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Catholic University Investigated for Offending Muslims by Having Too Many Crosses

A note from Al:

As Catholic Institutions show that they aren’t going along with the flow of American culture, activists like this law school professor will, ironically, under the guise of human rights, work at eliminating our civil rights. Anger is best when it generates prayer not foul language. So don’t read this in front of your kids or you may not be able to control your tongue. – Al Kresta

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by John Hayward via Breitbart.com

“Complaint says crosses at Catholic school offensive, prevent Muslim prayers,” reads the headline at BeliefNet.

It’s one of those headlines that sounds like a bad joke, but it isn’t. It’s not exactly a serious complaint, either, and it isn’t coming from actual Muslim students in any event. “Baffled Catholic University officials say they have never received a complaint from any of the schools Muslim students,” writes BeliefNet.

In fact, the university expressed its bafflement in a full-length statement: “Catholic University’s faithfulness to our Catholic tradition has also made us a welcome home to students of other religions. No students have registered complaints about the exercise of their religions on our campus. We understand that a professor unaffiliated with Catholic University has made public allegations claiming that we are discriminating against our students on religious grounds, but we have not seen any legal filing – and will respond to them if we do.”

The sixty-page complaint was filed with the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights by a one-man nuisance-lawsuit factory, George Washington University Law School Professor John Banzhaf. Muslim students are but pawns in Banzhaf’s game against Catholics. Taken to its logical conclusion, his lawfare would wipe out mosques and Islamic learning centers as well. The rules of engagement in the Establishment’s War on Religion have a funny way of changing to accommodate Islam, however, so perhaps those hypothetical logical conclusions will never be reached.

Banzhaf’s complaint alleges that the large amount of Catholic imagery draping the halls of Catholic University creates an “offensive” environment in which Muslims are intimidated out of proper reverence for their own religion.

He further alleges the university “does not provide space – as other universities do – for the many daily prayers Muslim students must make, forcing them instead to find temporarily empty classrooms where they are often surrounded by Catholic symbols which are incongruous to their religion.”

Not only that, but Muslim students forced to make do with Catholic University’s chapels find their souls crushed by the oppressive spectacle of “the cathedral that looms over the entire campus – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.” Banzhaf insists the Muslim students must be provided with facilities where they can conduct their five-times-daily prayers without having to look at anything Catholic, especially that immaculate-conception Death Star of Catholic piety.

Todd Starnes of Fox News has Banzhaf admitting “it may not be illegal” for Catholic University to forego special Catholicism-free rooms for Muslim students, “but it suggests they are acting improperly, and probably with malice.”

He explained that since Muslims must pray five times a day, it’s a tremendous burden for them to “look around for empty classrooms and to be sitting there trying to do Muslim prayers with a big cross looking down or a picture of Jesus or a picture of the Pope is not very conductive to their religion.”

It’s hard to keep a straight face while reading all that, but rest assured the rusty gears and chains of the bureaucracy began clanking as soon as Banzhaf’s thick complaint was dumped into the hopper of the anti-discrimination machine. “A spokesperson for the human rights office said they are investigating Banzhaf’s complaint — and the inquiry could take as long as six months,” writes BeliefNet.

“I don’t know what the attorney wants them to do – if he wants them to actually move the Basilica or if the Muslim students can find someplace where they don’t have to look at it,” an incredulous Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society told Fox News. “One wouldn’t expect a Jewish institution to be responsible for providing liturgical opportunities for other faiths and I wouldn’t expect a Catholic institution to do that.”

“This attorney is really turning civil rights on its head,” Reilly continued. “He’s using the law for his own discrimination against the Catholic institution and essentially saying Catholic University cannot operate according to Catholic principles.”

The perverse incentive created by this complaint, if it’s successful – or even investigated with enough vigor to impose a significant burden upon Catholic University – is that showing any tolerance or generosity toward other faiths is dangerous for a religious institution. Banzhaf hits Catholic University for refusing to allow a Muslim student group when it permits a Jewish student association, for example.

His assertions about the special needs of Muslim students – assertions that don’t presently seem to be supported by any actual Muslim students – would make them dramatically more difficult to accommodate than, say, Jewish students who are serenely undisturbed by crosses and portraits of Popes… but allowing the easily hosted Jewish students into the university means the ostensibly more difficult Muslims must be allowed as well, or the cry of “discrimination” will ring through the halls.

If this six-month “human rights investigation” picks up steam, the easy way out for Catholic University will be to the create zero-pope crucifix-free “safe rooms” Banzhaf demands. If the university submits, it won’t be the last demand it would be forced to meet. Not by a long shot.

This is all part of the effort to create a legal and super-legal regulatory environment in which maintaining faith-based institutions is nearly impossible… or, at least, so difficult that these institutions will be forever subdued beneath the heel of the almighty State. Just wait until churches lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to comply with Big Government decrees about same-sex marriage, and you’ll see how that works. It won’t just be religious institutions that suffer, either. The demands of sacred “non-discrimination” are growing so heavy that nearly every society and business venture requires the indulgence of government mandarins to get off the ground. We all live in the shadow of regulatory guillotines that could drop at any moment.

As Patrick Reilly noted, it’s difficult to imagine non-Christian institutions coming under attack for taking their religion too seriously. Are Muslims confident that will always be the case? The tactical alliance between the Left and Islamist extremism might end with either of them turning on the other. If the complaint against Catholic University succeeds, one day we might see non-Muslims waging lawfare against Islamic foundations by complaining they’re too Islamic, with those imposing minarets towering overhead, and calls to prayer echoing through the halls five times a day.

People Have Misconceptions About Miscarriage, And That Can Hurt

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by Katherine Hobson via NPR.org

Most people think a miscarriage is rare, and many believe that if a woman loses a pregnancy that she brought it upon herself. Neither of those things is true, but the enduring beliefs cause great pain to women and their partners.

In fact, almost half of people who have experienced a miscarriage or whose partner has had one feel guilty, according to a survey to be published Monday in Obstetrics & Gynecology. More than a quarter of them felt shame. Many felt they’d lost a child.

When NPR asked visitors to its Facebook page to tell us what they wished people knew about miscarriage, the response was overwhelming — 200 emails and counting, many heartbreaking. Their sentiments often echoed what the survey found.

“I wish people knew how much it’s possible to miss a person you have never met, and to mark time by their absence,” wrote one woman. “I will always think about how old my baby would be now and what our lives would be like if I hadn’t lost the pregnancy.”

The survey came about after Dr. Zev Williams realized that many of his patients had misconceptions about miscarriage. “I’d tell them how common a miscarriage was, and they seemed shocked,” says Williams, an OB-GYN who directs the Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

In fact, between 15 percent and 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, defined as a pregnancy loss earlier than 20 weeks of gestation. (Pregnancy loss after that point is called a stillbirth.) Miscarriage is actually “by far the most common complication of pregnancy,” says Williams. He and his colleagues wanted to find out how widespread some of the mistaken beliefs about miscarriage are.

They asked 1,084 adults about miscarriage and its causes. They also asked the 15 percent of survey respondents who had suffered a miscarriage, or whose partner had, about their experience. The results echoed what he’d seen in his patients: Some 55 percent of all respondents believed that miscarriage occurred in 5 percent or less of all pregnancies.

The cultural silence around miscarriage contributes to those misunderstandings, Williams says. “A lot of other conditions that people used to speak of only in hushed tones, like cancer and AIDS, we speak about a lot more,” he says.

Not so for miscarriage. Because early pregnancy loss is so common, women are often advised not to share their pregnancy news with friends and family until the start of the second trimester. At that point the chance of miscarriage has drastically declined. But that secrecy means women who do miscarry in the first trimester may not get the support they need, Williams says.

“It’s bizarre that the topic is so taboo,” wrote one reader on Facebook. “I really feel an obligation now, having had a miscarriage, to mention my miscarriage when I’m talking about fertility or the process of conceiving or childbirth.” She added a sentiment that many other women expressed: “I felt alone until I realized there is this big, secret miscarriage club — one that nobody wants to be a member of — and when I realized it existed, I felt angry that no one told me they had active membership.”

Chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus cause 60 percent of miscarriages. A handful of other medical conditions are also known to cause miscarriage. Most survey respondents knew that genetic or medical problems were the most common cause of early pregnancy loss. But they also mistakenly believed that other factors could trigger a miscarriage: a stressful event (76 percent); lifting something heavy (64 percent); previous use of contraception like an IUD (28 percent) or birth control pills (22 percent); and even an argument (21 percent). Some 22 percent believed that lifestyle choices, like using drugs, tobacco or alcohol, were the single biggest cause of miscarriages. That’s not true.

Those who shared their experiences with NPR said many of those myths were repeated back to them by friends, family or colleagues after their own miscarriages. One said someone blamed her high heels. That kind of talk can be incredibly painful, even if you know you have the facts on your side.

“I wish people understood that miscarriages are the flip side of the coin,” wrote one woman. “If you’ve had a healthy pregnancy that went full term — you won a lottery. Short of obvious substance abuse and bull riding — your healthy baby is not the result of anything you did or didn’t do. As much as you want to think you are in control — you aren’t. And the same goes when I lost each pregnancy — as much as I wish I could have been — it was not in my control.”

The feelings of guilt, shame and enormous loss reported in the survey were a common theme among those who told their stories to NPR. “I felt, and feel, literally broken, and betrayed by my body,” wrote one woman. “It’s irrational, but there is such a deep shame attached to not being able to carry a baby to term…. I don’t want another baby, I want THIS baby, the one I thought I would have, the one I started planning for, hoping for, dreaming about, talking to. All that got taken away from me.”

Not everyone was so deeply affected; some said the miscarriage came as a relief, either because the pregnancy was unwanted, or because they’d known something wasn’t quite right. Or they said it was painful at the time, but that they’d moved on and weren’t particularly haunted by the loss. “You have every right to feel ALL of your emotions you have,” wrote one person. “Whether you feel grief or relief, your emotions are never wrong.”

But because the loss can be so great, people said they wished others would acknowledge a miscarriage without reverting to a laundry list of well-intentioned but hurtful lines: “Well, at least you know you can get pregnant.” (One reader said this was particularly upsetting after her seventh miscarriage.) “You can always try again.” “If you adopt, you’ll get pregnant.” “It happens for a reason.” “It’s God’s plan.” (That, wrote another reader, sounds an awful lot like “God doesn’t want you to be a parent.”)

Far better, people said, is to simply say, “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?”

Over and over again, we heard a wish that there was more private and public discussion of miscarriage. “Many women in my family had suffered one or more, and I had no idea until I had one myself,” wrote one woman. “I felt that no one I knew had gone through this.”

Several readers said this code of silence was even stronger for the partners of women who miscarry. One reader wrote that her husband “had hopes and dreams and fears and so much joy tied up into 9.5 weeks of cells,” but he didn’t get time off work, flowers or well-wishes from colleagues or visits from friends to “listen to him cry,” as she did. Instead, “He had to suffer alone.”

The new survey found that 46 percent of respondents who’d miscarried said they felt less alone when friends talked about their own miscarriages. Even a celebrity’s disclosure of miscarriage helped.

One person who recently suffered a miscarriage summed it up: “While I’m definitely still healing emotionally, I would be happy to talk more about it. So many people grieve silently, but I’ve found that talking really helps the most.”

That’s the kind of conversation that Williams says he and his co-authors would like to spark with their survey. “Miscarriage is ancient. It’s always been there.” And all too often, he says, “people often blame themselves and don’t discuss it.”

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 12, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 12, 2015


4:00 – Transgender Delusion: A Testimony

Walt Heyer grew up feeling he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. He divorced his wife and underwent sex reassignment surgery. He could not escape the fact he was living a lie. Walt converted to Christ and underwent further surgery to become a male. He is now an advocate for helping gender-confused people accept their true identities. Walt joins us today.

5:00 – Race & Economics: How Much can be Blamed on Discrimination?

We’re often told that high rates of crime in minority communities can be linked to limited economic opportunities available to minorities. Is this true? What’s the real link between race, economics and crime? Walter Williams joins us to talk about it.

5:20 – Kresta Comments: How one Catholic Could Redefine (or not) Marriage in America

The Supreme Court continues to debate whether the Constitution grants a right to homosexual marriage and a decision is expected next month. Once again, Justice Antonin Scalia could cast the deciding vote. Scalia also had the swing vote when Obamacare was declared Constitutional and when Hobby Lobby won its lawsuit against the HHS mandate. What can we expect from him this time? How will his vote impact the future of marriage in America? We discuss the case with Paul Kengor.

5: 40 – Meeting Mary in Fatima

Tomorrow is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. We take a look at the history of the apparitions and Mary’s role in the Church with Mark Miravalle.

 

Nepal Rattled by Powerful New Earthquake East of Capital

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by Ellen Barry via NYTimes.com

NEW DELHI — A powerful earthquake shook Nepal on Tuesday, less than three weeks after a devastating temblor there killed more than 8,000 people. Dozens of deaths and more than a thousand injuries were reported.

Residents of Kathmandu, the capital, reported that buildings swayed in the earthquake, which was felt as far away as New Delhi. The United States Geological Survey assigned the quake a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, with an epicenter about 50 miles east of Kathmandu, near the border with China. The April 25 earthquake registered magnitude 7.8 and was centered west of Kathmandu.

“We’re obviously hearing of buildings destroyed, buildings collapsed, buildings falling, we’re hearing about casualties, but the numbers are not known yet,” said Jamie McGoldrick, Nepal resident coordinator for the United Nations. He said several international rescue teams, including American and Indian teams, were still in Kathmandu but had not yet been asked to deploy.

By late afternoon, Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Center had reported 42 deaths and 1,117 injuries.

Four people died in Chautara, a town in the Sindhupalchowk district east of Kathmandu where several buildings collapsed, said Paul Dillon, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration. “A search and rescue crew of some locals and international groups are digging through rubble as best they can,” Mr. Dillon said.

“I can still see massive clouds of mud and dust around, as massive landslides continue to happen,” Bharat Shrestha, who was participating in rescue operations in a town about seven miles west of Chautara, said by telephone. “Concrete houses in Chautara have crumbled, and the main road leading to Chautara is completely blocked with debris.”

Krishna Prasad Gaiwali, the chief district officer in Sindhupalchowk, reported “huge damage in our district.”

Since the April 25 quake, people across Nepal have feared another powerful one, in part because the first one left many buildings cracked and unstable. An American structural engineer who examined buildings in Bhaktapur, a city near Kathmandu, said that he believed one-third of the buildings he had seen would have to be demolished.

Nevertheless, many families have moved back into their apartments, after living under tents for the week after the first quake.

Jasmine Avgerakis, an emergency response manager for Mercy Corps who arrived in Chautara just hours before the quake struck Tuesday, said rescue workers were bringing injured people on stretchers to a tent hospital that the Red Cross had set up in an open field after the April quake.

Ranveig Tveitnes, the deputy team leader of the Norwegian Red Cross team in Chautara, said that 40 injured people had been brought to the hospital by midafternoon, and more were coming in the evening.

Ms. Avgerakis described locals, loaded up with blankets, streaming into the open field. “I don’t think anybody’s going to be sleeping in their homes tonight,” she said.

Ian Norton, foreign medical team coordinator for the World Health Organization, said people in many parts of Nepal had begun salvaging things from “very precarious houses” and could have been injured in Tuesday’s quake. There were reports of deaths in Bhaktapur, where a number of unstable houses had fallen.

“We are still very worried by the magnitude, and the precarious buildings,” Mr. Norton said. “We are in the injury management phase right now. We are now expecting that people in smaller houses in the districts will start to come forward with their injuries.”

Many teams of volunteers had been working in remote villages to deliver aid when the quake struck. Some said they remained cut off and frightened on Tuesday afternoon, unable to return to the main road.

Prakash Banjara, 22, said he and a group of 15 students had been delivering rice and other food to villages in Sindhupalchowk when “the earth started shaking so violently.”

“The mountains before my eyes started tumbling down in massive landslides,” Mr. Banjara said. “There are continuous landslides in this area.” He said the road was “completely blocked by landslides, and there is no way we can get out if authorities do not come to our rescue soon.”

He said a storm was approaching, and he was unable to contact security officials.

“We are clinging together on the road, hoping the clouds will go away,” Mr. Banjara said. “I saw buildings crumble as we made our way here. Maybe there are people trapped in them. We have no way of knowing yet.”

Bal Krishna Sedai, who was stationed in the hill town of Dhunche with the Nepali Red Cross, described seeing “kind of havoc around us” as landslides continued for about half an hour on the surrounding slopes of the Himalayan foothills. He said some buildings in Dhunche were cracked and that many residents were pitching camps in open areas.

Mr. Norton of the World Health Organization said a landslide had covered the car of a medical team working near the epicenter of Tuesday’s quake; the team members were now searching for their driver, he said. Another team operating in the town of Tatopani, near the Chinese border, had been cut off by a landslide, he said.

CCTV, China’s state-run broadcaster, reported that one person had been killed and two injured in a landslide in Gyirong County, Tibet, that was triggered by the earthquake.

In Kathmandu, Kunda Dixit, the editor of The Nepali Times, described “some degree of panic” as the tremor “just became bigger and bigger and bigger, started rocking more and more and more.” He said that office workers ran into the street and that electric power was out and telephones were jammed.

“It started slow, it kept on swaying, and the birds were up in the air,” he said. “I looked outside and the electricity poles were just swaying from side to side, the wires were swaying.”

Video footage taken at the airport in Kathmandu showed hundreds of people rushing for the exits.

Madhu Prasad Regmi, secretary of the Nepal Election Commission in Kathmandu, said that when the quake started, “all the people inside the building started crying and ran outside in the open space.” About four hours later, the workers had not gone back inside, he said.

“The fear on people’s faces is very visible,” he said. “There are regular aftershocks. So the fear is very visible.”

Dhruba Prasad Ghimire, an aid worker who had been distributing food in a village west of Kathmandu, said buildings there shook and residents ran into the open in fear as the quake triggered landslides on nearby hills. But he said he had not seen anyone injured, and the buildings still standing in the village had not fallen down.

“It was very frightening again, but we will keep giving out food,” he said in a brief telephone interview. “We are O.K., but there were landslides and more of the aftershocks — you could see the ground falling down on the hills.”

He said, “People will be frightened. We don’t know if there will be more of these earthquakes.”

Supreme Court and SSM: What Consequences for FBOS?

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by Stanley Carlson-Thies via IRFAlliance.org

At the US Supreme Court’s oral arguments on April 28, 2015, on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, the federal government’s top lawyer intimated that faith-based organizations might lose the freedom to maintain a religious conviction that marriage is a man-woman bond. That would upend many deep convictions and key practices. His statement should be a wake-up call for faith-based organizations.

If the Supreme Court decides marriage must be extended to same-sex couples under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, then faith-based organizations will face new pressures and will need to dramatically expand their advocacy for the freedom to remain distinctive. But even before the Supreme Court rules, the oral arguments should give faith-based organizations much reason to think carefully about their identity and practices and how these are grounded in their religious convictions, and much reason to engage with federal, state, and local policymakers to say and show how their good works are rooted in their faith commitments. Our nation has historically valued living by conviction, even when a conviction is unpopular, and our society and government depend on the good works accomplished daily by a vast number and variety of faith-based organizations. Even more than before, now is the time for faith-based organizations to be transparent about how their practices reflect their deep religious convictions, and to witness publically about how their works of service grown from those convictions.

At the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage oral arguments, the federal government’s top lawyer—Solicitor General Donald Verrili–hinted that faith-based organizations might lose their freedom to live out their beliefs on traditional marriage in both staffing and services. Asked by Justice Alito if faith-based nonprofits that believe marriage to be the partnership of a man and a woman might lose their tax-exempt status, the Solicitor General said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is it is going to be an issue.”

Just what kind of “issue” will faith-based organizations face? The interchange referenced the Bob Jones University decision from 1983. The IRS had stripped BJU of its tax exemption because the university’s ban on interracial dating violated the vital national policy against racism, and the Court said that religious freedom was no shield for BJU. Will the Court consider a commitment to traditional marriage to be the equivalent of opposition to racial equality? But the Bob Jones policy was an outlier—the Civil Rights Movement was upheld by religious motivations, notwithstanding reluctance and opposition by some; racism is not characteristic of the millennia-old traditions of major religions; marriage as a unique union between a man and a woman is a deep commitment over thousands of years by many different faith traditions. In short, the Court will have to wrestle afresh with the intersection of religious freedom and a claim for equality.

Protection for religious convictions supporting traditional marriage came up two other times in the back-and-forth between the Justices and the various lawyers.  Mary Bonauto, arguing for a right to same-sex marriage, assured Justice Scalia that dissenting clergy would not be forced to perform same-sex marriages. However, when Chief Justice Roberts asked Solicitor General Verrili whether a religious school with married-student housing would be required to open the housing to same-sex couples, he said it would depend on the laws of the various states and on whether an eventual federal law on sexual orientation protects religious freedom.

The assurances about respect for clergy do not go far to reassure faith-based organizations with policies and practices based on traditional marriage. They do not specialize in worship but they are religious organizations nonetheless and need legal protection if they dissent from changing views on marriage. There is no reason to accept easy assurances that the coming of marriage equality means that every view of marriage will be respected.

Various Justices expressed some skepticism about the validation they were being asked to give to a view of marriage deeply different than what societies and religions have believed for millennia. Of course, such skepticism is no guarantee that the definition of marriage will be left in the hands of the states and their voters and elected representatives.

Assuming, as seems very likely, a ruling that states cannot reserve marriage to heterosexual couples, will the Court decide in a way that protects the religiously grounded belief in the traditional concept of marriage? The several exchanges noted above show that the Court is aware of the vital religious freedom issues at stake. That is a hopeful sign. Various amicus briefs clearly described the issues; an essay by Carl Esbeck points out that two of the briefs stressing problem areas were filed on behalf of religious organizations representing some 40% of the US population! A key brief, authored by premier church-state experts Douglas Laycock, Thomas Berg, and others, specifically proposed to the Court how it can strongly support religious freedom at the same time that it rules in favor of same-sex marriage.

As the Laycock brief recommends, the Supreme Court, if it declares a right to same-sex marriage, can and should stress the religious freedom consequences of that decision, and invite the Congress and state legislatures to act to protect religious freedom–one of their fundamental duties. There is good precedent. States that have passed marriage-equality laws have included protections for religious exercise and religious organizations, to a greater or lesser extent. And when Canada’s Parliament enacted same-sex marriage, it specifically includedprotections for religious freedom, including prohibiting the stripping of tax-exempt status from a religious charity because the charity remains committed to opposite-sex marriage. The Supreme Court can both accept same-sex marriage and protect the freedom of religious people and organizations to continue to live in accordance with their deeply religious commitment to man-woman marriage. Such a ruling is the only way to ensure genuine marriage equality.

Why Pope Francis Isn’t a Liberal Reformer

A note from Al:

As said on Monday’s program, this piece indicates what we’ve been saying since Pope Francis was elected and the left is finally being forced to agree. The Pope, shockingly, is Catholic. Really really Catholic. – Al Kresta

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by Dennis Earl via HuffingtonPost.com

It’s been quite the honeymoon. Not too long after Pope Francis succeeded Benedict XVI in March 2013 to become the new head of the Vatican, reporters, pundits and even comedians began to sing his praises. Why, exactly?

Because he said things like, “I’m a sinner” and “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” and “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!… Even the atheists. Everyone!”

But, as the old saying goes, talk is cheap. Pope Francis can present himself as a more compassionate pontiff all he wants. With over 40 years experience working within the stubbornly Conservative Catholic Church, the 78-year-old is no liberal. The reality is he is quite content maintaining the status quo.

Let’s start with LGBT rights.

Back when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in his native Argentina, the former Jorge Bergoglio often butted heads with the government. In 2010, as legislators were debating the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage, Mr. Enlightened had this to say about it:

In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family… At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.

Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies [aka the devil] who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.

I invoke the Lord to send his Spirit on senators who will be voting, that they do not act in error or out of expediency, but according to what the natural law and the law of God shows them… We remember what God said to his people in a moment of great anguish: ‘This war is not yours, but God’s': defend us, then, in this war of God.

Bergoglio’s ignorant, paranoid comments (not to mention his desperate prayer) fell on deaf ears. Argentina became the first Latin American country to officially recognize same-sex marriages that same year.

Since he became Pope Francis his views have remain unchanged. As recently as this past January, he told an audience in Manila, “The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage. These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation… Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself.”

That same month according to Reuters, during an impromptu speech on a plane in front of journalists, “He told of an education minister he once knew who was offered loans to build schools for the poor, but on condition their libraries stocked a book on gender theory, the questioning of traditional male and female roles.”

According to Reuters, without a hint of irony, he said, “This is ideological colonization. They colonize people with ideas that try to change mentalities or structures… But this is not new. This was done by the dictatorships of the last century.” Reporter Philip Pullella notes that Francis was “citing the Hitler Youth and Balilla, its Italian equivalent under Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.” How progressive.

The very next month, he threw his support behind an unnecessary referendum in Slovakia that proposed “strengthening” the already existing bans on gay marriage and gay couples adopting children. The needless measure failed thanks to very low voter turnout.

Like his discredited views on homosexuality and gender roles, The Pope’s views on women and reproductive rights are also out of step with modern times.

Besides being firmly anti-contraception, he is adamantly anti-abortion to the point of cruelty. Despite publicly asserting that the Vatican “obsesses” too much about this legal medical procedure, he continues to speak out against it. Consider this comment he made in 2013:

“Each child who is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.”

Actually, each child has the face of their biological parents but I digress.

Francis has also referred to abortion as an evil product of “throw-away culture” andbelieves that “Not to allow the further development of a being which already has all the genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first among human rights. To abort a child is to kill someone who cannot defend himself.”

Tell that to the estimated 32,000 rape victims who get pregnant every year. I mean is it so terrible to not want to bring into the world a living reminder of your trauma?According to Mr. Open-Minded, it is.

Also unacceptable to the Holy See is artificial birth control. According to Reuters, “The Church approves only natural methods of birth control, principally abstinence from sex during a woman’s fertile period.” That being said, don’t have too many kids. That’s not “responsible parenthood”. But don’t be childless, either. That’s “a selfish choice”. “Infallible” Popes excluded, of course.

Recently, it was reported that Francis is offering to “pardon” women who have abortions as well as the professional caregivers who practice the procedure through intermediary priests known as “missionaries of mercy”. As HuffPo’s Carol Kuruvilla noted in reference to a statistic from a Guttmacher Institute report, “Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as all American women.” And Catholics remain deeplydivided on the issue: 46 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed. How many women who have undergone the procedure are looking forward to being paternalistically forgiven by these celibate male “missionaries of mercy”?

Which brings us to the subject of female ordination. In 2013, during a long interview with America Magazine, the pontiff was asked about the role of women in the church. This is how he started:

I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo.

Two months before he gave this interview, the media darling revealed just howinclusive he truly is:

As far as the ordination of women, the Church has already spoken out and the answer is no. John Paul II made the Church’s stance definitive. The door is closed.

Despite recently speaking out against the low wages women receive compared to men, as you can plainly see he is far from a feminist. In his concretely conservative mind, women are “special”, not “equal”. As for members of the LGBT community, they’re in the same boat. Until their sexuality is no longer considered “disordered” and “a sin against God” by a man who “stands firm” on “the discipline of celibacy” for male-only priests, the Pope’s friendly overtures will remain empty pandering.

And considering what happened to former Australian priest Greg Reynolds, the idea of this Pope embracing any kind of significant reform is truly laughable.

So stop calling him “progressive” already.

The left has Islam all wrong: Bill Maher, Pamela Geller and the reality progressives must face

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Confusion over Islam and how to relate to it imperils free speech, without which no secular republic can survive

by Jeffrey Tayler via Salon.com

Whatever her views on other matters are, Pamela Geller is right about one thing: last week’s Islamist assault on the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest she hosted in Texas proves the jihad against freedom of expression has opened a front in the United States.  “There is,” she said, “a war on free speech and this violent attack is a harbinger of things to come.”  Apparently undaunted, Geller promises to continue with such “freedom of speech” events.  ISIS is now threatening to assassinate her.  She and her cohorts came close to becoming victims, yet some in the media on the right and the center-right have essentially blamed her for the gunmen’s attack, just as far too many, last January, surreptitiously pardoned the Kouachi brothers and, with consummate perfidy to human decency, inculpated the satirical cartoonists they slaughtered, saying “Charlie Hebdo asked for it.”

No.

But first, allow me a brief yet illustrative digression.

No one can deny the nobility of the sentiment that prompted Ben Affleck, on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” last autumn, to rush to the defense of what he sees as an unjustly maligned Muslim population with his outburst, as heartfelt as it was misguided, that it was “gross” and “racist” of Maher and Sam Harris to denounce Islam as “the mother lode of bad ideas.”  It seemed par for the course that Affleck followed the lead of so many progressives and conflated race and religion regarding Muslims.  The semantically unsound rubbish concept of “Islamophobia” disorients well-meaning people and incites them to spout illogicalities with a preacher’s righteousness.

One must, though, call out New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for backing up Affleck on the same show, and, later, in an editorial.  Kristof, after all, should know better.  He trades in words and ideas, and his acceptance of the fraudulent term “Islamophobia” contributes to the generalized befuddlement on the left about the faith in question and whether negative talk about it constitutes some sort of racism, or proxy for it.  It patently does not.  Unlike skin color, faith is not inherited and is susceptible to change.  As with any other ideology, it should be subject to unfettered discussion, which may include satire, ridicule and even derision.  The First Amendment protects both our right to practice the religion of our choosing (or no religion at all) as well as our right to speak freely, even offensively, about it.

One must, however, recoil in stupefaction and disgust at the consortium of prominent writers who just signaled de facto capitulation to the Enforcers of Shariah.  I’m referring, of course, to the recent decision of 204 authors to sign a letter dissociating themselves from PEN’s granting the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the brave, talented surviving artists of Charlie Hebdo.  (Disclosure: I have friends among Charlie Hebdo’s staff.)  The authors objecting did so out of concern, according to their statement, for “the section of the French population” – its Muslims – “that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized, a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises.”  A “large percentage” of these Muslims are “devout,” contend the writers, and should thus be spared the “humiliation and suffering” Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons allegedly caused them.

Europe’s colonial past and the United States’ current (endless) military campaigns in the Islamic world, as well as prejudice against nonwhites in Europe, have predisposed many to see, with some justification, Muslims as victims.  But apart from the blundering wrongheadedness of the PEN writers’ dissent (Charlie Hebdo’s undeniable courage won them the award, not their artwork) and putting aside the question of whether France’s Muslims are necessarily “devout” (French law prohibits religion-based polling, so who could know?), or uniformly “humiliated” by Charlie Hebdo, or necessarily “embattled,” one thing transpires with arresting clarity from the authors’ declaration: Among the left, the confusion surrounding Islam and how we should relate to it imperils the free speech rights without which no secular republic can survive.  We have to clear this up, and fast.

There is no legitimate controversy over why the Kouachi brothers targeted Charlie Hebdo.  They murdered not to redress the social grievances or right the historical wrongs the PEN authors named.  They explicitly told us why they murdered — for Islam, to avenge the Prophet Muhammad.  Progressives who think otherwise need to face that reality.  Put another way, the Kouachi brothers may have suffered racial discrimination and even “marginalization,” yet had they not been Muslims, they would not have attacked Charlie Hebdo.  They would have had no motive.

What is it about Islam that simultaneously both motivates jihadis to kill and so many progressives to exculpate the religion, even when the killers leave no doubt about why they act?  The second part of the question is easier to dispense with than the first.  Progressives by nature seek common ground and believe people to be mostly rational actors – hence the desire to blame crime on social ills.  Unfamiliarity with Islam’s tenets also plays a role, plus, I believe, the frightening future we would seem to be facing as more and more Muslims immigrate to the West, and the world becomes increasingly integrated.  Best just to talk of poverty and the like, or a few “bad apples.”  But to respond to the question’s first part, we need to put aside our p.c. reading glasses and examine Islam’s basic elements from a rationalist’s perspective.  Islam as a faith would not concern progressives, except that some of its adherents choose to act as parts of its dogma ordain, which, to put it mildly, violates the social contract underpinning the lives of the rest of us.

Islam is a hallowed monotheistic ideology, as are Judaism and Christianity, the other two Abrahamic “anti-human religions” (to quote Gore Vidal), that preceded it.  From a rationalist’s perspective, any ideology that mandates belief without evidence is a priori dangerous and liable to abuse.  This especially applies to monotheism.  Objectively, polytheism was better.  Look back in time.  The many gods of Greek and Roman antiquity, by their very multiplicity, presupposed a spirit of pluralism in their societies and even a certain ludic variety.  I worship Zeus, you Aphrodite; he follows Ceres, she Diana.  The classical gods quarreled and copulated, stirred the heavens to storm and sent down rain on the crops, tossed earthward thunderbolts, and now and then accepted propitiations from us humans, but otherwise, didn’t do much to bother us.

Enter the God of the Israelites.  Jealous and vengeful, capricious and megalomaniacal, He issued His Decalogue.  What is Commandment Number One?  “You shall have no other gods before Me” — an absolutist order implicitly justifying violence against those who haven’t gotten the memo.  Even after “gentle Jesus meek and mild” entered the picture,Tyrannus Deus continued His brutal reign, with legions of His Medieval votaries waging crusades against rival monotheists in the Holy Land, hurling themselves into battle as they cried Deus vult! (God wills it!).  And, of course, with Jesus came (the highly non-gentle, non-meek, non-mild) idea of eternal torment in hell as divine retribution for sin – surely no inducement to peace and tranquility, either.

Recognizing no Holy Spirit or mediating, moderating heavenly offspring, the Prophet Muhammad transformed the Judeo-Christian Despot on High into an even more menacing, wrathful ogre, whose gory punishments meted out to hapless souls after death fill many a Koranic verse.  Shirk, or associating another being with God, is, of course, a paramount sin in Islam.  Iconoclasm, or smashing asunder God’s rival deities as represented in idols, was and remains a favorite pastime of Islamist totalitarians, as was tragically demonstrated by the Taliban’s 2001 demolition of the awe-inspiring Buddhas of Bamiyan, or ISIS’s devastation of ancient statues in Iraq.  Such crimes are not perversions of Islam, but actions based on its canon and a fanatical desire to emulate its luminaries.  To wit, after conquering Mecca, none other than the Prophet Muhammad (whose life Muslims hold to be exemplary) devastated the 360 idols of the Kaaba; and the Quran (Surat al-Anbiya’, 21:57-58) recounts how the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to Jews and Christians) broke apart idols.  Monotheistic Islam and destruction, thus, go hand in hand, along with the (intolerant, divisive) proclamation that the Quran is the Final Testament, God’s last word to humanity, superseding the previous (equally preposterous) “revelations” of Judaism and Christianity.

The meme “Islam – the religion of peace” might evoke snickering now, but it was wildly inaccurate long before 9/11 and the plague of Islamist terrorism.  For starters, the Prophet Muhammad was a triumphant warlord leading military campaigns that spread Islam throughout Arabia and initiated the creation of one of the largest empires the world has known.  His was a messianic undertaking.  He preceded his invasions by demands that populations either convert or face the sword.  Verses sanctifying violence against “infidels” abound in the Quran.  Even the favorite verse of Islam’s apologists, Surat al-Baqarah 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”), prefaces a warning that Hellfire awaits those worshipping anything besides God.  The real meaning of the word “Islam” is, in fact, surrender — to God and the inerrant, unchallengeable path He lays out for us.  Surrendering denotes war, groveling, and humiliation – not exactly the kind of behavior liberals tend to value.

Many know that “jihad” means both spiritual and non-spiritual striving in the name of Islam, with the latter connoting holy war.  As we speak, the violent are bearing it away, rendering the peaceful definition irrelevant.  The Charlie Hebdo massacre and the shooting at Geller’s “Draw Muhammad” contest attest to how extremists are determining our discourse about Islam, and compelling us to deal with the religion at its worst.  Even though the majority of Muslims in the West are hardly on the warpath, the overarching aim of jihad, of the messianic mission launched by the Prophet Muhammad, remains Islam’s conquest of the planet — the most illiberal goal imaginable, threatening to every aspect of Western civilization.

The canonical glorification of death for the sake Islam, or martyrdom, similarly belies those who would argue that the religion’s nature is pacific.  If you, as a progressive, do not believe in the veracity of the Quran, then you have to accept Arthur C. Clarke’s diagnosis of those who “would rather fight to the death than abandon their illusions” as complying with the criteria of “the operational definition of insanity.”  Insanity hardly engenders peace.

All those who, à la Reza Aslan, maintain that Muslims today do not necessarily read the Quran literally have lost the argument before it begins.  What counts is that there are those (ISIS, say, and al-Qaida) who do, and they are taking action based on their beliefs.  To the contention, “ISIS and al-Qaida don’t represent Islam!” the proper response is, “that’s what you say.  They disagree.”  No single recognized Muslim clerical body exists to refute them.

When “holy” books and their dogmas dominate, societies suffer.  Whatever Islam did for scholarship in the Middle Ages, the dearth of top-quality institutions of higher education in Muslim countries today stems at least partly from the reverence accorded to, and time spent studying, Islam and its canon.  Says a respected report, the highest-ranking university in the world within the Dar al-Islam occupies the 225th spot.

Islam’s doctrinaire positions on women are infamous enough to merit no repetition here. Their sum effect is to render women chattel to men, as sex objects and progenitors of offspring, and foster the most misogynistic conditions on the planet: nineteen of twenty of the worst countries for women, according to the World Economic Forum, are Muslim-majority.  Some Muslim countries are deemed more progressive than others, but their progressivity varies inversely with the extent to which Islam permeates their legal codes and customary laws – the less, the better.  Not liberal at all, that.

The above are the stark doctrinal and practical realities of which no honest progressive could approve, and which form the bases of the religion.  Regardless of what the peaceful majority of Muslims are doing, as ISIS’s beguiling ideology spreads, we are likely to face an ever more relentless, determined Islamist assault.  We can delude ourselves no longer: violence is an emergent property deriving from Islam’s inherently intolerant precepts and dogma.  The rising number of ethnic Europeans mesmerized by Islam who set off toenroll in the ranks of ISIS attests to this; and may prefigure serious disruptions, especially in France, the homeland of a good number of them, once they start returning.  There is nothing “phobic” about recognizing this.  Recognize it we must, and steel ourselves for what’s to come.

This is no call to disrespect Muslims as people, but we should not hesitate to speak frankly about the aspects of their faith we find problematic.  But it’s not up to progressives to suggest how an ideology based on belief without evidence might be reformed.  Rather, we should cease relativizing and proudly espouse, as alternatives to blind obedience to ancient texts, reason, progress, consensus-based solutions, and the wonderful panoply of other Enlightenment ideals underpinning our Constitution and the liberties characterizing Western countries.

The only path to victory in this war in defense of free speech lies through courage.  We cannot wimp out and blame the victims for drawing cartoons, writing novels, or making movies.  We need to heed Gérard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, who declared, as he received the PEN award, that “They don’t want us to write and draw.  We must write and draw.  They don’t want us to think and laugh.  We must think and laugh.  They don’t want us to debate. We must debate.”

In doing as he urges, we will give the terrorists too many targets to attack and convince them that we will not surrender, not cede an inch.  That means the media needs to begin showing Charlie Hedbo’s Muhammad cartoons.  We must stop traducing reason by branding people “Islamophobes,” and start celebrating our secularism, remembering that only it offers true freedom for the religious and non-religious alike.  And we should reaffirm our humanistic values, in our conviction that we have, as Carlyle wrote, “One life – a little gleam of time between two eternities,” and need to make the most of it for ourselves and others while we can.  There is nothing else.

This is not a battle we have chosen; the battle has chosen us.

It’s time to fight back, and hard.

Bruce Jenner and the Transgender Debate

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Should we be true to ourselves?

Within the last several years, the sexual foundation of our thinking has undergone a major change. Basic assumptions that have been held for thousands of years are no longer accepted. “It’s a girl!” may not mean the same thing it used to mean. Maybe this “girl” will discover that she/he actually has a “male soul.”

How do we make sense of the Bruce Jenner story? How should we respond to parents who allow their five-year-old to choose a gender? Are Brad and Angelina to be applauded by letting their 8-year-old daughter be called “John” and dress like a boy? These are loving parents who probably don’t let that same child choose what to eat for dinner or what time to go to bed. Why would they trust the instincts of a child to decide something as critical as gender?

As a mom and a Christian psychologist, I wrestle with these issues and am asking God to give his great wisdom. The questions of the LGBT lifestyle are not going away. In the midst of the changing landscape, we desperately need God to show us what is “true North.” How do we walk with compassion without getting swept into the compromises of modern culture?

In 1999, John F Kennedy Jr. and his wife died in a tragic plane crash off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The primary cause of the crash was that John was not “instrument rated” as a pilot. In other words, novice pilots navigate by what they see. Instrument-rated pilots have learned to fly by the instrument panel, even if the instruments seem to contradict what they perceive by looking out the window.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the cause of John’s crash: “The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation.” The weather obscured his vision and perception, and John thought he was flying much higher than he was. The instruments are not deceived by clouds or fog like human judgment can be. They determine altitude, air speed, and direction based on the laws of physics rather than perception. If John had trusted his instrument panel instead of his instincts, he may still be alive today.

While I was watching the Bruce Jenner story on 20/20, there were moments in which I felt that I had lost my bearings. His story is compelling and arouses empathy in me for those who live with gender confusion. I can’t imagine the tension of living every day with a sense of not feeling comfortable in your own skin. However, when I am confused by what’s around me or within me, I don’t rely upon what I see or feel, but upon the God I worship. I know that God is close to the broken-hearted and compassionate in our struggles; I know that he is also righteous and holy.

Every day, we live by “looking out of the window of the cockpit.” We make decisions and form our thoughts by evaluating what we see and hear. If this is our only strategy of making sense in the world, we will become disoriented and someday experience tragedy.

I want to be an “instrument-rated” Christ follower, not swayed by the chaos of changing culture, but rooted in truths that are unchanging. Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians have walked away from biblical truth because of the pressure of modern sexual morality. The questions raised by the LGBT conversation are disorienting. Why would God want a man like Bruce Jenner to live with a “female soul”? Where is his compassion for a confused little girl or teenager who feels more like a boy? Doesn’t he want us to be true to ourselves?

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden was a man who was instrument rated. Time and again, he referred to the tried and true principles of his Christian faith. Read this profound thought from coach Wooden about living a life of integrity:

Being true to ourselves doesn’t make us people of integrity. Charles Manson was true to himself, and as a result, he rightly is spending the rest of his life in prison. Ultimately, being true to our Creator gives us the purest form of integrity.

In our humanistic culture, we have put as the highest good being “true to self.” We are human centered, valuing life and individual identity as the greatest good. As Christians in a humanistic culture, we feel compelled to alter biblical teaching to support that goal. Scripture passages that seem to limit the full expression of a person are discounted as cultural or out of touch. From this perspective, a parent’s job is to free their children to explore the depths of who they are, what they feel and most want in life.

An instrument-rated Christian recognizes that life does and always has revolved around God rather than around human beings. “You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). My desires, thoughts, and feelings are not the truest measure of who I am. My identity is rooted in my Creator—who God is—and my choice to worship him. A. W. Tozer wrote, “The most important thing about you is what you believe about God.”

Christian parents do their children a tremendous disservice by raising them around the child’s identity, sexual or otherwise. The most important thing about your children is not who they are, but who God is. Psalm 1 is a familiar passage that asks us the question, “Am I instrument-rated in my choices as a woman, wife, and mom?”

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the LORD,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

Every day, you look around you and observe what is going on in this world. Perhaps you even look within you to discern how you think or feel. My question to you is this: Do you look regularly at the “instrument panel” of God’s Word to be reminded of your Creator? My friend, only this practice will keep you from a disoriented crash into the ocean of our confused and lost world.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 11, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 11, 2015

 

4:00 – Kresta Comments: “It’s a Girl!” May not Mean what it Used to Mean

4:20 – Kresta Comments: Raul Castro “May Return to the Church” 

4:40 – Kresta Comments: The Media Finally Understands Pope Francis 

5:00 – Kresta Comments: What Went Wrong After Vatican II?

5:20 – 1968: The Greatest Revolution in the American Church?

In 1968 a Theology professor at Catholic University authored a “Statement of Dissent” claiming he was not bound to follow Church teaching on contraception. The statement was signed by more than 500 theologians and sparked a debate in the post-Vatican II church over the meaning of academic freedom at a Catholic university. Fr. Peter Mitchell joins us with never-before-seen material from the personal papers of key figures in the story.

Artificial Intelligence is Coming

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In Dangers to the Faith I wrote a chapter called “Myth of Humanity 3.0: Human Enhancement Through Technology.”  This is not science fiction. Serious executives, billionaires, researchers in molecular biology and artificial intelligence, are teaming up to extend the human lifespan. Some are shooting for lifespans of 120 years like PayPal founder, Peter Theil or thousands of years as with the Cambridge geneticist Aubrey Grey and his Methusaleh Project. Inventors like Ray Kurzweil have written about the coming moment of singularity when artificial intelligence will threaten to outstrip natural intelligence. The future will be determined, he say, by how well we can integrate the two.

No matter how often I say it, people register skepticism and dismiss the threat. Those who do take the threat seriously often get paranoid about the future.  Both responses don’t fit a disciple of Christ. Our response is to affirm the human quest to live forever and to use that aspiration to draw people to the One who does live forever and Who guaranteed bodily resurrection, Christ Jesus.

Technology is being used to enhance human longevity. That is good not bad. Technology is also being used to experiment on altering human nature; to end homo sapiens and create some new species maybe called homo Googlian. That is certainly not good. I’m gratified, however, that recently Newsweek, TIME and the Economist have penned pieces showing the strength of this movement toward technocratic immortality. Please give them a read. Follow the links below!

The Dawn of Artificial Intelligence via TheEconomist.com

 

Silicon Valley Is Trying to Make Humans Immortal—and Finding Some Success by Betsy Isaacson via NewsWeek.com

 

Google vs. Death by Harry McCracken via Time.com

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