National Day of Prayer

I just read Cathy Lynn Grossman’s essay on “Is it the ‘National Day of Pray Our Way Only’ now?“.  For those of you who missed it last week (myself included), US District Judge Barbara Crabb handed down a decision in “Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., [FFRF]  v. President Barack Obama and White House Press Secretary Robert L. Gibbs” that the National Day of Prayer [NDP] violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religion.

FFRF did not sue file the suit against Barack Obama, but against President George W. Bush, Jim Doyle, Shirley Dobson, chair, National Day of Prayer Task Force, and White House Press Secretary Dana Perino back before the election in 2008.  Since the “President” is being sued, rather than the individual, the decision is handed down to the president at the time, hence defendant Barack Obama.  Barack Obama is planning on signing the annual National Day of Prayer order anyway (he did so last year and irritated lots of people by emphasizing diversity).  Of course, he irritates others by acknowledging it in any way, which I’m sure we will hear about shortly. Continue reading

Review: Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

For a book about nothing, Charles Seife’s Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea sure is something. 

“The clashes over zero were the battles that shook the foundations of philosophy, of science, of mathematics, and of religion,” says Seife, who then goes on to explore those conflicts. In just under 250 pages, he covers a lot of ground.

While philosophy and math might seem like esoteric stuff custom-built for brainy left-brain people, Seife writes in a reader-friendly style that makes complex ideas relatable to a general audience without dumbing down the ideas or speaking down to the readers. About two-thirds of the way through the book, Seife gets into reflective geometry, and at that point he gets in a little too deep, but otherwise, Seife manages to avoid bogging down in the heavy-duty ideas.

Considering that zero may be the heaviest of all heavy-duty ideas, that says a lot. Continue reading

Lily Dale: A spiritualist by any other name…

By Jared VanDyke

Part three in a five-part series

“(The Church of the Living Spirit is) nothing but bunch of pagan heathens who serve Satan.” — George Mayer, Lily Dale Spiritualist Church attendee

I decided not to bring John this time. Since our first trips to Lily Dale I’ve contacted dead relatives, survived entering a spiritualist’s home, and learned to suppress my aura. Even with the fear of exposure subdued, it seemed extreme to bring a sacrificial target. And blending into the ‘pagan heathen’ church would reap more answers than agitating the mass.

My selection for a replacement traded class for subtlety. Joseph Anderson stepped from the car wearing rip-off Adidas gym pants, a waffle-knit sweater, and a pair of cheap lounge loafers with no socks to speak of. It’s the best I could have hoped for from a guy with only two priorities: working out and blacking out. Finding a friend willing to waltz into a Satanic church proved difficult. Continue reading