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The Quickest Route to Ultimate Reality

August 2, 2019

At the Washington Post, Tara Isabella Burton looks at the spiritual commonalities between Marianne Williamson and Donald Trump:

At their core, both are … prime representatives of one of the most important and formative spiritual trends in American life: the notion that we can transform our material circumstances through faith in our personal willpower. Trump’s authoritarian cult of personality and Williamson’s woo-inflected belief in the power of “self-actualization” both come from the quintessentially American conviction that the quickest and surest route to Ultimate Reality can be found within ourselves.

Williamson is clearly having trouble explaining her positions on mental health, that depression is a “scam” and whatnot. She seems convinced that religion’s role in addressing despair has been inherited by psychopharmacology.

Did you know that the U.S. has a new United Nations ambassador? Meet Kelly Knight Craft, a climate science denier in 2017, and now, um, less so? She used to be all, “I respect both sides” blah blah, and now she’s all, “I will be an advocate in addressing climate change,” but also being all, “it changes both ways.” So I dunno.

At Skeptical Inquirer, Harriet Hall uses a study on “healing touch” as an illustrative example of how not to do science.

Verity Johnson at New Zealand’s Stuff ponders the phenomenon of the “quarter-life crisis”:

We want to be seen as performing highly in everything from our personal brand, to our fitness, to our career. Efficiency is the market of millennial success. And that’s exhausting.

Then there’s the fact that the traditional markers of meaning for older generations, like getting married, religion, or even having a lot of sex, are decreasingly applicable for us. We’re increasingly atheist, celibate and putting off marriage and kids.

Instead, our career is supposed to fill the “purpose void”. We’re encouraged by everything from our Instagram feeds to our yoga mats to find a job we are passionate about – and to do that forever.

At BBC, Sumit Paul-Choudhury muses at length on the future of religion:

We take it for granted that religions are born, grow and die – but we are also oddly blind to that reality. When someone tries to start a new religion, it is often dismissed as a cult. When we recognise a faith, we treat its teachings and traditions as timeless and sacrosanct. And when a religion dies, it becomes a myth, and its claim to sacred truth expires. Tales of the Egyptian, Greek and Norse pantheons are now considered legends, not holy writ.

Baptist News Global points out that the recent Pew data on Americans’ religious knowledge shows that in all cases, knowing more about a religion (or lack thereof with atheists) creates better feelings toward that group, except when it comes to evangelicals. Those who knew more about evangelical beliefs were 10 points “colder” toward them than those that knew relatively little.

Maybe this is part of why: The AP reports on how the religious right seems to be just fine with Trump’s racism, with some in denial, and some justifying it. Robert Jeffress says, “If you embrace him, he’ll embrace you. If you attack him, he’ll attack you. That’s the definition of colorblind.”

Note: That is not the definition of colorblind. Like, even loosely.

With a straight face, I assume, fake-historian David Barton says Christian speech is constitutionally guaranteed “more protection, if you will, than just normal, secular speech.” That is some bold B.S.

Tim Teeman at The Daily Beast explains why right-wing bloviating head Erick Erickson is so obsessed with Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality:

When it comes to homosexuality, evangelical Christians like Erickson hate gay sex (which they seem bizarrely focused on), and like the sinner to know their place. Buttigieg is a total mind-scramble for them: out, proud, partnered, married, and using his own Christian faith to call out faith-based prejudice, and to question evangelicals’ support of Trump. …

… What seems to upset Erickson and his ilk is that a gay man of faith is calling them out on these hypocritical perversions of faith. And Buttigieg is using his own faith and his beliefs to call them out. Rarely are religious bigots challenged so squarely on their own turf by someone they’re usually so comfortable in condemning.

At Rewire, Andrew Seidel suggests that Buttigieg’s frequent appeals based on Christianity may only serve to gin up the religious right and depress turnout among the nones.

At The Conversation, Steven D. Allison and Tyrus Miller assert that the humanities must be joined with science in order to deal with the climate crisis, and it is that sense that they use the term “humanist”:

Scholars in the humanities interpret human history, literature and imagery to figure out how people make sense of their world. Humanists challenge others to consider what makes a good life, and pose uncomfortable questions – for example, “Good for whom?” and “At whose expense?”

Going beyond science, humanists can define cultural forces driving climate change, such as the fossil fuel dependence of industrialized societies.

Pastor Jon Barta writes in to the Burbank Leader to tell you what is and is not blasphemy when it comes to Trump:

Prayer offered to President Trump would be blasphemy. Prayer for President Trump is not blasphemy. American Christians are in fact commanded by God to pray for President Trump.

Okay folks, now you know.

Also in blasphemy, a court in Myanmar is dropping the blasphemy charges against the U.S. Ambassador Scott Marciel, who displayed a painting of Buddha wearing a gas mask.

The people of Ethiopia planted 350 million trees. In one day. They’re going for a total of 4 billion. Rock on.

Quote of the Day

As someone who relies on at least occasional meditation to preserve what’s left of my tattered sanity, I found this piece at Aeon by Sahanika Ratnayake on some of the pitfalls of commercialized “mindfulness” quite insightful:

The contrasting tendency in mindfulness to bracket context not only cramps self-understanding. It also renders our mental challenges dangerously apolitical. In spite of a growing literature probing the root causes of mental-health issues, policymakers tend to rely on low-cost, supposedly all-encompassing solutions for a broad base of clients. The focus tends to be solely on the contents of an individual’s mind and the alleviation of their distress, rather than on interrogating the deeper socioeconomic and political conditions that give rise to the distress in the first place. … Mindfulness follows the trend for simplicity and individuation. Its embedded assumptions about the self make it particularly prone to neglecting broader considerations, since they allow for no notion of individuals as enmeshed in and affected by society at large.

… [Mindfulness] can be a useful tool in helping us gain some distance from the tumult of our inner experience. The problem is the current tendency to present mindfulness as a wholesale remedy, a panacea for all manner of modern ills.

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