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Bill Maher is right about religion

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  • The Orwellian ridiculousness of Jesus, and the truth about moral progress
  • "Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past"
  • Excerpted from "The Moral Arc" by Michael Shermer
  • Bill Maher on Charlie Hebdo attacks: “There are no great religions; they’re all stupid and dangerous.”

Michael Shermer, Salon

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MoralArc%20deep%20gray%20metallic.jpg?uuid=eplcgqGAEeSxRld4Mur8tASunday, Jan 18, 2015 | Most people believe that moral progress has primarily been due to the guiding light of religious teachings, the activities of spiritual leaders, and the power of faith-based initiatives. In “The Moral Arc” I argue that this is not the case, and that most moral progress is the result of science, reason, and secular values developed during the Enlightenment. Once moral progress in a particular area is underway, most religions eventually get on board—as in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, women’s rights in the 20th century, and gay rights in the 21st century—but this often happens after a shamefully protracted lag time. Why?

The rules that were dreamt up and enshrined by the various religions over the millennia did not have as their goal the expansion of the moral sphere to include other sentient beings. Moses did not come down from the mountain with a detailed list of the ways in which the Israelites could make life better for the Moabites, the Edomites, the Midianites, or for any other tribe of people that happened not to be them. One justification for this constricted sphere can be found in the Old Testament injunction to “Love thy neighbor,” who at that time was one’s immediate kin and kind, which was admittedly an evolutionary stratagem appropriate for the time. It would be suicidal to love thy neighbor as thyself when thy neighbor would like nothing better than to exterminate you, which was often the case for the Bronze Age peoples of the Old Testament. What good would have come of the Israelites loving, for example, the Midianites as themselves? The results would have been catastrophic given that the Midianites were allied with the Moabites in their desire to see the Israelites wiped off the face of the earth.

Michael Shermer is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims.

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Related:

Bill Maher on Charlie Hebdo attacks: “There are no great religions; they’re all stupid and dangerous.” Sarah Gray, Salon 

  • We must stop deferring to religion: Laughable absurdities must be laughed at.
  • The "Real Time" host appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and spoke about the attack in Paris.

Bill Maher on Charlie Hebdo attacks: “There are no great religions; they’re all stupid and dangerous.”

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  • We must stop deferring to religion: Laughable absurdities must be laughed at.
  • The "Real Time" host appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and spoke about the attack in Paris.

Sarah Gray, Salon

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Screen-Shot-2015-01-08-at-10.35.43-AM-620x412.pngBill Maher on Jimmy Kimmel (Credit: ABC)

Thursday, January 8, 2015 | On Wednesday Bill Maher unloaded on religion on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and called for the unequivocal protection of free speech.

The political comedian, who is promoting the upcoming season of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” was responding to the attack on Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead, 11 wounded and is viewed as a direct attack on freedom of speech.

“This has to stop, and unfortunately, a lot of the liberals, who are my tribe — I am a proud liberal–” Maher began.

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation.

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Stephanie Van Hook: Transforming anger into nonviolent power

Anger, rage and a desire for revenge are all reasonable and justified in the face of armed attacks, abuse and exploitation. What matters is what we do with these things.

Stephanie Van Hook, Transformation / Rise Up Times

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ESSAY_PRAYER.jpgMembers of “Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace.” Credit: Clair MacDougall: http://crossingtheatlantic.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.

December 30, 2014 | As Leymah Gbowee stood in front of a crowd of women at her church in Monrovia, praying for an end to the civil war that was raging in Liberia, she had no idea of the consequences that were about to unfold.

A specialist in healing from trauma, Gbowee and her allies had spent months visiting mosques, markets and churches in order to mobilize a nascent peace movement. By the late summer of 2002, she had become recognized as the leader of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which held daily non-violent demonstrations and sit-ins in defiance of orders from Charles Taylor, the Liberian President at the time.

Stephanie Van Hook works to facilitate a global nonviolent transformation from violent systems of oppression to nonviolent systems of empowerment. To this end, she believes in the power of trial and error, parallel institutions, and building on what works. She is the director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, director of Conflict Resolution Services on the Green Shadow Cabinet and a board member of Peace Workers.

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Pope issues scathing critique of Vatican bureaucracy in pre-Christmas meeting

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Pope Francis said while the Curia is called to "always improve and grow in communion," it is also prone to "disease, malfunction, and infirmity" like every human institution.

Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter  (NCR)

Thanks to Evergreene Digest reader Jogues Epple for this contribution.

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Curia2.jpg?itok=zAZnXFjyPope Francis leads an audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia on Monday in Clementine Hall at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Dec. 22, 2014 | Pope Francis on Monday used an annual pre-Christmas meeting with the cardinals and bishops of the Vatican bureaucracy -- normally an exchange of good wishes and blessings -- to issue a scathing critique of them, warning against 15 separate "diseases" in their work and attitudes.

Saying he wanted to prepare them all -- including himself -- to make "a real examination of conscience" before Christmas, Francis said while the Vatican bureaucracy was called to "always improve and grow in communion," it was also prone to "disease, malfunction, and infirmity" like every human institution.

Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. 

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