An Apology Long Overdue

I have this memory of a Cumberland High School English class in 1972 where the teacher—whose name I do not recall, but was likely just a few years older than the students— in an effort to be “cool,” asked about our thoughts on the lyrics to the song Thick as a Brick performed by Jethro Tull and written by Ian Anderson.

Instead of forcing us to embrace just the classics of literature, she tried to open our eyes with a more contemporary approach.

I recall only one moment, but it has stuck with me all these years. When asked what I thought about the line, “your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick,” my answer was quick and without the least bit of thoughtfulness. 

I said, “it rhymes and fits the music.”

I can still see the disappointment in her eyes. To this day, I don’t know if the disappointment was with me and my callous response or with herself for not being able to reach us on our level..

Still, it has bothered me since.

I now realize many of the songs I grew up listening to carry more than pleasurable rhythms; they contain a wisdom that escaped me at the moment, all to my diminution. Hindsight being crystal clear, I’d like to apologize to that teacher. Better late than never.

Back then, I was often a shining example of “thick as a brick.”

Really don’t mind if you sit this one out.
My words but a whisper – your deafness a SHOUT.
I may make you feel but I can’t make you think.
Your sperm’s in the gutter – your love’s in the sink.
So you ride yourselves over the fields and
you make all your animal deals and
your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.
And the sand-castle virtues are all swept away in
the tidal destruction
the moral melee.
The elastic retreat rings the close of play as the last wave uncovers
the newfangled way.
But your new shoes are worn at the heels and
your suntan does rapidly peel and
your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.

Thick as a Brick by Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson’s brilliant writing contained more gems that may have escaped me at the moment, but have since revealed themselves. Over the years, I have struggled with the simplistic, if well-intentioned, indoctrination in the Catholic Faith of my youth.  As I expand my appreciation for the almost infinite varieties of religious tenets, I’ve also come to see how they are more similar than different. This similarity precludes any of them from exclusivity with the truth.

The demands of a god for devotion and worship. The claims of physics-defying miracles occurring always absent any independent method of verification except eyewitnesses, the least reliable form of evidence. The almost exclusive male dominance of the hierarchy. The gender-specific rules for what to wear, how to worship, and who can lead a congregation.

Once again, Anderson’s writing offers some answers. In the lyrics of Wind-Up, Anderson wrote,

I don’t believe you:
You had the whole damn thing all wrong
He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays
Well, you can excommunicate me
On my way to Sunday school
And have all the bishops harmonize these lines
How’d you dare tell me
That I’m my Father’s son
When that was just an accident of birth
I’d rather look around me
Compose a better song
‘Cause that’s the honest measure of my worth

Wind-Up by Ian Anderson

While most people are sincere in embracing their religion, even if they are somewhat less than consistent in its practice, they seem to miss the point that their faith was indeed “an accident of birth.” If that were not the case, we would offer our children an opportunity to learn about all religions and let them, “Compose a better song, ‘Cause that’s the honest measure of my worth.”

But that’s not what we do. Some have compared religion to a virus. One is exposed and develops the illness, then spreads it to others in proximity.  Some find this comparison offensive because they see malicious intent.  But nothing could be further from the truth. We have all unintentionally infected others with germs, not through intentional acts but through regular daily interaction.

No different than how religions are spread. While some convert from one religion to another, that happens when they are inoculated from the feverish philosophy of one religion by the vaccine of another.

Religion has its place in humanity. But when one religion is pitted against another, or integrated into government’s secular operation, the potential for religious orchestrated pogroms rises.

In this country, many would claim we are a Judeo-Christian based society with no room for Islam, Buddhism, or any other “foreign” religion. Some would argue we don’t need to include the Judeo part because Christianity is the one true faith.  The Catholic faith doctrine is more specific; if you are not baptized, confirmed, and fully committed to Catholicism, you cannot enter heaven.

This seems a bit presumptuous in light of the 4000-plus religions that have claimed to be the only truth at one time or another.

Anderson wrote it, and that teacher put it out there for me to see all those years ago. I just chose to close my mind to the possibilities—something I see in those who refuse to accept other religions’ equal validity.

All those years ago and the disappointment on that teacher’s face still lurks in my memory. I have no idea if she is even still around. But I wanted her to know the seed she planted finally germinated and broke through the brick of my ignorance.

The Dangers of Certainty
One of the most problematic aspects of discourse in politics today is …
Leaves That Are Green
This time of the year, when even on a warm sunny day …
This Shall Not Stand!
There are some things one has to learn to tolerate. And there …
The Gordian Knot of Being a Cop
The recent incident involving, by most estimates, 100 to 300 ATV vehicles …

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Saints, Sinners, and Sophistry

“One may safely affirm that all popular theology has a kind of appetite for absurdity and contradiction…. While their gloomy apprehensions make them ascribe to Him measures of conduct which in human creatures would be blamed, they must still affect to praise and admire that conduct in the object of their devotional addresses. Thus it may safely be affirmed that popular religions are really, in the conception of their more vulgar votaries, a species of daemonism.” David Hume, The Natural History of Religion

A recent piece of mine (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2020/10/17/nationalism-militarism-patriotism-government-and-a-social-market-economy/) brought with it the usual criticisms, recriminations, condemnations, castigations, and accusations. Of course, this is why I do this. Truth be told, I often learn things from those who hold different opinions, and, on the rare occasion, it changes my point of view.

One comment concerned whether I support abortion on demand. They then launched into the usual macabre reference to third-trimester abortion, which is never merely on-demand besides being the rarest of abortions. Nor would any such rational legislative body seek to make it so.

The comment also included a quote from Mother Teresa. 

“America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts — a child — as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters” And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.” 

Rather interesting moral pontificating from a woman who, while she certainly accomplished many good and worthy things, did not differ from the missionaries in the past. They came unbidden, sure of their just purpose, wrapped in the best of intentions, and set about converting those who did not embrace the Christian Faith as the priority, using charity and kindness or, when necessary, more direct measures to mask their real purpose.

If forced baptisms and compelled deathbed conversions to Catholicism were not a well-documented element of her mission, I would have a different perspective. But the truth is, she does not differ from every missionary who dragged Native American children to Indian Schools. They were sincere in the fervor, and it blinded them to what amounted to cultural genocide. What they saw as doing God’s work saving souls allowed them to ignore the destruction of one religious philosophy for the sake of another.

Often those who appear saintly turn out to be a mere self-deception by those who would believe. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Mundi vult decipi—ergo decipiatur (The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.)

Petronius

So, on to Mother Teresa. First, I have no doubt about her sincerity that she was doing God’s work. But then every missionary believes in the necessity to convert the heathen masses to the Word of (Insert the name of the particular God here.)

People needed saving from the devil’s false gospel and to bathe in the blood of Jesus. The problem is you can substitute any devil and God in the form of an alternate orthodoxy of any faith and still have the pretense of doing good. At the same time, your real purpose is merely conversion. 

Mother Teresa needed the poor more than they needed her. Here’s what she had to say in her own words from various interviews, movies, and television appearances.

In an interview for a film documented by Christopher Hitchens in his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, the good sister had this to say about a cancer patient’s suffering.

“She described a person who was in the last agonies of cancer and suffering unbearable pain. With a smile, Mother Teresa told the camera what she told this terminal patient: “You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.”  Unconscious of the account to which this irony might be charged, she then told of the sufferer’s reply: “Then please tell him to stop kissing me.” (The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice pg. 44 Kindle Edition)

While being honored at a luncheon meeting at the International Health Organization in 1989. She had this to say about tolerance.

“During her acceptance speech, she spoke at length of her opposition to contraception and her activities to save the unwanted products of heterosexual activity. She also touched on AIDS, saying she did not want to label it a scourge of God but that it did seem like a just retribution for improper sexual conduct. (The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice location pg. 52 Kindle Edition)

While one can argue she inspired many to dedicate their lives to helping the poor and downtrodden, it is a legitimate criticism that her primary purpose was not to alleviate the suffering but to frame it in the context of her fundamentalist Catholic Doctrine.

Many former sisters, volunteers, and medical personnel questioned her rationalization for resisting using pain medications—even in hospice situations—because, she insisted, God sent the suffering and we must be willing to accept his decisions.

Her opposition to abortion aside, arguing against contraception, the one inexpensive and non-invasive method of population control, family planning, and effective means of eliminating overburdened families in poverty, cannot be rationalized.  

It is based on interpretations of ancient texts, rewritten and revised by Popes, Kings, and Priests with vested interests in their promulgation and maintaining male dominance of the religion.

It is nothing but the antithesis of compassion.

There are also many questions about her handling millions of dollars in donations that remain unanswered. These are well documented and available for anyone to inquire about. Her close association with brutal governments, albeit supported by Catholic clergy, questions her judgment.

That some in America would point to her as a beacon of morality is troubling. Leo Strauss, who had a profound influence on the Republican Right-wing majority, said this.

“Christian America cares for people before they are born and after they are dead but is only interested in clerical coercion for the years in between.”

Leo Straus

This perfectly sums up the good sister’s intentions. While she was the founder of a worthy order and can be admired for inspiring many to serve the poor, unmasking her motivations reveals a darker, troubling side. Suffering that can be eliminated or minimized should always be the goal. To subvert that worthy cause in pursuit of some egomaniacal claim to understanding God’s will is abhorrent.

That in the 21st Century, we have people who still believe in beings who can operate outside the laws of physics astounds me. In the debate over morality, if one wants to use religious tenets and the actions of those who embrace them as a justification for holding certain beliefs, one must be willing to scrutinize them.

Like many myths, they rarely survive the inquiry.

But here’s something that is not a myth and can stand up to scrutiny.  One of the most effective ways to reduce abortions is access to birth control and medical care. 

Organizations like Planned Parenthood, whose primary purpose is not to encourage abortions but to provide sound medical advice and options to women of childbearing age, is one such entity.

In the philosophy of Mother Teresa, contraception is against the Word of God and thus equal to abortion in moral terms. Such archaic morality flies in the face of human sexuality. The tongue-in-cheek title of Hitchens’s book, The Missionary Position, illustrates this well. And there is little need to mention the duplicitousness of the Catholic Church’s moral stance in the sexual abuse scandal.

Here’s another myth needing to be dispelled. Third-trimester abortions are common and made at the whim of the mother. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Third-trimester abortions are the rarest of events, always done for medically sound reasons, and are among the most heartbreaking decisions a woman has to make. That anyone would believe this is an appropriate place for external governmental or religious doctrinal intrusion is ludicrous.

Mother Teresa may become a Saint one day in the Catholic Church. Part of that process will include the advocatus diaboli, the Devil’s Advocate. It would be interesting to hear how those arguments are framed.

In the mythical realm of Saints and Sinners, we are all just human. No evidence exists to the contrary.

______________________________________________________________________________

As always, I await the onslaught of criticisms, recriminations, condemnations, castigations, and accusations. I shall prepare another coffee and await my fate…

Freedom of Speech*(*Conditional, of course)

In Muslim culture, they greet one another in this way.

 “As-salaam Alaykum,” meaning “Peace be upon you” and answered by “wa ʿalaykumu s-salām” meaning “and peace be upon you too.” (Apologies if I got the spelling wrong)

What’s wrong with that? Almost sounds Christian.

In the America of today, using such a greeting might prompt a visit from the FBI when your fellow Americans suspect you of being a terrorist. We fear the unfamiliar despite our claims of embracing all colors, creeds, and cultures.

Freedom is relative in America these days. While most Americans support Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion, many attach a condition to these cherished rights.

Look to the headlines and the evidence of conditional toleration is everywhere.

Opinion pieces are rife regarding the newest members of Congress, Muslims. Where is the religious toleration and why is their religion significant? I mean what could happen next, Atheists? Religious toleration only goes so far, we tolerate Christian faiths, perhaps even Jews-but not too many, you know what happens when they take over-but Muslims? There goes the neighborhood.

We can’t have it.

Freedom of religion, as enshrined in the Constitution, is unambiguous. The 4000 plus religions in the world are free to practice their faith as long as they harm no one or refuse to tolerate the different religious practices of others.

Simple, right? It would seem not. Intermixed with Freedom of Religion, which includes Freedom from Religion, is Freedom of Speech.

Once again there is a difference between what we say, or point to in the Constitution, and what we practice in our daily lives. Professional athletes take a knee to highlight persisting racism within this county and we rebuke, threaten, and call them un-American.

What is more American than taking a stand to right a wrong? What is more emblematic of American courage than to stand against evil? But even if you disagree with their method, which I found ineffectual, you must support their right to such expression.

If you argue that everyone must stand for the National Anthem out of some sense of respect for the hard-fought freedoms most of us enjoy, you’ve missed the point.

Being a product of the 60s, I lived through the years of violent antiwar protests, antigovernment upheavals, and civil rights riots. My parents’ generation looked on those protesters as un-American. Yet President Lyndon Johnson saw the need for sweeping civil rights legislation, the Great Society, to right many wrongs highlighted by the protests.

Despite Dr. Martin Luther King’s plea for nonviolence, decades of rage over racial disparity coupled with an ill-conceived and unnecessary war in Viet Nam drove the country to the boiling point.

Yet we survived.

Today, conditional toleration threatens Freedom of Speech. We need zealously guard free expression, even when we find ourselves in complete disagreement with the message.

Think about this for a moment. During the war in Viet Nam, many considered antiwar protesters to be anti-American. If that’s the case, then to be pro-American is to be Pro-War? Such sentiments carried over to the endless conflict in Iraq.

I find that opposing war is un-American to be false on its face. Americans should fight only when necessary and vigorously oppose policies to the contrary. Had such a philosophy existed in 1954, when American military advisers first went to South Viet Nam, 56,000 more Americans might be enjoying their freedoms.

To be American is to hold a wide variety of political, religious, and cultural perspectives. To be American is to accept differences in others and work together for the benefit of all.

If we want to set standards for the religion or speech we will tolerate, it is a slippery slope to losing our freedoms.

Look to the headlines and the evidence of conditional tolerance is everywhere.

Opinion pieces are rife with references to the newest members of Congress, Muslims. Where is the religious tolerance and why is their religion significant? I mean what could happen next, Atheists? Religious tolerance only goes so far, we tolerate Christian faiths, perhaps even Jews-but not too many, you know what happens when they take over-but Muslims? There goes the neighborhood.

We just can’t have it.

Freedom of religion, as enshrined in the Constitution, is clear and unambiguous. The 4000 plus religions in the world are free to practice their faith as long as they harm no one or refuse to tolerate the different religious practices of others.

Simple, right? It would seem not. Intermixed with Freedom of Religion, which includes Freedom from Religion, is Freedom of Speech.

Once again there is a difference between what we say, or point to in the Constitution, and what we practice in our daily lives. Professional athletes take a knee to highlight the persistence of racism within this county and they are castigated, threatened, and called un-American.

What could be more American than to take a stand to right a wrong? What could be more emblematic of American courage than to stand against evil? But even if you disagree with their method, which truth be told I found useless and ineffective, you must support their right to such expression.

If you argue that everyone must stand for the National Anthem out of some sense of respect for the hard-fought freedoms most of us enjoy, you’ve missed the point.

Being a product of the 60s, I lived through the years of violent anti-war protests, anti-government upheavals, and civil rights riots. My parents’ generation looked on those protesters as un-American. Yet President Lyndon Johnson saw the need for sweeping civil rights legislation, the Great Society, to right many wrongs highlighted by the protests.

Despite Dr. Martin Luther King’s plea for non-violence, decades of rage over racial disparity coupled with an ill-conceived and unnecessary war in Viet Nam drove the country to the boiling point.

Yet we survived.

Today, Freedom of Speech is threatened by conditional tolerance. We need zealously guard free expression, even when we find ourselves in complete disagreement with the message.

Think about this for a moment. During the war in Viet Nam, anti-war protesters were considered anti-American. If that’s the case, then to be pro-American is to be Pro-War? Such sentiments carried over to the ongoing conflict in Iraq.

I find the idea that opposing war is un-American to be false on its face. Americans should fight only when necessary and vigorously oppose policies to the contrary. Had such a philosophy existed in 1954, when American military advisors first went to South Viet Nam, 56,000 more Americans might be enjoying their freedoms.

To be American is to hold a wide variety of political, religious, and cultural perspectives. To be American is to tolerate and appreciate the differences others may have and to work together to bring the best of these to the benefit of all.

If we want to set standards for the religion or speech we will tolerate, it is a slippery slope to losing our freedoms.

In the Arabic world, the majority of which is Muslim, they greet each other in this way.

“As-salaam Alaykum,” meaning “Peace be upon you” and answered by “wa ʿalaykumu s-salām” meaning “and peace be upon you too.” (apologies if I got the spelling wrong)

What’s wrong with that? Almost sounds Christian.

But I Thought This Was a Christian Nation?

(Reposted from October 2016. One of the candidates referred to has now become President, the other is just a convenient dead horse her opponents like to beat.  The issues I pointed out back then have not just come to pass, they have grown and expanded.)

So once again I ask, But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Reagan

If this is indeed a Christian nation, wouldn’t that imply we have God on our side? Aren’t those words an inference of our superiority because of this religious faith?

Yet, upon examination, what do we find?

Politicians spend their time and taxpayer money trying to control panhandling by the homeless. They spend no time finding solutions to the underlying problem.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We consider the poor to be the problem rather than a symptom of the problem.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Candidates propose closing borders.  They would expel innocent children because their parents sought a better life here. They support blocking entry based on religion or place of birth.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Admittedly, I am not up to date on the latest Catholic Christian doctrine. But, as best I understood it, marriage was for better or worse. Created by God and not for man to put asunder. One candidate has tried three times and another stayed in one marriage. Yet, for many, the choice is clear.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Is not the saying, “Judge not lest ye be judged?”, part of this Christian philosophy?

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We talk of destroying a civilization based on differences and misunderstandings. We would kill others since they worship a different God.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Many would embrace the call for a new crusade. Echoing the words of Pope Urban in calling for the first crusade;

O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ!

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We consider the assassination of a candidate as a viable solution to political differences.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are among an exclusive group of nations. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, North Korea, and the USA that all practice executions.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are number two in the world in incarceration rates. (Behind the Seychelles of all places?)

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are 37th in health care for our people according to the World Health Organization. (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates take better care of their people.)

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are 29th in education in the world. Vietnam has a higher rated educational system.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We scream and yell that we are number one in the world. The best country in the world. Our enemies hate us because of our freedom. It is our Christian traditions that have made us what we are.

Is it?

Perhaps the end of times will come at our own hands. We may choose to launch our nuclear weapons against those with whom we disagree. After all, why have the weapons if you’re not going to use them?

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Turns out, I may be right. I’m just not sure how it has helped us.

The “Gift” of a Life?

How do you gift a human life?  Someone’s interpretatBible Quranion of the Bible says you can. Read these stories,

Giving my child away because the Bible says I should

Six wives and counting

If there’s an urgency to destroying radical Islam, shouldn’t there be an equal or greater urgency to target fundamental Christians who “gift” a human? Why is it so easy to recognize a twisted interpretation of a Christian doctrine as contrary to most Christian beliefs, but not so when it is within Islam?

Why are we willing to act out of fear and destroy those we do not understand because we see them as broadly representative of an entire religious tradition, yet, when confronted with similar examples of a “Christian” atrocity, we argue it does not represent most Christians.

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the slobbering vitriol to “destroy” these enemies of all that is good?

My issue with religion is the certainty of adherents that their own theology is the correct one and all others are wrong. They hold this secret despite protestations to the contrary. As I am often reminded,

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Those who embrace the fundamental aspects of any religion are equally dangerous in my mind.

One lashes out with bombs strapped to brain-washed adherents who believe they’ve booked a trip to a “Virgin” nirvana.

Another will use cruise missiles or perhaps nuclear weapons to blanketly target 1.5 billion adherents because of the actions of a few.

All in the name of God.

Where’s the “Christianity” in that?

 

Shakespeare’s God and Ghost

Whenever I write something that challenges (or perhaps outright denies the validity of) religious beliefs, I am often reminded by one of my favorite teachers from years ago (apologies Mr. Walsh) of this quote from Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Act 1, Scene 5)

william-shakespeare-194895-1-402

HORATIO
    O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLET
    And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

This quote is often used to counter such arguments by implying there are things we don’t, and perhaps cannot, know for certain.

The existence of an omnipotent god being the big one.

I would argue the opposite. The quote comes when Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet. He denies what is right in front of him. Hamlet’s line is as much a criticism of the limitations of our beliefs as an argument that we can’t know everything.

I would suggest that Hamlet is pointing out that, in the presence of new information, long-standing beliefs change.

In Shakespeare’s time, the Copernican theory of a heliocentric solar system was still being met with death by fire at the hands of the Catholic Church. Today, we have found over 3000 extra-solar planets orbiting other stars.

Galileo, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was under house arrest for confirming the Copernican theory. Today, only the lunatic fringe cling to such ideas of an earth-centered universe.

Isaac Newton, born shortly after Shakespeare’s death, began developing Newtonian physics that held sway until the introduction of Quantum physics. Even those who study such things have barely scratched the surface of the strange world of quantum entanglements. Einstein’s characterization of “spooky actions at a distance’ now is accepted a fact.

My point being that much of the most dominant religious dogmas, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic, have their roots in times of limited scientific knowledge with widespread misunderstanding of natural phenomenon.

A first grader today has a more in-depth understanding of the reality of the physical world than the most educated Roman or Greek or Islamic intellectual at the time of the founding of these religions.

Professor Tom Nichols of the Naval War College writes in his book, “The Death of Expertise” about the demise of our ability to question things and seek knowledge. We have lost our ability to think critically. We’ve been “Googled” into relinquishing analysis and discourse.

He writes, “The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance,” He laments that many Americans are “proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue.”

The idea that most Americans believe in Angels is astounding. They may argue that something inexplicable must have been an Angelic intervention but it doesn’t establish that as fact. All it does is illustrate that there are some things we do not yet understand.

Yet being the important word in that sentence.

I do not claim to have the answers, no one can. But I think history teaches us with each passing moment long-held beliefs based on faith alone have fallen to the inevitable progress of human inquiry.

By falling back on Shakespeare’s quote as a means of saying we must accept things because we can’t explain them or disprove them flies in the face of the progress of knowledge.

In Shakespeare’s time, there was disagreement at the point of a lighted torch on whether the earth circled the sun. Some four hundred years later, a man stood on the moon. Over the next decade, man will stand on Mars.

Not that science alone can offer all the answers, but the scientific method does offer a roadmap of how to get there. By questioning hypothesis, by repeating experiments, by continually adding to the sum of human knowledge we will grow our rationality.

All one need do is look around at the world today to see the risk of faith-based politics. Those who subscribe to mystical messages from unseen gods as a guide to managing human affairs are as much a threat as a terrorist bomb. Not one of the “inspired word of god” texts leaves out some cataclysmic end to the world with the saving of the faithful and the utter destruction of the unbelievers. Ever wonder why such blind faith is so important to an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being?

If you believe in hell and the promise of everlasting torment for those who are not “bathed in the blood,” or any other such dogma that is a true threat to the peaceful existence of humanity.

By thinking, we grow. “Cogito ergo sum” I think, therefore I am. The more we think and learn and investigate, the better we will live.

And that is why, despite Hamlet’s words, I question and doubt.

Our Father, who art in heaven, what the hell are you thinking?

The establishment clause of the church-and-stateConstitution is clear,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The interpretations provide the government, and the governed, a clear path to follow. The Government has no place in supporting or subverting religious practices. Nor acting against those who chose to hold no religious faith.

I, as many of you know, am of the latter category. My progression from Catholicism to Doubt (or cynic in the tradition of Diogenes and Epicurus) makes me particularly sensitive to governmental line crossing.

When I watched the Trump rally in Florida, I was taken aback by the First Lady’s recitation of a Christian prayer. One may argue that being a political rally, President Trump can conduct this in any manner he chooses.

I disagree.

There is no such thing as a “time-out” from being President. Wherever, whenever Mr. Trump is, he is the President. He need conduct himself as such.

What’s the big deal, you may ask?

Imagine the reaction if Melania read a Sura from the Koran? The Christian conservatives would lose their minds. It would illustrate the double standard in evidence here.

A “Christian” prayer is a harmless invocation recognizing the importance of religion to most Americans. A recitation of a Sura, I dare say, would be taken as an insult.

Make no mistake about it. The recent ban on entry to the United States is a direct attack on a specific religion. Something clearly prohibited by the constitution.

Many are quick to wrap their guns in the Second Amendment as being inviolate and clear in its intent. Yet find it convenient to parse the language of the Establishment clause.

This is not a debate on the validity of any religion. I’ll save that for another time. My point is to illustrate the disingenuous nature of this administration. Trump plays to the lowest common denominator of emotion. He sees most Americans are Christians as a justification for ignoring the constitution. He plays to their fears and lack of understanding of those of different faiths.

That many Americans applaud and support such tactics is frightening. We cannot let this stand.

The President must be the calm and sober one, containing the raw emotions of nationalism and fear not feeding them. They must play the part of the adult in the room. I fear this one never will.

America’s Long Walk on a Short Pier

The America I know, the one that once served as a bright shining beacon to the world, is changing. Our headlong panic rush to insulate, rather than defend, ourselves from those that would do us harm is disheartening.

Talk of building walls, denying entry based on religion or origin, craving a national policy of carpet bombing without regard to innocents is not a solution. It is the easy way out. That is not America.

We are on a very long walk on a short pier.305880-pier

America was once the country who built piers to welcome those who seek the American dream. We stood greeting those looking for a better life. Yet now, because it is so easy to focus on those who misuse our welcome, we are throwing it all away.

When did we become so afraid of standing up for what is right, that we are willing to bury our head in the sand?

We bought into this ‘I’m being bullied nonsense’ and cry to our mommies. I know this may offend some people but you don’t run from bullies, or try to legislate them out of existence. You stand up to them.

It’s the only way to solve the problem. Time to recapture our pride and dignity.

Now, we are faced with a Presidential election. The campaign is a bunch of meaningless drivel, hurled by both sides, that offers no real solution, no intelligent analysis of the problem, and no real hope for change.

We are better than that. We deserve better than that. And yet, most of us just follow along like blind sheep lured by the aroma of fresh feed right into the slaughter house.

Instead of doing the hard work of identifying those who would misuse welfare, we punish the entire program.

Instead of doing the difficult task of bringing the fight to the enemy, we embrace politicians with no idea of the rules of engagement who see carpet bombing as a solution to end a philosophy. Innocent casualties be damned.

Instead of making the effort to understand the complex problems facing us, we engage in screaming matches that do nothing.

Instead of focusing on the logjam that is Congress, we scream and yell about useless Congressional hearings and speeches that capitalize on our ignorance.

Instead of embracing education, we dilute the standards then blame teachers for the results. Johnny can’t read and we do not care.

But there is still time.

There is time to remember that Congress holds the purse strings of America, not the President, and understand who holds the purse strings of Congress.

There is time to return to an America where holding public office meant doing public service not keeping it for life.

There is time, but it, like the end of the pier, is growing short.

I have noticed a troubling trend among the tattooed generation of Americans. I am noticing more and more individuals sporting a barcode tattoo on the back of their necks.

If we are not vigilant. If we do not wean ourselves away from chasing Pokémon. If we do not think instead of remaining mindlessly enslaved to our cell phones.

If we do not realize that we have stopped adding to the pier that is the American dream but continue to walk at our current pace, we will find ourselves at the end.

Those sporting this barcode tattoo may be a foreshadow of the American future.

Where once each new generation represented an addition to the treasure of America, our people, they may be reduced to nothing but inventory from a failed dream.

Think before we walk into oblivion.

Insights from 60 Revolutions of the Sun

In my now sixty complete revolutions of the sun, I am struck by how much the world has changed and how little people have progressed.

We are a single race. The human race. Yet, one is hard-pressed to find examples of this.

We live at a time when access to information is at an all-time high and rationality at a depressing low. Instead of recognizing our differences as nothing more than window dressing, we isolate ourselves with those we share those shallow aspects and separate ourselves from those we see as different.

Why is it we fill our hearts with the irrationality of prejudice, the willful ignorance of others, instead of embracing the commonality of our nature?

Tolerance is something we demand for ourselves and deny to others. The surface differences that comprise such a small percentage of our being cloud the overwhelming similarities.

At a time when it would seem the very survival of our common race is at hand, we focus on promoting our differences instead of joining together to insure our survival.

The faiths of the world publicly espouse their common goal yet continue to teach the doctrines of difference.

Politicians play to the lowest common denominator of fear to further than own careers no matter the cost.

We resort to violence as a solution rather than recognizing violence is at the root of the issue. Violence is the tool to protect differences not people . What we need is the rationality of diplomacy and acceptance.

I can only hope that five hundred or a thousand years from now the descendants of the human race look back on the foolishness of this time as a product of ignorance and stupidity.

Much like we mock the ignorance of the Dark Ages or the image of Stone Age man cowering in his cave from the thunder and lightning of the gods, future humans will find a similar ignorance in the history of our time.

If there are any descendants to do so.  I can only hope we survive  to live up to our self-described moniker of Homo Sapiens.

With all the tools of destruction and our skills at killing our fellow humans over artificial differences, there may not be anyone left to attain such insight and maturity of character.

Something to Look Forward to!

 

As you should all be aware by now (if not pay attention here), Kent Harrop and I co-write a weekly blog called “TheHereticandtheHolyman.” If you have not read it yet, please do.

There will be a quiz.

(As a sideline, occasionally I see an intriguing question on-line. This was on some sort of a sign, “If Quizzes are Quizzical, what are Tests?”)

Excuse the mind detour, back to the subject at hand. Hey, ice cream…

We explore various topics about “Life, the Universe, and Everything” from our different perspectives. Since Kent IS a Red Sox fan, I do try to use small words but the message does get across.

One of us usually writes on a topic and sends it to the other for his response. We then post it on Friday.

This week we are going to do something a little different. This week will be a blind response to the other’s position.

Kent proposed a great topic. Here is how he so well expressed the idea.

How about we write about Heaven and Hell (do they exist) and is Joe going to a warm place (and I don’t mean Aruba)?!”

The sentiment alone brought warmth to the cold winter day as I read it.

So check back this Friday, see if there is a Heaven and a Hell. See if one of them looms in my future. I am sure some of you think I deserve it just for being a Yankees fan!

Put it on your calendar, set a reminder, tell all your friends to join in, express your thoughts about where I am going and if I deserve it. This might prove interesting.