Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.
- Mark Twain - "The Lowest Animal"

"You have noticed that the human being is a curiosity. In times past he has had (and worn out and flung away) hundreds and hundreds of religions; today he has hundreds and hundreds of religions, and launches not fewer than three new ones every year."

Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings by Mark Twain

"So many gods, so many creeds;
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs." —
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"We must question the story logic
of having an all-knowing all-powerful God,
who creates faulty Humans,
and then blames them for his own mistakes."

Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek (1921-1991)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"I prefer to be true to myself,
even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others,
rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence."
~ Frederick Douglass ~

Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. [George Washington, letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792]

The Right to
Freedom of Expression
in America
By D. Bowden

The American Bill of Rights guarantees to every person in the United States the rights and liberties that are the basis of democracy. The first of the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of religion, speech, assembly and petition. Justice William J. Brennan wrote, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” The commitment of the principle of free speech has been repeatedly tested beginning with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the present day intolerance for individual and unpopular opinion.

In doing research for this presentation, I found some interesting facts from our past history concerning sedition in the years leading up to the Civil War. Nothing prevented states from enacting laws that limited expression–and many did. Political opinions were often expressed at the speaker’s (or printer’s) own peril. In the years leading up to the Civil War, slavery was the most hotly debated issue in the country. Most Southern states passed laws that barred any criticism of slavery, on the theory that speaking against it would incite revolts. A fact that I did not know was that in some cases it was a crime to even receive anti-slavery literature! And in Georgia, under an 1835 law, the editor of a newspaper that opposed slavery could be punished by death!

In the North, in contrast, dozens of abolitionist newspapers sprang up to oppose slavery. However, they weren’t very popular with general public opinion. One of the best known abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison, who published the anti-slavery paper, The Liberator in Boston, was dragged through the streets by an angry mob. Garrison framed his arguments in strong terms–too strong for the public to accept. He believed moral law outweighed civil law and his paper carried such statements as, “The existing constitution of the United States is a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” To illustrate his point, he once burned a copy of the document in public. James Fenimore Cooper made an interesting point in his essay The American Democrat. He states, “Were the majority of a country to rule without restraint, it is probable as much injustice and oppression would follow, as are found under the dominion of one.” Even though the majority believes a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is always right in its beliefs or actions. Another abolitionist editor, Elijah Lovejoy, was killed for his published statements. His office was attacked and his presses destroyed twice. Finally in November 1837, after moving to Alton, Illinois, Lovejoy was shot dead while trying to save his third press from the same fate.

These examples of intolerance show us that the general public opinion of the north was not that different from the south. These stories underscore an important point. In a democratic society, it is unpopular opinion–not the view of the majority that is in danger of suppression. This point would be made clear again and again throughout our history. In 1980, Supreme Court Justice, Arthur Goldberg warned, We are again becoming intolerant of dissenting voices, forgetful that out nation was founded and forged by dissenters and that while they are often misguided, on occasion they are right.”

In more recent times, Americans are more likely to support freedom of expression in the abstract than they are when specific cases arise. According to Elaine Pascoe in her book Freedom of Expression, various studies in 1992 have shown that less than half of all Americans thought unpopular opinion should not be banned outright by the majority. Only a third believed high school teachers have a right to express opinions that go against community standards. Some forty-six percent would grant to a federal board of censors the power to decide which televsion programs can or cannot be shown, and so on. The most remarkable aspects of freedom of speech in America is that the concept has survived so many challenges since it was first set out more than 200 years ago. Freedom of expression is the core value of democracy. When we allow it to be limited–no matter how necessary or well-meaning the limits seem– we do so at our own peril. Chief Justice Earl Warren once wrote, “Our own interests are so personal to each of us that it is often extremely difficult to
appreciate a problem in the light of interest of others." Yet, this is what we must do. . . There are
neither rights nor freedoms in any meaningful sense unless they can be enjoyed by all.”
Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.
[Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe. [Carl Sagan]
Extraordinary claims
require extraordinary evidence.
[Carl Sagan]

Monday, November 14, 2005

Man, in his attempt to find a way to avoid death’s grasp,
has creatively invented
mythological and religious belief systems
to provide a psychological means
to cope with
the inevitable and inescapable fate of all living things
D. Bowden

We Are Stardust
D. Bowden
There is not one thing in the entire vast universe that remains as it is. Every thing, living or inanimate, changes. Some say even the universe itself will at some point in the incomprehensible infinity contract inside itself, swallowing every atom and molecule up, then will be born again with the next "big bang" and our recycled particles will begin anew.

"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. ... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
— Albert Einstein, Religion and Science, New York Times Magazine (9 November 1930); also used in the obituary in New York Times
(19 April 1955)
Life is Here and Now
By D. Bowden

I recently saw the film "March of the Penquins." These creatures live an isolated life, yet, disaster finds them at every turn. When a baby penguin dies, the mother grieves. Same for elephants, and many other non-human creatures. Christians will say, "they are only animals, you cannot compare humans and animals." But Christians believe that their God created ALL things, and this is the only cruel way an all powerful and supreme being would think to set things up? The way things are is in total contradiction to loving ways of a god who supposedly could make things ANY way it chooses...yet this god of biblical mythology chooses bloodshed in many forms to get his way. (The Old Testament is the bloodiest and violent piece of literature ever published.) Innocent children suffering or being murdered at the hands of their own creator, good people dying at the hands of evil-doers while a "loving heavenly father looks on and allows it to happen?" Instinctively in nature, a loving parent or guardian jumps in there and puts himself between the danger and the children in his or her care. The Christian god sits back and lets it all happen. Christians, when faced with this question, impatiently answer, "it is not for us to question God's ways." We are made with questioning minds aren't we? Believers, or wannabe believers, always have a comeback and they cannot satisfactorily address these questions.

Most religious people live FOR the afterlife, looking to the great beyond where things are going to be so awesome with "heavenly father" who promises streets paved with gold and no more pain and heartache. So, if this were true, why bother with this world? If heaven is the goal, then why put all these people into what they believe is a cesspool holding pen of wickedness when things are so much better "up there"? I also cannot understand why Christians become upset when a loved one dies since they believe they will see this person again. Christians, and other relgious groups such as Muslim, Jews, etc. believe the dearly departed is going to their ultimate goal..yet when faced with the death of the loved one they scream, cry, moan, and grieve loudly and long. Collapsing across coffins, pounding their fists in rage and anquish. If they truly believe, wouldn't it be more likely the ones left behind should have a party and celebrate the "passing on" to a "better place"! They should be thrilled for the departed and excited for when it is their turn! Instead, the reaction is the same grief as any other living thing. I am told that is because grief is a HUMAN reaction. I agree, it is a HUMAN reaction, but not strictly. Many animals also grieve, (as I have stated above). With Christianity and other religions that focus on death, there is always an excuse instead of admitting that they DO NOT REALLY BELIEVE IT. IF they REALLY BELIEVED they are going to be rejoined with their loved ones in heaven with their loving heavenly father, they would NOT BE SAD. There is a question in their minds that they do not want to admit. If their claims were true and they truly believed they were going to be with their loved ones again, it would be no different than saying goodbye to someone who is going on a long trip..."bye, see you later!" Instead, grief most often never goes away and stays with a person for the rest of their lives after a loss of a loved one or friend.

Since the beginning of time as we understand it, humans have been searching for a reason for their seemingly meaningless existence and for ways to cope with their inevitable demise. In order to cope with their perceived crappiness of life here on planet earth, and things that cannot be explained, humans turn to booze, pills, food, television, porn, working out, music, and any number of things, and then religion, which often goes hand in hand with any of the above and in any combination. The pressures and stresses of living are sometimes so great that some people can no longer cope at all and just totally give it all up, religious or non-religious...makes no difference. It is all in the attitudes that are instilled inside them, and how much they WANT to survive for as long as possible. Some have a much better outlook about the world we live in than others.

Along with many good things that happen in this world, there is also bad. In addition to horrendous things done in the name of politics, religion and so on, something is being killed, eaten, dying a pathetic death and most of the time underservingly. If whatever happens to a "believer" is good, God or Allah is given credit, if it is bad, then it is man's fault or just natural disaster ... or the evil and ever-lurking Satan. If a god is in control why would this god let the horrors continue? Especially to the innocent and his faithful? Because there is NO ONE pulling strings....It is NATURE or human's being cruel to one another. As for natural things, something must die so something may LIVE. Even the crucifixion story is set up like this, it is based on NATURAL ORDER... the baby penquin dies so the albatross may live, the antelope dies so the lion might live...then Christians say Jesus died so "we all" may live. So, why do humans die? So a god might live? That is aburd!

What do I believe then? I believe in the HUMAN RESILIENCE AND SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST. MOTHER NATURE...I believe humans are responsible for evil acts, either intentionally or unintentionally due to any one of millions of causes ranging from psychological to environmental, poverty and ignorance, to greed and callousness. Many violences in nature are just ugly necessities, like the albatross eating the penquin chick for dinner so it can survive at least another day.

I must admit that I don't do as much as I should to make the world a better place, but I am not living with my head in the clouds, or in the sand either. I am not proclaiming to believe one thing and living in contradiction against my professed beliefs. If we just sit back and say some voodoo prayers, wait for a heavenly father to wrinkle up this crappy "rough draft" of his supposed creation and start anew, this whole universe is DOOMED. We all need to open our eyes and see how really good LIFE is HERE AND NOW...HERE ON PLANET EARTH.

I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.
~Groucho Marx~