Questioning Faith

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. If you’re easily offended, go away, you don’t belong here.

Religion… A higher power… The existence of God …

Growing up, my parents joined a local church. Of course, being a child, I was strongly “encouraged” to join them. Over time it grew from attending on Sunday to attending on Wednesday for bible study. Then Tuesday for youth group. And other nights for various other church-related activities.

My involvement with the church grew over time. I spent my time trying to conform to the way I was told God wanted me to live. I fell far short of what I thought the mark was, so my mind was a mess of shame and confusion. I spent many years like this, constantly struggling within my mind as to what was right and wrong.

Later, just as I started college, my parents separated. Despite not having anything to really do with the situation, I found myself being shunned by the elders of the church. Those who “were” the church refused to talk to me or even acknowledge my presence. This left my confused and upset. It took a long time to realize that the problem was them and not myself.

I’ve spent the years since questioning my faith and trying to find my place in the cosmos. I’ve always been inquisitive and interested in learning. I consider myself to be a lifetime learner. Over the years I’ve come to question the existence of a higher being. Obviously I can’t be positive, but then, who can possibly be positive of the existence of said being anyway?

The thought of such a supreme being is confusing anyway. We spend so much time priding ourselves on being fair and selfless, yet we believe in a being who gives us completely free will but provides a list of requirements we must follow in order to be accepted into his club. And there is no alternative. Sure, you can have free will, but if you don’t do what I say, you’ll spend eternity in pain and anguish. This is the loving, forgiving being that we’re supposed to believe in?

I know of a lot of beings like this. In our world we call them dictators. Sure, they’re benevolent as long as you do exactly what they say. But the moment you do something they don’t like, you’re locked up or killed. Sounds awfully fair to me..

So these days I content myself with living a life I believe is just and good. I don’t need to believe in some unprovable being in order to be good. And without having to worry whether my actions are worthy of being in the “good guys club” makes life so much more pleasant and easy to live.

The Joy of Flight

I am utterly uncomfortable, squeezed into a tight space barely large enough for me to sit forward in. I’m surrounded by others in a similar predicament, all squeezed in as tightly as possible without being "inhumane." And to make matters worse, I paid for this privilege.

Yes, I’m flying. I’m sitting in a aisle seat, barely enough room to keep the blood circulating in my legs. The passenger next to me is sleeping, which I suppose makes it slightly more tolerable for him. For me, I can barely move my arms because of how incredibly tight this space is.

The passenger in front of me has tried to put her seat back a number of times already, each time pressing painfully into my knees which were already tight against her seat when it was in an upright position.

Another passenger across the aisle has dropped her drink, splashing liquid and ice all over the center aisle, and several passengers. I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened, though, if there weren’t so many people on this plane. The agent at the gate said the flight was oversold, I can’t believe others wouldn’t give up their seats so we could all be comfortable. How selfish.

But it’s all ok because the airline has afforded us the honor of watching an in-flight movie. And provided complimentary beverages. No food, of course. I even have to pay for packs of peanuts. I won’t, though, because peanuts are dangerous. What if someone’s allergic?

We’ve already been warned about the dangers of electronic devices, hastily shutting them off lest the plane fall from the sky or spontaneously explode. I forgot to turn off the wireless on my iPad, though. I hope we don’t die. It’s a good thing, though, because without it, my bluetooth keyboard wouldn’t be working.

I’ve been scolded for stowing my iPad in the back of the seat in front of me, instead being told to place it on the floor. God forbid something happens and.. And what? The iPad doesn’t move at all because it’s securely stowed in the seat pocket?

The flight attendant is arguing with a passenger. He doesn’t seem to understand that he has to pay for the food he’s purchased. Though he’s speaking reasonably, it’s obvious that he’s being rude. After all, the flight attendant told him he was. She’ll happily run his credit card through her wireless credit card reader. Completely safe, of course, it’s uses a different type of magnetic radiation unlike the dangerous type my iPad and phone use.

Other passengers travel up and down the incredibly small space between the seats, eager to use the planes tiny facilities where the average person can barely stand up or turn around. I tried this on a previous flight. It didn’t end well. It’s a miracle I didn’t end up covered in my own urine. My fault for being so tall, though.

The passenger next to the window needs to get up for some reason. I’ll happily take the time to extricate myself from this chair, though. After all, we’re all in this together, right? Maybe I’ll go for a walk too.

And I paid for this. All because I had to travel somewhere remote. And I have to endure this borderline inhumane treatment, all so the airline can make a profit. Because some engineer somewhere was tasked with fitting as many people as possible on this plane so the airline can maximize revenues.

I feel safe, though. The TSA greeted me at the airport, thoroughly scanning my luggage, making me remove my shoes, and invading what little privacy I have in a public space. It’s ok, though, because with the TSA in place, nothing bad will ever happen on a plane again. Of course, I avoided the full body scanners. It was pretty easy, I just noticed the pattern in the line and adjusted accordingly. Bad guys are, of course, too dumb to do something like that. And since they all look like bad guys, there’s no way they could ever make it through the line.

I did forget to pull out my liquids, though. The TSA graciously overlooked my mistake and didn’t bother mentioning it. They were able to tell, of course, that none of them were dangerous. The only hire the best and the brightest, of course.

I made it to my destination before, I’m sure I’ll make it again. Flying is such a wonderful experience anymore. I’m looking forward to doing it again. I just hope writing this blog entry doesn’t cause an engine to fall off.

Death of a Congresswoman

Reports are still coming in, but it would appear that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat from Arizona, may have been shot and killed this morning. I don’t know much about her other than some background research I did after hearing about this shooting. This is, obviously, a tragedy.

This, to me, is more evidence of a country out of control. A country where information spreads at the speed of light and details are left to those few people that have the common sense to dig for them. The average Joe seems to believe anything they hear on television or the radio without doing any sort of fact checking, or even using common sense.

To say this is dangerous is an understatement. We all knew that kid when we were growing up that would believe anything they were told. And sometimes that kid ended up in a lot of trouble when they were unwittingly manipulated into doing something wrong. The sad part is, you could manipulate them into doing just about anything, including harming themselves. This is what today’s politics are doing to the average citizen.

We, as a country, are going through a rough time with high unemployment, uncertainty about the future, etc. Many people believe they know who is at fault for this and are willing to point fingers and shout out their beliefs. I have my own opinion about what happened to the economy, but it doesn’t help anyone to scream and shout and rile up the crowd. But just like in grade school, there are those out there willing to use the more naive of us. They manipulate us into thinking what they want purely so they can get ahead.

There’s a lot about this latest catastrophe that is unknown. It’s hard not to jump to conclusions about the underlying motivator. My personal belief is that this is politically motivated, at least to the point where someone believes strongly enough to have taken a life. And it’s not hard to see causes of this behavior. For instance, let’s look at a website that went up just a few days ago. It featured the following image :

Those look an awful lot like the sights from a scope, doesn’t it? Sure, sure, one can argue that it’s just a graphic, but it’s a tad provocative, isn’t it? This image is from a website recently put up by Sarah Palin. And now, a mere 3 days later, one of the “targeted” people may be dead. Mere coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s high time we started looking, not at the politics, but at the politicians. And there’s blame to be had on both sides. The practice of twisting the truth into something else needs to stop. We need to start talking about the real truth instead of the perceived nonsense that politicians spout. Let’s stop twisting simple statements into soundbites that can be used to attack an opponent. Let’s stop posturing for a while and start doing what is necessary to get this country back on track. How about we talk about the real facts and clearly identify what is known, what is unknown, and what is mere speculation. Then, at least, we have some solid ground to start from.


A few items of note. First, Gabrielle Giffords did not die as a result of the shooting, however she is in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head. Six others did die, however, including a nine year old girl and an Arizona District Court judge, Chief Judge John Roll.

The suspected shooter, a 22 year old white male, was apprehended at the scene. Motivation for the shooting is still unknown.

Sarah Palin’s web team is currently scrubbing their sites, pulling down all instances of the image above. Additionally, another image, shown below, is also being removed. I suppose I can understand why, but one has to question why those images were there in the first place.


You got your religion in my politics

I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but a number of political contests were held across the United States recently. Whether the candidates were talking about their own religious beliefs or condemning the beliefs of others, religion seemed to be a bit of a hot topic.

In fact, I’m finding that religion is more of a prevalent topic in recent years. I haven’t done any sort of scientific study, but I’m willing to bet that religion has been “in fashion” since the 9/11 attacks. This, of course, is because the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim, which, as we all know, is a very evil religion made up of zealots and crazy people. Obviously if you’re Muslim, you’re a terrorist. Right?

Well, maybe not. It’s interesting that the mentality that equated Muslims with violence completely ignores the fact that there are many examples of Christian violence. How about the crusades? That was a massive example of violence. Or, bring it into the present and look at the anti-abortion movement. Much of that movement is predicated by religion, specifically the Christian religion.

Most religions have violence somewhere in their history. It stands to reason that larger religions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) will have more examples of violence specifically because there are so many practitioners. Just as we have differing customs, languages, etc., practitioners of religions differ across the country. The larger the number of believers, the higher the chance that some of those believers will have some extreme views.

But does religion belong in the realm of politics? The problem I have here is that if you have a view, be it religious, political, or whatever, that view will influence what you do. So to say that religion doesn’t belong in politics is nothing more than a pipe dream. Of course, if you’re running for public office, you’re supposed to be serving the people, not making decisions based on your own beliefs. Of course, that’s not happening either, though.

What really got me thinking about this was a recent quote from Sarah Palin. She visited a christian school in Pennsylvania recently and had this to say:

You must continue to build upon our Judeo-Christian heritage, and it is nothing to apologize for… That means faith must be welcome in the public square.

I agree with some of what she’s saying here. It seems obvious that if you’re a religious person, you’ll continue to act based on your religious beliefs. And I agree that you shouldn’t have to apologize for that. Just as I don’t have to apologize for not having the same beliefs. And I would argue that faith is more than welcome in the public square, but you cannot expect that expressing your faith is going to gain you anything.

Unfortunately this country has very strong Christian roots. There’s nothing wrong with Christianity, per se, but it does mean that we tend to be intolerant of other religions. Politics is a great example of this. You saw how long it took to get a non-white official elected to the office of President, what about a non-Christian? I haven’t done any deep research on this, but I doubt there have been any non-Christian presidents. Perhaps an atheistic or agnostic president, but I don’t believe even that has been publicly disclosed.

I think the big push regarding religion in politics recently has a lot to do with 9/11, though. There is this belief that a non-christian elected official is, in fact, an undercover agent for “the enemy.” This is very much reminiscent of the anti-communism movement and McCarthyism. Let’s use some common sense, though. If you wanted to infiltrate a foreign organization, wouldn’t you do everything you could to fit in? You wouldn’t profess a different religion or political view. You would ensure that everything you do fits in with the organization you’re infiltrating. So merely going after those that are “different” from the “norm” isn’t going to get you very far.

Professing a religious belief shouldn’t necessarily result in ridicule, nor should it mean that you are above reproach. In fact, my preference is that if religion is a big part of your thought process, please disclose it so those of us with a vested interest can act accordingly. If your ideas and beliefs are in line with mine, then your choice of religion won’t mean much to me. Of course, if your ideas and beliefs are a radical departure from your professed religion, I might just mark you as a liar.

Clueless …

Glenn Beck apparently responded to the Donald Duck video that was posted last week. It’s funny to see that he just doesn’t get it.. He goes on and on about how much talent, time, and money it would have taken to do this. As if this sort of editing takes a long time to put together.. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I can take a pre-existing video and overlay some sound on it.. He does hand out a pretty decent compliment in stating that it’s some of the best, well-made propaganda he’s ever seen. If you look at Jonathan McIntosh’s site (creator of the video), he even quotes Glenn now..

In fact, he seems to take such offense at it that he wants to investigate to figure out if Federal Funds were used to make it.. Sure, the person who made this may have received Federal Funds for other work he has created, but that doesn’t mean this was done for that project.. Seriously, Glenn, do you not understand that people can do more than one thing at a time?

And to top it off, he decides to quote Ghandi. Last time I checked, Glenn was against Communism and Socialism, right? So why is he quoting Ghandi, who advocated both?

Someone even took Glenn’s response and remixed it with a Mickey Mouse cartoon.. And the fun train rolls on …

Donald vs Glenn

This is a pretty good remix of an old Donald Duck cartoon from the 30’s or 40’s .. Beck’s rhetoric can be quite alluring to those who are down on their luck. But please, do yourself a favor, listen to everything he says and realize that he’s not always telling you the entire truth. Also keep in mind that he is quite well off and doesn’t have to worry about all of the issues he’s always spouting about. Makes you wonder if he can even understand them…

On Religion

Religion…. Religion is an amazing concept. On one hand, it provides you with a framework for life. I can’t think of a single religion that doesn’t provide intricate details on how to live your life, what you can and cannot do, and the eventual results if you fail to follow the rules. On the other hand, religion has caused an unbelievable amount of pain and anguish.

Religion by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Personally, I have no real problem with people following a particular faith provided they are not impeding on my rights. Herein lies the problem, however. Religions, typically, want their followers to bring more people into the religion. A few religions, such as Christianity and Mormonism, actively encourage their members to go out into the world and preach to the masses in an attempt to “convert” them. While I believe they have the right to do this, there is a limit. For instance, I have been approached before and expressed my desire to be left alone. Instead, this religious person persisted to the point of frustration. This is going too far.

But some take this even farther. Let’s look at history, shall we? We have the Crusades, Bible Riots, French War of Religion, Taiping Rebellion, Thirty Years War, and more. These were all massive conflicts resulting in a significant loss of life, all because of religion. This “My god is better than your god” crap really needs to stop. If you’re truly honest about it all, there is no way to prove one religion over another. And, funnily enough, the three “major” religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, are all quite closely related. In fact, they all share quite a bit of history and many of their stories are quite similar.

I also find it very interesting that most religions have a “golden rule” they promote, at least until it comes to someone who offends them. For instance, it’s pretty easy to find someone who will state that Islam is a religion of peace. Yet we have terrorists killing and maiming, all in the name of Islam. Simply drawing a cartoon has elicited death threats from some religious leaders. Likewise, we have Christians who say “do unto others as you would have done unto you” and yet they’re threatening to burn Qurans and some go as far as attacking and killing abortion doctors. Why would I want to align myself with a group of hypocrites?

Part of the problem here is that people get wrapped up in their religion and expect that everyone should be following the rules of their religion. But not everyone is part of their religion. And, of course, they get upset that their rules are being broken. I like how Penn Jillette approaches this (from the Penn Radio wikipedia entry):

Penn often made the point that you can break the rules of an organization you do not belong to. Non-freemason members are not allowed to wear the Mason ring according the Masonic rules, but these rules do not apply to non-Masons so they can wear the ring anyway.

Simply put, I’m not in your religion, so I don’t need to follow your rules.

I am convinced that religion is, perhaps, one of the largest problems with the world today. It seems that everything going on right now breaks down, one way or another, to religion. The 9/11 terror attacks? Religion. The current fervor over the planned Islamic center near the WTC memorial site? Religion. The Quran burning? Religion. Afghan and Iraq wars? Religion. The Tea Party? Ultimately, this seems to be breaking down to Religion again.

Again, I have no problem with religion, but leave me out of it. You can believe what you want, but don’t try to push it on me. I don’t beat you over the head with what I believe, do I? Seriously, if we have a conversation and you’re offended by it, or you don’t want to have that conversation, then simply stating so is typically enough to make me stop. And then I won’t bother you with it again… It’s like the whole gay-rights thing.. So what if they’re gay, they’re not forcing you to be gay, are they? No, they’re not. So get over yourself.

Finally, a bit of humor I stumbled upon.. This was apparently a forum posting somewhere, though I’m not aware of where. Still, it’s quite humorous and pretty accurate.

No, Muslims don’t believe that Jesus was the messiah.

This of it like a movie. The Torah is the first one, and the New Testament is the sequel. Then the Qu’ran comes out, and it retcons the last one like it never happened. There’s still Jesus, but he’s not the main character anymore, and the messiah hasn’t shown up yet.

Jews like the first movie but ignored the sequels. Christians thing you need to watch the first two, but the third movie doesn’t count. Muslims think the third was the best. And Mormons liked the second one so much they started writing fan fiction that doesn’t fit with ANY of the series canon.