Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Goals for 2006

While walking today at the Salvation Army Community Center in Sand Springs, I passed the 365 mile mark for this year. My walking goal was to walk 365 miles (or a mile a day average). I made this goal with only ten days to spare.

I will try to repeat this in 2006. I would try for more miles, but I don't think I will have enough time to walk more.

In addition I will strive to attain the following:
Reach event number 200 in volkswalking
Reach find number 200 in geocaching.

Friday, November 25, 2005

How secure are our rights?

Here is a quote that is timely. It is from a book about the Mexican "repatriation" (coerced emigration or unconstitutional deportation would be more accurate language) that took place in the 1930s. The book is the second edition of Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s and will be available sometime in 2006.

"In 1942, another minority group, the Japanese, also learned the bitter lesson that constitutional guarantees are meaningless when mob hysteria is accorded institutional or legal status." -Francisco E. Balderrama

I've long said that our constitutional rights are not worth the paper they are written on if the people who interpret our rights (the courts) and the people whose responsibility it is to protect our rights (the executive) are venal.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Volkswalking Goal Reached

A volkswalk was held last Saturday at a Civil War battlefield at Rentiesville, Oklahoma (south of Muskogee). I did the 6K walk there giving me a total of 185 volkswalks. My volkswalking goal for this year was to reach 185 walks, and I am there with a month to spare. My other walking goal was to walk 365 miles. I am now at 338 miles. That goal is within sight.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Week in Review

I worked overtime on Monday and then made a blood donation after I got off work. I was a given an 5-gallon pin for having donated that much to date. I skipped drumming that evening since I did not want to aggravate the arm from which the blood was taken.

I walked four miles on both Wednesday and Thursday, giving me eight miles for the week. I had been listening to lectures on CDs while walking. I have just finished a series by Rufus Fears titled "Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life." The course consists of 36 half-hour lectures. They are available for loan should anyone wish to borrow them.

I received page proofs this week for my next indexing job. The book is on Mexican repatriation in the 1930s.

Saturday morning the Secular Singers met at Zarrow Library to sing some Christmas music in preparation for our HumanLight celebration on December 18. A reporter for the Tulsa World came by and interviewed us (as members of the Humanist Association) for an upcoming article in the paper.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Notes to Myself

A Albeniz * Tango in D
C Chopin * Prelude No. 20
J Joplin * Sunflower Slow Drag
K Kabalevsky * Sonatina 1
S Satie * Second Gnossienne

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Foxes now own the chicken coups

Here are two excerpts from a recent speech by Bill Moyers:

But this crowd never gives up. President Bush has turned the agencies charged with environmental protection over to people who don't believe in it. To run the Interior Department he chose a long-time defender of polluters who has opposed laws to safeguard wildlife, habitat, and public lands. To run the Forest Service he chose a timber industry lobbyist. To oversee our public lands he named a mining industry lobbyist who believes public lands are unconstitutional. To run the Superfund he chose a woman who made a living advising corporate polluters how to evade the Superfund. And in the White House office of environmental policy the President placed a lobbyist from the American Petroleum Institute whose mission was to make sure the government's scientific reports on global warming didn't contradict the party line and the interest of oil companies. Everywhere you look, the foxes own the chicken coop.


Earlier this year the White House even conducted an extraordinary secret campaign to scupper the British government's attempt to tackle global warming - and then to undermine the UN's effort to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions. George W. Bush is the Herbert Hoover of the environment. His failure to lead on global warming means that even if we were dramatically to decrease greenhouse gases overnight we have already condemned ourselves and generations to come to a warming planet.

You no doubt saw those reports a few days ago that the Artic has suffered another record loss of sea ice. This summer, satellites monitoring the region found that ice reached its lowest monthly point on record - the fourth year in a row it has fallen below the monthly downward trend. The anticipated effects are well known: as the Artic region absorbs more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further, the relentless cycle of melting and heating will shrink the massive land glaciers of Greenland and dramatically raise sea levels. Scientists were quoted saying that with this new acceleration of melt the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate cannot recover.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

So much for honesty and integrity

From an editorial by David Batstone in SoJoMail, 10.13.05:

To be frank, I do not expect Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, or any other influential media network of religious conservatives to raise a red flag about political corruption in the Republican Party any time soon. The specter of political power seems too enticing, too close within reach, to be held back by traditional values such as honesty and integrity. Oh, woe to us, that we shall we gain the whole world, yet lose our own soul.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Concert this Sunday

The Secular Singers (a five-person vocal ensemble) will perform this Sunday, October 16, starting around 1:00 PM at the Hardesty Library. This is a free concert, and all are invited. Members of the ensemble are Bea McCartney, Randy Bradley, Gail Storey, Julia Topi, and Dan Nerren.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Cute joke from Polly

At yesterday's meeting of the Humanist Study Group, Polly Mark read us this joke:

Pedro was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn't find a parking place. Looking up toward heaven, he said "Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life and give up tequila."

Miraculously, a parking place appeared. Pedro looked up again and said
"Never mind. I found one."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Progress toward my goals

Here we are now three-quarters of the way through the year. I set some goals back in January. How am I doing? One goal was to walk an average of a mile a day. This is day 278 and I have walked 284 miles so far this year. Barring any unforseen events, I should reach this goal.

As second goal was to reach 185 volkswalks. I am at 180 right now. Only five more to go before the end of the year. I should be able to make that.

Another goal is to revive Secular Singers and stages two performances. The vocal ensemble is up and running again. We have five members in the group -- the most we have ever had. We have a concert set about a week and a half away. I don't know yet if we will try to have a second performance this year. If we do, it will be a Christmas concert.

I reached my goal of finding 100 geocaches a few weeks ago. I'm at 107 caches at this time.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A geocaching experience

Over the weekend, my wife and I did some volkswalking and geocaching. Our first walk was at Zena, a small (and I do mean small) place (I won’t call it a town) a few miles southeast of Grove, Oklahoma. I had checked earlier to see if there were any caches in the area. The Lone Wolf cache appeared to be within a mile of the volkswalk start point. With the coordinates loaded in my GPSr, I activated the “go to” function. We followed the direction indicated by the GPSr. As we drove toward the cache, the distance indicator continued to decline. Finally the cache showed to be about 500 feet off to the right in some woods. As we kept moving slowly in the car, the number grew larger.

I stopped and turned around and went back to the point where the cache showed to be 500 feet away. On one side of the road were woods. On the other side in a wooded area there was a storage building, and behind this building there was a modular house or maybe a mobile home (trailer). I pulled off the road and parked my car in front of the storage building. My wife decided to remain in the car while I went looking for the cache.

I struck out through the woods in the direction of the cache, stopping periodically in clearings because the overhead vegetation from the trees was causing my GPSr to receive bounced signals. As I got close to the cache I could see that the land beyond the cache had been cleared.
Then I recognized the land as a cemetery. The spot where the cache was hidden was easy to recognize due to all the tree limbs which had been (unnaturally) placed over the cache (an ammo can).

I signed the log and was putting everything back in place when my cell phone rang. It was my wife, and she said some guy was pointing a gun at her, demanding that she get the car off his property. I returned to the car via the road to the cemetery (which I would have taken in the first place had I known it was there). My wife had managed to settle down the property owner without getting shot. From there we drove to the volkswalk start point and began our walk, which thankfully did not go past the scene of the gun incident.

We later wondered at the reaction of the property owner. Could he have been protecting his meth lab?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Song list for concert

The Secular Singers will present a concert on Sunday, Oct. 16, 1 PM at Hardesty Library. Below are the songs we hope to sing.

1. The Battle of Church and State

2. No Masters and No Gods for Me

3. Joe Hill

4. Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues

5. Hard Times in the Mill

6. The Ballad of Judge Roy Moore

7. Draft Dodger Rag

8. This Land is Your Land

9. Hard Traveling

10. Oklahoma Hills

11. Just Say ‘No’ to Religion

12. Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist

13. I Don’t Need Jesus

14. Life Is Good

Monday, September 12, 2005

New blog now set up for HAT

Postings related to HAT will appear under a new blog I have set up for HAT. The postings which will appear on this blog will be personal. The address for the new HAt blog is http://hatulsa.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

September Freethought Activities

Wed., Sept. 7, 11:30am
ALGAE, lunch at Thai Siam, on 31st west of Sheridan.

Sat., Sept. 10, 10am
Secular Singers at Dan's house: 4925 Spruce Dr., Sand Springs. Join Bea, Randy, Gail, and Dan to sing freethought and other songs. If you play an instrument, bring it with you.

Sun., Sept. 11, 2pm
Humanist Study Group at Border’s, 81st & Yale. Read Harold Hill’s notes on Situation Ethics sent to you by e-mail earlier.

Sun., Sept. 18, 1pm
HAT Monthly Membership Meeting at the Hardesty Library, near 93rd and Memorial. Brian Hill will speak about a book.

Wed., Sept. 21, 11:30am
ALGAE, lunch at White River Fish Market, 1708 N. Sheridan.

Tues., Sept. 20, 7pm
Tulsa Atheist Rendezvous at Zarrow Library, 2224 W. 51st St.

Sat., Sept. 24, 10:00am to noon
Secular singers rehearsal at Dan Nerren's, 4925 Spruce Dr., Sand Springs

Sat., Sept. 24, 12:30am
Food & Fellowship, at India Palace, on Lewis near 71st.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Freethought Events through the end of August

Sun., Aug. 21, 1pm
HAT Monthly Membership Meeting at the Hardesty South Regional Library, 8316 E. 93rd St. It’s time for an afternoon of fun and games. Exercise your brain. Ward off Alzheimer’s. Teams of two or three players will compete for dollar store prizes by seeking to correctly answering questions. Details will be sent to those on the HAT list, or query me if you are not on the list.

Sat., Aug. 27, 11:30am
Food & Fellowship, at Furr’s Cafeteria in The Farm Shopping Center, 51st and Sheridan.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

July 2005 Freethought Activities

Wed., July 6, 11:15am
ALGAE, lunch at Thai Siam Restaurant, on 31st St. west of Sheridan.

Sat., July 9, 9am
Secular Singers at Zarrow Library. Join Bea, Randy, and Dan to sing freethought and other songs. If you play an instrument, bring it with you.

Sun., July 10, 2pm
Humanist Study Group at Border’s, 81st & Yale. Marilyn Clarke will speak on the Shakespeare authorship question.

Sun., July 17, 2pm
HAT Monthly Membership Meeting at the Genealogy Center, 2901 S. Harvard. Program to be announced later.

Tues., July 19, 7pm
Tulsa Atheist Rendezvous (formerly Atheists Meetup) at Zarrow Library, 2224 W. 51st St. DVD presentation: The God Who Wasn’t There.

Wed., July 20, 11:30am
ALGAE, lunch at White River Fish Market, 1708 N. Sheridan Rd.

Sat., July 23, 11:30am
Food & Fellowship, at Mex Italy, 6849 S. Peoria

Sunday, June 05, 2005

June 2005 Activities

For Atheists and Other Assorted Freethinkers

Sat., June 11, 9am

Secular Singers at Zarrow Library. Join Bea, Randy, and Dan to sing freethought and other songs. If you play an instrument, bring it with you.

Sun., June 12, 2pm

Humanist Study Group at Border’s, 81st & Yale. Read selection from A Different Universe by Robert B. Laughlin, sent to you by e-mail earlier.

Wed., June 15, 11:30am

ALGAE, lunch at White River Fish Market, 1708 N. Sheridan.

Sun., June 19, 2pm

HAT Monthly Membership Meeting at the Genealogy Center, 2901 S. Harvard. Randy and Dan will be reading selections from The End of Faith by Sam Harris.

Tues., June 21, 7pm

Tulsa Atheist Rendezvous (formerly Atheists Meetup) at Zarrow Library, 2224 W. 51st St. Tentative plans are to view the movie Heart of the Beholder.

Sat., June 25, 9am to ??

Food & Fellowship at Polly Mark’s. Polly lives near Checotah. Some of us will caravan from Jenks to Polly’s. Additional information will be posted on the HAT web site.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

May 2005 Activities

Dan Nerren

May 2005 Activities
For Atheists and Other Assorted Freethinkers

Sunday, May 8, 2pm Humanist Study Group at Border’s (81st & Yale). Read pages 521 through 525 of Jared Diamond’s book Collapse. For those who are new to the group, we are usually sitting in some portable chairs near the rear of the store.

Saturday, May 14, 9am Secular Singers at Zarrow Library. Join Bea, Randy, and Dan to sing freethought and other songs. If you play an instrument, bring it with you.

Sunday, May 15, 2pm HAT Monthly Membership Meeting at the Genealogy Center, 2901 S. Harvard. Guest speaker: Dr. Harold Hill. Dr. Hill, now retired, is the former Chairman of the Religion and Philosophy Department at Tulsa University.

Tuesday, May 17, 7pm Atheists Meetup at Zarrow Library, 2224 W. 51st St. This is an informal meeting of atheists. Chuck Poulos is bringing a video to show.

Wed., May 18, 11:30am ALGAE (A Little Group of Atheists Eating) at White River Fish Market, 1708 N. Sheridan. Have lunch with some fellow freethinkers.

Sat., May 28, 11:30am Food & Fellowship at Furr’s Cafeteria in the Farm Shopping Center. Chow down and hobnob with your humanist buddies.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Events pertaining to the Harris book

The Humanist Assn. of Tulsa will devote two meetings in April to a book by Sam Harris. The title is The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Religion. An excerpt is found in the post below this one.

On Sunday, April 10, starting at 2:00 PM, at Border's Bookstore on Yale Ave. near 81st St. the Humanist Study Group will discuss the book, specifically the passage quoted in the following post.

On Sunday, April 17, starting a 2:00 PM, at the Genealogy Center, 2901 S. Harvard Ave., a public reading will be held of selected passages from the book. A videotaped interview of Harris will follow the readings.

Reviews of the Harris book can be found at www.samharris.org.

Epilogue -- The End of Faith

Epilogue from The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

My goal in writing this book has been to help close the door to a certain style of irrationality. While religious faith is the one species of human ignorance that will not admit of even the possibility of correction, it is still sheltered from criticism in every corner of our culture. Forsaking all valid sources of information about this world (both spiritual and mundane), our religions have seized upon ancient taboos and prescientific fancies as though they held ultimate metaphysical significance. Books that embrace the narrowest spectrum of political, moral, scientific, and spiritual understanding – books that, by their antiquity alone, offer us the most dilute wisdom with respect to the present – are still dogmatically thrust upon us as the final word on matters of great significance. In the best case, faith leaves otherwise well-intentioned incapable of thinking rationally about many of their deepest concerns; at worst, it is a continuous source of human violence. Even now, many of us are motivated not by what we know but by what we are content merely to imagine. Many are still eager to sacrifice happiness, compassion, and justice in this world, for a fantasy world to come. These and other degradations await us along the well-worn path of piety. Whatever our religious differences may mean for the next life, they have only one terminus in this one – a future of ignorance and slaughter.

We live in societies are still constrained by religious laws and threatened by religious violence. What is it about us, and specifically about our discourse with one another, that keeps these astonishing bits of evil loose in our world? We have seen that education and wealth are insufficient guarantors of rationality. Indeed, even in the West, educated mean and women still cling to the blook-soaked heirlooms of a previous age. Mitigating this problem is not merely a matter of reining in a minority of religious extremists; it is a matter of finding approaches to ethics and to spiritual experience that make no appeal to faith, and broadcasting this knowledge to everyone.

Of course, one senses that the problem is hopeless. What could possibly cause billions of human beings to reconsider their religious beliefs? And yet, it is obvious that an utter revolution in our thinking could be accomplished in a single generation: if parents and teachers would merely give honest answers to the questions of every child. Our doubts about the feasibility of such a project should be tempered by an understanding of its necessity, for there is no reason whatsoever to think that we can survive our religious differences indefinitely.

Imagine what it would be like for our descendants to experience the fall of civilization. Imagine failures of reasonableness so total that our largest bombs finally fall upon our largest cities in defense of our religious differences. What would it be like for the unlucky survivors of such a holocaust to look back upon the hurtling career of human stupidity that led them over the precipice? A view from the end of the world would surely find that the six billion of us currently alive did much to pave the way to the Apocalypse.

This world is simply ablaze with bad ideas. There are still places where people are put to death for imaginary crimes – like blasphemy – and where the totality of a child’s education consists of his learning to recite from an ancient book of religious fiction. There are countries where women are denied almost every human liberty, except the liberty to breed. And yet, these same societies are quickly acquiring terrifying arsenals of advanced weaponry. If we cannot inspire the developing world, and the Muslim world in particular, to pursue ends that are compatible with a global civilization, then a dark future awaits us all.

The contest between our religions is zero-sum. Religious violence is still with us because our religions are intrinsically hostile to one another. Where they appear otherwise, it is because secular knowledge and secular interests are restraining the most lethal improprieties of faith. It is time we acknowledged that no real foundation exists within the canons of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any of our other faiths for religious tolerance and religious diversity.

If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in a way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith. If our tribalism is ever to give way to an extended moral identity, our religious beliefs can no longer be sheltered from the tides of genuine inquiry and genuine criticism. It is time we realized that to presume knowledge where one has only pious hope is a species of evil. Wherever conviction grows in inverse proportion to its justification, we have lost the very basis of human cooperation. Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; where we have no reasons, we have lost both our connection to the world and to one another. People who harbor strong convictions without evidence belong at the margins of our society, not in our halls of power. The only thing we should respect in a person’s faith is his desire for a better life in this world; we need never have respected his certainty that one awaits him in the next.

Nothing is more sacred than the facts. No one, therefore, should win any discourse for deluding himself. The litmus test for reasonableness should be obvious: anyone who wants to know how the world is, whether in physical or spiritual terms, will be open to new evidence. We should take confidence in the fact that people tend to conform themselves to this principle whenever they are obliged to. This will remain a problem for religion. The very hands that prop up our faith will be the ones to shake it.

It is as yet undetermined what it means to be human, because every facet of our culture – and even our biology itself – remains open to innovation and insight. We do not know what will be a thousand years from now – or indeed that we will be, given the lethal absurdity of many of our beliefs – but whatever changes await us, one thing seems unlikely to change: as long as experience endures, the difference between happiness and suffering will remain our paramount concern. We will want to understand those processes – biochemical, behavioral, ethical, economic, and spiritual – that account for this difference. We do not yet have anything like a final understanding of such processes, but we know enough to rule out many false understanding. Indeed, we know enough at this moment to say that the God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.

We do not know what awaits each of us after death, but we know that we will die. Clearly, it must be possible to live ethically – with a genuine concern for the happiness for other sentient beings – without presuming to know things about which we are patently ignorant. Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass on the street today, is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would anyone want to be anything but kind in the meantime?

We are bound to one another. The fact that our ethical institutions must, in some way, supervene upon our biology does not make ethical truths reducible to biological ones. We are the final judges of what is good, just as we remain the final judges of what is logical. And on neither front has our conversation with one another reached an end. There need be no scheme of rewards and punishments transcending this life to justify our moral intuitions or to render them effective in guiding our behavior in the world. The only angels we need invoke are those of our better nature: reason, honesty, and love. The only demons we must fear are those that lurk inside every human mind: ignorance, hatred, greed, and faith, which is surely the devil’s masterpiece.

Man is manifestly not the measure of all things. This universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being, and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name. The consciousness that animates us is itself central to this mystery and the ground for any experience we might wish to call “spiritual.” No myths need be embraced for us to commune with the profundity of our circumstance. No personal God need be worshiped for us to live in awe at the beauty and immensity of creation. No tribal fictions need be rehearsed for us to realize, one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish. The days of our religious identities are clearly numbered. Whether the days of civilization itself are numbered would seem to depend, rather too much, on how soon we realize this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

more Karen Armstrong

Here's another quote from Karen's Armstrong's book The Spiral Staircase.

Then there were my secret doubts. Even though I tried to tiptoe gingerly around difficult articles of faith, I could not stop wondering whether the Virgin Mary had been conceived without original sin and been taken up body and soul into heaven after her death. How did anybody know that Jesus was God? And was there even a God out there at all? Perhaps that was why I never encountered him in prayer? As I knelt in the chapel, watching my sisters kneeling quietly with their heads bowed contemplatively in their hands, I would sometimes wonder whether it wasn’t a bit like the emperor’s new clothers: nobody ever experienced God but nobody dared admit it. And then I would mentally shake myself. How could God reveal himself to a nun who harbored these shocking doubts?
If God did exist, he clearly wanted nothing to do with me, and right now I couldn’t blame him. There was something in me that was proof against religion, closed to the divine. Let it go, I told myself sleepily. Don’t beat yourself up anymore. Just live simply as a secular and give up these inappropriate spiritual ambitions. You’re in the world now. Make friends with it. One day at a time.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Exercising Body and Mind

I take a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach to exercising. When the weather is too cold to comfortably walk outdoors, I walk laps around the basketball court at the Salvation Army Community Center on 129th West Avenue in Sand Springs. While walking, I wear my portable CD player and listen to a lecture from a college level course produced by The Teaching Company. Following the lecture I will play a CD of some kind of music to finish up my walk. I usually walk an hour to an hour and forty mintues per walk.

In January, I listened to the course "Beethoven -- His Life and Music," an 8-lecture course (45 minutes per lecture) taught by Robert Greenberg. Greenberg is one of the best lecturers I have heard. Not only does he know his material thoroughly, he delivers his lectures with energy and humor. The Teaching Company has produced several courses in the area of music using Greenberg. Presently I am listening to another of his courses, "Bach and the High Baroque," as I walk. This is a longer course with 32 45-minute lectures.

The Tulsa Library has in its collection several courses from The Teaching Company in a variety of media: compact disc, audio tape, video tape, DVD. Greenberg's "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" is available from the library in CD form. The Teaching Company also produces courses in the areas of religion, philosophy, history, psychology, and art, to name just a few other subject areas.

To learn more about The Teaching Company or to order materials, go to www.teach12.com.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

from Karen Armstrong's new book

I am presently reading The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness by Karen Armstrong. Armstrong, a well-known writer on religion, spent seven years of her early adulthood as a Catholic nun. Below is a quotation from the book. I will probably have other quotes from this book to post later.

There has been a moment early in the postulantship when I had heard a warning bell. We were doing a little course in apologetics, which explained the rational ground for faith. I was set an essay: "Assess the historicla evidence for the Resurrection." I had read the requisite textbooks, could see what was required, and duly produced a discussion of the events of the first Easter Sunday that made Jesus’ rising from the tomb as uncontroversial and unproblematic historically as the Battle of Waterloo. This was nonsense, of course, but that did not seem to matter in apologetics.

"Yes, Sister, very nice." Mother Greta, the pale delicate nun who was supervising our studies, smiled at me as she handed back my essay. "This is a very good piece of work."

"But Mother," I suddenly found myself saying, "it isn’t true, is it?"

Mother Greta sighed, pushing her hand under her tightly fitting cap and rubbing her forehead as if to erase unwelcome thoughts. "No, Sister," she said wearily, "it isn’t true. But please don’t tell the others."

This did not mean that Mother Greta did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, or that she had lost her faith. But she had studied at the prestigious Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and knew that the kind of essay I had written was no longer regarded as a respectable intellectual exercise. A careful study of the resurrection stories in the gospels, which consistently contradict one another, shows that these were not factual accounts that could ever satisfy a modern historian, but mythical attempts to describe the religious convictions of the early Christians, who had experienced the risen Jesus as a dynamic presence in their own lives and had made a similar spiritual passage from death to life. As I stared wordlessly back at Mother Greta, I knew that, if it had been up to her, she would have scrapped this course in apologetics and introduced us to a more fruitful study of the New Testament. But, like any nun, she was bound by the orders of her superiors. What I had written was not true, because the insights of faith are not amenable to rational or historical analysis. Even at this early stage, in a confused, incoherent way, I knew this, and Mother Greta knew that I knew it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Voting with your dollars

How often has this happened to you? You are enthusiastic about a political candidate. You talk him or her up to your friends. Your candidate reflects the liberal, progressive values that you hold. You are convinced that if your candidate could be elected it would be one step, albeit a small one, toward a better nation. You cast your vote for the candidate, and then on election evening as the returns come in you see that your candidate has lost. Another progressive has lost to the forces of conservatism, or fundamentalist religion, or corporatism.

Given the politcal environment of Oklahoma, you have mostly likely witnessed the above several times. However, the votes you cast at your precinct poling location is just one kind of voting. Another kind of voting has to do with where you spend your dollars and what you spend your dollars on.

If you are like me, you would rather purchase items and services from progressives rather than from reactionaries. But how do you know whether the owners of, say, Smith's Widget Company, are using their profits to advance the values you hold dear or are using those profits to undermine your values?

Information on various companies is available at www.buyblue.org.

Their mission statement reads as follows:

"You may have voted blue, but every day you unknowingly help dump millions of dollars into the conservative war chest. By purchasing products and services from companies that donate heavily to conservatives, we have been compromising our own interests as liberals and progressives.

"BuyBlue.org is a concerted effort to lift the veil of corporate patronage, so consumers can make informed buying decisions that coincide with their principles.

"Currently, we are developing an extensive and interactive website where users will be able to monitor corporate activity in real time. We cannot do this alone; we need an army of Blue buyers to be the eyes and ears of this movement. All we have to do is put our money where our mouth is to make it profitable to be ethical.

"Our collective buying power WILL make a difference, and we WILL be heard."

I encourage you to check out the Buy Blue website. We should all pay more attention to what values we are supporting by where and on what we spend (or vote) our dollars.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Trip to Norman

Jan and I made a trip to Norman on Feb. 7 and 8. We visited an old friend, Dan Cagle, who lives there. (Dan is not old being in his mid-forties; it's just that I have known him since the late 80s.) I met Dan through his involvement in humanist activities. He was the leader of the OKC chapter of the American Humanist Association until the chapter folded sometime in the 1990s. Sadly, the leadership of the Stillwater chapter died off, and that chapter folded, too. The Tulsa chapter is the only remaining AHA chapter in the state.

But back to Norman. We met up with Dan, and we all did some geocaching together. I was able to log nine finds on the 7th. We were about to give up locating the final cache when we found it. We probably spent half an hour looking for it. It was cleverly hidden beneath the rail of an abandoned railroad track. The next day Jan and I visited the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Admittance to the museum is just five dollars. It's a bargain, especially if you have any interest in dinosaurs. Remains of dinosaurs are on display as well as life-size models. There is more in the museum than dinosaurs. There are displays having to do with various cultures of the world, and there is a photo gallery. The facility also houses a restaurant and bookstore/gift shop.

Also while in Norman we walked the labyrinth in Reaves Park. That labyrinth is a modified Chartre type. Whenever I find a labyrinth, I will walk it. I would like to some day set up a large labyrinth -- large enough that it can be used for a volkswalk. Two and a half kilometers in; two and a half kilometers back out.

This is my first entry to this log in over a month. I tend to bite off more than I can chew; thus some activities get neglected. Topics have come to mind that I want to write about, but I've not had the time to write. Getting exercise by walking is a higher priority than adding to this log. I'm happy to report that I'm on target with my walking for this year. At this point I have logged 48 miles of dedicated walking so far this year.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Some goals for 2005

At the beginning of each year I set for myself some goals. For the last several years I have had as one goal to walk 365 miles, or an average of a mile a day. This is not casual walking such as from the house to the mailbox and back but what might be called dedicated walking. Usually I go to the Katy Trail about three miles from my house to walk. I prefer outdoor walking to indoor walking, but sometimes it too cold or its raining, so in that case I walk indoors. Just yesterday I logged three miles walking inside the Salvation Army Community Center which is located a mile or less from my house. I delayed going to the SACC today to finish an indexing project. By the time the afternoon was here, I opted for a nap instead of a walk. Perhaps that explains why I failed to reach my goal of 365 miles for 2004 -- that and the fact that I get interested in more things than I have time to do. I logged only 169 miles last year. One year (about four years ago, I think) I actually walked 400 miles.

A second goal I have is to reach 185 volkswalking credits. I have 170 credits now, so I need to get 15 in 2005 to make my goal. Every time a volkswalker completes a walk (either 5K or 10K, usually), he or she stamps his or her Event Record Book with a rubber stamp for that particular event. After one record book is completed, one moves on to the next book. I have been volkswalking since 1990. I average a dozen walks a year. Now that my work schedule has changed, I should be able to go on more volkswalks. To learn more about volkssports, go to www.ava.org.

A third goal I have is to revive The Secular Singers. Some past members have moved away, but I now have two other people willing to work with me to revive the music making group. The group is a project of the Humanist Association of Tulsa. I want to hold monthly rehearsals and I hope to stage two performances before the year ends. Anyone reading this who is interested in this idea, please contact me. We can always use more singers or musicians. Our purpose is to give voice to freethought ideas.

A fourth goal I have is to reach 100 "finds" at geocaching. I have now located 39 caches, so getting up to 100 should not be too difficult. Geocaching is a new sport in which participants seek to locate hidden caches by using a GPS receiver. To learn more go to www.geocaching.com. Five years ago this sport did not exist. Today there are more the 80,000 hidden caches.