July 27, 2012
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People have forgotten… “That the very bones of the United States — the constitution we claim to hold so dear — was crafted by highly educated political idealists of the Enlightenment, who firmly believed that freedom and a more just society are possible only through the actions of an enlightened and educated population of voters.

Frankly, it’s sickening, not to mention dangerous. If the haters, fearers, and political opportunists have their way, they will gut one of the greatest institutions in human history and, in the process, will cut the throat of this country, draining its lifeblood of future creativity.”

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Thank you to Angela Zito, director of Religious Studies at NYU and my academic advisor, who pointed to this post, “a great, sobering summary of the magnitude of the decline” of our nation’s relationship to academia.

And thanks to Terran Lane, (formerly) of U. New Mexico, for writing it over at Ars Experientia.

June 13, 2012
Abraham Lincoln + Vampires = History Lesson?

Earlier this week, David Brooks, in the Times, worried that we don’t build enough impressive monuments, ones that properly project the power of the leader in the manner of Jefferson’s memorial, or Lincoln’s. Brooks thought that big statues might help with what he called America’s “followership problem.” This does not, as one might guess, consist of Americans blindly going along, in awe of the shiny and the rich, without thinking for themselves; quite the opposite. Brooks argues that we don’t defer enough, that we question “just authority” much too much, and aren’t sufficiently “grateful” for the leadership of élites. This seems exactly wrong—the sort of logic that gets you looped up with vampires.

Amy Davidson, “The Vampire History Test,” for The New Yorker.

Could this movie teach Americans something about history and democracy?

May 28, 2012

Memorial Day marks the anniversary of a historic use of Occupation in America: The Bonus Army of World War I veterans who demanded the country honor their sacrifice.

March 19, 2012
"The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anyone but himself."

Sir Richard F. Burton, in “Terminal Essay,” from his translation of Arabian Nights, 1885. 

On this date in 1821, Sir Richard Francis Burton was born in Great Britain. The colorful adventurer and explorer, educated at Oxford, served in the army in India, where he began to study languages and Muslim culture. Burton became fluent in nearly 30 languages. Posing as a pilgrim, he was the first non-Muslim to partake in the rituals of Mecca, writing a book about the experience. He made famous translations of the Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, and traveled extensively in the Mideast, Africa, and South America. Biographers, including his niece, Georgiana Stisted (True Life of Sir. R.F. Burton) considered Burton a rationalist, at most an agnostic or Deist. He was married to a highly superstitious Catholic woman* who had last rites administered at Burton’s death. D. 1890.

via Freethought of the Day

* my note - I will say it’s not really fair to call her a “highly superstitious Catholic woman.” FFRF don’t believe it, but she did. Marriage sure is complicated!

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