Tuesday, June 21, 2011
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
"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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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)
Monday, April 18, 2011
I am aware that I am not presenting a balanced approach to this debate and the reason for that is quite simple: this shouldn't even be a debate. There is no controversy within the scientific community on the merits of evolution. The overwhelming majority of scientists, especially biologists, accept evolution for what it is: a scientific fact with an enormous amount of evidence and supporting data. The ID community is crying foul over the fact that their "theory" is not being given the same considerations as evolution and is not being taught in public schools. The ID community, which cannot separate itself from its creationist origins, has simply had to evolve over time and change up its tactics. It lost in court when it was attempting to get creationism back in the classroom in the 1980's (info found here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/edwards-v-aguillard.html ) and as a result of that defeat, they changed their approach and the intelligent design movement came into being. This change of tactics would prove futile as well, when in the 2005 court case in Dover, Pennsylvania, the teaching of intelligent design was found to be in violation of the constitution (info here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover.html ).
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Thankfully, we live in an era where information is available immediately to anyone who has cable television or a cell phone. Both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report had a hay-day with Sen. Kyl's statement and rightfully so. I don't think I can summarize Colbert's take on it effectively, so if you have not seen the video, here it is:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Pap Smears at Walgreens|
Despite Colbert and Stewart's large following, there are many Americans, both voters and politicians, who still believe that Planned Parenthood is an evil organization that focuses almost entirely on aborting pregnancies. It is easy to understand how this type of misinformation exists when the most watched news network in the country is Fox News. After all, they are the ones in the video posted above claiming that you can get the same services Planned Parenthood provides at Walgreens!
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Aside from his disturbing comment about how American's should be forced at gunpoint to listen to David Barton, Barton's own introduction provides insight into what a Huckabee presidency might look like. He begins by saying that Huckabee would be a great "Black Robe Regiment" guy. If you are unfamiliar with the Black Robe Regiment, this should tell you all you need to know about their aim: "Through this time the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists. The false wall of separation of church and state has been constructed in such a manner that most are unaware of its limited boundaries." Its the familiar call that Christianity is under assault and that Christians are a group of poor, persecuted individuals in the United States. It is the familiar claim that the separation of church and state is false or that the constitution has not been interpreted properly by those damned activist judges... for the last 200+ years.
The only place the separation of church and state is nonexistent is in the minds of those who disagree with its basic concept.
One example of this is the DC Voucher Program. This program was in the process of being slowly phased out because of government reports that it was failing to improve education for students in DC, which was its entire purpose. However, new Speaker of the House John Boehner has effectively revived it and the House passed the measure last Wednesday with a 225-195 vote. The bill will allocate $300 million over the next five years. This, during a time of nationwide belt-tightening, seems quite contrary to the fiscal responsibility the Republicans keep railing on about. It isn't that $300 million is all that much money in the grand scheme of things, but when Republicans are targeting programs that they argue are ineffective and a waste of tax payer money it seems odd that this program is not being similarly targeted. The problem, I guess, is that they support this program and Democrats oppose it. That is the game changer.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Now, to understand how someone who is considering running for our nation's highest office could say something like that and be taken seriously, we have to understand the crowd to which he was speaking. John Hagee's church in San Antonio is one of the most influential mega-churches in the U.S. Hagee is known to have far-reaching ties in Washington and with Israel. The people who fill the pews at Cornerstone Church are probably far more likely to vote for someone who shares their Christian conservative values (at least vocally claims to share their values despite being on his third wife) than they are someone who may take a more moderate approach to their religion and politics. It is easy for the Newts of the country to stroll into that environment and make absurd claims like he did. Most of them probably didn't think twice about what he said because they have probably been filled with similar nonsense claims for years. Claims such as the frequently heard (at least on Fox News and out of the mouths of conservative Christian politicians and pundits) erroneous idea that Christians are a persecuted minority in the U.S.
This is little rant I had on facebook and would like to share it here. It is not intended to offend but I cannot be responsible for what others find offensive. As I am currently jobless (but searching) I have more time on my hands than usual and spend some of that time reading the news and following specific types of legislation. The following issues are just some of the more troubling problems I see with American politics today. I know it is quite lengthy, but please read on and provide your comments if you would like.
It has recently become increasingly intolerable to watch or read the news. Everywhere you turn there are stories of legislatures, both state and federal, attempting to pass laws that threaten women's health, science education, and church/state separation, among others. As a Marine Corps veteran, and recent college graduate, I find it troubling how some of our elected leaders are trying to "solve" our nations' problems. From bills being considered that would require doctors to pass on debunked myths (1) to women considering the incredibly difficult decision to have an abortion, to bills that would allow for the stealth introduction of "intelligent design," aka creationism, in our public school classrooms (2), the religious right and the conservatives in our government seem to be trying to spread their version of religious morality via the legislative process. While I am not one to try to tell people they have to shelve their religious beliefs, I am opposed to the religious beliefs of elected officials being used to introduce bills that are inherently religious in nature.
A recent bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) would allow hospitals that receive government funding to deny life-saving abortions to women (3). I don't know how someone can claim to be "pro-life" and be in support of this bill. The idea that a woman could be denied a life-saving operation because of the religious view points of hospital staff is disturbing, wrong, and quite frankly, inhumane. Yet this Congressman is part of the so-called "Pro-Life Caucus." How is it pro-life to say that sometimes women should just die with their unborn fetus? How do these people view women? As walking wombs? They certainly don't appear to value women for anything other than that. If it came down to choosing between my wife and our unborn child, I choose my wife. I wonder what Rep. Pitts would do if his wife, or his daughter, were in this position? Would he be fine with letting her die? For some reason, I doubt it. However, this is not the only bill introduced that would devalue and endanger the lives of women. You may have heard of the bill that attempts to redefine rape in cases where the victim is impregnated by her attacker (4). Now, this bill was altered because of the uproar it caused, but it nevertheless was introduced. As it stands, federal funds can be used for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when the mothers life was at risk. This bill intended to make it so that federal funds could only be used in cases of "forcible rape." As if there is any other kind of rape? It also tried to put an age limit on when victims of incest could have a federally funded abortion - if the victim was over the age of 18, well, oh well. I guess at 18 she should be okay with incest? Per usual, these bills, among many others, were introduced by religious men. Because they apparently know what is best for women.
Although less disgusting in nature, the bills popping up all across the country in favor of teaching "intelligent design" in public classrooms are also troubling (2). If this were even five or ten years ago, these bills would have directly advocated the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, as was the case in 2005 in Dover, PA (5). If it were 25 to 100 years ago, the bills would have directly advocated the teaching of creationism in public schools. Now, however, the bills are aimed at "teaching the controversy." As intelligent design/creation backers have consistently been handed defeat after defeat in court, they have had to change up their game. Now, instead of pushing for their religious-based doctrine to be taught in public schools directly, they have come up with the nifty little idea of "teaching the controversy" or "academic freedom." Of course, this supposed controversy doesn't exist in mainstream science but only in the minds of those who believe that the complex nature of the Earth and life itself are indicators of the hand of an intelligent designer (in the case of most ID proponents this "designer" is of course the biblical god).
The problem with this idea though is that not only is it not scientific but it cannot separate itself from its creationist origins. I know there are people out there who would disagree with me, and I ask one question to those people: When describing intelligent design, does your argument not end up being something along the lines of "this is complex and science has yet to explain it, therefore it was intelligently designed (aka god did it)?" Another tactic of the ID crowd is to point out "flaws" or "gaps" in the existing scientific explanations. However, just because there may be a gap in a scientific explanation does not mean that their "explanations" warrant merit. Until their explanations can be proven or viewed as genuine science by the scientific community, they are merely making noise for those who view science as anti-god. Science has no room for supernatural "explanations" because science deals with the natural world, or in other words, reality. People can choose to believe what they want (whether that be the biblical story of creation or modern day intelligent design) but that does not mean it is science and should therefore be taught as such in our public schools. As other societies are advancing in science, we seem to be going backward. Our society seems to be growing more and more ignorant as the days pass and denying our future leaders a solid education in science is not the way for us to continue to advance.
It is rather disturbing to me to listen to some of the leading voices of the current republican/tea party/conservative movement as of recent. From Rep. Michelle Bachmann's claims that the motto "E Pluribus Unum" is somehow anti-American (6) to the near constant claims on Fox News programs (specifically Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity) that Christians are being oppressed in the U.S., it seems clear that these people are disconnected with reality. It is not uncommon to hear someone make the argument that you can't pray in public, or that secularists are trying to take god out of the U.S. How can anyone take this argument seriously? Christians are oppressed in the U.S.? Really? As far as I know, out of the 535 elected members of Congress there is only one non-theist and one Muslim. Every other Congressperson is Christian or Jewish. Roughly 85% of our entire population shares some form of Christian faith. So, is the idea that since they are not being allowed to run roughshod over everyone else, they are being oppressed?
Another issue is the hypocritical approach that some conservatives take to morality. Take Newt Gingrich for example. The man is on his third wife. He divorced one wife, while she was battling cancer, for the woman with whom he was having an affair. Yet, he is always preaching on about morals and how secularists are taking morality out of America. He was a key player in the call to have President Clinton impeached. Given his track record, I would say he is in no place to be passing judgment on others. Or how about Sarah Palin, the conservative/tea party darling? She is a strong advocate for abstinence only education, yet isn't she the one who had a pregnant 16 year old daughter? Another issue I have with conservatives lately is their apparent lack of knowledge regarding our nations' history. Take Rep. Bachmann for example. The woman claimed that the founding fathers fought tirelessly "until slavery was no more" (7). Anyone who thinks that is true is in serious need of education. How about the near constant claims from conservatives that the U.S. is a Christian nation and not a secular one? Do they not understand that our nation was not founded on the bible? Our government was founded by men who were escaping religious persecution. Their experiences with religion controlled governments were severe enough that they ensured that the government they were forming was not controlled by a church but by the people. That is not to say that many of the founders were not Christian. Many were. However, that does not equate to a Christian government. If the founders had decided to include Christianity, or the bible, or Jesus, or anything religious in nature in the Constitution, it would be in the Constitution, which it is not. Funny thing... the only parts of the Constitution that discuss matters of religion are the parts limiting its involvement in government or the governments' involvement in religion. Seems rather clear to me that their intent was to, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, build "a wall of separation between church and state" (8).
I should say that I am not a democrat, nor republican, nor liberal or conservative. I consider myself a moderate and an independent. I do not agree with much of the conservative stance nor much of the liberal stance. It just seems that recently I have much more concern with the conservative, religious agenda. As someone who gave five years of my life to defending the Constitution of the United States of America, I am simply concerned with the course our elected leaders are taking. It is my sincere hope that people will wake up and stop accepting the things they hear on Fox News programs as truth. Until then, I can only expect to continue to hear news stories like the ones I've referenced. As a secular American, I only hope that people stop using their privately held religious beliefs to demonize, degrade, threaten, control, and oppress those who do not share their mythical beliefs or don't live up to their hypocritical moral ideals. Citizens of the United States need to wake up and realize that what the religious right is fighting for is not good for America. Unless, of course, that America is a theocracy, in which case, we're on the right track. I have more to say on the matter but will end for now. Please, feel free to share your thoughts, concerns or arguments with me.
Part II to come...
Links to articles:
1) Abortion leads to increased risk of breast cancer - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/09/indiana-women-abortions-breast-cancer_n_833388.html
2) A quick look at this page will show you the bills being considered: http://ncse.com/