. Don't threaten. Don't make sarcastic comments and then, only after the comment has been misconstrued, give the half-apology that you were "only kidding." Don't reveal private information about others. Remember that the people with whom you are chatting may be minors.

It should go without saying that you should not insult other people, whether the invective is schoolyard or highbrow. Criticizing the person who makes an argument, instead of the argument itself, is called an ad hominem attack. This could include calling someone a "liar" or a "Nazi," ridiculing him as "ignorant," "biased," or "bigoted," or dismissing him as "…

Inside and outside time

In Elizabeth Graver's novel Awake, one passage seems to identify the characters' sense of time as a product of their own lives. "This should feel wrong," I said, "but it doesn't, quite. It feels normal."
He raised my hand, laced with his, to his mouth. "There's inside of time and outside of time, inside our lives and outside." He kissed my knuckles. "Outside, our hands have always been touching."
Similarly, P. D. Ouspensky wrote: The whole of time lies within man himself. Time is the inner obstacle to a direct sensation of one thing or another, and it is nothing else. The building of the future, the serving of the future, are but symbols, symbols of man's attitude towards himself, towards his own present. Writing of commercial fads, Joel Best acknowledged that, whatever the myth of progress toward the future may be, we do not always make such progress. Whether we envision change in terms of an arrow or climbing…

Beyond theism and atheism: Anatheism

"As the prefix ana suggests, anatheism is about repetition and return," Richard Kearney explains in Anatheism, in which he justifies doubt as the entry point to faith. To get more granular, "There are three basic elements to anatheism: protest, prophecy, and sacrament."

For those who experience it, the aerial view is something like this:

"What comes after God? What follows in the wake of our letting go of God? What emerges out of that night of not-knowing, that moment of abandoning and abandonment? Especially for those who — after ridding themselves of ‘God’ — still seek God?

That is the question I wish to pursue in this volume. And, so doing, I propose the possibility of a third way beyond the extremes of dogmatic theism and militant atheism: those polar opposites of certainty that have maimed so many minds and souls in our history. This third option, this wager of faith beyond faith, I call anatheism. Ana-theos, God after God. Ana-theism: another word for a…

Why the U.S. government was right to conceal photos of Osama bin Laden’s death

Photos of bin Laden's death are classified as "top secret" by the U.S. government. A federal appeals court has allowed them to remain so.

Originally posted to Helium Network on May 6, 2011. Updated Dec. 11, 2013 and Aug. 22, 2014.



Photo:
Osama bin Laden lived with his family in this compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He was killed in the home in 2011. Image by: Sajjad al Qureshi © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikimedia Commons.


Shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed at his fortified home in Pakistan by U.S. forces in May 2011, he was buried at sea. This was done to treat the corpse as respectfully as possible in accordance with Muslim custom while avoiding creating a gravesite that might become a "shrine" to the deceased terrorist and would require constant military security. By the time his death was announced on television, the body had already been disposed of. Although President Obama telephoned Pakistan's President Za…

Reflections on 'What Atheists Want' by James Metzger

"What Atheists Want" by James Metzger, published on BeliefNet, is one of the best articles on atheism I've read in a while. At least, it happens to be one that closely tracks with and articulates my own position. The second paragraph, in particular, represents what I believe and feel:
"I am not yet convinced that atheism itself delivers good news of the caliber warranting an organized campaign of conversion. I simply find the suggestion that a benevolent deity presides over the cosmos implausible...I have many religious friends, and I really like them just as they are. To ask them to surrender their religious convictions is to ask them to change something fundamental about their very selves – and that, I think, would be a great loss, especially if it should also mean a diminution of their kindness, equanimity, or zest for life."
Theist and atheist beliefs can improve different people's characters and moods and can have these effects at different times in th…

There was no good reason for the US to invade Iraq in 2003

Saddam Hussein did not plan the Sept. 11 attacks, did not associate with Al Qaeda, and did not have hidden WMD. After the US-led war, Iraq today is a more violent place.

Originally posted to Helium Network on Sept. 3, 2007. Updated on Jan. 26, 2014.

There has always been a pervasive misunderstanding that the US invaded Iraq because of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. One public opinion poll in January 2003 asked Americans: "To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" In January 2003, 50 percent of respondents guessed — incorrectly — that one or more of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi. The correct answer is "none."

This false belief cannot easily be tied to any false claims made by the Bush administration. Indeed, the Bush administration never explicitly asserted the claim that Saddam Hussein, Iraq's leader at the time, had any connections to the Sept. 11 attacks. (Curiously, nowhere in Bush's 2010 he…

On Settling

Thomas Merton said: "The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little." And if one fights the temptation? According to W. Somerset Maugham, "if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."

How do we square this with the knowledge that the world is flawed, capricious, and limited? That we cannot have the best, the perfect, all the time – or ever?


We must give up artificially inflated and idealized dreams of what the world ought to do to meet our own desires. When we give up unrealistic, unfair expectations, we are better positioned to treat others more fairly and to love and accept more of what, and who, comes our way. This does not mean, however, that we should give up dreams for our own happiness and fail to set goals for bettering and improving our conditions. To do so breeds resentment. The question over whether people should "settle" for a career, marriage, or anything else in life often involves a confusion of these t…