angstzeit: (Default)
Religious debate in the US has become practically surreal. For decades the sides were fairly static with the rise of Christian fundamentalism among conservatives countered by calls from liberals for broad, explicit separation of church and government amid fears of Christian extremists attempting to fashion law on strict Biblical values and institute a theocracy. Now the sides have spun 180 degrees with conservatives terrified of Shariah law and Muslims taking over the government while liberals level accusations of prejudice and bigotry.

The depth of the myopia and hypocrisy on both sides is sometimes amazing even to my cynical, old self. But it seems to be the wave of the future. With political ideologies becoming more and more a mindless refutation of the opposition. Conspiracy theories and extremism replacing debate and discussion.

And I'm not sure where it will end. Certainly the pendulum will swing the other way at some point, but I think the trend will continue. The US is undeniably in transition and (arguably) decline. People generally tend toward the irrational in such times of fear, clinging even more tightly to rote beliefs. And charlatans of all stripes understand the opportunities afforded them by such a climate and will continue to take advantage of it. Even as Arab states attempt to move toward enlightenment and democracy, we seem hell-bent on moving in the opposite direction.
angstzeit: (Default)
Religious debate in the US has become practically surreal. For decades the sides were fairly static with the rise of Christian fundamentalism among conservatives countered by calls from liberals for broad, explicit separation of church and government amid fears of Christian extremists attempting to fashion law on strict Biblical values and institute a theocracy. Now the sides have spun 180 degrees with conservatives terrified of Shariah law and Muslims taking over the government while liberals level accusations of prejudice and bigotry.

The depth of the myopia and hypocrisy on both sides is sometimes amazing even to my cynical, old self. But it seems to be the wave of the future. With political ideologies becoming more and more a mindless refutation of the opposition. Conspiracy theories and extremism replacing debate and discussion.

And I'm not sure where it will end. Certainly the pendulum will swing the other way at some point, but I think the trend will continue. The US is undeniably in transition and (arguably) decline. People generally tend toward the irrational in such times of fear, clinging even more tightly to rote beliefs. And charlatans of all stripes understand the opportunities afforded them by such a climate and will continue to take advantage of it. Even as Arab states attempt to move toward enlightenment and democracy, we seem hell-bent on moving in the opposite direction.
angstzeit: (Default)
Just so we're clear here, I think burning Quran's, especially in a big, showy manner, is seriously fucking stupid.

But it is absolutely the right of any moron to do so in the USA. Just as anyone has the right to build a mosque where they want. There will certainly be people killed in the name of this event. But that doesn't make the people burning the Qurans any more responsible for those deaths than musicians are responsible for murders, or suicides, or rapes committed by their listeners. You don't get a free pass on murder because you heard a song, or didn't like what somebody said, or your religion was offended.

But, as I've said before, with freedom comes responsibility. Burning Qurans does have ramifications. These people are choosing to throw gasoline instead of water on a fire. Their actions are stupid, and selfish. Very selfish.

But selfishness is probably the ultimate American value. It is, I think, at its root, what the Tea Party is about. We prefer to call it independence, freedom, liberty, etc., but in the end it is the right to say "I don't care if you don't like it--I'm doing/saying/writing/painting/playing/reading/listening/watching it anyway." And we all partake of it and enjoy it in our measure. It is the American Dream.
angstzeit: (Default)
Just so we're clear here, I think burning Quran's, especially in a big, showy manner, is seriously fucking stupid.

But it is absolutely the right of any moron to do so in the USA. Just as anyone has the right to build a mosque where they want. There will certainly be people killed in the name of this event. But that doesn't make the people burning the Qurans any more responsible for those deaths than musicians are responsible for murders, or suicides, or rapes committed by their listeners. You don't get a free pass on murder because you heard a song, or didn't like what somebody said, or your religion was offended.

But, as I've said before, with freedom comes responsibility. Burning Qurans does have ramifications. These people are choosing to throw gasoline instead of water on a fire. Their actions are stupid, and selfish. Very selfish.

But selfishness is probably the ultimate American value. It is, I think, at its root, what the Tea Party is about. We prefer to call it independence, freedom, liberty, etc., but in the end it is the right to say "I don't care if you don't like it--I'm doing/saying/writing/painting/playing/reading/listening/watching it anyway." And we all partake of it and enjoy it in our measure. It is the American Dream.

Crazy shit

Mar. 4th, 2010 10:51 am
angstzeit: (Default)
Stone the whales!

Got this from [livejournal.com profile] rm.

I do so hate these sort of people. If Sea World told the trainer that the whale was perfectly safe, then the trainer's family should sue. But I'm pretty sure the trainer knew what the risks were.


People should be allowed to take risks. And they should have to deal with the consequences. It should not be the job of society to protect informed people from themselves. Nor should people be allowed to blame others for the informed actions of anyone.

Unfortunately, humans seem genetically incapable of simply letting other humans live their damn lives how they please. Sure, plenty of people say, and probably believe, they want people to be able to live how they want. But they almost always mean certain people and certain ways. How many of those freedom-loving, get-the-government-out-of-my-life Tea Baggers would support a federal ban on abortion? Support federal drug laws? Would support a federal gay marriage ban? Exactly.

Crazy shit

Mar. 4th, 2010 10:51 am
angstzeit: (Default)
Stone the whales!

Got this from [livejournal.com profile] rm.

I do so hate these sort of people. If Sea World told the trainer that the whale was perfectly safe, then the trainer's family should sue. But I'm pretty sure the trainer knew what the risks were.


People should be allowed to take risks. And they should have to deal with the consequences. It should not be the job of society to protect informed people from themselves. Nor should people be allowed to blame others for the informed actions of anyone.

Unfortunately, humans seem genetically incapable of simply letting other humans live their damn lives how they please. Sure, plenty of people say, and probably believe, they want people to be able to live how they want. But they almost always mean certain people and certain ways. How many of those freedom-loving, get-the-government-out-of-my-life Tea Baggers would support a federal ban on abortion? Support federal drug laws? Would support a federal gay marriage ban? Exactly.
angstzeit: (Default)
There's an idea that seems to pop up in my mind regularly when thinking about differences in conservatives and liberals. Especially religious and non-religious (or more liberal religious) ideas.

Are we animals or not?

As an agnostic Anthropologist, this is a rather simple question to answer. Presumably, for a literal believer in a religion of the Book, it is an equally simple question to answer.

But I often find that people act as though they either haven't answered the question or they hold the opposite answer to the one they espouse. As I see it, religions of the book (and others) seem to be based on the concept that humans have an "animal nature," which must be subdued. It seems odd that a creation of God would have such a powerful "animal nature." The Old Testament seems to be a constant struggle between the human beast and the ideal God. In other words, it seems to be a philosophical allegory of the result of human evolution--a creature of two (or many) natures struggling to find the positive aspects within itself.

How would you write the story? It is a great premise--an animal becomes self-aware and has the ability to act contrary to instinct. Not only that, but has the ability to question instinct. And best of all--discovers how to manipulate instincts in themselves and others.

How would I get the story rolling? Hmmm...Wait! An Apple...
angstzeit: (Default)
There's an idea that seems to pop up in my mind regularly when thinking about differences in conservatives and liberals. Especially religious and non-religious (or more liberal religious) ideas.

Are we animals or not?

As an agnostic Anthropologist, this is a rather simple question to answer. Presumably, for a literal believer in a religion of the Book, it is an equally simple question to answer.

But I often find that people act as though they either haven't answered the question or they hold the opposite answer to the one they espouse. As I see it, religions of the book (and others) seem to be based on the concept that humans have an "animal nature," which must be subdued. It seems odd that a creation of God would have such a powerful "animal nature." The Old Testament seems to be a constant struggle between the human beast and the ideal God. In other words, it seems to be a philosophical allegory of the result of human evolution--a creature of two (or many) natures struggling to find the positive aspects within itself.

How would you write the story? It is a great premise--an animal becomes self-aware and has the ability to act contrary to instinct. Not only that, but has the ability to question instinct. And best of all--discovers how to manipulate instincts in themselves and others.

How would I get the story rolling? Hmmm...Wait! An Apple...
angstzeit: (Default)
Isn’t this one of those things you’re not supposed to talk about? But when has that stopped me?
I’ll point out I come from a somewhat unusual situation. My father was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools. My mother grew up going to the Disciples of Christ Protestant church. However, I was raised with no religion. I knew my dad disliked his experience with Catholicism. I went to mass a couple of times with my grandmother just to check it out. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Protestant service. Though I did go to Sunday school once. So religion was just there—my parents didn’t rail against it—but I got little information about it and that was somewhat mixed. I wasn’t even baptized.
So to me religion has been more of an intellectual curiosity than any sort of emotional experience. I’ve looked into various religions to see what they’re about. But mainly to understand the people of those religions. Most people have some religious belief so one needs to at least be somewhat informed. Not to mention the profound effect religion has in society.
My attitude toward religion has been mixed but generally negative. I’ve never read a holy book I could believe in. Tending to be an empiricist, I’ve seen little evidence for any particular religion’s stories or beliefs so I dismiss them.
Recently, I read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He puts forth a largely convincing (if occasionally strident) case against religion. He especially dislikes the indoctrination of children into religions since the children have no choice.
Certainly one doesn’t need to look far to see the negative effects of religion. It is all around us today and has a long track record through history. People are killing and dying because of what some ancient books say and the words of those interpreting them. Some religious people are trying to dictate policy in America and elsewhere.

From that lengthy preamble I’ll get to the point. I am, as I have claimed, an agnostic. Dawkins might call me a defacto atheist. But I’m a bit more than that. I have always seen a clear distinction between religion and spirituality (as I see it). They are often confused with one another. Spirituality is individual. It comes of individual experiences and choices. Religion is political. It deals with controlling people and putting forward agendas. It is about dogma and unthinking belief. Yes, I understand there are differences between religions and sects but at some level there is groupthink in them all.
I cannot dismiss spirituality. Because there is evidence that it has an effect on people. AA uses the notion of a “higher power” to help people regain control of their lives (as do many other groups that help people). People have accomplished amazing things through spirituality. But what is it? It seems obvious that it isn’t one thing. I don’t know if there is an external power in the universe but if there is, it answers to many names. My personal hypothesis is that our brains have evolved to achieve certain things through spirituality. Even Dawkins’ recognition of the beauty of the universe without a god and his marveling at the processes of evolution I would consider spirituality.
I think spirituality is something we all need in some form. But I do wish more (all) people dealt more in spirituality and less in religion. People of like minds may congregate but we must always beware that this can lead to dogma, politics, and enmity. This goes for all groups. It would be wonderful if we taught our children how to think rather than what to think.
angstzeit: (Default)
Isn’t this one of those things you’re not supposed to talk about? But when has that stopped me?
I’ll point out I come from a somewhat unusual situation. My father was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools. My mother grew up going to the Disciples of Christ Protestant church. However, I was raised with no religion. I knew my dad disliked his experience with Catholicism. I went to mass a couple of times with my grandmother just to check it out. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Protestant service. Though I did go to Sunday school once. So religion was just there—my parents didn’t rail against it—but I got little information about it and that was somewhat mixed. I wasn’t even baptized.
So to me religion has been more of an intellectual curiosity than any sort of emotional experience. I’ve looked into various religions to see what they’re about. But mainly to understand the people of those religions. Most people have some religious belief so one needs to at least be somewhat informed. Not to mention the profound effect religion has in society.
My attitude toward religion has been mixed but generally negative. I’ve never read a holy book I could believe in. Tending to be an empiricist, I’ve seen little evidence for any particular religion’s stories or beliefs so I dismiss them.
Recently, I read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He puts forth a largely convincing (if occasionally strident) case against religion. He especially dislikes the indoctrination of children into religions since the children have no choice.
Certainly one doesn’t need to look far to see the negative effects of religion. It is all around us today and has a long track record through history. People are killing and dying because of what some ancient books say and the words of those interpreting them. Some religious people are trying to dictate policy in America and elsewhere.

From that lengthy preamble I’ll get to the point. I am, as I have claimed, an agnostic. Dawkins might call me a defacto atheist. But I’m a bit more than that. I have always seen a clear distinction between religion and spirituality (as I see it). They are often confused with one another. Spirituality is individual. It comes of individual experiences and choices. Religion is political. It deals with controlling people and putting forward agendas. It is about dogma and unthinking belief. Yes, I understand there are differences between religions and sects but at some level there is groupthink in them all.
I cannot dismiss spirituality. Because there is evidence that it has an effect on people. AA uses the notion of a “higher power” to help people regain control of their lives (as do many other groups that help people). People have accomplished amazing things through spirituality. But what is it? It seems obvious that it isn’t one thing. I don’t know if there is an external power in the universe but if there is, it answers to many names. My personal hypothesis is that our brains have evolved to achieve certain things through spirituality. Even Dawkins’ recognition of the beauty of the universe without a god and his marveling at the processes of evolution I would consider spirituality.
I think spirituality is something we all need in some form. But I do wish more (all) people dealt more in spirituality and less in religion. People of like minds may congregate but we must always beware that this can lead to dogma, politics, and enmity. This goes for all groups. It would be wonderful if we taught our children how to think rather than what to think.
angstzeit: (Default)
Let me start off as it seems one must these days by pointing out I respect Islam as much as I respect any other religion. However, I'll blow it by pointing out my respect is not great for any religion.
But obviously Islam is making a lot of headlines these days and most of them are not good press. Of course I speak of non-islamic media--I'm sure things look different in the Islamic media. But obviously, I'm not exposed to as much of the latter. And, I have heard muslims speaking of the misunderstanding of non-muslims about Islam. So it seems getting some positive, informative things out to non-muslims would be a good idea.

What brings this up? That would be a problem I see with the response of at least parts of the Muslim community. Currently there is a terrible uproar over the Pope making a historical reference Muslims considered offensive. I see muslims in the streets yelling, condemning the Pope, burning him in effigy. I've also heard of possible violence against Catholics.
Not too long ago another uproar happened when a Dutch newspaper printed cartoons of Mohammad. There was much marching, shouting, condemning and burning of flags and effigies. And probably some violence.

Now, what bothers me is that whenever Al Qaeda (or any Islamic group) kills people, destroys things, makes threats against human life--I don't see muslims in the streets yelling, condemning Al Qaeda, burning effigies of Osama bin Laden, etc. I hear intellectuals tell me that most muslims believe the conduct of Al Qaeda is against Islam but I don't see any action.

Perhaps I don't understand religion but it seems to me that hearing offensive things from non-believers would be less troubling than supposed believers corrupting ones faith. Surely any God would judge the ignorant differently than those who know what is right and ignore it?

Quite simply, if quoting a historical figure is worthy of great offense then shouldn't killing thousands of innocent people deserve at least as passionate a response?
angstzeit: (Default)
Let me start off as it seems one must these days by pointing out I respect Islam as much as I respect any other religion. However, I'll blow it by pointing out my respect is not great for any religion.
But obviously Islam is making a lot of headlines these days and most of them are not good press. Of course I speak of non-islamic media--I'm sure things look different in the Islamic media. But obviously, I'm not exposed to as much of the latter. And, I have heard muslims speaking of the misunderstanding of non-muslims about Islam. So it seems getting some positive, informative things out to non-muslims would be a good idea.

What brings this up? That would be a problem I see with the response of at least parts of the Muslim community. Currently there is a terrible uproar over the Pope making a historical reference Muslims considered offensive. I see muslims in the streets yelling, condemning the Pope, burning him in effigy. I've also heard of possible violence against Catholics.
Not too long ago another uproar happened when a Dutch newspaper printed cartoons of Mohammad. There was much marching, shouting, condemning and burning of flags and effigies. And probably some violence.

Now, what bothers me is that whenever Al Qaeda (or any Islamic group) kills people, destroys things, makes threats against human life--I don't see muslims in the streets yelling, condemning Al Qaeda, burning effigies of Osama bin Laden, etc. I hear intellectuals tell me that most muslims believe the conduct of Al Qaeda is against Islam but I don't see any action.

Perhaps I don't understand religion but it seems to me that hearing offensive things from non-believers would be less troubling than supposed believers corrupting ones faith. Surely any God would judge the ignorant differently than those who know what is right and ignore it?

Quite simply, if quoting a historical figure is worthy of great offense then shouldn't killing thousands of innocent people deserve at least as passionate a response?

Advice?

Aug. 31st, 2005 08:17 pm
angstzeit: (Default)
I've been watching this show, I think it's on the Discovery Channel, called Going Tribal. This Aussie or Brit goes and hangs out with indigenous people and participates in their rituals. The guy is wonderfully naïve. In the show I just saw he hung out with some Congo natives. He took some wacky psychedelic drug FOR TWO DAYS and emerged changed. He commented about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They work less than we do to support themselves. This has been long known.
I recently read an article in Discover Magazine about how desert people are ruling the word. Monotheism, subjugation of women, strict laws, etc. The whole nine yards of repression we experience as a cultural descendant of desert people. Jungle people have a whole different perspective. A culture more Multi-theistic, Animistic, less judgmental and more about community and necessary existence within Nature.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m trying to say now. But I do know that there are very different ways of seeing the world than we imagine. We cannot ignore these realities. We see every day that our wonderful civilization has holes. We see misery and suffering in the wealthiest country in the world. I have little hope of seeing this happen, but if we can find that thread of community; that strand of oneness—and yet that beautiful realm of acceptance. I see hope.
Judge not your neighbor by their eccentricities, but by their willingness to be a part of the community—not in conformity but in helpfulness.

I’ve watched what has and is happening in the world around us. A simple and hard answer can be derived there-from: Our leaders are a bunch of greedy, egotistical, maniacs with no idea about reality. WE, people with sense and a dream must rise up and make the future. Easy? Hell, they’ll probably crush us in an instant. But what is the choice. Less likely causes have eventually come to fruition.

I’m not sure I have the strength. Who knows their strength until it is tested. But there are young people out there with the strength—but without the focus and strategy they need. The strike out randomly and without purpose. They need our guidance. By “our” I mean people of my age with a bit of wisdom. Too many of our youth are attached to either end of the foolish political spectrum. They see glory there. But quite simply neither end has any real answer. Just rhetoric to please their supporters.
The only real future, one that doesn’t lie in the vagaries of primate politics, will happen outside traditional politics. Outside traditional interpretations of human values. It lies in a frightening world we fear to tread. Reason. Reality.
I’m familiar with this dilemma. Stay in the house you’re in: it’s warm but has many problems. Or leave and trek through the cold, harsh world in search of a new haven: with fewer problems. It is a very hard decision to make. But it is ours to decide.
The tragedy on the gulf coast of our country is an obvious hardship. A need we cannot deny. But I suggest to you that equal, though subtle forces afflict our nation, our world. Will we respond to these forces with such vigor? Not with war but with help and compassion? I don’t know how to end this. There is no end. I believe there are many beautiful, helpful people out there. I call to them. I call to those on the fence. I call to those who have never met their heart but are about to.
Listen to your heart and work for the better future. Please. It’s all we have.

Advice?

Aug. 31st, 2005 08:17 pm
angstzeit: (Default)
I've been watching this show, I think it's on the Discovery Channel, called Going Tribal. This Aussie or Brit goes and hangs out with indigenous people and participates in their rituals. The guy is wonderfully naïve. In the show I just saw he hung out with some Congo natives. He took some wacky psychedelic drug FOR TWO DAYS and emerged changed. He commented about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They work less than we do to support themselves. This has been long known.
I recently read an article in Discover Magazine about how desert people are ruling the word. Monotheism, subjugation of women, strict laws, etc. The whole nine yards of repression we experience as a cultural descendant of desert people. Jungle people have a whole different perspective. A culture more Multi-theistic, Animistic, less judgmental and more about community and necessary existence within Nature.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m trying to say now. But I do know that there are very different ways of seeing the world than we imagine. We cannot ignore these realities. We see every day that our wonderful civilization has holes. We see misery and suffering in the wealthiest country in the world. I have little hope of seeing this happen, but if we can find that thread of community; that strand of oneness—and yet that beautiful realm of acceptance. I see hope.
Judge not your neighbor by their eccentricities, but by their willingness to be a part of the community—not in conformity but in helpfulness.

I’ve watched what has and is happening in the world around us. A simple and hard answer can be derived there-from: Our leaders are a bunch of greedy, egotistical, maniacs with no idea about reality. WE, people with sense and a dream must rise up and make the future. Easy? Hell, they’ll probably crush us in an instant. But what is the choice. Less likely causes have eventually come to fruition.

I’m not sure I have the strength. Who knows their strength until it is tested. But there are young people out there with the strength—but without the focus and strategy they need. The strike out randomly and without purpose. They need our guidance. By “our” I mean people of my age with a bit of wisdom. Too many of our youth are attached to either end of the foolish political spectrum. They see glory there. But quite simply neither end has any real answer. Just rhetoric to please their supporters.
The only real future, one that doesn’t lie in the vagaries of primate politics, will happen outside traditional politics. Outside traditional interpretations of human values. It lies in a frightening world we fear to tread. Reason. Reality.
I’m familiar with this dilemma. Stay in the house you’re in: it’s warm but has many problems. Or leave and trek through the cold, harsh world in search of a new haven: with fewer problems. It is a very hard decision to make. But it is ours to decide.
The tragedy on the gulf coast of our country is an obvious hardship. A need we cannot deny. But I suggest to you that equal, though subtle forces afflict our nation, our world. Will we respond to these forces with such vigor? Not with war but with help and compassion? I don’t know how to end this. There is no end. I believe there are many beautiful, helpful people out there. I call to them. I call to those on the fence. I call to those who have never met their heart but are about to.
Listen to your heart and work for the better future. Please. It’s all we have.

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