A new article I wrote for Open Culture on the dearly missed atheist’s update to the Commandments. Also see Carlin, George.
A group of faithful from St. Athanasius Antiochian Orthodox Church in Goleta celebrated the Feast of Epiphany on Sunday morning with a Blessing of the Ocean. Led by Father Nicholas Speier, the congregation of about 70 performed the ceremony shared by Eastern Orthodox churches worldwide.
This local church, however, was able to use Goleta Beach on a sunny mid-morning, with warming post-storm weather as a backdrop.
Most people drive past the beginnings of the Mesa Harmony Garden on their way down or up Meigs Road, either on their way to Santa Barbara or the Mesa. A small patch of land behind the Taco Bell parking lot and before the turnoff onto Dolores Drive, it is set to become several things: a way to feed those in need, an exciting example of permaculture and a gift from a local church to the Mesa community
The garden, worked by parishioners of Holy Cross Catholic Church, neighbors, Santa Barbara City College students and volunteers, will provide food for the homeless and needy from a selection of more than 300 trees, along with other types of fruits and vegetables, say supporters. And all on less than an acre.
A committed jihadist, Abu Jandal got himself a plum job in the ’90s when he became the bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden. After splitting with bin Laden, serving time in prison during 9/11, giving up info to the FBI and returning to his family, he now drives a taxi in Yemen. But back when he was a bodyguard he helped his brother-in-law get a job as Bin Laden’s driver. That man, Salim Hamdan, was not so lucky. Although kept out of the terrorist information loop, Hamdan was captured and held in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay.
Laura Poitras’ documentary “The Oath” follows the fate of the two men in an engrossing film that relishes its ambiguities. Poitras followed Jandal for two yeas, shooting his everyday life. For Hamdan, she shows his family and reads from his letters home, written on cartoonish stationery.
Toft-spoken and with a hint of a Midwestern accent flattened out by world travel, Henry Adams has, since April, been the minister at the Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara and Oxnard Buddhist Temple. That makes him the first non-Japanese-born minister to hold services at both churches.
At 33, the Rev. Adams modestly downplays the newsworthy nature of such a position. For him, it was simply a month between finishing his training and stepping into a vacancy left by the former minister. He was suggested to the Oxnard church by the Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America and contracted to the Santa Barbara temple as well. And he wasn’t aware, he says, of the special import of his choice. Ten percent of current active ministers, he says, are of non-Japanese descent.
In the last decade, atheism has returned as a best-selling and controversial book subject, spearheaded by three authors writer Robert Weitzel dubbed “The Unholy Trinity.” Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” (2004) and “Letter to a Christian Nation” (2006) were the opening volleys, and Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” (2006) and Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great” (2007) stormed the gates, with both authors receiving much face time and angry arguments on mainstream media.
Not only should religion be passively tolerated, they say, but it should be critiqued and exposed by rational argument. They see religion’s effects on society as superstitious and harmful, and that fundamentalism has gone mainstream.
When the Franciscans abandoned their missions in 1833 after the Mexican congress passed the secularization act, our own Mission Santa Barbara wound up as the repository of much of the artifacts. By that time, Tina Foss explains, our mission had lost some of its importance, and with the others looted, became an unintentional museum of a historical period. Nearly two centuries later, some of these treasures, along with popular pieces, will be open for viewing for a very brief time.
The second annual Mission Art Tour will give two hours to see artworks that have long been in storage. Of the 56 pieces on display, half come from the Provincial Archive in Oakland and the other half from the mission’s storage and permanent collection. Objects include textiles, statues, paintings and religious artifacts like gold chalices. Many date back to the 17th century, and most need some sort of restoration.
Patricia Fresen knows what it’s like to wait for change, to watch it happen not overnight but over the course of many tumultuous years. Born in South Africa, Ms. Fresen watched the fall of the apartheid era while she was a member of the Dominicans, the Catholic religious order.
“Once you become aware of injustice in one area of life,” says Ms. Fresen, “you somehow become aware of it in other areas. Having been sensitized to racial injustice, I started becoming aware of gender injustice. It is just as bad.”
“Be a man. Don’t be a coward.”
These are lines that echo through Scandar Copti and Yaron Shandi’s assured debut feature “Ajami,” which takes a look at the underbelly of the title Israeli town, a religiously mixed community of Muslims, Jews and Christians. Bravado, anger, ego and unworkable ideas of honor conspire against a mix of characters.