This is quite bizzare. Police have issued a search warrant for a bullet lodged in Joshua Bush’s forehead. Friends of Bush, an alleged member of a Texas gang, have said he was involved in a robbery and shootout at a used-car lot in July. The owner of the used-car lot was shot at and returned fire in the dark, but wasn’t sure if he hit anyone.
It seems that a significant number of people end up at my blog after asking that question (at least a few dozen a week). For some reason, when you Google that question, my blog is in the top 10. I’m not sure why someone would care if a certain famous atheist is Jewish or not (maybe it has to do with all those entertaining world conspirarcy theories), but judge for yourself:
Sorry, but I just don’t see it. However, he does look a lot like Ben Stiller:
(I think Ben Stiller simply got a nose job to cover up the fact that he’s really a raving atheist.)
On another note, I read in this piece called “The Grinch Delusion” that Sam Harris’s mother is actually Jewish, while his father is a Quaker. I guess that makes him a Quewish Jaker atheist. And since, according to Judaism 101’s “Who is a Jew?” section, a Jew is anybody whose mother was a Jew, then yes, Sam Harris is Jewish.
And (according to The Grinch Delusion, linked above) Harris actually has a Christmas tree in his house (his wife made him get it). But neither he nor Richard Dawkins are uncomfortable with saying things such as “Merry Christmas” because the holiday has become so thoroughly secularized and commercialized that it’s obviously not about Jesus anymore. Eat your heart out, Bill O’Reilly.
More interesting thoughts from Karen Armstrong’s A History of God. In discussing the origins of monotheism, she presents a more nuanced view than what I learned growing up. I always assumed that while a lot of the early figures in Genesis (like Adam and Noah) knew God, by the time of Abraham most people were polytheists, and Abraham correctly recognized that there was only one God. (All of this assumes that these figures were actual people and not legends. Adam and Noah are certainly legendary, since there was no first man, and no Flood, while Abraham’s historicity is disputable, though somewhat irrelevant.)
Here’s the video for Five for Fighting’s “The Riddle.” I really like this song. In fact, I played it on guitar during my acoustic gig at The Underground (a local coffeeshop) earlier this semester. I’m not sure exactly what to think of the music video though. Let me know if you figure out the point…
I like the song for both its melody and its lyrics. The lyrics bring out sentimentality, doubt and hope, painting a picture of the world where value is found in the here and now, and meaning is found in relationships. Some excerpts:
Picked up my kid from school today,
Did you learn anything? cause in the world today
you can’t live in a castle far away.
Now talk to me, come talk to me
He said, “Dad I’m big but we’re smaller than small
In the scheme of things, well we’re nothing at all…
And hey Dad, here’s a riddle for you, find the answer
There’s a reason for the world: You and I…
There are secrets that we still have left to find
There have been mysteries from the beginning of time
There are answers we’re not wise enough to see…
I guess we’re big and I guess we’re small
If you think about it man you know we got it all
Cause we’re all we got on this bouncing ball
And I love you freely
While I’ve already started two or three other books simultaneously (I’ve really got to quit that), Karen Armstrong’s A History of God is the first to really catch my attention this holiday break. Armstrong is a journalist and former Catholic nun. The latter didn’t work out too well for her. Lately she’s been writing numerous books on world religions, and A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is a New York Times bestseller. I decided it was worth buying when I read an admiringly introduced quote of hers in both a book by Sam Harris and by a Christian (although I don’t recall what book or blog that was in now). Also, I just read a nice piece over at Ethical Spectacle, with an interesting Personal History of God.
So how does Armstrong introduce her grand, far-reaching survey of religious history?
This book will not be a history of ineffable reality of God itself, which is beyond time and change, but a history of the way men and women have perceived him from Abraham to the present day. The human idea of God has a history, since it has always mean something slightly different to each group of people who have used it at various points of time. The idea of God formed in one generation by one set of human beings could be meaningless in another. Indeed, the statement “I believe in God” has no objective meaning, as such, but like any other statement only means something in context, when proclaimed by a particular community. Consequently there is no one unchanging idea contained in the word “God”; instead, the word contains a whole spectrum of meanings, some of which are contradictory or even mutually exclusive. Had the notion of God not had this flexibility, it would not have survived to become one of the great human ideas.
Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess grandmaster, has become one of the most prominent critics of Vladimir Putin in Russian politics. He publicly praised the recent opposition rally in Moscow. And then Russian federal agents raided Kasparov’s offices for being a voice of dissent, something that seems to be a mark of being someone who matters in Russia. And I guess it’s better than getting shot in the head like Anna Politkovskaya.
I couldn’t believe it, so I had to click. FOX News had a news story titled “Wisconsin Man Runs Over, Eats Seven-Legged Transgendered Deer.”
“It was definitely a freak of nature,” Lisko said…
When he looked at the animal, he noticed three- to four-inch appendages growing from the rear legs. Later, he found a smaller appendage growing from one of the front legs.
“It’s a pretty weird deer,” he said, describing the extra legs as resembling “crab pinchers.”
“It kind of gives you the creeps when you look at it,” he said, but he thought he saw the appendages moving, as if they were functional, before the deer was hit….
John Hoffman of Eden Meat Market skinned the deer for Lisko, who wasn’t going to waste the venison from the animal.
“And by the way, I did eat it,” Lisko said. “It was tasty.”