Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve, 2007

Well, here we are again on Christmas Eve.

Sigh, a time to commune with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, a time to try and enjoy the Ghost of Christmas Present and a time to try not to worry too much about the Ghosts of Christmas yet to come.

I'm looking forward to the Patriots vs. Giants game at the Meadowlands Saturday night. Hopefully it won't be too cold and either way, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. Here's hoping the Giants figure out a way to stop the Pats.

In the 2008 Presidential race, who the hell knows what's going to happen. I think the country needs someone who will draw the people closer together and not be a polarizing agent. In other words we need a moderate that a wide cross section of the country can trust and who will do what is necessary to repair the damage of the Bush years.

I can't see Hillary Clinton in that role. Barack Obama and John Edwards yes, but not Hillary. On the Republican side Mitt Romney's reaction to Mike Huckabee's criticism of the Bush Administration was to chide him for being disloyal. This, in a nutshell, is the problem with the Republican Party, loyalty is more important than integrity.

Yet, Huckabee did tell it like it is about the failures of this administration. He may have his head up his ass about evolution but the man's not afraid to tell it like he sees it and one has to admire any politician that does that.

I guess that we shall see what we shall see.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Jersey Ends Death Penalty

The Coliseum in Rome is lit today in golden lights celebrating the outlawing of the Death Penalty in the Sovereign State of New Jersey.

Governor Corzine signed the bill passed by the legislature making New Jersey the first state since the Supreme Court reinstated the Death Penalty in 1978 to abolish it.

Hopefully this is only the first domino.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Jersey Senate Votes to End Death Penalty

The State of New Jersey is on the verge of eliminating its death penalty statute. On Monday, December 10th the New Jersey Senate voted for abolition by a margin of 21-16. The Assembly will vote on Thursday and is also expected to approve abolition.

Governor Corzine has indicated that he will vote the bill, which replaces the Death Penalty with Life without Parole, into law. When that occurs, New Jersey will become the first state to legislatively abolish the death penalty since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1978. As of January 1st 2007, there were 11 inmates of Death Row in New Jersey whose sentences would automatically be commuted to Life without Parole. New Jersey has never executed anyone under its current death penalty statute.

Let’s hear it for the Blue State of New Jersey. Use of the death penalty is on the decline in the U.S. and a majority of Americans now prefer Life without Parole over the Death Penalty. Someday the presidential candidates, all of whom support the death penalty, might even look into why that’s the case.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Golden Compass

I haven’t seen the movie and I didn’t read the books. As a matter of fact I had never heard of the books until the Christian fruitcakes started howling about an atheist conspiracy.

Given the flap and baggage surrounding this movie it’s hard to put much credence in the reviews around the internet, including the reviews by the professionals. Hey, my faith in the media is way down so why should I believe even the lowly movie critics are being honest with me?

As far as I can tell though, the movie sounds like a bit of a dud. Too much of it appears to have been left on the cutting room floor and, supposedly, it’s hard to follow and feels rushed. At least that’s the impression I’m getting from reviews that strike me as uninfluenced by the religious squabbling.

What I find funny is the number of Christians posting venomous attacks on the movie simply because they’ve been led to believe its anti-Christian and anti-God. Some of the faithful have even called for a boycott. This simply causes me to ask again why Christians are afraid to place their “truths” in direct competition with other “truths” that contradict their beliefs. Always their initial reaction is to try and silence anyone that has a different slant on reality. What are they afraid of? Are they afraid that Christianity might be shown up for the nonsense that it is?

As far as Phillip Pullman and his books are concerned, based upon what I’ve learned, the man is a definite atheist and an outspoken critic of C.S. Lewis and his Narnia books. The “His Dark Materials” trilogy, of which “The Golden Compass” is the first book, appears to be a sort of anti-Paradise Lost where those fighting on the side of Hell are the good guys. The church and religion are portrayed as an evil dictatorial duo that would fit right into Orwell’s 1984.

Now there seems to be universal agreement that the more controversial points from the books are very much downplayed in the movie. But, according to the fruitcake crowd, that’s where the conspiracy comes in. The downplaying in the movie is a trick to lure young, innocent, and unsuspecting minds into reading the books which will shatter both their belief in Christianity and their faith in God.

Gee, all of a sudden Christians are worried about warping young minds. The same minds that they wash repeatedly with Christian dogma as soon as the poor things learn language. If I remember correctly, weren’t churches hiring busses to take the kiddies to see “The Chronicles of Narnia” and weren’t even some renting the movie and giving shows in the church? Weren’t too worried about warping young minds then were you?

Ok, enough anti-religious venting. I can’t really judge Pullman’s books without reading them but I suspect that his atheistic world view shows through loud and clear. I wouldn’t expose pre-teens to these kinds of ideas because they’re just not intellectually ready for them. As for teenagers, it would depend upon the maturity and intelligence of the teen. When they’re ready, they should be exposed to these ideas and left to decide for themselves where the truth lies. Didn’t a Jewish philosopher one time say something to the effect that if it is of God, you won’t be able to prevent it from winning and if it’s not of God, you won’t be able to prevent it from losing?

So Christians, why are you so afraid of ideas that might not line up with your theology?

Sherri Shepherd of the View

Ignorance I can forgive. Stupidity is a little harder to take. I define stupidity as not realizing that you’re ignorant.

Sherri Shepherd is a moron who should be prevented from continuing to pollute the airwaves. First she didn’t know whether the earth was round or flat and now she argues that Christianity predates ancient Greece.

Don’t we have enough problems with education in this country? Our so-called “students” lag behind every industrialized nation in every category yet we continue to allow bozos like Shepherd to broadcast their ignorance daily.

PLEASE, get this moron off the air.

Romney’s Mormon Speech

Mitt said all of the right things if he wanted to assuage the concerns of Evangelical Christians. He said all of the wrong things for those of us that would prefer a purely secular government but, then again, very few of us are going to vote Republican anyway.

If I had a major problem with anything Romney said, it was his statement that “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.”

I would agree that religion requires freedom but freedom clearly does not require religion. As a matter of fact I think it’s safe to say that freedom is a whole lot safer without religion. Just look at the Theocracies of the world and tell me which of them are “free?”

But in terms of why I’m not going to vote for Romney or Huckabee this is all sort of beside the point. If I was going to disqualify a candidate because they claim to be religious I wouldn’t be able to vote for anyone. I disqualify Romney because I think that his insistence that he accepts his Mormon faith has to include accepting the Book of Mormon as true. In my opinion, the overwhelming scientific evidence is that the Book of Mormon is a load of nonsense made up by a fast talking con man. To my mind accepting the truth of the Book of Mormon in the face of the evidence demonstrates horribly unreliable judgment.

You have to be willing to re-evaluate your beliefs based upon new evidence! If you’re not willing to do so you don’t deserve to be the President of the United States. Hell, you don’t deserve to have your own hot dog cart. This is one of the major problems with the current administration. Bush and his cronies continue to believe what they believe regardless of mounting evidence that they are freaking WRONG!

We saw this demonstrated with Global Warming, we saw it demonstrated with Iraq and now we’re seeing it demonstrated with Iran. When are we going to figure out that this is a REALLY bad way to run anything but especially a really bad way to run a country? And we want to elect someone else that thinks this way?

Is it possible I'm wrong about the Book of Mormon or the direction the evidence points? Sure it is, but if I can't make decisions based upon my own ability to reason and analyze questions, what can I base them upon?

Huckleberry Hound has the same freaking problem with evolution. Read the lips of every reputable scientific organization in the country. Evolution is a fact and Intelligent Design is religion and not science. Even the court in Dover Pennsylvania made it clear that ID was just warmed over Creationism yet Huckabee still takes the position that ID should be taught as an alternate scientific theory.

This is the same problem on a different topic. We don’t need any more of this we really don’t. How about we start to grow up and at least try to make decisions in this country based upon the facts, regardless of how unpleasant we might find those facts to be.

Would I overlook these idiosyncracies if I didn't disagree with these two guys on just about every other question? I doubt it. Rightly or wrongly I consider the questionable judgment displayed by these two points of critical importance.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

“Under God” and “In God we Trust”

Here we go again. Michael Newdow, a doctor AND a Lawyer from California, is continuing his crusade to get “Under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we Trust” off of U.S. currency.

Twice now Newdow has gotten Federal courts to acknowledge that “Under God” in the pledge in unconstitutional because it violates a child’s right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God." The case stalled the first time around when the Supreme Court ruled that Newdow did not have standing to bring the lawsuit.

On “In God we Trust,” a Federal court has ruled that it does not violate Newdow’s right to be an atheist and Newdow has appealed. A Federal appeals court will hear both cases and regardless of the decisions, both questions will probably end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

This question is not that obvious. Who is this “God” that the phrases refer to? It could be the Christian God; it could be the Islamic Allah; it could even be Zeus, Odin or the Universe I guess.

It could be, but we really know that isn’t how it’s intended.

The intent is that it’s the Christian God. In a pinch Christians will allow Jews to share that God and they may even allow Muslims to join the party but polytheists such as Wiccans, Hindus and followers of Asatru probably need not apply.

One might be able to argue that the phrases do not apply to a given religion, but they clearly apply to a class of religions and they certainly acknowledge a belief in God over a non-belief in God.

Now here’s where it gets tricky. Does the establishment clause require strict neutrality between belief in God and non-belief in God? There is a difference between religion and a belief in God. One can believe in what I call the secular God. Basically a belief that we’re more than a cosmic accident and there is some reason for our existence beyond the vague genetic imperative implied by natural selection, but that rejects all religions as false.

Some folks call this philosophy Deism. But Deism also attempts to define the nature of God. Deism believes God wants humans to act “morally” but leaves the definition of “morally” somewhat open. To my mind then Deism is a religion, a somewhat fuzzy and vaguely defined religion perhaps but a religion nonetheless.

Personally I always fall back upon a militant agnostic outlook. I don’t know if there’s a God, but if there is, he hasn’t given me any revelations so why should I believe he’s provided them to anyone else?

But I digress. I think this is a case where intent matters and the intent was, I believe in both cases, clearly intended to honor the Christian concept of God. That being the case, I believe that “Under God” and “In God we Trust” both do in fact violate the first amendment. I also think the case is far stronger with “Under God” due to the coercive argument.

That being the case, both should be declared unconstitutional, but, given the current Supreme Court membership, they won’t be.

The entire attempt is ill considered and is just going to end up giving those who would like to staple the label “Christian Country” onto the U.S. another argument in their favor and an opportunity to declare victory. Besides, we have a hell of a lot more important things to worry about like a war in Iraq, universal Health Care and an educational system that has American teens lagging behind the rest of the industrialized world in science and math.