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Exercise #12: Fear of Water

Tomorrow the god will show his face in the shadow of the big temple. Then the priests will feed us a meal of corn and beans and give us a drink from a gold cup, wash us, paint our faces with the signs of Kukulkan in red and blue, and dress us in gold and feathers. And then they will lead us to the cenote.

I want to believe I will have the courage walk on my own legs and that they will not have to …more

Boot Camp Day 2: A Different Kind of Faith

How open should an open mind be? What are the limits of tolerance and understanding, and what happens to those limits as our knowledge of the natural world grows?

Today I had lunch with an old friend—an intelligent woman in her late thirties, the executive director of a thriving arts organization. We met at a vegan Indian buffet. Since our last meeting had been at a vegetarian restaurant she’d picked, I asked her a few questions about her vegetarianism. She said she hadn’t eaten any meat or fish for 12 years. I admired her commitment. I told her that although I’m attracted to the environmental, social, and health benefits of vegetarianism, I enjoy eating a moderate amount of meat too much to make the complete change in eating habits.

Later, I asked what I thought was an innocent question: Is there anywhere in Houston where one can learn to practice meditation in an environment free of religious influences? …more

50/50 Exercise #13: Address Book

Dear Grandma,

I’ll bet you thought you were never going to hear from your youngest grandson again. I wasn’t too regular about writing to you for the last decade or two of your life, so you certainly shouldn’t be surprised that you haven’t heard from me since you left us.

From your vantage point, I would think it’s easy for you to see why I didn’t stay in closer contact. Not long after the last time I saw you, when we got together with Laura and Yvonne, Karl and Edith, little Karl, Linda and her kids, Jane, Dad, and all those others at your place in Middle River, my life started heading in a direction that I wasn’t ready to share with you. I hate the way that time and circumstances isolated me from you. It wasn’t that I thought you couldn’t handle the secret …more


The wild and reckless use of the word “miracles” in modern journalism raises my hackles.

I hear it all the time. The operation was successful. A miracle! One of the miners survived the mine collapse. A miracle! A beautiful sunny day after a lot of rain. A miracle!

Modern journalistic usage (and popular parlance) seem to have redefined miracle as “Anything that happened that we had previously convinced ourselves was unlikely to happen.”

© 2008 Edward F. Gumnick

A few things in which I don’t believe

February 6, 2006

Silly human constructs in which I have either lost my faith or never believed at all:

  • Santa Claus
  • Divine authorship of the Bible
  • The Tooth Fairy
  • Free-market economics
  • Organized religion
  • All religion
  • Horoscopes
  • Nutritional supplements sold by my gym
  • The intelligence of George W. Bush
  • …more

What is an Incompleat Iconoclast, Anyway?

[Note: Sooner or later I figure that someone is going to ask me what “Incompleat Iconoclast” is supposed to mean, so I thought I should start working on an answer. This is a work in progress.]

I was brought up in two faith traditions: Roman Catholicism and the Scientific Method. My parents are devout—if liberal—Catholics who raised my siblings and me in the beliefs and rituals of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They are also intelligent people—brilliant, I would even say—who taught me that reason is the most powerful tool I possess.

I tried to fit in as a Catholic for a lot of years. There was a lot I didn’t understand, but I tried to buy into the justification of “mystery.” I tried to accept that there were truths that couldn’t be apprehended by way of reason. …more