Many Kinds of Universes, and None Require God

Stephen Hawking delivering a lecture on The Creation of the Universe in Geneva last year.
Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone, via European Pressphoto Agency

Stephen Hawking, the most revered scientist since Einstein, is a formidable mathematician and a formidable salesman. “I want my books sold on airport bookstalls”, he has impishly declared, and he’s learned how to put them there.

Mr. Hawking’s Brief History of Time, published in 1988, sold some nine million copies. (A typical science best seller will move a tiny fraction of that number.) It did so partly by leaning on his preoccupying personal story. Mr. Hawking’s body has been wasted by Lou Gehrig’s disease, while his mind is utterly intact, a pinging black box amid the physical wreckage. It was no accident that Mr. Hawking’s wheelchair and elfin face appeared on that book’s cover a rarity for a book of serious intellect rather than on its back flap.

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Grand Traverse Humanists at Friday Night Live!

The Grand Traverse Humanists recently sponsored a booth at Friday Night Live, promoting bicycling in conjunction with the event’s Cherry Roubaix Bike Fest theme. Participants of all ages had fun guessing how far it was by bike to various locations around town. We pointed out the benefits of cycling as a humanistic solution to some of our most pressing problems: reliance on foreign oil, high price of gas, obesity. Many people expressed appreciation for the presence of Humanists at Friday Night Live. We’re looking forward to next year!

The Smithsonian, the Cross and David Wojnarowicz

I remember the first time I read Wojnarowicz. I picked up a collection of writings on AIDS in a bookstore in New York City. The piece that spoke to me most was called “Spiral”, by David Wojnarowicz, which ends with these haunting words:

“I am standing among all of you waving my invisible arms and hands. I am shouting my invisible words. I am getting so weary. I am growing so tired. I am waving to you from here. I am crawling around looking for the aperture of complete and final emptiness. I am vibrating in isolation among you. I am screaming but it comes out like pieces of clear ice. I am signaling that the volume of all this is too high. I am waving. I am waving my hands. I am disappearing. I am disappearing but not fast enough.”

I memorized this poem as I felt I could learn from Wojnarowicz’s work as I sought to fuse art and religion — both equally important and necessary to me as I tried to make sense of a troubling world. At the time I was attending Judson Baptist Church in the village as a newly interested Christian, and in the following years I began a Masters of Divinity at Union Seminary with Wojnarowicz in my pocket.

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Shock: Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson favors marijuana legalization

Count this among the 10 things nobody ever expected to see in their lifetimes: 700 Club founder Pat Robertson, one of the cornerstone figures of America’s Christian right movement, has come out in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Calling it getting “smart” on crime, Robertson aired a clip on a recent episode of his 700 Club television show that advocated the viewpoint of drug law reformers who run prison outreach ministries.

A narrator even claimed that religious prison outreach has “saved” millions in public funds by helping to reduce the number of prisoners who return shortly after being released.

“It got to be a big deal in campaigns: ‘He’s tough on crime,’ and ‘lock ’em up!'” the Christian Coalition founder said. “That’s the way these guys ran and, uh, they got elected. But, that wasn’t the answer.”

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Schools Can’t Teach Religion as Science, Even in Texas

Charles C. Haynes

Director, Religious Freedom Education Project
Friday, August 26, 2011

WASHINGTON Texas Gov. Rick Perry needs to get home more often.

On Aug. 11, just days before Perry told a boy in New Hampshire that in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution, the Texas Education Agency sent a memorandum to the State Board of Education finalizing approval of scientifically accurate teaching material for use in Texas public schools.

Perry’s pronouncement notwithstanding, Texas schools teach evolution without any mention of creationism despite years of political pressure from religious conservatives to include creationist ideas in the curriculum. Evolution, dismissed by Perry as a theory that’s out there with some gaps, is presented as sound science in Texas textbooks and supplementary materials.

But even if a majority of the Texas state board voted tomorrow to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms, public schools may not do so without violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment. So-called balanced treatment when you teach one, teach the other was explicitly struck down as unconstitutional promotion of religion in public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 (Edwards v. Aguillard).

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