In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
(CNN) — Seventy one years ago — December 22, 1942 — Congress got the United States out of what had turned into an unexpectedly embarrassing situation.
It concerned the Pledge of Allegiance — specifically, something called the Bellamy Salute.
Most people today have likely never heard of it, but the Bellamy Salute was once a constant part of the country’s life.
Until 1892, there was no such thing as a Pledge of Allegiance.
Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of a magazine called Youth’s Companion, was on a crusade to put American flags in every school in the country. He sensed that the U.S. needed a boost of patriotism. Keep in mind: Not even 30 years before, the Civil War had still been raging. National unity was a fragile concept.
As part of the campaign, Sharp gave an assignment to a member of his staff: Francis J. Bellamy, who was an author, a minister and an advocate of the tenets of Christian socialism. Sharp asked Bellamy to compose a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Bellamy wrote it, and it was published in the magazine.
It didn’t take long for the Pledge to become wildly popular, even omnipresent. At schools, at campgrounds, at public gatherings, in Congress, people routinely faced the flag and pledged their allegiance to it.
Because, inherently, there is something physically awkward about people simply standing in place, their arms hanging limply by their sides, staring at a flag and reciting a pledge, it was decided that devising a salute would be appropriate.
Instructions for carrying out the salute were printed in the pages of Youth’s Companion. The gesture came to be called the Bellamy Salute, in honor of the Pledge’s author.
The Bellamy Salute consisted of each person — man, woman or child — extending his or her right arm straight forward, angling slightly upward, fingers pointing directly ahead.
With their right arms aiming stiffly toward the flag, they recited: “I pledge allegiance…”
For a while, the salute wasn’t especially controversial.
But, as World War II was forming in Europe, and Italians and Germans began saluting Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler with extended-armed “Heil Hitler!”-style gestures…
Well, perhaps you can see the problem.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814