God Hates Religion

First off, the title. I couldn’t resist. To sarcastically exemplify the idiocy of of the Westboro Baptist Church is just too tempting. Please, also bear in mind that this post is written from the perspective of an American ex-Christian. I realize faith is different throughout the world. My intention is not to attack Christianity or any other religion specifically, though Christianity will often likely serve as my example since it is the religion to which I have had the most exposure. What I oppose is self-righteous, evangelistic, judgmental, repressive, mob mentality that people call religion. If a person wants to believe in God, follow a religion, whatever, I don’t care. I’m essentially in favor of the freedom of a person to be who they are, so long as they are not hurting others or forcing them to live with the consequences of decisions they haven’t made. Values like these, however, are not the cornerstones of most religions. Though they are essentially synonymous with the golden rule.

I’d like to start with an innocent yet important question. Does God need religion to exist? Assuming you are a person of faith, let’s first take a look at the answer you would not give to that question. Which would be “Yes”. You, of course, would not say that God needs religion in order to exist. If you did, you would be admitting that God is essentially a character in a book. Not the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful being in which you believe. So you would not say that God needs religion to exist. Now lets look at the answer you would give. That would be “No”. God does not need religion. This answer may sound simple. However, by admitting this you have officially separated the question of the existence of God from the question of the veracity of religion. Religion needs God. Religion relies on it’s marriage to God for it’s existence, otherwise it would have died out a long time ago. God does not need religion. Never has. Many people have believed and do believe in a higher power without a religion to interpret the relationship for them. This separation, while seemingly simple, is surprisingly difficult for most people to make. Doing so, however, allows us to have a more honest discussion about what religion is, why people put stock in it and whether we should. The answer to the last will vary among the reader. I’m not looking to tear down sincerely held beliefs or lead people somewhere else. I am not a leader, find your own way. I want to hold up a mirror and force those reading this to ask some hard questions of themselves. That’s what happened to me, and I’m happier and more honest with myself for it.

Imagine yourself at a table in a casino. On this table are a number of cards, all face up. But the faces of these cards do not bear the faces of royalty or a combination of numbers and symbols. On each of these cards is the name of a religion. The gamble isn’t selecting an unknown card, it’s selecting the right one.

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Screw The Growth Sectors!

I am 32 years old. I am one of those that went back to school after a long absence. I had a twelve year gap between my high school graduation and my enrollment in college. That was my fault and I know I’m going to fight some battles specific to my advanced age as compared to other college students. Though I know that I am not the only thirty-something that is only now making it to college. Every so often, Yahoo! and various other sites post articles that list the most profitable jobs, the most sought after degrees for employers and basically various other ways to say “If you’re not pursuing an education in one of these fields, you’re wasting your time.” I’m really sick of seeing it, but I can’t seem to keep myself from clicking on it when I see one of these stories. I don’t want to work in the medical field. I don’t want to work in sales or public relations. I have always had an interest in computers, but I don’t want to work with them as a career. I do some of that work running the website for my family’s business right now. I have also taken apart multiple computers in order to repair them. I don’t enjoy this work. I find it tedious and mentally exhausting. I do not want or need a job that makes me rich. I simply want a job at which I can earn enough to reasonably care for my family and a job that makes me happy. Being happy is more important than being rich, for both myself and my family. My wife would rather have a husband who doesn’t hate his job, and is even excited about his job, than live in a bigger house or have a nicer car. I am going to pursue a degree in English. I don’t particularly want to teach. I don’t have the patience or the passion and I don’t want to be a bad teacher. I believe a good teacher doesn’t need to love their subject as much as they need to love teaching. I hope to write. I don’t know in what capacity and I know it won’t be easy. I know how all this sounds but I’m talking to myself more than anyone potentially reading this, as this blog get virtually no traffic. Some people believe that money equals happiness. I do not. I think that if I am going to go to the trouble to go to school, I should go after what I want. This is what I want. I find writing challenging and fulfilling. It is really disheartening to me that we live in a culture that continually undervalues creative expression. We idolize actors, musicians and other people in the public eye. I don’t want or need to be in front of a camera or a microphone. I just want to quit being told that I need to find a machine in which I can be another cog. That is exactly what I’m trying to escape. If that is all that awaits me at the end of this effort, then why bother? I don’t know how, but I am going to be happy. I am going to get exactly what it is that I’m after, once I figure out what it is. I won’t stop until I do. This is the goal to which I committed myself. It’s late and I’m rambling. Thank you for listening.

P.S. If I see another ITT Tech or University of Phoenix commercial I am going to break my TV.

Alex Jones FINALLY Tells The Truth!

I don’t have anything against Piers Morgan. I don’t watch his show, but I didn’t really watch Larry King either. It’s just not my cup of tea. Actually, tea isn’t my cup of tea either, but I digress. Alex Jones DOES have a problem with Piers Morgan, or at least he seemed to in his recent interview on Morgan’s CNN show. I am no stranger to the psychotic New World Order ramblings of Mr. Jones. I’m embarrassed to say that in the fear and sadness that followed the tragedy of 9/11, I briefly entertained the possibility that the attacks were an “inside job,” as those who believe such conspiracies call it. I chalk this up to youthful ignorance (I was in my early 20s at the time) and my growing displeasure with the Bush administration. These ideas, however, are also hardly limited to the circle of followers Jones has been able to attract. This conspiratorial rhetoric is and has been common among those on the right-wing fringe, including right-wing militias and other anti-government groups, for quite some time. Jones just appears to be one of their loudest and most extreme talking heads. It was actually Alex Jones dipping a little too far into the far-fetched in one of his many “documentaries,” claiming that our most powerful citizens and several ex-presidents were part of a satanic cult, that finally shook me our of my paranoid, conspiratorial stupor. I suppose, for this reason, I owe him a certain degree of gratitude. Although I am certain he would not appreciate being acknowledged for such an accomplishment.

It is Jones who recently started a petition this past December in the “petitions” section of WhiteHouse.gov, which has accumulated over 100,000 signatures, to support the deportation of Piers Morgan. The petition was in response to Mr. Morgan’s public expression of support for more comprehensive gun control, following the most recent school shooting in Newtown, CT, which claimed the lives of twenty young children and six adults. This was just another in a long line of increasingly frequent mass-shootings at the hands of disturbed assailants. However, following this particular tragedy there seems to be increased momentum for action that gun-control advocates are trying to transform into legislative results. The NRA and right-wing gun enthusiasts, of course, are interested in pursuing ANY other solution than stricter gun laws.

The CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, actually had the gall to claim publicly that the solution to tragedies like these shootings is more guns; just in the hands of the right people. How unusual it is that LaPierre would want to increase demand for a product, for which his group lobbies, rather than suggest better control of this product that would decrease the number of guns available to fall into the hands of dangerously deranged individuals. It is shocking that he would suggest better equipping the gunfight, rather than trying to prevent it. Many believe that these dangerously deranged individuals include Alex Jones and those who put stock in similar brands of government paranoia. These are people who truly believe that we are already living in or are on the verge of living in a police state in America. These are people who believe that the government is going to kick in their door at any moment to take their guns, their freedom and anything else they choose. These are people who believe that an Orwellian future is not a question of “if” but “when”. These are people who see the government as a faceless enemy waiting to strike, against whom they intend to fight back or go down shooting. It is hard to derive a better example of this belief than the manic behavior of Alex Jones during the Piers Morgan interview.

Though, as I said, I am not in a habit of watching Piers Morgan, I have to give him credit. I don’t know a lot of people who are the subject of a public attack that will invite the ringleader of the attack onto their television show for a discussion; not to mention remaining so calm as said guest goes off the deep end on national television. I know exactly why Jones accepted the offer. As he as shown in past, he will take any and every opportunity that comes his way to gain as much public attention as possible. I remember when his association with actor Charlie Sheen was news and he milked it for everything it was worth. Sheen was the subject of a handful of interviews for his public support of conspiratorial views about 9/11, a few of which also included Alex Jones. Jones took as much screen time as he could get and spoke so fast that he could barely be understood. He was being exposed to audiences of a size he rarely reaches, he knew it and he intended to make the most of it. This time, due to his petition, he was the focus of the interview and he decided to give a performance rather than rush. Rather than calmly explaining his points, he attacked Piers Morgan directly. It was Morgan that was trying to take his guns. He actually called his a “redcoat.” Then he really lost it. It is appearances like this, which feel like sales pitches to me, and the strategy he employs, which keeps his audience seeing only he and those who support his claims as the bearers of the facts, that makes me doubt that he believes what he is selling. Jones makes a lot of money selling the constant flow of media he puts out. Enough for many people to do what they had to in order to keep the checks coming. That is, admittedly, speculation, but it is sometimes difficult to decipher the difference between a devout believer and a skilled salesman.

Regardless of whether or not Jones believes his pitch, his followers certainly do. I call them followers because these are people who take the words of conservative pundits like Alex Jones, Glenn Beck and individuals even more to the political right as gospel. They believe we are perpetually headed for another American Revolution, American Civil War or both. These are many of the people in the Tea Party, who claim that their true focus is fiscal responsibility while carrying guns to demonstrations and ignorantly comparing Obama to Hitler. These are the ultra-conservative “militias” throughout our country who are preparing for full-scale war with the government and who, for some reason, almost always seem to simultaneously support racist and segregationist views. At a lower level, these are the people who believe in government “death panels” while insurance companies made it their business to find ways to deny coverage to paying customers to maximize profits. These are the people who rail against social welfare programs as tyranny on the taxpayer and then say “DON’T TOUCH MY MEDICARE!” This is Sharon Angle, talking about “second amendment remedies.” This is Craig T. Nelson, on Glenn Beck’s TV show, saying, “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.”

These are the conservatives of our country who believe government is the problem and/or that government is out to get them. This is the segment of our population that constantly feels we are at the precipice of some great cliff, over which our freedom does not exist, and we are being pushed ever closer by those who want sensible government regulation. These are people who whole-heartedly believe that when the hell-fire they’ve imagined up finally rains down on their heads, it is their guns that will save them or allow them to at least go down in a blaze of glory. It is public individuals like Jones and Beck that envision themselves as modern-day George Washington counterparts. At least that is how they would like to be seen. So when Alex Jones goes on Piers Morgan and screams, “1776 will commence if you try to take our firearms!” he is at least an evangelist pushing a paranoid message and at worst a con man pushing a product. Either way, he is fostering a form a clinical paranoia that occasionally culminates in tragic mass-killings in America, like the Oklahoma City bombing.

Jones’ desperation to gain attention for his numerous conspiracies escalates in the Piers Morgan interview as he continuously interrupts his interviewer and rabidly moves from one unprovable accusation to another, trying to pack as much as he can into his time in a somewhat brighter spotlight. He uses a very specific formula where he throws a lot of information at the viewer very quickly and speaks as though it is the doubtless truth. He periodically stops to say, “this is proven” or “this is documented.” The truth is that he takes facts that are either just vague enough to exploit, that he can discredit to his viewers based on previously accepted conspiracies or that he has flat our invented and portrays them as fact. When he claims his information is proven, he is extending an invitation to check his facts that he knows the majority of his supporters will not accept, but instead use as proof in and of itself that he speaks the truth. “Why would he invite people to check his facts if they aren’t true?” they say to themselves. If one were to check his “facts,” they would find nothing but drastic distortions of the truth. Only those who espouse similar beliefs to Jones corroborate his claims, some of whom even attempt to represent themselves as legitimate news outlets. Additionally, anyone who fails to agree with Jones’ take on the facts is written off, by he and his supporters, as either naive or part of the conspiracy themselves. It is quite an airtight system, from which escape is difficult.

So what is the truth? The truth is that this is not 1776 and we do not live in colonial America. The truth is that despite the apparent desire of individuals like Alex Jones to be seen as revolutionaries, they are not. Finally, the truth is that I do not believe that the majority of gun owners agree with Mr. Jones. The truth is that the second amendment was written at a time when the guns we had were muskets that could fire one shot before a comparatively lengthly reloading process, not six shots in one second. I live in Arizona, a solidly conservative state. I am not a conservative and I do not own a gun. However, I have family members who do. People I love and respect. People who are responsible gun owners. They enjoy shooting and/or hunting and have for generations. I do not want to take their guns away or anyone else who supports responsible gun ownership. I feel that it is these responsible gun owners who should be leading the charge for more sensible gun control. They should, and I believe largely do, want to keep as many guns as possible out of the hands of those who should not have them. My belief is somewhat reinforced by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, both gun owners, who have recently started a political action committee focused on combating the influence of the gun lobby. It’s reinforced by the increasing outrage of responsible gun owners who recognize that the threat the far right fringe poses to their right to bear arms is greater than any other. Finally, the truth is that, as Alex Jones so eloquently illustrates with his crazed, desperate and outlandish behavior, it is not responsible gun owners who oppose sensible reform of the laws. It is the paranoid conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.

Are there still Birthers?

Hey, Birthers. Obama was born in Hawaii. He’s released both his standard and long-from birth certificates to prove it. Additionally, his mother was a U.S. citizen. However, there are other presidential candidates who were born in other countries or born to non-citizens and were still found eligible to run and serve.

Charles Evans Hughes ran in 1916. His father was still a British citizen at the time of his birth. He was eligible.

George Romney ran in 1968. He was born in Mexico to parents of U.S. citizenship. He was eligible.

Lowell Weicker ran early in the 1980 election. His parents were U.S. citizens, but he was born in France. He was eligible.

Christopher Schürmann ran in 1896. He was born in the U.S. to unnaturalized German immigrants. He was eligible.

Barry Goldwater ran in 1964 and was born in Arizona before it was a state. He was eligible.

John McCain was born in Panama. He was eligible.

President Chester A. Arthur was rumored by some to have been born in Canada and by others to have been born in Ireland. He was eligible.

President Martin Van Buren was rumored to have been born in Holland. He was eligible.

The Obama presidency is legitimate and your claims are ridiculous. You say, “We want to see the birth certificate!” They say, here is the birth certificate and the dated birth announcement. You say, “That is not the right birth certificate. We want the long-form certificate.” He gives you that and now you say that is forged.

Your claims are ridiculous and are usually an attempt to disguise an effort to paint the first black president as somehow un-American by birth. Then you add baseless claims about how he wants to destroy the American way of life. It’s just pathetic. Fight the guy on policy and legislation. Fight him on how well you think he does the job. But this crap just makes you look like racist morons.

Re: Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Character Going To Be Nightwing?

Originally posted as a comment to the Forbes.com on the article “Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Character Going To Be Nightwing?

I’m not sure who would sit in the director’s chair after Nolan. He is a tough act to follow. Where Nolan sacrificed devotion to the cannon of the Batman universe, he more than made up for it by being truer to the spirit of the characters than any film representation ever created. I am very anxious for the Superman series. I was somewhat disappointed for selfish reasons by the ending of the “Dark Knight Rises,” only because I had held vague hopes of a World’s Finest movie. I was simultaneously pleased with the movie’s ending, for the proper care given to the characters. The movie and the series are a work of art.

As to Mr. Gordon-Levitt and the future. I agree with the conclusion’s above. Leaving the theater, I immediately thought “Nightwing.” The Batman story is completed. I think that an effort to revive it would be disastrous. I would definitely see a Nightwing movie, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They, however, have one glaring problem. Nightwing is certainly a more obscure character. Less people know who he is. More people recognize the name “Robin” than recognize “Nightwing.” Nolan and those behind the Batman series have also taken liberties with adherence to the comics and it has worked. Nonetheless, I think that especially with Nightwing as the lead of a series that there is one such change that will not stand. Dick Grayson is Nightwing, not John Blake. They had a missed opportunity toward the end of the movie, when we found out that “John Blake” was not his real name to reveal it to be Dick Grayson. The mentioning of the name “Robin” at that point was a joke, since he had been assisting Batman. Who would create a superhero using their real name? Robin does not exist in this world and many things are changed, but a few things remain the same. One of them is names. Bruce Wayne is Batman. Alfred Pennyworth is his butler and guardian. Selena Kyle is Catwoman. James Gordon is the police commissioner. Talia is Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. Dr. Jonathan Crane is Scarecrow. Harvey Dent is Two-Face. Dick Grayson is Nightwing. They can change how he comes to this name, but they have to resolve this before they can sell the character.

Another good question… why did Bruce Wayne fix the Bat-Signal? Is this to lead us to believe that in some future we will not see that Batman will return in some form? Possibly with John Blake under the cowl, eliminating the possibility of a Nightwing movie? This series appears to be something people don’t often see in filmmaking anymore. A series with a definitive end. More often than not, a series is left open ended. To leave the possibility to make more money from a franchise if it is there to be made. As a lover of the story, I prefer Nolan’s method. A beautiful and respectful end to a great story. Like I said. I am very much looking forward to Superman.

I’m Disappointed In Us

I wonder if others get as frustrated as I do with how we regularly, blatantly fail ourselves as a society, not to mention future generations. Perhaps I’m overstating it. However, that is truly how it feels at times and it’s articles like this that make me feel this way.

http://news.yahoo.com/obamas-air-force-one-call-donors-reveals-money-151549168–abc-news-politics.html

Now, my point as it relates to this article has nothing to do with political affiliation. I don’t care if you’re liberal, conservative or moderate. In this situation it is irrelevant. What infuriates me is that the candidates and, more importantly, the public have accepted that elections are basically decided by the idea that the most money wins. Is that what we truly want? We complain about corrupt and ineffective politicians. We complain about politicians owing favors to their corporate campaign contributors. The problem is, it is ultimately our fault. If enough of us cared and refused to stand for it, this practice would not be able to continue, as it would be ineffective. How do we do this? We don’t have to band together. We don’t have to protest. We have to pay attention. We have to place importance on being objectively informed. We have to stop being so damn lazy.

These people think that by bombarding voters with enough negative ads about their opponent, that those voters will begin to believe them as fact. Problem is that they are right. We have an entire population of people who don’t know when they’re being sold something. Whether it’s a product or a bullshit story. These are the people who buy into get-rich-quick schemes, free government money books and miracle cures. People who believe what they are told, without any thought about the motivation of those doing the talking. Most people find politics and government boring. I know I used to. That was until I realized how almost everything our elected officials do effect our lives and that they’ve been given the keys to the kingdom. They no longer have to do their jobs well for the people they serve, they just have to know how to work them over psychologically.

Tell you what you want to hear. Minimize the times in their past that they obviously betrayed your interests. Divide the public using prejudice, fear and other tactics. Then return to business as usual once they’re elected. It needs to stop.

If this makes you as angry as it makes me, quit acting like you’re just one person and there is nothing you can do. Pay attention. Try to see every situation as fairly as possible. If a news source slants too far one direction, it is not reliable. Get your news from multiple, reputable sources and know when politicians and news anchors are trying to sell you something.

DON’T BELIEVE RUMORS! BELIEVE FACTS! Make their campaign funds count for nothing, as they should.

We can disagree, but those who work for our governments need to work for the people, not themselves and not corporate interests.

Suddenly, I heard a tapping…

I am have come to the realization that I could never be a movie critic. This is largely due to the fact that I know not for what these critics search, but most of them seem to agree upon it. I went into The Raven with no expectations. I had seen the trailer and thought it looked like an interesting alternative history film. A little more mature, perhaps, than the forthcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which I happily hope to see this summer. The Raven received poor reviews. A 22% rating among the actual critics on Rotten Tomatos and only a 55% from it’s patrons. This is, however, not enough to dissuade me. If a movie looks interesting so me, I see it.

I must say, I greatly enjoyed The Raven. It was suspenseful. It was entertaining. It was a unique play on the mysterious end of Edgar Allan Poe. Maybe I enjoyed it because I was a Poe-lover going in. Maybe it is because I am a student of history. I do not understand how someone could dislike this film so intensely, unless they were looking for a mindless action movie with lots of explosions. I enjoy the crude fun of these movies like many others, however this does not mean that the entire industry needs to be dumbed down for mass consumption.

The greatest tragedy of Edgar Allan Poe was that of his own life. His existence was wrought with pain, sadness and loss for virtually it’s entirety. This fact is only overtaken by the perplexing mystery of his death. It is within this factually vacant space that we find this work of intriguing yet impossible fiction. It tells the tragic story of a man devoted to love, yet damned like no other. I thoroughly enjoyed it and fail to see what those so critical of it feel it is lacking. Sometimes the movie doesn’t come to you. Sometimes you have to go to it.