The Skeptic's Guide to The Universe

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chapter Eight; SUNDAY GO TO MEETING part twenty-eight

On any given Sunday morning driving around in America presents a strange occurrence. It is the furthest divergence of the two groups ideologically wish to have to do with each other. The faithful adherents make their way through various traditions of attendance to their place of worship. They are the ones that populate the early morning traffic on Sunday mornings. The non-adherents fill the pews of their bed and snooze instead.
One Christian family may have the early morning tradition of making a nice breakfast at home or going out to a local restaurant. Another family may hit the donut shop and head to Sunday School with their bounty to share with other attendees. Other families may sleep as long as they can and just barely make it to the main service in time if not late, again. Only to be one of the first ones to leave to go eat. There are many more examples how the faithful start their worship day.
One thing for sure is that the less faithful are not out in that time of the morning unless they have to be. Oddly enough, the ones that believe in the Ten Commandments and think the Sabbath Day should be Holy have no problem with the worker at Denny's serving them and the server violating the third commandment. I guess the Commandments have exemptions that I have not read about. Luckily, because if they didn't, in the old days the workers would have to be stoned to death. [Would you like some more coffee with your stones?]
The second group is the non-adherents or the “god lite” people. They only attend church on special days. Like their wedding and funerals. The truth is that most people are in the second group. But since the group at home is either sleeping off a late night or watching sports they are not likely to be out and about during the ghostly Sunday morning. So the Sunday morning drive in most towns on Sunday morning is a strange one. Unlike on the other mornings, you can follow or be followed for blocks and then see a line of cars all turn into the same packed church parking lot that is empty 95 percent of the week.
But that is what makes Sunday driving so fun. As long as your not going to a church, the roads are usually pretty clear. I know in larger cities and in other parts of the world it is not so much this case but I am speaking of personal experience. When it comes to the noon time meal on Sunday, A special allowance is made at most restaurants. Those that are open usually will host a buffet style option for the hungry masses. This seems to allow the church goers to fill their plates with as much food as they can eat. I see this mostly in the South and Midwest parts of the United States. I have had many friends that are servers and have been told that the Sunday morning crowds are the worse. They are demanding, and rude and if they tip will tip very little compared to the general customers. The adults let their kids run around and make messes and otherwise act as if they have no responsibilities for their actions what so ever. Not to mention the sales of desserts and drinks goes way down. Which means the overall work load goes up and the sales are less.
I was told by a manager at a Pizza Hut in Sulphur Springs, TX that the buffet on Sunday actually cost them 60 cents per customer. That meant it would have been the same if they gave every customer 60 cents at the door and told them to go eat somewhere else. The volume of food and waste of these believers is so great that the their share numbers cannot overcome their share gluttony.
This is of course a generalization but it is based upon experience and conversations I had with people in the service industry. I seriously doubt few if any post church customer would ever order a drink with the meal after church. But they may head home and crack open the 12 pack of beer when the game starts without a seconds hesitation. If the behavior of dinner time Christians was to be the only outreach to the unsaved world then no one should ever desire to be a Christian unless they wish to act rudely in public.
The status of a church has much to do socially in America. Things such as denomination and location can have a lot to do with your social standing in the community. The city were I have seen this being the most important is Oklahoma City. It may be more so in other cities but again this is from my experience. I have been to churches that have valet service for parishioners. I have been to churches that the closest parking spots, other than the handicap spots, are for the visitors. The idea of visitor parking is an odd one. Even when I was an adherent I would see that and say, well I am visiting, I don't live here. I should park here.
I have been to church with multi-media floor shows with bands and singers that would rival any concert venue. I have been to churches where the use of a musical instrument is considered evil or wrong. I have been to churches that are so huge that they have maps at the doorway so people can find their way around the place. I have been to churches more than 300 years old. I have been to churches only a few weeks old and don't even have a permanent building. I have been to churches so small that even if you were at the address you wouldn't even know they were there. I have been to a place were they had no chairs and you sat on the floor. I been to a place that had implied reserved seating. I have been to churches where the leaders wear exotic clothing with all sorts of trapping and excesses on them. I have seen church leaders give a sermon in cut off shorts and short sleeve shirt. I been to churches where the woman had to cover their heads. I been to a place where the men covered their heads. It seems that when it comes to religion the only thing that is uniform is individuality.
However there is another, more malicious thing, they have that is uniform about them. The idea that they push their world view as correct or supreme upon the adherents and attendees of these places of worship. With this many diverse groups all pushing forth their own dogma and interpretation it is amazing that there is any peace at all in the country. One denomination holds this idea will gets you to heaven, the other will say you must do this to get to heaven and these are what the followers would say major issues. Some include is God still talking through a apostle now? Is thinking and reading about a healing the right way to be cured? Can I dance? Is this cracker really going to turn into human flesh? Did Jesus really see me masturbate last night? I can have salt but not pepper, right? How much water does it take to be baptized? Can I be loose my salvation? How much can I drink before I am sinning? Based upon how the leader and followers of the religion views these questions and many more, determines how the adherents act in society.
While I lived in a small Northern Oklahoma town I often got mail or items left on my door inviting me to attend this or that biblical seminar to learn some kernel of wisdom that they are sure the general population must not be aware of. There was a card left at my door for a prophecy seminar on October 12, 1992 at a Seventh Day Adventist church locally. I do attend these things from time to time and for the most part I listen to what they have to say but if they ask question I will surely speak up. This particular seminar actually tried to focus upon the astrological aspect of creation. The speaker at this five day seminar was Ed Trasher. He had the Hubble Deep Field picture and other pictures of stars and galaxies. The question posed was, “Who created these galaxies?”
Of course this is an inconsistency as to the relationship to the galaxies being created by anyone. So to offer any answer is to support the logical fallacy and not work toward a reality based answer. We humans tend to look at things from our perspective. That is clear enough to understand but it is not necessarily the right way to view The Universe. The existence of an object doesn't mean that it was placed there by someone or something. But if you were to accept this flawed premise then the next answer needed would be then who created the thing that created the galaxy? Of course this takes you into the infinite regression of needed creators. Or the believer will say, “God has always been there.” OK. Then that really answers nothing and there is no evidence to that, why not just remove the God part and say this is all we can show about The Universe now. Any answer to the origins that puts a god in its place requires a more advance creator for that god or a necessary regression of infinite gods. Neither one of these options are supported from any evidence that meets the scientific requirement of proof. By the way, again, science doesn't attempt to answer what went on before the Big Bang, at least not at this time. In science, having no answer is totally acceptable. No need to fill in the blanks with G-O-D.
The seminar leader asked several questions using other logical fallacies. Another one was about the strength of the shells of sea shells and how scientists were not able to make anything as strong. There are several problems with this question. One who are these scientists, two who has determined that a man made ceramic is not as hard as the shell of say a nautilus shell? Another point is, if the supposition is true, the shell producing animal has had a billion plus years head start to hone its process to make a shell hard enough and out of the readily available material of its natural environment. The scientists, not so long. I am sure given a billion years I would actually get this book done.
Finally, from the seminar, the speaker made the point that the presence of a brain indicates that there is a God that loves us. I am not sure how he reaches this conclusion but my immediate though was what about the people that are born with or suffer brain damage of some sort in their life. Do all the animals with brains have Gods love and Gods hates plants? Does this then indicate God's hate? This non-sequitur is one of many that adherents try to exert as proof of existence of God.
I found most of the seminar to be very frustrating as point after point the speaker not only showed his lack of knowledge as a presenter and as layman scientist but total lack of understanding of the very material he was suppose to be an expert in. I stopped taking notes the first night and after the second night stopped going all together.
Keep in mind most of the questions I have posed concerning the Christian religious denominations are more of the minor ones, most of these deal with the individual adherent. As a group, the religious organization can pose questions such as, do we need to have freedom for those that don't believe like us? Should women have access to medical care about their own bodies? Can we have money from the secular government for our church? Can we put monuments to our God on public lands? Do we want non-believers living among us? Can we force our beliefs about “sin” laws upon other people?
It is questions like these that the Christians want to push upon the people that don't believe like them. Religion has a free ride in the United States and it should be stopped. It is wrong that the churches and other religions get to skip the taxes everyone else has to pay. This and the exemption for their personal taxes as well as a de facto support for religion. I have been told by more than one pastor in a sermon that if I cannot live on 90% of my income I cannot live on 100% either. The opposite would be true too. If they cannot live on 90% of their donations they cannot live on 100% of them too. Plus it may make them say what they really mean in the sermons if they were freed from the restraints of being a 501(c)3a organization.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chapter Seven; DOES ALLAH REALLY CARE? REALLY? part twenty-seven

I must add here the crimes of Muslim men that are being committed against innocent women just because the men think everyone should think the way they do. Though Muslim men make up a small part of most communities in Europe they make up a large part of the men convicted of rape and sexual assault. The men do not feel guilt since they blame the non-Muslim for not dressing properly. In many of their home countries it would be the woman that is punished for wearing the wrong clothing instead of the men for the brutal attack on these innocent woman. You can goddamn guarantee that these sick pigs will come to our country and try to use their religion as a justification for their lack of humanity. To me, this is just a result of a religion that encourages sexual repression. If proper sexual education is not presented in the society, what sort of behavior can you expect except inhuman actions?

There was a Muslim woman that was recently in court in Michigan and she was told that she had to remove her “naqib” head covering. The woman asserted that she didn't want to take off her head covering since she was Muslim. The woman said she would in front of a female judge but not for him. The option the Judge gave her was to remove her covering or the case would be dismissed. She decided to have the case dismissed. Oddly enough, if the judge knew more of the religion he might have been able to appeal to her through The Qu'ran that she doesn't need to cover her head just all her body but head hands and feet. It will be interesting how the devout of the Christians will react to this women trying to push her Muslim religious view into the secular stage of the government. It may begin as innocuous as a woman's head covering but the trend could be one that is being dealt with in the United Kingdom now with their growing Muslim population. The only reasonable response is to demand the United States to remain and embrace its secular past and protect the rights of all Americans, not just the ones in the majority. If there is no national god then there will not be a religious preference for head scarfs, food options, days of work, what we say and so forth.

The truth of the matter is that geography is the biggest influence to what a person will believe more than any actual personal choice. A person born and raised in India would be most likely to believe in the Hindu or Buddhist beliefs. A person born in Saudi Arabia would most likely be Islamic. A person born in Israel would most likely be Jewish. And a person born in the United States would most likely be a Christian of some sort. So the idea that a person selects their religion is really a false idea. It is more accurate that religion is forced upon a person by the society that they live in. While in the United States and other countries with the “freedom of religion” the idea is that a person can select what particular house of worship they go to but it is still the prevailing religion that will guide the choices. It is a matter of society wanting it's members to conform. Uniformity is easier to deal with than diversity. But the United States is a pluralistic society. Our other national motto is e pluribus unium, out of many, one. This, of course has since been replaced with “In God We Trust.” [All others pay cash].

I have thought that the devout should be against this slogan on our currency when one considers that all of the “immoral” activities that they are normally against are paid for with a bill with “In God We Trust” on it. Every time a bill has been used to snort cocaine, or roll a marijuana joint, pay for an abortion, pay for sex, go toward the ACLU, or any other activity that a Christian would be against on religious grounds, that phrase is there being used in those activities, not to mention the legal activities such as buying alcohol, adult books, tobacco, supporting atheist groups and activities and so on. I would have to conclude that the supporters of having that phrase on our currency have no problem with the name of God being taken in vain in all these sorts of activities. I have talked to Christian adherents that feel that having that slogan on the money is a desecration and is blasphemous also. Not to mention a violation of Second Commandment or Third Commandment. Depending on whose numbering system is used.

If putting the name of God on our currency isn't a frivolous and vain violation of a Commandment I am not sure how one could take the name of God more in vain then. The presence of the slogan was ruled “none religious” by the courts so the Government admits it is nothing but a vain use of the name of God. The believers should be standing side by side with the atheist and also those that want to keep their God holy, to take this phrase off the currency and coins. The same vain use of the name of God would apply in the case of The Pledge of Allegiance of The United States.

But to get back to my point, it is geography, not choice, as one of the most compelling influences of what a person will believe. Family history would be the most influential. One check of various nations around the world in the CIA World Fact Book database on line shows one of the most important statistics listed is what a nation's religion is. Nations that are more homogeneous religiously that share a boarder the more peaceful they are likely to be.

One can see the total breakdown of a society with the collapse of the Former Yugoslavian republic in the 1990s. A nation of one became the nations Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, with fighting breaking out among the former countrymen because they had different religions and backgrounds.

So as religion adherents continued to grow so did the power of their god or gods. If the people in the next country didn't believe the same as your country there was an increase chance for conflict. Then with the technology and power of the time in the hands of the mighty and ruling class, conflict and war would soon be enviable, The strong win, their god takes over and soon other stories of the defeated people are lost to time, rewritten or absorbed and only the victorious gods remain with followers.

After all, they would have to be true since they are the stronger ones. The power of the gods have been shown to be on their side. Their god or gods must be the right ones. So have thought the Babylonians, Vikings, Druids, Mayan, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Macedonians, Incas, Wiccans, Easter Islanders, and tribal religions pole to pole. There are countless unknown religions that have come and gone over the millenniums and so more will come and go as well.

The one thing that is true about all of them is that the adherents believed that their god or gods were the right ones and one by one they have been proved by nature or forced by other religions that they are just another fairy story. Did they have good ideas? Some for sure, many of these were passed down from one to another religion. Many of the ancient Mid-Eastern and Mediterranean religions are integrated into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Honestly few if any modern religions are independent of influence of ones that existed before them. I have heard that Jainism is one of the oldest religions and is rather benign in comparison to other religions.
Coming next time:

SUNDAY GO TO MEETING part twenty-eight

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chapter Seven; RELIGION SHINES ITS LIGHT part twenty-six

Religion has truly surpassed the power of every invention that has followed it. As the Bronze Age, Iron age, middle ages, the age of enlightenment and the Modern ages have come and gone and gone, religion has been the enemy of progress every step of the way. To the faithful, things like the Hubble Space Telescope, nuclear weapons, and climate change are nothing compared to the power of a faith that believes in a god. If anything man can learn comes into conflict with the faithful, the Bible will win out. It either has to be wrong or misunderstood of the work of Satan because the Bible cannot be wrong according to the faithful. This concept is shown is several ways.One way is the refusal to accept scientific answers to the questions that it provides such as in astronomy, paleontology, biology and other disciplines that function quite well with the facts that lay outside the Bible's stories.

But not only does religion have the power to terrorize, it also the power to influence every level of behavior of the adherents and to some degree the people that live in the society of the dominate religious belief. Things such as clergy gender, celibacy, wearing of the hair or jewelry, view toward homosexuals, what type of food to eat and role of women and many more issue are all answered conclusively by the dogma of the religion. Each religion either pushes that they are divinely right or at least the best choice to please and honor their god. Even in the pluralistic beliefs such as Baha'i Faith.

It is true at the heart of Christianity and Islam that woman are to be shunned and controlled, the natural sexual desire are to be repressed and avoided at almost all costs. While in America there is a virtual smörgåsbord of religions of almost every school of thought one can think of. The reality that many woman are either forced into or brainwashed into accepting the second class status to men is intolerable in the natural order of humanity. While it has taken several centuries for this progress to happen, it is still a work in progress. I recently went to a Christian service at Willow Creek-Chicago and the video taped message was about Ester from the Old Testament. The story told how the King banished his wife for daring to respect herself enough not to parade out in front of his people. For this "crime" she was banished. [I was surprised she wasn't killed.] But to select a new wife the ordered woman to walk before in dressed in their most beautiful clothes and one thing and other Ester was selected because she was more beautiful. To me this is nothing more than pure sexism. Plus this story is being taught Today in one of the more liberal mega churches in America. Of course the person giving the message turned the story around about how "brave" Ester was but the thing is that her and all woman were viewed merely as chattel to the wishes of the King and other men.

In Christianity, the Catholic Church praises Mary the mother of Christ but vilifies Mary Magdeline the follower of Jesus. They will not let men and women clergy marry. This can be seen as a subjugation of women in that a man is afforded power and a woman is not able to share in the power as his wife. Woman are forbidden to be priest and leaders of the church outside the office set up for them which at even the highest level an ordained priest is given a higher position than the highest ranking nun. But this oppression is not unique to Catholics.

In Protestant religions the range is wide and deep. Woman can lead, or are prohibited to lead, woman can wear anything publicly acceptable or a woman must wear a full length dress with her hair uncut and covered. A woman can speak and teach in church or she much remain silent and only learn via her sexist husband. But in all of the Christian Protestant religions men come out ahead of woman. It is true that the men will say that woman are honored and respected in church and given a place of honor and respect. But this rings in my ears as the words I have heard when asking Muslims about the status of woman in their society. It is just a different tune they sing the song too. I mentioned the Shakers before, that they were a group that didn't believe in having children, so they had to adopt or recruit people in. But woman had somewhat of an equal status in the church. But the jobs for the woman and men were very stereotypical such as men worked in shops and farmed and woman worked in the home and did the domestic chores. Despite laws against it, this prejudice still exists in business and society as well.

Then we get to Islam which also has a wide range of expression as well. I lived in St. Louis and had many friends that were Bosnian Muslim and the woman and men were very western looking. I am not sure if this is from their home culture or the desire to adapt into the St. Louis culture and fit in. Even though I was usually able to pick an Bosnian man or woman out among other because of the physical appearance the woman always dressed as the American woman did. I wish all Muslims were as these people are. I believe the world would be a much better place.

But it is not, When I was in Saudi Arabia I was treated to experience the discrimination of woman in the total culture. Sure they view it as protecting them or honoring them but who says they need any protection or even wish to have your honor if given the freewill and other options to choose from? On the public transportation buses in Saudi Arabia the front door had a picture of a woman in a burka holding a child's hand with the prohibited sign going across them. Then on the back door, the same sign without the prohibited sign. I hear of the huge mall that was built in Saudi Arabia that actually had two levels one for woman and children and one for men. I only got to talk to one woman while I was over there and she was with her brother. [I actually had to have him talk to her.] They were very polite and she seemed quite content with the idea of being under the burka and the restrictions that are placed upon her. She even reflected the views of the Saudi Cultural Information tents that were present at our location at the Khobar Towers when I was there during the Gulf War.

Oddly enough, a Saudi citizen could drive across the King Faud Causeway to Bahrain and not have near the restrictions of the home country of Islam.

I did enjoy my experience with the Saudi people and for the most part are very polite and friendly to us as we were guests in their country. Even though I was serving in the Army in the time I found it an honor to be in their country. I just had a different view than they do. It was during my talks in the white Saudi Culture tents that I got to talk to several Imams and other Muslims about their religion. They told me that Islam accepts both Judaism and Christianity. However one cannot practice them openly. But as long as they practice privately only in their home then they are not going to be persecuted. Also that if a person moved to Saudi Arabia and they were a different religion, they would not be forced to change. They may be educated about Islam to avoid making mistake or violating the laws but they could convert of their own freewill. What a tolerant place!

I did, of course, find this quite confusing but I was a devout Christian at the time myself. So who was I to say. Here I was a Christian fighting on behalf of a Muslim country, Kuwiat. King Richard would have had my head.
Coming next time:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chapter Seven; HUMANS IN THE MIST part twenty-five

When paleontologists, archaeologists, anthropologist and other professionals who research the history of Earth through geology, fossils, and ancient sites of man and animals, a picture begins to develop. Like all primates, humans are very social and territorial animals. Similar characteristics are common to the varieties of primate species. But when the dawn of man came, modern man arrived on the planet pretty much the same as we are now but the Earth was a much different place than it is now. There were many other animals that have long since been extinct. While there are several ideas as to what lead to Homo sapiens to become what they are now. Several are worth touching on.

The consensus is that humans first appeared in the sub-Saharan Africa. From this rise, mankind quickly migrates to the Middle East, Europe, Asia, across the land bridge to the Americas and across the seas and oceans to Australia and other islands of human civilization. One idea to keep in mind is that over the 200,000 years of human existence the access to parts of the planet have came and gone with successive warming and cooling periods of the planet. Based upon archeology, human tools found indicate the level of technology that we had at different parts of the planet, so an idea of the paths and times we migrated and advanced around the globe can be made. Of course Homo sapiens are not the only species to use tools. The use of tools by man's ancestors has been around since at least Homo erectus, about 1.4 to 1.7 million years ago. So the advancement in tool development can not only indicate a time period but also a species of humans.

Some of these artifacts include the presence of animals hides, sticks and stones, and pottery and stone items used for holding water or food. The presence of domesticated animals, namely dog's bones present in close proximity to human artifacts and remains are indication of the progression of of the evolution of the human species. Also domesticated animals such as horses, bovine, swine and other modern domesticated animals are indicators of the advancement of mankind's dominance over his environment. These reflect a early time of human history and development of basic tools. The details of this period of time is almost completely unknown. [That's why we call it prehistoric.] But most of mankind's history is spent during this prehistoric era. Depending on the view of when mankind came into its own that period began about 200,000 years ago.

While prehistoric man would be not much different from us Today, except for his height, he really didn't begin to develop his intellectual skills until he was much further along the path. I have heard that if you were able to take a prehistoric man and raise him in Today's world that he would fit in perfectly. This is of course in sharp contrast to a recent video I saw on You Tube by "Ozmoroid" creationist geometry lesson.xxxiv It talks about how the height of mankind has gotten shorter since the time of Adam.

Archeology and physical evidence doesn't support this assertion. We have clothing and outfits that were worn by person more than 3500 years ago and these show that people were actually a bit shorter instead of taller. Structures built in those ancient times often have smaller door openings and ceilings when they are intact or reassembled. These are just a few inches not the drastic increase that Ozmorid put forth in his video but it does show the point that humans in general are more likely to get taller than shorter.xxxv I found it humorous that the idea postulates that Adam lived 6000 years ago and that due the the rate of decreasing height, humans should simply disappear in about another 4000 years. [I'll keep that day open on my calender.] While the future of humanity is uncertain for sure, it is uncertain because we simply cannot see into the future not because a silly hypothesis is laden with misinformation and ignorance. But the prediction of the end of the world is the specialty of the devout of many faiths and views.

As man advanced with simple tools and observations of the natural world. He began to form a cause and effect view of the world. Things like the weather patterns, seasons, migrations, stars, planting seeds, accidents, communication, and mutual protection become more clear. So man begins to work on using this knowledge to his benefit and the benefit for the clan or tribe. So begins the basis of science, deduction and observation. Not all these cause and effect relationships are accurate in the view of modern man. Just because the last time a meteorite was in the sky a king died or a enemy was defeated doesn't mean that every time a meteorite appears in the sky the same event will happen again. The failure of mankind to recognize that the same celestial event that they see is the same that there enemies or other nations or kingdoms would see seems to be like a foreign concepts to the writings of most ancient texts. After all there is only one sky, in spite of how often the broadcasts meteorologist insist on calling the space above us the “skies.” The ancients didn't understand as we do Today the concept of a shared experience.

The very idea that the sun comes up in East and sets in the West day after day is something that was important to ancient man to know. The knowledge of the progression of the sun in the sky over the year was important for crop management, animal tracking and hunting, when to travel to avoid coming cold weather, how to manage the domesticated animals for breeding. These are all ideas that took many generation to discover, yet are essential to how mankind lives in the world Today.

To have a festival for a better harvest as a cause and effect relationship Today seems archaic but that is how people lived in the past. A “meaningful” sacrifice had to be made according to the rules of the society.

The one or ones with the knowledge of the the seasons had the power to command respect. In a way they almost would seem like gods or at least demi-gods to the common uneducated person. So with basic knowledge of time a person could again be empowered to force their will upon their own people. If a violent storm came it was because the people sinned. If the crops failed it was a sin and a sacrifice had to be made. If the livestock got sick it was because evil was in the tribe and the evil had to be purged. So with the knowledge of time, a whole system of society could be created and called religion.

As man learned to master fire the use of this gave man the power to light the night and use it to keep away predators from his home. Oral language soon included its visual counter part in writing. Now a person could get the words of a person not even with them. They could even have words from people that had died. A great advancement to mankind. The idea of carrying knowledge forward help mankind avoid having to “reinvent the wheel” over and over again. During this period man was able to make more advance tools of stone and use the knowledge of those not with them in writing to help advance their tribes and clans.

However with the advent of written language, what can only be hypothesis at this point as the tribal stories began to take on the written form and past on from generation to generation. While the idea of a way to move a block of stone more easy is a very useful piece of information for stone age man to have. The story that this was handed down by the great stone god of the East is not really a helpful concept. But man was making more time available for himself so instead of following our naturally evolved natural to be nomadic, man began to build town and settlements. The best places were near were there was water for crops, drinking and so on.

I know most of this is a rehash of the stories told for the past few decades but sometime it is good to restate it to remind us of were we came from and where we are now. So please bear with me as I finish with the section.

So now man has a few cities and the populations grow as the ease to have the necessities of life begins to make living in larger groups more desirable. Cities in the Mid-East grow as do cities in Asia and Europe. One wonders at this point if trade for mutual benefit was the next step in human development of was the advent of war? Or was it something different all together?

Was it the idea that you have what I want so I am going to take it from you? Or was it the idea that your stories are different than ours so we must kill you and your ideas? Or was it simply a matter of a misunderstanding of whose animals got to the watering hole first that started the first war? Regardless the first war did begin and sadly we have not found a solution to that yet. But a more effective way to conduct those wars has never been a problem for mankind.

Man develops a more advance way of making items. These are made from bronze and have a much higher degree of strength then the stone tools of the past. Plus bronze was much lighter and could be used for many purposes. A leader of a city could adorn his soldiers in it to make them harder to kill and injure in a battle. Plus the spears with bronzed tips surely gave the army an advantage of a stone equipped enemy. So the armies advance and the victor has his will pushed upon the defeated. So their stories of history and the world are the ones that are passed down. So science and technology builds its tenuous relationship with warfare.

So, not only are the stories of the victory passed down the stories of power and glory grow as victories grow. Sometimes parts of the lore of the vanquish would be integrated or accepted into the prevailing mores some of these would benefit the society some would benefit the ruling class. One such idea is men are given the power to have women subjected to them. Maybe a conquering army might give the woman of that nation to the men as a “prize” and then the children born would be raised in that society increasing the city and country and society even more.

Once religion was created by man the power to motivate and control the population could be done with little intimidation as long as there were enough regular examples used to serve to keep the people suitably terrorized. Killing all the people in a conquered city or making an fatal example of a sexual deviant in the view of their gods. 


Coming Next time: 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chapter Six; HOW THE 10 COMMANDMENTS CAME TO OKLAHOMA part twenty three

On May 18, 2009 Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry signed HB 1330 which allows for the state to put on a privately funded monument of the 10 Commandments on the statehouse grounds. This bill was passed overwhelming by both houses of the Oklahoma statehouse. In the Senate there were twenty state senators that sponsored the bill and in the house ten sponsors were found.
On May 28, 2009 after Gov. Henry signed the bill into law. Jim Huff with Americans United for the separation of church and state-Oklahoma spoke at a meeting in my town of Ponca City, Oklahoma. The meeting was organized by the Kay County Democrats and held at a local church. About 50 or so people attended the lecture and Mr. Huff helped to explain what this means for Oklahoma and what some of the repercussion might be.
Huff went through several steps of the history of religious freedom and the Constitution of the United States and the Oklahoma State Constitution. He made a point of highlighting the pertinent facts pertaining to the issue of the separation of religion from the secular government.
First he referred to to Article six of the Constitution where no religious test would be required for any public office or trust. This is the only part in the actual Constitution that mentions anything about religion and it is clearly a prohibition of using religion for a standard to hold public office.
Then second he went over Article I of the Bill of Rights about not establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of. He went on to explain this is the area that SCOTUS had found in 1947 by Justice Hugo Black about the establishment clause. Wrapping up with the US Constitution was Amendment XIV, which basically places state laws subservient to Federal law.
Finally in the Oklahoma Constitution section 11-5, “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”
This part of the Oklahoma Constitution in itself should be clear enough to have the Oklahoma state legislators fail to take actions on this bill. They had acted in direct violation of the Constitution they had took and oath to support and defend.
As the federal law in this district of the Federal Courts there is a case that has been awaiting a ruling with a similar monument on Haskell County courthouse grounds in Stigler, Oklahoma. This case has been heard by the Federal Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado and the ruling was made June 8, 2009.
Both the Haskell County 10 Commandments and the 10 Commandments at the Oklahoma Statehouse are paid for by private donations.
As of June 8, 2009 the United States District 10 Court of Appeals ruled that the Haskell County 10 Commandments which is part of a historical display, "has the primary effect of endorsing religion" when taken in context with the small community of Stigler, Okla. They ruled the display unconstitutional.
According to the Norman Transcript; "Whoever was the judge in this, I feel sorry for him on Judgment Day," said Haskell County Commissioner Mitch Worsham, who represents the county where the courthouse and monument is located. "We're not going to take it down."
The three judge federal court decided unanimously that the way the display was erected, supported and dedicated all indicated that the monument was design to promote Christianity. One county commissioner said at the time of the dedication, "That's what we're trying to live by, that right there. The good Lord died for me."
This decision moves the case back “to Muskogee, Okla.-based U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White so he can issue a new ruling consistent with the District 10 ruling. In August 2006, White rejected arguments that the monument promotes Christianity at the expense of other religions.”
Several times people at the meeting with Huff it was asked what is wrong with the 10 Commandments? I guess they meant what is wrong about having them on the statehouse ground? At least that is how those of us that responded to a women's questions took them to mean.
The comment I made on a forum about the June 8, 2009 ruling on the 10 Commandments can answer that question as well as anything for me, “What purpose does such an idea as, " No other Gods but me" have in a pluralistic society? What is the purpose of "Make no Graven Images"? Who will be the moderator to determine when a mother of father is or is not "honored"? What will happen to our system of economy is no one desire the things that they do not already possess? What would be the penalty of violation of these commandments? There is nothing good or worthwhile to consider in the 10 Commandments. It is not as if prior to them being made into a compilation that the idea had not existed before in human society.
On these same forum there are those that try to defend the ideas and concepts of the 10 Commandment and inadvertently they will reply with answer such as, “do not lie, do not kill, do not steal. Yeah, what good are those commandments.
To this I have several points to make. The first being that no one argues the value of respecting personal space and property and honestly is indeed a virtue that one should encourage. Second, the most common examples supporters of the 10 Commandments cite are not the first four but the ones that deal with human to human interaction. Additionally, as far as the human to human commandments, there is not need to extol these values as some religious expression. Society doesn't function if murder, stealing, infidelity, disrespect and lying are rampant. There are plenty of examples in the animal kingdom that show these virtues as being helpful without the presence of any divine in their mists. Concerning the last two or one commandments, depending on your version, to covet an item or idea is the very basis of human endeavor and our driving force for almost everything in history.
How would the Egyptians build the great works of their civilization with out a desire to have more than what they had before? How would the discovery of the Americas have happen if there wasn't a desire for trade and to spread religion. Where would any religion be if there wasn't a desire to have others join in their belief system. So ever adherent that wants others to follow their belief is guilty of coveting the souls of those that are not currently following what said adherent believes.
Odd bit it is that the ones that most want to have the secular government place the 10 Commandments on state property are guilty of violating at least one if not two of the very commandments that they so extol. Not too mention that the very item itself is a “graven” image.
Another comment mentioned several times at the seminar was that America was founded as a Christian nation. Our nation was not founded as a Christian nation it was founded as a secular nation. The people were given the freedom to select according to their conscience what they choose to believe about the supernatural or to hold any belief in it at all without it having affect upon them as citizens of The United States of America.
People that believe that the 10 Commandments should be placed on public property and other state endorsed religious actions should be taken by our government are a disgrace to the principles to which this nation was founded. The very ideas of liberty and justice and freedom for all are as foreign to them as the people of Nepal are to me. I know they exist but I have little idea about what they do.
Keep in mind it was the Founding Fathers that put Article VI in The Constitution of The United States and ratified Amendment I [June 9, 1789] and ratified the Treaty of Tripoli in June 7, 1797 which states that The United States is not a a Christian nation.
To this, I would say that the 10 commandments represent a religion and are in violation of both the Oklahoma and United States constitutions. As an atheist, if people want to paste the 10 Commandments on private property, please feel free but please obey the laws and keep religion out of the secular government.
I contacted my local state Representative, Senator and the Oklahoma Governor to express my view to not have the bill passed prior, to the passage by each group. In addition, I tried to get as many like minded people to contact their local state representatives as well. I was told by my State Representative that he would not vote for the bill. However when the bill was voted on he did indeed vote for the bill. House Bill 1330 did pass the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a vote of 83-2. A clear showing of the power of the religiously minded in my state.
Calling my representative, of course, was to no avail. What can you say about a state that tried to get Richard Dawkins banned from giving a lecture as a guest of the Zoology Department of the University of Oklahoma, June 6, 2009.
On the grounds of the Capitol of Texas, SCOTUS upheld the right of Texas to have the 10 Commandments displayed. I have viewed this monument and it is placed very close to the statehouse along with more than twenty other monuments including ones to Texas school children, Lady Bird Johnson, Civil War veterans, and a memorial to the men of the Alamo. SCOTUS said that since the 10 Commandments were part of a larger display that the meaning of them purely as a religious expression was not establishing a state religion.
What this shows people that care about individual freedom and protecting The Constitution is that the radical religious right is trying hard to make this a monotheistic country. Often have I heard people say this is a “Christian Nation.” it seems to me that this is a recent cultural phenomenon as this idea would be perverse in the first part of our nation's history. Too be honest it seems to only be prevalent since the mid-eighties.
I often try to educate people about the Treaty of Tripoli that was ratified by the United States Senate on June 7, 1797 during the period that most of our Founding Fathers were still very much involved in the early nation.
Here is the part of the treaty that deals with this issue:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity,(sic) of Musselmen;(sic) and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan (sic) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
This is also referenced in the Marine Corps Hymn when it refers to, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”
Most of the adherents to religion do not want to hear these factual citation of our nations history or other examples of how the Pledge of Allegiance was written without the phrase “under God” in it or how “In God We Trust” was added to our currency in 1957. If you read this link from the Federal Reserve, it leaves no doubt whatsoever that the purpose was directly related to Christianity. To most Christian adherents, the very idea of having religion in the public forum is not only right but is a right they have as Christians, not so much as Americans.
Fundamentalists cite examples of how when prayer was taken out of public schools in 1963, test scores and behavior problems began to be adversely affected. But they fail to point out that the issues they are talking about were on the rise prior to these actions being taken by SCOTUS. One could use any historical point of reference to show a cause and effect relationship. One could just as easily say that after evangelist Billy Graham gain national prominence that the test scores of American children began to decline. One could say after the space program began the rate of juvenile delinquency increased. Such examples fail to establish a cause and effect relationship for their claims, but it surely can be said.

“One might just as well credit the lack of prayer with the great advances that have taken place since the 1962 and 1963 decisions on prayer. Look at the leap in civil liberties, equality, environmental awareness, women's rights, science, technology and medicine! The polio scare is over. Fountains, buses, schools are no longer segregated by law. We've made great strides in medical treatment. We have VCRs (DVDs, BlueRay, etc) and the computer chip. The Cold War has ended! Who would turn the clock back?”

Any of the following events could be assigned a similar cause and effect relation that the advocates of school prayer propose for the alleged decline in school behavior and test score.

• Pope John XXIII dies; Pope Paul VI is elected
• 250,000 Americans march for Civil Rights in Washington
• Kennedy assassinated in Dallas
• Lee Harvey Oswald arrested
• Lyndon Johnson takes Presidential Oath of Office
• Soviet missiles stay out of Cuba; Troops will stay
• N.Y. newspaper's labor strike for 114 days
• Supreme Court decides poor must have lawyers
• Kennedy sends troops to calm Alabama civil unrest
• Soviet Union puts first women in space
• Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech

All these events happened in 1963 and have as much bearing upon the changes in public school test scores and behavior problems as any decision by SCOTUS. I will show some of the alleged cause and effect relationships that the public school prayer advocates cite in their arguments for public school prayer.
Teenage pregnancy rates have gone up 500% since 1962. Unmarried mothers have risen dramatically since 1962. [The divorce Rate is so high that many young children don't really understand what a family is.](sic) Violent Crimes have risen steadily since the early 60's, and our prison system is bursting at the seams.(with born again Christians) The SAT scores have steadily declined each year for 18 straight years since 1962 and continue to decline or be low. (Wouldn't that be more than 18 years? That just takes us to 1980. I am sure the writer of this could have updated it to at least 1994 or so.) We once had the best school system in the world, and we are now ranked about 15th among the industrialized nations. This is despite us spending more money then any other nation in the world on our school system.i

None of these statistics are cited or supported by any references though they are expressed as being facts. While I certainly make assumptions of data and reports I have heard over time, these are not statistics listed with verifiable data. I have looked for information to support this 600% increase from several sources including the US Census Department and the Center for Disease Control. Never has a listing for anything on line that would support the 600% increase over any period of time has been found to date. As far as the United States being ranked 15th among industrialized nations. The last report done was by the Organization for Cooperation released September 2005 which ranked the United States 9th with persons 25 to 34 with a high school degree and 7th for persons 25 to 35 with college degrees. Again it is easy to make up any sort of numbers or statements that you wish but if you really want to be believed, show your work, just like in math class. The best way to deal with a number quoting person is to simply say, “prove it.” I will say that I have recently heard some new numbers as our ranks in the world but I would have to look deeper into that as the cause. I surely cannot find the removal of prayer as a strong contender for this drop.
The rise of the great evangelical crusaders and movements that began in the 1950s and 1960s led by such people and continued by people as Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Marilyn Hickey, Bill Gothard, Pat Roberts, Joyce Meyers, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, Earnest Angely, Jimmy Swaggart, Peter Popoff, Jim and Tammy Fay Baker, and many many more can be used to show the same cause and effect relationship that is asserted that the issues with schools was caused and is caused by these people.
The issue with the advocates of public school prayer, they fail to make a cause and effect relationship and without that they only have anecdotal arguments. Maybe they will do some actual research and find that there are many other factors that contribute to the recent decline in standardized test scores. The first one I would look at is the failure of the parents demanding higher account ability in the schools. This seems to me a much more reasonable factor other than a one minute mantra recited by rote at the beginning of the school day.

Coming Next Time:
 Chapter Seven;
HUMANS IN THE MIST part twenty five

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter Six; HATE CRIMES AND HYSTERIA part twenty two

President Obama recently sign an addition to the “Hate” crimes law called “The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” Before I go into some of the hysteria that has resulted from the addition of this amendment to the “Hate” crimes law, I would like to give my point of view on hate crimes and the laws that are suppose to deal with them.

I find the idea that any crime is worse because of the motivation behind it to be somewhat bizarre. Certainly the motivation should be taken to account when a crime is committed as to the guilt or innocence and the resulting punishment. I would feel more compassion for a person that steals in order to feed themselves and their family versus the person that steals to be able to gain the shear enjoyment of use or possession of the item that they stole. It doesn't make the crime any greater or less as to the net result but the crime motivated by a person to preserve life is a basic necessity and needs to be addressed as such. There are several different levels of charges that result in death already. Everything from justifiable homicide to capitol murder, which with a conviction can result in the death penalty of the convicted.

I find all these measure in place to serve out society well. The range that society has put in place for dealing with certain degrees of crimes seems reasonable to me and should be held as a measure of the motivation that applies to each of these crimes. With that said, if someone is murdered with the motive because they are red headed, smile too much, do not have all their finger nails painted, likes to walk on the left side of the street and so on, really makes no difference to me since the crime is already an one done with malice intent.

If the motivation of the person was just to rob a person with a knife or gun and the result was the death of the person being robbed. Is that any less malice toward that person if they are killed because of some external variable? The motivation of a crime shouldn't serve as a reason to escalate the resulting actions of the crime. A person that is killed because of their race, religion, home country, sexual preference or disability as the law provides for doesn't really mean the crime was any less ore more horrific.

Were the crimes of Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahlmer and less horrific because they were not motivated by hate? I don't see that at all. The motive to do another harm is sufficient enough to let a persons deed be judged upon their own merits. I find the positions of the people that would cause harm to others because of these factors to be abhorrent. But I do not see any reason to create additional laws for them since the current system of justice is already designed to deal with such societal deviants.

With my perspective on these laws explained I will not deal with some of the reactions to the fundamental religious conservatives that fear how the law may effect them.

Since the initial passing of the “Hate” Crimes law, there still legally exists groups that promote racial division from all races. These people that promote without resorting to violence are still protected in what they say as they have always been in The Constitution of The United States of America. They always will be also long as the First Amendment is not repealed concerning the right to free speech. The right perspective concerning free speech is simply this, If you do not like what someone is saying stop listening and protect their right to speak. Even if it is vicious and attacks you. Do not let the views of others destroy your sense of civility and honor and respect.

There are still groups that legally speak out against other persons religions, race and their sexual preferences and other aspects that are not the same as their group. To be quite honest I am not really sure what grace is since we are all Homo sapiens. All races can breed and that is really the only biological defining characteristic of a species. But some people will find anything to make one group seem different from another. But the point is all forms of hateful speech against these groups is now and will be forever protected speech.

The point is not to have everyone living in a land of flowers and rainbows but to be able to deal with the reality of a world that is brutal and wants to do you harm. The best we can do is to set up boundaries to let the people of the hateful talk have their rights as long as they respect your rights to hate them right back or better yet, just ignore them. To many people get too upset about words people say instead of the actions they take.

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of October 31, 2009xxxii there is an article about the reaction to the new additions to the hate law. It is a column from reporter Tim Townsend. In the column Townsend talks to a Rev. Bruce McCoy of the Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis, who is concerned that the law will have a chilling effect for the children of God that care for the souls of these people but do not care very much for their actions they perform privately with person of the same sex. McCoy seems to think that speaking out against an action that he disagrees with is somehow equal to an hate crime. I find that to be very intellectually dishonest of him and others that think that way.

Townsend's article includes several additional comments from other church leaders and church attorney which plays up the fear and paranoia of what will not happen. In the article things are suggested as a chilling effect of what pastors may say, and an increase of lawsuits, complaints and investigations against preachers as the law takes effect. However Townsend failed to present a more reasonable point of view from say an attorney of person from a homosexual organization. This shows a lack of journalistic integrity for Townsend and the editor that permitted this story to run in this fashion.

This paranoid fest of the religious persons from Townsend's article is, of course impossible to conceive as the same right of speech is still in place as they were before the law was passed. As I said earlier, the ability and the right for people to say pretty much anything they want is not now nor will it ever be abridged, as long as that speech doesn't cause a person to be harmed or insight violence. By harmful speech I mean, let's say there is a fire and you know a person is still in a burning building and you assure the firefighters that you got everyone out. That would be speech that causes harm.

Speech that could incite violence is basically to lie about who or what caused an event and then inflame the angry crowd as to who did the violence to you or the people you are talking to. Such as, I saw who ran this little girl over, it was that guy over there. [pointing to a guy sipping a coffee.] This could really have a negative effect on that person life in the short term.

But the truth of the matter is the removal of the fear of such laws to law abiding person. While I do not agree with the premise or purpose of the law, I see it having only influence on those that are not able to judge a person by their actions and not superficial things. Many of the more reasonable denominations actually support the law and find it a useful tool to help fight hate. I wish them luck in that endeavor.


Coming soon: 

Chapter Six; DEATH ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH part twenty one

Recently in the news , I heard that the dogmatic supporters of Scott Roeder were wanting to hold an ebay auction to help raise funds, for this all but admitted The people trying to organize this sadistic auction are using the death of Dr. George Tiller to profit the person charged with his killing.
David Leech , of Iowa, is the person that is spearheading this macabre attempt to raise money for Roeder's defense. Roeder has even said he is willing to sign some items to be put up for sale, should it ever take place.
At this time, ebay is not letting the auction take place. They are setting issues with their policy that such an auction would violate the rules, “that promote or glorify violence, hate, racial or religious intolerance, or items that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”xxxi
Not to mention it would violate human dignity and common respect. But , when you have groups like The Westboro Baptist Church protesting his candlelight vigil, what can you say about the religious adherents?
xxxi ibid

Coming Next time; 


Friday, October 15, 2010

Chapter Six; GEORGE TILLER AND ME part twenty

On May 31, 2009 , George Tiller was assassinated while attending his church in Wichita, Kansas. A man named Scott Roeder has been arrested and charged with his death. I went to the candlelight vigil held in Wichita, in Bricktown the day he was shot. About a thousand people from all walks of life attended, including religious adherents, agnostics and atheists. There was a peaceful feeling among the crowd, and except for the standard appearance of the Westboro Baptist Church's sideshow, it was a nice time to reflect upon the life of a family man, who devoted his life to what he felt was right. Helping women with their reproductive health is a worthy and important aspiration.

Thousands of people gather in a nearly spontaneously manner after the assassination of Dr. George Tiller May 31, 2009 in Wichita, Kansas. The peaceful protest was held in the Wichita Bricktown area and had many people of different faiths and no faiths at all speak of the way Dr. Tiller supported a woman's right to control her own body. There were only minor protests from other points of view and even they were treated peacefully.

At the vigil, even the abortion rights supporters said that abortion is not the best idea for a woman to have to choose , but it is a right to have the choice and therefore, should be safe. That is what Dr. Tiller gave his life for.
At one time , I was far on the other side of this issue. In 1996, I lived in Andover, Kansas which is a suburb of Wichita. On my days off, I would walk around the Center for Woman's Health Clinic, praying for various things, such as Dr. Tiller to change his mind about performing abortions; or to have the clients change their mind about having the procedure. I felt that a human life was being taken in the procedure. A discussion, of this point, could take awhile, so I am going to skip it, for now.
I am glad that , over the past few years, I came to realize that having safe and legal abortions helps women make difficult choices they have to make with their doctor. My feeling now is, a man has the choice to have sex with a woman, safe or not. A woman has the choice to have the baby or not. It was around the legacy of Dr. Tiller that my ideas were formed.
Sadly, my desire to apologize to him will never come to fruition. I thought about how I could meet him , tell him my story and admit how wrong I was, how much I supported his work. The vigil allowed me to release some of the feelings I had been dealing with. The idea that it was organized at the last moment and was well coordinated with the Wichita Police and the local media, indicates the influence Dr. Tiller's life had on the community of Wichita, was a one of peace and harmony.
While I watched the crowd and saw people talking about all sorts of issues, three younger woman approached me and said it was nice to see a man supporting a woman's choice. For some reason, this let my emotions flow forth and I began to cry. I told her it had been a long journey, to get to this point. I also told her that my mother would be upset if I didn't come, as she was such a supporter of a woman's right to choose. When I told my mother that I went, she was touched and said “thank you” for going.
I have no idea what the outcome of his murder will be, how it will effect the movement on either side. But, I do know that I was touched by his life. It seems like a lone religious radical is responsible for taking the law into his own hands. As has been said before, dogma can make otherwise reasonable people do unreasonable things.
It was quickly after the assassination of Dr. Tiller , that the Right to Life group began condemning the killing of Dr. Tiller. It was then they wanted people to know they were not supporting that sort of action. They preferred to have their points of view take place through laws and court actions. Soon after, the talk changed to, How is this going to shape the abortion debate in America?
I really cannot tell at this time how the murder, of Dr. Tiller and the trial of the accused, will affect the abortion debate in The United States. While I was at the candlelight vigil, I felt that many of the religious abortion supporters still couldn't bring themselves to abandon their faith and see that it is not a God that will or won't protect them. It is the people in this world that you must rely upon to take safe actions to protect yourself. Maybe if Dr. Tiller had decided to abandon faith in total he would still be alive Today.
Instead of being at church , he could have been home, playing with his grandchildren and still be providing quality and safe health care to women in need. This didn't happen, though. Now there is one less abortion provider in the Untied States. The idea of going into practice and physician planning to go into woman's health care is a very frightful one.
I cannot tell, but I do know that for late-term, problem pregnancies there are only two doctors that can help those women in need. Plus, the Tiller family announced that the Women's Health Care Services Inc. will close permanently.
Regardless of your point of view , and regardless of how hard lawmakers tried, Dr. Tiller was not guilty of breaking any laws. Even when the Kansas Attorney General made up 19 charges against him, all the charges were ultimately all dropped.
One thing I did find strange was how people that attended the vigil kept saying , “this was not how Jesus would act” or “this was not God's will”. I would have to say this is not how a human being should behave, but whomever did this seems to have been able to hide behind religion to let his radical views grow until he was able to enter the Reformation Lutheran Church and shoot Tiller in the head. Tiller was known to wear a bullet proof vest. The shooter may have known this and aimed for the head to make sure the shot would result in death.
One final note, when I was in college at Wichita State University, in 1985, I dated a girl that was pregnant from a man she met while in Army. She wanted an abortion. I encouraged her to have it done. I went with her to Planned Parenthood, in Wichita, and when she went to have the procedure. According to the attendant, the gestation was at 12 weeks. It was a hard option for her to choose and a painful procedure to endure. She was thankful that she had the choice. She was also grateful that I was there for her, during the difficult time.
While I didn't have the burden of choice she had to make, she did ask my point of view. She also talked to her mother, who gave her the money to pay for the procedure.
What Dr. Tiller's murder tells me about the purpose of religion , is that it allows people of disparate views to be able to associate and talk about their shared points of view. This can let people with radical views slip under the radar, so to speak, until they are ready to strike. It also provides religious radicals a false sense of empowerment and/or justification, when the people they associate and identify with seem to be in agreement.
On this level I agree with Hitchens , that all religion is harmful. Even liberal and moderate adherents are the picket fence that allows radical views, to build and hide behind.

Coming next time: 
DEATH ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH part twenty one

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chapter Six; HERE IS YOUR SIGN part nineteen

When I saw this huge structure towering over the plains of the Texas panhandle, I knew I had to stop. The entire area had the “stations of the cross” and a last supper with four of the twelve Disciples at this version. I guess the other eight had to eat and run. They also had a version of the stone grave of Jesus and a very huge replica of the Shroud of Turin. Oddly enough, just the week before I was there, I saw the 198 foot cross in Effingham, IL.

With the exception of artistic endeavors, generally an atheist will not waste money and time on things as trivial as a 198 foot cross, as in Effingham, IL and all the brass statues that can go along with a 190 foot cross, as in Groome, TX. These two monster crosses tower and one that stands over Interstate 35, near Oklahoma City are among thousands and thousands of displays of religion that most Christian adherents find nothing wrong with but think having a representation of another religion or none whatsoever that the society is going to fall apart. All such displays are a blatant waste of time and money. They serve to ignore the words of Jesus, that adherents claim to follow, and spend money that could be used to create jobs for the needy or certainly put forth in feeding, clothing and housing them. Just think, if the land was donated to a charity, where persons could receive job training and housing, while they were in a program to help them, until they get back on their feet. Additionally, the land could be used to farm, to self sustain the charity, instead of creating a tribute to wasted time and opportunity. Not to mention that there is nothing in the Bible to indicate the Jesus lived in anything but meager or minimal ways in the story of his life.

There is not an indication of him having a home or a job or a rich family or anything but a way of communication with people that being nice was a pretty good idea. So where do the adherents of Jesus get off thinking that the display of your holiness is the possessions that you have. Or have been “blessed” with as they would put it. Huge churches, with elaborate displays and architectural structures is surely the display of hypocrisy and deviation from the words of Jesus. But some people think that Jesus is too weak to do the work all by himself. They would prefer to use their children and leave others to suffer instead of doing the charity of the faith that they hold so dear. So this is why we end up with huge crosses and homeless people and people with illness that could be cured. But instead, they rather take God out of their life and do the work that their faith would indicate that God could do otherwise. By this we see how truly faithless these adherents are.

I was told that the 190 foot cross in Groome, TX was built when the land-owner got fed up with signs that advertise, what he called pornography stores in Amarillo, TX. While was driving between that point and the city of Amarillo, then, again back to Oklahoma, I saw no signs advertising anything of an "adult" nature, in Amarillo. I have since heard that the cross has been there a long time, perhaps those stores went out of business or the laws changed regarding what sort of billboards can be displayed.

I did see a huge truck stop on the east side of Amarillo , called the “Jesus is Lord” truck stop. xxix It was painted in white and red. As I passed it on Interstate 40, I thought about stopping for a visit. Maybe next time I am in the area, I will give them a visit.


Coming next time:  GOD IN CHAOS;

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Recently, Nevada United States Senator John Ensign had a 'consensual affair' with a campaign staffer who was “married to an official Senate staffer,” the statement from his office said.i Ensign who, like me, was a member, of the Christian men's movement Promise Keepers, said that, "I deeply regret and am very sorry for my actions." Somehow when the term consensual affair, I don't really think the woman's husband was consenting to the affair.

Ensign was one of the vocal republican Senators calling for Senator Larry Craig of Idaho to resign after Senator Craig was arrested in a Minneapolis airport men's room sex sting in 2007, which Craig plead guilty to. Ensign also figured prominently in the book The Family, by Jeff Sharlet. ii

Craig was also a vocal Republican . In 1998, he called for the resignation of President Bill Clinton after news of his liaison with Monica Lewinsky was revealed. Ensign has not resigned his senate seat but resigned his leadership position in the Republican party. Ensign's wife, Darlene, is standing with him and has said, "I love my husband," in statements, “and that the affair has made their relationship 'stronger.'”

While the affair is bad enough, one would conclude that it reflects a serious ethics violation in as much as the woman, he had the affair with, was the wife of one of his campaign staff. Yet even with this the biggest issue is the hypocrisy of this man.

The same scandal with a Democrat would still admit the issue, but the career of a Democrat is much less likely to be destroyed. Bill Clinton survived his scandal and ended his term in office with high approval ratings. Other Democrats have similarly been able to overcome the sex scandals and either keep their office, and at times even been reelected. The point, of this example, is to show the hypocrisy of this party that reflects the values of the American religious right. Time and time again they fall prey to their own natural human desire. These people lead the charge for traditional American values yet time and time again are the worse of violating the values that they say they support. Not to mention that traditional American values doesn't really mean anything to begin with. It is a slogan to help polarize and separate one group of Americans from other Americans. So the honest way to look at traditional American values is that these value followers seek to attack and criticize people they see as different from their key talking point.

Getting back to Sen. John Ensign, I do not fault Ensign for being human. I do fault him for not realizing that humans cannot be held to a unrealistic standard of behavior imposed by religious dogma and promoted by political parties. His calls for the resignation of both Bill Clinton and Larry Craig should serve as his own standard of conduct. Anything less shows the continued double standard that the Republican party and its religious right holds for violation of certain ethics.

Non-believers have an advantage over religious adherents in that they can be trusted. Most non-believers are non-violent. They do not wish to fight or kill others. Non-believers also have a desire or quest for facts, or as I call it, truth. Therefore, their motives are usually clearer.

So, I ask, Why would a non-believer be a candidate for someone to be more trusted? Surely this runs counter intuitive to conventional wisdom. Or does it? As I have mentioned through the earlier definition, non-believers do not have a dogma, in which they subscribe to, so they only have the natural world to base their motives and actions on. You will not see an atheist trying to limit the rights of a group based on two or three lines in an ancient book. To be honest,an atheist my actually disagree with a person’s particular view but still be supportive of their right to have the view.

An atheist cannot justify killing , more than 3,000 people in a single day attack, to follow the belief of a religion. They surely wouldn't dream of a gift of several virgins after the attack. And if they survived the attack, they would expect nothing less than to be put persecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

You will not see an atheist sequester scores of followers that feel they are obeying the words of a supernatural being. You will not find an atheist using dogma as an excuse , to have young girls married off to older men just because the men say they have reached “womanhood”. Religion cannot motivate an atheist to blow up trains or buses or strap bombs to their chest, walk into crowed shopping areas and kill innocent people. Any religion that asks its adherents to subject their will to the dogma of religion is not worth following. There is a common good for all people. Society works best when we follow these ideas. These need not be dogma, only rules of social behavior.

That doesn't excuse bad behavior or non-believers from violent acts. People's motives that are not directly dogma-based can cause violence and oppression. Clearly, as I viewed the smoke coming up April 19, 1995, at the Murrah bombing that killed 168 Americans, I could not have believed it was directly, religiously motivated. Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh were, however, ideologically motivated by a segment of belief, which is dogmatic. Just seven years before that April day, I took my oath of enlistment into the United States Army by a former Air Force officer roommate, after going through the MEPS processing in the Murrah building. I have seen first hand the vile poison that comes from the radicals from the right of political thought. Not to say that left political radicalism is any good either but the idea is that the right seems much more indoctrinated into the idea that violence is a action that is a viable option. Taking up arms against the “enemies” of freedom can even result in patriotic pride and the previously mentioned polarization and separation from mainstream society.

When a group removes oneself away from opinions that can calm, challenge provoke, educate, and moderate their points of view, they will soon find that the path that their thoughts lead them too is one of self destruction and possibly harm to others.

The same can be said about the April 20, 2000 , Columbine School shootings in Lakewood, CO. I was not in Colorado, when that happened. The same deeply held belief and distortion of reality motivated the shooters in that tragedy. The point is that the belief in a supernatural dogma adds to the likelihood that otherwise “good” people will do bad things. If one is not willing to question what they believe, then they can be manipulated into doing things they cannot believe they would otherwise do.

Every atheist I have talked to feels strongly that we, as humans, must do what we can to better ourselves and help our fellow man. If there was anything like dogma for an atheist, this would be the one and only thing I think that would qualify. Oddly enough, most of the religions that support the right to life would be surprised to find that abortion is really a non-issue to most atheists. By that, I mean that it is a split topic among atheists. The main idea is that if abortion is legal, it should be safe and accessible. People, like admitted murderer, Scott Roeder, arrested and convicted for shooting Dr. George Tiller, act as if the law was insufficient to deal with his preferred issues and he took the law into his own hands. This is another example of how removal from socializing and moderation of different points of view can lead to radical and deadly actions.

One point of view on abortion is, is that is that since humans have one time to go around in this life. A woman should not have an abortion since that is a life that can add to the advancement of humanity. Another point of view, is that as humans (women) have the means and the right to decide what happens to their bodies. I find both points valid. The main difference is that as non-adherents, we do not have to satisfy a religious dogma to deal with the situations of issues. We can do what serves the best result in the situation. Of course this can be viewed as self serving. But, it can also let a person act best for the situation, instead of relying on a dogma. If a woman is raped, should she be punished? This is the dogmatic view of some religions and right leaning politicians. Are you “sinning” if you speed? Some think this is a sin against God and that an incentive to not get a speeding ticket is not enough. Is having an intimate relationship with someone of the same opposite sex any persons business, but the two adults involved? Many religions have strong views, although I would contend they are based upon prejudice and false information. There are millions of people having sex everyday all day long and not only do I not know about, other than by understanding about statistics, I really could careless as long as it doesn't endanger my health or safety.

If one can understand this , then you can get insight as to what being a non-believer is all about. Dan Barker, of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said,in his biography that near the end of his time as a Christian pastor he was going through the motions. Ostensibly, since announcing he was an atheist would basically end his occupation. After giving even, what he felt, was a half hearted message, people would still come up to him and tell him that the Holy Spirit moved them through his message. When I heard this, I understood what he was talking about. I found the same hypocrisy in religion as well. Barker said that he now could understand how religion worked. It was not only him, as the preacher, that helped set up the false world of religion but also the followers, who were party to supporting the messages they heard. It is a truly self-fulfilling prophecy.iii It was a seed planted many years ago, when my friend Dave, as mentioned earlier, told me that you could use the Bible for any purpose you wished. In our society we certainly do that.

We have a series of marketed religions in the United States, since the state doesn't sponsor, support of endorse a religion. [Or so we try to keep it from doing.] Basically, for any perspective one has, there is a church already in place in America to serve that view. If not, one can easily be made to fit that image. An example of this ranges from churches that allow multiple wives, such as the Yearning for Zion cult in Texas, to Unitarian Universalist congregations found in many cities throughout the county.iv The UUs, as they call themselves, say you can believe any dogma or none at all. It is as close to an atheist church with a remnant of dogma as I have heard of. Of course, a totally non-religious church would be The Ethical Society.v They call their Sunday morning gatherings platforms instead of a service or sermon.

To go on , I have met very liberal, non-believers and very conservative non-believers. One of the more famous atheists is Christopher Hitchens. He has many views that I disagree with. It is interesting to listen to him on a talk show and be in total agreement with what he is saying about how religion ruins everything. Next, he is defending President George W. Bush. But, that is the point I want to make. It isn't a dogma that an atheist has, it is the lack of dogma that makes us the people that we are. I also have the feeling that I could convince Hitchens to the validity of the points we disagree on. While he has reason that can be disputed, he would likewise listen to logical arguments. If he felt I made a valid point he would accept it. Like me, he has no dogma to defend. It doesn't change his strength of character, to admit he is wrong or to adopt another point of view. I do not lose my faith if something I currently believe in is show to be false. I just adapt a more accurate point of view. But faith is so manically that if a tentacles of faith is shown to be wrong that the person can see this is a valid reason to doubt their entire system of viewing the Universe. It can truly be quite disturbing and even dangerous for someone to face the fact that a thing they believe may not be as true as their faith as assigned meaning to it. This all by itself is a strong enough reason to take a stand against religion.

This helps explain the motivation of non-believers. Non-believers do not have to “spread the word” to every human on the planet , for a heavenly fireworks display to take place and we can do the inverse bungee jump to heaven. We do not have to make a long distance journey to walk around a rock in a black box. We do not need to have a messianic cartographer make our map for us. Then kill those that he says are on our “promised land.” We can be happy on any suitable piece of land as long as it provides what we need. It is more likely that a non-believer will act in his or her own self interest or the interest of something tangible, than the delusional dogma of a religious adherent.

The religious adherents often have to remind themselves of what it is they believe and why. It is not at all uncommon to find a Christian bookstore in a small town with many books on a variety of subjects and other items of interest to the believer. They will buy books, t-shirts, music, paintings, stickers, rings, and other items to help them remain blinded as much as possible to the possible “evil” influence of the “world.” But, it is hard for me, or other like minded people, to walk into a store and find books on the subjects of disbelief and fighting the influence of religious dogma. To be quite honest, most major authors on these subjects range from preeminent scientists, to former pastors, to journalists, to doctors and other career fields. Due to the approach of being a secularist, the diversity of topics can range from dealing with medical aspects of homeopathy and psychic surgery, to aspects of the nature of life and The Universe , to political ramifications of a religious groups’ actions. This can cause the books written by such people to be in many different sections of a mainstream bookstore. Quite different from a Christian bookstore indeed.

Walk into a Christian book store , the theological thinking has been done for you. Rarely will you find any book that will challenge the faith that brought you into the business, initially. The thing is a Christian bookstore is very deceptive. They are not really Christian at all but they are actually denominational book stores. This means it is easy to be immersed in the familiar and friendly ideas that do not threaten your way of thinking. But try looking for topics that do not fit their dogmatic point of view and you will be looked at as if you just stepped off the mother-ship. But if you go to a secualr bookstore you will have the ability to find books that might actually challenge your knowledge and help you to become a more intelligent person. I am glad I have to look for books and items that I wish to read. It certainly can be eye-opening. But of course many adherents seeking out a book on a topic are not so much interested in seeking an opposing view as they are to shoring up the view that they think shores up the view they think the Bible hold already. After all there is no reason to challenge a faith that is well grown and well entrenched.

Coming next time: Chapter Six; 
HERE IS YOUR SIGN part nineteen