Thursday, April 19, 2018

Is the Trump presidency a religious cult? | Reza Aslan

Are fundamentalist Christians a dangerous religious cult? Possibly. The controversial author and religious scholar Reza Aslan posits that President Donald Trump has much of his evangelical fan-base believing that he's somehow been anointed by God to become President.

Nevermind the Russian election scandal, his affairs with porn stars and unwarranted sexual acts towards women, or his inability to remember even a single Bible verse when asked. Evangelical Christians are abandoning their core moral beliefs to follow, as Reza suggests, someone who exhibits every trademark of a cult leader.



Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in the previous election. That’s a record. That’s more white evangelicals than voted for George W. Bush—and George W. Bush was a white evangelical.

This makes no sense to people, especially when you consider that Trump is not just the most irreligious president in modern history, that his entire worldview makes a mockery of core Christian values like humility and empathy and care for the poor; That this individual who couldn’t even name a single verse in the bible when asked to do so, and yet - and yet - received a record number of votes by white evangelicals.

Scholars of religion—normal, rational, people—have been trying to figure out why. Why? What happened?

And I think that there’s a couple of things to keep in mind.

Number one, it’s white evangelicals. Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, but 67 percent of evangelicals of color supported Hillary Clinton.

Now, these are people who believed the exact same thing, whose only real difference is that.. is the color of their skin.

So let’s not ignore the fact that there is a racial element to this support.

Jim Wallace, the head of the Sojourners, a liberal evangelical group, said it best when he said that these white evangelicals “acted more white than they did evangelical.” And I think he’s right. The second reason I think has to do with the pernicious influence of something called the prosperity gospel, which has gripped the imaginations of white evangelicals.
This is that version of Christianity preached by these charlatans like Joel Olstein and T.D. Jakes, the essential gist of which is that God wants you to drive a Bentley, that what Jesus really wants for you is material prosperity—and indeed that’s how you know God has blessed you, is by your material prosperity.

Many white evangelicals looked at Donald Trump, and what they saw was a wealthy man. And that wealth, as far as they were concerned, was just a sign of God’s blessings.
And so that freed Trump from having to do what every other candidate, certainly every other Republican candidate for president has had to do, and that is: actually prove his spiritual bonafides. Trump never had to do that. All he had to do was just keep talking about how rich he was. And for a large swathe of white evangelicals that was enough.

Thirdly, Donald Trump did something that no other president, not even any Republican president courting the evangelical vote ever did. He expressly promised secular power to these white evangelical groups.

In his speeches to them and in the conferences that he had, both private and public, he very clearly and very explicitly said that if they voted for him that he would give them “their power back,” even if he didn’t agree with their pet causes that he would just allow them to have those causes.

And you can see as president he’s talking now about removing, for instance, the Johnson Amendment, which is an amendment that prohibits preachers and churches from actually engaging directly in politics and preaching politics from the pulpit. It’s why they get to keep their tax break. No one has ever thought about removing this requirement until Donald Trump.
And now he is very seriously moving towards allowing churches to take part directly in political activism as churches.
But none of this, none of this explains the most important phenomenon about white evangelicals in America, and that is this: In the span of a single election cycle, white evangelicals have gone from being the group in America that is most likely to say that a politician’s morality matters to the group that is now least likely to say that.
Atheists in America think that a politician’s morality matters more than white evangelicals in America do—White evangelicals who continue to refer to themselves as value voters.
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Neil deGrasse Tyson Proves the Earth is Round

Neil deGrasse Tyson takes on the subject of our spherical world, and this time he has not only science but history on his side.



Hosts:
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chuck Nice

Director Dave Wiskus


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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Believe Me - It's Torture

From the BBC radio series 'Arguably', Roger Allam reads Christopher Hitchens's column on waterboarding.




Read ourself Believe Me, It’s Torture by Christopher Hitchens

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Torture Doesn't Work

In this video, based on his column on the subject in Scientific American, Michael Shermer demonstrates why torture does not work as a method of extracting useful and actionable information, primarily because people being tortured will say anything to stop the pain, including confessing to crimes they didn’t commit (like witchcraft) and giving false information (where a terrorist attack may happen next).

Instead, studies show that developing a rapport with the person under interrogation produces higher quality intelligence.



Read the column on which this video is based: Why torture doesn’t work by Michael Shermer

Believe Me, It’s Torture by Christopher Hitchens

Learn more about the Skeptics Society

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rob Riggle On Reading The Bible

Opening to a random page of the Bible is not for the faint of heart.



Pete Holmes and "The Pete Holmes Show."

Monday, February 5, 2018

World Religions Through Their Scriptures

The texts of the world's major religions have impact throughout all of human experience. Join professors from across Harvard as they discuss those texts during an event coinciding with the launch of HDS's new online course, "World Religions Through Their Scriptures."



The course is Harvard Divinity School's second massive open online course offered through the edX platform. Led by HDS Senior Lecturer Diane Moore, director of the Religious Literacy Project, the course will be taught by six faculty members and launched March 1, 2016.

Learn more about Harvard Divinity School and its mission to illuminate, engage, and serve at www.hds.harvard.edu.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Why Skepticism Is the Right Approach to the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia

Bear with us for a second, but do you know the Belinda Carlisle song "Heaven is a Place on Earth"? It's actually scientifically accurate. American public intellectual Michael Shermer says that any idea of the afterlife makes zero sense: your mind and therefore your memories are beholden to your body and that any version of you that made it into heaven, should there actually be one, would just be a copy of you and unable to register that they were actually in heaven.



Likewise, should you be able to scan your brain and "live forever" by being uploaded to a body in the future, it still wouldn't be you, just a copy. Confused? The explanation makes more sense from the mouth of Shermer himself... writing the theory behind multiple you's living in various timelines gets a little too Back to the Future... another sweet '80s reference if we do say so ourselves.

Michael Shermer: Well, Heavens on Earth was something of an extension of my previous books, I have not covered the afterlife in any kind of detail from my previous books on the paranormal, the supernatural, religion, God, morality—and so this was sort of a natural extension of “well if you’re skeptical of all these other things what about the afterlife?” and my standard one liner is: “I’m for it.”

But the fact that I’m for it doesn’t make it true, in fact if anything the more passionately we want something to be true the more skeptical we should be of our own beliefs because we know how powerful these cognitive biases are to lead us to want to find evidence for what we already want to be true.

So I really kind of went in search of just all the standard religious theories of the afterlife and heaven. I go through the big three monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and right there all of them have a history in the sense of all the different versions that there are of the afterlife and heaven and they’re quite different histories than say if you read a history of cosmology, which sort of shows a progression from the ancients through the scientific revolution, through the early modern period all the way up to today of us getting closer and closer to an understanding of the real nature of the cosmos.

But there’s nothing like that in religious histories of the afterlife, they’re all scattershot: this theory, this theory; there’s no sense of progress.

So that alone tells us that these are culturally determined, geographically located. like reincarnation, the belief that we come back in this world, our souls somehow migrate into other bodies: Why do they seem to hover all those souls in this subcontinent of India? There’s very few other places around the world where the souls seem to go. That’s an indication that these things are not real out there in the real world sense but real inside people’s heads as determined by their cultures.

But the core of Heavens on Earth really is the scientific search for the afterlife. And so this is what I do science writing and research and scientific areas, believe it or not this is no longer a fringe idea, this idea that we could live forever.

There are scientists today who say that the first person to live 1000 years is alive today. Okay I’m skeptical, but still these aren’t fringe nuts, these are billionaires like Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the Google guys Larry and Sergey have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this company Calico, Ray Kurzweil is their chief engineer who believes in the singularity. So this whole idea of radical life extension, cryonics, trans humanism, the singularity, “we’re going to upload our minds into a computer,” these form the core center of my book and why I’m skeptical, why really all of us should be skeptical.

Because first, although it’s not impossible that these researchers and scientists are wrong, it’s just very unlikely, because the problems of say duplicating your soul whatever that would be, in science that would be your pattern of information—your genome—and then the equivalent of that, your “connect-ome,” that is the tracings of all your memories everything that’s you, this is their theory, you copy it and you upload it into a computer.

Let’s say you have it backed up every night when you die, you just put it into a clone or inside a computer or something like that. That’s the idea. And I think the underestimation of the complexity of the problem is orders of magnitude off. We are not even close to doing anything like this. I mean Ray Kurzweil projects 2040 is the singularity and after that we might be able to live forever. How is that going to happen, and who is the we? So then I have a chapter on “Who are we? Who are you? What does it mean to be you?”

Why Skepticism Is the Right Approach to the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia | Michael Shermer

Big Think, October 2017

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Stephen Lie-Checks Trump's Climate Change Claim

President Donald Trump crammed an impressive amount of nonsense about climate change into a single run-on falsehood.



"Fun fact. Nothing he (Donald Trump) said there is a fact. All lies."

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, January 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018

QI'S HIDDEN PHILOSOPHY

Clip from a bonus feature included in Volume Three of The Complete QI DVD Box Set: An animated guide to the philosophy behind QI, narrated by the show's creator John Lloyd.

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