why i read boing boing

This is awesome entertainment…

The “religious people praying for the bull to rise” bit ..

boing boing reporting on people praying to the bull
boing boing reporting on people praying to the bull

it is what it is

It is what it is or
some words of wisdom from across time.
I ran across this posted saying at the Durga Hindu Temple in Fairfax County Virginia almost two years ago. I took several shots of the poster. I do not know the origins of the text. Maybe someone can comment on that. It’s written in Hindi. I’m sure there are versions available in Nepali as well. It is most probably translated from Sanskrit from one of the many old Hindu texts like Gita, Upanishad or even the Vedas.

Here is my approximate translation of what is being said. Take it with a grain of salt.
I have to say, just like everything else, it’s ambiguous, almost bitter-sweet.

why do you fret so? who are you so afraid of?
who has the power to kill you?
The soul neither takes birth, nor does it die.

Whatever happened, happened for the best.
What is happening now is for the best.
What is yet to happen is also for the best.
Do not regret about the past. Do not worry
about the future. The present is still going on.

What did you lose that you cry so?
What did you bring with you that you lost?
What did you create that was destroyed?
You did not bring anything with you –
What you took, you took from here.
What you gave, you gave here.
What you took, you took from God.
What you gave, you gave to God.
You came with empty hands,
you must continue with empty hands.
What is yours today, belonged to someone else yesterday
and will belong to someone else tomorrow.
You are lost in the enjoyment of what you think is yours.
This very pleasure is the root of your worries.

Change is the law of the universe.
What you think of as death, is the very personification of life.
One moment you are the master of billions,
the next you are poor.
The concept of mine-yours, small-big, friends-enemies
erase these from your heart ,
erase these from your thoughts,
then everything and everyone belongs to you
then you belong to everyone.

This body does not belong to you
neither do you belong to the body.
Your body is made up of fire, water, air, earth and the sky
and it will go back into these.
But the soul remains, stable.
Then what are you?
Dedicate yourself to God.
This is your ultimate support.
Those who recognize this support
are forever free of fear and worries.

Whatever you do, do it with dedication to God,
thus you will experience the true pleasure of deliverance from life.

here are the pics:

his dark materials, heresies and reciprocal hearsays

His Dark Materials trilogy
I don’t understand the irrational behaviour behind the condemning of the His Dark Materials trilogy (of which The Golden Compass or The Northern Lights is the first).

This is the age of free-will, of great intellectual discourse, of tolerance, of recognition of universal values (including human) and openness. We are led to believe that a certain way of doing things, the way that it’s always been done, is the right way. We are told to ignore thought and reason and believe blindly in the ways of tradition. We are also taught, because of science, to believe in reason and to question blind faiths and work towards the truth. Blasphemy as a word should not have any value in this age.

So, this sort of behaviour makes me suspective of the religious establishment. Agreed, there are two schools of thought colliding. My argument is that they don’t have to collide. Religion started with faith and should be about faith. It should not be about protecting the hegemony of “religious” establishments. Religion can also be about trying to obtain the higher truth, just as science can be about not blindly dismissing spirituality as unprovable.

Coming from both backgrounds, it seems to me, there’s gotta be a common ground. I mean, for god’s sake, didn’t we all come from a common ancestor?

Whatever works for people, I guess. I gotta say though, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass are all excellent writing for both entertainment and food for thought. I am eagerly waiting for the rest of the movies, if they ever get made.

on faith and un-faith

Some of my posts bring up the question of faith, religion and god quite a bit. A few comments from other readers got me thinking, what do I actually believe in the core of my heart? Would it be something that I would be willing to stand up for and/or defend with the backing of rational thought and analysis behind it?

There are quite a few people out there who call themselves atheists or agnostics or spiritual but not religious or some combination of the above.

This article partially quoted below is very similar to my line of thinking.

I thought it best to point to the entire writeup than quote it here in it’s entirety.

Agnosticism (from the Greek – a (without) gnosis (knowledge)) is a claim concerning itself with knowledge, or more put more aptly, the lack of knowledge. One can be agnostic about a great number of things: the number of jelly beans in the jar, the number of cars on the road at a given time, or the true rationale for war with Iraq. In these circles, however, agnosticism usually refers to the existence of God. Someone who claims that they are agnostic when it comes to God is simply stating that they don’t know. Could be. Could not be. More specifically, many agnostics (myself included) hold that it is actually impossible to know whether or not God exists.

While agnosticism makes a claim regarding knowledge, atheism makes a claim regarding belief – namely, I don’t believe God exists (or you can put it into the affirmative if you prefer, e.g. I believe God doesn’t exist). However you want to sexy it up, you’re basically saying the same thing: we’re godless creatures in a godless universe.

The key difference between these two notions is the difference between knowledge and belief. Belief is a sort of substitute for knowledge with respect to things that are not yet known or are inherently unknowable. In other words, one can believe something without having knowledge. For example, I can believe that there are one-hundred fifty four jelly beans in the jar, or that there are two point six billion cars on the road, or that the real rationale for war with Iraq was to feed the military-industrial complex.

root of all evil

Richard Dawkins created, what I believe to be, a brilliant documentary about religion and it’s effect on humanity. Channel 4 (is that based in the U.K. ?) aired the documentary and has several pages on it’s web site about the two part documentary. Some of the people you hear on the documentary make you cringe. I almost withdrew with disbelief, not because I heard about religious fundamentalism for the first time, but because of one more affirmation of something that I believe is already happening in the U.S. and elsewhere. It’s truly absurd that we keep pointing at the middle-east as a prime example of religious zealotry, completely ignoring our own backyards and what’s brewing there.

Each part is about 45 minutes, suitable for airing on the one-hour time slots on American TV. Surprising thing though, is that I haven’t heard of or read about it being aired anywhere on American TV. Maybe my googling for it is not enough research.

If you want to watch it, the two video files are available as bittorrent downloads. They’re avi files encoded in divx, so you’ll need a divx capable media player.
part 1 on mininova
part 2 on mininova

If you consider yourself a rational animal and like rational pursuits, then you’ll like this documentary.

Richard Dawkins is the same person that authored The Selfish Gene.

Thanks to Lispmeister for pointing the documentary out.

What I would like to see is Richard talk with folks from the Baha’i Blog. They seem religious and rational enough to warrant a debate.

PS: If you know me personally and/or would like a copy of the video, let me know, I’ll burn you a copy. I’m probably transgressing all known legal boundaries on video distribution. But hey, it’s a worthy cause. If you know I am doing so, let me know and I’ll cease and desist.

several takes on religion and science

On slate, John Horgan writes ..

Four years ago, I joined a Buddhist meditation class and began talking to (and reading books by) intellectuals sympathetic to Buddhism. Eventually, and regretfully, I concluded that Buddhism is not much more rational than the Catholicism I lapsed from in my youth; Buddhism’s moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science—or, more generally, with modern humanistic values

The article is a revelation. It touches on a subject that has been avoided in the west. Funny that I came across this a day after I listened to Sam Harris’s lecture. Serendipity I guess.
The lecture was aired on KQED as a Radio Special program on Dec 22, 2005 at 8 pm and organized by the Long Now Foundation. They don’t have a downloadable copy yet. It was an amazing lecture about faith and science and incompatibilites between them and the current state of the world in terms of religious fervor etc etc.. Mindblowing stuff. I probably couldn’t have come up with something like that in a hundred years.