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Archive for January, 2010

Pat Robertson’s recent remarks (see video) on the Haiti earthquake have raised eyebrows and extreme reactions from many fronts, from the religious to the atheists.

Chicago Breaking News reports a Reverend Al Sharpton criticizing Robertson’s comments while calling for relief efforts for Haiti:

Sharpton, at Christ Universal Temple in the South Side on Sunday, said the statements were “repulsive” and “un-Christian.”

But Sharpton had no calls for apologies.

“I wouldn’t call on Pat Robertson to do anything. I think that the best way to deal with a glass that appears muddy is to put a clean glass next to it,” he said. “I hope the clean glass of those fair and humane-thinking religious leaders can be compared” to them.

Meanwhile on the Washington Post controversial atheist and author Richard Dawkins blasted not Robertson but religious sentiments such as those of Sharpton’s, arguing against the “hypocrisy” of Christians:

You nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and bleating in your pulpits, you disclaim Pat Robertson’s suggestion that the Haitians are paying for a pact with the devil. But you worship a god-man who – as you tell your congregations even if you don’t believe it yourself – ‘cast out devils’. You even believe (or you don’t disabuse your flock when they believe) that Jesus cured a madman by causing the ‘devils’ in him to fly into a herd of pigs and stampede them over a cliff. Charming story, well calculated to uplift and inspire the Sunday School and the Infant Bible Class. Pat Robertson may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own Bible. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?

I find the extreme exchanges triggered by Robertson interesting not because of the clash of religious and non-religious sentiments (although that is also incidentally fun to read and watch). However what intrigues me is that the polarization of opinion is not between pro- and anti-Robertson, but on whether Robertson should qualify as representative of religious or non-religious sentiments.

Simply put: both the Christians and atheists seem to agree that Robertson was being an ass–but are divided on whether he (being an ass) represents Christians.

The “no true scotsman” fallacy comes to mind. Funny thing is, if Dawkins and Sharpton are to be our benchmarks, both sides of the Robertson issue are guilty of it, which is ironic.

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If you’ve seen Avatar, I guess you have also heard of the Vatican’s comment.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/12/vatican-slams-avatar-prom_n_419949.html

The Vatican newspaper and radio station are criticizing James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster for flirting with the idea that worship of nature can replace religion – a notion the pope has warned against. They call the movie a simplistic and sappy tale, despite its awe-inspiring special effects.

In the same webpage it continues:

Most significantly, much of the Vatican criticism was directed at the movie’s central theme of man vs. nature.

L’Osservatore said the film “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.” Similarly, Vatican Radio said it “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”

“Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship,” the radio said.

(more…)

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Popular magician David Blaine expounds on his personal journey towards breaking the world record for holding one’s breath.

It’s a humourous but inspiring take on the notion of impossibility, and how preparation, determination and focus can definitely lead to results.

On a related note, Ueli Gegenschatz expounds on his extreme sports of base jumping, skydiving, and wingsuit flying and how this brings him ever closer to the ultimate dream of man: to fly.

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This video has been making the rounds for a week now. Pat Robertson of 700 Club fame provides a pseudo-religious justification for the quake in Haiti.

Having been a calamity victim myself (my family’s residence was recently destroyed by typhoon Ondoy/Ketsana last year), I find statements like Robertson’s delivered with fervor completely disturbing.

I’ll elaborate more about this later, but for more on this, check out the following:

CBS: Haiti Cursed After Pact With Devil
Politico: Haiti Cursed Since Satanic Pact
ABC: Pat Robertson Had Interesting Thoughts

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Fareed Zakaria interviews Michael Lewis, ex-bond salesman at Salomon Brothers and author of “Liars Poker” on how his experience during the junk bond boom of the 80s mirrors the conditions of credit crisis of 2008 and the prospects of Wall Street in the years to come.

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Two Michaels help elucidate how market mechanisms have helped shape moral values in our society.

Michael Lewis, ex-bond salesman and financial columnist, describes the fundamental flaws behind the political structure of the financial markets in recent years: how rating agencies are also compensated by the financial underwriters of rated securities–a political structure which eventually resulted to the financial crisis.

From Lewis’ lucid description, juxtapose the thoughts of political philosopher Michael Sandel, who meanwhile elucidates how the concept of incentives–directly borne out of the market mechanism, has arguably changed the moral norms of society.

Is a market-driven society an ideal one?

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I am not the typical movie watcher. I hardly watch movies since my short attention span would not allow me to stay put watching a movie. “Avatar” is nearly 3 hours long. But with all the positive reviews coming in from film critics and typical movie watchers, I could not help but watch it myself.

James Cameron has done it again. “Avatar” has greatly impressed a very large audience. Film critics as well as the typical moviegoers have given it an outstanding rating. The volume of movie tickets sold show the enthusiasm of the typical moviegoers to watch it. Other people like me who don’t usually watch movies also end up seeing it. Several people are watching it multiple times probably impressed by the 3d version in several moviehouses.

Although the film’s genre is science fiction, a broad spectrum of people are watching it too. The film has an anti-war theme. The humans even used the phrases, “shock and awe” and “fight terror with terror”. The film could could even be considered environmentalist. This is not a typical war film like James Cameron’s “Terminator” that appeals to your masculinity, but also a highly sensitive film that appeals to your feminine side with its angles of environmentalism and yes, spirituality.

Although some reviews have stated that some of the lines in the movie have been seen elsewhere, there are other angles which are quite new to me. In this film, the aliens are not exactly the enemy. The aliens are not the conquerors, but instead the ones to be conquered. The aliens though technically inferior, have a spirituality which is seemingly more evolved than that of humans.

Below is a good youtube that explains the planet Pandora

James Cameron has had this film in the back of his mind years back, but hesitated to produce it since the technology at that time was not good enough to create good visual effects. The first time I glanced at the trailer at “youtube”, I assumed that the film was a cartoon.

James Cameron in this “youtube” post explains the techology in the film. The film is not an animation.

(This review has been shortened since this is a “critical thinking” website. The full review is titled “”Avatar” and Spirituality” and and can be seen inhttp://theintuitivethinker.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/avatar-and-spirituality/ done by the same author.)

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