Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The futures market for souls

Great news Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jainists, Zoroastrians, practicers of voodoo, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans, worshippers of Greek/Roman Gods and even atheists like me—Americans seem to be coming around on the notion that ethics (actions) are more important than morals (beliefs).

As Charles Blow wrote in the NYTimes recently ... In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.

Blow summarizes the main point of the survey as people saying that as long as people act ethically, they will be rewarded in the afterlife. Naturally, there was some resistance to the findings.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

As a longtime atheist (since college, and was questioning loooooooong before that, ironically since my counselor at Evangelical Christian summer camp after fifth grade told me that all non-Born Again Christians burn in Hell), I took this as good news. Not that I want some eternal salvation or paradise that I don't believe exists. But rather that my lifestyle won't necessarily be rejected out of hand as one that is lacking something fundamental in the composition of a good human.

I hope someday to see a President who doesn't say God Bless America. But I have a feeling that a mixed race lesbian who allies herself with Islam and whose parents were born in Russia and the Iran has a better chance of being elected president of the United States than an avowed atheist.


Another good read, is this story by a writer in Los Angeles who writes about the time he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.


And no matter what you believe in, please extend your best and most hopeful thoughts to the Gaza Strip, Israel, Palestine, and to everyone who makes decisions affecting the people who live there. Those who side with violence will never be right, but all who side with Peace shall never be wrong.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Dear Barack,

Is it possible to have "the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history" (as Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass called it) when the opening prayer (the actual definition of "invocation" Hello? Church || State sep?), is being given by Rick Warren, leader of an evangelical ministry that strongly promotes intolerant values?

As CNN's story
points out, Warren supported Prop. 8, which stole the right to marry from same-sex couples, and opposes guaranteeing women the right to determine for themselves how to control their bodies and health. OK, maybe CNN didn't use the words.

But does tolerance of diveristy mean biting your tongue in the face of those who preach intolerance? Who preach that one form of love is blessed in the eyes of a scientifically unprovable being while the other is eternally condemnable?

I say that it does NOT. Each of us eventually is confronted with challenges to our assumed values (the premises on which we base all our arguments/belief systems) and when facing those challenges, perhaps we have to respond with a similar ideal(ogue)ism.

So while I am still thrilled with your election night win, your nominations for the Cabinet and other key appointed posts and the prospect of you occupying the Oval Office and representing our country on the world stage, I am deeply disappointed in your selection of Rick Warren to usher in your presidency. What happened to the man who said that he opposed Prop. 8 because of its divisive nature? How can he include the man who would divide us?

I suppose it could be argued that my lack of Christian faith preculdes me from understanding one of Christ's New Testament teachings about loving thine enemy. But I would assert that it's taking a stand and defending my core beliefs.

I think this explains why I'm dealing with toughest editing challenge right now. I've got a student who supported Prop. 8 because of his conservative Christian upbringing. I want desperately to help him write his story in the clearest and most effective way possible so that everyone (including and especially liberals like me) can get a better understanding of what drives his ideas. But honestly, I just can't accept the premise that who someone loves is morally wrong.


At least Rick Warren would support the cause highlighted in today's holiday song flashback.


And I've always loved the coordinated, rhythmic leaning at 2:47.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shaken from the blogging doldrums

It's not that I haven't thought about blogging since Thanksgiving, nor is it that I haven't had the time. But in Kindergarten we're taught if we don't have anything nice to say it's better to say nothing at all. As a blogger, I've adapted that to if I don't have something valuable or interesting or funny to blog, then it's better not to blog. I've read too many blogs that lack points.

So it was today that the L.A. Times, specifically media writer James Rainey, stirred me to blog. In this first-person commentary he lets the readers know that despite massive slashes to the L.A. Times newsroom and business and productions staff and despite an industry in the middle of an evolutionary selection, honor has not left the building.


Courage in the face of danger -- and bankruptcy

Times journalists respond to Tribune's hard times by working hard.

December 14, 2008

I've seen my colleagues plunge into rioting mobs, drive into the hills as they exploded with fire and -- on days when the earth shook -- leave their anxious families to rush to crumpled buildings.

You think a little bankruptcy scares this crew? You think Chapter 11 has us down? You think we fear the future?

Well, yes. Yes. And hell yes. In the ragtag old Los Angeles Times newsroom, emotions run as threadbare as the quarter-century-old carpet.

Editors quip about whether their company credit cards will work. Reporters wonder what a crew chief at McDonald's might earn. Dark thoughts abound about Tribune boss Sam Zell, who bet on the real estate market just right and the news market oh so wrong.

But luckily for the newspaper and the customers who read it, Times people multitask like nobody's business.

So, in the hours after the wires announced that Tribune had filed for bankruptcy, Tina Susman got out of her sickbed, donned her long black coat and head scarf and took to the fearsome streets of Baghdad.

Howard Blume spent another long day glued to the phone, so he could ...

Click the link above to read the rest, latimes.com could use the traffic.