September 2008


As scientists prove that faith can relieve pain, distinguished psychologist Dorothy Rowe examines the case for and against religion

I’m not religious, but I have thought about religion all of my life. My mother never attended church but she insisted that I went to St Andrew’s Church, a cold, unfriendly place filled with cold, unfriendly people. At home, my father, an atheist, would read aloud to us from the essays of Robert Ingersoll, the 19th-century militant atheist.

Ingersoll’s prose had the music and majesty of King James’s Bible. I loved the language of them both. I learned how to use Ingersoll’s logic to examine the teachings of the Bible. My disapproval of the cruelty and vanity of the Presbyterian God knew no bounds, but I felt at home with Jesus, whom I saw as a kind, loving man like my father.

God had not been in the trenches, or anywhere else, with the ex-Servicemen whom I met at university. When religion was discussed, we listed the cruelties and stupidities of religion throughout history, just as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens were to do 40 years later.


There is a theory that the spark of genius lurks hidden within all of us.

Now scientists are developing a ‘thinking cap’ that could turn that theory into practice and unlock the amazing potential of the human brain.

The device uses tiny magnetic pulses to change the way the brain works and has produced remarkable results in tests.

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This election has been hard on all of our inboxes.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (cut and pasted) head on a patriotically bikini’d bod? Sen. Barack Obama cluelessly chatting on a (Photoshopped) upside-down phone? Sen. John McCain identifying himself — according to a totally mangled forward — as a “war criminal”?

Gotta be fakes, all of them. Right?

Because why would a grown man hold a phone upside do — well, then again, it wouldn’t be the first time a politician was a doofus maximus. So maybe, just to be on the safe side. …

Which is why no inbox has had it harder in these last frenzied weeks than the one belonging to David and Barbara Mikkelson, the founders and sole researchers at urban legend mega-site

The couple debunked each of the myths above, along with dozens more allegations ranging from the wacko (a claim that the Bible identifies Obama as the antichrist) to the wonko (a widely circulated comparison of the two candidates’ tax plans).

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National Security: Iraq, Iran and the Middle East

FLVCS (FL Veterans for Common Sense) in conjunction with Florida Consumer Action Network and Veterans for Common Sense, is bringing to Sarasota Dr. Juan Cole, Professor of History University of Michigan and a foremost authority on the Middle East.

When: October 4, 2008 (Saturday Night) at 7:00 PM

Where: 2896 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota (Potter Building) (Three buildings west of Robarts Arena off Fruitville Road, Sarasota)

Dr. Cole has often appeared in print and national television as a commentator on the Middle East and has published peer reviewed books on the Middle East. He has testified before the United States Senate and is the former editor of the The International Journal of Middle East Studies. He is President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America. In 2006, he received the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism administered by Hunter College. His blog Informed Comment averages 25,000 hits per day. His latest book is Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East.
Learn how the Iraq invasion and occupation will likely turn out and about the conflict between the United States and Iran and how these conflicts affect national security.
Professor Cole will sign books after the Question and Answer session.

For Tickets: Contact Julian Koss (941) 923-9280: Minimum suggested donation $10., or purchase tickets on-line at

Paul Sullivan, the Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense will also speak at this event.


More than half of all Americans believe they have been helped by a guardian angel in the course of their lives, according to a new poll by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion. In a poll of 1700 respondents, 55% answered affirmatively to the statement, “I was protected from harm by a guardian angel.” The responses defied standard class and denominational assumptions about religious belief; the majority held up regardless of denomination, region or education — though the figure was a little lower (37%) among respondents earning more than $150,000 a year.

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From New York Review of Books:

Without God
By Steven Weinberg

In his celebrated 1837 Phi Beta Kappa Oration at Harvard, titled “The American Scholar,” Ralph Waldo Emerson predicted that a day would come when America would end what he called “our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands.” His prediction came true in the twentieth century, and in no area of learning more so than in science. This surely would have pleased Emerson. When he listed his heroes he would generally include Copernicus and Galileo and Newton along with Socrates and Jesus and Swedenborg. But I think that Emerson would have had mixed feelings about one consequence of the advance of science here and abroad—that it has led to a widespread weakening of religious belief

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From DiscoverMag Blog:

Are you there God, and if so, will you please provide an emissary that can go head-to-head with Christopher Hitchens without getting spectacularly flayed?

That was the pertinent issue during yesterday’s “Big Questions conversation” at the Pierre Hotel, hosted by On Faith and the John Templeton Foundation. The luncheon pitted Hitchens, the anti-deist poster child, against Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a physicist, theologian, and author of God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity.

Given the pro-God squad’s spectacular failure the last time it staged a debate like this, the buzz among the predominantly male and heavily tweeded crowd was, “Will Albacete bring his A game against a man known for his cerebral disembowling of religious delegates?”

The answer, unfortunately, was a resounding no. While the monsignor presented a charismatic and sympathetic figure—his Isaac Hayes-esque vocal resonance was worth the trip alone—his arguments, if one could call them that, didn’t make it past a freshmen theology class.

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America’s corrosive culture wars, in which evangelical Christians are never far from the front line, are about to be reignited by a Borat-style take on organised religion.

A new ‘documentary’ by the man behind Borat – and made using the same hit-and-run techniques – will open in New York at the beginning of next month. Provocatively titled Religulous (think ‘religious’ and ‘ridiculous’), it will mock the beliefs of the world’s major religions, recruiting unwitting assistance from the ranks of the faithful.

The project has already inspired protests at its premiere at the Toronto film festival earlier this month, and US satirist Bill Maher and director Larry Charles have been accused of misleading participants. Maher has conceded that several sleights of hand were necessary to persuade people to perform. ‘It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it A Spiritual Journey. It didn’t work everywhere. We went to Salt Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all.’

Unlike Borat, which simply sought to satirise, both Charles and Maher – former host of the talk show Politically Incorrect for Comedy Central – have made clear that, while they were looking for comic potential from their engagements with believers, their ultimate aim was not to poke gentle fun but to demolish.

Employing the same robust approach as Supersize Me and Bowling For Columbine, Religulous sees Maher challenge his interview subjects over their knowledge of the literal historic facts of their religions.

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