It’s Been A While: More Politics-Deal With It

This is to be another political post, which makes me think that perhaps I should just get it out of my system altogether and become a politician…since I happen to be so damn opinionated on the matter and hate being an armchair political analyst. I know that plenty of you (assuming anyone actually reads these posts) have entirely different opinions from me…and that’s great, that difference of opinion is what allows for discourse to take place…without diversity of thought an opinion we have no room for meeting of the minds.

Our former mayor posted something earlier today regarding what he perceives as backwards morality from “Christians” that constitute the far right wing of the Republican Party…the invocation of Christ whenever they are rallying against issues that Jesus had no opinion on (at least nothing mentioned in the Gospels) such as gay marriage, abortion, taxes, and numerous other things while actively working to upset programs that coincide with the actual teachings of Christ (caring for the poor and the hungry, the sick and the elderly). You all know that I am not a Christian…that I’m not even remotely religious…but I do have a bit of knowledge about these things.

I initially wanted to do no more than let our former Mayor know that there are still Republicans like myself who don’t feel that these individuals speak for the party as a whole. I was going to leave it at that until someone opted to refer to Romans: Chapter 1, where there are some statements that could be interpreted as being opposed to homosexuality.

I felt it was necessary to point out that Romans was not a Gospel and did not have any statements made by Jesus attached to it. At best it was the writing of Paul the Apostle (not one of the Twelve Apostles, something that I suspect many Christians are unaware of), quite probably half a century after the death of Christ. It might also be noted that Paul was never in the presence of Christ (not being born until after Christ had died) and that his conversion came about from a vision of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. So Paul had no firsthand experience of Christ or his teachings…in fact he actively persecuted the early Christian cult during his life up until that conversion took place; and this is the man responsible for the bulk of the non-Gospel New Testament. He was just a man, nothing more…as fallible as any other.

The individual also pointed towards 2nd Timothy: Chapter 3 and I felt compelled to point out that these verses still have nothing to do with the teachings of Christ…and are even further removed. 2 Timothy has unknown authorship but it is traditionally attributed to some random (unnamed) follower of Paul the Apostle…somewhere in the vicinity of a century after Christ’s death.

This individual then expressed that they had assumed I might believe in the divine inspiration of scripture.

I felt the need to disillusion him of that; considering that it is only in those pieces of writing that it mentioned that the scripture was divinely inspired…I question it a great deal. I question the veracity of anything that changes dramatically in meaning when translated from Hebrew to Aramaic to Greek and further. If divinely inspired, the meaning would remain constant. That is far from the case. I can write a piece of scripture today, tack on something about how all scripture is valid and inspired by god, and people are supposed to accept that? What is in the commonly used Bible today is nothing compared to what is found in the Catholic Bible, and that only consists of what a handful of humans determined would best suit their needs as scripture. Who gets to determine which scripture is valid and which is not…because neither God nor Jesus ever made any statements to that effect?

I didn’t mean to come off as being cynical there, but recognize that I really am a bit cynical when it comes to those things. I can understand how that whole statement could be considered highly cynical, and I was sorry about that. I just wanted to express my concern regarding the mindset associated with scripture being divinely inspired. Bart D. Ehrman has addressed these issues far better than I ever could, being Professor of religious studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill…he has been able to go far more in depth than I am able where the veracity of Biblical scripture (and especially the New Testament) is concerned. I highly recommend anyone who has the means should take the time to procure and read some of his books on textual criticism of scripture. That is neither here nor there though.

It was after this that another individual made some comments about how there isn’t really much of an actual difference between big government Republicans and socialist Democrats as far as he was concerned, and he isn’t entirely incorrect. He commented on the fact that there is no article of the Constitution that speaks of equalizing pay or for providing healthcare or education.

To me, it has nothing to do with either Republicans or Democrats really…but I could see where he was coming from.

Those of you who know me are aware that I happen to be a small government Republican. I think we need fewer laws and interferences into the daily lives of the American people. I don’t think it is the place of government (state or national) to define marriage or anything else. We need to step back and trim the fat from our overbearing obsession with legislation.

Regarding protection of wages, healthcare, education, and similar bones of contention I had to disagree…as these are issues that directly impact the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the very population this government was developed to protect. Those issues weren’t salient at the time this country was founded and would almost definitely have been taken into consideration by the founding fathers had that been otherwise. The US government was designed in such a way as to allow for alterations and modification with the passage of time. It has never been a static creation and wasn’t intended to be. Our government has the sole function of providing for the well being of the populace that supports it…to uphold the rights and liberties of the American population. Nowhere is it stated that we are expected to become involved in political or social reform in other nations, but that isn’t often something that we hear complaints about from the same people who are so concerned with the programs that aid the American people.

Regarding the Christian uproar from the far right wing of the Republican party as far as these issues are concerned, John Adams and George Washington were pretty clear on that very point when the Treaty of Tripoli was signed. There was no ambiguity in the wording. Those persons in the US government who are so concerned with their distorted form of Christianity and the almost rabid desire to impose it upon everyone else are suffering from delusions of what Christ taught as well as basic lack of understanding regarding the history of the United States.

That same man recognized that we are, of course, entitled to our differences of opinion and went on from there to express his concern over what he sees as an inflated Executive branch, stating, “Who needs congress when presidential decree gets the job done?”

I definitely feel that our last two presidents have set an unwelcome and disturbing precedent as far as overstepping the bounds of the office is concerned. I’m not a huge fan of our “do nothing” Congress either. It is my opinion that we need a complete overhaul of Washington, but not the variety that the Tea Party has been pushing for…the last thing we need in Washington is more people who don’t understand how the government works (or is intended to work) and who believe that Christ hated the poor and needy.

These are just my opinions of course. I am just some guy who happens to feel that some of this should be common sense.

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A Little Something To Think About

The current political climate is a horrifying thing for anyone who is capable of rational thought, neither of the major political parties inspire much faith or hope in the nation we live in today or for the future that expands before us.

What scares me most about the Republican Party as it exists today is the trend towards devolution that is so seemingly pervasive. The rhetoric that is spewed is something that should make us all laugh at the sheer ludicrous nature of it; and it might if it weren’t so truly terrifying, and made all the more terrifying by virtue of the fact that so many people are altogether too willing to accept it as fact instead of the theatrical nonsense that rhetoric (by nature) always is.

Beyond the rhetoric, though, is the subtext, and that is what is most mortifying. Racism, homophobia, and sexism abound in ways that should be appalling to everyone, not just those who are of the opposition. I used to be proud to say that I am a Conservative (capital letter intended), but there is nothing that I want more these days than to sever all ties with that hate and fear mongering culture that has devoured and transformed what was once the Republican Party.

I’ve seen Republicans point fingers at men like Robert Byrd and George Wallace as examples of the racism that was once associated with the Democratic Party, and they aren’t wrong in doing so. There is ample evidence of racism and sexism within the Democratic Party during the civil rights movement. They, of course, choose to ignore men like Jesse Helms who may have started out as a Democrat but was happily accepted into the Republican Party during the 1970’s, the party where he spent the majority of his political career. As appalling as I find any of those particular views, I also recognize that, at the time, they were pretty damn common. It was a different nation, and a different world, 40 years and more ago. That doesn’t make it acceptable by any stretch of the imagination, but it does make it a bit easier to understand. A few bad apples (or even a few dozen) decades ago doesn’t spoil the bunch today.

The Republican Party lost my support and my votes in any instance where it is pandering to the lowest common denominator like the tea party and fanatical religious right, and I’ve been hard pressed to discover any place where that is not the case. It’s fucked up that, as my Republican friends gleefully point out, during the civil rights movement it was the Democrats who were notably racist and sexist, but are now championing the rights of homosexuals and women…how times have changed. Both parties have changed since then, but only one of them seems to be changing in a positive manner anymore. America, as a whole, has been circling the drain for a good, long while, I have no doubt about that. But the GOP deciding to turn their back on progress and reality by stupidly picking up the banner dropped by men like Robert Byrd and George Wallace might be a sign that they will reach the drain ahead of the rest of us.

I’m not a huge fan of the Democratic Party, I disagree with a lot of the policies that are promoted by the party leadership, but at least they want people to be treated like people. There isn’t a widespread assumption within the Democratic Party that God has delineated certain people and lifestyles as being subhuman, and that alone is enough cause for me to throw my lot in with them in the coming election, and it should be enough for you too.

The only valid issue I’ve ever witnessed any of my Republican friends complaining about with respect to the Democrats was their short-sighted, knee jerk stance on gun control. It’s exceedingly rare that the gun violence which perpetuates their stance is perpetrated by legally obtained firearms, thus tighter restrictions are of little to no value. However, the insipid Second Amendment argument does not make their case at all. Seeing as how none of these mouth breathing, brainwashed jackasses are members of a “well regulated militia,” the right to bear arms does not apply to them. The wording was very clear in our Constitution, and it did not even ambiguously indicate that it was meant to be interpreted as a right for any Tom, Dick, and Harry to purchase and bear arms. What scares me, and makes me desire stricter laws where firearms are concerned, are these religious nut, tea party idiots having guns. I wouldn’t place a firearm in the hands of a severely mentally challenged child, and the same basic reasoning applies here.

A good friend of mine optimistically believes that all of this appalling shit (from racism to fanatical Christianity) will be ground under the feet of reason and science within the next 50 years. “Don’t hold your breath there,” is what I have to say in response. He has far more faith in human nature than I do. You can force feed facts and reality down people’s throats and it doesn’t hold a candle to feeling like they are special and that every action that they commit, no matter how heinous, is ultimately forgiven by the only judge that matters even if no other human being would ever provide said forgiveness.

The reality that we are all mortal, insignificant creatures who will be utterly scoured from the face of the universe in another couple of billion years when the atmosphere and everything else is burned away simply lacks the appeal of being eternally loved, special little beings for whom the whole universe was assembled. There’s simply no way to compete with that. We’re arrogant little fuckers, human beings, and when it comes to a choice between being special or being little more than a dust mote, most of us are going to choose the former.

I made my choice.

Not So Much a Religious Discussion as a Monologue This Time.

I ask my friend how he can look at extremists and see them as being representative of all of Islam when he can overlook the rapid, violently insane voices within Christianity as being far from indicative of what Christianity is and what it stands for.

He responds by spitting out the generic, “Because Christianity is rooted in love and Islam is rooted in death.”

These discussions have been going on for far too long, and with no resolution, I think. Finally, it’s time to stop pussyfooting around the real issue. “Christianity, throughout history,” I begin, “is responsible for more death than Islam could hope to become responsible for even with another dozen 9/11 type attacks. There is no more or less promotion of violence or love in either of the religious texts that you refer to.”

Not that I expect that to get through to him, similar arguments have just slid right off of him like his religious convictions and ignorance regarding his own faith are Teflon coated.

Weary with expecting better of him, I express what I suspect is really the substrate behind all of his rabid anti-Islam, anti-Hebrew, and anti-science rhetoric, “The fact of the matter is that you’re simply a narrow minded, uninformed bigot who simply accepts what some equally uninformed bigot claims about a religion that isn’t your own.”

I continue, “Rooted in love or not, your own faith is responsible for thousands of deaths during the Spanish Inquisition, hundreds more in Christian on Christian violence in Ireland, thousands more during the various Crusades, hundreds more during the witch trials, and tens to hundreds of thousands more during the imperial expansion into central/south America, Africa, Asia, and the rest of the world…all for the glory of your God…to spread his holy word at the tip of sword and sting of bullets.

“Islam has never even come close to those numbers…and never will.”

Turning my eye to the current American military action in the Middle East, I go on, “And there are still people being killed, by Christians, in the middle east for no better reason than that the people there don’t want to bow down and pray to the God that you do.” Admittedly, that isn’t the root cause for our involvement there, but there is no question that it is a motivating factor for a good number of the violent acts that we have witnessed.

Before he replies with some ignorant statement about how we are simply defending ourselves from Islamic aggression, I follow my previous comment with, “You’d fight with no less single minded determination than they are against us if roles were reversed.”

Once more, I opt to go after the source behind all of the things that he plasters online and argues against, “You’re a hypocrite and a bigot…you can distort it and twist it around all that you like…but anyone with open eyes and a trace of sense would be as aware of that fact as I am…and you aren’t blind or stupid enough to be ignorant to that reality yourself. Somewhere inside, beneath the layers of self-delusion and brainwashing, you know better.”

Choosing to address the way that everything is distorted to fulfill his own worldview I continue by saying, “Christians commit murder on a daily basis here in America…against other Christians, against Muslims, against Jews, against every different sort…the only reason it doesn’t tabulate the way you twist things around is because we don’t call it, “Christian violence.” It’s only because we brand any violence performed by a practitioner of Islam as “Islamic violence” that you even have news articles to share and targets for your finger pointing.

“Hell, that’s just common sense…to anyone. If we go through news articles and check the religious backgrounds of the murderers and rapists in American prisons, you’d have far, far greater incident rates of Christian violence than Islamic violence to read about.”

Momentum built up, I go on, “And hate speech like yours just spurs it on. You condemn Muslims for waving signs that Christians wave around on a regular basis…while protesting the funerals of military personnel…men who sacrificed themselves for this nation in a way that none of those jackasses with picket signs would ever dare to do.”

Thinking back on how this man used to be a friend of mine, I find myself both frustrated and disappointed, “Your religion of “love” produces and promotes no less hate than Islam. So give it a fucking rest already…you’re not that stupid. No matter how brainwashed and deluded you might be, you simply can’t actually be that stupid.”

I decide to wrap it up, receiving no response or inarticulate defense from him; I feel that maybe I have said enough. I don’t suspect that it will get through to him, but I hope that maybe some of it might. It is with that in mind that I conclude, “I consider what you believe to be insipid, primitive tripe…but I give you more benefit of the doubt than you give to people who believe something quite similar to what you believe.”

 

Another Religious Discourse Brought About By A Friend’s Blind Hatred of Islam

The same friend that led to the previous religious discussion happened to post something depicting Islam as a vicious, intolerant cult and I couldn’t help myself. Names have been omitted in order to avoid coming across as too much of an asshole.

I responded with, “Yeah, because there aren’t numerous people around the world or even in this Midwest region who haven’t been just as brutally mistreated by Christians, my friend. You let your bias cloud your judgment far too readily with your anti-Islamic nonsense. There are no more people who have been hurt by Islamic violence throughout history than those who have been by Christians behaving the same way or worse.”

It was in response to this that a friend of my friend chirps in by suggesting that I am either misinformed or choosing to spew lies and further, that, “Virtually all conflicts in the world are caused by Moslems killing those who do not agree with them. Fighting back is demonized by the ignorant.” The choice of spelling was not mine, but that of the individual who made the statement. She followed that by quoting an article from FrontPage Magazine by a Buddhist author who expressed fear that Islam would sweep away the cherished practices and people of the Buddhist traditions if it were to gain ascendancy and that Islam is the only belief system that propagates itself by the sword.

I responded to her claim that I was misinformed by saying, “The crusades, the inquisition, and countless other examples of Christian violence exist…and in recent years doctors, homosexuals, and other individuals have been beaten and even killed by Christians in direct relation to what they believe. The only misinformation comes from bigots like you hypocrites.”

She replied by informing me that those episodes from history that I mentioned were reactionary, in defense against Islamic barbarism; and that the more recent incidents that I alluded to were the work of extremists (which can be found in every culture) who don’t represent the majority except (in her opinion) within Islam, where they are fulfilling the wishes of the majority. She further suggested that I need to get educated before I spew my hate and that I really “need to read something.”

To which, I said, “I will give you the benefit of the doubt and operate under the assumption that you are merely Ill/uninformed rather than being a willfully ignorant hate monger. Either way, you clearly know less than you think you do.”

She mockingly thanked me for giving her the “benefit of the doubt” and indicated that she realized that my stance was derived from a government edited public school system, which had deceived me.

I found the condescension irritating and replied by saying, “You literally know nothing about me or the topic at hand. For your information I attended Catholic school for part of my education and spent three years at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology as a double major in physics and chemistry before having to put my education on hiatus because I got custody of my (then) kindergarten age daughter who was in school for half days and her education took priority when it came to the schedule conflicts between our respective schools. I am not one of these uneducated individuals that you can hope to sway without actually knowing what you’re talking about.

“In addition to my own education (and being exceptionally well-read) my best friend’s PhD work is in Middle Eastern Language and Culture, he (another white man of European descent, like myself) is fluent in numerous dialects of Arabic (to the extent that he is paid for translations to and from those languages), Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and others. I do know what I’m talking about when I disagree with the uninformed statements that individuals like you and my friend are so eager to plaster online.”

She replied by saying that she was proud of me. I can’t quite tell if it was sincere or derisive. I’m opting to err on the side of caution and presume it was intended to be derisive though.

I continued, “Earlier in this dialogue you made a comment about how Islam propagates via the sword, and I feel the need to remind you of what Jesus said in Matthew, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.’ And Christian history is filled to the brim with examples of that being quite true, no less than the examples that you can provide of/for Islam. You claim that it’s only extremists within Christianity who spread hate and promote violence and the same is true of Islam or of Judaism. There are extremists within each of those cultures and they are no more representative of the whole. Islam is not the enemy. If our nation were to be invaded by a primarily Islamic force, Christians would be reacting with no less violence and hate than you are seeing from extremists over there when invaded by a primarily Christian force. After 9-11 there was a great deal of violence perpetrated against Muslims and individuals who simply appeared to possibly be Muslim (including both Hindi and Sikh practitioners) here in America, violence perpetrated largely by Christians; imagine how much worse it would be if a primarily Islamic army had invaded our nation and began exercising control. I don’t assume that those individuals are representative of Christianity as a whole…you should think a bit more about extending the same courtesy to Islam.”

Her response was to insist that there was not one reported case of violence against Moslems following 9-11, that I “drank the Cool Aid.” She further queried that if what I was saying were true, then why is Europe being lost to Islam? Her assumption was that I obviously only have an education in the areas that I was allowed to see and that I should check the other side for a while.

She also suggested that I check out Eric Allen Bell, an individual who previously worked with Michael Moore. He had been turned around while filming about the bigotry associated with the mosque in Tennessee.

I felt the need to correct her by saying, “Yes, there were numerous accounts of violence perpetrated against American Muslims and others who simply looked like they might be Muslim. Someone has indeed been drinking the Kool-Aid, and it hasn’t been me. Europe isn’t being lost to Islam. I know a lot of people in Europe, and there is no such nonsense transpiring there. However, if we wanted to pretend that was the case, Europe was already lost to the Christians not altogether that long ago as they went through and subjugated, killed, and converted everyone in the path. The same thing happened here in America even more recently. The same thing happened numerous times during the various Crusades. And there damn well is anger in Islam against Europe (as well there should be) since most of Europe was standing behind America and the UN as invaders throughout the Islamic world. In addition to that, it was Europeans who decided to arbitrarily determine that the Palestinians didn’t need the area that was then delineated as Israel…as if they had any right to reorganize political and social boundaries like that. I know a great deal about history, and about world events.”

In addition I felt it necessary to say, “Michael Moore is a hack who cherry picks and conveniently edits interviews to say what he wants…and Bell learned a lot from his time working with him.”

Her response was to imply that I was somehow missing a whole other side to the story and that I should educate myself and not simply, “read the approved text.” She followed that by insinuating that I might, myself, be a Moslem.

I was flabbergasted, to say the least, “Approved text? What sort of mental gymnastics are you performing? I read everything, everything that I can ever get my hands on…and I have large hands. I’m not a practitioner of Islam, I don’t subscribe to Christianity or Judaism, I’m not Mormon, I’m not a Buddhist (though I do actually admire some elements of the Buddhist philosophy, I recognize that it isn’t actually a religious practice in any real sense), and I’m not a Sikh or Hindu either. But I have read the major (and a lot of the minor) religious texts for each of those religions and more.

“The difference between you and I is that I don’t subscribe to some mindless Conservative agenda, I don’t read only those articles and texts that are recommended by the individuals working to further that agenda and I can change the channel and watch something other than Fox News.

“And before you start condemning me for being some sort of liberal brainwashing victim, I might want to let you know that I voted for G.W. Bush both terms (because I felt that neither Gore nor Kerry had a fucking clue how to run a country and Bush at least had his father to help guide him along, sadly that didn’t seem to happen, but it was what I was hoping for since G.W. himself was borderline retarded).”

I admit, I am ashamed to have admitted that part, seeing as how god-awful G.W. Bush was as both president and a human being…but mistakes were made, and I do still have to stand by my decision in voting for that insufferable jackass.

I continued, “I am the dirty little secret that the Republican Party wants to pretend doesn’t exist…I’m a primarily conservative atheist. 🙂 I’m an independent voter, but most of my political views tend towards the conservative rather than liberal bent. Hell, I didn’t start having issues with the Republican Party until they started pandering to the outspoken religious right, those people creep me the fuck out. If McCain had actually run when he was up against Obama the same way that he was running during the primaries that he lost to G.W. Bush, he might very well have gotten my vote…but he seemed to have tossed common sense and critical thinking out the window in order to cater to the vocal minority that is the religious right, and I was sorely disappointed. McCain used to be a sensible, intelligent, and well-spoken individual…but then he somehow lost his way, and the nail in his coffin was picking Palin as a running mate.

“So no… I’m not expressing the thoughts that I express because of some political agenda of my own…and it certainly isn’t because I’m a proponent of Islam. I think all of these religious traditions are ridiculous and that the world would be a better place if people would just grow up and stop obsessing about imaginary friends and the conflicts that they promote.”

There was no further dialogue. Perhaps I shared a bit too much about myself in those last few bits of conversation, but I felt the need to avoid the individual trying to claim that I was somehow perpetuating some myth put in place by liberals.

I thought that my few readers might enjoy having this conversation shared with them; I hope that I was correct in that assumption.

If you happen to have any opinions on the matter, feel free to comment, I enjoy conversation and would love to know what you readers happen to think.