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About this web site

Newly created or updated essays over
the past few months. Planned essays

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In this web site, "SSM" is an acronym referring to marriage by a same-sex couple

"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals

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new symbol New and updated essays:

As of 2014-JUN, our dedicated server at CoreSpace in Dallas, TX contained over 7,250 essays and menus. This includes our home page, thousands of menus and many thousands of individual essays. We have a goal of adding one new essay each day. We also update many dozens of essays each week. We continually add to our interesting quotes section, We attempt to cover emerging stories related to religion, spirituality, morality, and ethics, as well as the historic beliefs and practices of many different religions.

There are lots of other religious web sites on the Internet that cover these same topics. However, they are generally written from a very conservative or very liberal point of view. They often reflect only the beliefs of their webmaster or sponsoring agency. Objectivity and balance are often weak or missing. Our web site is different. We try to explain all sides to each topic while remaining as free of bias as we can. When we do state our personal opinions, we identify them carefully.

We think that people can often understand a topic better by learning what others who hold different opinions believe and why they believe what they do. Unfortunately, religious liberals tend to listen and watch liberal news outlets like MSNBC and the Progress channel on Sirius XM. Conservatives tend to listen and watch Fox News and the Patriot channel of Sirius.

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Essays planned for the near future:

We estimate that we need to write many thousands of essays before our web site will be reasonably complete. Even then, there will undoubtedly be new controversial topics emerge among the main moral/ethical topics with a religious content -- like gun control, polygamous marriages, equal rights for transsexuals, etc. These will necessitate the writing of countless new articles.

We maintain a list of new topics about which we are currently working on or plan to write "someday."  We have a larger list for internal use that, sadly, numbers in the many thousands of topics.

In recent months, the conflict between religious conservatives and sexual minorities -- defined both by their sexual orientation and gender identity -- have monopolized much of the news. Back in 2011-FEB, when the Obama Administration decided to no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), some commentators predicted that this would form a tipping point on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) rights. This seems to have happened, because subsequent months saw an accelerating rate of change towards LGBT equality, including access to marriage for same-sex couples in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The change has been so rapid that it has formed the bulk of our web site's new essays from 2011 to the present time. With 16 states denying their same-sex couples access to marriage (as of 201-NOV-08), activity on a state-by-state basis will probably be the main religious/civil rights topic for the foreseeable future, eclipsing even abortion access. However, most commentators expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually issue a ruling that legalizes same-sex marriage (SSM) across the U.S. as it did during 1967 with interracial marriage in the ironically named case: Loving v. Virginia. Some equality advocates predict that this could happen as soon as 2015-JUN.

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During 2014-DEC, we recommend the book: 

book cover image Susan Katz Miller, "Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family" Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available from Amazom.com for $18.90 plus postage in Hardcover or $13.68 plus postage in Paperback. Also available in Kindle format for $14.36.

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Amazon.com book description:

"Susan aKatz Miller grew up with a Jewish father and Christian mother, and was raised Jewish. Now in an interfaith marriage herself, she is one of the growing number of Americans who are boldly electing to raise children with both faiths, rather than in one religion or the other (or without religion). In Being Both, Miller draws on original surveys and interviews with parents, students, teachers, and clergy, as well as on her own journey, to chronicle this controversial grassroots movement.
 
Almost a third of all married Americans have a spouse from another religion, and there are now more children in Christian-Jewish interfaith families than in families with two Jewish parents. Across the country, many of these families are challenging the traditional idea that they must choose one religion. In some cities, more interfaith couples are raising children with “both” than Jewish-only. What does this mean for these families, for these children, and for religious institutions?
 
Miller argues that there are distinct benefits for families who reject the false choice of “either/or” and instead embrace the synergy of being both. Reporting on hundreds of parents and children who celebrate two religions, she documents why couples make this choice, and how children appreciate dual-faith education. But often families who choose both have trouble finding supportive clergy and community. To that end, Miller includes advice and resources for interfaith families planning baby-welcoming and coming-of-age ceremonies, and seeking to find or form interfaith education programs. She also addresses the difficulties that interfaith families can encounter, wrestling with spiritual questions (“Will our children believe in God?”) and challenges (“How do we talk about Jesus?”). And finally, looking beyond Judaism and Christianity, Being Both provides the first glimpse of the next interfaith wave: intermarried Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist couples raising children in two religions.
 
Being Both is at once a rousing declaration of the benefits of celebrating two religions, and a blueprint for interfaith families who are seeking guidance and community support."

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24 new (and a few extensively revised) essays posted so far during 2014-DEC:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly.

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During 2014-NOV, we recommend the book: 

book cover image "Candida Moss, "The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $19.82 plus postage in Hardcover or $12.33 plus postage in Paperback. Also available in Kindle format for $15.69.

Amazon.com book description:

"In The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss, a leading expert on early Christianity, reveals how the early church exaggerated, invented, and forged stories of Christian martyrs and how the dangerous legacy of a martyrdom complex is employed today to silence dissent and galvanize a new generation of culture warriors.

According to cherished church tradition and popular belief, before the Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the fourth century, early Christians were systematically persecuted by a brutal Roman Empire intent on their destruction. As the story goes, vast numbers of believers were thrown to the lions, tortured, or burned alive because they refused to renounce Christ. These saints, Christianity's inspirational heroes, are still venerated today.

Moss, however, exposes that the "Age of Martyrs" is a fiction—there was no sustained 300-year-long effort by the Romans to persecute Christians. Instead, these stories were pious exaggerations; highly stylized rewritings of Jewish, Greek, and Roman noble death traditions; and even forgeries designed to marginalize heretics, inspire the faithful, and fund churches.

The traditional story of persecution is still taught in Sunday school classes, celebrated in sermons, and employed by church leaders, politicians, and media pundits who insist that Christians were -- and always will be -- persecuted by a hostile, secular world. While violence against Christians does occur in select parts of the world today, the rhetoric of persecution is both misleading and rooted in an inaccurate history of the early church. Moss urges modern Christians to abandon the conspiratorial assumption that the world is out to get Christians and, rather, embrace the consolation, moral instruction, and spiritual guidance that these martyrdom stories provide."

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46 new (and a few extensively revised) essays posted during 2014-NOV:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly.

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During 2014-OCT, we recommended the book: 

book cover image Rob Bell, "What we talk about when we talk about God" Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $11.14 plus postage in Paperback, or in Kindle format for $12.28.

Amazon.com book description:

"New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell, whom the The New Yorker describes as “one of the most influential Christian leaders in the county,” does for the concept of God what he did for heaven and hell in his book Love Wins: He shows how traditional ideas have grown stale and dysfunctional and how to return vitality and vibrancy to lives of faith today.

Pastor Rob Bell explains why both culture and the church resist talking about God, and shows how we can reconnect with the God who is pulling us forward into a better future. Bell uses his characteristic evocative storytelling to challenge everything you think you know about God. What We Talk About When We Talk About God tackles the misconceptions about God and reveals how God is with us, for us, ahead of us, and how understanding this could change the entire course of our lives."

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44 mostly new (and a few extensively revised) essays posted so far during 2014-OCT:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly.

  • With the start of a new month, we added a list of "Accelerating steps towards same-sex marriage. LGBT equality, etc." Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

  • Comments received from vistors to our web site; some positive; some viciously hateful. Part 4  Part 5

  • Ten essays concerning questions received from visitors to this web site, with our responses. These cover a wide range of topics -- from Satanic Ritual Abuse to whether God forgives sins made after baptism.

star 2014-OCT: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear appeals from three Circuit Courts; marriage equality comes to 11 more states: Part 1  Part 2

SSM in Virginia:

  • Part 14: 2014-AUG: Supreme Court issues stay. Reactions. OCT-06: Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal.

  • Part 15: 2014-OCT: More reactions to the Supreme Court refusal to hear appeal. Same-sex couples start to marry. Politicians' & others' reactions.

SSM in Indiana:

  • Part 9: 2014-SEP-04: The path forward. 2014-OCT-06: Supreme Court legalizes SSM in Indiana and eventually in 10 other states.

SSM in Kansas:

SSM in North Carolina:

  • Part 11: 2014-OCT-6: Surprise ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and its impact in North Carolina and elsewhere.

  • Part 12: 2014-OCT-10: District Court decision makes same-sex couples eligible to obtain marriage licenses & to marry

SSM in Alaska:

  • Part 1: Attempts to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in Alaska, between 1994 & mid-1998.

  • Part 2: Attempts to legalize marriage, between mid-1998 & 2014.

  • Part 3: 2014-OCT: District Court held hearings and issues ruling. Same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses.

  • Part 4: 2014-OCT: Same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses (Cont'd). State requests emergency stay from District Court. It is denied. One couple marries.

SSM in Wyoming:

SSM in West Virginia:

SSM in South Carolina:

SSM in Arizona:

  • Part 1: 2003: The Lawrence v. Texas decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.  2003: The first lawsuit in Arizona fails to achieve marriage equality.

  • Part 2: 2012 to 2014-OCT: Opinion polls. Two lawsuits filed in District Court. Ruling affirms same-sex marriage. Various reactions.

  • Part 3: 2014-OCT: More reactions to same-sex marriage. Arizona becomes the 31st U.S. state with marriage equality.

SSM in Idaho:

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During 2014-SEP, we recommend the book:

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Robert Boston, "Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store: $12.26 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $7.86.

Robert Boston has written a concise and lucid explanation of what religious freedom should refer to. It is of immense significance now, because of two major shifts in religious beliefs found throughout the U.S., primarlily among religious conservatives:

The redefinition of "religious freedom." The term used to refer to freedom of religious belief, speech, assembly, and proselyzing. It now increasingly refers to the freedom of individual believers and faith groups to actively denigrate and discriminate against others -- primarily sexual minorities.

The large-scale downgrading of the importance of the Ethic of Reciprocity -- often called the Golden Rule in Christianity. Many individuals who run public accomodations -- companies that deal directly with the public -- are seeking to repeal human rights legislation so that they can more easily refuse to serve the LGBT community.

Amazon.com book description:

"Increasingly, conservative religious groups are using religious liberty as a sword to lash out at others. In this forcefully argued defense of the separation of church and state, Robert Boston makes it clear that the religious freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment is an individual right, the right of personal conscience, not a license allowing religious organizations to discriminate against and control others. The book examines the controversy over birth control, same-sex marriage, religion in public schools, the intersection of faith and politics, and the 'war on Christmas,' among other topics.

Boston concludes with a series of recommendations for resolving clashes between religious liberty claims and individual rights."

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33 new (and a few extensively revised) essays posted during 2014-SEP:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly.

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During 2014-AUG, we recommend the book:

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Jennifer R. Prince, "The Handy Bible Answer Book"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $15.11 plus postage in Paperback. Not available in Kindle format.

This book explains what the Bible says about thousands of topics. It usually interprets the Bible neither through a conservative or liberal lens. Thus, for example, it discusses what the creation stories say in Genesis. It talks about various estimates that have been made about the age of the Earth. It does not take sides on whether the earth and the rest of the universe is less than 10,000 years old or more than 4 billion years old. It discusses what the flood story says; it does not take sides on whether the worldwide flood actually happened or not. So, if you like our web site, you will love this book.

Amazon.com book description:

"... The importance of the Bible, whether as a master work of literature, a historical artifact, or religious canon, can not be overestimated. The Handy Bible Answer Book helps readers dig deeply into the Bible to analyze the foundations of Judaism, Christianity, Western civilization, and the teachings of Jesus. This comprehensive guide also leads readers through the Old Testament, the foundation for both Judaism and Christianity and the moral and political cornerstone for many nations of the Western world. The Bible is not always read cover-to-cover, and The Handy Bible Answer Book's layout and index allows quick access to any of its passages. ..."

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33 new or extensively revised essays posted so far during 2014-AUG:

Last month had to replace our main office computer and adopt the Windows 8.1 operating system. We had considered this a downgrade from Windows 7. Transferring decades of files to the new computer has been a struggle. So have the various problems associated with learning a new operating system: Windows 8.1. However, after experiencing it firsthand, it is only a slightly more awkward to use, and this is compensated by its increased speed when compared to Windows 7.

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly.

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Sponsored link:

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During 2014-JUL, we recommend the book:

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Elaine Pagels, "The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $14.04 in Kindle format& $10.72 plus postage in Paperback.

Amazon.com book description:

"From the religious historian whose The Gnostic Gospels won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award comes a dramatic interpretation of Satan and his role on the Christian tradition. With magisterial learning and the elan of a born storyteller, Pagels turns Satan's story into an audacious exploration of Christianity's shadow side, in which the gospel of love gives way to irrational hatreds that continue to haunt Christians and non-Christians alike."

Three book reviews:

"... ground-breaking. Many times in the course of reading her explications I found myself saying, 'Of course, why hasn't someone said this before?' By showing how the sectarian demonization of the 'intimate enemies'--Jews and heretics--shaped early Christianity, the book helps us to understand the power of irrational forces that still need to be confronted in contemporary society. -- S. David Sperling, professor of Bible, Hebrew Union College.

"Pagels ... here examines the New Testament tendency to associate the Devil with Jews resistant to the teachings of Christianity." Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Elaine Pagels is an exceptional author and skilled interpreter of Christian history. The "Origin of Satan" is an excellent book for lay people trying to understand the evolution of one piece of the Christian paradigm, namely the cosmic battle between good and evil, and the vilification of the Jews in the gospels. ..."

More information

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32 new essays posted during 2014-JUL:

This month had a slow start because our Gateway computer just experienced its third disk failure in three years. We purchased a new ASUS computer. However transferring decades of files to the new computer has been a struggle. So have the various problems associated with learning a new operating system: Windows 8.1.

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During 2014-JUN, we recommended the book:

book cover image "Open Mind, Faithful Heart," by Pope Francis (Author), Jorge M Bergoglio (Author), Gustavo Larrázabal (Editor), and SJ Owens Joseph (Translator)

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $9.01 in Kindle format. & $22.19 plus postage in Hardcover.

Amazon.com book description:

"Pope Francis connects with people, especially the young, the forgotten, and the forlorn. The cameras show him in Rome, in Brazil, in Lampedusa reaching out to the crowds, holding infants, embracing the disabled. What is the source of his energy, and his spiritual vitality? This book is perhaps the best introduction to what makes the Pope the engaging pastor he is.

The inspiration needed to address the urgent challenges to our world and human living today is clearly outlined in this book. The spiritual foundation for much of what Pope Francis has surprised the world with since his election, radically reframing the Catholic contribution, is found in these texts which their author wished to gather just before expecting to retire--but then being called to Rome instead. Open Mind, Faithful Heart offers an irreplaceable window into the heart and soul of the pope who is changing how the world sees the Church.

The strong scriptural orientation of the Pope is evident in the countless references to both the Old and New Testament. To help the reader, this edition supplements the original text by providing scriptural citations. The language of these pages speaks to the heart as much as to the mind."

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The equivalent of about 35 new and updated essays during 2014-JUN:

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During 2014-MAY, we recommended the book:

book cover image "The Last Circle," by Gretchen Blickensderfer.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $4.50 in Kindle format, $18.86 plus postage in Paperback, and $32.36 plus postage in Hardcover.

Amazon.com book description:

" 'If you will not be saved, there will be consequences.' Based upon platforms and quotes from Conservative political and church leaders, The Last Circle chronicles the [future] rise to power of a United States evangelical theocracy and the small group of Pagan and LGBT friends who must escape the country to survive. A terrifying chase through the southern states tests the limits of their friendship as someone from among them is secretly tipping off their pursuers."

A book review by an Amazon.com customer:

"The thing that is so chilling about this book is, given our current political and social climate, it is easy to imagine this REALLY happening in our country today. I enjoyed the author's vivid descriptions of her characters and the thrilling journey that she took them on. There were certain points in the story where I could not put the book down and it stayed with me after I finished reading it. This story is about much more than acceptance; of yourself and others and standing up for what you believe in in the face of great danger and retribution. It is about abuse of power, a fanatical belief system, and a single-minded ruthlessness. That is the truly scary part of this story - it's very clear parallels to our world today." Sue Keller.

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42 new or updated essays posted during 2014-MAY:

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