December 28, 2010

Bishop Can Make Better Life and Death Decisions than Doctors

By Francis Nye

The head of the Catholic Church in Phoenix has stripped Arizona's largest hospital of its Catholic affiliation after he ruled that a decision to save the life of a mother by terminating her 11 week pregnancy was morally wrong.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted announced that St Joseph's hospital can no longer be considered to be Catholic. The ruling breaks a relationship that stretches back to the hospital's founding by Catholic nuns 115 years ago. He has also excommunicated the member of the hospital's ethics committee that permitted the abortion to go ahead.

The case concerned an unidentified woman in her 20s, who had a history of abnormally high blood pressure that was under control before she became pregnant. But doctors were concerned on learning of the pregnancy about the extra burden that would be placed on her heart, and they monitored her closely.

Tests showed that in the early stages of pregnancy her condition deteriorated rapidly and that before long her pulmonary hypertension – which can impair the working of the heart and lungs – had begun to seriously threaten her life. Doctors informed her that the risk of death was close to 100% if she continued with the pregnancy.

Consultations were then held with the patient, her family, her doctors and the hospital's ethics team, and the decision to go ahead with an abortion was taken in order to save the mother's life.

The hospital's president, Linda Hunt, said following the bishop's severing of relations that the operation had been "consistent with our values of dignity and justice. If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case."

But Olmsted did not see it that way. He drew on the advice of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' doctrinal committee, which distinguishes between direct abortions that are never justifiable and indirect terminations that happen incidentally as a result of life-saving medical procedures that can be allowed on narrowly-defined grounds.

In this case, the operation was deemed to be a direct abortion because the pregnancy was ended to ease the mother's separate health problem.

I wonder how this would have turned out for the doctor and the hospital if they would have allowed this young woman and her baby to die because of religious doctrine. I am certain that the hospital would have been sued and the doctor incarcerated.

It is easy for Bishop Olmsted to make these outrageous statements and take these actions because his profession and freedom is not on the line.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not for just any willy-nilly abortion. I have always taken a pro-life position. However, I think in a life threatening situation such as this I would defer to the doctor’s judgment and not that of my spiritual advisor.

Moreover, what has happened to all the moral outrage? After all isn’t what the bishop preaching a form of “death-panel” that incensed so many recently in the health-care debate? He is basically deciding who should live and who shall die and not letting the doctors and their patients decide the matter. I thought for sure all those tea-party supporters would rally around the hospital with their righteous anger much like they did when President Obama and both houses of the legislature tried to pass an all encompassing health-care directive for the United States last year. However I have not heard any of the same cries of indignation as I did before. It makes me ponder the motivations of some organizations. It also further begs the question, why does our society give religion so much power and influence over our health.

We live in a free society that was founded by great men that were truly enlightened for their time. These men knew the danger of divine right and royal decree. They understood what the elements of tyranny were. We, the American people put off the shackles of kings and queens more than 234 years ago. We fought a terrible civil war for the freedom of black Americas because we knew this not to be right. Yet here we are in the 21st century, willingly giving a man like Olmsted and his cohort in Rome the unquestionable power of a king. Anyone that dares questions his authority is handed a spiritual death sentence of excommunication.

One has to ask himself, is this really what God intended, an organization that has time and time again caused so much pain and suffering through out its history? Is this the love and compassion that is taught by Jesus?

I think the bishop needs to read his bible again. I think he may have missed a key concept or two in Jesus’ teaching when he used his power to excommunicate the faithful around him in such a lackadaisical manner. These are more the tactics of a tyrant than those of a compassionate man of Christ.

The bishop is so out of step with Jesus’ wisdom it is shocking. Jesus railed against the Jewish religious leadership because they always came down on individuals for not following Jewish law to the letter. Jesus on the other hand taught it is better to follow the spirit of Jewish law rather than the letter of the law. All things being looked at on as a case per case basis rather than a one size fits all approach. The bishop is more of a 1st century rabbi than a 21st century priest.

This entire affair further demonstrates how religion has become such a dangerous concept with terrible consequence if the wrong people are put in places of power like Olmsted. I wonder if he would be willing to die for his beliefs in the same senseless way he demands that young woman to die for hers. His flock looks to him for guidance and if this is an indication of how he leads then woe to his followers.

Video of St. Joseph’s Hospital Controversy

December 21, 2010

Festivus May Become a Real Religion

By Francis Nye and Lilly Winters

An attorney for an inmate Malcolm Alarmo King at the county jail convinced a Superior Court Judge, Derek G. Johnson that Festivus is a legitimate religion which allowed King to receive a 'kosher diet' of double portions without salami.

For those who may not know, Festivus was created by the writing staff of the Seinfeld television program for a show about an alternative to celebrating Christmas.

According to defense attorney Fred Thiagarajah, when King was prosecuted for a felony controlled substance charge, he said eating salami was against his religion. Judge Johnson pulled King’s lawyer and the prosecutor aside and said he needed a religion to put down on the order to make it stick, explained Thiagarajah.

“I said Festivus,” said Thiagarajah. The order was granted – three non-salami meals a day.
It all sounds crazy but maybe someday we will see Festivus churches soon. Like all religions past and present all that is needed is a prophet to write the Book on Festivus and then his disciples to add more dogma after his death and voilà you have a real honest to goodness religion.

Orange County Festivus’ Story:

December 14, 2010

There is a Time and Place for Everything

By Francis Nye & Lilly Winters

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing two elementary school principals in Texas of violating the Constitution by barring students from swapping religious gifts, including Christian-themed candy-cane pens.

The federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected a bid by principals Lynn Swanson and Jackie Bomchill to have the religious discrimination claims against them dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity.

Swanson and Bomchill argued that the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students, but the 5th Circuit found otherwise.

The families of four students in the Plano Independent School District sued after their children were barred from distributing religious-themed items as part of a goodie bag exchange during winter break parties.

Some of the banned goods included pens shaped like candy canes that came with a card explaining the "Legend of the Candy Cane." Some Christians believe the "J" shape of a candy cane stands for "Jesus" or the staff of the "good shepherd," and the three stripes symbolize Jesus' blood or the Trinity. Another student was blocked from handing out pencils with the inscription, "Jesus is the reason for the season."

I agree that there maybe a 1st amendment free speech issue here. I also agree that they may have a right to express their points of view at school. But the real question is, should they? Is this really a good thing to do? One must remember that this is a double edged sword and it can cut both ways. Would it be ok for Jews to hand out symbols and literature? How about Muslims? Wicca? Atheists?

The real topic here the way I see it is etiquette. Just because a person can do something doesn’t mean that they should. Sometimes it is just offensive or uncivilized to do so.

I think some places should be off limits like an elementary school. We don’t need the court or a law to spell this out. What we need is just common courtesy and respect for others. I know I don’t want my children exposed to Christianity. If I did I would take them to Sunday school and we would attend church services on a regular basis. I would also read them the bible and enroll them in a Christian school. But since I don’t want them exposed to what I perceive as a cult I do not do these things. I want my children to be safe from this nonsense and so do many other parents.

I learned along time ago that there is a proper time and place for everything. Pubic schools are not the time or place for religious teachings or indoctrination. How would Christians feel if their children were constantly bombarded with Wicca teachings and practices at the public school they have their child enrolled in? I tell you how. Most would be outraged. Just as I am outraged that Christianity is constantly and consistently forced feed to my children in all places at all times.

Christians tend to forget that they are not the only game in town. And just as they don’t want their children exposed to the teachings of a foreign religion, so other parents do not want Christianity exposed to their children. It is just rude and in poor taste to act otherwise. We all need to be respectful of everyone around us. It is time that Christians stop being so incentive to everyone around them.

So I propose that in the spirit of good will toward all men this holiday season shouldn’t this group of Christians dismiss their law suit and start acting like civilized people by respecting others? After all the school is just asking them to value others and keep their point of view to themselves when attending their institution. I think that is a very reasonable position. They are not asking them to stop believing in their brand of faith or even forcing them to set aside their faith in lieu of another. They are just asking them to stop and think about how off-putting their message may be. That there is a proper place and time for all things and school is not the correct forum for this type of content. After all they spent all that money on a church, they should use it for that purpose. I know that Jesus said go out and spread the word but really, he didn’t say do to the point of ad-nauseum. Tell me what you think.

A video on just how offensive some Christians can be:

December 7, 2010

Military Chaplins: Don't Ask. Don't Tell

By Francis Nye

Sixty-five retired military chaplains wrote to the President earlier this year urging him to maintain the military’s ban on service by openly gay men and women. These chaplains alleged that allowing gay men and women to serve openly would compel them to violate their religious principles, such as forcing them to perform same-sex marriages. They claim that if they would not officiate at such marriages, the military would discipline, demote, and perhaps even dismiss them from military service. Repealing the ban, commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” will force them to either “obey God or to obey man.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. A chaplain exists to serve the military in two capacities. First, chaplains serve as clergy to members of their own faith. A priest will minister to Catholics, a rabbi to Jews, and an imam to Muslims. Second, chaplains must serve the military as a whole by supporting the diverse population of men and women in the armed forces, by providing for the U.S. Constitution’s “free exercise rights” of every military member.

The military has maintained a chaplains’ freedom to serve their congregations according to the principles of their faith for nearly two and a half centuries. There is no reason why this would change if gays and lesbians served openly in the military. Military chaplains are not required to perform services that violate their religious beliefs—a rabbi, for example, is not required to administer a Catholic’s last rite. So the claim that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will compel chaplains to violate their religious faith is blatantly false.

November 30, 2010

The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

By Francis Nye

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum shows that most Christians are ignorant of the history and tenants of their own faith, including the bible. What is even more shocking is that it appears that atheists have a better understanding of Christianity then actual Christians. These are among the key findings of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 Americans age 18 and older, in English and Spanish. Jews, Mormons and atheists/agnostics were over-sampled to allow analysis of these relatively small groups. On average American Christians scored no better than 16 out of 32 on the survey of religious knowledge. This is a failing score by any standard. What is more shocking is in a battery of questions regarding the bible, white evangelicals only scored on average 7.3 correct answers.

Unfortunately when individuals think they understand their faith and in reality don't it can have a tragic side effect.  Over the centuries people who misunderstood or misinterpreted the Bible have done terrible things. The Bible has been misused to defend bloody crusades and tragic inquisitions; to support slavery, apartheid, and segregation; to persecute Jews and other non-Christian people of faith; to support Hitler's Third Reich and the Holocaust; to oppose medical science; to condemn interracial marriage; to execute women as witches; and to support the Ku Klux Klan. Shakespeare said it this way: "Even the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

We'd like to believe that no person of good will would misuse the Bible to support his or her prejudice. But time and time again it has happened with tragic results.

In the 16th century, John Selden pointed at two Latin words carved into a marble wall in an ancient church in Rome: "Scrutamini Scripturas," which means search the Scriptures. "These two words," Seldon said, "have undone the world."

In one way, John Selden was right. Misusing the Bible has drenched the planet in blood and tears.  But in another way, he was wrong. Most people who misuse the Bible DON'T search the Scriptures. They simply find a text that seems to support their prejudice and then spend the rest of their lives quoting (or misquoting) that text.

Even when we believe the Scriptures are "infallible" or "without error," it's terribly dangerous to think that our understanding of every biblical text is also without error. We are human. We are fallible. We can  misunderstand and misinterpret these ancient words often with tragic results.

The survey as a whole is not really that surprising to me. It has been my experience that most Christians are clueless when it comes to their own holy book. Many feel the bible is the final word for most Christians.  It is really disappointing that the Christians have placed so much religious stock in this text.  That if they actually understood it in its true context, its origins, and taken as a whole most would disavow themselves from this book. The biblical authors have created a great many inconsistencies in its attempts to reconcile facts that do not stack up historically, scientifically or according to the archaeological record.  The bible actually does more harm to their cause than it does good in this day and age.  Christianity would be better severed without the bible as it was written so many centuries ago.  I would even dare say that the people that took the survey would have done better if it was not for all the confusing and nonsense facts that are in the bible.

Comments On: The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

Americans Fail Religious Test

Pew Forum Quiz Article

Knowledge Survey

November 24, 2010

Man Claims Discrimination: Sunday Day of Rest

By Francis Nye

An Ohio man filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, November 22, 2010 against Home Depot, claiming the company discriminated against him because his religious beliefs don't allow him to work on Sundays.

Lawrence Lewis of Steubenville states that his employer failed to place him in a full-time position after his job as receiving associate was eliminated, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

Lewis informed his superiors that due to his Roman Catholic beliefs, he believes that working on Sunday is a sin. When he applied for another full-time position, he was not hired because he was unavailable for Sunday work, according to the lawsuit.

This stems from Mr. Lewis’ belief that Sunday is the Sabbath. However Sunday is not the Sabbath. Some even believe that the Sabbath is Saturday. Again, not true.

If you follow the word of God as given to Moses then you cannot just pick any day of the week and call it the Sabbath. The notion that God allows you to pick the seventh day has even been taught by Catholics but this is in violation of God’s word.

The command as given by Moses in the name of God to the Jews was that the Sabbath should be kept holy. The word Sabbath means rest and not Saturday as I have heard. The law includes two elements; one essential, that one day in seven should be dedicated to God; the other ceremonial, that the particular day should be chosen. God selected Saturday so therefore that is the day of rest.

Gen 2:3 “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

Saturday is the 7th day of the week. So again it was God that pick that day and no man can change that.

One cannot just say Sunday is more convenient for me, or perhaps Monday, etc., so that will be my day of Sabbath rest to the Lord. I will keep every seventh day holy, but that day will be a day of my choosing.
The problem with the choosing-one-day-in-seven theory is that it has no foundation in scripture. As we noted above with the 40 years in the wilderness, God clearly designated a specific day as His Sabbath. Israel was never given a choice in what day they wanted to keep holy as the Sabbath day. The entire community was to keep God's designated day in unison as a memorial to creation week. No one had the prerogative or authority to decide to start keeping some other day as their Sabbath.

So what rationale exists for worshipping on Sunday, the first day of the week, instead of Saturday, the biblical seventh day?

It is the day of Christ's resurrection and Christians have transferred the solemnity of Sabbath to Sunday to honor that event.

That sounds terrific, but where exactly does the Bible authorize that change? You see, I really do adhere to the Protestant claim of "the Bible and the Bible only" as the authoritative Word of God on the matter. The Sabbath was made by God as a memorial to the creation, and that event was not overshadowed by or done away with by either the crucifixion or the resurrection.

So if Mr. Lewis was to say he cannot work on Saturday I can understand that. However, if Mr. Lewis knew at the time he submitted his application to Home Depot that there was a possibility that he would have to work on Sunday then maybe he should have applied somewhere else.

I think it is despicable when people use their faith to otherwise circumvent their responsibilities. This hurts everyone involved.

Video: Is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday

November 23, 2010

Is Willow Parroting What She Has Been Taught?

By Francis Nye

Willow Palin, the 16-year-old daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, wrote multiple Facebook posts containing homophobic slurs such as "faggot" just this Saturday, according to TMZ. Could this be an indictment over our society’s religious bigotry toward homosexuals? In my opinion I think it may be.

The web site reports that Palin's teenage daughter wrote the comments on the night, when her mother's television show "Sarah Palin's Alaska" premiered on TLC. According to TMZ, a classmate of one of Palin's children published a Facebook update claiming that the show "is failing so hard right now."

Willow Palin reportedly unloaded on the student, calling him "so gay" and "such a faggot." She also lashed out at multiple others, writing, "Sorry that all you guys are jealous of my families success and you guys aren't goin[g] to go anywhere with your lives."

Rev. Mel White has spent more than 50 years reading, studying, memorizing, preaching, and teaching from the sacred texts. He earned his master's and doctoral degrees at a conservative biblical seminary. He is also fluent in Hebrew and Greek in order to gain a better understanding of the original words of the biblical texts. He says there is an epidemic of biblical ignorance in the United States. He also states:

“This same kind of biblical ignorance is all too present around the topic of homosexuality. Often people who love and trust God's Word have never given careful and prayerful attention to what the Bible does or doesn't say about homosexuality.”
He goes on to state a few examples:

• Jesus says nothing about same-sex behavior.
• The Jewish prophets are silent about homosexuality.
• Only six or seven of the Bible's one million verses refer to same-sex behavior in any way -- and none of these verses refer to homosexual orientation as it's understood today.

Over the centuries people who misunderstood or misinterpreted the Bible have done terrible things. The Bible has been misused to defend bloody crusades and tragic inquisitions; to support slavery, apartheid, and segregation; to persecute Jews and other non-Christian people of faith; to support Hitler's Third Reich and the Holocaust; to oppose medical science; to condemn interracial marriage; to execute women as witches; and to support the Ku Klux Klan. Shakespeare said it this way: "Even the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

So it is no wonder that the level of malevolence toward homosexuals is at the level it is today. I am not surprised that this young woman, Willow Palin is using homophobic slurs to beat down a perceived attack from her friends on Facebook. This kind of hate speech is no better than calling an African American a nigger. It is the same kind of tactic that was used a century and a half ago in this county to dehumanize the black population and to justify slavery. Once you dehumanize a group of individuals then you can justify the hate.

A fine example of perceived justified hate was witnessed on September 22, 2000 when a 55-year-old man named Ronald E. Gay, angry for being teased about his last name, entered the Back Street Café in Roanoke, Virginia, a gathering place for lesbians and gays just a few miles from Lynchburg. Confident that God's Word supported his tragic plan of action, Mr. Gay shouted, "I am a Christian soldier, working for my Lord." Claiming that "Jesus does not want these people in his heaven," he shot seven innocent gay and lesbian people. One man, Danny Overstreet, died instantly. Others still suffer from their physical and psychological wounds.

If religious leaders would take more care in understanding their own faith and texts then these acts of needless hate would not have to happen. Religious leaders should teach love, compassion, and acceptance of our fellow man. Not fear, revulsion, and hate. Was it not Jesus that was always found to be in the company of sinners and not that of the righteous? Why are Christians and Muslims today always talking down to sinners anyway? Most have the attitude that they are better than everyone else when in fact they are no different. They are sinners too. No one is perfect.

The type of hate that Willow Palin demonstrated Saturday did not come naturally but was taught. It is the product of Christian and Muslim intolerance towards a perceived dogma of their faith.

One should be more concerned with their sins than the sins of others. God will have the last word on what is right and what is not and not us. Romans 2:6 says, God "will give to each person according to what he has done." Moreover, Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge or you too will be judged” Finally my favorite, John 8:7, “Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone.”

Even the Quran forbids one person from judging another. Also the Quarn instructs that a good Muslims does not initiate violence against others so long as the latter do not provoke hostilities.

No one is perfect but we must all love and respect one another no matter what we perceive to be another’s failings. In the long run maybe our faults are greater than another’s, so who are we to judge? Let’s bury the hate and learn to live together. What do you think?

November 16, 2010

We Just Don’t Get It.

We just don’t get it.  There was an interesting article posted recently in USA Today, “Can you be 'entitled' to bigotry? Some pol[l]s(?), advocates say yes.”  

The pundits in the last election spent a lot of time and money in efforts to rile voters up over their opponent’s faith or lack there of. I am disheartened to see that some of us fell for this sleazy ploy.  I think someone’s religious views should be the very last thing that is pertinent to whether they receive our vote.   Why is it at the top of most people’s lists?  What I think is important, are their qualifications for the office and do they have a plan that makes sense for improving or maintaining our way of life.  Who cares if they are Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Atheist?  This is irrelevant.   I could care less if Christine O’Donnell is a witch.  I am certain she would not show up to work one day in the Senate with an Ouija board and a bag full of eye of newt.  What dissuaded me was her lack of experience, skills, and any solid plan to get this country back on the right course.

Religion is very divisive and caustic issue even at the best of times.  It should play no part in the secular nation that the American founding fathers created back in 1787 when they ratified the Constitution and was further affirmed it as such with the adoption of the 1st amendment as written by James Madison. 

Many modern western societies, England, France, Canada, Germany, and others would never interject religion into their election process.  To do so is a taboo.  If any politician professed his faith in his campaign he would be dismissed as a loon in those places unlike the US.  Their view is one’s religions orientation is a private matter and as such is kept that way because of an understanding that religion is a toxic subject and puerile subject.  To espouse one’s religion is one sure way to have your chances of election smashed on the rocky reef of the electorate oversees.

Unfortunately, America has become a nation of religious bigots as of late, much to my dismay.  I would like to think we are better than that.  America is tearing itself apart over what I perceive as growing religious intolerance.  New York is having paroxysm over an Islamic center near ground zero, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Tennessee hinted that Islam is not a real religion but a cult, Nikki Haley who was running for office in South Carolina was attacked on her Sikh background and Senator Kay Hagan was falsely accused of not being a Christian in phony ads.  All of these actions were designed to drive a wedge between people of faith and their communities and government.  I feel things have gone too far and we should rein in some of this faith based hate before it is too late.

So while it is true that Americans will never forget 9/11, as well they should not; It should not be for reasons of revenge, but to prove the point that religions are not divinely inspired but manufactured by man and therefore subject to his weaknesses; greed, power, and manipulation just to name a few. 

Just so you don’t miss understand me.  I have no beef with anyone if they want to practice their faith.  I like to pretend there is a Santa Clause during Christmas, it makes the season that much more fun for my kids.  It only concerns me when a belief begins to oppress me and harms my hometown, my country, my family.  It is not enough for most to practice their religion among themselves or like minded individuals.  It has become apparent that religion has presented itself, in my point of view, as a “my way or the highway” mentality.  It screams that if you do not believe as “I” do then you will be oppressed and/or punished.  Many religions offer eternal peace and love which is attractive but on the flip side they also offer eternal fire and damnation after they murder or restrict your freedoms.

So next time your at the polls, set aside your bigotry and vote on a candidates qualifications and plan to make your life better, safer, more prosperous.

Lewis Black on Politics and Religion

November 12, 2010

History will Judge Same Sex Marriage Harassment and Slavery as the Same

By Francis Nye.

The father of a black student has sued a Detroit-area school district over a fifth-grade teacher's reading aloud from a book about slavery. He claims his daughter was racially harassed by the reading.  The suit claims the child’s teacher read excerpts from Julius Lester's "From Slave Ship to
Freedom Road
" that contains racial epithets and racist characterizations.

It may be that this father is just being thin skinned about this lesson in history but I was not present during the reading so I cannot make that judgment.  While I do not condone slavery the fact of the matter is it happened and we cannot hide it under the rug. If we don’t want history to repeat itself we need to teach it and show it ugliness to our youth.  We need to describe the events and processes of that shameful time so we can all understand its impact.  We also must remember that all races were culpable of this heinous act including the Africans who would bring their captured enemies to the slavers.

But I think that this whole situation of the history lesson taught at the Detroit-area school begs a bigger question, where is the moral outrage over religious bigotry and oppression over the issue of same sex marriage.  I would contend that the aggressive opposition funded and lobbied by the Christian community regarding a gay couple right to obtain a legal marriage is a form of harassment in and of itself. 

Christians decry the sanctity of marriage in effort to explain their oppressive behavior.  I remember reading in history that white slave masters would affirm their rights to own slaves because it was in the bible.  Moreover, they did this with the blessing of all churches; Catholic, Mormon, Baptist and the like.  One would assume that you can read anything you want into the meaning of the bible if you are so inclined to do so.  Never the less, Christians have no leg to stand on when they speak of the sanctity of marriage in my view.  Divorce rates among conservative Christians are significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience.

George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group, commented:

"While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing.”

The old adage, "The family that prays together, stays together" simply does not hold water. 

In a hundred years from now our society is going to look back with the same revulsion that we have toward slavery today in regards to the oppression that we now force upon the gay community with regards to marriage.  Gay marriage is going to happen.  It is a fact.  Moreover, it is already happening in five states, the District of Columbia, and one Native American tribe.  The chains of religious oppression are beginning to loosen on this issue.  We are a country built on freedom and liberty and it will always find a way to thrive in our great land.  So in my opinion religious groups need to step down from their soap box and let same sex couples experience the freedom to marry.  Let them experience the same joys and pains that marriage brings. More importantly let them have the same access to basic rights that are afforded non-gay couples.  Let the hate end.

Related Articles

Full story:  Father Sues District

November 9, 2010

The Crumbling Wall of Separation

By Francis Nye

This week the Supreme Court seems closely divided about a tax-break program that provides millions of dollars in scholarships for students at private religious schools.

The conservative justices indicated they are likely to rule against a challenge to the program that says it amounts to an unconstitutional state endorsement of religion. The court's liberals suggested they have problems with the state's tax credit.

The Obama administration joined with in arguing in strong defense of the program, saying the individuals who oppose it should not even be allowed to bring their lawsuit in federal court.

I think today many Americans are confused as to the meaning of “separation of church and state.” Even today’s political candidates like Christian O’Donnell from Delaware are confused on this topic. [see video clip below]

The concept of separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state. The term is an offshoot of the original phrase, "wall of separation between church and state," as written in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists Association in 1802. In Jefferson's letter, he was reassuring the Baptists of Danbury that their religious freedom would remain protected - a promise that no possible religious majority would be able to force out a state's official church. The original text reads:

"...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” [1]

The phrase was quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947. The phrase itself does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

It is also interesting to point out that the concept of separation has since been adopted in a number of countries, to varying degrees depending on the applicable legal structures and prevalent views toward the proper role of religion in society. A similar principle of laïcité has been applied in France and Turkey, while some socially secularized countries such as Norway have maintained constitutional recognition of an official state religion. The concept parallels various other international social and political ideas, including secularism, disestablishment, religious liberty, and religious pluralism. Whitman (2009) observes that in many European countries, the state has, over the centuries, taken over the social roles of the church, leading to a generally secularized public sphere.

American revolutionary Thomas Paine, who authored The Age of Reason criticizes institutionalized religion and challenges the legitimacy of the Bible. Published in three parts in 1794, 1795, and 1807, it was a bestseller in America, where it caused a short-lived deistic revival. The Age of Reason presents common deistic arguments; for example, it highlights what Paine saw as corruption of the Christian Church and criticizes its efforts to acquire political power. Paine advocates reason in the place of revelation, leading him to reject miracles and to view the Bible as an ordinary piece of literature rather than as a divinely inspired text. It promotes natural religion and argues for a creator-God.

Paine may have not been too far from the mark with his concerns regarding Christian Church’s effort in acquiring political power. Its no secret that today’s Christians are trying to do just that. Now I never buy into conspiracy theories but in this case there is a trend in this direction and the evidence is clear in my opinion. In fact several books have been written on this very topic. One book that comes to mind is; Religion, Politics, and the Christian Right: Post-9/11 Powers in American Empire by Mark Lewis Taylor , Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Prof. Taylor’s focus in his book is on a subset of conservative evangelicalism which has adopted a program of political rule alongside its evangelistic mission and which has formed a political alliance with neoconservatives who seek to impose American rule around the globe.

Christianity in particular has thus far has been successful in permeating our government and way of life. It has been slowly chipping away at the frame work of our very constitutional protections against there being one supreme and dominate religion in this country. If left unchecked on its current course Christianity may one day have an even greater power than they do now to influence government policy and even go so far as to oppress other people’s freedoms to practice their own faith. Even more alarming is the Christian's oppressive attitudes towards gays. That Christians have gone to extreme lengths to oppose gay marriages thus forcing their belief system on another group. Even though Christians may justify this attitude as an affront to god it is exactly what our founding fathers feared, religious intolerance directing our laws.  It begs the question, should the government be in the marriage business in the first place?  Maybe it would be more appropriate for religious institutions to perform marriages and the government to perform a civil union between consenting adults.  However, this is a subject best left to another time and another posting.

If you ask most people today they will espouse that our founding fathers were Christians and therefore we are a Christian nation and our laws should reflect Christian dogma. The truth is the United States of American was NOT founded as a Christian nation with Christian ideals. [2] Most of our founding fathers were Deists, NOT Christians. These men were truly enlighten individuals who were ahead of their time.

Deism (dē′•ĭzm) [3] is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme being created the universe, and that this (and religious truth in general) can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without the need for either faith or organized religion. Many Deists reject the notion that God intervenes in human affairs, for example through miracles and revelations. These views contrast with the dependence on revelations, miracles, and faith found in many Jewish, Christian, Islamic and other theistic teachings.

Our founding fathers understood just how dangerous religion can be if left unchecked. That it should have absolutely no business in the running and maintaining a government. Remember our founding fathers fled Europe because of religious oppression. They saw first hand the horrors of Christianity and religious persecution.

In the United States, Enlightenment philosophy (which itself was heavily inspired by deist ideals) played a major role in creating the principle of religious freedom, expressed in Thomas Jefferson's letters, and the principle of religious freedom expressed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. American Founding Fathers, or Framers of the Constitution, who were especially noted for being influenced by such philosophy include Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Cornelius Harnett, Governor Morris, and Hugh Williamson just to name a select few. Their political speeches show distinct deistic influence.  Some other notable Founding Fathers may have been more directly deist. These include James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Ethan Allen. [4]

Finally, anyone seeking to mix church and state has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either. Being founded upon the principal that all men are created equal and deserving of equal protection under the law is what makes the American system of democracy such a gift to mankind. To incorporate the inherently exclusionary imperatives of a particular religion into the determinedly inclusive system of the American constitutional form of government would be to undermine the very spirit of America by pushing it away from a democracy, and toward a theocracy.


Full story: On tax break program being challenged in the Supreme Court

[1] Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists (June 1998) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin.

[2] “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11: Written during the Administration of George Washington and signed into law by John Adams.)

[3] R. E. Allen (ed) (1990). The Concise Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press.

[4] "Excerpts from Allen's Reason The Only Oracle Of Man". Ethan Allen Homestead Museum.

[video clip]

Other relevant links and articles:
Christians influance vote in mid-term elections
Religion & Politics 2010

November 2, 2010

Money: Lots of it

Want to make a million quick? Start your own religion. The formula is simple. L. Ron Hubbard did it with Scientology and made lots of money. Others have done that too. It just takes some moxie and some manipulation, and the money and the followers will start flowing in. Hubbard knew that the axiom about making money on religion was true enough, because some have ascribed the statement “The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion."± However, there is controversy over whether or not he actually said so. Nevertheless, he ended up making money on Scientology and religious books.

Now others have established mega churches that brought in mega bucks. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker made millions, although Jim was convicted went to jail for his antics. Nevertheless, it was true they established considerable fortunes and lived lavishly for years. The media embraced Tammy Faye despite the scandals, but the evangelist movement moved away at the same time. However, she remained in the ministry and her former husband, Jim Baker, continues to serve his new flock with a new wife. He is back in business with a new television show (The Jim Bakker Show). At the time of his death Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, had amassed a fortune of $25 million. His son died in 2008, leaving a fortune himself.

Senator Charles Grassley of the Senate Finance Campaign committee has been concerned enough about the mega bucks earned by ministers to launch an investigation. An example of luxury is highlighted by Paula and Randy Whiteǂ, who are the pastors of the Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Florida. Grassley has asked for records for tax-exempt cosmetic surgery. He wants Joyce Meyer, who administers the Joyce Meyer Ministries from Fenton, Mo., to document and explain why she needed a $23,000 tax-exempt commode with a marble top.

The list of religious elites goes on, including the mega-million dollar organization of Pastor John Hagee, so the fact remains that religion for some seems profitable, and perhaps those with the most grandiose plans, in the pattern of Bernard Madoff, will make it through the recession with money although might get caught after all. Not that making money selling books isn't reasonable, but claims that are outrageous might be IRS questioned and more besides, if Grassley has his way. It should be interesting to find out what his investigations end up disclosing in the financial empires of the rich, powerful and religious.

It appears that the Christians are the worst offenders of this money grabbing mind-set. Maybe that is because they actively recruit new converts more than another faith. It has always been my experiance when attending a service that they always pass the bucket around and remind you of your duty to give ten percent. Also they have some sort of special need that can only be solved by throwing even more money at it. Then there is the countless number of Christian charities. When was the last time you saw a Jewish or Musslim charity on TV? Never. The Christians have cornered the market. Just the other day I was flipping channels and came across one of those mega churches on TV. A banner ad ran the entire time the preacher was speaking and then continued when the choir was singing. It said call a toll free-number and give money for a pray request. I was truely offended that they were selling prays. If Jesus was alive today he would have flipped out like he did when the money changers were in the temple (Mark 11:15-19).

I believe that Christ and Christianity are meant to be understood, appreciated and experienced as galvanizing inspirations for living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace and humility. Attempting to bend the glory of Jesus Christ toward anything else --especially toward the accrual of personal wealth or power -- is antithetical to what Jesus represented and died for.




October 26, 2010

Religion and Politics: A Volatile Mixture

This week in the news everyone is talking about the termination of Juan Williams from NPRǂ. I am no big fan of Juan Williams but one can certainly understand his concerns when flying with Muslims. I personally don’t think the man should have been terminated from his position with NPR just because he said what everyone else thinks when on a flight with such individuals. Ever since September 11th I think most people are in agreement when I say fanatical Muslims and aircraft are a volatile mixture.

It is sad that the actions of a few extremist Muslims has branded their faith as terrorists in the eyes of most Westerners. I on the other hand think it demonstrates how organized religions are continuing their roles as quintessential WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). That right I said WMDs. You might ask, what are you talking about?

Well, let me explain. All through history I think it can be argued that whenever the powerful want to eliminate their enemies or take over resources from another person one of their tools is religion. It is a conscience decision that Political leaders bang on the drum of religion to stir the blood of otherwise docile people and get them to do unspeakable harm.

It has always seemed easy to get the Christians to attack the Muslims and vise versa throughout history with this tactic. Just look at the Crusades. During the Crusades armed pilgrimages intended to liberate Jerusalem from Muslim control. Jerusalem was part of the Muslim possessions won during a rapid military expansion in the 7th century through the Near East, Northern Africa, and Anatolia (in modern Turkey). The first Crusade was preached by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 in response to a request from the Byzantine emperor, Alexios I Komnenos for aid against further advancement. At the time Europe had a population explosion and need to expand. The Muslims were in their way and also expanding so they had to go. Plus there was wealth and plunder to be had in the Middle East. Now not to be out done in hatred the Muslims attacked America on 9/11, Britain on 7/7, and Spain on 3/11 all in the name of god and for all the same reasons.

Who knows maybe without all the political intervention it may have been acceptable for each of these otherwise peaceful faiths to live side by side in harmony but their leaders are never willing to share their power with each other. So they got their followers to demonize each other in the hopes of eradicating the other faith. It doesn’t take a genius to soon realize that no matter how much violence is heaped upon the other side you just can’t simply destroy one’s beliefs.

It is obvious that God has little to do with any of these attacks be it Muslim or Christian who instigated it. It has everything to do with political power and faith is the tool of choice. It is always the same story just different characters.

It begs the question why does anyone need religion in the first place? Can’t we all just worship God in our own way without all the silly rules and dogmas? Are we not just setting ourselves up as pawns in the game of world political chess when we follow these so called leaders of faith?

ǂ The Juan Williams Story:

October 20, 2010

Church Won't Let Mormon Parents Be Scout Leaders

Today there was an interesting article in the paper. It appears that in Raleigh, NC a local Presbyterian church (Christ Covenant Church) will not let the parent’s of two Mormon children become Scout leaders solely on the basis that they are Mormons.

The story at:

It appears that the Presbyterians don’t see the Mormons as “Real” Christians. I think the Christ Covenant Church has missed the point about what the Scouts are all about. The Boy Scouts of America provided a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops their personal fitness. It is not about Jesus and it is certainly not about religious prejudice.

It makes me wonder what the Presbyterians’ true agenda is by creating a Scout troop. Could it be a vehicle to create something fun and entertaining for children and then use it as a ploy to brainwash them about your faith? Is the Christ Covenant Church’s intent to use the Scouts as a method to teach religion or is it about Scout values?

This also begs the question what was so terribly wrong with parents that volunteered? I assume they had no criminal record or allegations of improprieties regarding children. Then why could they not let them be leaders? If they had such heart burn with their religious point of views then why not let them be leaders with the understanding that they were not to discuss their religion with the children? Just to deny their application solely on the bases that they do not precisely conform to their brand of Jesus is…well, small-minded so say the least and down right offensive to Scout values.

All this flies in the face of the mission statement of the Scouts and what they stand for. I would hope that the Boy Scouts of America will soon launch an investigation and revoke the Christ Covenant Church troop status.

Jesus said in John 3:16. perhaps the most recited verse in the Bible. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Talk about inclusion! "Whosoever" is a huge word. It means that anyone who wants "in" just has to say the word. No one is left out. Christianity does not carry a message of intolerance or condemnation, but a message of reconciliation and salvation. But I guess this doesn’t apply to Mormons or so the Presbyterians have demonstrated with this act of religious bigotry against these two men.

This is just another shinning example of how some Christians act toward the world in general. Smug, self righteous, indifferent, and not very Christ like at all. This yet again proves the how religion is used to oppress and foster hatred towards others not in the circle of an established belief system.