Monday, November 24, 2008

"Fake" Christians?


What is killing the Republican Party? Well, for one thing, Pretend Christians

The Accused:

Supreme Conservative Republican Evangelical American Moralizers -- S.C.R.E.A.M.

The "Christian" War President

"God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

"This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while."

--George W. Bush

(read full article)

And what about "real" Christians? Where are they in all this?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Small sect gives U.S. Supreme Court a lot to consider

From International Herald Tribune:

PLEASANT GROVE CITY, Utah: Across the street from the city hall here sits a small park with about a dozen donated buildings and objects - a wishing well, a millstone from the city's first flour mill and an imposing red granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Thirty miles, or 48 kilometers, to the north, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood-and-metal pyramid by Interstate 15 in Salt Lake City. Followers of Summum meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.

In 2003, the president of the Summum church wrote to the mayor here with a proposal: the church wanted to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms in the city park, "similar in size and nature" to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments.

(read full article)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On California Proposition 8, Marriage, and Government

Many have been following the battle over so-called gay marriage as exemplified by initiatives like California's proposition 8 that seeks to amend the state constitution to define marriage specifically as the union of precisely one man and one woman. Each side presents its arguments similarly to the abortion controversy, not 180 degrees out of phase but at odd angles to each other in such a way as to obscure the central issue and make the debate unwinnable by either party. This is at best a disingenuous tactic; at worst something far more sinister, but in any case it can lead only to more of the same. No side of either issue will be satisfied by any supposed resolution of the argument, whether judicial or by referendum.

Moving beyond the argument in its present form, examining the question of marriage in modern society, several things quickly become apparent:

  • Marriage, though related to the institution from which it descends, has drifted in its ceremonial and legal implications into territory that can be very difficult to navigate, particularly when dealing with marital difficulties and divorce.
  • Government and court involvement in the administration and dissolution of marriages is mostly detrimental to all parties concerned.
  • Religious implications make this a hot-button issue making it much more difficult to address the parties' needs more pragmatically.
These and other observations suggest the following seemingly radical proposition: separation of church and state should extend to the primarily ceremonial institution of marriage - that is, get the government out of the marriage business entirely, and eliminate the legal significance of marriage, replacing it with a newer structure designed specifically to address the needs of people today.

Marriage would revert to the domain of religious and secular social institutions. Ceremonies could be performed by whatever figure the parties respect for this purpose, and would carry only ceremonial significance.

Legal implications of today's concept of marriage would be supplanted by a new structure: a family corporation, separate and distinct from the ceremonial notion of marriage. This special class of corporation would have to be designed specifically for its purpose. It would be required to set forth bylaws for the operation of the family corporation, procedures for how a party would terminate his or her relationship to the family corporation, procedures for total dissolution of the corporation, financial and other responsibilities of the parties, and rules for amendment of these bylaws. In effect, the law would require the equivalent of today's notion of a prenuptial agreement, though it would not take precisely that form.

It would be beyond the reach of law to specify the structure of a family corporation, the gender of its parties, or even the number of its parties. Financial and tax ramifications would have to be worked out, as would the tax status of this class of corporation. Boiler-plate articles of incorporation would become available that could be used as-is, fine-tuned, or modified wholesale, to reflect the needs and desires of the parties, but could in any case serve as a guide to the structure for such arrangements.

This would do nothing to inhibit government from exercising some regulatory function to ensure against abuses and neglect, of children or adult parties to the family corporation. Legal statute would continue to specify the age of majority when children become independent entities.

Such a system has many implications, including:
  • Issues like gay marriage, polygamy, adoption, etc., are taken completely out of public debate and away from those who would seek to impose their ideologies on the public at large. They become, as they properly should be, a private matter between the parties involved.
  • Government is once and for all removed from the bedroom.
  • Church and State separation is strengthened and enhanced.
  • The existing legal baggage and prejudice surrounding the current notion of divorce would be supplanted by clearly-stated procedures for what happens if it doesn't work out.
  • No longer would the wage-earning spouse be inherently at tremendous disadvantage because of the current imbalance in this area.
  • Tyranny of a non-responsible, non-wage-earning party over a responsible wage-earning party through blackmail threats to disrupt the marriage with ruinous consequences to the other would finally be ended.
  • Legal responsibility would be contained between the parties and explicitly framed in the articles of incorporation.
  • Matters of custody would be specified in advance in the articles of incorporation and bylaws.
Managing the transition from existing traditions and procedures presents a challenge but not a terrible one. A standard family corporation could be considered to come into effect to embody existing marriages. At any time the parties could amend this corporation as necessary by mutual agreement, subject to procedures as specified in the corporate articles and bylaws.

Marriages originating in other countries where this is not (yet?) the tradition would have to be respected in some legal structure as well, but if the parties moved to the US, the transition process would apply to them for US purposes.

Finally, this would work best if implemented on the federal level, superseding all relevant state laws and regulations, however it could be pioneered by one or more states until wider acceptance could come about.

Though somewhat radical in nature, this kind of approach is much more in line with the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to which we are supposedly entitled.

Such an approach has the advantage of enabling existing traditions to continue, supporting freedom of and from religion, while at the same time preventing the imposition of any marital ideology over those who do not share it. This is inherently fair and decent, but because of its explicit protections, it will likely meet with opposition from precisely those who would impose their beliefs on others - the very reason why it is so critical to implement protections of this kind.

It will not be easy to bring about this sort of social change, but it would solve a great many problems, while creating relatively few. It is not reasonable to expect quick change to something so radical, but it is reasonable to have the discussion and raise the issues this proposal attempts to address and discuss this proposal as a possible way of addressing them.

[In the interest of full disclosure here, it should be noted that the author does not support either side of this argument and is not a California voter, but would have voted against Proposition 8 on other principles]


This morning we awaken to a new hope. President-Elect Obama is staged to replace the Moron-in-chief and build what we can all hope will be a competent administration, staffed with intelligent, curious, thinking, learning folks with goals and priorities aimed at repairing the tremendous damage done over the past eight years.

None of this would have been possible without the awakening of our population from its long apathetic (and pathetic) slumber. It is reassuring that this eventually happened, but should we ever manage to get another incompetent administration in power, we must not sleep through eight years of it ever again. The price is too high. Convenient as it is to blame the Bush administration, we all share responsibility, particularly for the second term. We the American Public must continually remain on guard against further attempts, and they will occur, to transform this great nation into anything less than what we are meant to be. Leanings toward fascism such as the past 7-8 years have witnessed have no place certainly in this country and arguably in the world. If we cannot lead by example then we cannot lead at all.

Much work remains to be done. We must collectively repudiate the corrupt ways of so many entrenched politicians in DC and in our home states, counties, cities, etc. We must stand against bigotry and ignorance and promote education, investigation, learning, and sharing of knowledge. We must re-establish and strengthen separation of powers and separation of church and state. We have an opportunity here for a transformational period in American history during which we can regain and exceed our past leadership.

Carpe diem, people. Carpe diem.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

God is Hate

From Living the Scientific Life:

Even if I was stupid enough to be religious, this one letter to the editor would challenge everything I held dear because it openly advocates hatred of anyone who doesn't believe in gawd -- in the name of gawd. I was always raught that "god is love" but after reading this letter, I realize I am not ready for this sort of love, nor for the other sorts of love that all you so-called "religious people" embrace, including pedophilia, female genital mutilation and genocide, just to name a few of the aacts you have engaged in. Even though I don't believe in gawd or any of the cruel and hateful actions that a "supreme being" represents, I will say this: I hope all you so-called religious wingnuts burn in hellfire for all eternity.