For (which?) God and (whose?) Country

I just read the New Yorker report on the raid that killed bin Laden.


I took a few things away from it.

1st. There is no military organization in the world that can even come close to matching the courage, determination, ability, and competence of the armed forces of the United States.

This is compounded by the willingness of the American people to pursue Justice.

You can hate President Barrack Obama’s policies and politics, but you cannot doubt his courage, his willingness to make difficult decisions, his admiration of, concern for, and confidence in the military.

He risked his Presidency on doing the right thing.

2nd (and this is more troubling)

The article reports the following transmission was sent to confirm contact with bin Laden (known as “Crankshaft” by JSOC group and referred to as “Geronimo” in the broadcast”).

Inside the compound the Seal team radioed;

“For God and Country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo”

This was immediately followed by the words “Geronimo, E.K.I.A.” (Enemy Killed in Action) to confirm he was dead.

The article goes on to describe the tension in the White House situation room.

At one point the article points out “as they awaited word, VP Biden nervously fingered his Rosary”

I was struck by the incongruity of these statements.

It was blind, nonsensical, religious belief that triggered the situation in the first place.

What was the difference? Our praying to a different invisible “God”?

One God sent planes into buildings.

One God guided forces to a house in Pakistan.

Taken in the best light, I guess the “Christian” God is more “surgical” in his vengence.

To borrow a line from a t-shirt I once saw;

“Science flies you to the moon, Religion flies you into buildings”

I do not begrudge people their religious beliefs. I do not doubt their sincerity. As long as it is personal and private.

I am troubled by any of our governmental actions, our elected officials, our powerful military being guided by any religious tenets.

Morality, honesty, and integrity do not exist because of religion, they exist in spite of it.

Studies show humans are evolutionarily “designed” (now that’s Intelligent!) to be moral, empathetic, and ethical.

Religion compels a certain behavior out of fear of eternal damnation or reward of a blissful, eternal life (especially with Seventy-two Virgins).

Humans have an innate sense of right and wrong and most follow that path. Religiosity, a by-product of our evolutionary development, is unnecessary.

If those Seals want to pray to thank God, if the Vice President wants to recite the ‘Holy Rosary’ and go to Mass, if the President wants to acknowledge God’s help in making the decision, I fully support their right to do it, privately.

But not as Officials of the US Government and not using any resources of that government.

I believe the decision to send bin Laden’s remains into the ocean, with appropriate Islamic burial protocols, was a brilliant tactical decision. Equally so, the offer of the remains to the Saudi Government (who wisely declined). But I don’t think they are an endorsement of the efficacy or effectiveness of the religious procedures. Nor should they be.

In the interest of full disclosure and if, in the unlikely event I am wrong and God does exist, Osama bin Laden’s passage into the eternal was dependent our exact adherence to Islamic protocols, I pray we fucked it up!

This will be a better world when the world adopts the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach to Religion.

Prayer in School IS the Answer

Putting prayer back in schools may in fact BE the answer to our problems. I have thought about this and have changed my mind, perhaps it is time to do this.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am an Atheist or more correctly an Anti-theist. On this I have not altered my feelings or convictions.

But, in light of the many tragic events that have occurred, we have nothing to lose. Of course, this flies in the face of the stubborn fact that there has never been a scientifically valid study demonstrating the efficacy of prayer, no repeatable experimental process unequivocally showing a direct effect of prayer, and no consensus on what form of prayer works best, or at all.

Then there is the annoying secret agenda driven US Supreme Court that obviously wants to turn us all into Marijuana smoking, same sex couples, with full health care.

They consistently shoot down any attempts at reintroducing prayer in the public classroom.

But I have a solution.

We introduce Prayer as part of the educational curriculum. Each day we have every student in the United States recite a different prayer, from all 22 major religions, and the thousands of sects, off-shoots, and myriad of minor religions. We have perhaps two fifteen minute Wikipedia style lessons daily explaining the tenets, doctrines, and precepts of the religion to educate our children.

There is a risk here.

Studies show the religiosity decreases with higher educational levels. We risk unveiling the faults, fallacies, and inconsistencies rampant in all religious doctrines. If you have ever read the Bible, or the Koran, or any other “God inspired” document, it can be troubling.

The other problem will be the resistance from within the religious organizations themselves. They support prayer in school now, but what if it were all prayers and all religions?

In a document written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, entitled “Dominus Iesus“, he essentially says the only true Church is the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Pope Benedict, as then Cardinal Ratzinger, encourages embracing all religions as having “some” benefit in directing men to the true God. Yet he clearly states all other doctrines are wrong, but tolerable, in as much as they provide some benefit to finding the true path, as long as everyone knows the Catholic Church is the one and only true faith.

I am afraid such teachings illustrate the true message of the general attitude in the United States toward prayer in school, it must be the “right”, meaning Judeo-Christian, one.

This invites interference from the heathen Supremes once again.

But education, that is a worthy, Constitutionally friendly, goal.

Let’s teach them about all religions. Let’s pray in all faiths, all languages, all doctrines, to all the “Nine Billion Names of God” to borrow from the title of the Arthur C. Clarke classic.

It would be the biggest test of the effect of prayer on the world. Schedule one or two sessions per day. 180 days per school year. By the time all public school students graduate high school we would have generated a significant number of prayers.

Perhaps it would change the world, or maybe it wouldn’t and we could move on to other solutions.

Blaise Pascal, a brilliant philosopher, once proposed what has come to be known as Pascal’s Wager.

“God is, or He is not”

A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.

According to reason, you can defend either of the propositions.

You must wager. (It’s not optional.)

Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.

Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.


To summarize, if you believe in God, and he exists, you win, if he doesn’t you’ve lost nothing, if you deny the existence of God, and he does exist, you lose.

So for the investment of a few hours on Saturday night or Sunday morning perhaps you buy yourself some Eternal Salvation Insurance. Besides, there is no football on then anyway.

My point here is that there is a significant number of people in this country that BELIEVE prayer would make a difference.

We can pacify the multitude, test the premise, expand understanding of different faiths, and, as Pascal is intimating, play the odds.

If it works, great, if it doesn’t we can move on to a more intellectually sound, scientifically established, rational approach to preventing tragedies.

And taking all the guns, as promising as it sounds, is equally untenable.

Pray hear me, I beseech thee.

Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic Expectations

Here are some of our expectations for those who would hold Political office up to, actually in particular, President.


Infallibility (even the Pope has a hard time with this one)


Perfection in character

Embracing “Middle” Class sensibilities with no, or little, actual experience

But the most troubling is the following requirements we demand of our political leaders (in particular the President)

You must espouse an unwavering belief in an invisible, unprovable, and omniscient being that takes a direct and purposeful interest in our success.

You must acknowledge that this Being is clearly of the Judeo-Christian tradition AND has interceded on our behalf during the many crises we’ve endured. You must ignore the Islamic portion of this mono-theistic tradition

This Being did not inspire martyrdom on 911, that was the wrong god or a miscommunication. (This is where leaving out the Islamic part of monotheism really comes in handy)

You must “openly” embrace all faiths, even the non-Christian ones (wink, wink, nod, nod)

You must acknowledge direct communication and guidance from this being. This is a requirement even in light of the fact that we lock up and classify as delusional others (meaning non-politically motivated) that claim divine guidance for their actions.

You must finish every significant address to other political beings with “God Bless the USA” (leaving unsaid, but inferred, “and send the rest to Hell”)

So, in spite of the fact that our psych wards are full of people “talking” to God, we make this a benchmark of suitability for an elected leader.

If there ever comes a time when a country or group, particularly those trapped in the mindset of the 15th century with all its rules of behavior, divine commandments, and holy guidelines, acquires the ability to launch a nuclear weapon at the US do you want a President who will drop to his (or her, well perhaps) knees and pray to God to save us?

Or do you want a President that will invoke the power of our own making and eliminate that threat?

Any weapon launched in God’s name underscores the fallacy of relying on another divine being to intercede. My God can violate all the rules of the universe better than your God.

The Real Victims of Religious Persecution

There are many candidates for the office of most persecuted. At various points in history, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, Evangelicals all were the victims of religious persecution. Generally, at the hands of another Religious sect.

But there is one universally persecuted class of living beings that have been consistently, unremittingly, and extensively put upon by all religions.


Just the very mention of the word makes many people’s skin (no pun intended) crawl.

The sight of even the most harmless snake can send adults and children alike into panicked flight or overwhelming, and entirely out-of-proportion, response.

Generally always to the detriment of the snake.

For some reason yet undiscovered mythical evil intent and purpose has been attributed to the snake.

Snakes have come to represent the essence of evil temptation.

Eve was coerced by the snake into eating of the Tree of Knowledge (I never understood why the Apple hasn’t retained the same evil connotation).

Interestingly enough, Eve’s prior contact with the snake must have been at worst, benign, or we can only assume she would have either run to Adam, screaming, or taken a stick and beaten the snake to death. Why trust advice from a snake?

But the point being that there is no rest from Religious persecution for the snake. Unless the snake happens to come upon snake neutral Buddhists (who hopefully adhere to their tenants of the sanctity of all life).

Throughout history snakes have always generated fear, hatred, loathing, and in some cases, pretty good recipes.

So while persecution solely on the basis of any religious doctrine is abhorrent (we don’t kill children for believing in Santa Claus for which equally compelling evidence of actual existence as any God or Gods can be found), snakes deserve an apology from all.

It seems random chance in the snake being chosen as the instrument of evil has doomed this amazing species to eternal damnation.

Think about it, snakes have been characterized as evil, vicious, and slimy. But environmentally speaking, they occupy an important and beneficial niche in the world.

Chipmunks, on the other hand, are destructive, prolific, and a nuisance. Everyone thinks they are cute. You know the reason why?

Walt Disney.

If Disney had chosen to make snakes lovable and cute, instead of Chip and Dale, we’d all love them and no religion in the world would dare demean a Disney Character. Well, probably the Westboro Baptist lunatics but that is a whole different matter.

So to all the snakes out there, we owe you an apology.

Slither on!