Saturday, September 22, 2012

Satan: Keeping government secular

This past week Rick Perry made  news when he intimated that Satan was behind the separation of Church and State. I won't quote all of it here as it's been blogged to death about and I've seen it in journals everywhere including national news papers here in Sweden....

He went as far as to invoke the "Iron Curtain" in his remarks, which, actually, is worthy of its own review, but that's not what I want to bring up right now, rather this interesting bit:
We have a biblical responsibility to be involved in the public arena proclaiming God’s truth.
This concerns me for a variety of reasons.

  1. He's not just "in the public arena"... He's a governor. He's one of the faces of Government... A figure of authority and one claiming that he has a biblical responsibility to be doing this.
  2. Is it even true? I was once a young christian and I remember learning about evangelism, but that seemed to be about the preaching of the gospel with the aim of proselytizing. Given his position in government I rather read this as him saying that he thinks we should be involving christianity more in government... Now, the statement alone doesn't do that, but the rest of what he said absolutely does.
  3. Assuming it is true, how are was a nation supposed to come to terms with a country afraid of sharia but itself driving toward what I can only read as dominionism. How am I as an atheist, or other people who are jews, muslims :), hindu or hell even pagans supposed to feel religious freedom in this type of environment... Feels an awful lot like a move toward an Muslim construct known as the Dhimmi (ok, that one was a stretch... but i invite you to challenge me on it).
  4. Assuming for a second that we all like this notion... What gives Rick Perry the religious authority to be the one doing this proclamation? Do religious leaders support Rick Perry as the message bearer for what is, I assume, a qualified religious strategy around messaging? 
  5. And what about catholics vs protesetants and so on? How the hell is this supposed to work?
Can anyone comment on any of this? Do any of my christian friends feel like this is their "biblical responsibility?" 

Furthermore, I'm absolutely convinced that this type of language in politics is new... Or at least new since when I was growing up? Am I wrong? I just simply don't remember religion being invoked in these terms and so often in the 80's... At least not by so many popular politicians.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Innocence of Americans

Finally! I was so pleased to hear that our official response to the recent attacks and deaths of Americans has been an unequivocal denial of any possible justification. In our society a movie of any kind no matter how insulting or disgusting is ever justification for the murder of anyone: not even the film maker.

It seems to me that this has to be the answer; our society doesn't encourage films of this nature but we're free to make them. And we do. 

A friend of mine pointed me to the following quote by Zawahiri:
How would Americans feel if films insulting the pope or Abraham Lincoln were produced?
He found it ironic that this quip comes just months after Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was released, but this isn't the only film in this genre. Our media is filled with critiques of religion, religious figures and historical legends. In the marketplace of ideas that dominates the west we criticize absolutely everything and publish our critique for the whole world to see. In fact, I used to have a huge poster of The life of Brian in my bedroom. The poster showed Brian and several other "criminals" tied up on crosses: a scene from the movie. At one point we had a couple of exchange students from Japan stay with us for a couple of days. At the time we didn't have a lot of extra room and so my wife and I slept downstairs in our living room and gave up our bedroom. I'll never forget that morning when they came rushing down the stairs in their Sunday best and wondered why we weren't ready to go to church. I explained to them that we were atheists and they assured me I was wrong. They had seen my poster! And we tried to explain this movie to them, and they just didn't understand why I'd have a poster of a movie that was clearly making fun of another religion. What was the point? Why did I think it was funny?

What about Egypt or Lybia?

Given quotes like the one above it's clear that they haven't payed any attention to western media. Egypt itself is a multicultural society boasting christianity (primarily coptic), baha'i and even juddhism and all in addition to islam. My assumption is that movies are not often created there which denigrate faiths and so when something like this comes out of America and hits the interwebz there's an uproar. Now, I realize that Islam is particularly sensitive to images of Muhammed or Allah, but I'm quite certain that with tad bit of investigation they could find all kinds of prurient, depraved imagery depicting Jesus.

And if not?

Let's make a movie? I'd like to put together something really despicable and reach out to media all over the world. Let's show the world just how far we can take this, and when it's all said and done maybe we'll learn something about the innocence inherent in ignorant films.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In America, our origins matter less than our destination, and that is what democracy is all about.

The title of this blogpost is a quote from Ronald Reagan. Now, I'm not actually a Reagan fan, but I like this quote, because it inspired me to revisit several things that have been on my mind lately: what our founding fathers believed and whether it matters.

It seems to me, and I must admit that I cannot corroborate this at all: it's just my opinion, that with increasing frequency we the people are questioning the political direction of the US and referencing what our founding fathers had designed. I quote Reagan, obviously, because I identify myself as a liberal and find this quote ironic given the tendency on the right to make these bizarre "appeals to tradition," but it's not just the right... We're all doing it.

Now, I should say right away that I'm keenly aware of the context of this quote. This is from a speech he made at the Republican National Convention in 1992. I won't insert in it's entirety, but to put this in at least a slightly broader context I'll post a bit more of it here:
Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American, Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans, that is not enough. We must be equal in the eyes of each other. We can no longer judge each other on the basis of what we are, but must, instead, start finding out who we are. In America, our origins matter less than our destinations and that is what democracy is all about.
Now, he's clearly talking more about personal backgrounds with regards to creed or ethnicity, and from the context it's obvious he wasn't talking about the ideas of the founding fathers versus the implementation in a modern day society. Still, I think given the broader context it doesn't miss the mark by much, and so I want to ask...

What difference does it make whether the founding fathers would concur with our current political direction?

Now, in keeping with the full title (and I would argue that this is in closer context with the larger section I quoted above) I should probably reword the question like so:

It is less important whether the founding fathers would agree with our current political direction and more important that we ensure its positive impact for all and that is what democracy is all about.

I'm quite happy with that statement, but I suspect a whole lot of my peers wouldn't be. And why is that? What is this predilection toward reverence of past figures in history. It feels an awful lot like religion to me, and indeed religion is one of the themes I very often see used in reference to the founding fathers. There is so much information on this subject that I think you can pick your sources and land in either camp, but what's indelibly obvious is that there were dissenting opinions on the matter even at the time of the founding of our great nation: just look at how Thomas Paine was largely received by his peers by the time of his death.

But does it matter?

I am an atheist and simply cannot identify even with the deism of Thomas Jefferson. John Adams didn't even believe in the trinity but openly criticized Paine and comes off, I think, like a christianity apologist:
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard [scoundrel, rogue] Paine say what he will.
I'm struggling to imagine a president of the United States in today's world claiming to be a christian, but renouncing the trinity (although I think I've read that he didn't speak of it openly, still)...

And i've really only scratched the surface. If we leave religion and move on to other issues such as women's suffrage and slavery then I think we end up in a very uncomfortable world if we aren't to stray from the worldview of the founding fathers.

So, why can't we agree to pick those pieces of contextual worth from our founding fathers and move on. We have to apply these pieces in the modern world: a post-industrialized world with antibiotics, numerous religions, tv, internet porn and even atheists like myself.