Can’t we all just get along?

Can’t we all just get along?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that I follow politics.  I like to say that I follow politics like most people follow sports.  They have a favorite team, to some extent live and die by their team, buy their jerseys and caps and whatnot, support them in any way they can.  My team is Bernie Sanders, but that’s irrelevant to what I have to say today.

I am sick and tired of the discourse that surrounds politics in this country.  The mainstream media is definitely implicated here, but I’m more concerned with the person to person conversations on social media.  Nobody wants to hear anyone else’s ideas, whether a Bernie supporter, a Trump supporter, or Hillary, or whoever.  Everybody thinks they have it totally figured out already, and there’s not a damn thing in the world that could convince them of anything.

First, to the “Bernie Bros”:  If you guys had any sense whatsoever of the ethics and reasoning behind Bernie’s campaign, you would never use sexist slurs against supporters of another candidate.  Bernie’s message is about equality, first and foremost.

Second, to the Hillary fans:  Stop calling all Bernie supporters ignorant, clueless, entitled, young… the list goes on.  You are presupposing so much about a fan base that is as diverse as America itself.  Bernie supporters come from all walks of life, from different geographical areas, different income tax brackets, different nationalities.  I’m sure you’re probably tired of hearing that you’re supporting Hillary only because she’s a woman, just like I am tired of hearing that I’m ignorant and entitled, which I am neither.

Finally, to the Trump supporters:  I respect the fact that you’re willing to go all in on a fringe, anti-establishment candidate.  I get it.  You love the fact that he speaks his mind, that he shuns political correctness.  Believe me, I get it.  I get so tired of the regressive left always tiptoeing around words like “radical islam” and “terrorist” and “Muslim extremist.”  Your gut tells you that he will be strong in the face of threats from around the world, whether Muslim, Mexican, Chinese, Iranian, or whatever.  I get that, too.  But he won’t.  He has already been co-opted by the Republican machine.  Donald Trump doesn’t care about anything but Donald Trump.  He doesn’t care what happens when he becomes president.  He just wants to win.  That’s all he has ever wanted to do, and he will say whatever it takes to get that to happen.  And all this talk about his campaign being self-financed, well, it isn’t.  He loaned a bunch of money to his campaign for the primary, but even he can’t afford a general election campaign.  You are being lied to and manipulated by a very slick (and sick) guy.  It’s not too late to recognize that and find a better candidate.

Lastly, to everyone, can we PLEASE start treating each other with respect out there?  We’re all humans, we all live here, and for better or worse we all have to deal with the election and the consequences of who we elect.  So let’s try to be a bit more civil, shall we?

On that note, the election doesn’t stop at the presidency!  Find out who the senators and representatives are that best reflect your values and vote for them too!  Find out who is running for city, county, state positions!  It is your duty as an American citizen to be involved in the democratic process, so by all means, fulfill your duty as an American.  DO YOUR RESEARCH AND VOTE EVERY ELECTION!

Ok, that’s it for this time.  Patiently awaiting Oregon and Kentucky primary results.

Comparative Religion for the Modern Era

Comparative Religion for the Modern Era

What’s happening out there?  I’ve been slacking on my news intake lately.  It seems to go in waves – sometimes thirsting for it, other times exhausted by it.  I’ve been further annoyed that some of my favorite NPR programs keep talking about football.  If I wanted football, I’d listen to sports talk radio.  But, I digress.

I’ve been thinking about religion a lot lately, mostly since the San Bernadino shooting.  I happened to be in southern California when that shooting happened, spending a lot of time in a hotel room by myself, so I totally overdosed on the news surrounding that event.  I saw the early reports of three shooters, I saw the horrific scene of the black SUV that was shot up all to hell, and I saw what turned out to be two radicalized Muslims who, so we were told, were the masterminds behind the deaths of 14 people at a social services center.  I have seen reports recently that suggest that it was a setup, that the two Muslims we all now recognize were patsies, but I don’t want to get into that here.  I have so little knowledge of the ability for anyone to pull off something like that, I don’t even want to speculate.  I would like to avoid becoming a member of the Tin Hat Society for now.

Since that particular shooting, the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US has reached ever-increasing heights thanks mostly to certain famous GOP presidential candidates.  In the wake of all this rhetoric, it occurred to me that I know basically nothing about Islam.  I don’t know anything about what Muslims believe.  So, what better time than now, what better place than here, to explore the subject, learn a little something about it, and share it with you guys.

Before I continue, I want to preface this by saying that I am not here to say anything about what we as a nation should or shouldn’t be doing with Muslims, or Syrian refugees, or whatever.  I am here to educate myself first, you guys next, and hopefully we can all come to our own conclusions, and hopefully more educated conclusions.  Maybe I’ll explore that a bit later, but for now I would like to stay as objective as possible.

In my research on Islam, the first thing that I noticed is that I got really bored.  I’m not gonna lie, I got totally bored.  But, I persevered, for my sake and yours.  The second thing I noticed is that there are a lot of similarities between Islam and Christianity; a LOT of them. Allow me to mention a few of those similarities.

Islam and Christianity both believe that –

  • There is one God, and only one. Islam, which began about 600 years after Christianity, believes that both are originated from the same God, but is itself something of an update.
  • The purpose of man is to worship God.
  • Their primary book (Quran or Bible) is the literal, divine word of God as revealed to His prophets. The Quran acknowledges the Bible as the literal, divine word of God also, though the Quran would override any conflicting passages in the Bible.
  • Angels are a real thing and subservient to God.
  • The world as we know it ends in a day of revelation and judgment, whereby “good” people go to “heaven” and “bad” people go to “hell.” A primary tenet of both religions is that non-belief in God is an immediate disqualification for being a “good” person.
  • Both allow for immediate forgiveness of any and all sins upon repentance.
  • A personal expression of belief in the One True God is the key to converting to both religions, as well as instant qualification as a “good” person worthy of “heaven”.
  • Prayer is direct and personal communication with God.
  • Eternal life is a thing. Except with Allah, he has the ability to end you at his discretion.  By extension of being omnipresent and omniscient, God probably does too, but to my knowledge the Bible does not expressly grant him this ability.
  • Disapprobation, or the willingness to condemn others on moral grounds. Some people of both religions take this idea further than others.
  • There are more variations than I can count. (Catholics, protestants, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, you get the idea.  Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Twelver Shias, Ahmaddiya, the Sevenrrs, Nizaris, Ismailis, and so on.)

Lots of similarities, right?  I was raised a Christian, so many of these features of Islam are familiar to me.  However, one prominent feature of Islam that is in direct contrast with Christianity is that Islamic law does not differentiate between church and government.  Jesus was quoted as saying, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; an unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).  Christians in America, for the most part, are willing to let their church be their church, and the government be their government, ne’er the twain shall meet.

The most obvious and difficult difference is the concept of Jihad.  This is certainly not a pillar of the Christian faith, though Christians throughout history have been involved in their share of wars and conquests.  Most modern Christians at least have rejected violence as a necessary part of their religious experience.

The literal definition of Jihad in Arabic is “to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to perservere.” [1]  The Quran refers to it in the context of struggling for God, or on His behalf.  In practice, for Muslims, the word has two meanings.  One is the “inner struggle,” the struggle to be more like God, and one is the “outer struggle,” the conquest of infidels.  There is a consensus among Islamic scholars that the outer struggle has always held a connotation of warfare against the enemy, the enemy being anyone who does not practice Islam.

This is where my research has ended for the time being.  I would like to leave you with someone else’s blog.  Sam Harris has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is a vocal critic of Islamic extremists.  He believes, and I concur, that it is time we start calling a spade a spade and understand that beliefs drive behavior, and that some behaviors are not acceptable.

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/sleepwalking-toward-armageddon

I can’t say it any better than he already did.

And now, since I can’t help myself, a brief opinion or two:

There is a lot of “Us vs. Them” going on in America right now.  Republicans vs. Democrats, Christians vs. Muslims, Donald Trump vs. Rational Thought, and so on.  This could possibly be the most dangerous domestic threat we face.  It’s about time we stopped looking at our differences, and started focusing on our similarities, namely that we all live here, and for better or worse we’re all in this life together.  We need to start acting in ALL of our best interests, not just our own best interests.

I was wondering to myself the other day why one doesn’t hear more about Muslims denouncing their religion.  The truth is, there are those who have left and are leaving the Muslim religion, it’s just that we don’t hear about it because the Quran commands their death!  For leaving Christianity, I might get threatened with eternal hell fire, but at least not with murder.  I selfishly would like to see more Muslims denounce their religion for the intellectually stifling barbarity that it represents, as I have done with Christianity, but a vocal opposition is very unlikely considering the potential consequences.  However, some internet research has uncovered quite a few websites relating to life after Islam, so by that I am encouraged.

I hope you are all well.  See you next time.

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“They say there are strangers who threaten us
Our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
Those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge, quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice and fear
Walk hand in hand”

Rush – Witch Hunt (lyrics by Neil Peart)

 

 

 

 

War on Christmas?

War on Christmas?

According to a not-so-recent Fox News poll, 42% of respondents believe there is a “war on Christmas” going on in America.  From what I can gather from things my relatives and others post on Facebook, this means that in their minds, people should be saying “Merry Christmas” instead of less specific, more innocuous greetings like “Happy Holidays,” and when they use these more innocuous terms, they are declaring war against God, against Christianity, and against Christmas!  Starbucks was recently accused of being guilty of attacking Christmas because they decided to omit all imagery and other references to any specific holiday from their winter coffee cup.

Basically what’s going on here is that some Christians, empowered by such folks as Bill O’Reilly, have become deeply and personally offended that the holiday greeting used by others does not acknowledge their own superstitions.

May I gently remind all of us that not all people in the world believe that Jesus is the son of God.  For people that do believe Jesus is the son of God, this often has more to do with where you were born, not how right you are.

By forcing one’s will for others to acknowledge religious beliefs that they may not hold, we are in violation of the first amendment.   Freedom of religion implicitly includes freedom from religion.  Despite what our religious beliefs may be, we need to allow others the freedom to believe what they believe, as they should allow us to do the same.  At some point I may address the fallacy of the Christian Nation, but not now.

So next time someone smiles at you and says, “Happy Holidays,” smile back and say, “Thanks, same to you.”  Because anyone getting offended at two words, one of which is HAPPY, is not only ridiculous, but also 100% un-American.

The Next-to-least I Can Do

The Next-to-least I Can Do

Another blog.  Just what the world needs, right?  I know.  Blogging might be a good metaphor for life, though.  Generally speaking, there isn’t a whole lot of point to it, but it can be fun anyway.

So why another blog?  I suppose for much the same reasons anyone else writes a blog.  It is an outlet, a way to get things off my chest in a semi-constructive way, a vehicle for conversation, sharing ideas… whatever it turns out to be.  I understand that some people make a living writing a blog, but I have no delusions of grandeur there.

I like to think that I pay attention to politics and current events.  I listen to NPR on my way to and from work, so obviously I put a ton of time and effort into it. (Sarcasm!)  I have a habit, some would say a bad habit, of posting things to my Facebook page that I find interesting or provocative.  Often these things are articles about guns (control or violence or both), or whatever Bernie Sanders is talking about at the moment, or some ridiculous nonsense the GOP presidential candidates are saying.  (There is my bias. I will try to be nice.)  I came to the realization recently that posting on my Facebook page was literally the least I could do and still act like I give a shit.  Perhaps writing a blog is one notch above the least I can do, like, the next-to-least I can do.  Hopefully as an intended side-effect, it will also give my less-politically-minded Facebook friends a well-deserved break.

I also like music a lot, and vinyl records as the picture above suggests.  I’m the only person in my office that has a functional turntable in my cubicle.  Craft beer (IPAs mostly) and fine wine are among my hobbies as well.  I may write about any of those things, or whatever else is on my mind at the time.

The best I could hope for in writing anything is to start open and honest conversations about real things that are happening in the world.  I would like to explore topics beyond my own preconceived notions and prejudices.  I would like to better understand why people believe what they believe, and why I believe what I believe.  I would like to challenge myself to look beyond my own limited experience and understanding.  I welcome your involvement in that process.  I also encourage anyone who reads these words to challenge yourself as well in the same regard.  I will also try to post a relevant song at the end, because.. you know, music.  Music is good.  Or rather, good music is good.  More on that another time.

American psychologist Wayne Dyer once said, “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”  I hope that the few of us who might come across this blog could collectively aspire to not be guilty of that.

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“If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics, I would tell you that music is the expression of emotion, and that politics is merely the decoy of perception.” -Michael Franti