April 15 - 21, 2007

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.

This week, it seemed every newspaper in the country carried wonderful tributes to novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who was also the Honorary President of the American Humanist Association. Here is what the New York Times said about this gifted human being:

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island. [...]

Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and ’70s. Dog-eared paperback copies of his books could be found in the back pockets of blue jeans and in dorm rooms on campuses throughout the United States.

Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?

He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism. “Mark Twain,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote in his 1991 book, “Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage,” “finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died.”

Not all Mr. Vonnegut’s themes were metaphysical. With a blend of science fiction, philosophy and jokes, he also wrote about the banalities of consumer culture, for example, or the destruction of the environment.

Red the rest of the obituary here...

More on Vonnegut, from comments by Manya Brachear, a religion writer, in her blog on the Chicago Tribune site:

And in 1965, [Vonnegut] wrote “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” in which the title character stated here what he (and Vonnegut) believed was the moral imperative:

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.' "

As a teenager, I always found Vonnegut’s literature annoying. The grammar and spelling and lack of organization baffled me. And the message was nothing profound. Of course we should be kind and decent to each other. That's a given.

But on this job, where I encounter a variety of religious expressions, kindness does not always top the list. For some people, it never has and so that value has not been passed down through generations, perpetuating a cruel coarseness in society and a new appreciation on my part for Vonnegut.

Read the rest of the article here...

Turning to other topics, Paul Krugman of the NY Times offered his perspective on the effects of Regent University on law opinions and the current Bush administration. Regent is a school founded by Pat Robertson

Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide “Christian leadership to change the world,” boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration.

Unfortunately for the image of the school, where Mr. Robertson is chancellor and president, the most famous of those graduates is Monica Goodling, a product of the university’s law school. She’s the former top aide to Alberto Gonzales who appears central to the scandal of the fired U.S. attorneys and has declared that she will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress on the matter.

The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.

Read the complete Times story here...

The Seattle Times offered good news, regarding a favorable vote that requires Washington State pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the "morning after pill":

Druggists who think "morning-after" birth-control pills are tantamount to abortion can't stand in the way of a patient's right to get a prescription, state regulators said today.

In a unanimous vote, the state Board of Pharmacy ruled that drug stores have a duty to fill lawful prescriptions, regardless of an individual pharmacist's personal objections to any particular medication. [...]

Druggists with personal objections to a drug still could have a limited escape by getting a co-worker to fill an order. But that would only apply if the patient is able to get her prescription in the same pharmacy visit.

Read the full story here...

More good news. Here is a link to three "letters to the editor" on the Cleveland Plain Dealer site, regarding the need to advance science, even at the expense of religious beliefs; all appear in a column entitled "When faith, science, and the belief in no God collide." An excerpt from one letter is as follows:

"Intelligent Design" creationists have made extensive use of this line of reasoning to promote the teaching of religion in our science classes. Quite the opposite: We should use the limitations in our current knowledge to motivate scientific discovery, not to perpetuate ignorance.

Read the rest of the Plain Dealer letters here...

You can't make this stuff up. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

(04-12) 10:54 PDT Mankato, Minn. (AP) --

A jail guard has been suspended after allegedly thumping an inmate with a Bible.

James Lee Sheppard, 56, has been charged with two gross misdemeanors for allegedly swatting a Blue Earth County Jail inmate with the book, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him against steel bars on Feb. 8, according to the criminal complaint.

A video shows a guard entering the cell of inmate Jeremy Hansen, 26. The guard then takes Hansen's Bible and strikes him in the side of the face with the book. The two exchange words as the guard walks away, said Mankato Police Officer Allen Schmidt who watched the video.

Finish your chuckle here...

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