Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our Problem is Politics

Is anyone else tired of politics? Has anyone else noticed that most politicians, on both sides of the aisle, are more concerned about being reelected than they are about doing what is right for their constituents and our country? Has anyone else noticed that many politicians attempt to use religion and personal beliefs about god to placate troubled citizens while they do next to nothing to solve the issues that got us to where we are now? Has anyone noticed that politicians frequently say one thing, and then do the exact opposite? I, for one, am tired of politics and politicians.

Our infrastructure is crumbling, schools are being closed down and teachers laid off, police, EMS and firefighters are losing their jobs, and medical benefits to the elderly and destitute are at risk of being slashed. All the while, corporations and banks are being given vast amounts of leeway and assistance when they were the entities that recklessly contributed to our national troubles. Our politicians spend entirely too much time on issues like abortion and gay marriage, as if those are really the important issues. We have politicians, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, holding divisive Christian prayer events claiming that prayer to Jesus is the only way we are going to get out of the mess we are in. While I don't agree with everything Bill Maher says, he hit it right on the head last week when he said, "May I point out that there is no such thing as 'spiritual' solutions to national problems. If our official government policy is 'Yeehaw, Jesus take the wheel!', then we're dead already." Governing officials should not be relying on prayer to solve our problems and instead should focus on making the difficult, real, and often unpopular, decisions that may actually accomplish something.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry's Solution to our Troubles: Get on Your Knees

The Response Promo from The Response USA on Vimeo.

"Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy." - Texas Gov. Rick Perry

This does not sound like someone who has any idea how to deal with the issues facing the United States today. It seems like Gov. Perry is taking the easy road and asking people, himself included, to forgo actually thinking critically about real-world solutions and instead ask for supernatural intervention. In other words, he apparently feels that by taking advantage of some of his constituent's religious beliefs he can appear to be making an effort to solve the dilemma while not actually doing anything substantive. He added that "there is hope for America... and we will find it on our knees." This is troubling on multiple levels.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The U.S. Military is not "God's" Army

I recently read an article posted on the "Rock Beyond Belief" website about an email the website's founder received from an Army Captain. In the email he spoke of the dangers of speaking out against discrimination against non-theists in the military. The email provided examples of just how dangerous it can be for non-theists to push for equality in the military, both personally and for their career. Please take a moment to read this short article: http://rockbeyondbelief.com/2011/06/02/brave-army-captain-on-the-dangers-of-fighting-proselytism/

While I was in the Marines I too was subjected to blatantly religious events. It is while you are at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) that you affirm your allegiance to the United States by swearing/affirming to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. At the end of this affirmation, you are supposed to be provided the opportunity to leave out the "So help me God" part, and I was allowed that right. However, apparently that is not always the case. Perhaps it was because I was being processed in Washington State, which is a more liberal, and not it Alabama or Oklahoma that I did not experience any backlash for leaving out the "So help me god" part. The point is that many non-theists are expected to, right at the beginning of their service, ask for the help of a deity in carrying out their mission to defend the Constitution of the United States. This may seem trivial, but imagine you are a Christian who is asked to say the words "Insha'Allah," or even "So help me Zeus" at the end of your affirmation. Christians do not believe in the god of the Muslims, or the Prophet Muhammad, nor do they believe in the Greek god Zeus. This would surely not be allowed to happen and there would be tremendous uproar from Christians throughout the United States if it were to happen. If non-theists are expected to say the words "So help me god" at the end of their affirmation though? Who cares, right?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Secular Coalition for America Biennial Summit Recap

I apologize for the lack of blog entries over the last couple of weeks but in exciting news, this past Thursday through Saturday I participated in the first ever Secular Coalition for America (SCA) Biennial Summit in Washington D.C. This event is indicative of the growing voice of secular Americans and I am proud to be able to say that I participated. The SCA is a national group that represents the interests of atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and other non-theistic Americans through lobbying efforts. While the focus of many lobbying groups is the introduction and passage of bills friendly to their cause, the SCA's lobbying efforts are not focused on this. Their effort is largely defensive in nature, as in combating the religious right's efforts to "Christianize" the United States. They have a long, arduous battle ahead of them and they need our assistance and support.

The SCA is comprised of ten member organizations (member organizations can be found here: http://www.secular.org/member_orgs) that focus on representing the interests of non-theistic Americans and the Biennial Summit was a way for the SCA to bring together representatives of the member organizations, in addition to random people like me, and come up with new ideas, strategies and plans for what the SCA has dubbed "Our Secular Decade" (more information here: http://www.secular.org/seculardecade). Among those present for the Summit were some of the more notable representatives of the secular movement to include David Silverman of American Atheists, Sean Faircloth and Herb Silverman of the SCA, guest speaker Susan Jacoby, the openly atheist Congressional candidate, Cecil Bothwell, David Niose of the American Humanist Association and numerous others.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Separation of Church and State is Good For Everyone

The founding fathers "were well aware of the fact that God had given them and all of mankind very specific litmus tests in the Bible that they needed to apply to all government officials before putting them into positions of power." This is a quote from a website (creationists.org) that uses David Barton's revisionist history to argue against the separation of church and state. Barton, as I hope you are already aware, is a favorite among the religious right as is evidenced by this website using his research to dispel the "myth" of separation of church and state. As I previously posted, potential presidential contender Mike Huckabee argues that Americans should be forced to listen to David Barton (at gun-point no less) and claims he is the greatest historian in the United States today. I beg to differ.

The people over at creationists.org seem to not understand the same thing that Barton and other religious right proponents don't understand. The Constitution of the United States expressly forbids religious tests for public office in Article VI: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." While they can rant on and on about the personal religious beliefs of some of the founding fathers, none of that changes what is written in Article VI. If the founders intended for this country to be a Christian nation, they could have explicitly called for it. They could have removed that clause in Article VI, or have never included it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unanswered Questions about the National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer, an event that has taken place every year since its creation in 1952. Judging by the video above, it seems as though the United States is in imminent danger of being utterly destroyed by evil clouds, or god, I’m not sure. Each president who has been in office since the National Day of Prayer was conceived has chosen to participate in the event in his own way, from President George W. Bush’s annual NDP events in the East Room of the White House to President Obama’s 2009 choice to participate privately while issuing a paper proclamation. While the constitutionality of the event is questionable, it is up to each president to determine how he shall participate.

President Obama has come under fire each year for choosing to not hold events in the White House in honor of the day, a practice that was only annual under President George W. Bush. Rumors spread that he had cancelled the NDP completely, starting in 2009, but that is simply not the case. Obama chooses to pray on his own, while still recognizing his responsibility to issue a NDP proclamation. The bill signed by President Truman in 1952, requires each president to issue a National Day of Prayer but it does not require that there be an event held at the White House, or anywhere else for that matter.

Why we even need a federally proclaimed day of prayer is something I am struggling to understand. I have many unanswered questions regarding this practice and I would like to ask anyone who supports the NDP the following questions.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Usama bin Laden's Death: A Conspiracy Theorists Dream

Take a look at any of the comments on news stories of Usama bin Laden's death and you will be inundated with conspiracy theories about how this is some political scheme or how it is some massive government plot to misinform the public. A facebook group titled "USMC Hangout" posted this on facebook in response to the news: "So they say Osama is dead. Do you want proof or will you just take the government's word for it?" The comments on this post are troubling. From claims that bin Laden has been dead since 2004 to people tying this story in with the "birther" madness, it reads like a conspiracy theorists guidebook. However, there is already proof that it was, in fact, bin Laden who was killed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8488004/Osama-Bin-Ladens-body-identified-by-sisters-brain.html

People are questioning the dumping of the body at sea as if doing so is somehow admittance of a conspiracy. Admittedly, dumping the body at sea seems like a weird thing to do. However, one only needs to think a little bit to understand why they would not want to bring the body all the way back to the U.S.

Bin Laden Dead

Following a years long intelligence operation, terrorist mastermind Usama bin Laden has finally been killed in Pakistan. There is no doubt that this is a great day for the United States and the entire world. I would like to congratulate our men and women in the military and in our intelligence community for a job well done. This operation was the result of a long, tedious process of collecting and verifying intelligence gathered through a multitude of avenues, including interrogation of detainees at Gitmo. Let us all enjoy this news now before it becomes politicized or the conspiracy theorists get their hands on it, as they undoubtedly will.

We should also take a moment to remember the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the victims of the USS Cole and the U.S. embassies in Africa, the thousands of service members who have been killed or wounded fighting in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the countless number of Muslims who have been killed by this horrible human being and his movement.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Breaking News: Americans Are Gullible

So, as I'm sure you are all aware, President Obama has finally given in to the demands that he release his long form birth certificate and prove that he is eligible to be the president. As if our entire government had failed to determine his citizenship before he became president, and a U.S. and state senator before that. I have to admit that during his presidential campaign I was skeptical of him and I did not vote for him. I have realized since then that part of the reason I was so skeptical of him was because I watched mostly Fox News. I'm not saying that I think he was qualified to run for president then, but in reality, who is ever qualified to run for president? It is like people saying that they will have kids only when they are ready to have kids but when is anyone really ready for that kind of responsibility? You just have to prepare as best you can to overcome the obstacles and learn as much as you can in the process. Every candidate has his/her drawbacks and those are usually exposed by the media rather rapidly during a campaign season. As I mentioned, I was skeptical of him but as I am a person who values evidence and reason, I quickly realized that my assumptions and concerns were not grounded in anything concrete.

As we are almost two and half years into the Obama presidency, it is clear to me that many of the concerns that were expressed over his associations, or even his constitutional eligibility to run for president, were overblown hype by conservative media pundits and politicians who did not want to see him elected. As we have witnessed over the last two years, many of the people who were busy spreading those fears during the campaign have not ceased doing so since he was elected. The rumors that he was not born in the U.S., and was therefore ineligible to be president, did not end once he was elected to office. They did not end after he released his record of live birth in an effort to put to bed the issue of his eligibility. And, as we see now, they have not ended even after he has finally released his long form birth certificate. Much has been made recently of Donald Trump's effort to get the president to release the birth certificate, and the media gave him ample opportunity to speak about it. Then, once the certificate was released, Trump spoke to the media in a victorious manner, as if he had just convinced Osama bin Laden to turn himself in. It was really an insight into how narcissistic Trump really is.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Crazies Are Out and About...

Well, it seems Pastor Jones is at it again. Jones, who is pretty much a nobody in terms of importance on a city/state/national level, burned the Qu'ran last month after finding it "guilty" in a mock trial. This action set off a chain of events that left innocent people dead in Afghanistan when Afghan versions of Pastor Jones (aka crazies) rioted and stormed a United Nations compound. How the UN employees they killed were somehow responsible for Pastor Nitwit's actions, I don't know. Nevertheless, they were reacting to Jones' burning of their "holy" book, which he has the right to do of course. However, anyone who is willing to burn a book instead of reading it is an ignorant fool in my eyes. You don't have to agree with something to learn from it in some way. I've never fully read the Qu'ran but I know from what I have read that it is not all evil, infidel slaying, Jew-hating blasphemy. As a matter of fact, there are some very pleasant passages throughout the Qu'ran, just as you can find lovely, peaceful passages in the Old Testament surrounding all the genocide, rape, incest and human sacrifice.

Burning the Qu'ran apparently has not been fulfilling enough for the fundamentalist Christian crusader though as he now has plans to hold an armed rally at one of the America's largest mosques: The Islamic Center of America, located in Dearborn, Michigan, which has a very large Muslim population. Apparently, Jones is in court this morning to hear if his planned rally will be allowed to go forward or not. While I think he has the right to protest whatever he wants, I think he is just doing whatever he can to stir up controversy and keep his name in the news... maybe then he could reach some of the other crazies in our country who might join is merry little band of 70 or so lunatic followers. I'm sure he could find some more followers in Murfreesboro, Tennessee based on an apparently continual cycle of lawsuits they have thrown at a mosque construction project there. (story here: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/04/tennessee-mosque-lawsuit-just-wont-die)