“A History of God” by Karen Armstrong

A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and IslamA History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong

A few years ago, I saw a YouTube video that gave a different history of the God of the Bible than I had picked up in Lutheran Confirmation. According to this video, Yahweh, El Shaddai, and Elohim were different gods in an old polytheistic pantheon who were merged together over many different generations during the course of the Old Testament into the monothestic God worshiped today.

Of course, this is a very provocative claim, and I wanted to go the video’s source, Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God”.
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“Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” by Mary Roach

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex delivers on its subtitle; it’s a survey of scientific research and inquiry about all matters sexual, from the early days of a curious female descendant of Napolean, through the formative years of Kinsey and Masters & Johnson, up to modern veterinary, psychological, pharmacological, and medical investigation.

Once again, Mary Roach is hilarious when investigating an area of scientific research. I really enjoyed her exploration of the logistics of outer space in Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, though I wasn’t quite as tickled by the exploration of afterlife-related wishful thinking in Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Since this was a return to a more scientific area, I was really looking forward to it.
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Worried about a Secular/Religious Marriage? Let Dale McGowan Help

In Faith and in Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving FamiliesIn Faith and in Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families by Dale McGowan

I’ve been an enthusiastic reader of Dale McGowan‘s books for a few years now. He has found a very relevant niche (secular family life) and has filled it with compassion, knowledge, and humor. His first two books in this area, Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion and Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief, were focused on parenting, and I found them to be very useful sources for both contemplation and practical resources as a secular parent.

In Faith and in Doubt moves a bit away from parenting as a focus to another important and underserved question: mixed marriages. Specifically, marriages in which one spouse is a religious believer and the other isn’t. I’m in such a marriage, and I’ve written previously about how J and I have navigated the difference.
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Kari, Grant, Tori… and Mike Brown

Thursday night, I was surprised by a tweet from Mythbusters’ Kari Byron:

What did that mean? Mythbusters is a show that I watch with my boys, and we love the mix of science and fun from the show. Was the show over?

Eventually, subsequent tweets and a race through the latest episode on the DVR showed that Kari, Grant, and Tori were leaving the show, and that the show would revert to its original lineup of Adam and Jamie.

But why? Did Kari, Grant, and Tori ask for a raise that the Discovery Channel rejected? Did Adam and Jamie want to change the show? Were Kari, Grant, and Tori tired of being second-fiddle in the show and wanted to make their own show? Was it something else?

I couldn’t find an answer to this question – the involved individuals were tight-lipped as far as I could see from articles and tweets online. Of course, online commenters were speculating that the Discovery Channel was too cheap, or that Kari, Grant, and Tori were getting bored or greedy, etc. In other words, in the absence of solid information, people were making assumptions.

I’ve been seeing that a lot this week, in a case that is significantly more important than the casting changes on a science education show: the death of Michael Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.
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America’s Best Idea – for Kids

One of the United States’ great legacies for the world is our National Parks. Starting with the founding of Yellowstone National Park, in 1872, National Parks have become one of the most important ways that natural treasures and important cultural sites have been protected and preserved for us and the generations to follow us.

Our family has really enjoyed using the sites protected by the National Park Service, both on trips and locally in St. Louis. Some of these sites are very accessible to children and really tap into their senses of awe and wonder about the world. But other sites, like National Battlefields and historical sites like Presidential homes, are not so relatable for children.

Fortunately, there is a great program for children at many of these parks: the Junior Ranger program. About half of the 401 areas owned or administered by the National Park Service provide these gateways for children to interact with and understand the National Parks and the legacies they protect.
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Planes, Trains, Rental Cars, and a Cruise Ship: Our Trip to Alaska

We look a lovely long summer trip to Alaska. We flew to Anchorage and rented a car for the first week. During that leg, we saw Anchorage, Homer, Talkeetna, and lots of beauty in between. After a train ride to Seward, we spent a day there before boarding Royal Caribbean‘s Radiance of the Seas for the second leg of the trip. On the ship, we cruised for a week to Vancouver, seeing glaciers, Juneau, Icy Strait, Skagway, and Ketchikan along the way. Finally, we spent a day exploring Vancouver before heading back to the Midwest.

This trip was very similar in structure to a trip we took with my parents in 2004: both started with driving around on our own for a week followed by a week on a cruise ship. But we saw a few different towns, spent more time in Anchorage, Talkeetna, Seward, and Vancouver to see more of the cities. Most importantly, this time we took along the children and Jenny’s mom, “Oma”.
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“Doubt” by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily DickinsonDoubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht

This is a very interesting book that reveals how much more there is to the history of doubt and atheism than we talk about in most of our daily lives. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to have an understanding of the historical and philosophical background of what it means to be a free-thinker, a doubter, a secularist, or a skeptic.
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Little Things: On the Right Track

D waved me down. I stopped the lawnmower and walked over to my 7-year-old to see what was going on. To my surprise, he and his 5-year-old brother were in their pajamas. J was out for the evening, and I had to mow the lawn, so I left them in the house with the TV. I had figured that I was going to have to come in to wrest them away from the TV when I was done with the lawn, but here they were.

“We watched our two shows and then turned off the TV, just like Mommy told us.”

“And you got your jammies on by yourself. You should go brush your teeth, and I’ll come in when I’m done with this last part of the lawn.”

“We already did. We’re ready for bed.”

Wow.
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Harry Potter and the Lessons of Consent

A few weeks ago, one of the other Grounded Parents writers posted an interesting article to the backchannel: 4 Ways Parents Teach Kids that Consent Doesn’t Matter.

Paige Lucas-Stannard points out that there are some very basic and common ways that well-meaning parents teach children that consent doesn’t matter, including continuing tickling after they ask us to stop, contradicting their feelings, and forcing them to give people hugs and kisses. I think Lucas-Stannard has some good points which largely resonated with me; I had been worried myself about the lessons I might have been inadvertently teaching my boys when I kept tickling them after they asked me to stop, and I remember disliking being required to kiss visiting family and friends before my bedtimes when I was a kid.
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They Want Invocations? Let’s Give Them Invocations!

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the case of Greece v Galloway that it was constitutional for a town council to begin its meetings with prayer, even if the prayer was almost always from one religion. This really wasn’t a surprise given who is on the bench, but it changes the standard from prohibiting endorsement to prohibiting coercion (a change which already prompted some groups to push the bounds by promising to give Christian-only prayers).
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