Wednesday, October 18, 2006


It is Wednesday evening at about 8:00 and I am still attempting to stop coughing. This crud sure lasts and lasts. Chris is at work until ten, poor guy. Jack is in bed and I am listening to him on the monitor reading ONE FISH TWO FISH RED FISH BLUE FISH aloud. Very very cute. These cute moments are so important lately to help me remember that Jack can be precious. He has been so nasty to me on and off this week that sometimes it is hard to like him. I suppose this is my payback. I was an awful kid to my mother, though she is gracious enough not to ever admit the truth of it to me. I can understand why she once broke a wooden spoon on me. I talked back constantly. Is there anything worse?

For dinner, I made a Roasted Vegetable Soup from the HAY DAY COUNTRY MARKET COOKBOOK, which is full of fabulous recipes. I am sorry to say that this partiuclar recipe, or perhaps my rendition of it, sorely missed the boat. It smelled terrific but tasted AWFUL. Very bitter. YUK. So, I had a bowl of Crixpix for dinner. Cereal. Food of the Gods.

Speaking of Gods, I just finished a compelling little book by Sam Harris called LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION. I was so interested in hearing what certain friends would say about it that I mailed out six copies today. If you aren't one of the lucky (or unlucky perhaps) six, I suggest that you read it. It won't take even an hour. Whether you agree with Harris in part, completely or not at all, I believe it is a book worth thinking about in this age of US Imperial foreign policy, the wacked out so called Christian Right and Islam extremists.

Well, I am off to watch some mindless TV for a little while (I know, shocking!) and read in bed.

Goodnight from the Heartland, where my congressional representative continues to harp on Gay marriage and flag burning as key issues in the upcoming election. Phew. And here I thought that I should worry about our invasion of Iraq...


Ross Peterson-Veatch said...

Dude, Joni, you must check out Lego Bible stories. Jack will love it.
Love, Ross

Mark Peacock said...

I count myself lucky not to have been one of the recipients of your Sam Harris gift pack. I listened to a podcast of his talk at last year's Pop!Tech conference. I was struck by how similar his views and approaches are to those he condemms.

He too is an intolerant fundamentalist -- an atheist fundamentalist who argues that anyone who doesn't agree with him is not only wrong, but shouldn't be allowed to hold their beliefs. Sam and the other New Atheists are a bit of the flavor of the moment -- catch the cover of this month's Wired magazine. However, an intolerant atheist is just as repugnant and just as dangerous as an intolerant Christian, Muslim, or Hindu. I don't seem to recall the religious persecution of the Communist governments leading to the creation of any enlightened civiliations of rationalism...

BloomingtonGirl said...


I was really glad to read your response to my post about Sam Harris. Fear not, you are not on the mailing list, though how I omitted you, one of the smartest and most rational people I know, is beyond me. Thank you for posting what you think.

I can't comment on Harris's talk at Pop!Tech yet because I haven't heard it, but I will download the podcast and listen tomorrow. But, I can say that I found LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION quite a compelling jumping off point for a discussion on the role that religions are playing today in the world and how they are making the world a more dangerous place. It's about time that discussion included strong atheist points of view. For you to categorize Harris and others as "a bit of the flavor of the moment" is to trivialize their role in this important discussion.

Here at home, the role that religion - particularly the highly political Christian right- plays in the formation of our government policy has become entirely inappropriate in a nation that has so-called separation of church and state. All over the world, people are killing others in the name of their respective gods. The world has become too small to let this go on without questioning the notion of religion itself.

Is Harris intolerant? Perhaps he is, but he has some solid and logical reasoning behind the positions he takes. I don't think that religious extremists or intolerants can boast the same sane reasoning. Moderates, maybe, maybe not.

Based on LETTER, I don't think your comment on religious persecution of Communist governments is exactly relevant. I think that Harris would object to that practice, if only on the basis that the Communists have as dangerous a dogma as the religious they persecute.

I myself am an atheist but I really do not care what other people believe in private. I am for religous tolerance on a personal level. But, I am for zero tolerance of religious pressure of any kind on government policy. My position is for a complete separation of church and state, even to the extent that religious organizations get no tax breaks whatever.

Yeah, I am out of step, but this is what I think.

Tomorrow, I shall return to lighter writing...

Mark Peacock said...

Haven't read Harris' book, so my comments regarding his views are based what I heard in his Pop!Tech lecture.

Harris' atheism isn't an issue for me -- it's his aggressive dismissal of others who disagree with him and choose to believe. Though Harris would disagree, atheism is as much a belief system as any theism. I respect Harris' right to come to an atheist conclusion, but he doesn't agree that I should have the same right to come to a theist conclusion. Intolerance -- be it atheist or theist -- should be unacceptable.

The concept of separation of church and state was developed to prevent the establishment of European-style state churches, allowing everyone to practice their own beliefs. I believe, some 200+ years later, that this is still the right path. However, in my (potential incorrect) understanding of Harris' thesis, people shouldn't be allowed that choice. One of the other leading New Atheists, Richard Dawkins, suggests that parents shouldn't be allowed to pass on their faith to their children.

I agree that religious intolerance has led to significant amount of suffering. However, I don't believe that replacing it with atheistic intolerance will make the world a better place.

I think, though, for me, Harris' and the others' demand on a complete reliance on logic and reason to the exclusion of anything else would leave the world a flatter, less wonderous place. The idea that we should only believe what we can explain, what we can reason, what we can grasp within our minds, feels a bit cramped and limiting to me. I guess I chose to believe (to hope?) that there are things that will be beyond the rational and will require a leap of faith rather than a bridge of reason to reach.

Perk said...

You both raise many valid points. I recently saw the film, "What the bleep do we know?" which is a thought-provoking meditation on what quantum mechanics and neurophysiology can tell us about consciousness, existence, reality. There's an awful lot that we don't know. I can't help but wonder if both theists and atheists have got it wrong. If you step away from the historical interpretation of what God is you open the door to what may be far greater and, at this point, beyond our understanding.
The notion that Jesus may have been someone who fully understood quantum physics and how it can be manipulated is fascinating.

BloomingtonGirl said...

I think that Perk is right that Athiests and Theists both have it wrong. I think that there is incredibly mystery behind what we experience as science. And I am able to think that without coming to a Theist conclusion. Peacock, my disblief in a God does not make my world flat and less wonderous. I just don't suscribe to any organized religious viewpoint.

I don't think that Harris suggests that we should only believe what we can observe in a scientific way. I think he recognizes that people have legitimate spiritual experiences. What he objects to is throwing all reason out the window to believe unbelievable things and then to wage war on people who don't believe those things.

I will listen to the podcast. I suggest that you read LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION and lets meet back here at a later date. I'll be happy to send it to you if you like...:)

Valerie said...

Since my husband was so fortunate to receive your book I'll be sending your husband a copy of Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coultier. I love you, Joni, but why would you send an atheist fundamentalist book to a friend who is Catholic and a Christian?