Saturday, October 3, 2009

Where Have All the Christians Gone?

In a recent study of Americans’ religious beliefs shows the number of people who claim no religious affiliation has doubled since 1990, a reduction of fifteen percent, and is the highest point in history.
Those whom identify themselves as Christians are taking plummeting losses in America, while the number of non-believers is on the increase. Non-believers now represent the third-highest group of Americans, after Catholics and Baptists.

Protestants now represent half of all Americans, down almost 20 percent in the last twenty years. If this trend keeps up, in the near future America will become a minority Protestant nation for the first time since the pilgrims.

The demographics of those rejecting organized religion are the under 30 young people. Nearly a quarter of Americans in their 20’s professing no organized religion.

I should state at this time that these non-believers are not particularly atheist. Instead, these individuals have a belief in God but no interest in organized religion, or they believe in a personal God but not in a formal faith tradition.
Organized religions that have been catering to the fanatical right wing aspect believers have been a recipe for failure. It has only turned off and exposed the hypocritical views of this group and turned off the freer thinking younger Americans. Many of the “20 something’s” in Americans who could be interested in God, but they don’t think existing institutions are helping them draw closer to God. The constant drone of the religious right wing political preaching just does not hold up to the truths they can see for themselves.

It is also a fact that Americans’ interest in religion has not always been stable. It dipped following the Revolution and again following Civil War. In both cases it rebounded because religious institutions adapted and found new ways of relating to everyday Americans.

Today, the rise of disaffection is so powerful that different denominations will need to band together for financial reason and transform into shared religious message that will enable a movement beyond the fading divisions of the past traditions. If organized religion does not adapt then America will just become like Europe, where religion is fast becoming an afterthought.

Bravo Senator Gram

I am writing this piece from the prospective of my moderate Republican views. I want to pass on a job well done for Senator Gram with regards to his most recent comments of the fanatic right wing.

Senator Gram’s straightforward and brave account of how far the right wing lunatic fringe the Republican Party is tending to. Senator Gram told a conference hosted by Atlantic magazine the Glenn Beck is aligned with that strange group I like to call “very rich white men whining” and said about Beck, “Only in America can you make that much money whining. He (Beck) is aligned with cynicism but we became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics but a nation of believers.”

Senator Gram also called those who claim President Obama was not born in America “crazy” and told them to knock this crap off and get on to more significant problems.” He went on to say, “I’m here to tell you those who think the president was not born in Hawaii are crazy.”

Good for Senator Graham. He also stated he was very worried about the passions that cable news cannels were whipping up in recent weeks.

For those who have read my postings before, I have stated and essentially predicted the current poisonous atmosphere could lead to an assassination attempt on President Obama. Graham stated, “If you get rewarded for being a jerk, you are going to just keep doing it.” Graham pointed out a recent article in Newsmax magazine, a far right wing rag, which said a military coup against President Obama could happen as an example of the media madness.

It is a good thing that there are Republicans like myself and Senator Graham who are not afraid to criticize their own political party. We can only hope that such truth and decency will permeate many more politicians at this dangerous time. America badly needs it!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Those Crazy Polygamists

Yahoo News reports on the testimony of Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City.

Taking the stand for the first time since she was snatched from her girlhood bedroom seven years ago, Elizabeth Smart testified Thursday that her captor raped her three or four times a day, kept her tied up with a cable around her leg, and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.

Asked by a prosecutor to describe Brian David Mitchell, the self-described prophet accused of holding her captive for nine months, Smart replied: "Evil, wicked, manipulative, stinky, slimy, greedy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious, not close to God."

Smart, now a 21-year-old college student, gave her horrifying account in federal court as part of a proceeding over whether Mitchell is mentally competent to stand trial.

Wow, that's some prophet. The 55-year-old Mitchell has been incarcerated since 2003, in and out of the state mental hospital. Twice he was ruled incompetent to stand trial. The day of Smart's testimony, Mitchell had been removed from the courtroom for disrupting the proceedings.

Smart testified that within hours of her 2002 kidnapping at knifepoint, she was led away to a secluded mountain campsite and in a quickie ceremony became the polygamous "wife" of the older man.

Isn't it interesting that he organized a ceremony? I think some of these extreme Mormons have lost the ability to distinguish proper from improper behavior. As long as it's covered by their religious rules they seem to be able to justify just about anything.

The article describes how the so-called prophet was pretty wacky when he committed the abduction, but since his arrest it's escalated to the point of delusional impairment, rendering him incapable of standing trial.

Does anyone else get the impression he might be manipulating the system?

Is there any similarity between the Mormon fundamentalist and his Christian counterpart?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Some 200,000 generations ago

Some 200,000 generations ago, a woman affectionately named, Ardi, wandered through a grassy woodland with patches of denser forest and freshwater springs in what today is known as Ethiopia. Time Magazine article, Excavating Ardi: A New Piece for the Puzzle of Human Evolution, says of her:

"[She is an] interesting mosaic" with certain uniquely human characteristics: bipedalism, for one. Ardi stood 47 in. (120 cm) tall and weighed about 110 lb. (50 kg), making her roughly twice as heavy as Lucy. The structure of Ardi's upper pelvis, leg bones and feet indicates she walked upright on the ground, while still retaining the ability to climb. Her foot had an opposable big toe for grasping tree limbs but lacked the flexibility that apes use to grab and scale tree trunks and vines ("Gorilla and chimp feet are almost like hands," says Lovejoy), nor did it have the arch that allowed Australopithecus and Homo to walk without lurching side to side. Ardi had a dexterous hand, more maneuverable than a chimp's, that made her better at catching things on the ground and carrying things while walking on two legs. Her wrist, hand and shoulder bones show that she wasn't a knuckle walker and didn't spend much time hanging or swinging ape-style in trees. Rather, she moved along branches using a primitive method of palm-walking typical of extinct apes. "[Ardi is] a lovely Darwinian creature," says Penn State paleoanthropologist Alan Walker, who was not involved in the discovery."

Wow! 200 thousand generations ago. Does that go back further than the Eve of the Bible?

It is interesting to note that Ardi is not chimp-like, and therefore suggests that chimps were from an entirely different branch of the tree than humans. The article notes that many people 'envisioned Great-Great-Grandpa to have looked most nearly like a knuckle-walking, tree-swinging ape. But "[Ardi is] not chimp like," according to White, which means that the last common ancestor probably wasn't either. "This skeleton flips our understanding of human evolution..."

The apologists in the Creationism wing of the loony right have often scoffed at and held to ridicule the concept that we, the apes and chimps all came down the same ladder. Ardi mutes that nonsense altogether, yet it will not inhibit the 'true believers' in any way.

Here's to you, dear Ardi! You can't have imagined that your bones would mean to us, some 200,000 generations later.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stock Market Falls

The big news on the economy today is that the
stock market fell. It dropped 30 some points.
The reason given for the fall is weak manufacturing
for the month.

Now, this is news? There has been much discussion
on this blog about the diminishing manufacturing
sector of the U.S. economy. We don't even
manufacture baseballs any more! Apparently, the
Republicans would like to kill U.S. automobile
manufacturing as well. How can people be put
back to work with no manufacturing? How can a
civilization exist without manufacturing?

How does the United States eliminate its huge
debt without manufacturing? We already run huge
deficits in our balance of trade, importing more
than we export. How do we pay our existing debt,
our interest on the debt, Social Security-Medicare-
Medicaid, repair the infrastructure, education,
general health care, explore space and the oceans,
develope science and technology, national defense,
maintain our national parks, environmental issues,
sustain agriculture, airline safety, consumer
protection, and the rest of our needs and obligations?
How do we do this without manufacturing, whereby
citizens work, earn money, and pay taxes. How do we
work our way back even without manufacturing? What
has Obama and Congress done to change the situation?

Incredible: Toledo mayoral candidates speak on their faith

"Toledo mayoral candidates speak on their faith," is the lead story in the Toledo Blade this morning. The story begins, "Toledo's two mayoral candidates stuck to safe positions last night when it came to religion in Toledo, expressing belief in Christianity..."

Imagine that. It must be so very comforting to the citizens of this economically depressed city to know that they will have a 'mayor of faith' who attempts to steer the ship off the rocks of the financial abyss in which it currently stagnates. Maybe he will get down on his knees and ask God to bless the city. Surely God wants supplication had groveling before 'he' sends his financial blessings upon Toledo.

How nuts and what a waste of debate time! During the primary, the voters rejected [last place] a self-designated christian prophetess who, after losing the 2005 primary, predicted that god would send plagues and pestilence upon the city if she were rejected.

One of the candidates believes in the Genesis creation story and 'believes' that this should be taught in the science classes in Toledo schools along with evolution. No doubt that will surely help make the students first-class scientists in tomorrow's world.

Wouldn't it have been courageous if one of them had said, 'Pray if you want to, but let's get busy thinking and discussing how we can get the city of Toledo back on track and pull it out of the economic morass in which it lies.'

Rather, it has to pander to the 'christian vote' as if that sector of the electorate actually has a brain and any ideas other than supplication to a deity.

On a historical note, Toledo was known as Frogtown in its early years due to the many festering swamps throughout the town. Perhaps nature is at last reclaiming it and bring it back to its original state.

A Wonderful Time Capsule

The Herald of Monterey California reports on the time capsule recently sealed in the Salinas library. Three students were selected to write letters describing what they think the future will be like 100 years from now.

Along with more than 100 of their classmates, the trio submitted "letters to the future" with their musings about what libraries and reading will be like in a century as part of the Salinas Public Library system's 100th birthday bash on Sunday.

The letters and other mementos were all sealed inside a time capsule, which was ceremoniously sealed by Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, library director Elizabeth Martinez and the three students at El Gabilan Library. The capsule, which will be on display at the city's three libraries in the coming months, will be reopened in 2109 for the library system's 200th anniversary.

Also going into the silver capsule were a range of mementos from the early 21st century, including photos of modern-day Salinas, money, the "Guitar Hero" video game, a phone book, a copy of a local newspaper, a TV guide, and representations of a computer, a smart phone, an iPod shuffle, and a car, among other items.

I find time capsules extremely fascinating. I think it has to do with the computer age which I feel so fortunate to have experienced. When I read about someone who died 30 or 40 years ago, Jim Morrison, for example, I think what a shame, he missed out on so much.

When this thinking is transported 100 years into the future, it becomes truly mind boggling. There must be a scientific way of describing the accelerating nature of progress. What happened over a decade or two in the mid 20th century now takes place in a year. And what happens now in a year's time in the future will take a month - or so it seems.

What do you think? Is progress speeding up? Or could that be an illusion somehow? Is it like the way every generation of parents says the same things about their kids when they become teenagers? In the 1950s people were probably saying how fast everything is progressing, compared to the previous generation.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Living in the Wilderness of Cleveland

I've been staying in a suburb of Cleveland for the past week, along the Aurora River Valley. It's an upscale community built smack at the top of the valley. Deer and other woodland creatures often are seen wandering through the backyards as hawks and other birds of prey circle overhead, looking for a tasty morsel.

Yesterday, however, I was startled to see a fox trotting between the houses, big fluffy white tale wagging with every step it took. Soon it ducked back into the woods, leaving me astonished at the confrontation. It was my first fox-sighting ever. Later in the evening, as I was driving my grandson to a lesson, a flock of 8 wild turkeys emerged from the wood, their gray feathers blending nicely with the background. They stuck their long necks up to give us a look as we passed, then hurried back into the 'wilderness.' My grandson and I were met with a group of deer crossing the road at dusk when we returned.

My first sighting of wild turkeys and a fox on the same day. How frontier-like; I had experienced what those first pioneers into Ohio had hundreds of years ago. Right here in a busy suburb of Cleveland. What a great experience.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You Can Lead A Moron Anywhere

There is a new theist apology book with the nasty title that most assuredly comforts the believers: You Can Lead and Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think.

Here are two 'reviews' found on Amazon:

Editorial Reviews

I find it so encouraging that in these challenging times of 'culture wars,' Christian leaders like my friend Ray Comfort are passionately defending the authority of the Bible from its very first verse. --Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis

Ray Comfort has once again laid hold of the greatest power on earth, the power of the Gospel. Here he brings that power to bear, makes that light to shine in the darkest corners of our times, among fools. He proclaims with fidelity and winsomeness, remembering that such were once we, walking in the paths of darkness. --Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr.

'The paths of darkness,' he said. Defending the authority of the Bible,' said the other. Funny stuff, really. Reminds me of the pot and kettle.

Darkness, as in ignorance. One can only imagine how the 'fear' and 'trepidation' psychology, foisted on the masses for thousands of years, kept them in line and manageable, like sheep and the dog. Darkness, as in lack of knowledge- belief in magic and spirits and winged-creatures, vanishing, appearing, and vanishing once again. The carnival comes to town.

The authority of the Bible. Two questions arise: what authority and who doled it out? To my oh-so righteous, daily fundamentalist readers- I don't want 'the answers,' please. Authority, as in parents, police, teachers, boss, preacher... Childhood. Control issues. Dumbed-down.

It is a real hoot, actually, when I discover nonsense like this book. It brings a big smile to my face to think that there are people in this day and age who put on their morning blinders and wander through the day avoiding the realities of life that research scientists bring to light 24/7.

Darkness and the authority of the Bible. Thanks for the chuckle. By the way, what 'evidence?'

Israelis- Just Another Gaggle of Aggressive Semites

CNN. A scathing United Nations report has accused the nation of Israel of war crimes in its military offensive into Gaza. In the report, released earlier this month, a U.N. group accused Israel of committing "actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity" during its military incursion into Gaza from December 27 to January 18.

Is anybody one bit surprised? Anyone fall off their chair in astonishment?

Of course not. Everyone I know understood what that 'excursion' into Gaza was all about- tribal punishment, right out of the Bible. Perhaps the UN report should have included words like, 'smite' and 'smote' in the report to really connect the actions of the modern Israelis with their ancestors- that wandering tribe which blustered its way throughout the region several thousands of years ago, slaying and smiting their enemies- with permission and encouragement from Yahweh, their tribal deity.

Today's 'encoragement and permission' comes from the United States, the deity which looks over the Israelites, encouraging them to smite their enemies. We even supplied them the 'lightening' to do their smiting, with in nuclear weapons, which is a hush-hush secret. It is ironic that the US wails against the Iranian nuclear facilities when Israel has tens of dozens of nuclear weapons, just waiting to be launched on their enemies.

The United States has created this rogue teenager wandering the dusty sands of the Middle East, And we have armed him well. Now, we hold our breath, hoping that 'he' behaves and doesn't do something stupid. Great 'parenting!'

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Absurd Idea of 'Winning in Afghanistan"

Twice in the past 24 hours I heard a US Government official speak of 'winning the war in Afghanistan. The latest was Defense Secretary Gates. Winning in Afghanistan is about as absurd as that idiotic concept during the Bush years: winning in Iraq. After all, the salient question is: what does 'win' mean?

When was the last 'win' in a war in which the U.S. was involved? WWII, perhaps. Clearly not Korea or Vietnam, and hardly Iraq. These last two were particularly specious anyhow and begged the question, What are we fighting for, anyhow? The Bush Propaganda Team attempted to link Iraq with 9-11 and many ill-informed citizens waved their patriotic flags and nodded and yelled in lockstep.

Fortunately, the truth won out and the voices muted and the flags were taken down, not before 4000 deaths and 30,000 injured American troops.

And now Afghanistan. The 9-11 link. Eight long years of fighting an illusive enemy which has morphed into fighting a well-armed and entrenched group of fundamentalists who wish to keep Afghanistan locked into a middle ages society. The al Qaeda 'guests' of the Taliban are mostly dead or gone.

The question arises: does the United States continue to fight the Taliban on the chance that al Qaeda may reform in the mountains there? If so, will the US be unable to watch them from their drones? And, what are the chances of another 9-11 style event, now that our nation has stringent anti-terror methods in place?

Seems to me that we ought to pull our troops out and continue aerial surveillance as the preferred method of gaining intelligence against al Qaeda.

One final question: what about Pakistan?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dwindling Faith in the Czech Republic

The New York Times says in Sunday's edition, "PRAGUE — As Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the Czech Republic on Saturday on a three-day pilgrimage aimed at battling against the forces of secularism, religious leaders warned that he faced a daunting challenge in a nation of mostly natural-born skeptics."

Wow! He should come over here, to the land of the free and the home of the believer. Odd, isn't it that our nation, founded on a clear separation of church and state, would be populated with more 'believers' than skeptics.

Further in the article, the NYT reports that the Pope came to the Czech Republic on a mission; Vatican officials said that he had chosen the Czech Republic for a mission central to his papacy: fomenting a continent-wide spiritual revolt against what Benedict labeled Saturday as “atheist ideology,” “hedonistic consumerism” and “a growing drift toward ethical and cultural relativism.”

Apparently, the Pope would rather have the Czechs 'believe' in some intangible, ethereal realm in the sky where The Man notes sins and doles out appropriate punishments. Surely, the average person living in that nation needs such a sky-watcher so that immorality does not break out widespread throughout the population.

The article notes the sordid history of the Czechs and 'their' church, including the amassing of great wealth and its support for the Austro-Hungarian emperors.

Ironically, the Pope "is expected to emphasize the moral imperative that the Continent rediscover its religious roots."

Moral imperative? On what 'authority?' I may ask. And, further, who set up the 'morality scenario' in the first place? Seems to me that the history of the continent of Europe has been littered with the bodies of those who had some religious imperative to kill others who 'believed' differently than they.

Lest I ignore those fairly-odd American evangelical fundamentalists, surely we don't want any part of their 'morality scenario' either. They and the Pope can continue to live in their spiritual realm of irrelevance and gee-whiz! Seems to me that the Czechs have the right idea about all of this church nonsense: ignore it.

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