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Reposted from Elders of Zion by ramara

The five scrolls or megillot, The Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations, are read during the year on different holidays. Ruth, my subject here, is read on Shavuot. This is usually associated with this verse (I use the older translation used by the Jewish Virtual Library; Chabad uses a more modern translation):

2:23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.
The barley harvest comes at Passover, when wheat is planted to be harvested seven weeks later at the Festival of Weeks, Shavuot. So this is the time of year where the main action of the book takes place. There is also a parallel between Ruth accepting Judaism and the receiving of the Torah at Sinai.

But I see another connection between this aspect of the holiday and the story of Ruth.

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Reposted from Secular School Teacher by Ojibwa
I was sitting on the couch channel-surfing with my mom one afternoon when she stopped on Long Island Medium, a self-professed psychic who supposedly puts the living in contact with the dead.

After watching for a minute or two I commented on how sad it is that this woman is making fools of these poor gullible people on national TV.

My mom turned to me and said, “Don’t you want to believe that we will meet up again in heaven after we die?”

I told her it’s not that I didn’t want to see her again but that such a belief is just not an option for me.
Even when my doctor once told me I was possibly riddled with lung cancer the god thing never even popped into my mind during the two weeks it took for me to make peace with my premature mortality (the "cancer" turned out later to be benign nodules).

I just couldn’t possibly buy into the notion of a heaven or hell based on the Christians' Bible with 400+ contradictions and whose authors believed the sun revolved around a flat, stationary earth on "pillars," which condones slavery, and is replete with unicorns, talking donkeys, vegetation, evil snakes, and many other such reality-breaching tales.

Later, thinking about the prospect of living forever, I wondered why it could even be considered to be such a wonderful thing. Who wants to look down and watch millions of kids starve to death each year, while tormented moms look helplessly on? What’s fun about that?
I spend so much time signing petitions – e.g. to help end slavery (a 190 billion dollar a year business), help indigenous people hold on to their land from greedy corporations or their culture from self-righteous missionaries, promote more humane factory farm conditions, end the brutal slaughtering of elephants, dolphins and sharks, and stop the vivisection of nonhuman primates and other lab animals – so that by the time I’ve finished my arm is tired from holding up the hand that blocks the part of the screen flashing associated images while the other feels the onset of carpel tunnel from clicking the "sign" button so much.

I don't want to even imagine being exposed to all these horrors on an eternal basis. And what would the weather be like? Perpetually sunny? That would get monotonous after a while too.

Even if I am shielded from viewing the suffering back on earth somehow, how could strolling hand in hand with the one I love not get boring? Especially if all you see is white puffy clouds. A week or two of that might be novel, but for all eternity?

What about the woman whose husband dies and she remarries a man she loves equally as much – does she get to keep both husbands once they’ve all expired? And what about her spouses? It’s unlikely they’d be so blissful having to share their wife with another guy.

What if I’m subjected to listening to a guy named Jesus reading from the Bible to masses of judgmental, sanctimonious Christians – and what if that arrogant John Boehner or smug Pat Robertson were in attendance? Hanging with that crowd doesn’t sound like a paradise too me. And besides, the Bible’s not really known for being a real page-turner and having read it cover-to-cover, revisiting it sounds more like a hell to me.
And what if it’s Allah who’s in charge “up there?” Hanging with fundamentalist, misogynistic Muslims sounds even worse. Or does each god get his or her own cloud on which to pontificate? And talking about people believing in Iron Age books about lands of milk and honey, will they have beer there?
At what age would I be entering those pearly gates? Now, when I’m still relatively young and healthy, or when I die, which hopefully will be when I’m old and decrepit? And if my mom’s so intent on seeing me there, what age would I have to be to qualify it as a heavenly experience for her? Certainly not my teens, which put the poor woman through much misery. She misses the baby years, but that would conflict with my ideal age.

And how can anyone be happy knowing some of the people they love best are in the process of being eternally sizzled alive “down below?” My Catholic great-grandmother expressed her fear of ending up in hell regularly.

BTW whatever happened to forgiveness? If I were God, I would forgive everyone simply because I couldn’t live with myself for a plan in which I condemned people to be forever burned alive because they made a few mistakes. Especially since I would know they would be prone to error being omniscient and having created them in the first place.
Sometimes I feel like I just want to curl up into a little ball and die witnessing all the suffering on this tiny planet, but then I think, would the world be a better place with or without me? The answer for me is to try to enjoy as many moments as possible and ease as much suffering as I can along the way. This gives my life purpose and the will to keep going, and the feeling of having been lucky to have been alive in the first place.                
So the prospect of an everlasting heavenly existence ends up being a depressing rather than exhilarating thought. Fortunately, it just doesn’t sound plausible, especially since there are no historical first-hand accounts of Jesus and archaeology disproves all four main Bible stories.

Eternal life provokes zillions of questions and provides zero answers. But the one answer that works for me is that when I go, it will likely end in blackful nothingness. And then I will finally, truly RIP.

Biblical References

Sun revolves around earth
Eccles. 1:5

Flat earth
Job 38:13; Isaiah 11:12; Rev. 7:1

Stationary earth
Eccles. 1:5; Psalm 93:1, 96:10, 104:5; Joshua 10:12; 1 Chron. 16:30

Earth rests on pillars
1 Sam. 2:8; Job 9:6, 38:4, Psalm 75:3

Lev. 25:44; Exod. 21:2,7,21; Col. 3:22; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph.6:5; 1 Tim. 6:1-2

Job. 39:9-10; Psalm 22:21, 29:6, 92:10; Isaiah 34:7; Num. 23:22, 24:8; Deut. 33:1 (KJV-conveniently changed to "wild oxen" for American and International Standard versions)

Talking snakes
Gen. 3:1

Talking donkeys
Num. 22-24

Talking bushes
Exod. 3:1-22


Sun May 24, 2015 at 07:06 AM PDT

DKos Sangha - Weekly Open Thread

by davehouck

Reposted from DKos Sangha by davehouck
Good morning!  Welcome to the DKos Sangha weekly open thread.

This is an open thread for members of the DKos Sangha and others who are interested in discussions concerning how we integrate our progressive political activism into our spiritual practice.  If you have observations about the political discourse of the week, or about practice, or about anything else related to walking a spiritual path through the political world, if you wish to share, or if you seek support, or if you simply want to say hello, please do; this space is for you.

If you would like to write a diary for the DKos Sangha, please let me know.

If you care nothing for spiritual practice and only wish to denigrate and disparage, please do so elsewhere, and respect that this is a community diary for the DKos Sangha.

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Welcome to Sunday All Day Brunch. This is an open topic thread so help yourself to the goodies and sit a spell and let us know what is new with you. It has been a while since I felt like doing art. All the stress seemed to dry up the creativity. I decided to update my website and went into my Bryce files to see what new art needed to be added. I found 4 pictures that I started a long time ago and didn't finish. I decided to work on them and all of a sudden I had six new pictures in a day and a half, one more that I did for Mother's Day, two while negotiating our new home, and one because I loved the new set. That makes ten pictures after a long dry spell. I think that the reality that we are moving into a wonderful new place and a place that really wants us as tenants has broken the dam that kept me from creating. Here is my new art. In two instances I was able to create two pictures from the initial picture.

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Reposted from Putting the Fun back in Fundie by linkage

As I wrote in my last diary, the Huckster has been making news regarding Josh Duggar’s molestations by 1.) Defending Josh and seemingly ignoring the victims of Josh’s crime and 2.) Claiming that Josh’s actions aren’t unforgiveable.

First of all, let’s look past the irony that, no matter how egregious the crime (and this was a crime), as long as you’re a friend of the Huckster, he has nothing but forgiveness for you. But if you just want to live your life by your values which differ from those of the Huckster, then he has nothing but contempt for you.

But back to forgiveness: since Huckabee calls himself a Christian, it would be nice if he knew where Jesus stood on the subject. Unfortunately, Huckabee wouldn’t know Jesus if Jesus kissed him on the lips. And if he DID know Jesus, he would have nothing but contempt for him. So let’s ask this question: Can the Huckster be forgiven? And if you believe Jesus, then the answer is a resounding “No!” (We’ll get to Josh later.)

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Reposted from Kossacks for Marriage Equality by Ojibwa

Marriage Equality Opponents: the 1st Amendment does not give you the right to break the law!

They constantly try to make themselves the victim because they are not allowed to force their religious beliefs on to the rest of us.

They complain that public businesses should be able to refuse to provide service to LGBT people and same sex couples if it violates their religious beliefs. So basically they must think that public businesses are a church or something!

More below.

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The vastness of the universe with millions, perhaps billions, of suns with planets circling them, is almost beyond the imaginations of many people. Contemplating the universe and the many possibilities of alien life forms raises the question: Are we alone? Are there other life forms out there? Are there other life forms with higher order consciousness, language, and technology? In 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi, who was working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is reported to have asked: “Where are they?”

Putting aside for a moment the various conspiracy theories about Area 51 and UFOs, and ignoring the  possible realities of the Men in Black movies, let us consider some possibilities—hypotheses—on why we, Homo sapiens, have not heard from intelligent, technologically advanced alien life forms. The discussion continues below the Orange UFO.

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Fri May 22, 2015 at 05:56 PM PDT

The prurient god of the Duggars

by Onomastic

Reposted from Onomastic by elenacarlena

Full disclosure. I never watched the Duggar's television show. Heard about it, of course. But the show's entire premise left me feeling nauseous. The focus on fertility and a constant state of pregnancy as some kind of prurient proof of religiosity, as if god has his head up everyone's groin, set alarm bells ringing.

Turns out my alarm bells were working just fine, thank you.

According to the police report, Jim Bob and Michelle, paragons of parenting, hid Josh’s crimes from the police and the public. In Touch reports, based on the police report it obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, that:


Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview [sic] by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.
The police report reveals that Jim Bob Duggar “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on” rather than contacting law enforcement. Josh was then sent to “Christian counseling” for three months, which, according to his mother’s admission, was not any sort of licensed counseling facility:
Once again, the religious right's obsession with sexuality, and the control there of, is revealed as deeply twisted. No surprise to those of us who have paid attention through the years, and yet far too many typical responses blame or silence the victims of Josh Duggar's molestations, while excusing his actions and his parent's cover up of the same.
In faith communities like the Duggars, abuse victims are encouraged to be filled with grace. It’s not that simple
As usual, the victims of sexual abuse are being called to forgive and forget, to give grace, while none is being given to them. In the Duggar's Biblical Patriarchy, all things masculine have worth and are redeemable, while all things feminine are not.

Girls and women are reduced to property, to things, whose only virtue is in submitting to men, no matter how harmful those men may be.  

   ...God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine.
    God ordained distinct gender roles for man and woman as part of  the created order.
    A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector.
    Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres.
    Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a “keeper at home”, the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home.....

According to Rachel Held Evans, the biblical patriarchy movement is "committed to preserving as much of the patriarchal structure of Old Testament law as possible."[8]

Apparently the defining characteristic of god and men is the phallus, and the right to wield it. In an act of supreme hubris, the Biblical Patriarchal movement compresses a supposedly infinite god into the size and shape of a penis. That is the supreme definition of God and man. Not empathy. Not insight. Not creativity. Not caring. Not wisdom. Mind boggling, isn't it?

But in the world of the Phallus Cult, anything goes. Including molesting young girls, even one's sisters. Including excusing it all away, because - "God."

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Reposted from JoanMar by elenacarlena

    Daily Kos' own ObamaCare guru, Brainwrap, has recently highlighted the story of Luis Lang in a number of posts here, here, here, and here, and on his own website. The story is particularly interesting and noteworthy because Luis Lang is losing his sight but gaining some valuable insight. This is Mr. Lang:


     On Wednesday, the Washington Post explained about Luis Lang to everyone who doesn't have an internet:

Lang’s story has gone wild on the internet, turning him into a symbol of a number of intertwined narratives about the law: How Republican opposition to the Medicaid expansion has created a coverage gap claiming many low income people; how justifiable confusion about the complicated law is fueling anger at it; and so on.

It all started when the Charlotte Observer reported that Lang, 49, a self-employed Republican handyman who has never bought insurance, developed “bleeding in his eyes and a partly detached retina caused by diabetes.” The paper reported that subsequent medical bills quickly ate up his savings, whereupon he turned to the Obamacare exchange. He discovered he earns too little to get a subsidy, yet he might not be able to get on Medicaid because South Carolina has not opted into the Medicaid expansion. He risks falling into the “Medicaid gap.”

The paper reported that his family blamed this on Obamacare, prompting criticism from bloggers and others, combined with a crowd-funding drive for his surgery. In a subsequent interview with Think Progress, Lang said he now thinks opposition to the Medicaid expansion is the culprit, is rethinking his GOP affiliation, and is going to try to get coverage from the law, though he still says he has issues with its implementation and blames both parties:

“Now that I’m looking at what each party represents, my wife and I are both saying — hey, we’re not Republicans!” Lang said….

“I put the blame on everyone — Republican and Democrat. But I do mainly blame Republicans for their pigheadedness,” Lang said. “They’re blocking policies that could help everyone. I’m in the situation I’m in because they chose not to expand Medicaid for political reasons. And I know I’m not the only one.”….

    He's right that he's not the only one. In fact, there are approximately 250,000 South Carolinians in the "Medicaid Gap." We at Support the Dream Defenders knew this was going to be a problem, so, back in April, we sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Governor Nikki Haley asking her: What are you doing to find out the extent of the damages you are causing? This was her response:


     As you can see, Governor Nikki Haley has pockets empty of fucks to give about Luis Lang or the other 249,999 or so individuals in South Carolina who are one chicken bone or one drunk driver away from personal bankruptcy (or spending the next 20 to 40 years of their lives going to court to explain to the judge why payments for the hospital's bill couldn't be made that month).

     Besides our surprising new ally, Luis Lang, there are other less surprising entities fighting back. One of those fighters is the South Carolina Hospital Association, which stands to lose billions of dollars because Governor Haley wants to be pure (evil). In fact, at the SCHA website, you can sign a petition about Expanding Medicaid in the state. The petition is kind of fun, in a way, as it goes after other big businesses that have received the Governor's largess:

The choice for our future. For decades, our state has doled-out billions of tax credits to companies like BMW and Boeing to grow our economy and enhance the quality of life in South Carolina. We’ve also offered hundreds of millions of dollars to build highways and deepen our ports to build a better future. By accepting the federal dollars offered to our state, the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business projects that the $11.2 billion in new federal dollars will result in 44,000 new jobs. With the positive economic impact and increased health care coverage, the positive return on investment is clear.
    We urge you to sign the petition, or better still, this one from CREDO.  

     Besides all of the other reasons for Medicaid Expansion, including less DEATH, better health, working population able to work more days, fewer bankruptcies, increased jobs, less need for expensive emergency room care, controlling the previously-skyrocketing effects health care had on state and the national budgets, increased revenue from jobs (South Carolina has a state income tax), the Federal Government pays for 100% of the expense until 2016, when it will gradually lower the percentage over time to 90%.

     Here's the problem: South Carolina has seen a huge increase in people who have signed up for traditional Medicaid--and the federal reimbursement rate for that program varies between approximately 50% to 73.05%. As you can see, those numbers are a lot smaller than 100% or 90%. Additionally, many more children are signing up for the Child Health Insurance Program ("CHIP"). These larger numbers will crush the South Carolina budget. As an aside, if the nearly one million children in Texas who are eligible for CHIP, but have not signed up, ever do, Governor Greg Abbott's state will be in dire financial straits. Of course, this acts as a disincentive for red state governments to aggressively seek out children who could use the health care.      

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And welcome to another fuzzy offering left just outside the back door by Marko the Werelynx.

This week I thought I'd share a few more photos from my trip up into the rolling, green mountains along the northern border of the Czech Republic. I went there with a group of friends with whom I've been visiting this area nearly once a year for the last dozen years or so. There was a bit of rain during our hikes in this lovely national forest, but it just made for photos decorated with glistening droplets. Practically lit the place up like an aisle of Hallmark greeting cards. Listen carefully, perhaps you'll hear the steady drip, drip of kitsch and doggerel wafting through the spruce boughs...

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Fri May 22, 2015 at 12:11 PM PDT

The Taliban in Our Midst

by Mikey Weinstein

Reposted from Mikey Weinstein by Ojibwa

[Mikey Weinstein]: This guest Op-Ed from my dear friend, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) Advisory Board member, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, comes in light of an unprecedented Christian fundamentalist furor over MRFF’s demands for the U.S Air Force to court-martial Major General Craig Olson. Why did we demand this punishment for Olson?  Because of this senior General’s illegal and unconstitutionally sectarian speech of shocking Christian proselytizing earlier this month at a religious extremist organization’s ("National Day of Prayer Task Force”) internationally televised event held on Capitol Hill. This disingenuous hue and cry surrounds our ongoing fight against dominionist hegemony within the highest ranks of the U.S. armed forces, long a hotbed of nationalistic Christian supremacist extremism. Sadly, this outrageous scandal has reinforced the fact that many of the worst opponents of the U.S. Constitution are our nation’s highest-ranking military officers themselves… Mikey.

Military officers who wear their religion on their sleeve are a danger to our country at any time, but especially after the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001.

Whether it’s US Army Lieutenant General William G. Boykin telling his audience that “My God is bigger than his” in the close aftermath of that tragedy, or the more recent example of US Air Force Major General Craig Olson saying in uniform and in public—and speaking in tones far more like a preacher than a military officer—“I am a redeemed believer in Christ“, these are dangerous men, making dangerous displays of religion.

Moreover, such displays occur in an environment where they are strictly prohibited by secular rules.  These rules—and in the case of the US Air Force, written regulations—are in place for a reason. 

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Welcome to Thursday Coffee Hour. This is an open thread so help yourself to the goodies and let us know what is new with you. I have family members who are seriously into comic books. Growing up I never got into them. I did watch television shows and movies that were based on comic book characters. The Batman television show was so campy and fun and Green Hornet of course had the great Bruce Lee.

The only comic I ever got into at all was Howard the Duck. It was recently revived and my niece is getting it for me as "gas money" for taking her to work. I'm not sure what it was that got to me about the comic but I just love its deliciously weird take on life. While others may have their favorite super heroes with their super powers for me I'm cheering on the duck.

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