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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

Do you ever wonder why there are so many religions, so many gods, so many varied ways of reserving your seat in the 'live forever club'? I know I do. Each and every religion is completely and without a doubt convinced that their belief is the right one, the only right one. Some are more obvious about this exclusive conviction than others, but it's there. Why would you follow a religion if you thought it was the second-best one? It wouldn't make any sense because, in the end, you wouldn't make the cut. The Jewish Torah is basically the first five books of the Bible which, according to Jewish tradition, was revealed to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, so, no Jesus, no Messiah. Christians, on the other hand believe that Jesus came along, changed all the rules and pretty much made the Old Testament irrelevant. They believe that the only way to get to heaven is through Jesus, cutting out all of those of the Jewish faith. Muslims don't believe that Jesus was the Messiah, they believe that Mohammed was the true prophet, so, that excludes both the Jewish and the Christians. Each one of the three religions based on the Abrahamic god excludes the other and aren't even really keen on sharing space in this existence, much less in heaven. So...who gets to go to heaven? Depends on who you're talking to. It is probably hard to get Western minds around the concept of Hinduism as a religion because it doesn't adhere to one concrete doctrine, there is a lot of diversity and tolerance for differences in their philosophy, but according to the three Abrahamic beliefs, they're excluded. The one thing that Abrahamic followers do seem to agree on is intolerance of conflicting beliefs. The LDS believe in a new New Testament of Jesus Christ, I'm not sure where LDS fits into the hierarchy of exclusions but I'll bet they're excluded by somebody, especially since, in some circles, Mormons are dismissed and just considered 'cultists'. It could go on and on, but I think we understand that there are an awful lot of religions out there that don't agree with each other.

Religion is, for the most part, hereditary. People typically follow the faith of their parents and the way they were raised. Many people never give the options very much thought, if any. They assume that the way that their parents worship is the right way, the only way. Some of it is cultural, where you were born and raised. But why do men make religions? I imagine that when man was in a primitive state and was just becoming aware of the world around him he must have needed some way to explain these things. Why does the sun rise and set? Where do the moon and stars come from? What are those things? Why is the weather warm part of the year and cold part of the year? What is it that moves the grass and leaves that I can feel but can't see? What happens when someone who was alive stops being alive? Mythologies and superstitions were created to explain these things before people began to understand how our universe operates. These tribal primitives passed these myths down in their verbal traditions and its reasonable to believe that these stories grew and changed a little in the telling and were passed from one area to another and expanded in scope each time. The ancient Sumerians had a polytheistic religion which included a creation myth, a flood (deluge) myth, a death and resurrection myth. One of the Sumerian's main cities was Ur, that was where Abraham was born. It's very easy to see that he probably grew up hearing these stories and carried them with him. Many religions older than the Old Testament had similar stories of paradise-like gardens that man was driven from, beguiling serpents, virgin births, floods, death and resurrection, etc.

People are very reluctant to let go of certain ideas, one being the chance for eternal life. No one wants to die, that's a very basic, primal fear. There is comfort in believing that you can somehow continue on in a supernatural state after your body has died. That is a pretty easy sell but how can it be justified that of all the different people in the world, with all of their different beliefs and cultures, that only a select few qualify? That business about all gods being the same god with different names just doesn't wash. There are drastically different ideas in religions. Muslims and Christians can't even agree among themselves which version is the correct one. Do you really think that a person could live a good life and be the best person that they know how to be, giving, loving, generous, yet still be excluded from heaven because he chose the wrong prophet or handbook or chose not to follow a religious doctrine at all? Does that really make sense? Recently in the news it was alleged that Mormons had posthumously baptized Anne Frank so that she could get into heaven. The Jewish community takes great offense to such acts and this not the first time that this practice has come to light. It shows great compassion to want to allow someone from a different faith into your private heaven but also it shows a great disregard and disrespect for other people's beliefs. Basically, it's insulting.

What the....I don't recognise any of these people!
I feel that, for the most part, I am a good person. I don't want to hurt people, or steal from people, I am generous and honest but it's not the fear of punishment in hell or the hope for eternal life in heaven that makes me the person that I am. It is just the way that I am. Conversely, I know some people that I wouldn't trust as far as I can see them who are absolutely convinced that they're going to heaven because they have accepted Jesus as their personal savior but they think that I don't have a chance because I'm an atheist. I guess the best that I can hope for, in that case, is that the Mormons will slip me in while nobody's looking.

Anne Frank article

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately

Those words were spoken by Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In certain situations they are as relevant now as they were when he first uttered them in 1776. If the insurgents hadn’t banded together and organized, England probably would have prosecuted them for treason or sedition and hanged them. I find it ironic looking back at this time in history, when a group of people left a country which was being run by an oppressive religious system and colonized a new land. Years later another group of people decided to cut ties with the country of their origin altogether and demand their independence. Look at the two countries now, England is much more tolerant of religious diversity and atheism than America. We are falling further and further under the boot-heel of religious subjugation. That may sound over-blown but if you think about the laws that we have to live under that were written because of religious dogma it will start to make sense.

I recently read a couple of statistics stating that atheists only account for a tiny fraction of the American population. One poll showed 8% and another one showed only 2%. I believe that there are many more atheists than that here, they just aren’t being represented in the statistics. There are a lot of problems with those statistics, the most obvious is the fear of "outing" yourself and being ostracized and suffering discrimination from family, friends, school, work and government. Many times atheists opinions are completely disregarded because they are such an unpopular minority. Politicians ignore them at best or, like George Bush, Sr., don’t even think we should be considered citizens at all, much less patriotic citizens. When Fox News had Blair Scott, Communications Director for American Atheists, on one of their news shows Fox’s Facebook page was flooded with comments ranging from seething hatred to death threats against all atheists. If this had been any other group that these threats were made against, I’m sure that more action would have been taken. It would have been demanded.

Where's the love?

The problem is that, by their very nature, atheists tend to be independent individualists who don’t engage in ‘group-think’, instead they tend to think for themselves and don’t follow any set doctrine that defines how they should think and act. Besides, when left alone atheists don’t really have much of an agenda to push. Organizing atheists is like herding cats. There are atheist organizations out there but think of how many there would be if the same percentage of atheists were joiners as religious followers are. In most of the cities I’ve lived in you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting some sort of place of worship (I am not condoning throwing rocks at places of worship).

When religious people set out to find a denomination or church to attend they want to find one that is comfortable to them and one that fits their style of worship. They wind up in congregations of like-minded people that form a frame-work of communal ideologies. Even though different Christian denominations don’t agree with each other about doctrine they still all consider themselves Christians. So they have a network of organized political clout which they use to lobby for their agendas. Not to mention the fact that they take in a huge amount of money; religion is big business and it’s pretty common knowledge that in business and politics money equals power. Does everyone know where to find a meeting of atheists in their hometown? I don’t, and besides, unless there was a specific issue that they were trying to address and possibly take action on, what would they talk about? They don’t take part in ceremonial abracadabra, they don’t eat symbolic wafers, they don’t feel the need to chant incantations at an archaic symbol, they don’t need to face Mecca five times a day, they don’t need a weekly affirmation of their faith (or lack of), they don’t believe that you can go and whisper to some guy in a closet so that he can administer a penance and absolve you of your sins, and most of them certainly don’t want some spokesman up there condemning whatever transgressions they may have commited and threatening them with eternal damnation.

Wait...what happened?

When groups of atheists do form any sort of support group or a coalition to address some issue they are met with derision and sometimes violence like the example mentioned above. So, where is the incentive to be outspoken about not believing in a god and subjecting yourself and your family to these real dangers? The incentive is that religious lobbyists go and whisper in the ears of lawmakers and promise them votes and money or threaten to withhold these same temptations to get their programs written into laws, laws which effect all of us, religious or not. Most of these programs seem to be benign, but consider the implications of outlawing stem cell research because of religious beliefs; Is it fair to everyone? Is it preventing what could very well be important advances in medicine? Politicians run like whipped dogs from the threat of losing the support of the religious majority and with good reason, the religious are a majority and they are a threat to individual rights. So what is to be done? It was through long and hard-fought battles that women won their rights (some of which are currently being threatened by the Religious Right), ethnic groups won their rights, homosexuals are still fighting to win their rights (more of which are currently being threatened by the Religious Right) and atheists are far below all those groups in the hierarchy and probably will be as long as they remain unorganized individuals who want nothing more than to be allowed to live a quiet life without being ram-fed someone’s religious beliefs. Any politician who shows enough backbone to come out as a progressive thinker on unpopular subjects like marijuana legalization, gay rights or religious pressure may as well stay home. America is a country made up mostly of people who follow some sort of religious dogma. They all seem to be somewhat tolerant of each other, which I find interesting. It probably comes from that old truckload of rubbish that we’ve all heard, “It’s all the same god. Different people just call him by different names.” But to show any tolerance towards an atheist seems to be a hard pill for them to swallow. They would rather share space with someone of a different religion whose beliefs are completely contrary to their own rather than share space with someone who doesn’t have a religion at all.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The story of my atheism (so far)

I am posting this because my atheism has become an issue with people lately and rather than go over the reasons for it repeatedly, I guess I can just post a link to my blog if people want to know.  If you aren't interested in a short, mostly uninteresting biographical type story, this is your warning, stop now.  It is not offensive, nor is it meant to be.  It is just my personal story.

I was born in 1959 into a blue-collar Christian family which came complete with two uncles who were ministers. Monroeville, Alabama, the town where I was born, is the same town that the fictional town of Maycomb in “To Kill A Mockingbird” was based on. I was raised in that same rural area. It was a good place for a young boy to grow up with fields to run in and it was safe enough that I could walk the half-mile or so down the dirt road to the neighbor’s house when I was about four without having to worry about anything more dangerous than encountering a poisonous snake. It was a “dry county” but there were moonshiners behind every barn. My immediate family weren’t really practicing “Bible-thumpers”, they didn’t go to church much but they did maintain a faith in Christianity and the older ones and some of the younger ones still do. It was the only reality that I knew for years. I just took it for granted that the world was that way and that’s the way it was, without question. I didn’t see any reason to question it, everyone I encountered was a Christian and no one ever questioned it. Why would you? I am old enough to have participated in the mandatory recitation of the Lord’s Prayer every morning in school at the same time that we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and we had Christmas programs every year. Christmas programs with the nativity scenes in them or watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special still makes me nostalgic for my youth. I still have the King James Bible that I earned in the fifth grade for memorizing bible verses at school. I keep it on my desk and use it for reference now. It’s interesting to me when I look through it and see the notes in the margins and the highlighted and underlined passages. I was baptized when I was seventeen in a Baptist Church. I suppose that I was searching for something, some way to fit in.

I actually did have one friend, only one, when I was a teenager who said that he was an atheist. He happened to be one of the more educated and intelligent people in my peer group at the time. To be honest, up until I met him, I’m not even sure that I was aware that there was an option. I just thought he was weird and was saying those things for “shock value”, I had never considered a world without a god. When I told my family about my friend, the atheist, they told me that he probably didn’t have enough sense to tie his shoes, but I knew better. The next person that I met who dared say something questionable about religion was my company commander in basic training when I joined the Navy. We were told that we could request Sunday morning off to go to church so, naturally, everybody suddenly got really religious and wanted to go to church. Our company commander went on a rant and told us, “Let me tell you ‘worms’ something, God isn’t going to get you out of boot camp, I AM! I can’t prevent you from taking time off to go to church but just keep that in mind.” It sort of stunned me. I’d never heard anyone speak out in such a challenging manner about God before. Maybe that’s when the seeds of doubt were planted. Here was this guy that we were supposed to trust and learn from, basically stepping in front of God and challenging his authority. The earth didn’t crack open and swallow him up, he didn’t even get struck by lightning or anything...nothing at all happened. Life went on.

I went to church dutifully for a while and was the token “freak” I guess. I was the long-haired, earring wearing guy who read too much and asked a lot of uncomfortable questions that never really got answered. I was there every time the doors opened and went on prison ministries to witness to inmates and counsel them, I also helped out with youth programs so that we’d have something to do on weekends instead of riding around, getting drunk and high and trying to get laid. My stress levels went through the roof. I was trying hard to make my Christianity work in a world that seemed to be naturally geared against it. All I saw around me were people living wrong and doing wrong and not living the way that my preacher was telling me that people were supposed to live, and I found myself judging those people as though I had a right to. Even though I was aware that the Bible says not to judge, I was emulating the behavior that I saw in my church and reacting to what I was being taught and it wasn’t long before I started feeling the hypocrisy. Somewhere, deep in my mind this was all creating a tremendous amount of agitation. I guess that my rational mind was trying to stage a revolt to save my sanity. I was accosted one day in a coin laundry by a woman who went to my church and was soundly chastised for not tithing. I had problems paying my regular monthly bills at that time and had no “extra” money to give away, much less the ten per cent that was being demanded. I was absolutely floored by her audacity. I finally stopped going to the church when they turned their back on one of my best friends. He was also in the church but had become severely fixated on religion and he’d had a nervous breakdown. He was diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic with a Messiah Complex and had to spend a couple of months in a mental hospital. He became ‘persona non grata’ at the church and I became a person who was disgusted. This went against everything that I thought that I knew about Christianity and I couldn’t make sense of it.

I marked those experiences up to the foibles of fallible people and tried not to let it effect my belief in God and my “personal Christian experience”. It went on that way for a few years, even though I wasn’t practicing or even thinking about it much anymore. If the subject came up in conversation I would claim to be Christian, then that changed to religious and then that turned into claiming to be spiritual. Finally, at some point, I had an epiphany, I realized that I had some serious doubts about the whole thing. I had never seen anything that I could qualify as being even remotely miraculous, not even close. I began to wonder, if there were so many faithful and pious people in the world spending so much of their time praying for miracles and good things and doing all these good deeds in the name of the almighty creator, why was the world in such rotten shape? I started really paying attention to what I had read in the Bible and giving serious thought to the inconsistencies and unbelievable things that were in there. I started to wonder how people could buy into this thing, this...self-authenticating document that was so obviously flawed and that made such outrageous claims. My seeds of doubt and suspicions grew into full-blown skepticism and I began to read more on other religions and books written by atheists and dissenters in addition to continuing to read my Bible and began to realize that there was an entire population out there that thought for themselves and weren’t sycophantic ideologues. It was one of the most liberating moments in my life, besides my second divorce.

The further I got into my readings and the more that I thought about what I was learning, the more religions started to sound like a political tool and a lie to boot. We all know that today’s accepted religions borrowed heavily from tribal tales, mythologies and pagan beliefs and they did that for a reason. To begin with, these are the stories that they had always heard, they just adapted them and they absorbed many of the myths to make it easier to assimilate others into the Christian belief. One of the most disturbing things that I encounter now that I openly discuss my atheism is the intolerance and hatred that self-professed Christians are more than eager to share with me. They also seem to believe that the loss of my faith in a god and my atheism somehow equates to a loss of morals and that atheism is some choice that I made one day. I have been advised to hedge my bets by Christians who don’t even know that such a thing as Pascal’s Gambit exists and they don’t see the fallacy nor the hypocrisy that would be involved in such a weaselly move. I have been asked, “How can you look at all the majestic splendor around you and not believe in god?” That question always makes me wonder whether the people who live in squalor and are starving in the Sudan or are walking past corpses lying in the streets in other countries being ripped apart by religious wars feel that way when they see the wondrous majesty that they are surrounded with. “Oh, yes, there certainly must be a god, look at all this splendor around me, and that’s all the proof that I need.”

I always try to allow people to express different opinions and, until recently, it didn’t bother me to be in an unpopular minority; I have spent my life outside the mainstream and have always been an unpopular minority. Lately though, I have seen how religious fundamentalists have gained power and are legislating their agendas to the rest of us. As long as it was just common-sense type morality it didn’t bother me very much, but now I realize that they have stymied our progress both scientifically and as a society and even set us back culturally it has made me want to be more outspoken and to express my dissatisfaction with this primitive thinking. Atheists are at best ignored, at the worst discriminated against and have violence done to them simply because they don’t share a belief in some archaic, tribal fantasy. Christianity claims to be about peace and love but what it is really about is intolerance to resistance and world domination. Does world domination sound funny? Its right there in the handbook or you can just watch the missionaries running all over the world attempting to convert everything too slow to outrun them.

I hear Christians all around me complaining about how God has been taken out of schools and that America is becoming a “godless society” and that is what is causing this country’s downfall and about how Christians are being discriminated against. I have replied to them by saying, “You ought to try telling a room-full of people that you’re an atheist.” Talk about getting the stink-eye! Most of them look at you like you could burst into flames at any second and are, quite frankly, surprised when you don’t. I am lucky in that I do have many friends who, while they may not share my skepticism, they grant me the leeway to be the way that I am and sometimes I even get to draw them into conversations about it. Unfortunately, not all of them are so open to discussion, a couple of days ago I shared a news article about the death threats and hatred that showed up on Fox News’ Facebook page a few months ago, after Fox had an atheist on one of their news programs talking about the proposed cross memorial at ground-zero, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A Christian friend of mine took my posting of the article as a personal affront and would not accept it, he said it sounded like someone with “an agenda” and left the discussion. If it had been (estimated) 8,000 Muslims making death threats against Christians, Homeland Security would have mobilized the SWAT teams and been out there kicking in doors, but this incident just “went away” apparently.
Boy, did you just open a can of worms

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Wall of Separation and The Politicians Who Don’t Understand It

This one is a little long but I had a lot to say, so, buckle up.  Feel free to use the links and see the sources, I’m not making this stuff up.

Lately I have been involved in several discussions about the separation of church and state and our current political situation.  I am neither Republican nor Democrat as I don’t vote 'across the board', I vote for whoever I think will do the best job.  I am also not a religious person but I don’t have any objections to a religious person being in public office.  I do have a problem with candidates who use religion as their political platform or legislate laws that will affect me based on their religion.  I am not talking about morals, a lack of religion does not equate to a lack in morals.  In my opinion, these politicians are playing on people’s faith and their fears, in some cases quite successfully.

Recently, Republican presidential hopeful and devout Roman Catholic, Rick Santorum, has made several remarks that leave me wondering why he is still a viable candidate.  He has said, “Obama's agenda is not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology."  As if that weren’t questionable enough, he has also said that he "almost threw up" after reading John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to Baptist ministers in Houston made during Kennedy’s presidential campaign.  In the speech, Kennedy, who was America’s first Catholic president, was reassuring these ministers that, as president, the Vatican would not be pulling his strings and that his Catholicism wouldn’t play a role in his policy making.  This, I believe, is the vomit-inducing section of Kennedy’s speech:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I would strongly recommend anyone who is interested in the outcome of the upcoming presidential campaign to read this speech as it is still relevant.  Santorum, has since said that he wished he could take that line back, I’ll bet he does but I’m afraid that its one of those things that can’t be unsaid.  He should have chosen his words more wisely.  Apparently, Santorum is never at a loss for a way to make himself sound ridiculous.  He also called President Obama a “snob” for suggesting that everyone pursue at least one year of higher learning, be it a university, a vocational school or an apprenticeship.  Santorum’s remark is rather curious considering that he holds a B.A., M.B.A. and J.D.  Regardless of where you stand on religion, is this the person you would want to be the President of the United States?  He makes knee-jerk responses on hot-button issues and comes across sounding like a petulant brat.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America deals with religion and expression.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Is that not enough?   Read on.

The Treaty of Tripoli was written at the end of George Washington’s second term.  It was approved by the Senate on June 7, 1797 and officially ratified by the Senate with John Adam’s signature June 10, 1797.  Article 11 in the treaty states that, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”.  At the time, this was the third instance of the Senate voting unanimously and it did not create a public furor.  Can you imagine the backlash of a document with that kind of language in it today? It would be political suicide for whoever penned it.

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

Doesn’t there seem to be a pattern here?  It appears that the founding fathers spent a lot of time and energy maintaining a separation of church and state.  Many of them were Freemasons as well, the Freemasons are big proponents of this separation.  A good bit of our Constitution was lifted from the Freemason’s handbook.  The one thing that religious people seem to have a problem seeing is that the separation of church and state is the very thing that protects their religious freedoms.

The upswing in religious fervor took place during the American Civil War but it really took off during the 1960’s when Christian Fundamentalism began infiltrating the Republican Party.  In 1962 Pat Robertson began whipping Christians into a frenzy on his year-old Christian Broadcasting Network by arguing that Engle v. Vitale was a move to ban prayer in schools. That is not what it was.  It allowed individual prayer and it conformed prayer in schools to fit within the First Amendment because public schools do not have the right to teach our children to be Christians.  The Fundamentalists weren’t hearing it, all they heard was ‘prayer ban’.  Christians tend to see any resistance or demand for religious equality as an attack on Christianity, so some of the Constitutional cases that were brought up in the 60’s really amped up the propaganda.

In the 1950’s the GOP was a much broader-minded force but by the 60’s they had narrowed their scope due to the aggressive push from the fundamentalists.  Barry Goldwater (R), who was known as “Mr. Conservative”, ran unsuccessfully against Lyndon Johnson (D) for president in 1964. Because Goldwater wouldn’t cow-tow to the lobbyists and left an untapped resource in the Religious Right, his loss provided the opportunity for the formation of the “New Right”.  The Christian lobbyists now had a political forum and a way to gain access to the White House through political pressure and an army of sycophantic voters.  Goldwater finally voiced his disgust in a speech to the U.S. Senate on September 16, 1981:

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise.  There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs.  There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being.   But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly.  The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.  They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent.  If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.   I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.”  Just who do they think they are?  And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?  And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate.  I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

The Republican Party has sunk into a swamp of religious-themed morality issues like contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage. They are depending on fundamentalist supporters and those are easy to win over. All the candidates have to do is agree with their demands. How this is not viewed as political extortion is a mystery to me. The issues that any sane person should be concerned about right now are wars, jobs and the economy.  Mitt Romney is not nearly as terrifying as Santorum but seems to have an incredible knack for making himself look like an elitist doofus who is out of touch with the real world. His recent comments about his wife’s two Cadillacs and not being much of a NASCAR fan but being good friends with some of the team owners have earned his place at the purebred dog dish. Meanwhile, the most moderately voiced hopeful is Ron Paul who is talking about our debt and the economy and is being completely ignored.

In the 1700’s the world went through something called the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ which promoted science and reason as opposed to the old superstitious, mystical beliefs.  Many people who were readers of ‘Enlightened’ literature wound up being Deists, at best.  There are some misconceptions about what the term ‘Deist’ means. Deism is "a movement or system of thought advocating natural religions based on human reason rather than revelation, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe." Many of our founding fathers were Deists and Free-Thinkers. As for the Age of Enlightenment? It seems like someone has unplugged the light.

Fun Facts
Anyone is allowed to pray in schools in the United States, as long as it is not officially sponsored by the school and it does not disrupt others from doing their work.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration.

In 1956 “In God We Trust” was adopted as the official motto of The United States of America. It has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864 and on paper currency since 1957. Teddy Roosevelt, who was a Christian, a Sunday School teacher and a Republican said, “My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege…”

When George H. Bush was campaigning for the presidency in 1987 he told a reporter, “I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

In a sermon on July 4, 1976, Rev. Jerry Falwell said, “The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.”

There are actually a lot of scary quotes to be found at the link above.

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too
. ~ Voltaire

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Little History On Exclusionary Traits

Recently I was doing a little light reading on the evolution of mankind through the ages. It’s something that I do occasionally to remind myself exactly how the hell we got to where we are. I read a passage that stated that when early man learned how to cultivate crops and started living a more stationary life instead of being nomadic, he soon learned that he had a “very real and immediate need for walls”. He needed these walls to protect his food stores from the people who were still hunter/gatherers and were prone to stealing the food. These developments took place somewhere in the neighborhood of 8000 BCE to 2500 BCE. Now, I guess these prehistoric, yet culturally advanced types were unfamiliar with social programs because they weren’t very keen on sharing. So, up went the walls and the exclusionary, “I worked for mine, screw you guys, go away” attitude was born.

Now, no matter which side of the fence you are on, concerning social aid, it should be obvious that if you work a farm, dig in the dirt and manage to get something edible to grow, you are not going to want some bunch of transient savages just wandering in there and helping themselves to the fruits of your labor, so you build storehouses and put up walls to protect what’s yours. If there’s one thing that we all know is that, if you give people something for nothing, they have no incentive to end that relationship. As a matter of fact, some of the recipients of your generosity will start to feel entitled to those handouts and demand them. As a result, the people who work the farm have to work harder to feed not only their own people, but also the people who show up and say, “Hey, look at all that food you folks have, give us some.” That does not sound like a very rewarding existence. Sure, it may make you feel better to help people who don’t have as much as you do in the beginning, but once you realize that they are camped outside your gates, just lollygagging around while you are toiling away in the fields, it gets old. Some may be willing to join in and help with the labor but you are going to have those who see themselves as deserving of the rewards without the work. Perhaps they even see themselves as providing a service, as in, “We’re doing you a favor. Give us the food and we’ll make sure that your village doesn’t burn to the ground in the middle of the night.”

More liberal-minded people may be offended by some of this but facts speak for themselves. If you think that these exclusionary traits are strictly human you need to understand that our primitive cousins, the lovable chimpanzees, engage in their own “land wars”. According to a Discovery News article dated June 21, 2010, “Chimpanzees, our closest primate relatives, engage in war-like behavior to gain territory, new research finds.” The article goes on to say, “The findings, published in the latest issue of Current Biology, explain why chimpanzees sometimes brutally kill their neighbors. The killings are most often done by patrolling packs of male chimps that are "quiet and move with stealth," according to lead author John Mitani of the University of Michigan.  To the victors go similar spoils of early human wars: land, often-improved security and strength, extra food and resources, and even better access to females.”

The article goes on to describe infanticide, cannibalism and several other charming activities. All in the name of conquest and survival. I am fairly certain that as soon as our earliest ancestors discovered that a skull can be severely compromised with a rock, differences of opinions have been settled that way. I wonder if anyone has ever had to say, “Rocks don’t kill people, people with rocks kill people”.

Don't even think about it