Archive for February, 2012

February 27, 2012

Same People, Different Places

Our similarities are more numerous and important than our differences 

On a normal day most all of us climb the hill of our choosing. Something must be done and done well for us to feel satisfied and to sustain our living standard. We go to work, school, work at or from home or engage in a similar activity. We strive for goals daily, both large and small. Whatever our financial situation we know people who are less fortunate and people who are more, some are smarter, others not so much.

We can hope I suppose

Our governments are ineffective, inefficient and generally represented by power-hungry out-of-touch well-connected demigods whose primary concern is to retain their position of authority and influence. They don’t represent the people’s wishes or country’s best interests well or often enough. In many instances our governments are an embarrassment. We hope the rest of the world doesn’t judge our society from the actions of its government.

                                                                                                             

We appreciate art, music and nature. Our homes are located in a picturesque location or are a short distance from a scenic setting where we stand in awe of our mother earth’s majesty. Wherever we live is historic and interesting, its people friendly, honest and hard working. Our sports team is always superior and classier than the rivals.  We experience a range of the same emotions during similar circumstances. We all appreciate and at times must tolerate our friends and family.

Most assemble at places of worship on an assigned day to honor the religion their parents and society insists is the true one.  We’re all reasonably certain we walk the correct spiritual path and those who don’t are straying off the rightful road of virtue, some by more than others. We wonder why our ideology and customs makes so much sense to us but considered strange or evil by others.

Capitalism, drugs and transmissions

We all aspire to more, no matter how much or little we possess we want better, a better mind, body and spirit. First we want a roof then a roof that doesn’t leak. We then yearn for a roof on a bigger house, in a better location with better furnishings and better behaved children living in its rooms. Its human nature, we’re never satisfied, no one of us outside people who can’t pry the bottle or opium pipe from their lips. They seem content to allow their transmission to remain in neutral.

Everything is the same except what isn’t

We see the world through the same eyes but from different perspectives. This can be said about city and rural dwellers living just 50 km. apart or brothers who disagree politically. We all have close relationships with people of vastly differing points of view, our extended family probably the best example. We disagree with relatives at times though we share the same language, culture, ethnicity, religion and similar life experiences.  We agree with total strangers often though we share none of the above.

Endless similarities bind everyone on earth yet people tend to focus on the differences. The main difference involves history and culture; our most interesting facet. Otherwise, we’re all the same peoples living in different places.

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February 19, 2012

Islamic law in America

Sharia creeps into the fabric of American minds, not law

Tennessee lawmakers took the point recently in the patriotic crusade to safeguard the homeland against the forces of radical Islam. This is how politicians and many other well-intended Americans perceive the anti-Sharia law movement. The phenomenon currently spans 13 states across the south and mid-west. Critics of the movement including 2 courts say that the facts do not justify the fear.

Fears

The Islamic/Arab world differs vastly from western norms in shocking ways. It is a male dominated society governed by strict religious laws. Americans are appalled by the brutal treatment suffered by women who can be stoned to death for an accused adulterous affair or jailed for being raped. Islamic law allows for the creative removal of body parts for crimes that are considered misdemeanors in the west and has encouraged a culture of violence against women.

Westerners haven’t been controlled by ancient religious laws since the era of enlightenment (16-1700’s). Time cannot be reversed, the bell unrung, the egg unscrambled. Our society and Constitution won’t allow it.

Facts

Americans must abide by secular law regardless of religious belief. Christian Scientists cannot lawfully allow their child to die because they believe medical attention is contrary to God’s will. Rastafarians cannot legally smoke pot as part of their religious ritual. “The Constitution of the United States, and the constitution of every state already make it illegal to implement Islamic law,” said Noah Feldman, professor of law at Harvard University. “Just as Jewish law can’t be the law of the United States, and canon law can’t be the law of the United States, Sharia law can’t be the law of the United States.”

Consider the source

It’s the usual “red state” suspects engaged in this battle. Oklahoma voters approved the anti-Sharia measure 70-30 percent in has the most infamous case to date. My home state of Texas saved itself from a similar national embarrassment by killing the bill before it saw the light of day or national headline.
Leo Berman, the Texas State Rep. with a NY accent, introduced an anti-Sharia law last year. Berman caused those in the Lone Star State to bow their collective heads in shame when he was embarrassed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper for his vocal advocacy of a federal “Birther Bill.” Berman had tried to get state funding for the Institute for Creation Research. The Dallas-based group promotes biblical creationism and rejects mainstream science regarding evolution. Though his parents are from Eastern Europe he sponsored bills that would split up immigrant families and restrict illegal immigrants to certain geographical regions. Consider the source.

Irony alert

Tennessee legislators could have saved the state from humiliation by noticing that the 10th Circuit federal appeals court in Denver agreed last month with a lower court that blocked the Oklahoma anti-Sharia law. Anti-Sharia laws are unconstitutional. Further, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders said the bill is so broadly written that it would make it illegal to be a Muslim and denounced the proposed state measure as an attack on religious freedom during a news conference in Nashville last week.

The people pushing preemptive measures against Sharia are simply worried about a religion other than their own taking over the legal system. America is a secular nation constructed by secular laws and is experiencing many real problems, too many to waste time debating phony issues. Allāhu Akbar

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February 1, 2012

We’re all agnostic

It’s true. Everyone is, by definition, an agnostic. A small percentage of us admit to it but it’s true for all. If you consider yourself religious and chances are great that you do, whether you like it or not, again, by definition you are agnostic. Great, now that it’s settled we can all get along.

Allow me to explain

Theism is the belief in one god. Atheism rejects the concept of god(s). Agnosticism follows the gospel of ‘I don’t know.’ It sees shades of gray. It is a nuanced term which requires a more complex explanation but can be summed up within three major categories of thought.
1) The Pragmatic or apathetic agnostic, as Bill Maher often describes his view: (a) there is no credible evidence that proves or disproves a deity and (b) if there is an omnipotent creator it is not affecting the natural order of life so the question is pointless. 2) Agnostic atheists do not believe in a deity but are not certain one does not exist. 3) The agnostic theist admits to a belief in a higher power but it’s not necessarily the God as defined in popular religious texts.

One thing binds us all

People have faith or belief in God but no matter how strong the faith, how certain the belief it’s not a knowledge of God. They do not know. The only difference in the agnostic theist and theist is one defines their views honestly. What’s so difficult in admitting you don’t know? You don’t, you know. Atheists don’t know either. All atheists will admit they don’t know for certain whether or not a very broadly defined alien entity beyond our comprehension (call it God) lives in the expansive universe. Lack of absolute certainty is universal and total.

The payoff

Theists receive the ultimate reward for their loyalty, an eternal afterlife in paradise. Some might reinforce their belief with Pascal’s Wager, the ‘what if you’re wrong’ argument aka hedging your spiritual bets, nothing to lose but everything to win. It’s a selfish reason to adopt a selfless philosophy but let’s not quibble about motive. What if non-believers are wrong? That we cannot say but we do understand the ill effects of faith.

The truth and its consequences

To properly embrace faith a person must suspend logic and rational thought. According to ancient texts of the Abrahamic religions the Sun revolves around a flat Earth. There are those who can do this and those who cannot. The two live in separate realities given what we perceive to be true is our reality, a circumstance that leads to misunderstandings and unintended consequences. Those who are comfortable with accepting the preposterous, unlikely and unverified to be true and indisputable make very poor decisions which ultimately affect us all.

I cannot know if a deity exists and neither can you

Is there a God and what role does He play if any? Is there an afterlife and what is the correct path to get there? If you answer this question honestly, that you are uncertain then you qualify as an agnostic theist at least. If you answered dishonestly and according to your faith then what good is your faith to you or society if it’s rooted in dishonesty? Agnostics distinguish themselves with three little words ‘I don’t know.’ It’s true of everyone. We are all agnostic.

Religion does three things quite effectively: divides people, controls people and deludes people.

~ Carlspie McKinney

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