Friday, March 20, 2015

An Atheinostic Applauds our Christian Roots

I grew up in a non-religious household never really paying attention to what Christ was supposed to be.  I occasionally went to church only because a neighborhood family invited me.  Always a social animal, any way to join a get together was right up my alley. It wasn’t until later when I went to a Presbyterian college –simply because I was offered a basketball scholarship -- that I paid any attention whatsoever to the meaning of Christianity.  Basketball was all I really cared about at the time, and a college education was a good perk, so I took it.  The Christian part was simply a required part of the offered package.

Some of my fondest childhood memories were those of 
Christmas.  The Christmas tree, decorating it, people saying Merry Christmas for a month before hand and the general feeling of good spirit made the coming Chicago winter months something to look forward to.  My mother wasn’t religious in the slightest, but from Thanksgiving through the holidays she filled the house with Christmas songs as she went about her daily work.  Her singing was always a joy to my ears.  We actually used to go caroling, to the delight of everyone – even in my Jewish neighborhood.  It was magical.  Christmas music is still one of my favorite things.

Looking back, I realize that when I was growing up there was a common moral code.  I can’t begin to theorize what it was like to be anything other than Christian or Jewish back then, but I don’t recall any protests to speak of.  We all got along fine.  And that’s because we all shared the same – essentially Christian -- moral code, even people from other religions.  The Christian moral code was accepted as a base for our society.

I seldom asked, but through the years I presume most of my friends were Christians and Jews.  I recall having disagreements with some about Christ – my view being he was an historical figure, but not a prophet as claimed.  My best friend in College was a die-hard Christian who did his very best to convert me.  I kept saying, “Wes, if you don’t believe, you just don’t believe.”  I wanted to believe.  I tried to believe.  But I didn’t. I believe all religions are mankind’s way of attempting to explain the world.  To me, Christianity is just that – a way to explain everything that’s unexplainable.

Oh, yes.  And a really good code and foundation for a society to live by.

If I could actually choose a religion and then talk myself into being a believer, I would probably choose to be Christian because it was mostly Christianity that shaped my views of morality and social order.  And I’m glad it did.  But Judaism would be just fine, as it seems like a religion of life and living and is completely compatible with and has a shared foundation with our society’s (still) Christian-based moral code.

For any society, a common moral code is necessary.  Western civilization has adopted most of its moral code and civilization standards from Christianity.  And while the particular religion of a country may not be necessary to have a moral commonality, it is my view that Christian and Jewish States are more functional in this day and age.  All religions have had periods of relative peace and violence, and the Christian faith is no exception.  Today, however, it is fair to say the Christian faith has evolved to be most tolerant: co-existing easily with other faiths.  Our Christian country has done an admirable job allowing other religions to exist and prosper without fear.

For example, I would argue that Muslims (especially women) are safer in America than they are in most Muslim countries, and are certainly more free to speak their minds.  Muslims in America are free to practice their faith as they choose and do so while living in a predominantly Christian culture.  They can speak out against the government without the consequences they would face in most Muslim countries.

Today, however, we are showing strong signs of losing the common social and moral codes that bind us.  Right and wrong are no longer black and white issues.  Everything is gray.  I don’t believe it is a coincidence that moral deterioration is following on the heels of increased – even forced -- secularization.

Let’s be clear.  Regardless of what some may claim, Christianity is under attack by the ACLU and other militant secular groups who want religious influence completely removed from public life.  If militant atheists are successful in their attempts to remove Christianity from all references in governmental function, Christianity will lose its basic dominant impact as a legal and societal influence.  (Religious influence is even under attack in many private institutions.  Witness the lawsuit brought against a Catholic University for failing to provide a Cross-free place for Muslim students to worship).  If this assault on Christianity by secularists continues, we risk losing the moral commonality guiding this country since its inception and is, I believe, necessary for cohesiveness going forward.

And, consequently, when we stop getting moral influence from religion, it will be forced upon us by the State.  Without religious influence, the government controls morality.  Instead of law and justice following a moral code, law dictates the moral code.  (Think of the possibilities for political corruption there!)  Mere mention of religious things by public officials is enough to draw the wrath of militant secularists.  Unfortunately, the courts frequently enforce the secularist viewpoint, with the result that whatever is legal becomes morally correct.

That scares an agnostic like me far more than Christian values dominating the culture.  It’s hard to believe people of any society can adopt moral values dictated by their government.  At least, not really adopt them.  They might give lip service, but that’s all.  The Soviet Union is case in point.  The denial of religious practice was instrumental in the corruption and collapse of the Socialist-Communist regime.  Soviet citizens gave the appropriate lip service, but didn’t believe.

I want to live in a country where people have a common morality and shared social mores.  I wish it could be done rationally, through a triumph of human goodness over human evil, both of which exist in human hearts.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s possible.  Without religion, the control of social conscientiousness becomes a power grab with the government winning the fight.

There are those who claim they feel intimidated by a Christmas tree in a public place, or left out when a Christian event takes place in a public or school forum.  As mentioned, I grew up in the fifties, fully agnostic in relatively religious Christian and Jewish environments, and never once felt intimidated.  I felt annoyed at the conversion attempts from time to time, but that was certainly tolerable in exchange for what I received in return.  People like Michael Newdow (filed a lawsuit to have “In God We Trust removed from the currency) attempting to have all reference of religion removed from public life must be so afraid of their own mental weakness that they need the state to “protect” them.  Is Mr. Newdow afraid he will fall under the spell of Christianity?  The irony is that if he ultimately does he will be glad.  And if he doesn’t, then why would he care?  Mr. Newdow would be enlightened if he woke up tomorrow in a fully secularist society. I don’t think he’d like it.  Hopefully he’ll never find out.

I believe secularism is, in effect, a religion of its own and feels the need to dominate other competing “religions.”  It has all the signs of being such.  In that regard, secularists are trying to force their brand of religion on everyone, and they increasingly have the support of the government behind them.

I’m as skeptical about religion as anyone.  But I take great personal offense to someone attempting to rob me of the great American traditions I grew up with, like Christmas.  America is a young country with few solid traditions.  Christmas may be our best one.  Don’t mess with it.

I gladly accept citizenship in a United States that acknowledges Christianity at its core and accepts Christian influence in public matters.  It’s the country I grew up in.  It’s the country that became the envy of the world and the world’s most dynamic economy and culture.  It’s the country that became the world leader in individual freedom, human rights and economic prosperity -- while we still recognized ourselves as “One Nation Under God.”  It’s a shame others cannot recognize the blessings Christianity has bestowed upon them and our country, regardless of their faith, race, creed, or color.

Note:   This was written prior to the current controversy concerning the Federal Government essentially forcing Catholic medical facilities to provide contraception without a copay – something they don’t believe in for religious reasons.  Ask yourself – would the government insist an individual or entity engage in amoral behavior?  Presumably not.  Here they are, essentially, insisting the Catholic moral code is wrong and needs to be changed to coincide with Federal law.  Here it comes -- government-dictated morality trumps religion and religious morality.  Scary.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Boat

A plane crashes in the ocean.  Miraculously, 15 passengers survive, and find themselves stranded together on an island.  The situation is dire, as there appears to be no visible means of survival.

Unbelievably, they come across a boat with a pair of oars.  It appears well built, and has a small amount of C-ration type food stored aboard.

One of the stranded passengers has flown the route several times in a small plane and recalls a few inhabited islands in the area, and with some luck, they might be able to use the boat to reach one.  However, the prospect of rowing a boat for a few days is daunting, and will require strength and endurance since they don’t know exactly where the islands are. They will just have to start rowing and hope they run into one of those islands.

Then they see the sign on the boat, in very clear, bold letters:

Warning:  This is a stout boat and very stable.  However, any more than 10 people will capsize the boat, and, because of the way the boat is engineered, it will be nearly impossible to right the boat.  Do NOT attempt to carry more than 10 people in the boat.

In trying to decide upon a plan of action, the individuals quickly start to separate into two basic groups.  One group happens to be made up of liberals and the other group is made up of conservatives.  The L’s want to put everyone into the boat and believe if they are very careful, they will not capsize the boat.  The C’s want to select 10 people from the group as recommended to insure the boat will not capsize, leaving five people behind, and hope they can get to a neighboring inhabited island and return with help to save the people left behind.

If the L’s win the day…

Everyone jumps into the boat.  The two strongest men present are instructed to row the boat, while the others uniformly space themselves around the edges and try not to capsize the boat.  The seas are calm, and everything appears to go along smoothly.

When it’s time to eat, the food is rationed to everyone, but more food is given to the elderly and the children, because they are, after all, weak and need it more.  The young men rowing the boat are not given as much because they are, after all, healthy and strong.  Everyone is feeling good about the situation, and how fair it is.

But rowing the boat proves to be strenuous, and with so many people in the boat it is riding lower in the water than it’s designed for, and, therefore, has more drag.  After a while, the young men rowing the boat begin to weaken from lack of food and water, and with no one else strong enough to row the boat, it starts to drift.  The others, perplexed by the seeming lack of desire of the young men to row hard, start to get irritated with the young men, and tell them that they will get even less food if they don’t row harder.

But alas, the young men are eventually completely spent and can’t row any more.  And then, along comes a small wave and, just as the sign promised, the boat overturns and everyone dies.  A pity.

But at least they died knowing it was, well, fair.

If the C’s win the day…

There is a determination they should place no more than 10 people in the boat because that is, after all, what the boat manufacturer said.  The few L’s in the crowd insist, then, that the older and disadvantaged people should get the right to be on the boat, but since the C’s won, they decide that it should be the 10 strongest and most capable people, giving them the best possible chance of success.  They explain to the L’s in the group that the only possible way to save everyone is to create the best environment for those who are going to try to row to civilization, and if they get there in time, send a rescue boat back.

So, with many tears, the 10 people going in the boat say goodbye to the ones left behind, with the promise that if they get to another island, they will come back as soon as possible to rescue them, even though it doesn’t look like those left behind will last very long, as most of the food is taken on the boat.

After a few days of rowing, the food is gone and everyone is starting to get tired.  But the young men doing the hard work were fed well and taken care of, so they were able to continue on.  Finally, an island is spotted in the distance and their spirits are lifted, giving them the adrenalin they need.  With their last gasp, the weary group finally makes it, and is taken in by the people on the island. They are saved.

They grateful survivors quickly speak about the people left behind on the other island, and the native islanders immediately set out with food and water in hopes they will get there in time.

Maybe the islanders they get to the rescue in time, but maybe not.  If they do, terrific.  But if they don’t, there is hell to pay.  The few L’s in the surviving group chastise the C’s for not bringing everyone, convinced they all could have made it.  When they get home, trial lawyers representing the families of those left behind who perished file suits against the survivors and scores of miscellaneous others.  Everyone winds up miserable (except the trial lawyers, of course).

The good news; at least ten of them are still alive!  The bad news; it wasn’t fair.

If Hollywood Makes a Movie About It-

The Hollywood Path is similar to the L’s, with the following dramatic changes:

Everyone jumps into the boat.  The two strongest men present are instructed to row the boat, while the others uniformly space themselves around the edges and try not to capsize the boat.  The seas are calm, and everything appears to go along smoothly.

When it is time to eat, the food is rationed to everyone, but more food is given to the elderly and the children (one of whom is sick) because they are weak and need it more.  The young men rowing the boat are not given as much because they are, after all, healthy.  Everyone is feeling good about the situation, and how fair it is.  Except for one guy - a mean ol’ businessman in a suit with a briefcase.  He is obviously a Conservative.

Among the other characters, there is, of course, a handsome young man who is quiet and reserved, but strong and healthy, as well as a pretty young woman who is kind and caring.  When they have been in the boat for quite some time, the mean ol’ businessman starts to pick on the young woman in a nasty manner because they disagree about which way they think the boat should be heading.  After a brief period of arguing in which mean ol’ businessman is hostile and arrogant while the pretty young woman is sweet and intelligent, mean ol’ businessman grabs one of the oars and swings it at the pretty young woman.  He misses, but the oar hits the side of the boat and shatters.  He then grabs another oar and swings it at her again, and again the oar shatters.  The handsome young man, in an attempt to save the pretty young woman bumps into mean ol’ businessman, and mean ol’ businessman falls overboard.  Of course, being mean, he sinks fast, disappearing into the cold, dark water.  Risking his own life, the handsome young man dives into the water in an attempt to save him, but returns to the surface empty handed.  Oh well, he tried.  Nothing is left of mean ol’ businessman except his briefcase, in which documents reveal he was plotting to buy an orphanage, tear it down, and build condos.  There were also some bottles of Perrier he was hoarding for himself.

What are they to do now that the oars are broken because of mean ol’ businessman?  (Some of you might draw a parallel to being up the the proverbial tributary without adequate means of transportation!)  The handsome young man rips off his shirt, grabs a rope from the bottom of the boat, ties it to the bow and ties the other end to his belt, jumps into the water and starts swimming – dragging the boat in the direction the pretty young woman thinks they should go.  It is quite a struggle, of course.  After all, dragging an overloaded boat in this manner is not easy!  But he is in god shape because he was on the swimming team in high school before he had to drop out to support his mom and siblings after his father died from a common cold because he couldn’t get health insurance.

As they go, the young man snatches occasional fish with his hands as they swim by, and tosses them into the boat for everyone else to eat.  He and the young woman let everyone else have the food.  They give most of the Perrier to a young boy in the boat who is very sick.

And, of course, just as all hope seems gone, they arrive at one of the nearby islands where they are all taken in and saved.  Everyone goes home happy, the handsome young man and the pretty young woman move in together, and the sick kid on the boat eventually becomes President of the United States and saves all the children of the Sudan.

In Hollywood, you see, anything can happen if you just have good thoughts and wish it so.

After the fact, the press weighs in.

If it turned out that the L’s decided the course to take, there is a good likelihood that no one would ever know what happened to them.  They are presumed to have all died in the plane crash.  If they do find evidence of the crash survivors on the remote island, they will probably know there was a boat there and that they all tried to make their way to safety, but didn’t make it.

It the C’s decide it, and the 5 people left on the island are not rescued in time, the press will tell the story as it is told to them, but will then extrapolate to make it more than it was.  Among other things they will:

1.          Have an expert analyze the boat that will state that, regardless of the warning, all 15 people could have ridden the boat to safety.
2.          Find a whistleblower who claims that previously to this incident occurring someone had recommend to the manufacturer of the boat that they should increase the capacity to 15.
3.          Interview friends and relatives of the people who were not on the boat, all of whom would have decried the fact that their loved ones were not on the boat.  One woman will say that her dead son’s goal was to be President of the United States and save the children of the Sudan, and she was sure he would have achieved his goal had he been taken with the survivors.
4.          Blame the tea party.
5.          A combination of New York Times columnists will write articles declaring that if liberals had more control over the government the plane would not have crashed in the first place, or if it did, the government would have found the survivors before they perished, or that there would have been an adequate boat placed on every such island long before this happened with a cell phone to call for help, and that converted Al-Qaeda terrorists would have been the first ones there to help everyone.

Yes, Liberals, being such nice people, would have put everyone on the boat.  That’s also why they shouldn’t make the decisions.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stop Calling the Tea Party Extreme. It Isn't.

The left-leaning mainstream media and liberal Democratic politicians continue to refer to the Tea Party as extreme, whacko, and out of touch with the American public. Clear evidence indicates exactly the opposite.
Many of us are getting increasingly annoyed when we hear the Tea Party called extreme, right-wing whackos, or other unbecoming names along that vein. Of course, almost everyone I know who is decidedly left of center deems themselves a centrist. My knee-jerk liberal neighbor thinks he’s a centrist. I have gone back through every posting on his blog and they are all as far left on whatever subject he is writing about as one can be.
But then, he also thinks Obama is a centrist, as do large segments of the MSM, Hollywood, and other liberal groups. Universal health care, unconditional amnesty for everyone, taxing enough life out of our valuable corporations to drive them to other countries (good riddance! I mean, who wanted those high-paying jobs anyway?), subsidizing green energy schemes that cost a fortune and make no economic sense – it goes on and on. I guess that, given their viewpoint, it’s no wonder they think the Tea Party is extreme.
Now, I know it’s pointless to try to convince a liberal that reality isn’t a whipped-cream world where all you have to do is wish and it will come true. However, with the hope that some late-arrivals to politics and those “independents” who seem to ride the fence and fall on whatever side has greener grass at the moment are open-minded and willing to listen, I will present some very obvious facts that have been dramatically confused by the various liberal cults that want to paint the Tea Party as extremist.
First, make no mistake about the MSM; they feign honesty and “intellectual” coverage of the news, but their decidedly slanted viewpoint denies them the ability to present things in a straightforward manner. There are some who argue that they purposefully distort the truth and paint those on the right side of the isle as loonies, either directly or subtly. I choose to believe that, being in the news business, they are merely hopeless liberals without a clue about reality, and believe they are representing the news fairly. Regardless, they have the ability to affect opinions. Depicting the tea party as extreme is an issue that really needs to be exposed.
So, exactly what does it mean to be extreme? We all know, but I will present a definition anyway from (with some minor editing)-
1. of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.
2. utmost or exceedingly great in degree.
3. farthest from the center or middle; outermost; endmost.
4. farthest, utmost, or very far in any direction.
5. exceeding the bounds of moderation.
6. going to the utmost or very great lengths in action, habit, opinion, etc.
So what exactly is extreme about the tea party? Just how are they “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average?”
Let’s analyze their viewpoints. The Tea Party is not an official organization, but from the web site, the main “planks” are:
• Limited federal government
• Individual freedoms
• Personal responsibility
• Free markets
Limited Government
A recent Rasmussen poll (from US News and World Report) indicated that considerably more respondents believe the Federal Government had too much power as opposed to too little. According to the survey, "75 percent of Republicans believe the federal government has too much power over the states while a plurality of Democrats (37 percent) believe the balance is about right. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 52 percent say the federal government has too much influence while 9 percent say not enough." (Italics added)
And from a January ABC News article “ABCNEWS tested the issue with two questions: Half the respondents in this poll were asked if they trust the government to do what's right when it comes to handling national security and the war on terrorism. Sixty-eight percent said yes. The other half were asked if they trust the government to do what's right when it comes to handling social issues like the economy, health care, Social Security and education. Far fewer — 38 percent — said yes.”
On this issue, the Tea Party is decidedly centrist.
Individual Freedoms
A December 2010 poll from Rasmussen Reports clearly shows how important individual freedoms are for Americans; “Among moderate voters, a plurality (48%) agrees with the conservative perspective with a focus on protecting individual rights.” Interestingly, “The widest gap as is often the case is between the Political Class and Mainstream voters. Seventy percent (70%) of those in the Mainstream say the primary role of a government is to protect individual rights. Fifty-one percent (51%) of Political Class voters say insuring fairness and social justice should come first.” Wow. A whopping 70% of the Mainstream class! Those are big numbers.
On this issue, the Tea Party is decidedly centrist.
Personal Responsibility
While polls asking the direct question of how important personal responsibility is in general are hard to find, specific polls show Americans believe in the concept. From a Gallup poll on the subject of personal responsibility in the matter of health care, “89% of Republicans, 64% of independents, and 61% of Americans overall say Americans themselves -- rather than the government -- have the primary responsibility for ensuring that they have health insurance.” Fairly large numbers support the Tea Party position.
Hardly anything that can be called extreme.
Free Markets
No surprise here. According to a GlobalScan poll, the free enterprise system and free market economy is decidedly the best system on which to base the future of the world. In the US, this opinion is shared by 71% of the people surveyed in contrast to 24% who disagree. (Worldwide polling shows 61% agreement as opposed to 28% who disagree.) Concurrence again.
So, concerning all four “planks” of the Tea Party, the majority of the public is clearly in agreement. However, as we know, the Tea Party is vocal in their support or opposition to other specific issues as well. Regarding some of their more important issues-
• A July 11 CNN/ORC poll shows that 66% of the respondents support Cut, Cap, and Balance.
• In the same poll, 74% Support a Balanced Budget Amendment.
• On the budget deficit, many would agree that the Tea Party believes in the cuts-only or mostly spending cuts approach. According to the following chart from Gallup, 67% think the deficit should be reduced by only or mostly spending cuts. Even those who believe in spending cuts alone account for 26%. Hardly extremist.
CNN poll, January 2011, 71% of people want to cut spending in general (although they don’t agree as to what should necessarily be cut)
• Finally, from an LA Times article; “according to most polls, about 20% of voters are liberal, substantially less than the about 40% who identify themselves as conservative.”
So how is it the Tea Party is labeled extremist when, on virtually all their important issues, the evidence is clear that most Americans are in substantial agreement with them? And why did a Gallup survey conducted April 20-23 of this year, find that only 30 percent of Americans describe themselves as Tea Party supporters?
Clearly, the American public has been mislead by the MSM and by the propensity of liberal politicians who customarily preach the left-wing viewpoint to hurl charges of racism or other unflattering adjectives at anyone who does not agree with them. Serious misunderstanding of the Tea Party and the American people is apparent in Nancy Pelosi’s famous comment referring to the Tea Party movement as astroturf instead of grassroots.
The result of this misrepresentation is the marginalization of the Tea Party to segments of the American public who pay little attention to politics and believe what they hear on the 6:00 news at dinnertime. It’s time the “tea baggers” passionately disclaim the extremist label. People who make that claim should be stopped in their tracks immediately, and the conversation should cease until that claim is contested.
No, the Tea Party is not extreme. It is merely the “Silent Majority” no longer being silent.