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Thinking About Religions

Posted by MacZad
Feb 07 2013

If your religious faith is very strong don't read this post; it will only make you mad. However, if you have ever questioned your faith read on; you may end up reevaluating your beliefs.

If one is religious:

  • As a US citizen one is most likely to be a Christian. Why?
  • If one resides in India one would most likely be a Hindu. Why?
  • Iranian residents would most likely be Muslim. Why?

Each question has the same answer: One is most likely to practice a particular religion only because: (1) it was the strongest in the geographical area where they were born, and (2) parents, the world over, instill their religious beliefs in their children. Thus, unless one has studied the other religions and made a conscious choice, the religion practiced depends mainly on place of birth; that's irrational.

Think about that irrationality; in most other areas of life we try hard to overcome ignorance and emotion and let knowledge and fact guide our decisions. Only the foolhardy would choose a college, change jobs or buy a home without exercising due diligence. Oh, but it's vastly different with religion, there's no due diligence; it's based solely on faith.

Faith: Complete confidence in someone or something that is open to question or suspicion.

Is our religion (faith) better than any of the others? Why would it be? What facts do we have that lets us make a rational decision? Are Christians (or Hindus or Muslims) smarter than those of the other faiths so they know the truth and the others do not. With intelligence widely distributed that is unlikely. Does the Bible help? Is it more accurate and truthful than the Quran or the several Hindu holy books? How do we know it is? All of the religions (many now extinct) have their roots in ancient times where superstition outweighed truth and knowledge; so the religious literature that survives from those times isn't of much help in rationally choosing one religion over another. A real god could easily commandeer all the modern means of communication, make his/her presence known, validate or update those ancient documents and demand our allegiance. None has. It's only the dogma of those ancient documents that support faith. Now, centuries later, knowledge is overpowering superstition as discovery by discovery science invalidates much of the religious dogma.

Science: Systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

As science is systematically explaining the world/universe, and even life itself, in non religious terms making a choice of a religion to follow based on knowledge, truth and fact is quite impossible. So faith, and only faith, ruleth supreme in the support of all religions. Now, (You knew that I was coming to this, didn't you?) with only faith supporting the (irrational) choice of a particular religion and with science steadily invalidating the religious dogma why would one choose any of them? It's possible to lead a good moral life without believing in any, of the many gods; this Humanist document contains some good guidance for doing so.

Still one of the faithful? Consider that it took billions of years of evolution for humans to emerge - the only creatures capable of envisioning gods. It makes absolutely no sense for an all-powerful god to use such a slow tortuous way to gather flocks of worshipers!


Image courtesy of @Mel_in_Canada on Twitter

With religious zealots flying airliners into skyscrapers, women being subjugated in the name of gods, strongly-religious politicians writing irrational laws and religious factions throughout the world fighting over which faction shall prevail it's clear that the universal abandonment of religions would result in a better world. Not that I expect that to happen anytime soon, but this post is my contribution to moving things in that direction.


Categories: Defending Religious Freedom, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

Pity The Poor GOP Strategist

Posted by MacZad
Nov 07 2012

Things didn't go well for the GOP nationally on Nov. 6th, and the Republican strategists must be pulling their hair out trying to figure out what to do.

Several important trends are against them: Coming rapidly are the increasing diversity of the country and the rising importance of young liberal voters as "angry (old) white guys" die off. Coming more slowly are the declining importance of religion in the lives of many Americans and the increasing urbanization of the country.

Like Barry Goldwater predicted, I believe that the party's biggest problem is that 40+% of its members are evangelical Christians. They have a strangle-hold on the party. However, without them in the base there is no party so those in power work a neat con to keep them. They are ideologically ridged, and nothing short of the 2nd coming of Christ will deter them from their mission of remaking the country into a Christian Nation. Their delegates to the Republican national convention used their strength to put a such a strong anti-abortion plank into the party platform that more-sensible party leaders tried to distance GOP candidates from it. However the disclaiming didn't work for not only is the plank radical the candidates are also. Evangelicals vote in very large numbers in GOP primary elections and select candidates who are far to the right of mainstream America. In contests with Democrats in the main elections the extreme mindset of these candidates often comes out, and the Democrat wins. This cost the GOP several Senate seats in 2012. However, from a liberal standpoint it's unfortunate that these radical mindsets are not exposed more often.

The party must do things to attract a more diverse base of voters, but the extreme right-wing positions dictated by the evangelical zealots makes that very difficult. Attracting younger voters is also a must, but that's also difficult. For example the GOP fights gay marriage at every turn while the young readily accept it. There are big ideological differences here, but any strategy that liberalizes GOP positions to attract these new voters alienates the evangelicals. Much lost hair for the GOP strategists.

Research is showing religion decreasing in importance for many Americans except for evangelical Christians. The increasing recognition of the reality of evolution calls the idea of gods into question and religious doubt leads many to a more liberal view. The rural areas (the traditional GOP strongholds) are losing population as better opportunities for employment in metropolitan areas draws people in. Cities, with their cosmopolitan atmosphere and cultural diversity, are the cradles of civilization, and, just as travel does, city living opens minds to other viewpoints - most often liberal ones. Unfortunately for the GOP there's almost nothing that they can do to counter these two trends.

All this makes it seem bleak for the GOP, but that's only partly true for the party is very patient in working toward its goals. Realizing many of its policies are unpopular the GOP works incrementally at achieving them and has made many little gains over the past 30 years or so. Despite some substantial liberal advancements the midpoint of American political thinking has shifted to the right in many areas. So much of what once was considered moderate is now viewed as liberal and what was once considered extreme right wing is now acceptable. Unfortunately, it's not just Republicans who embrace these new norms but, many Democrats do as well because the magnitude of the attitude shift is hidden by its slowness. More on this in a later posting.


Categories: Defending Religious Freedom, Embracing Diversity and Tolerance, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

A Christian Nation?

Posted by MacZad
Aug 16 2012

The Christian fundamentalists keep saying that the country was founded as a "Christian Nation," that we have strayed from being one, and must again become one. Actually, the reverse is true; all but ignored initially, god and religion have enjoyed increased official recognition over the years.

That the Nation was founded by men of the Christian faith is beyond doubt, but a look at the nation's founding documents clearly shows that they carefully excluded any mention of god and minimized even the mention of religion. The applicable quotes:

  • There is no mention of religion or god in the original Constitution adopted in 1787 other than Article VI which says,"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
  • The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1791 provided only that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The Constitution's Article VI allows an even atheist to become President, but they elsewhere provided that he/she must be native born. Those are very strange priorities for a "Christian Nation."

However, despite the founding documents god and religion have been creeping into the laws of our land for many years. Here's some highpoints of the history:

  • The first affirmation of God by the federal government was when IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.
  • The Coinage Act of February 12, 1873 stated that the Secretary of the Treasury, "may cause the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto."
  • Congress by the Act of May 18, 1908, ordered IN GOD WE TRUST mandatory on all coins upon which it had previously appeared, and it has appeared on all coins since 1916.
  • In 1931 Congress proclaimed The Star Spangled Banner the U.S. National Anthem. Its seldom sung fourth verse includes the words, "In God is our trust."
  • In 1954 Congress inserted the phrase “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church’s Knights of Columbus. Francis Bellamy the 1892 composer of the Pledge was a strong believer in and advocate of complete separation of church and state, and the change certainly went against his beliefs as it decreased the Pledge's emphasis on patriotism by inserting a religious element.
  • In 1956 a Joint Resolution of the 84th Congress, made IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States , and it was first used on paper money in 1957.
  • 1983 was declared as The Year of the Bible by Joint Congressional Resolution.
  • In 1988, a Joint Resolution of Congress declared that the first Thursday in May of each year as a National Day of Prayer.
  • More recently we have President George W. Bush's "Faith Based Initiatives."

In Summary: What we have is a federal government that functioned for the better part of its first century acknowledging only that religions existed, but which since has been increasing affirming a god (by probably unconstitutional legislation) in opposition to the intent of the nation's founders. So, despite the Christian fundamentalists' assertations, it's now closer to being a "Christian Nation" than it was when it was founded.

An earlier post shows the dangers of the fundamentalists' push to further integrate their god into the laws on the land.


Categories: Defending Religious Freedom, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

Slouching Toward Theocracy By Our Votes

Posted by MacZad
Jul 15 2012

Sinclair Lewis was prescient back in 1935 when he wrote, "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag & carrying a cross." After 75+ years the growing power of fundamentalist Christians in politics is moving us ever closer to his vision.

Here in the US we deplore the intolerances of many Islamic countries. Well, be alerted, we are well on our way to our own version of an intolerant and theocratic nation with a state supported religion. Ours will be fundamentalist Christian rather than fundamentalist Islamic, but there’s really not much difference between them for: both hate certain (though different) groups, both subjugate women and both have repressive belief systems.

It’s obvious that the leaders of many fundamentalist Christian sects don’t like the religious and other freedoms that we, and they, enjoy in this country. They have clearly stated their goal of remaking America into a "Christian Nation" (or the more extreme Dominionism based one) which would, of necessity, embrace intolerances and repressions as noted above. Over the past several decades their successes within the Republican Party, including many legislative, policy and judicial victories, both small and big (Sympathizers on the Supreme Court - Gay discriminations), have brought them much too close to that goal. They are united now in trying to achieve it, but if they triumph we can expect big battles over which sect’s version of god and religion shall the government impose on us. (Joke)

You may not like the liberals, but you will probably like rule by the scriptures even less. Unless they meet strong resistance the fundamentalist Christians, who seem to dominant (40+%) the current Republican Party, will eventually transform the 235+ year old “Grand Experiment” that is our Untied States of America into a theocratic-fascist country. Our enlightenment, envied by billions the world over, will die, and we will experience serious losses of personal freedom, even more discrimination against minorities and totalitarian persecutions of those who don’t kowtow to the fundamentalists’ beliefs and morality.

So, resist we must. At a minimum we, and the media (like Chris Mathews on this 6 minute YouTube video), need to be asking candidates at all levels of government questions that expose the ignorance of fundamentalist beliefs or even toleration of them. Questions like: “How old do you believe the world to be?” Any answer other than an unqualified, “billions of years,” indicates a candidate with such a warped sense of reality that he/she is unfit to govern and one undeserving of our vote. To preserve our “Grand Experiment” such candidates and the other politicians who support them must be defeated.


Categories: Defending Religious Freedom, Embracing Diversity and Tolerance, Illuminating Dark Places

The Foundation - The Fellowship - The Family - C Street

Posted by MacZad
Jun 20 2012

You may have heard of the National Prayer Breakfast an annual Washington, DC event. It sounds innocent enough - many of the nations political leaders getting together for breakfast and prayer.

The event is hardly innocent; it's part of the war on America's religious freedoms. It's a screening tool used by a secretive organization to help recruit new members from Washington's elite and powerful. It is heavily bankrolled by people of wealth (mostly men) who actually believe that it's god's will that has made certain people (them) rich and/or powerful and that god wants many others to be today's equivalent of the serfs of the middle-ages. The national ethics organization, CREW, has suggested that the breakfast be boycotted.

The sponsoring group The Foundation - The Fellowship - The Family (a New Yorker article) cultivates a very low public profile; as well it should for it has many far-out ideas that would be viewed negatively by most Americans. In addition to the one in the paragraph above there's this little glimpse of the twisted thinking of the group's leader, Douglas Coe, courtesy of author, Jeff Sharlet, who recounts one conversation he overheard between Coe and another man. Coe asked the man, "Suppose I hear you rape three little girls. What would I think?" The man said he thought Coe would consider him awful and a monster. Coe said, "No. No I wouldn't because you're chosen. As a member of The Family, you're chosen and, when you're chosen, the normal rules don't apply. Morality is for the little people."

Douglas Coe and son David guide this organization that has a radically different but very patient approach to achieving its goals - little nibbles here and there - a new senator recruited, additional Federal funds flowing to a cause of their liking, etc. I'll leave it to the links below to better acquaint you with the organization and its goals, but it's chilling that such an organization has so much - even any - influence in Washington.

Jeff Sharlet has written several articles and two books (reviewed on these WorldCat pages): "The Family" and "C Street." They shed much light on this dark organization. He is prominently featured in these links:

A High-Five to Jeff for all of his work bringing this to light, but let's hope that the main-stream media will soon be giving this story much more attention; for the workings of this organization, its kooky leadership and theocratic goals, need a thorough airing.


Categories: Defending Religious Freedom, Illuminating Dark Places

About

Posted by MacZad
May 31 2012

About MacZad’s Musings

Guiding quotes:

  • "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton
  • "Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation." Oscar Wilde
  • "Nothing dies so hard, or rallies so often, as intolerance" Henry Ward Breecher
  • “Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.” C. E. Stowe
  • "The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it's that they know so many things that just aren't so." Mark Twain
  • “Dark places need strong lighting.” MacZad (Not that I’m on par with the guys above, but I just couldn't find the right quote for the thought.)

Welcome to my blog:

The rise of the plutocrats which has been greatly aided by the increasing power of the religious zealots, plus the Supreme Court's recent Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate money to flow into politics, have compelled me to start this blog. My voice is small, but the situation demands that many small voices be heard.

I hope to be posting occasionally, expanding on the thoughts expressed in the quotes above and, sometimes, ranging a bit wider. I will be expressing my thoughts (and biases) but also often directing the reader to more authoritative sources.

Our country has been negatively altered over the past several decades, and the negative drift continues, often stealthfully, and resistance is badly needed. I expect that some of the views that I champion will be disparaged by many - perhaps even by some friends. However, please view my posts as you do newspaper editorials, and don't "cancel your subscription" because there are some posts that you don't agree with.

What to expect here:

  • Support for efforts to give the voters (rather than the corporations and the very wealthy) the strongest voice in government policy making
  • A voice for tolerance and diversity
  • A vigorous defense of religious freedom at all levels of US governance
  • The illuminating of some of the dark places
  • Efforts to debunk dogmas, some quite dangerous
  • Comments on the goofy ideas of both the far left and the far right
  • And, now and then, some humor and a few extras of one sort or another

Personal info:

MacZad is the nom de plume of Tom McKee. I’m a retired electrical engineer living in suburban Raleigh, NC. I have been happily married to the same great lady for 50+ years, and we have one son and 3 grandchildren. I am not affiliated with any political party or religion. I'm not a journalist and there will be errors (not factual, I hope) in my postings. Please overlook or excuse these.

My beliefs and biases:

  • I’m a great believer in moderation, in what’s possible versus what’s ideal, in keeping an open mind, in facts vs. dogma and in common sense.
  • I believe in living life to the fullest, enjoying the good, bearing the bad and in trying to leave at least a part of the world a little better than I found it.
  • I lean toward the socially liberal and the fiscally conservative. We need government but one that is smaller, less powerful and much more strongly attuned to the mass of its workers and their families - the real strength of America.
  • Our capitalistic system, with its many opportunities, is the best; but has been, and is being, gamed to benefit a few - a real loss for the country. Poor governance during the last 30-40 years has put us in the high-debt "banana-republic" category – a very-rich few and masses of "serfs."
  • “Government knows best” is false, but sufficient common-sense regulation of capitalism is required for a healthy society.
  • A strong believer in the power of science and engineering to continually improve mankind’s condition I also recognize that there are areas of science where conclusions are questionable as the knowledge is still formative.
  • A society embracing tolerance and diversity allows every citizen to achieve his/her maximum potential to the substantial benefit of all citizens.
  • More of us should be speaking out against the religious zealots who by their attempts to impose a state religion (i.e. “A Christian Nation”) are methodically chipping away at our religious and other freedoms.
  • I believe that one can live a good moral life without believing in any, of the many, gods.
  • Change is inevitable, and our minds must be open to new ideas appropriate for the times. I've changed some beliefs recently - this list isn't "set in stone."

Contact: This blogging software does not have any provision for Comments and that's OK because I don't have time to respond to them. However, if you feel that you must contact me, I can be reached at: archivist-1[at]imradioha[dot]org . Please make it into a valid address.

Copyright Notice: This site is a non-profit endeavor. Fair Use of any copyrighted material is claimed under Fair Use provisions of Section 107 of Title 17 United States Code (The Copyright Statute). If you, as a copyright holder, find some of you copyrighted material on the site your indulgence is requested. However, if presented with a valid copyright complaint which you believe does not fall under the Fair Use provisions I will remove the offending material. Any Corporate logos shown on this site are the property of the respective corporations.

The name MacZad's Musings is Copyright 2012-Current by Thomas A. McKee. All rights reserved. No copyright is claimed for any of the content authored by me, and thus it is placed in the Public Domain. However, if the site's content is used elsewhere, a link to MacZad's Musings would be courteous and appreciated.


Categories: Defending Religious Freedom, Embracing Diversity and Tolerance, Illuminating Dark Places, Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma