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About this web site

Newly created, updated, & planned
essays over the past few months

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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. 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 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 31 states denying their same-sex couples access to marriage, 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-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:

  1. 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.

  2. The large-scale downgrading of the importance of the Ethic of Reciprocity -- often called the Golden Rule in Christianity. Individuals and people who run companies

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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New (and a few extensively revised) essays posted so far 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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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.

  • SSM in Virginia:
    • A more detailed introduction to the conflict over same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT rights

    • Part 8: 2014-MAR-JUL: Bostic v. Rainey case: Voters support SSM. Opinion on AG's refusal to defend same-sex marriage (SSM) ban. Court of Appeals' pro-marriage equality ruling.

    • Part 9: 2014-JUL: Bostic v. Rainey: Court of Appeals issued ruling favoring marriage equality (Cont'd). Various reactions to the ruling by media, judges,
      state officials, and lawyers.


    • Part 10: 2014-JUL: Bostic v. Rainey: Reactions to the Court of Appeals' ruling by various advocacy groups. Impact in adjacent states. Possible
      future scenarios. Reaction by the public.

  • SSM in Indiana:
    • Part 5: 2014-JUN to now: Case: Baskin v. Bogan. SSMs legalized. District Court ruling stayed by Court of Appeals.

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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 and 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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During 2014-APR, we recommended the book:

book cover image David Nirenberg, "Anti-Judaism, The western tradition"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $14.21 plus postage in paperback, $10.19 in Kindle format. & $23.49 plus postage in Hardcover.

Amazon.com book description:

"This incisive history upends the complacency that confines anti-Judaism to the ideological extremes in the Western tradition. With deep learning and elegance, David Nirenberg shows how foundational anti-Judaism is to the history of the West.

Questions of how we are Jewish -- and, more critically, how and why we are not -- have been churning within the Western imagination throughout its history. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans; Christians and Muslims of every period; even the secularists of modernity have used Judaism in constructing their visions of the world. The thrust of this tradition construes Judaism as an opposition, a danger often from within, to be criticized, attacked, and eliminated. The intersections of these ideas with the world of power—the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, the Spanish Inquisition, the German Holocaust—are well known. The ways of thought underlying these tragedies can be found at the very foundation of Western history. 8 pages of illustrations."

Sadly, this month's selection has turned out to be particularly timely. A locally well-known anti-semitic white supremacist allegedly shot at four people near two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Kansas. Some speculate he was attempting to kill Jews randomly. In fact all three that he allegedly killed were Christians.

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New and updated essays posted during 2014-MAR: 34 essays:

Fewer essays will be written this month because an enormous block of time is being committed to preparing our income taxes. Sorry about that.

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During 2014-MAR, we recommended the book:

book cover image Sharon L, Baker, "Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You've Been Taught About God's Wrath and Judgment"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $11.89 plus postage in paperback & $9.00 in Kindle format

Amazon.com book description:

"The idea of hell can haunt dreams and disturb sleep. Many wonder at the justice (or injustice) of it all, feeling confounded by a God who deems it necessary to send the majority of humanity to burn there forever. Seventy percent of Americans believe in hell, as do ninety-two percent of those who attend church every week.

Clearly, it's a hot topic. Baker offers readers a safe space to contemplate tough issues as they rethink traditional views of hell. In her candid and inviting style Baker explores and ultimately refutes many traditional views of hell, presenting instead theologically sound ways of thinking that are more consistent with the image of God as a loving creator who desires to liberate us from sin and evil. This is an excellent selection for general readers, students, pastors, professors, and grief counselors, and will provide clarity for those with questions about hell, God's judgment, and what happens to us when we die."

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Some book reviews:

  • "This should be a useful book for Christians struggling to reconcile Jesus' sacrifice and a loving God with the place of punishment and the necessity for justice."--Publishers Weekly

  • "A lively, thoughtful and accessible rethinking of one of the most disturbing notions in Christian theology, the prospect of eternal damnation. Put this book on your 'must read' list." John D. Caputo, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Syracuse University.

  • "What I tried to do in my book The Last Word and the Word After That, Sharon Baker has done in Razing Hell - with more brevity, more levity, and probably with more clarity and accessibility too. Highly recommended." Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity

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New and updated essays posted during 2014-MAR: 34 essays:

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