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* [ profile] shwetha_narayan's wonderful poem "Apsara" is now up at Goblin Fruit for the summer. First link should be permanent, second is where you can read the poem right now (ETA: may also be permanent, and better formatted, if it goes in the archive).

* Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," with audio--perhaps the most famous English-language villanelle.

* Via [ profile] yhlee, The Periodic Table of Typefaces.

* Geeky article about Lenovo's new keyboard design. Nothing like Dvorak's complete overhaul, just some interesting usability tweaks. I will say this: I love my caps lock key for easily marking out book titles. I really want a big delete key, though... So annoying on this laptop to sloooowly reach up to hit it in the corner.

* Color illusion!

* Notable Unshelved strip.

* Isaiah 55:12--"...and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."

* A compendium of beautiful--no, gorgeous--libraries.
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* Eunoia, a constrained-writing experiment by Christian Bök.

* Via [ profile] yhlee, the constrained-writing group Oulipo: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle.

* Also via [ profile] yhlee, 25 subliminal-messaging logos.

* Via [ profile] mrissa: [ profile] swan_tower aka Marie Brennan is offering a free novella, Deeds of Men, online.

* Just a call-out to the Secular Coalition for America.

* Helping those with Mormon interests. A parody, although I don't think it makes fun of Mormonism in particular rather than religion in general.

* Lee's Art Shop's 30-second pen primer.

* Via [ profile] rilina, the top 10 hot Asian actors.
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* H.E.R.B.--Had Enough Religious Bullshit--amuses me.

* As does this humorous dialogue between an atheist and an agnostic.

* I heard on the radio that Justice Souter is retiring? Here's an article on one possible Obama pick to replace him. Look, he's Asian! Wouldn't that be nice, to have the country's first Asian ever (I think) on the Supreme Court.

* Pledge to cut the "r-word" (retard) from your life.

* Article on a white girl adopted by a black family.

* NewFoundSpecFic is seeking submissions, deadline July 5th, 2009. It is automatically nifty for the pun, O my beloved Newfoundland. Sadly, living abroad I don't qualify (must be a resident of Canada, not necessarily a citizen).

* O Canada!

* In praise of learning alphabets, not characters. YES.

* A friendly note on Dreamwidth advocacy.

* [ profile] kate_nepveu makes a detailed post about Dreamwidth that I pretty much second all the way through.

* Ooh, shape notes! Heads-up [ profile] yhlee?

* A Cool Tools review of Finale Allegro.

* From VSL, a modern instrumental composer releases one ditty (doodle? sketch? [ profile] yhlee had a good word for this but I can't remember) a day for a week. All seven are available to download for free.

* Via [ profile] yhlee, neato ultra-small artworks.

* Paper typography!
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The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality
by André Comte-Sponville
212 pages
Genre: Nonfiction/Philosophy/Religion

This book has changed my life.

Really. I was mellowing out on my own, I think, but Comte-Sponville's approach to atheism is inspiring and reassuring--it has inspired me to follow his example of kindness, and reassured me that atheist spirituality is indeed possible and worthwhile. For as he says, "Atheists have as much spirit as everyone else; why would they be less interested in spiritual life?" (xi) And since I find myself utterly incapable of summarizing this book, I will proceed to quote liberally the various highlighted and bookdarted parts. I marked it up permanently, folks. It takes a lot for me to willingly desecrate a book like that. And this is not a real review; it's probably the closest I've ever come to preaching, in fact.

Cut for length and those who don't care )

And that's all I have to say--not very much, given the alarming ratio of interjection to quotation. Oh, except this: go read the actual book, because it is incredible.
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* From Language Log, an interesting analysis of Zhonglish (the specific Chinese-English creole of China, I presume, as opposed to Chinglish of the West).

* Via [ profile] yhlee, an article on e-publishing in China.

* Tibetans refuse to celebrate the New Year.

* On the atheist community befriending the ex-Muslim. Definitely worth reading from an intersectional perspective.

* A skeptical argument for troll-feeding. I have to agree with this: "I view troll-feeding as a useful tool in the skeptical arsenal--because I owe much of my skeptical "conversion" to reading skeptics' responses to internet trolls."

* Greta Christina on Alternet, presenting 10 Myths and Truths about Atheists. It's a great primer aimed at the totally clueless.

* On being good without God. If you want to call me immoral for possessing relative morality, of course, be my guest. Just don't expect me to pay you much attention.

* Nontheism among Friends (, Society of--aka Quakers). This made me seriously want to try out a meeting sometime, because I do value meditation and silence. But "Quaker atheist" remains somewhat of an oxymoron, especially if one is not born into the faith. And I haven't met many Asian Quakers, either.

* As a rule, I usually don't watch videos online. "Fidelity," however, was a worthwhile and worthy exception. Please click through and judge for yourself. (Warning for liberal bias.)

* And to lighten the mood, Austenbook! Pride and Prejudice as Facebook status updates.
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* A facetious guide written by an engineer on how to deconstruct almost anything.

* [ profile] mrissa declares a new holiday, February 13: One Year Closer to Balance. And there's a homework assignment! Do something to bring balance to your life, then drop her a line about it. Go on, you know you want to! I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet; it may or may not involve living by Transcendentalist principles for the year. We'll see.

* LibriVox is a project aiming to verbalize every public-domain book in the country and release them as free audiobooks.

* From Coyote Wild, a lovely little parody short by Sarah Rees Brennan--"An Old-Fashioned Unicorn's Guide to Courtship."

* Via [ profile] yhlee, a funny anecdote about Chinese vs. Swedish manners. I've definitely observed this, and been frustrated by the brusque commands.

* The California 4th District Court of Appeals decides that private schools can discriminate against students. Specifically, a Lutheran school expelled two girls for appearing to act like lesbians.

* Obama talks obliquely about his plans for his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. I think his idealistic vision of promoting religious tolerance through this particular venue is doomed to failure, but he's welcome to try. And I'll give him props for including secular humanism groups. Still, I'm disturbed by the implication that the Obama administration may yield to pressure to allow these faith-based organizations--which receive taxpayer funding--to discriminate in employment based on their beliefs. And one of the commenters makes an interesting point: if religious organizations may receive taxpayer money, shouldn't they be contributing taxes as well?

* In happier news, Johanna Sigurdardottir has become Iceland's prime minister and also the first openly gay head of government in modern times. And the bestest part of all--Icelanders don't think it's any big deal!
keilexandra: (canada)
I didn't expect to see the inauguration live, but I did--a lucky coincidence of class scheduling. I was struck by Barack Obama's inclusion of "non-believers" in his list of American faiths; it was an ironic moment in a ceremony of barely veiled religious pageantry. The "invocation" (aka prayer) by Rick Warren, "So help me God" in both Congressional and Presidential oaths, the noticeable shortening of Obama's middle name (Hussein) to simply "H." for fear of alluding to the oh-so-hated Islam--America is still a Christian nation, just as it was until today a white nation. I don't think I will ever live to see an openly atheist or agnostic President take the Oath of Office. I have been honored to witness the inauguration of the first President of color, and I have hope that the first female President is not far behind. But a non-Christian, an atheist President? That is still a pipe dream. Religion is too important to the everyday American. I can only leave it for the next generation to hope.
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* I have not a lot to say about the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM, as [ profile] oyceter so aptly named it. [ profile] rilina has a nice links round-up, to which I will add truepenny's excellent post. I'm truly on the fence about this one, as I can see both sides--I think Bear failed to take her character beyond token, but I also respect her inclusion of the character as a person. Maybe I'm just too cynical to be offended? I don't know and my brain is kind of broken right now (for unrelated reasons); there's only so much I can multi-task and an affirmative action debate on a different forum has used up all of my Argument Energy.

* [ profile] hawkwing_lb on being Irish. This particular part hit home with me:
I can speak in English, but in Irish I am mute.

I have no ear for it. I have no tongue for it. In my mouth it becomes clunky and without music, full of awkward solecisms and embarrassed pauses.

* [ profile] tithenai on Gaza and the Palestinian perspective. As I said in her comments, I really don't know enough to make a judgment either way--and I'm not hiding a pro-Israeli stance behind that, either, because I had the classic don't-give-a-shit Asian upbringing.

* Via [ profile] afuna, Dreamwidth Studios is working on a radical fork of the LJ source, founded by [ profile] synecdochic on the small-business ethic. I have great hopes.

* An insightful discussion of ebooks from a blog-site with the coolest name ever.

* On utility monopolies. This, folks, is why I'm socialist and proud of it (well, other than being Canadian and not understanding why Americans hate socialism so much).

* Apple has taken iTunes DRM-free, with a catch--each file is embedded with the purchaser's name and email address. Given that they haven't exactly disclosed this distribution of information, I am unenthused. I wonder how long it will take for someone to come out with a program to strip the identifying information. And, does this information stay with the file if you convert to mp3? I wasn't aware that mp3s had that kind of secret-info capability.

Finally, that book meme going around the flist again--I just happen to have the BEST BOOK EVAR sitting closest. Really.

Grab the book nearest you. Right now. Turn to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post that sentence along with these instructions in your LiveJournal. Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

But what was important to me, when I read the Gospels, was less what Jesus said about God or a possible life after death (indeed, he said relatively little on the subject) than what he said about humanity and life on earth.

'Tis The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by André Comte-Sponville, of course. (Okay, I did cheat a tiny bit by not counting a partial sentence at the top of the page, because this sentence was so much cooler than the other possibility.)
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* Strange Horizons has a wonderful column on genre boundaries.

* [ profile] varkat on 10 epic fantasy themes we don't see enough [of].

* A cool cheatsheet on the major publishing imprints.

* SF Signal presents various contributors' favorite F/SF subgenres.

* I'm finally reading xkcd, and the fiction rule of thumb is beautiful.

* A moving article on contemporary human bondage.

* [ profile] copperwise on politics and Joe Six-Pack.

* [ profile] rachelmanija asks for manga donations to benefit a Native American reservation. I should probably send those two random volumes of Prince of Tennis that are gathering dust on my bookshelf--I love POT, but it's not something one rereads.

* I weep for Terry Pratchett, and am ashamed of it because I know he wouldn't want my pity.

* Top ten weirdest bible verses. I really need to read the danged thing front-to-back someday. It'd definitely be interesting to analyze from a literature, and atheist, perspective.

* What happens if you're locked out of Gmail? Eek.
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So I went to the local Chinese church youth group tonight. Yeah, the conservative evangelical one; a Quaker-atheist friend had asked me, and I was interested in seeing what it was like. Verdict: I wouldn't mind going again, but I would definitely bring a notebook to take notes rather than trying to record in Events on my cell phone. Although today was abnormal--we watched a long clip on moral character, which was still running when I left--I still came out with some interesting thoughts and objections to specific arguments.

The speaker's argument in a nutshell--we are like sweet apple trees vs. crabapple trees. Our fruit is governed by our nature, and the only way to change is to be born again. He elaborates on this, never refraining from emotionally "loaded" words and even calling himself a "revolutionary pastor" (revolutionary vs. terrorist? --AP Lang), before seguing into discussion of nominal Christians. I actually agree that nominal Christians, those who attend church because everyone around them does and it's easiest to fit in, are deluding themselves; but rather than the devil's children, I see nominal Christians as unconscious closet atheists. I also have issues with the speaker's clear delineation of good vs. evil, Christian vs. Satanic. You don't even have to believe in Satan to be Satanic, apparently, since everyone not a born-again Christian is automatically of the devil. Perhaps a little extreme, n'est-ce pas?

Other thoughts and questions:
* Why do you love God? Jesus loves and died for humankind, yes, but that doesn't compel you to love him in return. Be grateful, say thank you, and move on--that seems to me the logical response. So why love, worship, and glorify God?

* Why is God the only way to a "good nature" and to morality? What makes God the right motive for being "good"? I don't believe that every non-true-Christian in the world is secretly acting selfishly just because he or she does not believe in the Christian God. I don't consider myself selfless, but I have witnessed truly selfless acts by atheists and agnostics. You don't need to trust in a higher deity to make a true sacrifice for someone else. Morality /=/ religion.

* Another analogy was made to "apple staplers" or "wolves in sheep's clothing" (paraphrased quote) in reference to nominal Christians. So, as an outspoken (and you might argue evangelical) atheist who fights to be heard expressing perhaps the most marginalized religious view in the United States today, am I a noble and true Christian person? My point is that much of what Christianity, and this speaker, teaches about character is applicable and worthy. I just don't see why God is a necessary part of the equation.

I probably had other thoughts, but as I said, I had only my cell phone to take notes with--and I don't text so my typing skills are horrid. Responses and answers, anyone?
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* An old TIME article called Between Two Worlds, on feeling like the hyphen in Asian-American.

* Greta Christina's obligatory Sarah Palin column, or, Why I Don't Care About A Pregnant 17 Year Old.

* Greta Christina again (her blogging is quite link-worthy!) in defense of atheist blogging.

* If you don't like gay marriage, don't have one. Really.

* On "militant" atheists, a term that I like to think I've redefined a la Gloria Naylor and Christine Leong with nigger and chink respectively.

* EXPOSED: Gravity is absurd, and here's why.

* From [ profile] shadowhelm, a 12/15 step guide to gaining good writing habits. I really need to follow this advice.

Also, sorry for the abundance of controversial/trigger-issue links recently.
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Or, more specifically, why I am generally against Christianity (and Islam, for the same following reason) and less so against other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Christianity doesn't tell impressionable young children, "God most likely exists and created this world and loves you, and here's why." It tells them, "God exists and created this world and loves you, therefore you should glorify Him, and anyone who says otherwise is terribly misguided, therefore must be led to the true path. By the way, if you sin and don't pray for forgiveness, you'll burn in Hell. But if you love God and praise Him, you'll be happy forever in Heaven!" ETA: Because multiple people have missed my point, through no fault of theirs, I am striking this through to mark it as an optional addition, although I still stand by it. But the unstruck section is a valid critique of all Christianity and its hereditary nature.

Monotheistic religions usually leave no room for doubt. And I've always believed that skepticism is healthy, regardless of your religious views--but hey, I'm a pessimist who looks forward to the idea of oblivion when I die. I'm obviously a not-to-be-trusted weirdo.

P.S. Go read Greta Christina's Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe in God, especially the end of Part Two.

[statement of faith] As always, I am open to polite, reasoned, non-troll/spammer debate.
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* Via StumbleUpon, examples and explanations of 20 Amazing Optical Illusions.

* [ profile] coalescent points out a modern version of an old-fashioned game: 3D Pong. I still need to find my old-school Bubble Pong, though.

* Via Mir at Want Not, a back-to-school sale at Threadless. Many tees are $12 apiece, including two of my favorites: Splatter in D Minor and Birds of a Feather. Too bad I already have way too many T-shirts, including a music one (from Delia's, a birthday gift, and awesome-looking).

* Via various blog carnivals pointed at by Greta Christina:
- Religious atheism / Quaker nontheism. The latter basically describes one of my friends (who went to a Quaker school for nine years), and maybe me one day as well. Who knows. If I ever get tired of the atheism racket, I'd be either a nontheist Quaker or a nontheist Buddhist.
- Three Reasons Why Republicans Are Wrong. I especially like #2: America is not a Christian nation. Yes, please. I'd like to hear a compelling, non-faith-based argument against gay marriage. If you're morally against it, where does that particular moral stem from?
- Four Key Battleground States for the upcoming November election. I totally support the popular vote initiative because the electoral system renders certain individual votes useless if you happen to be in the overwhelming majority (or minority) in your state. And because no one ever campaigning in Delaware makes me sad. (Though this might change, now that Biden is running for VP. We'll see.)
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* Do teachers influence blackness?

* Thoughts on poverty in America, complete with charts and hard data.

* Greta Christina on evangelical atheism. Thought-provoking.

* Also, on anonymity and manners on the Internet. I agree, of course, or I wouldn't expend effort in blogging (i.e. during [ profile] ibarw).
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Today Tonight, I want to talk about the intersection of religion and race in America, in that insidious institution of privilege. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the majority of those who read this will be nominally or devoutly religious. That is, you believe in the existence of a single (or even multiple) higher being(s). And if so, even if you are a racial minority in the United States, you are part of an overwhelming religious majority.

My current default icon for IBARW states, "Do you really not see race?" And the tone of that question applies to every institutional prejudice; no one can be aware of all of them. For example, until [ profile] coffeeandink 's excellent post today (warning for pregnancy squick), I didn't know about ableism. Now I do, and even if I later forget, the knowledge will sit in the back of my mind. So I write about religion, only tangentially related to race, because awareness aids all kinds of anti-discrimination.

As my friends well know, I am atheist. I also love to argue. You can see where that might lead to untactful conversations, yes? But I ask you to consider the following, some of which is obvious and some of which is hopefully not as obvious.

1. "In God We Trust"--printed on every U.S. bill of currency (and coin?). So who is this collective "we" that trusts in an unspecified god? I certainly trust no god or goddess, seeing as I am convinced of the non-existence of any deity, with perhaps an exception for a deity that has absolutely no interaction with this plane/universe (including creation).

2. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Interesting fact: I consider myself Chinese-Canadian, i.e. not American. However, I know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart because when I moved here in elementary school, it was a (Communist-esque) mandatory daily recitation. Recent rulings have allowed students to omit the italicized clause, but in practical terms, that does nothing but ostracize the rare prescient student who makes such a choice. Why is the U.S. so insecure that it requires (by an unspoken code of ethics, if not by law) its youngest citizens to recite an oath of allegiance? Freedom should also mean the choice to not be loyal to one's country, so long as you don't break any laws.

3. "*sneeze* Bless you!" This seems to be an American quirk, since I don't recall ever being blessed for sneezing in Newfoundland (and this at a school where we said grace every lunchtime). Whether or not the implied "God" is omitted, I still don't understand why you or your deity would wish to bless me. Especially since I'm going to hell as a blasphemer, etc.

4. Christmas and Easter breaks, now renamed to the politically correct Winter and Spring Breaks. I can accept that Christmas has become a commercialized holiday. However, I see no reason to take a week off from school in the middle of spring every year, somewhere in March or April. Jewish people have excused absences for their holidays, but the major Christian holidays are school-wide vacations.

5. And finally, the little things. For instance, I have a wonderful yoga DVD that I love; I even embrace some of its dubious health claims. But in the Closing Prayer is a jarring farewell note of "God bless you." I assume that the viewer may fill in their own god as necessary--while those of us with no such handy filler must simply ignore it. There are so many little things in life that as a minority--whether that involves belief, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else--one learns to ignore in order to survive sane. Because you can't get offended by everything. You can't argue at every single opportunity. In such an outnumbered battle, you can only choose strategic retreats--and strategy dictates sacrifice of the little things.

Privilege is a wide, overarching influence. If you read or participate in IBARW, I know that other bloggers will gladly enlighten you concerning white privilege. But for many of the non-white people: please consider your religious privilege. Barack Obama has faced undeniable prejudice during his Presidential campaign, but I assure you, if Obama or even any old white man were openly atheist, they wouldn't have a chance in hell at winning. I am Asian, Canadian, female, and atheist; I am also lucky enough to be middle-class, educated, able (physically and mentally), and cisgendered. But of the many minorities I belong to, atheism is by far the most dangerous. So I guess I'm saying, think about the privilege that you take for granted, and don't limit your activism to one cause and one week.

<End of infomercial; we now return to our regularly scheduled topic for this week.>
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All via Greta Christina:

1. Would Creating Human-Animal Hybrids Be Immortal and Unethical? Not an answer to the question, but an argument that the question should be asked at all.

2. Help! There's an Atheist in My Garden! Why it's important to come out of the closet. The difference between "Atheists are evil, but fortunately I've never met one" and "Atheists are evil, although I know a couple that actually seem nice."

3. Of Life and Death; an atheist perspective on death: greater appreciation for life itself.
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Via [ profile] coalescent: The only debate on Intelligent Design that is worthy of its subject. [statement of faith] Also, the wife John McCain callously left behind. Look, Ma, religion and politics in one neat paragraph!

Daniel Abraham ([ profile] bram452)'s excellent story "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" is now up online, albeit in a weird print-scan flash format. It's worth the hassle though, especially if you like the style of Theodora Goss or Ellen Kushner.

Definr is a super-fast online dictionary lookup; it works in the form, too, if you want to set up a keyword bookmark or just like working from the address bar.
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Without having seen the movie personally, I don't wish to declare it "propaganda" although from what I've heard, that's exactly what it is. I doubt, however, that it qualifies as a documentary. To the curious/open-minded/scientifically sound, I present two links for your exploring pleasure: Seeing Ben Stein's "Expelled" as Propaganda (the title is more inflammatory than the text, which makes an extremely valid point about the association of "atheism" and "evolution" with Nazi concentration camps), and the general index site Expelled Exposed.


[statement of faith]
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Recently I attended a speech given by the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, a world-renowned English particle physicist and Anglican priest. It was a great experience and I'm posting my notes here, typed in paragraph form.

And my personal opinion: I really enjoyed Dr. Polkinghorne's speech and the ensuing discussion, although I don't agree with many of his views. Though in my opinion he sidestepped the thrust of several audience questions, I'm very glad that I attended the seminar because it was an eminently worthwhile experience.
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The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality
by André Comte-Sponville (trans. Nancy Huston)
206 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Philosophy/Atheism

Sadly I didn't get to finish this lovely little book, because it's already overdue at the library. I do plan to check it out again, though: at page 53. It is a true philosophy text, though accessible because of the layman language. It's also translated from the original French, which accounts for a liberal use of exclamation marks. Comte-Sponville is a "faithful atheist," maintaining traditional Western Christian morality while not believing in God. He also distinguishes at length between faith (belief) and fidelity (commitment), which combine oftentimes to form piety. As he says:

"Frankly, do you need to believe in God to be convinced that sincerity is preferable to dishonesty, courage to cowardice, generosity to egoism, gentleness and compassion to violence and cruelty, justice to injustice, love to hate?...If you cease believing in God, are you obliged to turn into a coward, a hypocrite, a beast?" [22-23]

Religion's greatest strength, according to him, is consolation in grief. It is the wellspring of society, but it is not necessary for civilization to continue. Comte-Sponville is an atheist philosopher with the most open views that I've ever had the pleasure of reading: truly gentle, tolerant, accepting. He respects theists, nontheists, and atheists equally. He talks about his own "liberation" in deconversion, then in the next paragraph will earnestly discuss those who converted and experienced the same liberation. And he concludes from this seeming paradox, simply, that "all people are different."

So: very sad that I didn't get to read more of this. I would recommend it to anyone interested in theological philosophy. Comte-Sponville surprised even me with his firm neutrality.


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January 2011



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