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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Five Founding Fathers Whose Skepticism About Christianity Would Make Them Unelectable Today

 Click here for source of this post (which is not by this blogs author) Presented for critical thinking and thought, and possible topic for discussion, speeches or papers.

Thomas Jefferson believed that a coolly rational form of religion would take root in America. 
To hear the Religious Right tell it, men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were 18th-century versions of Jerry Falwell in powdered wigs and stockings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Unlike many of today’s candidates, the founders didn’t find it necessary to constantly wear religion on their sleeves. They considered faith a private affair. Contrast them to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who says he wouldn’t vote for an atheist for president because non-believers lack the proper moral grounding to guide the American ship of state), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who hosted a prayer rally and issued an infamous ad accusing President Barack Obama of waging a “war on religion”) and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (whose uber-Catholicism leads him to oppose not just abortion but birth control).
There was a time when Americans voted for candidates who were skeptical of core concepts of Christianity like the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the virgin birth. The question is, could any of them get elected today? The sad answer is probably not.
Here are five founding fathers whose views on religion would most likely doom them to defeat today:

1. George Washington. The father of our country was nominally an Anglican but seemed more at home with Deism. The language of the Deists sounds odd to today’s ears because it’s a theological system of thought that has fallen out of favor. Desists believed in God but didn’t necessarily see him as active in human affairs. The god of the Deists was a god of first cause. He set things in motion and then stepped back.

Washington often employed Deistic terms. His god was a “supreme architect” of the universe. Washington saw religion as necessary for good moral behavior but didn’t necessarily accept all Christian dogma. He seemed to have a special gripe against communion and would usually leave services before it was offered.

Washington was widely tolerant of other beliefs. He is the author of one of the great classics of religious liberty – the letter to Touro Synagogue (1790). In this letter, Washington assured America’s Jews that they would enjoy complete religious liberty in America; not mere toleration in an officially “Christian” nation. He outlines a vision of a multi-faith society where all are free.

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation,” wrote Washington. “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”

Stories of Washington’s deep religiosity, such as tales of him praying in the snow at Valley Forge, can be ignored. They are pious legends invented after his death.

2. John Adams. The man who followed Washington in office was a Unitarian, although he was raised a Congregationalist and never officially left that church. Adams rejected belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, core concepts of Christian dogma. In his personal writings, Adams makes it clear that he considered some Christian dogma to be incomprehensible.

In February 1756, Adams wrote in his diary about a discussion he had had with a man named Major Greene. Greene was a devout Christian who sought to persuade Adams to adopt conservative Christian views. The two argued over the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. Questioned on the matter of Jesus’ divinity, Greene fell back on an old standby: some matters of theology are too complex and mysterious for we puny humans to understand.

Adams was not impressed. In his diary he wrote, “Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”

As president, Adams signed the famous Treaty of Tripoli, which boldly stated, “[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion….”

3. Thomas Jefferson. It’s almost impossible to define Jefferson’s subtle religious views in a few words. As he once put it, “I am a sect by myself, as far as I know.” But one thing is clear: His skepticism of traditional Christianity is well established. Our third president did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin and other core Christian doctrines. He was hostile to many conservative Christian clerics, whom he believed had perverted the teachings of that faith.

Jefferson once famously observed to Adams, “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Although not an orthodox Christian, Jefferson admired Jesus as a moral teacher. In one of his most unusual acts, Jefferson edited the New Testament, cutting away the stories of miracles and divinity and leaving behind a very human Jesus, whose teachings Jefferson found “sublime.” This “Jefferson Bible” is a remarkable document – and it would ensure his political defeat today. (Imagine the TV commercials the Religious Right would run: Thomas Jefferson hates Jesus! He mutilates Bibles!)
Jefferson was confident that a coolly rational form of religion would take root in the fertile intellectual soil of America. He once predicted that just about everyone would become Unitarian. (Despite his many talents, the man was no prophet.)

Jefferson took political stands that would infuriate today’s Religious Right and ensure that they would work to defeat him. He refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and fasting, saying that such religious duties were no part of the chief executive’s job.

His assertion that the First Amendment erects a “wall of separation between church and state” still rankles the Religious Right today.

4. James Madison. Jefferson’s close ally would be similarly unelectable today. Madison is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the founders when it comes to religion. To this day, scholars still debate his religious views.

Nominally Anglican, Madison, some of his biographers believe, was really a Deist. He went through a period of enthusiasm for Christianity as a young man, but this seems to have faded. Unlike many of today’s politicians, who eagerly wear religion on their sleeves and brag about the ways their faith will guide their policy decisions, Madison was notoriously reluctant to talk publicly about his religious beliefs.

Madison was perhaps the strictest church-state separationist among the founders, taking stands that make the ACLU look like a bunch of pikers. He opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military. As president, Madison rejected a proposed census because it involved counting people by profession. For the government to count the clergy, Madison said, would violate the First Amendment.

Madison, who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, also opposed government-issued prayer proclamations. He issued a few during the War of 1812 at the insistence of Congress but later concluded that his actions had been unconstitutional. As president, he vetoed legislation granting federal land to a church and a plan to have a church in Washington care for the poor through a largely symbolic charter. In both cases, he cited the First Amendment.

One can hear the commercials now: "James Madison is an anti-religious fanatic. He even opposes prayer proclamations during time of war."

5. Thomas Paine. Paine never held elective office, but he played an important role as a pamphleteer whose stirring words helped rally Americans to independence. Washington ordered that Paine’s pamphlet “The American Crisis” be read aloud to the Continental Army as a morale booster on Dec. 23, 1776. “Common Sense” was similarly popular with the people. These seminal documents were crucial to winning over the public to the side of independence.

So Paine’s a hero, right? He was also a radical Deist whose later work, The Age of Reason, still infuriates fundamentalists. In the tome, Paine attacked institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity. He rejected prophecies and miracles and called on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.” (There go the Red States!)

What can we learn from this? Americans have the right to reject candidates for any reason, including their religious beliefs. But they ought to think twice before tossing someone aside just because he or she is skeptical of orthodox Christianity. After all, that description includes some of our nation’s greatest leaders.

  Click here for source of this post (which is not by this blogs author) Presented for critical thinking and thought, and possible topic for discussion, speeches or papers.

Events for Friday the 13th...January 13th

Broadcasters try to persuade Supreme Court to gut indecency rules

The Supreme Court is hearing arguements about the FCC's indecency rules

From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest industry news.

Broadcast networks had their day in court Tuesday, asking the government to get out of the content regulation business, but it doesn't appear that they made much headway.

During a Supreme Court hearing to decide the fate of the Federal Communications Commission's indecency rules, the justices expressed a preference to keep broadcast television cleaner than cable, where the expletives fly and a bare body part pops up every now and then.

Broadcasters use the public airwaves, and the “government can insist on a certain modicum of decency,” said Justice Antonin Scalia. Chief Justice John Roberts added, “All we are asking for is for a few channels” where parents can be assured that their kids will not hear profanity or see sex scenes.
The broadcast industry has been battling the FCC over these rules for decades. Howard Stern's infamous fights with the FCC ultimately played a part in driving the shock jock to unregulated satellite radio. Television broadcasters have clashed with the FCC over issues ranging from brief flashes of nudity to the occasional swear word.

These current arguments involve ABC and Fox, though NBC and CBS are also in favor of gutting the indecency rules and support their competitors in this fight.

ABC's case grew out of a $1.4-million fine the FCC levied on the network and some of its affiliates in 2008 for a 2003 episode of the police drama "NYPD Blue," in which the buttocks of actress Charlotte Ross were visible to viewers. ABC fought the fine, and last January, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York threw it out.

Fox's fight has to do with profanity incidents in 2002 and 2003, when Cher and Nicole Richie cursed during live awards shows. The curses were not bleeped. In 2004, the FCC ruled that Fox could be fined for indecency violations in cases in which a vulgarity was broadcast during a live program. While the FCC never followed through with a fine, Fox has fought that ruling and -- as was the case with ABC -- the 2nd Circuit Court sided with the network.

The FCC then appealed both rulings to the Supreme Court, which tied the cases together.

For broadcasters, being free of content regulations would allow them air more racy content. Cable networks such as HBO and FX are not regulated by the FCC, and their programming is more adult in language and nudity. The willingness of cable TV to push the envelope in ways broadcast TV can't has allowed them to syphon away both viewers and advertising dollars.

"We're hopeful [the case] will go our way," said ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee, when asked about the case Tuesday at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. Press Tour in Pasadena.

Some media watch dogs fear the worst if the high court either tosses the rules or makes it tougher for the FCC to enforce them.

"If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the networks, the American people are going to get a rude awakening when broadcast TV becomes indistinguishable from Cinemax, HBO or something even more explicit," said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, which is in favor of tougher enforcement of the FCC's indecency rules. "Children, parents, families and indeed all Americans deserve better use of the airwaves that they own.”
Broadcasters have already become much more permissive regarding content. While not as extreme as cable in regard to language and nudity, shows such as CBS's "Two Broke Girls" and ABC's "Desperate Housewives" are fairly provocative.

Supreme Court seems reluctant to take on indecency rules

Broadcasters to take on FCC in high court showdown
Court tosses out indecency case against ABC's 'NYPD Blue'

-- Joe Flint and David G. Savage

From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest industry news.

Photo: The Supreme Court. Seated are Clarence Thomas, from left, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing are Sonia Sotomayor, from left, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

Applying and Promoting Critical Thinking

General Teaching Methods for Applying and Promoting Critical Thinking Skills 

While geared toward teachers, the questions and techniques below can be used in developing your own critical thinking skills, in facilitating group discussions and in helping others. The source is the University of Phoenix teaching guides.

Developing critical thinking skills is a process, not an event. Use the following suggestions to guide students through the critical thinking process. These suggestions are designed to increase the depth of discussions and lead to a greater understanding of materials while improving critical thinking skills.

  • Ask direct questions to guide discussions and learning. This method effectively stimulates student thought and alerts students to areas they may not understand. This technique frequently generates additional discussion, especially in an online environment.

  • Socratic questioning asks questions designed to make students think in deeper terms. These questions tend to be open and inviting in response. You might ask: “What do you mean when you say this?” “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” or “What evidence supports that statement?”

  • Focus questions are designed to recapture the original question’s meaning, which might be obscured during discussions. To return to the original focus, consider questions such as: “What is the question you are trying to answer?” “Is this a historical, scientific, ethical, or political question?” or “What important questions are embedded in this issue?”

  • Encourage team collaboration, which plays a vital role in developing critical thought. This opportunity fosters the exchange of feedback as students evaluate others’ work.

  • Identify concept application when possible. Understanding how to apply knowledge helps students value the learning experience and aids in learning transfer.

  • The role of language in critical thinking is an integral part of the process. Help students explore language by defining terminology related to key concepts early, present alternative terms, encourage paraphrasing, ask students to summarize others’ views, and question the use of specific terms, words, or phrases.

  • Encourage independent thinking by posing open questions; organizing debates; presenting alternate problem-solving methods; having students compare and contrast views with the facilitator, author, and other students; and asking students to provide additional information, perspectives, or opposing views.

  • Be a model of qualities and skills that are promoted to students. Take opportunities to model skilled thinking, intellectual humility, perseverance, autonomy, integrity, and fair-mindedness. Additionally, provide feedback on students’ reasoning processes, clarify your thought process to students, and share how you discovered a faulty process.
Working with students unaccustomed to using critical thinking skills may present challenges. Noncritical thinkers miss many opportunities to generate new ideas and possibilities. To assist students in developing and fostering critical thinking skills, encourage students to do the following:

  • State what they mean and provide examples.
  • Explain how they know their claims are true or how to find out.
  • Explain how their ideas relate to the topic.
  • Explain how their ideas mesh, why they make sense, and how they reached conclusions.
  • Consider how their ideas or behaviors make others feel or think.
  • Practice intellectual integrity.
  • Treat oneself and others with respect.
When asking noncritical thinkers to address problems or assignments, encourage them to do the following:

  • Consider the goal or purpose.
  • Restate the question in various ways.
  • Gather information.
  • Be aware of inferences and assumptions.
  • Clarify ideas used to understand the problem.
  • Understand their point of view.
  • Think through implications or possibilities.
Faculty have many ways to encourage, develop, and nurture critical thought in students. Employ a variety of techniques as you guide students through the critical thinking process.  

The Candidate of the 1%

It’s Romney's apparent inability or unwillingness to imagine what it’s like for those less privileged, his complete failure to try, even in his imagination, walking in someone else’s shoes that stands out.

From the New York Times
Paul Krugman - New York Times Blog
January 11, 2012, 9:00 am

Uncompassionate Conservatism

David Atkins, over at Digby’s blog, gets at what I’ve been trying to say about Romney, and more eloquently:
But watching the video clip is profoundly disturbing in a way that goes beyond just a thoughtless gaffe. James Fallows postulates that it’s because he used the word “enjoy” in the context of the act of firing someone–an act that should in no way be enjoyable for the person on either end of the pink slip, if they have any empathy.

But not even that gets at the heart of what is so wrong with Romney’s statement. It goes much deeper, to Romney’s sense of privilege, and a relationship to the world around him that is alien to most Americans and reinforces everything that is wrong with the 1% in America.

The key part of what’s off-putting about the gaffe isn’t the first part about liking to fire people, so much as the second part about “who provide services to me.” Liking to fire people is bad enough, but this is the real kicker.

When it comes to basic services like healthcare, almost no one in America sees the relationship that way. Most of us wouldn’t speak of “firing” our health insurance company. No matter how much we might detest our insurance company, we probably wouldn’t describe the experience of removing ourselves from their rolls an enjoyable one.

But most of all, we don’t see the health insurance company as providing us a service. We see ourselves, rather, as indentured supplicants forced to pay exorbitant monthly rates for a basic need that responsible people with means can’t get out of paying for if we can help it. We don’t see ourselves as in control of the relationship with them. They are in control of us–and no more so than when we get sick and need the insurance most. If the company decides to restrict our coverage or tell us we have a pre-existing condition after all, we’re in the position of begging a capricious and heartless corporation to cover costs we assumed we were entitled to based on a contractual obligation. It’s precisely when we need insurance most that we’re least able to “fire” the insurance company.

The same goes for the rent/mortgage, for the utilities, for the car, for the cell phone bill, for nearly everything.

Romney talks about paying for health insurance as if it were the same as getting a pedicure, hiring an escort or getting the fancy wax at a car wash. It’s a luxury service being provided to him, and he doesn’t like it, he can take his business elsewhere. Romney’s is the language of a man who has never wanted for anything, never worried about where his next paycheck would come from, never worried about going bankrupt if he got sick.

It is the language of an entitled empowerment utterly alien to the experience of most Americans.
The point isn’t necessarily that Romney has lived in privilege all his life; so did FDR. It’s Romney's apparent inability or unwillingness to imagine what it’s like for those less privileged, his complete failure to try, even in his imagination, walking in someone else’s shoes that stands out.

COM Lab also available through Angel

Welcome to the Communication Labs at the College of Southern Nevada.

The Communication Labs are designed to provide students with assistance during any stage of the speechmaking process. Our tutorial staff is knowledgeable and trained to provide you with individualized or group session assistance. Our focus is on helping students become effective speakers. Please use this site to initiate contact with our tutorial staff or make an appointment at one of our three campus locations.

We look forward to helping you achieve your presentational goals.


Luke LeFebvre, Ph.D.
Communication Labs Coordinator

CES shifts focus to entertainment industry. Games on the Big Game. Rome is moving. UltraViolet is UltraAnnoying.

Sony used the backdrop of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to talk about the company's plans to revitalize its struggling television division.

Executive Deputy President Kazuo Hirai said new technologies, such as the Crystal LED prototype the company showcased Monday in its news conference, will factor in plans to return the TV group to profitability by March 2014.

Hirai reiterated the cost-cutting measures Sony announced last fall, as the television division plunged to a loss. Those include dissolving a joint venture with Samsung, closing plants, and reducing the number of televisions it ships by eliminating "overlap," he said.

Sony executives continued to voice support for 3-D television technology, which has not caught on with consumers as quickly as many manufacturers had hoped.

"As with any new technology, it's going to take a while," said Hirai, noting that demand would be fueled by the increasing availability of new movies and games in 3-D.

Phil Molyneux, president of Sony Electronics, said the company introduced a new line of 3-D glasses Monday to address consumer complaints about the weight. "I could wear them on the ski slope, they're so sexy," he said.

Sony Corp.'s chief executive, chairman and president, Sir Howard Stringer, sought to draw parallels in adoption of 3-D in the home to the introduction of the first color TV sets.

"It's becoming a feature of television. It's built in," Stringer said, noting that in the future TV viewers will be watching sitcoms in 3-D — not just "smash bang" action series. "It's an inevitability, so be patient. There has never been a tech like this for which you didn't have to be patient."

Investors also will have to be patient in learning about Sony's succession plans. Asked about reports that Sony would elevate Hirai to president in the spring, Stringer said he never intended to keep the title as president. He offered no concrete details about succession planning, other than it is a process that ends "with the approval of the board."

"I've been planning succession for a long time. Many of you have written about it,"  Stringer said, adding that the Nikkei report last week that Hirai would be elevated in April "came as as a surprise to me."

 From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest industry news.

Video Games invade the Superbowl! Relativity Media will buy a commercial spot during the Super Bowl to advertise its military action film "Act of Valor," joining three of Hollywood's six major studios in buying costly promotional time during the most popular sporting event of the year.
Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures will also buy Super Bowl ad spots, knowledgeable people not authorized to speak publicly confirmed. Those studios have yet to announce the movies they will market during the game.

Likely candidates include their big-budget event films, including Disney's "John Carter," Paramount's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and Universal's "Battleship."

20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. are not participating. The latter two studios didn't buy ad time during the Super Bowl last year either. Fox did, although the game aired on its sibling television network. This year the game will be broadcast on NBC, which is part of the same media conglomerate as Universal.

Super Bowl commercials cost an estimated $4 million per 30-second spot this year.

That marks a big commitment for a small studio like Relativity, which has never had a movie gross more than $100 million at the domestic box office. (Its biggest hit, October's "Immortals," collected $83 million.) But the Feb. 24 release "Act of Valor," which features real Navy SEALs, is targeted at the same action-loving male audience that will likely be watching the Super Bowl in droves.
The spot will air during the fourth quarter of the game, along with two other "Act of Valor" commercials during pregame coverage and one in postgame.

Last year, Relativity bought a Super Bowl commercial for its March 2011 thriller "Limitless," which went on to collect a solid $79 million at the box office. The only other independent studio with a big-budget movie coming up by summer is Lionsgate, which will not be buying a Super Bowl spot to promote its young-female-targeted "The Hunger Games."

Coming to a big screen near you. ABC is taking the unusual step of screening its new drama "The River" in movie theaters before its television premiere. The networks are all trying new methods to build buzz for shows before they make their debut, including making episodes available online first. Fears of harming the broadcast version by offering it on other platforms first have yet to materialize. More on ABC's bet from the Wall Street Journal.

Rome is moving. Sports radio motor mouth Jim Rome is severing his ties to ESPN where he had his own show -- "Rome is Burning" -- for many years. CBS, in a move to bolster its sports presence, has signed Rome to host shows not only on its pay cable channel Showtime, but also its CBS Sports Network, a cable channel that has been primarily focused on college sports. More on Rome's new gig from Variety, and speculation on why he might have made the move from Deadspin.

Scheduling change. Last week, Fox Broadcasting's longtime scheduling chief Preston Beckman announced his plans to step back to an advisory role later this year. Now word is surfacing that onetime Beckman protege Dan Harrison is likely heading to Fox to take the scheduling gig. Currently a senior vice president at CBS, Harrison worked under Beckman at NBC in the late 1990s.

Ultra annoying. Hollywood has been hoping its new online movie distribution system UltraViolet would rejuvenate sagging home entertainment sales. Unfortunately, many consumers are finding the experience of trying to buy movies on the site to be more hassle than it is worth. "The best way to describe the launch is we built this great house, it had an incredible foundation, and in our excitement to move in there was some finished carpentry that still needed to be done," explained Sony Pictures Chief Technology Officer Mitch Singer. More on the industry's early struggles with UltraViolet and what's at stake from the Los Angeles Times.

Keeping it clean. The broadcast industry tried to make the case to the Supreme Court that the Federal Communications Commission's rules prohibiting indecent programming need to go. Alas, it appears the high court wasn't in the mood to hear it and seemed to indicate that it was not interested in tossing the FCC's ability to regulate broadcast content. If the rules stay in place, it will be a blow to broadcasters that already think they are at a disadvantage to unregulated cable television. A decision is expected in late spring. Coverage from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Broadcasting & Cable.

Does she want her gift back too? Charlotte Church, who performed at the 1999 wedding of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng, is singing a different tune now. She is the latest to file suit against the mogul's company claiming her cellphone was hacked by News Corp.'s now-closed News of the World tabloid. Details from Bloomberg. If you still can't get enough coverage of the News of the World ethics scandal, Vanity Fair has a probing profile of Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp.'s British publishing unit, who is one of the key players in the drama.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Fox Sports has made peace with the Dodgers. Chelsea Handler on making her life into a sitcom.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. It's like the uncensored version of me.
Photo: Jim Rome. Credit: Michael Mertz / ESPN.