October 22 - 28, 2006

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because theinfidels.org is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.

From The Washington Post, regarding a display of early documents that were sources for modern Bibles. The display appears at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery through January 7, 2007.

The Sackler's exhibition, "In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000," is one of the broadest assemblages of this material ever brought together in one place. "It has not happened before, and we will not see its like again in our lives," said guest curator Michelle P. Brown, professor of medieval manuscript studies at the University of London.
These are documents with the proven power to shake faith. That's what happened to Bart D. Ehrman, author of the 2005 bestseller "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why."

Ehrman was a born-again Christian from Kansas when he entered Chicago's Moody Bible Institute at age 18. After three decades of comparing ancient manuscripts in their original languages to try to determine the earliest, most authentic text of the New Testament, he is now an agnostic.

Full story here...

From The New York Times, a review of Richard Dawkins' new book The God Delusion, by Jim Holt. Is it a fair or unfair review? The newspaper was criticized for bias in a past review of Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, written by Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic. As one irate reader of the review commented: "Asking Leon Wieseltier to review Daniel Dennett on religion is like asking Karl Rove to review Ralph Nader on politics."

Regarding The God Delusion, Holt comments:

What Dawkins brings to this approach is a couple of fresh arguments — no mean achievement, considering how thoroughly these issues have been debated over the centuries — and a great deal of passion. The book fairly crackles with brio. Yet reading it can feel a little like watching a Michael Moore movie. There is lots of good, hard-hitting stuff about the imbecilities of religious fanatics and frauds of all stripes, but the tone is smug and the logic occasionally sloppy. Dawkins fans accustomed to his elegant prose might be surprised to come across such vulgarisms as “sucking up to God” and “Nur Nurny Nur Nur” (here the author, in a dubious polemical ploy, is imagining his theological adversary as a snotty playground brat). It’s all in good fun when Dawkins mocks a buffoon like Pat Robertson and fundamentalist pastors like the one who created “Hell Houses” to frighten sin-prone children at Halloween. But it is less edifying when he questions the sincerity of serious thinkers who disagree with him, like the late Stephen Jay Gould, or insinuates that recipients of the million-dollar-plus Templeton Prize, awarded for work reconciling science and spirituality, are intellectually dishonest (and presumably venal to boot).

Read the rest here...

From the Chicago Sun-Times, an article about blending science and art, with such tremendous results that the artist Josiah McElheny was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship:

The conceptual foundation and central metaphor of McElheny's show, which includes drawings and a video in addition to the big hanging sculpture, is the Big Bang, a scientific theory that attempts to explain the creation of the universe by postulating that it emerged rapidly from an extremely dense state 14 billion years ago. Physical evidence lent support to the theory in 1965, and McElheny's great leap of imagination is to equate this theory philosophically and aesthetically with the contemporaneous appearance, in the mid-'60s, of minimalism in the world of ideas and art.

Click here for full article.

You can see an image of McElheny's sculpture here:

Link to sculpture image

From The Christian Science Monitor, news about the memoir Things I Didn't Know by Time magazine's art critic Robert Hughes. The memoir includes information about how Hughes became an agnostic:

He discusses his Roman Catholic upbringing and schooling with frankness, aware that it has influenced his life crucially. One of his Jesuit teachers encouraged him to read widely, recognizing the boy's obviously intelligent curiosity - until a higher authority clamped down on him.

But Hughes had already begun to doubt and question required beliefs. In later years he rebelled entirely and claimed an agnostic independence.

He also grew desperate for another kind of escape as his interest in art grew - escape from the isolation of the Australian art world with what Hughes calls its "image deprivation." London, and then Italy, redressed this imbalance.

Access full story here...

From The Austin-American Statesman, a curious article about outspoken Italian atheist and journalist Oriana Fallaci (who died recently of breast cancer). She willed her books and notes to a Catholic university. Fallaci had said that she had come to the conclusion, after an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, that the pontiff shared her concerns that Islam is a threat to Western values:

Oriana Fallaci had described the pontiff as an ally in her campaign to rally Christians in Europe against what she saw as a Muslim crusade against the West. As she battled breast cancer last year, she had a private audience with Benedict, who was elected only a few months earlier, at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

In one of her final interviews, Fallaci told The Wall Street Journal: "I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true."

See the full story here.

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