Posted tagged ‘Religion’

Astonishing News

December 22, 2018

The Vatican made the headlines again today.  Sources speaking on behalf of Pope Francis expressed his anguish over more revelation of Catholic Church hierarchy impeding investigations or covering up sexual harassment allegations.  The Pope reportedly called for civilian authorities to actively investigate and hold criminally responsible any priests credibly charged.  Sources claim the Pope’s new conviction stems from worrying that the revelations and the coverups are hurting church attendance.  Hmmm.

No Sh*t.

As a large and prosperous business, the Catholic Church has been showing all the signs of a once highly regarded institution imploding.  The all male organization has been peddling dogma which is out of touch with modern life, have been slow to recognize the emerging gay life styles as normal, and have cruelly insisted on “offering their way or the highway” with respect to women’s reproductive health.  But swamping these hypocrisies was the long standing preference for protecting priest pedophiles and sexual abusers.  And the underlying rationale for this protection was to protect and not sully the good name of the church.  What good name?

No Sh*t.

In the US, evangelical and fundamentalist christian churches have been unashamed supporters of the Ten Commandments, that is until it comes to President Trump. These so-called Christians denounced former President Obama and former Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over their positions on gay rights and women’s reproductive health.  I guess some of the Commandments are just more important than others.

I am wondering whether the “hypocrisy” problem lies not singularly with the Catholic Church, but rather with the “business of religion”?

Kate and Anthony

June 9, 2018

This week, two well known personalities died.  If one is not into lady’s handbags or eating bazaar foods in remote places, these deaths probably did not make your radar screen.  But if you came in contact with the 7/24 news media, print, digital, visual, or audio, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s passing were featured news.

What made these events so newsworthy, unfortunately, was that they died by suicide.

Kate Spade was somewhat like the young author who writes the great American novel early in life and regrettably finds out that there are no second or third great ones left in them.  Bourdain lead a scrappy life and seemed to meet and rise above so many challenges, one was left thinking “what will come next”.  Who would have guessed?

Suicide according to news reports is on the rise.  For a number of years, hand guns have been the instrument of choice.  Pills, hanging, and self cutting have also been popular.  “Death by policeman” or “death by traffic accident” have been mentioned also as stealth suicide methods too.  So, for the 45,000 who choose to end their lives, there are a number of oft used options.  Hmmm.

The public reaction to Spade and Bourdain’s passing has been disbelief.  How could some one so talented even think about suicide?  Most of us associate suicide with mental illnesses such as depression or severe anxiety, crippling diseases like cancer, Luke Gehrig’s disease, or the onset of Alzheimer’s, and the person simple saying “no thanks” to the indignity or pain of these ailments.  Quality of life, for these people, counts more than living in pain or knowledge that the remaining part of their natural lives will be sub-standard.

Religions have tended to take a dim view of suicide.  Much as with abortion, religions have painted suicide as taboo and anyone who even contemplates suicide as a “sinner”.  And even worse, would be anyone who assists someone end their life.  If life were actually that simple.

IMO, both abortion and suicide are ethical decisions.  Again, IMO, both abortion and suicide are individual rights and should be approached in the context of each person’s responsibility to themselves and their fellow travelers.  Don’t make a mess, and don’t hurt others in accomplishing ones own suicide.

Puzzling to me about Kate and Anthony is that they left behind two daughters (one each), both of whom were still teenagers.  I would hope that both Kate and Anthony thought, if they were still capable of thinking rationally, about the future for their children without them.  Hmmm.

At the end of the day, Kate and Anthony made decisions for which there is no return or tomorrow.  But it was their choice.

Bake Me A Cake

June 5, 2018

This week, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111.  The case centered on whether someone can deny service, otherwise available to all Americans, on the basis of deeply held religious beliefs.  The Masterpiece bakeshop denied the service of a specially designed cake to a gay couple.  The Supreme Court cited the Colorado Civil Rights Commission of unfairly reviewing Masterpiece’s position and simply rejected their religious belief argument out of hand.  The vote was 7-2.

As in the Hobby Lobby case, the Court is attempting to have it both ways.  In the Hobby Lobby case, Hobby Lobby was allowed to not offer insurance coverage of certain drugs, fully legal, and certain medical procedures, also fully legal, which were intended to end pregnancies. With Masterpiece, the Court had already decided that gay marriage was legal and a basic right.  With this decision, however, the Court ruled that deeply held religious beliefs trump basic rights.  Hmmm.

The Court has (IMO) erred grievously and is hopelessly confused on what religious freedom is all about.  The owners of Hobby Lobby should never be forced to end any pregnancy or use any drugs or medical procedures to do so.  And similarly, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop should not be required to marry another person of the same sex.  But when Hobby Lobby denies insurance coverage to its employees when these employees perform jobs similar to millions of other Americans who receive the full insurance coverage, or when Masterpiece receives a wedding cake request from a heterosexual couple and gladly fulfills the request yet deny the request of same sex couples, these situations are not free expression of religious freedom, but rather is discrimination.

The First Amendment is about each Americans right to practice his/her religious beliefs providing these beliefs do not infringe the rights of others.  In these two decisions the Court has said “religious freedom” can trump other persons’ rights depending upon who the other person is.  Hmmm.

Gandhi Lessons

March 4, 2018

The movie “Gandhi” (starring Ben Kingsley) reminded me of the ever present contradiction with which most of us live among. Gandhi inspired fellow Indians (both Hindu and Muslim) to convince England to grant India independence. His vision entailed a multi-religious country where each Indian could worship their god freely.

In the end, however, fears between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority lead to independence of two separate countries, Pakistan and India.

The fears were not some detached, esoteric feelings, but rather ones supported by mob violence examples. Fear and divisive language amplified the anxiety rampant in the poor Indian sub-continent. The birth of India (and Pakistan) traveled a bumpy road. Through out this process, Gandhi counseled for non-violence and peaceful co-existence.

Sadly, Gandhi’s life ended at the hands of an assassin. The assassin was not a Muslim, but a radical Hindu extremist who felt Gandhi’s influence was slanted too much towards Pakistan (and against Hindu values).

The assassin killed Gandhi for reasons connected with protecting his religion, his god, and his “deeply held religious views”. Not seeing a common humanity amongst all Indians, the assassin deemed Gandhi a threat and one that needed to be eliminated.

From the earliest records, the power released by dividing masses into groups and then setting one group against the other is well known. When organized religions arose, they saw selfish opportunity in pitting one against another.   Over centuries, religious groups  gained wealth and power making tacit (or even explicit) deals with political leaders.

Gandhi was killed by someone who was extreme in his “deeply held” Hindu views.
Over the past few years, under much different economic times, America has been living a precursor-like period to Gandhi times.

Deeply held religious views have been accepted by American courts and legislatures as justification to deny social services, personal dignity, and individual human rights to some other fellow Americans.

  • Because one person, with deeply held religious views, does not condone certain birth control means, and is not required to use them, that person feels the right to deny others using them.  Reference Hobby Lobby.
  • In another well publicized case, deeply held views around homosexuality has lead to merchants denying service to members of the LBGT community. Again no one is asking anyone to live a gay lifestyle but on what basis is it just to deny gays the same dignity of others. Reference Masterpiece Cake Shop.
  • And without a doubt, the most difficult to understand and probably the most religiously hypocritical is the expression of deeply held religious views that only a man and a woman can marry. Similar deeply held views felt self confident if not sanctimonious that marriage could only be between a white man and a white woman or a black man and a black woman. What type of god teaches that?

Gandhi was killed by someone who was serving the teachings of his Hindu sect as best he could understand it. His religious leaders, for what ever the reasons, professed views which encouraged objectification. Some objects were dangerous or of no value, and these objects needed to be cast off.  Gandhi became one of those objects

Too many American evangelicals and fundamentalists see the world similarly. They pick and choose from the bible what will populate their “deeply held” religious views.  These religious leaders seem to possess no counterbalancing cohesive view of all humanity.

This “deeply held” crowd seem unable to separate what is a choice of others to what is required of them. And most pointedly, the “deeply held” members appear unable to see the inherant contradiction between all their “deeply held views”.

Listening to these evangelical and fundamentalist spokespersons, “Love thy neighbor is wonderful, but one does not need to make him/her a cake”.  Isn’t this the sign of a neurosis which has the potential to grow into a psychosis?

What Is The Christmas Holiday?

December 27, 2014

Recently I was listening to Dr Dan Gottlieb on WHYY, a public radio station in Philadelphia. Gottlieb’s guests included three religious clerics, a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian. The subject was broadly how each viewed Christmas.  Hmmm.

Both the Muslim cleric and the Jewish Rabbi noted that they lived in a predominantly christian country and their opinions were based upon looking from the outside in. While each of their traditions had religious holidays of celebration, nothing was like the merriment of secular Christmas.

While Santa Claus and Christmas trees were not a part of their traditions, there was no doubt that children were drawn to it. How was it not possible living among so many others who visibly celebrated the secular aspects of Christmas not to wonder. They also allowed that it did feel good to be wished or to wish someone else “seasons greetings”.

The Christian cleric, on the other hand, began by stating that “Christmas was the beginning of a religious story which begins with Christ’s birth and ends with Christ’s death and resurrection” at Easter. (How up lifting).  His words also seem to suggest there was no room for “seasons greetings”.

As the discussion continued, the Christian cleric allowed that many of the secular Christmas aspects were both popular and worthwhile. But, “Christmas’s” real meaning, he insisted, was religious and inseparable with christianity. He could not see why a Muslim or a Jew would want to partake in Christmas.

Dr Dan proposed that Christmas was a time when one can wish others (of any faith or no faith) health, happiness and respect. The secular christmas allowed such tidings to be exchanged. “What could be wrong with those wishes from a religious sense”, Dr Dan asked.

The Christian cleric tried weakly one more time to emphasize the religious Christmas’s significance, but gradually seemed to understand he was waging a losing argument.

Christmas, Weihnachten, Noel, and Navidad, however one says Christmas, traces its roots to early Christianity. Along the way, plenty of pagan rites have been incorporated. In the US today (as in most of the world), secular Christmas has a large commercial content.  In Commercial Christmas motivation is applied via advertising to encourage the gifting of many presents (at much cost). Christmas decorations adorn most homes and public spaces. Success or failure of the Christmas Season is often implied by cumulative commercial sales numbers, now listed in billions.

So when someone suggests that the “spirit” of Christmas might lie upon wishing others good will and unconditional respect, it would seem to me that was an idea worth supporting. Within Christian places of worship, church leaders are entirely free to emphasize the nativity to crucifixion story and celebrate it however they wish.

From strictly a brand management perspective, Christian church spokespersons are missing a bet to remain relevant by discounting the power of less commercial secular Christmas and instead emphasizing the religious story as the only relevant meaning.

The Problem With Charity

December 22, 2014

Suppose you are walking along and you encounter someone bleeding profusely from a wound on their arm. Would you simply walk on letting the bleeding stranger fend for themselves? Or, would you, like most others, stop and help to stop the bleeding?

Depending upon how often you have encountered someone needing immediate help (charity), the choice of walking on or stopping would likely be made. The occasional call for help usually summons a charitable response. The more frequent request, on the other hand, leads one to become jaded and callous to need. It becomes much easier to think the unfortunate person needs to learn to take care of themselves.

In most of our larger cities these days, there appears to be an emerging cottage industry.   Around key intersections, after the traffic stops, a sea of changing faces emerge carrying hand made signs shouting “Veteran and Unemployed – Please help” or “Homeless and Hungry”.

So what should one do at these corners? Do you give money (and encourage someone else to hold up sign) or drive on as if the person had never been there?

I have often thought this must be a reasonably good business because the same intersections are used and despite the changing faces, there seems to be someone there all the time.

I can’t answer, however, whether those standing their represent the bleeding person needing desperately someone to apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding. Or, are these down and out strangers just going to show up at another corner even if I give them some money? Is the act of giving money “charity” or is it “facilitating”?

There may be an answer to this question, but I do not know what it is. I have rationalized that I will not give to the street bigger but instead will donate to non-profits who specialize in providing unconditional help. (Unconditional except the unfortunate might have to listen to some words about god but that’s probably a small price for someone in no place to bargain.)

The elephant in the room, I think, is charity is almost always not the answer. Certainly it “feels” good, and it may be necessary (as in the case of stopping the bleed). So, why not support a handout?

Handouts are too easy and lead to no permanent fix.

Life seems to mirror this too much these days. It is all about treating symptoms and not identifying and eliminating basic causes.

For the new year, it might be worthwhile to consider matching gifts. For example, if it seems worthy to provide charity to someone or some cause, do it… but resolve to ask the question, why did that person or that organization need the handout in the first place?

With that answer, ask the question again until you reach an answer that if it were eliminated or managed much better, the need for the handout you had just made would be either unnecessary or greatly reduced.


Another Deity Insulted?

December 19, 2014

Barry Goldwater said it, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”. Over the years Americans have come to see this politically charged line from several different angles. More recent examples from Dick Cheney’s assault upon human rights and individual privacy to the extreme right’s decision to shut down the US government, make it clear that extremism should be viewed very skeptically. This week, in another arena, the world was smacked in the face with an even greater hypocrisy.

In far away Burma, three individuals, were arrested and hauled off to prison. These commercial business operators were charged with “insulting Buddhism” Who is buddhism? And what did the insult look like?

It seems the accused displayed a picture of the long gone buddha wearing ear phones. OMG. How could anyone be so crass?

The Muslim world often needs little (like even a cartoon) to accuse individuals of insulting Allah or insulting the Islam. Thai officials on occasion charge to odd fellow with “insulting the King”.

In the western world, insulting someone is not unknown. And for sure insults can evoke anger from the recipient. But in the case of Allah, Islam, Buddhism, or even the King of Thailand, charges were not filed by the one alleged to have been insulted.  This clearly indicates that other parties consider themselves worthy to guard the offended ones reputation.

Hmmm, seems like that is also an insult.

I have often thought that many of the political personalities frequenting elected office these days are (or were) dumber than a dog. I will now have to be more careful writing this, since that could be construed as an insult… And I don’t want to raise the anger of animal rights groups representing dogs.

UVA – A Crime Scene Without A Crime?

December 6, 2014

The Rolling Stone Magazine has retracted a story it published which painted the University of Virginia as soft on rape. The magazine had printed a story which alleged a “gang rape” of a student and failure of the University to seriously investigate. This lack of pursuit was prima facia evidence the University did not care about women. Hmmm.

Gang rape as well as any intercourse without consent are or should be crimes. The questions at hand is what constitutes consent and was it given? Women’s groups are active in campaigning across the country to increase zero tolerance and criminal prosecution. Unfortunately for these advocates, the allegations about the UVA fraternity house contained in the article could not be corroborated. So was this a crime without a crime scene? Hmmm.

The veracity or lack there of contained in the Rolling Stone article while academically interesting is beside the point. The publication of the article was enough to convince too many Americans that UVA was a cesspool of debauchery. One was lead to think the UVA administration was complicit and the student body were on the path to criminal lives. Hmmm.

Where was do process?

Simple probability would suggest there had been rapes and even possibly gang rapes at UVA or other universities. Probabilities would also suggest that consent is not always clearly given in many other cases, and authorities are not always excited about investigating college party events. Lastly, probabilities would also suggest that consensual relations out number forced intercourse thousand to one (no idea if this ratio is accurate, it could be low).

The country finds itself in a place where it should be no longer necessary to trick or force a women into engaging in sex. The problem is how do those seeking sex learn to focus only on those who also are willing?

Two well known sayings “the difference between rape and seduction is just how one asks” and “will you love me in the morning” have been true for centuries.  Pursuit of the opposite sex will continue to contain the change of “he said, she said”.  Assault and battery ought, however, be straight forward on how to remove from every day life.

Whether the Rolling Stones article is a complete fabrication or just inaccurate in certain details does not change the probability that non-consensual sex has taken place at UVA.

Maybe it does take a sensational albeit inaccurate article like the one in Rolling Stone to raise awareness enough at UVA or any other institution. The public, if it wishes to also advocate for change, needs to realize that with alcohol and hormones it is not always clear cut what is “yes” and what is “no”.

It will be interesting to see what the University of Virginia does now that the Rolling Stone charge has been withdrawn.

Objective, Strategies, Tactics

August 9, 2014

In the real world, there are few “black and white” situations. There are no aggressors who whose motives are pure or no insurgent who does not have a case for their grievances. Accordingly, when the US intervenes in foreign affairs, there exists enormous potential to get it wrong. Of course, the opposite possibility exists too but the probabilities are not as good.

George W Bush (acting on behalf of his Vice President, Dick Cheney) lead America into war against Iraq (and Saddam Hussein). This folly has served to show what happens when a country has no clear, logical objective, limited and poorly thought through strategies, and “one punch” tactics in pursuit of its strategies and objective.

America was going to undertake “regime change”. The US would rid the world of a despotic dictator and set Iraq on a course for democratic, modern self government. Hmmm. We know how that turned out.

The strategy was straight forward. Military force would break the Iraq army, capture Hussein, and install a provisional government until a constitution could be written and elections held.

But as strategies go, this was not a competent strategy but rather a half thought through collection of tactics. No apparent thought was given to the ethnic and religious differences, the overall poverty, or the low level of education within the public sector.    

Hussein had held Iraq together through pure force and fear. Once Hussein was gone, the real horrors of Iraq emerged. There was no national feeling on one Iraq. Instead there were Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds all in pursuit of oil in order to improve the economic well being of factional leaders and their subjects.

Putting the majority Shiites in charge seemed fair given the cruel conditions they suffered under Hussein. The consequences, however, did not produce free and fair elections or a unified country able to provide basic services or to defend itself. Iraq can proudly boast it is one of the world’s top ten unsafe countries.

Yesterday, while the rest of the Middle East (and much of Africa) seems hopeless, either engage in conflicts or poised to begin one, the US undertook air strikes against insurgents threatening to topple the Iraqi government. For some, this is action long over due, for others this is a dangerous step which could lead to reinserting American forces.

So what is the Obama Administration’s purpose? These Sunni insurgents seem as ruthless as Hussein but far less incompetent than the current Iraqi government. Why shouldn’t they get a chance to organize Iraq since the Shiites could not?

Airstrikes are a serious step.  What do you think are America’s objective and accompanying strategies and tactics?

White House spokespersons instead assured the country what they were not prepared to do, namely insert ground forces. That’s a great way to make clear ones objective.

The White House did say the tactical airstrikes were aimed at helping trapped “christian” religious groups which were ousted from their homes by the insurgents. What? How could the US be so shortsighted as to take a religious stand as an objective?

What great insight does our government possess that allows it to be sure any religious group is   more important that just plain people?

This clearly cannot be either a workable and sensible objective. Imagine the possibility that US airstrikes succeed in insulating these Iraqi christian groups from attack while the insurgents turn their weapons on Shiite Iraqis instead. Mission accomplished?

The public probably does not know all the “ins and outs” of who these insugents are and more importantly who are their suppliers of weapons. The US could have decide that these surrogate fighters represents an undesirable international interest (like Iran or Russia or some other unaligned group). In time the news media may report more about who are the real combatants.

The question that Americans should be asking is what is America’s objective in the Middle East and in particular, Iraq. What strategies does America plan to use to bring about its objectives. And lastly, what tactics will it employ and do these tactics make sense as a reasonable approach to implementing its strategies?

George W Bush’s Iraq folly would have failed the test of these questions had they been asked.  Unfortunately they were not asked.

We must not fail to ask them of President Obama this time.

What Makes People Do Such Things?

July 21, 2014

Why would any country supply irregular troops with high powered, sophisticated missiles? Why would anyone possessing such missiles fire them indiscriminately at a flying object some 35,000 feet above? Why would these irregulars, once the plane shot down had been confirmed to be a civilian, non-combatant carrying about 300, not have stood down and allowed international aide workers to humanly collect the remains?

Why would a country bristle at the notion they were using disproportionate force in trying to stop missile attacks? Why would that nation act indignantly even though the death toll was running about 500 of them to 2 of us? Why would a country allow itself to get “suckered” in so that any response, no matter how justified, was likely to kill non-combatants?

Why would one religious sect wreak havoc upon another, all in the name of Allah? Why would the political establishment insist upon no realignment of government ministries, assuring a continuation of violence? Why would anyone send another to self detonate a massive bomb in hopes of killing an many innocents as possible?

Power and wealth offer as good as any explanation. If you have what you consider too small a share or maybe you have been cut out entirely, one can understand efforts, within certain bounds, of trying to correct the imbalance. Money and the personal power to get money can usually be attributed to most conflicts.

This weekend in Philadelphia, the Catholic Archdiocese made all in order in the Cathedral. The occasion was the visit of a relic, a two once sample of Pope John Paul’s blood. The faithful were invited to worship in front of the blood sample and use the occasion to seek divine intercession. Hmmm.

Besides creating the allusion of vampires and other blood suckers, why would any foist such a thing on others hoping for something better in life?

All of these events, in one way or another, defy rational explanation. They do reveal the lengths man is capable of going while at the same time offering what he purports to be a rational explanation.

What makes people do such things?